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Retro Radness: Hollis Brown Thornton's TV Throwback

A CBS Special Presentation by Hollis Brown Thornton
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($1,200) | 30"x40" ($2,400)

Our new Hollis Brown Thornton edition pays homage to the retro glory of the old school tv set, and the network graphics that made it come alive. One of our fave writers, Maura Johnston, digs into Thornton's throwback vibes and clever composition, below! 

As soon as my eyes focused on Hollis Brown Thornton's A CBS Special Presentation music started playing in my brain—rumbling drums, a fanfare as brassy as it was brief. When CBS used this particular introduction to a program it was airing, you knew something good was coming—maybe a variety show starring a boot-kicking country act, or a chronicle of Charlie Brown's heartaches and headaches. It was a relatively uncluttered moment, media-landscape-wise, and VCRs were still pricey enough that if you wanted to catch a show, you had to rearrange your schedule to the whims of networks' programming departments. Not to mention that the hyperbole of marketing had yet to wring the lifeblood out of words like "special". (Or maybe I just got older. That's probably part of it too.)

Thornton's juxtaposition of the CBS animation's bright colors and the wallpaper's intricate patterns with the hulking utilitarianism of the TV dial allows further opportunity to reflect on how far society has come since the days of variety shows and paper editions of TV Guide. The screen was small, even if the entertainment it promised was big; the controls to fix the picture were simple; and if you wanted to venture further than the networks and PBS, you had to fiddle around in the wild world of UHF, where the pictures were fuzzier and the programming was a bit less buttoned-up.

Today's home-entertainment landscape is sleeker on the outside and more vast on the inside—a multiplexing of available channels, a sharp increase in programs jockeying for that "special" tag, and a much clearer picture. But Thornton's crisp use of color and space show how the lower-resolution recent past could be dazzlingly eye-popping to viewers at home.

With art for everyone,
Maura Johnston