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Art review: Syd Mead's believable, progressive futurism

Show contains a retrospective of the designer's work.

February 25, 2012|By Terri Martin
  • Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance is part of Syd Mead: Progressions now at the Forest Lawn Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Forest Lawn Museum)
Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance is part of Syd…

The Forest Lawn Museum retrospective exhibition of Syd Mead’s half-century career as designer, illustrator and artist is composed of more than just renderings of his curious futuristic inventions. Mead shapes a utopian future made believable. His visions of aerodynamic transportation, orbital architecture, sporting robots and interplanetary society are persuasive, delivered with ingenious perspective and fastidious detail.

In his book, “Sentury II,” Mead calls auto design his first love. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Mead worked the drawing boards for auto industry giants Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, providing progressive and functional concept designs. Many of the artist’s futuristic auto styles are included in “Syd Mead Progressions” at the museum, including a triptych of what he labels “Future Transports,” with luxury yachts, hyperspace crafts, and a folding, telescoping space station.

Many movie fans know Mead best as the creator of futurist concept designs incorporated into such feature films as “Blade Runner,” “Aliens” and “Mission: Impossible III,” reaching an international audience far beyond the drafting table. Other images are the result of commissions by an eclectic collection of clients including National Geographic, Japanese toy designers, Sony and many others.

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Mead’s visualization of futuristic sporting events is enormously entertaining. “Running of the 6 DRGXXS” (1983, gouache on paper) was inspired by a photo of greyhound races. His version is dominated by dog-like robots, manned by crews of eight. Blimps hover above futuristic stadiums, and the artist forecasts the use of wireless handheld devices by roaring crowds, waving their electronic tablets to place bets and monitor track stats. The energy and atmosphere of the image are not unlike something from director Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.”

The showpiece of the exhibition is subtle and enigmatic, in contrast to the rest of Mead’s vivacious images. “Moon 2000” (1979, gouache on paper), is not unlike photos we have seen for decades of earth’s moon, but on closer inspection, one can see through the atmospheric haze that this familiar moon is actually foreign. Evidence indicates colonization and an open oculus at the northern pole gives the impression that this moon is hollow.

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