On To The Future with Mario Wagner
When GumGum’s latest editorial venture, The Visionary, was looking for artists to launch with in their initial round of publication, they sought artists with range and an understanding of different cultures. Who better than Mario Wagner?
Mario is originally from Germany, so his experience of sport is a little different from the way we operate here in America. For The Visionary's article on advertising in sports Mario had to bring together a bunch of disparate elements and blend them all into two compositions. Soccer is obviously a huge industry in Europe, but it doesn’t carry with it the same pervasive experience that sports represent in America. “Sports is a different thing here,” Mario explains. “People are just pumped up and showy and it’s just this competitive thing. And we don’t have high school sport or college sport. We don’t have any of that. You just join a professional team if you’re good enough to play in your local team, but there’s no college. That doesn’t happen for us.” Plus there are just so many more popular sports in the US, from American Football to Baseball to Basketball, through Hockey and more. Billions of dollars and years of fans lives are applied to these games, and all of that appears in his illustration.
One of the aspects that really made this project fun for Mario is that it represents a great middle ground for his personal development as an artist. These pieces blend his “old” and his “new,” something that's more acutely obvious in a piece about the future of advertising. “I’m shifting a little bit,” Mario explains. “[The newer work is] less noisy. They are more solid colors and they are less collage, less gritty. In the past I was always adding little numbers and it was very layered, very packed, and very full of details. Now it’s a little more conceptual and a little more cleared out.” In these images for The Visionary you’ll find some photorealistic elements, some highly detailed imagery, even a grid and some symbols. But you’ll also find his new play with color and a more spacious composition. This is the New Mario mixed with the Classic Mario we first fell in love with.
The Campaign Gets Technical with Mario Wagner
It’s estimated that last night 100 million viewers tuned in to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald trump engage in their first Presidential Debate. It was a raucous 90 minutes that caused the audience to burst into cheers and jeers more than a few times against the protest of the Debate Commission who requested silent spectators. Of the 100 million that watched at home, a huge portion of that contingency watched online, streaming video through their website of choice and experiencing these candidates through the portal of their personal computers. No artist has a better grasp of how we relate to technology than Mario Wagner. His aesthetic and resulting work constantly plumbs the relationship that our real lives have with technology so Inc. Magazine asked him to identify that relationship and how it involves our presidential candidates.
A huge part of any presidential election is the “horse race”: what people call the almost daily tracking of polls. Pervasive technology has made these snapshots faster and easier to complete, and therefore there are a lot more of them. We understand them almost immediately as the information is streamed to users instantly – it’s gotten to the point that who the candidates are is almost irrelevant. We can just watch the numbers. Wagner illustrates this idea with his split portraits of the candidates, dominated by Venn diagrams and scatterplots. He takes it further with an additional image showing a faceless citizen engage in the electoral process through his devices. Additionally, three faceless women engage in their own political cheering, behind a graph that tracks how ideas and passions change over time.
Technology has the opportunity to democratize the world, and help us understand our processes better than we already do. But there’s always a risk there. We must maintain the humanity of what we’re doing and how we’re engaging with each other. Mario shows us how it works, and works successfully today, but also asks if we’re going in the right direction. Only time will tell.
Remembering the Artist Known as Prince
Yesterday the world suffered the loss of one of our most beloved musicians, Prince. But more than a musician, Prince was an artist. By example he lead his fans and his community in the pursuit of personal truth, inspiring everyone he touched to follow the path that was their bravest.
Since Prince’s passing yesterday, the entire world has cried out. It has become a conversation of collective remembrance, paying homage and respect to an artist who touched so many. The artists at B&A are a part of that conversation and we’ve collected their work here. Some was created while Prince was still with us, like Platon’s photographs and Victor Gadino's digital painting that covered New York's Village Voice. While others have been created in response to his passing.
We will continue to collect our artists’ work here and encourage you to share your own. Prince’s legacy was to heighten the way we communicate with each other, we will all honor his memory by doing exactly that.
Rest in Peace.
Village Voice Cover by Victor Gadino.
Photographs by Platon.
Illustration by Stanley Chow.
Illustration by Mario Wagner.
Mario Wagner and Converse Are Out of This World
There are few accessories we come in contact as intimately as our footwear. Shoes create a barrier between us and the rougher aspects of nature, offering protection against the elements, stability on tenuous ground, and a small space for self expression. Colors, shapes, and silhouettes are offered for every taste but few are as iconic as Converse's Chuck Taylor All Star. The vulcanized canvas sneaker has attracted fans from every era of its history, inspiring musicians, designers, and technological minds. They've been adopted by passionate and successful people in every industry making them owned not by a particular culture, but by everyone regardless of how they define themselves.
A new three-part collection brings those inspirations onto the shoes, drawing from three cities where the Chuck Taylor has seen plenty of love. "Made By You” features pairs of Chuck Taylors with designs and artistry by artists who have lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle and ultimately offers an intimate understanding of what makes these cities what they are. As a previous resident of San Francisco, Mario Wagner was the natural choice to illustrate a representation of San Francisco. Not to mention, he’s a big fan of the sneaker. “I wear Chucks almost every day,” says Mario. “So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard about this assignment. My favorite shoe, my favorite city. Perfect!”
One of Mario’s favorite quotes about San Francisco goes a long way to help understand how he approaches the city. It’s from Oscar Wilde and says, “It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.” That oddity and delight create a unique blend that inspires the people of San Francisco and the composition of Mario’s illustration. His graphic style is dominant in the imagery, drumming up reminders to the technological power of the city, while the classic iconography of the Golden Gate Bridge and Transamerica Pyramid feature prominently. Viewers will also notice a trio of spacecraft lording over the sky, which Mario placed for a very particular reason.
Oscar Wilde talks about how San Francisco is the depository for all things fantastic, and for Mario that extends beyond mere humanity. “For me this includes every weird thing that might have been here already or is about to come, like UFOs,” explains Mario. “Or you can see them as a symbol for the tech industry around us in San Francisco. You never know what they’ll come up with or what they are already working on. The self driving car is already rolling on our streets!” Friends of San Franciscans, or the residents themselves, are sure to see something in Mario’s imagery that they recognize, making it exactly right to be an extension of expression and feel like it was “Made By You.”
Mario Wagner Explores New Worlds for Playboy
The worlds of Israeli writer Etgar Keret are fantastic and surreal. Constantly edging between genres, he challenges his readers in recontextualizing ideas and situations, reaching beyond the pedestrian experience and forcing confrontation with human issues that may be uncomfortable. Illustrator Mario Wagner recently ventured into Keret’s world and brought back with him an image for an article in Playboy Magazine, directly responding to his own experience.
Keret's story tells of a man who is tacitly trapped in his own small existence, interacting mostly with artificial intelligence and rarely with the tangible through a single window. It is a tale of the tear between the complications of the real world and the slick, clean artifice of the created world. Each have their own benefits and short comings, so the question raised is, which offers more to humanity? And ultimately, what is human? Mario’s job becomes complex in the face of these questions, distilling the reading experience into a single image. “The story was so visual already, I thought it would be too obvious to go totally crazy,” he explains. “So I took it pretty literally.” What we see is the protagonist of this tale in a clean world, facing a window to another existence. A woman is at his side who is at once real and created, straddling realities. When artifice meets emotional experience it’s hard to know which is real.
The only element that breaks into the clean setting of the image is a splatter of paint at the top of the image, something like a prolonged application of spray paint. “There is a little bit of an outer world going on, he sees people, he has this window,” explains Mario. “I wanted to add a little texture so it’s like it’s something he’s looking for.” That added texture gives a visual representation of the pull between these two worlds the protagonist is facing.
As we adopt more and more technology into our daily lives and our interactions between one another become more digital, reality is as easily experienced through the composition of pixels, and through the anonymity of textural creation it's possible to lose grip on what is real and what is created. The emotions are always there, whether or not we're responding to something we can touch. In some ways we are becoming this man, and Mario is illustrating not just an image for a story but our collective futures.
To get the full experience of Mario’s piece in context, check out the latest issue of Playboy on newsstands now.
Mario Wagner Bucks the Burden of Modern Collecting
Humans are collectors. We like to catalogue and own, bringing each item together to create a full set. Part of that compulsion is to own a full array of something beautiful, to house that beauty and literally capture a part of it. The other side is the chase, the journey of hunting down every last piece, no matter where it’s hiding. For those that love to collect, and love to hunt, eBay offers access to millions of users who are looking to buy or sell some of the most unique and obscure pieces in the world. Their newest initiative, "Live Auctions," opens up the normally closed world of art auctions to eBay's already vast community. This is a fresh way for everyone, from art world newbies to the well seasoned, get access to galleries and work that was previously difficult to find.
To illustrate the new openness "Live Auctions" is working towards, eBay tapped Mario Wagner for an interactive, live installation in New York City. Culling images from Instagram using the tag #eBayArtForAll, Mario printed off hundreds of images from the crowd sourcing and incorporated them into his huge installation. He did this under the eyes of anyone who came to watch. It was the literal creation of a new collection, as each photograph was added to the wall it created the first version of a complete catalogue of this original piece. That impulse to collect is something that Mario understands himself. “When you travel you realize how little you need. You can have so much digital nowadays that you don’t need the weight of the physical stuff,” he says. “I have a folder on my computer that is inspiration images, and on my phone when I walk around and take photos.” Not every collection takes up physical space. But Mario’s does take up space, both on his devices and in his mind. “I think it’s the idea of ‘Oh, I don’t want to lose it. If I let it get away, I’ll never find it again.’ If it’s in a folder, I could find it easier.” Collections make us feel safe. Like we’re taking and keeping a part of our human experience.
