Collaged Walls: Martin Venezky's Appetite Engineers

Curator: Tim Belonax
date: January 7, 2013
Categories: Environmental Design, Typography
Tags: image making, Process, studio space, Typography
Martin Venezky
Detail of one of Martin Venezky’s wall collages

Walking into Martin Venezky’s studio was akin to entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Every detail was overwhelmingly lush and full of life. I wanted to rifle through all of the printed ephemera and ogle his arrangement of figurines and objects, but good taste and manners obstructed my childlike glee. Those familiar with Martin’s work won’t be surprised to learn that his office is as visually alive and beautiful as his designs. Many studios I’ve visited tend to prefer work spaces with a clean, modernist aesthetic—portraying seriousness, efficiency and whatever leftover baggage one might nostalgically assign to that era.

Martin’s space is on the opposite end of that visual spectrum—bursting with color and imagery. Every corner is alive with thought, color and form. “I love being greeted by my studio in the morning,” Martin said with a smile. “This is my home.”

Martin started making collage walls back at Cranbrook. I've seen many students create their own walls in a similar fashion, tacking up inspiration or pieces of their work as they make it. It’s a great exercise for gaining distance and reflecting on one’s work. But I have yet to see a wall or a collection as controlled and visually rich as Martin’s. Each of his walls is built piece by piece. It’s the most meticulously concentrated bricklaying imaginable, a reflection of Martin’s masterfully critical eye.

His system for image placement is largely driven by the results of juxtapositions from pieces of his design process. Stories emerge as one image plays off the next, which plays of the next, until the space is full, resulting in a visual orchestra, serenading the viewer for a closer inspection and deeper contemplation. 

Martin Venezky
Moving in and cleaning up

Tim Belonax
First wall collage seen upon entering

Tim Belonax
Framed New York Times illustration

Martin Venezky
Wall collage behind Martin’s desk

Tim Belonax
Detail, behind Martin’s desk

Martin Venezky
Nook wall collage

Tim Belonax
Nook wall collage detail

When Martin graduated from Cranbrook, his first few jobs weren’t as creatively fulfilling as his time in school. Looking to remedy the situation, Martin sought the advice of Elliott Earls, head of the Graduate Graphic Design Department at Cranbrook. Elliot encouraged Martin to build a space that allowed him to be as creative and comfortable as possible. Soon, the collage walls were reborn, first at the office of Speak magazine and later, in 1997, at Martin’s first studio.

Martin has built and rebuilt his collage walls each time he’s moved. When I asked if he ever threw anything out, he replied with a scolding, “No!” If a piece wasn’t on a wall, it was neatly organized within a box of other artifacts, waiting for its time to shine on the wall. A completely annotated version of one wall was published in Martin’s monograph It is Beautiful... Then Gone, providing a glimpse into the story behind each image that created these facades of graphic beauty. Like a Gothic cathedral covered in friezes and statues, Martin’s studio walls are a reflection of its contents—his design practice—depicting a bustling world, beautiful and alive. 
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