From “★” to “MAN IN BLACK” to “PAINT IT, BLACK” to “STARLESS and BIBLE BLACK” – A Treatise on Black (Noun): Consisting of a Continuing Series of Essays on the Colour Black – (Synonyms) Elemental, Carbon, Raven and Starless
An Introduction to Black is our first essay in a continuing series of intertwined essays that Raven Vanguard dedicates to the colour black. As of this moment, this Treatise is of no predetermined length. We specifically chose black to be the subject of our inaugural blog entry, and for its online publication to coincide with the launch of our new blog, “Ravings of Thought & Memory – A Blogbook”, and that of our Website, because black is one of Raven Vanguard’s most beloved colors, one that is featured time and again in our interiors. Future Blogbook entries in this series will appear according to a definite plan, but they will not appear consecutively.
Furthermore, we chose to spotlight black in deference to the Raven, our namesake, and the salient focal point of our brand identity. Considering our fondness for ravens, and our deep appreciation of the colour black, it should come as no surprise that each of these words is a synonym for the other.
Since black is essential to Raven Vanguard’s stylistic palette, the decision to make black the subject of this Treatise was a no-brainer for us, and with it, we intend to neutralize some of the negative connotations associated with the use of black in interior spaces. Unfortunately, the colour black is often unduly maligned for being synonymous with “creepy” or “morbid” because of a deeply rooted mainstream societal bias and an irrational narrow-mindedness. Perhaps today’s Blogbook entry and our forthcoming Essays will once and for all dispel this misconceived notion that black is, in a metaphorical or adjectival sense, “creepy.”
The title of our Treatise, curious as it is, is our homage to music that we treasure and, since we are an interiors firm with a specialty in the design of mind-blowing music rooms, to signal our intention to touch upon the subject of music quite frequently in future Blogbook entries. Speaking of the word Treatise, you should check out “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire”; not the tome written by Alice A. Bailey (although Bailey’s Third Volume in her 24 Book Series is worthwhile reading), but the extended suite of music released by Todd Rundgren in 1975 (Bailey’s Book was undoubtedly a source of inspiration for Rundgren’s music).
In addition to writing about the subject of music, we will also use these Blogbook entries to highlight and honor amazing artists of every medium and specialty whom we find inspirational and influential. These artists will be singled out by the sobriquet – Raven’s Cultural Vanguardist of the Month. We are drawn to those whose work is visionary, ambitious, radical, thought-provoking, off-beat, controversial, abstract, challenging, and inscrutable. Those artists we do recognize will either be category-defying, category-defining, or in a category of one. Not only will we attempt to pay homage to those who have gone before and have paved the road for others with their groundbreaking efforts, but we will also make every attempt to anticipate, identify, and highlight the work of the next generation of visionaries who are deserving of recognition today. If you think someone you know is deserving of recognition, please send us an email letting us know all about them.
Our Treatise is not an attempt to thoroughly assay the history of the colour black, nor is it intended to be a comprehensive intellectual discourse on color theory or science. Instead, we will provide a sweeping overview which focuses primarily on the use of black in art, couture fashion, graphics, and interior design from the 19th Century forward until today. However, we cannot properly begin a discussion of black without first acknowledging the important work of the author, Michael Pastoureau, in his well-researched monograph “Black: The History of a Color.” Pastoureau’s book is recommended reading for anyone interested in a chronological history of black throughout the ages.
We believe black, in its very essence, is the most visceral and compelling of all the colors. Why black? Because visually and symbolically, black is ideally suited to take on many leading and dramatic roles. Black can be timeless, elegant, wicked, romantic, sophisticated, mysterious, sacred, seductive, erotically-charged, luxurious, spectral, restful, soulful, magical, subversive, and taboo. Black is all of these things. No other color is quite as dynamic and emblematic as black. However, in the field of interior design, black just happens to be the most misunderstood and misused of all the colors, and, because it is misunderstood, it is also controversial. Moreover, across history, black has seemingly been the most incomprehensible of all the colors.
It is not mere fascination or obsession that draws Raven Vanguard to black; we are drawn to black because it is part of our raison d'être. Black and many shades of black can appear anywhere within our interior spaces: from Murano glass chandeliers to drapery, leather upholstery, furnishings, fabrics, textiles, antiques, wall coverings, painted walls, ceilings and floors, stained woods, tiles and artwork.
In many ways, it makes sense for us to kick off our series of essays on black by giving recognition to the quintessential Men in Black: the original Man in Black, Johnny Cash, and the Asian Man in Black, Yohji Yamamoto. Cash and Yamamoto mastered the art of using fashion as a means of self-expression. Although Cash had, and Yamamoto has, a singular manner and style of dress, what makes them alike is their shared taste in all-black attire and their rebellious personalities. Their dark, almost cleric-like, approach to fashion would forever cause them to be labeled as Mavericks.
However, no meaningful discussion of these Men in Black could ever be complete without including some discussion of Rei Kawakubo, their equally badass female counterpart. Although Cash embraced his Man in Black persona first, Kawakubo and Yamamoto, iconoclasts of Japanese high fashion, turned the world of fashion upside down in 1981 when they descended upon the runways of Paris during Fashion Week with their hauntingly all black, head-to-toe, ritualistic-looking creations. In their artistic and innovative use of color, form, shape, and texture, and in their overall aesthetic and sense of style, Kawakubo and Yamamoto are two fashion designers with whom Raven Vanguard shares a deep kinship and who we often look to as a source of inspiration.
Another artistic medium that often uses black to significant effect is the LP record cover. For example, the powerful, and now iconic artwork of the first UK pressing of Quadrophenia by The Who features a soft, textured paper gatefold cover, a black and white photograph, black text, and extensive use of shadowing. If you are familiar with Quadrophenia’s cover, now re-imagine it awash with vibrant colors in the manner of the front cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album; it completely changes, in a negative way, the visual impact of Quadrophenia’s front cover image and its intended message.
Since the recording industry first introduced the 12 inch LP record in the late 1940s, an album cover’s artwork has been the corporeal and touchable accompaniment to the record’s aural experience. Any music lover will tell you that there is something deeply personal about the ritual of playing a record on a turntable while holding the gatefold cover in your hand. Other famous album covers dominated by black include: Miles Davis’ Tutu; T. Rex’s Electric Warrior; Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon; David Bowie’s Heroes; Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures; Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends; Johnny Cash’s Man In Black and also the poignant cover of Cash’s The Man Comes Around.
A more recent example of the compelling use of black to define an album cover and the music within is David Bowie’s incredible and enigmatic “★”; an album that we intend to make the exclusive subject of a future essay in our Treatise on the colour black.
Our first Raven’s Cultural Vanguardist of the Month is Sera Solstice, dancer extraordinaire, choreographer, dance director, music composer, sculptor, music producer, and business owner. Fluidity of movement is a vital concept to us as interior designers and, in this regard, Sera deserves mention in the same breath as Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan. Sera’s creativity, expressiveness, technique, styles, movement, and choreography command your full attention every time she steps onto the stage and, therefore, she is very deserving of our recognition and admiration. An example of Sera’s fascinating work can be seen at the following link, and her solo performance starting at 5:25 is positively riveting.