As much as we’re constantly cataloguing and collecting our human experience using our devices, sometimes they can be a filter to a full experience. Nary does a week go by without some intellectual admonishment that current generations spend too much time looking at screens, or experiencing our lives only through Instagram filters and videos. But Mario wishes those critics would put it in context. “It’s not negative, that’s how we are now,” he says. “Parents probably thought we were negative when we were walking around with Walkmen.” Every innovation changes the way we interact. Every innovation shifts life experience. And every new way will seem strange, until the next appears.
The irony to collecting is sometimes we forget that our collections are there. When they’re safely tucked away we don’t have to consider them anyway. They’re locked up where they can’t be lost, but can be frequently forgotten. Mario sometimes forgets about his own collection of inspiration, “If I do some illustration or a project, afterwards sometimes I’ll go back and say, ‘Oh shit, I could have added that idea to it!’” It all depends on how we interact with our experience and how far we want to carry it with us. As Mario said before, sometimes collections can be a burden if you have to carry them around forever. The key is figuring out when to let go. When Mario sees something amazing, he relishes in it, experiences it, absorbs it. And then he lets it go. “I don’t have any connection when I’m done,” he explains. As our worlds become digital we have the option to collect and experience, but that doesn’t mean we have to weighted down forever. Every moment counts, but it doesn’t have to be burden.
Mario Wagner Illustrates the Times' Sunday Book Review
Mario Wagner made two images for Jonathan Lethem's take on "Bleeding Edge" by Thomas Pynchon, which ran in the New York Times' Sunday Book Review.
"Bleeding Edge," set in 2001 New York City between the dot-com collapse and 9/11, follows semi-professional fraud investigator Maxine Tarnow. "She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler's aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead," according to Penguin.
For Lethem's article, the Times requested illustrations that "show a New York before the big stock market crash – very techy and clean," Wagner explained. He strayed a bit from his vintage aesthetic, resulting in an infographic feel.
Wagner typically comes up with an idea after reading the copy and then applies it to his visuals; however, in this case, his go-to technique wasn't necessarily helpful. "The review is extremely detailed and I could have done 20 illustrations from the info I had," he remarked. "Sometimes I like to have less information – just some keywords so I can create something beyond the text and be less literal."
Two Sides of Mario Wagner
Mario Wagner created two new works – one for Cosmopolitan Germany and the other, for Harvard Business Manager – that show both his subject range and commitment to his aesthetic. The Cosmo image accompanied an article about trusting your intuition and the HBM illustration ran in the August issue's "Best Practice" section, which featured Albrecht Jung's high-end light switches.
"I like the balance and the coloring in the HBM piece a lot," remarked Wagner. "It should transport brightness. For Cosmopolitan, I like the confusion in her head. She can't see where she wants to go, so she has to trust her intuition and not her eyes."
For editorial projects, he typically comes up with an idea after reading the text and then looks for visuals. He uses Photoshop and vintage graphics, though he said, "If I need something specific, I'll take a photo myself – it saves time and I can get the right angle." Then he sends a rough version ("which is usually pretty far along") to his clients, so they can understand what he's getting at.
"The concept is not so obvious in my work," the artist relayed. "First you see the beauty and realize afterwards that there is much more going on."
Recent Works By Mario Wagner
Mario Wagner has been busy exercising his creative muscles for several publications. Mario returned to work with sports business network ISPO drawing key visuals to establish their overall brand. His piece for the bike race in Munich, Germany emphasizes the growing popularity of electric bikes and urban biking. The illustration depicts two racing bikers leaving behind a trail of dust and electrified speed lines .
A paradoxical image of an oversized fuel engine on top of a classic car was created for the cover of German New Scientist. The illustration symbolizes the return of fuel engines for the featured story titled “Back to Full Throttle.”
For the cover of Technology Review, Mario drew inspiration from the historic photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”. Mario's clever illustration depicts businessmen and techies raising a wi-fi pole to represent building a new Internet.
Mario Wagner's Colorful New Visual for ISPO
Mario Wagner worked with Munich-based agency Serviceplan to create a key visual for international sports trade fair, ISPO. The client wanted to launch a global marketing campaign that emphasized their mantra of "Sport. Business. Connected" and their role as the premier networking instrument within the industry.
The final visual incorporates ISPO's colors and symbolizes inter-connectivity between sports and business within the industry. The design appears on the homepage of the newly redesigned ISPO website and on all of ISPO's products and services within the trade shows and beyond.