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Wim Crouwel (1928-2019)

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This morning i heard that one of the most influential designers from our time, Wim Crouwel, has died. The last years of his life he suffered Parkinson disease, but he was still going strong and must have looked forward to the retrospective of his works being opened later this  month at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. What better way to commemorate this great artist than to show a selection of the many items designed by him. www.ftn-books.com

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And to finish one of my personal favorites. Wim Crouwel will be an example for many designers in the decades to comewerkman crouwel aa.

 

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Martin Maloney (1923)

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I did not know anything about Maloney and stumbled upon an article by Elena Filipovic and it is a great introduction to this conceptual artist . I recently added the Bulletin 34, from 1971 to my inventory which is now for sale at www.ftn-books.com

The history of art is an ocean with many wrecks . Some floating on the surface, most almost inaccessible submerged on the seabed. As an art historian, you can surf the waves, and pick up the supernatant oeuvres, or you can go deep sea diving in the hope of discovering less known, less  obvious artists.
Today you must scrape the bottom to find literature mentioning the name Martin Maloney (1938 – 2003), and even then you will find only loose fragments and faint traces of an oeuvre .

However, this American artist once was amongst the founders of conceptual art. He had close contacts with the, now classical, conceptual artists and took part in a number of key exhibitions in the late sixties and early seventies.

During this period he was represented by the top galleries of the avant garde , such as Seth Siegelaub in New York, Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf and Art & Project in Amsterdam. 
But the man did not refrain from criticizing the art establishment and his fellow artists , and even used criticism explicitly as the starting point for a number of postcard sized ” language pieces ” (”Designation Deposits” and ”Reject Deposits” , 1967-2001 ). This unruly and polemical art practice, coupled with his radical views and his particular temperament, isolated the artist more and more from the artistic context . 
By the time Martin Maloney, at the age of 65, died in Antwerp, he was materially impoverished and maintained only sporadic contacts with the art world .Maloney’s stubborn attitude obviously had other consequences too: because of his own (largely) chosen isolation, he cut himself off from the various channels that art history constructs: gallerists, collectors, critics ,curators ,conservators, art historians, fellow artists. Moreover, he himself destroyed much of his own work. All this results in his absence from the major, canonizing, publications since the seventies devoted to conceptual art .

By putting his radical critique in relation to the art world down on paper, Martin Maloney literally wrote himself out of art history.

After dropping out of university, in 1962, Maloney settled as an artist in New York. Initiall he had a special interest in the work of the postwar New York School painters like Ad Reinhardt , Barnett Newman , Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, but gradually shifted his attention away from the pictorial to the textual and non-material forms of art which from the mid- sixties began to emerge. He shared a studio with Lawrence Weiner and maintained relations with artists such as Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Dan Graham.

In 1966, Maloney took part in the infamous ’25’ group exhibition, organized by the young art dealer Seth Siegelaub,who was to become the great promoter of conceptual art a few years later.

Maloney exhibited at Siegelaub several times and also had shows in several major European galleries. By this time, Maloney was  looking for alternatives to the traditional gallery exhibition. In many cases, his solo exhibitions would be accompanied with, or even take the form of an artist’s book. Examples are ‘Interguments’ (1969), ‘Fractionals’ (1970) ‘Reject Objects’ (1971) and ‘Five days and five nights’ (1970). The latter book was published in an edition of 500 copies in the framework of Maloney’s one man show at the MTL gallery in Brussels. Maloney locked himself for five days and five nights in the gallery to work on the resulting booklet of poetic statements. The conventional presentation of objects in a gallery made room for the direct communication of ideas in print .

For his next exhibition at London’s Lisson Gallery (1971), Maloney takes things even a step further. After distributing a poster designed by the artist, Maloney takes residence in the gallery and throughout the whole duration of the event goes into direct confrontation with his audience. The resulting insights and frustrations he wrote in white chalk on the black painted walls of the basement. After a short sojourn in London, Maloney moved to Amsterdam in 1973 and leaves behind the hardcore minimalist concept to include wood sculptures and painted text works. Four years later he returned to New York, to gradually retreat in the privacy of his studio, now serving as a laboratory for numerous installations and presentations.

 
From 1995 until his death he resided in Antwerp, where in 2000 he was invited by Flor Bex to realize a mural for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUHKA). 

Maloney occupied a studio in a dilapidated building on the Jordaenskaai 13 .

What remained in the six rooms of Maloney’s Antwerp working and living environment were, in addition to a number of ”language pieces” and works on paper, the results of his latest artistic experiments: minimalist ‘floor pieces’ and corner stacks, composed of pieces of fallen ceiling plaster, wallpaper, fabric scraps, canvas and wooden beams from the solid oak doors in the building.

Like an architectural archivist Maloney recycled and ordered materials of the decaying building into geometric compositions. It is as if these material traces of a precise and time-consuming labor, the quiet, repetitive activity of the hands were a necessary remedy for the chronic anxiety of the mind .

Johan Pas , Ekeren , January 2004
pace Works”

“To live,” Walter Benjamin once famously wrote, “is to leave traces.” But one could almost say that the recently deceased artist Martin Maloney (1938-2003) lived to efface his. Largely forgotten and omitted from art history, the American artist is all but invisible in institutional collections of the conceptual art he participated in from an early stage.

