Archive for August, 2013

Architecture | LA’s Quincy Jones

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

A Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living
The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles, USA
Until 8th September, 2013

Phenomenally productive, Archibald Quincy Jones, who practiced architecture in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1979, was responsible for over 5,000 built projects. As testament to his passion for ‘better living’, and the clients and homeowners who shared his dream, many still exist. Oddly though, in comparison to other architects like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinin and Richard Neutra, who were his West Coast contemporaries, Jones isn’t that well-known. The Hammer exhibition, part of the larger Getty-sponsored initiative Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in LA, is intended to rescue ‘Quincy’ – as he was known – from obscurity.

Modernist to the core, he might have built large-scale private homes for the likes of film star Gary Cooper, but Jones also designed everything from churches, schools, and libraries to commercial buildings – expanded headquarters for furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, Warner Brothers Records headquarters – bringing high standards of design to Southern California’s growing middle class. Reconsidering and refining postwar housing and emphasising cost-effective, and sustainable building methods, he was an innovative, visionary architect and urban planner who pioneered the use of communal space, greenbelts and green design. He viewed developments as an opportunity to build community through shared green spaces, varied home models, and non-grid site planning. He designed and completed his own house in 1954 – sadly, despite its steel frame construction, burned to the ground during the infamous Bel Air fire of 1961 – in the same community for which he developed 27 houses of 300 lots in 1948. Jones’s three-decade career included an 18-year partnership with Frederick E Emmons, with whom he produced designs for thousands of houses for property developer Joseph Eichler – one of America’s most influential builders of modern homes – between 1950 and the mid-1970s.

A Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living which draws from collections including Jones’s personal and professional archives housed at UCLA, where he was an influential professor of architecture, presents original architectural drawings, a rare Case Study model for a house (unbuilt), and vintage photographs by, among others, the eminent Julius Shulman. New photography which the Museum commissioned from Jason Schmidt, are also included in the exhibition – a few key images enlarged to almost actual size, to allow visitors to experience something close to a physical presence of Jones’s architecture.

You can find a bit about Jones on Wikepedia and elsewhere on the internet, but nothing very substantial, however The Hammer show together with Phaidon’s timely, lavishly-illustrated A Quincy Jones: The first book on the pioneering American architect, by architect Cory Buckner, who bought and lives in a Jones-designed house, should do much to bring the architect the exposure he justly deserves.

Images from top
Warner Brothers Records building, Burbank, California, 1971-75
A Quincy Jones and Associates, Architects

Schneidman House, Mutual Housing Association (CrestwoodHills), Los Angeles, California, 1946-50
A Quincy Jones, Whitney Smith, and Edgardo Contini, Architects and Engineer

Sidney F and Frances Brody House, Los Angeles, California, 1948-51
William Haines, interior designer
Gouache of open-air living room
Courtesy The Huntington Library, San Marino, California

St Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal Church, Studio City, California, 1960-62
A Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons, Architects

Gross House, Mutual Housing Association (Crestwood Hills), Los Angeles, California, 1946-50
A Quincy Jones, Whitney Smith, and Edgardo Contini, Architects and Engineer

All images, except 3, Courtesy Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California, USA
All Photos Jason Schmidt, 2012


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Books | The History of Type in 2 Volumes

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Type. A Visual History of
Typefaces and Graphic Styles
Cees W de Jong, Alston W Purvis
and Jan Tholenaar
Published by Taschen
720pp, 2 volumes, soft covers
In slipcase, with keycard
Text in English, French and German

The glossy, bright red sleeve containing the matt linen effect, two-volumed book set, one black, the other white, the gold-blocking, spot-varnishing and the randomly positioned die-cut shapes punched through the slip-case, revealing both ornate and plain typographic characters, as well as illustrative elements on the covers beneath, combine to create a package that would make an ideal Christmas present for anyone who loves type in the way that those responsible for collating, editing and designing this publication surely must. Feeling at once modern, it cleverly evokes a strong sense of history without stooping into nostalgia. At first glance, the subject might easily be early twentieth century avant garde art and design, Dada, the Bauhaus, Surrealism, and perhaps have been designed by Pentagram with help from Kurt Schwitters and Piero Fornasetti, however Sense/Net based in Cologne, who for over the past ten years or so have designed many books on a wide variety of books for Taschen, including among others the Architecture Now! series (2009-2011), Cinema Now! (2007), Contemporary Graphic Design (2007), Helmut Newton, Sex & Landscapes (2004), were responsible for the art direction.

