There are creative directors – some of the best – who see themselves as fine artists. Clive Piercy – who passed away August 20, 2017 – did not require self-flattery. He was both a successful creative director and a true visual artist.
Clive was the founder of Air Conditioned, the influential design studio. But that’s not where I first learned of Clive. Rather it was through the 2003 book Pretty Vacant, which he wrote, photographed and designed. Ahead of its time in celebrating indigenous Los Angeles density, Pretty Vacant is fat, 500-page love/hate affair with dingbat apartment buildings, published by Chronicle Books. (That Clive, an Englishman, named it after a Sex Pistols song gives it extra credit for me.)
Clive’s influence includes teaching at Otis College of Art and Design, and later at Art Center in Pasadena. But he leaves his marks all across Southern California. I mean that literally: He created logos, marks and branding for:
- Los Angeles 1984 Olympics
- Center Theatre Group
- QuikSilver Edition
- California Pizza Kitchen
- Father’s Office
- Chin Chin
…as well as new places to become landmarks: the new Hollywood Park masterplan and WREN apartments in DTLA, for example.
That some of L.A.’s best architects – Studio One Eleven and EYRC (founded by Steven Ehrlich) – chose Air Conditioned tells you how much he understood placemaking.
Whether in advertising or art, Clive fused word and image with an arch slyness. Even the most straightforward layout held a layer of satire, or at least playfulness. Or maybe I projected bemusement onto the work after speaking with Clive, who always cracked me up. I can’t be the first person to think his work suggests a slightly less dramatic Ed Ruscha.
And yet, it is rooted in the fundamentals of human perception: Highly successful as well as highly entertaining.
The Air Conditioned team continues, inspired by Clive. In the meantime, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Art Center’s Scholarship fund in Clive’s name at https://engage.artcenter.edu/giving (indicate Clive Piercy’s name in the Tribute section).