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Magazines of Mystery, On the racks

The Art Mystique

02.04.08 | Comment?

Clear Magazine

Clear Magazine blends form and title (if not necessarily function) about as well as possible with its current cover. A whisper-thin piece of frosted Mylar printed with nondescript artifacts of industry invites the reader to play peekaboo with the fashion plate underneath. The translucent cover is undoubtedly cool and intriguingly interactive. Less Clear is what exactly the over-sized monthly thinks it’s up to—and their FlashyTM content-free web site doesn’t offer much elucidation.

To my eyes, it looks as if Clear is one of an emerging class of magazines that attempt to blend high fashion with other really, really nice things—in Clear’s case art and design. The approach is logical from a marketing perspective—wealthy women form the economic backbone of the art, design and fashion worlds, but on pages the two ideas don’t always come together gracefully. Fashion is by definition seasonal, transient and frivolous. It may be fancy and expensive, but it’s just the shmatas business. Art usually attempts something a bit longer-lasting. Now, there’s no reason why a reader can’t be interested in both—but the magazine’s barely legible manifesto (Do they run this every issue?) hardly applies to overpriced frocks—“art [need not] please the eye [nor] fit comfortably into our lives….” Fashion either I guess, so long as the model wearing it does please the eye, and it fits comfortably into our closets.

Clear Magazine

Clear does have some engaging if fairly rote art-book spreads such as the manifesto itself, but the tension between “challenging” art and beautiful clothes is played out with little grace on most pages. Fashion magazines tend to have cluttered and colorful designs with color schemes that mimic the pinks, purples and bright colors in fashion plates. Art magazines usually take a more reserved approach—clean Swiss grids and fonts printed in a disciplined black on white so as not to undermine the distinction between art and edit. Clear’s compromise between the two approaches is to follow a rote half-edit, half-art approach on openers, but to use an impractical script as a nod to the impractical clothing the magazine features on fashion pages. The result becomes visually tedious quickly, and is often out of whack with the articles. A piece on a $95,000 (or £32.30) custom electric sports car, an article on artist Zhang Huan, and an appreciation of designer purses are given the same tiresome wedding-invitation treatment.

Clear Magazine

In other ways as well, the magazine over-relies on a shallow bag of tricks with little regard as to whether the tropes that emerge from it serve content—such as the use of repeating patterns on several stories within the publication.

Clear Magazine

Fashion pages, perhaps because women are pictured rather than typographically inferred, are the only place where the magazine breaks the typographical conventions. Although in truth these also don’t offer much variety or narrative—just pictures of clothing against neutral gray backdrops.

Clear Magazine

To be sure, Clear has a few nice pages, but in the end a sheet of Mylar does not an iconoclast make—no matter how many manifestos you print.

Clear Magazine

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