Design and publishing consultant Cees W de Jong, based in the Netherlands, Alston W Purvis, professor of the School of Visual Arts at Boston University, USA, and collector of the printed letter in all its incarnations, and Jan Tholenaar, based until his recent death, in Amsterdam, made up the editorial team, whose careful attention to detail ensured that all of the big names: William Caslon, Peter Behrens, Eric Gill, Paul Renner, Jan Tschichold, A M Cassandre, Aldo Novarese and Adrian Frutiger are represented, but equally that anonymous though often equally impressive examples of great typography were not left out.

This book set is representative of a very positive and growing trend among publishers for making available high-quality books, with a tactile hand-crafted appeal that offer a more precious alternative to e-books and other on-line publications, of which Penguin’s series Great Ideas (2004), designed by David Pearson, was an early example. The rather dry title, Type. A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, belies the depth, complexity and sense of pure enjoyment that can be had by simply turning from one spread to the next of each volume’s 360 pages – volume 1 covering the period 1628-1900 and volume 2, 1901-1938. Given pace by constant changes of scale and sheer variety of content, the package is fully cogent, but also full of surprises, including the keycard that comes as part of the package and allows purchasers free access to an online library of high-resolution images of type specimens downloadable for unrestricted use, making it great value at £34.99 / €41. While the outer packaging is splendid, using higher grade paper on the inside pages, where the uncoated bond suffers a little from show-through, might have been a good idea.

Type samples from top
Schriftproben, Schriftgiesserei
und mechanische Werkstätte

J H Rust & Co
Vienna, 1887

Monotype Gill Sans
The Monotype Corporation
London, 1935

Schriften und Zierat
J G Schelter & Giesecke
Leipzig, 1909


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Reutersward: Nudes & Landscapes

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Blaise Reutersward: Aktstudien und Deutsche Landschaften
(Nude studies and German Landscape)
Camera Work
Berlin, Germany
24th August – October 12th, 2013

Following in the wake of then deputy fashion director Kerstin Schneider, photographer Blaise Reutersward’s unruly shock of blond hair seemed to arrive in my office at German Elle in Munich, a millisecond before he did. It was the late 1990s and and most of the female staff were dressed head-to-toe in black (Tom Ford) Gucci or maybe Jil Sander, the younger ones in less expensive Strenesse, the editor, Renata Rosenthal in Issey Miyake – sometimes with scarily-weird green contact lenses. On the surface, Blaise, tanned, in bright blue and white checked shirt and jeans – I’m not sure what he wore on his feet, probably Converse – was a breath of fresh air, much like his photography, the naturalness of which cut a swathe through the rather stilted, heavily stylised stuff that was coming out of Paris and New York at the time. Reutersward’s models didn’t pose, they moved about under blue skies with puffy, whispy white clouds in them, wearing the clothes with ease, their hair catching the breeze. But, Reutersward himself, unsmiling, hiding beneath his hair, avoiding eye-contact, ostensibly coming in to discuss layout ideas for his photographs was deeply serious about his work and knew exactly how he wanted it to be presented.

Born in 1961, in Stockholm, Sweden, where he still lives and is based, in the one picture (2010) of him that resulted from an internet search, only sea and sky fill the background, although the tan remains, replaced by a stubble crop the long blond hair is gone, and he sports a black T-shirt – maybe a sop to fashion, or perhaps signifying the broody, mysterious side to the photographer that I had been aware of at our single meeting and which would later be revealed via his personal work.

Unable to compete with German Vogue for the best photographers, German Elle was and probably remains the poor relation, but, certainly during the period I was the magazine’s art director (1996-1999) – many of the photographers coming in via the fashion department, who were extremely picky about who they would work with – it provided a testing ground for talented new, not necessarily young – Blaise would have been around 35 years old at the time – photographers, keen for a chance to get published. Reutersward was one of those who impressed German Vogue and soon found himself regularly shooting for them, and throughout the past 15 or so years, for French Vogue as well as those in Japan and China. He may not have achieved the success or fame of giant of Swedish fashion photography, Mikael Jansson, but he has stuck to his guns, consistently producing sensitive, timeless images of female fashion and beauty, most often in a natural setting with a minimum of artificial lighting.

Typically understated, Reuterward’s website shows nothing other than a slideshow of a few dark photographs from Aktstudien und Deutsche Landschaften, his forthcoming exhibition of large format nude portraits and German landscapes at Berlin’s Camera Work. The landscapes new, the nudes produced over the past 10 years, he uses his great skill and unique eye for composition to create an intense dialogue between the objects of his obsession.

