No Powerful Idea Lasts Long: The Memphis Group and the Look of the ’80s

By Richard McKenna

Of the many cultural tributaries that flowed together into what we now think of as the visual aesthetic of the 1980s, one of the most prominent must be the Memphis Group. Convened in 1981 by Austrian-born architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, Memphis was a collective that—incongruously, for something that seems so violently of its times—took its name from the lyric of a Bob Dylan song…

One Sheet Terrors: Enzo Sciotti Film Posters, 1980 – 1990

The promotional artwork used on genre film posters, and later on VHS packaging, was often more important for establishing a foothold in the popular imagination than the films themselves. This was especially true in the Italy of the 1980s, where a thriving and competitive cinema industry was increasingly looking to the opportunities offered by foreign markets and the burgeoning home video trade…

Ocean Pacific Apparel Designs, 1979 – 1989

Ocean Pacific was founded in 1972 by Jim Jenks, a San Diego-based surfboard maker and former sportswear rep. He had developed the logo in 1969 for a surfboard line, but found much greater success with surfwear, OP’s corduroy “walkshorts” becoming an immediate hit with surfers and, in short order, men everywhere (the high-waisted style was popularized by Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I.)…

The Sound of Space: Stereo Advertisements, 1981 – 1983

Three of the five ads above were illustrated by Ryo Ohshita, who seems to have specialized in depicting the pioneering audio systems of the time. Clearly taking after one of the most sought-after futurist illustrators of the decade, Shusei Nagaoka, Ohshita’s shimmering visions lend his products an occult grandeur and mystery reminiscent of the hovering Monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey