Visual Energy

Jayme Odgers & April Greiman

Jayme Odgers, Portrait of April Greiman (1986)

The synergetic partnership of Jayme Odgers and April Greiman yielded results that helped defined an era of West Coast design and aesthetics. The pair collaborated on many commissions, including for the Olympics, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and Peter Shire, and created original works, most well-known of which are likely their laminated Spacemats. While both artists trained with revered designers — Odgers with Paul Rand and April Greiman with Armin Hofman — their collaborations would birth something new, explosive, and entirely of their moment.

Recognized as one of the earliest graphic designers to embrace emerging digital technologies, Greiman met Odgers when, in 1976, she moved to Los Angeles from New York, where she had worked as a freelance designer for the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1977, the pair worked together on a brochure for CalArts, and, five years later, Greiman became head of the institute's design department — which she successfully renamed as Visual Communications.

Formally, Odgers and Greiman established and worked as the firm Visual Energy for three years. Asked by Steven Heller to describe their style and approach, Odgers said, "[April and I] certainly didn’t verbalize any particular aesthetic beyond 'blendo.' No theorizing, for sure. If anything it was the opposite— a sense of freedom without rules, without structure or theory. April studied Swiss Design under Armin Hofman in Basel, me under Rand; perhaps it was our desire to break out of that highly structured approach—to be loose, free, anarchic, subversive, against the norm, but with West Coast colors..."

Once we got together, April and I made a great team—she was style-based, I was content-based. She was typographic-based, I was image-based. She is right-handed, I’m left...She is female and I am male. The reason I feel this is important is that each piece we did together carried male/female qualities which appealed to the widest possible audience.

Jayme Odgers

Seeing and Being

The Expansive Visions of Jayme Odgers

by Marian Lawrence

Jayme Odgers, Self-portrait, 1979

Jayme Odgers was a transformative, visionary artist whose work constantly pushed boundaries and defined a generation. Over the arc of his life as a graphic designer and artist, he continually reinvented his engagement with content, form, and style, perpetually redefining how one might see the world. Odgers’s body of work spans the strict constructs of Modernist graphics, the pre-digital experimental photographic collaging known as photo-design, the structured chaos of the Pacific Wave movement that he pioneered, and the introspective personal work that represented his relentless pursuit of spiritual growth and intellectual challenge. This collection offers a survey of Odgers’s expansive career, showcasing the development, range, and depth he possessed as a true original, an incredible polymath, a great communicator, and groundbreaking artist.

Early in his career, Odgers displayed an aptitude for Modernist design: in his work with the legendary Paul Rand in the 1960s (and later, his own commercial practice), Odgers brilliantly employed the rigid principles of modernism to create award-winning corporate identity materials — indeed it was his early wayfinding signage for IBM that attracted Rand as an employer and mentor. Odgers brought a sophisticated, lively viewpoint and exceptional technical skills to these commissions, becoming quite successful over the span of thirteen years.

I feel my better works are infused with a metaphysical space as well as an illusion of physical space – infinite space at best. At that point they come “tantras” of a sort; images that allow one’s mind to expand out-wardly to the edges of one’s known universe. When meditated upon one can hopefully “hear” the universe and sense the pulse. When I’m hot, and I’m cooking, that’s the soup I’m after. Celestial soup.

Jayme Odgers

Jayme Odgers

Born in Butte, Montana, in 1939, graphic designer and artist Jayme Odgers left an indelible mark on visual culture through his seminal role in establishing California New Wave design. As a child, Odgers taught himself to draw – in part through responding to “Draw This Face” ads in comic books. He left Montana to attend the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, and subsequently apprenticed with the legendary designer Paul Rand in the mid-1960s.

Odgers would go on to establish his own graphic design firm in 1968, which eventually became the Santa Monica-based Odgers + Hinckley. He later teamed up with the influential artist and designer April Greiman. Together, the pair became known for their works for California Institute of the Arts as well as their popular Space Mats, which embodied their vibrant, hybrid approach to their craft. For his part, Odgers credited the early Modernists of the 20th century as major influences, and particularly those engaged with Cubism.

In the 1970s, Odgers began to break with the elements that he found restrictive within the field of graphic design. Prompted by Manly P. Hall’s advice that “six months of quiet meditation can save an entire life of misdirection,” Odgers camped and traveled in an artistic-spiritual quest of his own devising, one that would lead him to a stronger relationship with photography and his role as a “photo-designer.” As Eric Baker writes, “John Plunkett, co-creater/founder of WIRED magazine, considers Odgers’ early hybrid composite work a precursor to Adobe Photoshop nearly three decades before the software’s release in 1990.”

Odgers would forego client relationships entirely in 1986, completing his pivot into the realm of fine art. Eventually he left even photography behind, creating typographic paintings that explored his fascination with harmonizing the left and the right sides of the brain. While drastically different than the commercial designs Odgers was widely known for, these later works nonetheless encompassed his spiritual and creative passion for communication and the infinite intersections of image and information.

Throughout his career, Odgers held teaching positions at the Art Center College of Design, California Institute of the Arts, and Otis College of Art and Design. His works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Brooklyn Museum, the Walker Art Center, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, among others, and is held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and Yale University Art Gallery.

Auction Results Jayme Odgers