Photographs from top
Aktstudie 002
Grevgatan, Stockholm, Sweden

Deutsche Landschaft 1205
Ariel view of Sylt, Germany

Deutsche Landschaft 1207
Schönau am Königssee,
Berchtesgaden National Park,
Bavaria, Germany

Deutsche Landschaft 1206
Neinhäger Holz,
Mecklenburger Bucht, Germany

All images ©Blaise Reutersward
Courtesy Camera Work


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Art | Sounding Out MoMA

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Soundings: A Contemporary Score
The Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
10th August – 3rd November, 2013

Galleries and museums, except on private view evenings, when most people – rather than looking at what’s on the walls or arranged on the floor – go to see and be seen, to have a couple of free drinks, and perhaps to hob-nob with the artist, when the sound of endless How-are-yous, How’re-you-doins, Haven’t-seen-you-since-the-such-and-such-openings, loud introductions, air-kissing mwah-mwahs!, excited chit-chat and raucous laughter fill the air, are generally quiet, contempletive places, where one is hardly aware of the gentle scrape of leather on polished parquet, the squeak of rubber on polished concrete, the slow, broken clatter of Louboutin heels, the odd whispered praise, questioning, or muffled criticism.

Soundings: A Contemporary Score, the title of MoMA’s first major ’show’ of sound art begs the question what can one expect to see? Quite a lot, actually. The exhibition, which, echoing the rebellious nature of sound itself, struggling against containment, permeates the museum, occupying the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the third floor, drifting down the Bauhaus staircase, and bursting out into the Sculpture Garden, includes architectural interventions, visualisations of inaudible sound, field recordings with accompanying videos on subjects as diverse as bats, abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, New York City bells, and a sugar factory in Taiwan.

Sixteen innovative, international artists working with sound, have been invited to contribute and to make as much, or as little noise as they like, and at a time when personal listening devices are commonplace – those who wander around exhibitions like zombies, moving from one exhibit to the next, wearing headphones, must be pointedly ignored and studiously avoided – the art they create is not anti-social, but rather intended to connect visitors via communal immersion in sound fields and through installations that provide a shared experience.

Camille Norment’s Triplight, the title of which refers to the song lyric ‘trip the light fantastic’, started with an iconic 1955 Shure microphone – the model used by Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and other legendary jazz singers – from which the artist removed the internal parts, replacing them with a small flickering light. The light casts a shadow, projecting onto the wall what might be a luminescent rib cage, evocative of an absent performer.

Travelling to remote corners of the earth – for Disco Bay (2007) she visited Greenland – to make field recordings, Jana Winderen uses hydrophones (sensitive underwater microphones) to collect sounds inaudible or inaccessible to unassisted human ears, which she painstakingly pieces together to construct sound collages.

A Bell for Every Minute (2010), commissioned by among others, Friends of the High Line, from American artist, Stephen Vitiello, and reminiscent in essence of Christian Marclay’s phenomenally successful film, The Clock, consists of recordings of fifty-nine bells from around New York, one for every minute, including the famous New York Stock Exchange bell, the well-known United Nations (Japanese) Peace Bell, but also bicycle bells, those attached to cats’ collars, and alarm bells.

Perhaps the most visual soundings in the exhibition are the series Scores and Transcripts (2012) by Christine Sun Kim – born deaf – who combines elements of American sign language, musical notation, spoken English and body language into large expressive drawings. ‘This work is a re-enactment of the unconscious sound I make while concentrating,’ she says, ‘I asked Mader (her partner) to describe my unconscious sound in a short text. Then I attempted to re-enact his description like one would re-enact a murder scene with actors and props.’ Screaming is not allowed within the precincts of the museum.

Images from top
Christine Sun Kim, All. Night., 2012
From the series Scores and Transcripts
Score, pastel, pencil, and charcoal on paper

Camille Norment, Triplight, 2008
Microphone cage, stand, light, electronics
Courtesy the artist

Hong-Kai Wang, still from Music While We Work, 2011
Multi-channel sound and two-channel video installation
Courtesy the artist

Marco Fusinato, Mass Black Implosion (Shaar, Iannis Xenakis), 2012
Ink on archival facsimile of score, Part 1 of 5 parts
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne & Sydney

Stephen Vitiello, A Bell for Every Minute, 2010
5-channel sound installation with aluminum sound map
Commissioned by Creative Time, Friends of the High Line
and the City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation
Photo Stephen Vitiello


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Meret Oppenheim

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Meret Oppenheim Retrospective
Martin-Gropius-Bau
Berlin, Germany
16th August – 1st December, 2013

On a visit to Berlin this spring I went to the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum to see their tremendously well staged Kosmos Farbe exhibition, in which the two Swiss-born Bauhaus masters Johannes Itten and Paul Klee’s work was carefully arranged to allow for comparison and contrast. The same venue will host Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective, the first ever major retrospective of the Berlin-born (1913) artist, brought up in Switzerland.

