Fernando Brave, Pablo Ferro, and Craig Minor

Why the Red Scarf, Pablo Ferro?

Apparently, a whole army of people in Houston know who Pablo Ferro is and love his work. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston event (co-sponsored by the Rice Design Alliance and AIGA) was packed for the sold-out presentation of the title designer, movie director, animator and all around Renaissance Man. The crowd was a heady mix befitting of the presenter himself: a slew of hipsterfied young graphic designer nerds mixed with older film buffs, advertising professionals, architects, and typography geeks. The eclectic audience was an indication that Pablo Ferro has been fully rediscovered (if he was ever really forgotten).

Love of Pablo Ferro, the cult figure, has been growing for some time now. The rebirth of interest in him has been driven by a large, impressive and always surprising body of work (and its recent appearance in easily searchable YouTube videos): the skinny, sexy film titles of Dr. Strangelove, the boxy split screens of The Thomas Crown Affair, the flipped Я of The Russians are Coming, and the quick-cut, psychedelic weirdness of the Clockwork Orange trailer. Ferro created an aesthetic for an era and laid out an array of visual techniques that would be copied and reworked for decades. In recent years, he’s received a series of well-deserved awards from prestigious organizations, including the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum. There’s also a documentary film in the works that combines animated sequences with celebrity interviews (e.g. Anjelica Houston and Jeff Bridges) to tell the story of Pablo’s unconventional life: his road from Cuba to working with Stan Lee and Disney in New York to Hollywood studio work and finally to a humble garage in L.A. where he lives and works to this day.

Line at the Pablo Ferro talk

In his appearance at the MFAH, Ferro alternated between telling funny anecdotes, talking about his creative production processes, and reminiscing about his adventures with the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Hal Ashby and even Michael Jackson in his video for Beat It. A font of advice, jokes, and clever turns of phrase, Pablo Ferro was imminently charming. While on stage, he (and later his loquacious son) showed a variety of short videos of his work, displaying the graphically complex visuals and typographic high-wire act for which he’s best known. It was a casual tour through an incredibly full career. One story he didn’t tell at the MFAH is why he wears his iconic red scarf. In an interview, one of the directors of the upcoming documentary on Ferro, Richard Goldgewicht, tells the story:

[O]ne day, […] a hit man shows up and BANG!: shoots Pablo straight up, pointblank. Pablo closes the metal door of the loft and half of the bullet splinters off, ricochets in three different walls and hits him in the neck. The loving-hippie, the ringleader, the good guy comes crashing down, and somehow, miraculously survives after a series of operations. When Pablo wakes up from the nightmare, he can’t at all explain what happened — it could have been a hit man sent to the wrong door, the drug-lab upstairs perhaps, or “just another New York story.”

And so, the red scarf becomes armor and a witty come-back to a hostile world, an entirely Ferrian response to tragedy: allowing problems to drive the creative process. Ferro is a startling mash-up of contradictions and ironies: an ardent experimentalist best known for his commercial work for advertising companies and movie studios, a dyslexic title designer who can’t spell, a Cuban immigrant who came to define the aesthetic feel of sixties U.S. visual culture. And it seems we’re just beginning to appreciate him.

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    5 Comments

    1. 1

      loquacious? Ouch!


    2. 2

      The reason why I wear the Red scarf is because it tells me who I am, and I like it. It’s branding. When ever you see the Red scarf, you think Pablo Ferro. Has nothing to do with the accident. You can make up your own story, but this is the real one coming from me, Pablo Ferro; the artist with the Red Scarf. Best Regards, Pablo


    3. 3

      Hello Allen and Pablo,

      Thanks for reading this little blog post on the event. It was great to have both of you in Houston to share your stories.

      Allen – No harm was intended by the use of the word “loquacious.” It was great to hear your stories as well, and it’s heartening to see the love and support you have for your dad.

      Pablo – Good to know the truth about the distinctive red scarf. I would like it to be clear that I didn’t invent this story; I found it in an online interview with Goldgewicht. It seemed like a really important anecdote that gave some insight into your career and your creativity in the face of difficulty.

      Thanks again for reading,

      JP


    4. 4

      The scarf has always been this idea that Richard and Jeremy have tried to keep alive. The Scarf is a very simple concept. Branding. The fact that it goes around my neck is a coincidence and convenient for people to profile. The other thing is, I don’t function out of a garage. My son built a guest house where the garage was, so again, it’s being called a garage for dramatic effect. I have not lived there for almost five years now. I now live in an apartment in Sherman Oaks.


    5. 5

      No problem, JP – I take all critical opinions literally. After all, context is everything.
      The movie “Pablo” is approaching the final stages of finishing. Richard and Jeremy have submitted the film to Sundance concurrent with the final stages of post production.

      If you have any questions regarding Pablo please contact us directly, and thanks for the article. Very Best – Allen