Barney, Paper-Engineer 1st Class




This gatefold  cover for a Long Playing ‘record’, twelve inches in diameter, made of vinyl (called an ‘LP’) is a reproduction of a photograph of a piece of inspired paper-engineering by Barney B the graphic whiz. (For new readers: He was born a ‘Colin Fulcher’ but changed his Monica to ‘Barney Bubbles’ in ’67 or thereabouts, and is significant in the development of a creative and very graphic engineering.)

The LP was by a band called ‘Gracious!’ and it is self-titled (ie the name of the LP is also Gracious!) Note: the exclamation mark is part of the name.

The LP came out in 1970. The images are of the front and inside of this LP.

Below is tat least one of the  cribs, the ‘Great American Nude #92’ by Tom Wesselman which dates to 1967, that obviously inspired the imagery and color of the ‘Gracious’ album. I remember that Barney shewed me the painting at the time although I don’t recall why, or any connection with the Gracious! album, which I had not seen until the recent Barney rememberthon.

(Aha, I do so recall awhy –  I was having fun at Curious magazine and so Barney and are I were in playful competition, without discussing it, to outdo each other in prurient outrageousness. He went out of his way to show me the art, don’t recall where, but it was in the street.)

I have a feeling that maybe Barney used the Wesselman original, or something close, in the ‘presentation’ rough, with its “Good gracious me!” element a more direct shock than the  subdued, by comparison, Barney art.


The good ‘Gracious!’ album cover which uses a photograph of a paper cut-out scene in a box, reminds me of the ‘box exercise’ we were given to design at school. The requirement was  to ‘design an abstract shoe box interior.’ Using Tom Wesselman art as inspiration Barney’s post-curricula take on the idea is to create a classic layered set-in-a-box. (There’s a flexing strong man in there somewhere, one of Barney’s re-occuring images.)

Another crib reference for the cover may be Picasso’s ‘Geurnica,’ to which I see a similarity.

Hungarian paper sculpture

A favorite amongst Fulcher’s teachers at Twickenham was Mr. Steffans (sp?), the earnest Hungarian refugee who taught advanced paper sculpture, coming as he did from a place where the fine art of bent-bond was a national pastime. It was Mr.Steffans’ class that Barney is making use of here, with gusto. Another place this skill came in useful at school, and for a while after we left, was when a bunch of friends communicated via the Pos Office. We sent each other wildly creative missives through the mail. Made of bent paper in various forms, collaged with paint and ephemera. I think many of us kept them – not me though, I’ve lost most of everything. Some of us pretended to be managers of the Gasworks in our various towns and created wild mailings of the improbable, to test the post office delivery skills. It would be way hip to find one of the gasworks creative mailings by Fulcher; he memorably sent me an altered Kellogg’s corn-flake box with a stamp on it. Somewhere I have a cut-out clothes doll he sent my brother Peter in 1964. Fulcher said the odd mailings he received amused his postman. (See the post “Brother Peter Paper Dolly”.

Moths at the gasworks

‘My’ Teddington Gasworks was, with others places in England, famous for its moths that changed their camouflage over the years from mottled tree bark pattern to soot black in proof of Darwin’s posits about evolution. (Later some brainless Creationists PR’d a piece that derided the research, because the two moths of varying hues “were placed next to each other” for a photograph, and because the two would not be seen near each other, the research was “not true.” This was actually reprinted  in the SF Chronicle.)

Tulips for Miss Briggs

The Elvis Costello tulips (in the last post) are straight out of Miss ‘Polly’ Briggs basic design class at Twickenham Art School. (The school was more properly called Twickenham Technical College, Deptartment of Printing and Graphic Design.) Honors here to Miss Briggs, a teacher of basic design in the years before Barney arrived. But whose wiry influence was felt reverberating through the concrete foundations of Twickenham. She also taught paper scrolling and scoring with a wry twist. Now I think on it, maybe Barney would have had a special-ed first year ‘basic training’ with her, either her or Mrs Mary ‘Glastonbury Astro-chart’ Caine, or Mr. Mathews, Mr. Smith or Mr Randall (he was older maybe not) l, they all echoed Polly, advising, “Listen. You’ll never be road sweepers, you’re bound for better things, you must celebrate your education and the glory and power of being an artist !” Go Polly !

A musing aside

Barney continued bouncing around his upward learning curve with a visual-vector that arced, in no particular order, or exhaustive listing, from the arts and craft imagery of Morris & Co to the revolutionary Ruskies black square; from the G. Grass boy under the skirts in The Tin Drum, to Picasso’s Guernica, on through Ben Shahn’s condemned atom spies, the Rosenbergs, to Burroughs cut-ups, via Hannah Barbara’s Barney Ruggles, Warhol’s factory, Paolotzi’s prints, Connors’s movies, Michael Morecock’s dark side, and onto the Dutch Situationist’s Rem Koolhaus hole in the wall…