Oppenheim studied in Basel, where she saw an exhibition of Bauhaus work that included some by Paul Klee that inspired her to produce a series of pen and ink drawings in a school notebook – her own first surrealist work – which proved to be the catalyst for her move to Paris in 1932 to attend the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Meeting André Breton gained her the entré she had sought to the surrealist circle, with whom she would exhibit her own work for the first time the following year; a year which would see Man Ray posing her nude with an etching press, in a famous series of photographs that includes Erotique voilée (1933, above).

Named after Meretlein, a wild child who lives in the woods in Gottfried Keller’s novel Der Grüne Heinrich (The Green Henry), Oppenheim was quickly adopted by the group whose members, including Alberto Giacometti, (Jean) Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia and Dora Maar, identified her as the perfect embodiment of the surrealist woman, the femme-enfant through whose youth, naivety and charm, they believed had direct access to the world of dreams and the unconscious. Produced decades later her self-portrait, Skull and Ornament (1964) – an x-ray image of her head in profile, complete with large, ringed earrings – might be interpreted as the artist allowing us a glimpse of this mythical inner persona.

Oppenheim returned to Basel in 1937, entering a period of personal and artistic crisis, during which she worked sporadically, destroyed much and even went back to art school. When she began working in earnest again in the 1950s, she produced works based mainly on earlier sketches. Her painting Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, (above), produced between 1960 and 1981, is a clear reference to her original inspiration, Paul Klee’s work.

Linking her firmly to her surrealist friends, her humorous treatments of everyday materials in odd combinations, often suggestive of metamorphosis, would become some of the distinctive features of her work. However, Oppenheim wasn’t in it just for laughs. She became well-known for her emancipatory, non-conformist attitude and her critical approach to gender stereotyping, making her a central role model for 20th century women artists. ‘Freedom isn’t given to you – you have to take it’, she said, summing up her stance in 1975. And, right up to her death in Basel in 1985, the artist’s work courted controversy. When the city of Bern, famous for its traditional fountains commissioned her to design her Tour-fontaine (in Waisenhausplatz), inaugurated in 1983, and produced when she was already entering her seventies, residents queued up to sign petitions demanding its removal.

Celebrated by the surrealists as ‘the fairy woman whom all men desire’, much of Meret Oppenheim’s better known pieces are loaded with latent erotic content, which might provide some explanation as to why, when I was at the tender age of 15, in 1970, perhaps unsure of whether he should be showing us it, our very bright and progressive art teacher, closed the door firmly and pulled down the window blinds – it was a winter evening and already dark outside – prior to projecting Oppenheim’s iconic Objet (1936), the fur cup, saucer and spoon, on to a wall, introducing our single sex class to surrealism. Art critic Robert Hughes called it ‘the most intense and abrupt image of lesbian sex in the history of art.’ Years later, when I was studying graphics at London’s Royal College of Art, in a clever and poignant reminder of Objet, my contemporary, the late John Hind – who began working at British Vogue before he’d even finished the course, and would within a few short years become the magazine’s art director – in homage to the artist, made a fur purse as a container for a lipstick, the bright red tip provocatively poking out.

Images from top
Man Ray photograph f
rom the series Erotique voilée  mit handschriftlich
markierten Ausschnitten des Künstlers
, 1933
Galerie 1900–2000, Paris
©Man Ray Trust, Paris / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Pelzhandschuhe, 1936
Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland
Photo Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, 1960–1981
Private collection, Bern
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Margrit Baumann photograph,
M.O. mit Sechs Wolken auf einer Brücke, 1977, Bern 1982
©Photo Margrit Baumann
Archiv Christiane Meyer-Thoss, Frankfurt am Main

Meret Oppenheim, Eichhörnchen, 1969
Private collection, Montagnola
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern

©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Catalogue
Meret Oppenheim. Retrospective
Hatje Cantz Verlag
Editors: Heike Eipeldauer, Ingried Brugger, Gereon Sievernich
312 pages, 364 images
Museum edition €25


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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