On my recent trip to New York, I made it a point to check out the gallery of Edward Tufte in Chelsea. If you’re not familiar with Edward Tufte, he’s kind of the worldwide father of information design, among many other things. I was lucky to attend one of his all-day lectures back in 1996 in San Francisco, and boy was it fascinating. I’ll never forget watching him zip around the room, passionately pulling imaginary pixels from the air. Most of his career was spent as Professor of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science, Senior Critic, School of Art at Yale University, from 1977 to 1999, and he continues there as Emeritus Professor. But what I didn’t know is that he’s a practicing artist, mostly sculpture that’s dotting the Connecticut countryside. It was his apparent love for dogs in his work and personal life that caught my eye.
So the first thing I did in New York (although I did briefly pass through Eataly) was to make my way to his gallery and see some of the dog works in person. I didn’t see this “dog friendly” sign at the time, but I did notice there was a bowl of fresh sparkling water at the gallery’s entrance for thirsty patrons of the arts that might be out and about cruising the Chelsea arts district on a warm June day. Mr. Tufte gets another point from me.
This sculpture is the one that I wanted to see most of all, and I was able to see both the large one at the top and the “mini-me” version below, which also appears in the first photo in this post along with Porta the Portuguese Water Dog, the real life model. Porta appears to be giving it the critic’s review. There is some great information and photos about the process on his website here.
The piece below was also on display, and I’m hoping it’s a dog…I assumed it was at the time, but I was too caught up in the moment and now I’m not completely sure because it feels a little equine. Apologies if I’m wrong.
There are also some great photographs by Tufte on display, and he appears to have a good sense of humor:
I pulled this photo from the official Edward Tufte website. It shows his dog Ace visiting the gallery and taking stock of the dog works on display. I think it would be really great if he could be wearing a black turtleneck here. With maybe a pipe.
And as a reference for some of Edward Tufte’s other work, this photo (also from his website) shows his landscape piece titled Dear Leader I. Three of his dogs are shown in the photo also, according to Mr. Tufte, to provide a sense of scale. But of course I think they make it better!
I’m really glad that someone I’ve admired for a long time turns out to be a pretty big dog person. But before I sign off here, I want to say a little bit more about information design, because most people don’t really know what that means. In the profession of graphic design, you will often meet people who don’t understand what it is you do exactly, but it basically boils down to the visual display of information. Sadly, the perception is your role is limited to “making business cards and brochures”. Here is an excellent example of information design, not designed by Edward Tufte but it’s one of his favorites and available to purchase for framing:
The design of this poster reflects Napoleon’s winter march to Moscow in the War of 1812. On the left side, the top shape indicates the population of Napoleon’s army of 442,000 at the beginning of the campaign. As the march progresses to the right, markers along the route indicate position and the thinning of the band depicts shrinking troop size. When Napoleon’s men arrive in Moscow at the far right, they are down to 100,000 troops and their retreat path is shown in black. This ever-thinning band is tied to temperature and time, ultimately dwindling to just 10,000 troops when they arrive back at their starting point. In Mr. Tufte’s book, he states “it may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.” And maybe the most poignant.
If you’re interested in visiting Edward Tufte’s gallery in Chelsea, you can get the info here. Just one thing: I learned on my visit that this is a temporary gallery (they are unsure of just how long) so make your way there sooner than later. The great thing about its location is that it’s just steps from an entrance to the High Line, which I wrote about in my last post.
For information on Edward Tufte, any of his four books, projects, prints or lectures, visit his website here.