Retro-Futurism is an aesthetic that takes on an artistic style similar to that of the 40s and 50s. This is the kind of style that reminds me of classic Coca-Cola ads or drawings like “Rosie the Riveter”. What makes retro-futurism special is the incorporation of what someone from the mid 1900s might expect the distant future to look like. The contrast between the nostalgia brought on by the art style and the sci-fi features integrated throughout, the aesthetic can evokes a unique and thought provoking effect.
Drawings and other art pieces that exhibit this aesthetic date back to the 50s, but the term wasn’t coined until T.R. Hinchliffe wrote the book, “Retro-Futurism,” in 1967. It makes sense that this aesthetic emerged around this time because of the space race, which spanned from the mid 50s to mid 70s. Furthermore, television shows like Star Trek and Dr. Who easily could have inspired some of the art of the time that would fall under this category. Even today, the idea of space travel itself provokes thought of what the future may hold, so I can imagine that back then it was even more enthralling.
In the coming years after the space race, some of the media that came out could fall under the category of retro-futuristic. A couple of movies that stand out to me are Back To The Future and Star Wars. Of course, at the time this was just sci-fi, but since decades have passed, I would consider it retro-futurism. The aesthetic has also influenced the rest of the world, from postmodern architecture, to video games like Fallout and BioShock, to other aesthetics like vapor-wave.
These days, people still make retro-futuristic art, but typically not in the same way as they did in the 1900s. Today most of the artists I’ve seen that use this aesthetic do it more like a collage made in PhotoShop. They take drawings from old ads and articles from the “retro” time period, stitch them together, and add their own marks and effects to help the pieces come together as a whole. This technique can result in some truly gorgeous and astonishing images in my opinion. I would have liked to have included some of my favorites from Instagram, but often times it’s hard to find the original artist and date of the work. Still, I think it is worth mentioning.
Weaver, Stephanie. “Retrofuturism: Where We Thought We’d Be vs. Where We Are.” Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, 3 Jan. 2022, https://www.ripleys.com/weird-news/retrofuturism-where-we-thought-wed-be-vs-where-we-are/
All That’s Interesting. “55 Enthralling Images of How Artists of the Past Imagined Life Today.” All That’s Interesting, All That’s Interesting, 18 Apr. 2022, https://allthatsinteresting.com/retrofuturism.
Hinchliffe, T.R.. Retro-Futurism. Pelican, 1967. https://www.redbubble.com/people/compoundeye/works/7327105-retro-futurism-t-r-hinchcliffe-pelican-1967