Thus the title of Maloney’s first posthumous exposition, “Here to Stay”, captures all of the ambiguity of the artist’s oeuvre. The exhibition fills the vast decrepit spaces where the artist lived and worked in solitude for the last 8 years of his life while the Antwerp building was waiting to be demolished.

The works, like the space they occupy, are not there ‘to stay’ at all. Immanent destruction is a ghost that has haunted the building for years. And even though his arrival in this space was relatively recent, Maloney’s works made from the recycling of building detritus have evoked architecture and entropy since the late ‘60s.

He made floor-bound geometric ensembles, each composed of thousands of pieces of any one element: neat piles of fallen ceiling plaster, pyramids of broken bricks, layers of split timber from his studio’s oak doors, or thousands of identical maniacally cut squares of carpet. In his work, the ceiling sat on the floor and wall elements became precarious rubble in the corner. In short, boundaries were elided between architectural elements and sculpture, between object and installation.

These ensembles made infinitely mutable, fragile works—more often than not with nothing holding the components together. They could change form a hundred times… or simply be swept away. ‘Structure’, ‘edge’, ‘edged’, ‘angle’, ‘cut’, ‘split’, ‘split space’: these words line Maloney’s texts, canvases and painted brick-works. Even a sampling of his exhibition titles, “Up Against the Wall” (at Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf 1971) or “White Walls are Animals” (at Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, 1980), give the sense that the constraints of architecture and space — particularly the exhibition space — were never far from Maloney’s thoughts.

For him, the gallery’s symbolic ‘white walls’ needed to be fought, resisted and shown for what they were. In 1971, he locked himself in the confines of the MTL gallery in Brussels for five days and nights. His solitary act and refusal to allow the gallery space its role in visual presentation was the ‘exhibition’, with only a published version of the texts he wrote during his stay in the gallery as material trace.

Martin Maloney’s contribution to David Lamelas’ Publication, Nigel Greenwood Gallery, London, 1970.

For his exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London that same year, he painted the walls black and wrote lines of conversation and provocation on them during the gallery’s opening hours to incite the visitors who came to communicate with him. Little, if anything, is left of these meetings of the conceptual, the textual and the architectural, and one has the sense that this is somehow as Maloney wanted it.

Maloney was active as a conceptual artist in the ‘60s close to the likes of Lawrence Weiner, Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Dan Graham. He made his material pile sculptures and conceptual projects alongside a vast body of intricately shaped canvases, highly structured language pieces, box sculptures, and painted statements on canvas.

Poster “Here To Stay”
 

To see some of what remains of this work on exhibit is to feel a ricochet of influences, references, and dialogues (with Weiner and Andre, of course, but also Frank Stella, Robert Smithson, Gordon Matta-Clark, Arte Povera…). Over time, however, he managed to alienate himself from his fellow artists, galleries, collectors, curators and art history alike. With the exhibition’s end, the works on show will travel to museum spaces that share little of the precariousness that make a building in ruin a fitting context for the artist’s complex, volatile work.

The form of the works and their dialogue with space will necessarily change, and Maloney would probably never have accepted such an exhibition at all. As he knew too well, white walls are animals indeed

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Dirk de Herder ( 1914-2003)

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On the site of the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Dirk de Herder is described as the poet among dutch photographers from his age. His photographs have a dreamlike poetic quality ( see the portrait above). De Herder considered himself as a master of light. His classic black & white photographs have been popular ever since 1946, when his first book about Amsterdam was published (now a classic at photobook auctions by itself). His images of the old centre of Amsterdam and later, in the same style, Stockholm and Paris were influenced by Brassaï, with whom he corresponded, exchanged books and prints. As a photographer he was also acquinted with COBRA, whose members he regulary photographed (and published in another book). For VARA television, a Dutch broadcasting company, he photographed many celebrities for the television programguides. But his hart was always with his free work. He made many more books, ‘Never travel without a Suitcase full of Dreams’ (80 photographs, for his 80th birthday) and ‘Flashback’ (about his life), were among the last.

There are several Dirk de Herder titles vailable at www.ftn-books.com

 

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Dutch Graphic Roots – Cor Rosbeek

An important site on dutch graphics and dutch designers can be found over here:

https://www.dutchgraphicroots.nl

Here is the latest example of this site. This one is on Cor Rosbeek. One of the driving forces behind Rosbeek printers.

Cor Rosbeek

 

“Impossible doesn’t exist” and “I’m not selling print, I am selling trust.” Two sayings that characterize Cor Rosbeek who, together with his brother Jean, for long years ran Rosbeek printers in Nuth. The first maxim refers to the dedication shown by this printing house since 1963 to always deliver the best of the best, the highest of high quality print, and to be willing to listen closely to graphic designers. The Rosbeek’s capability to listen to and work with designers became legendary. The second saying indicates how supple and subtle they managed to perform their intermediary role between clients and designers. Rosbeek in Nuth, in the southern province of Limburg, were not just printers, they were actively participating partners in the print production process; they were important contributors to cultural developments.

 

The jury of the Best Book Award 1990 posing on the stairs in Stedelijk Museum. Cor Rosbeek second from left

The young Cor Rosbeek never showed any ambition of becoming a printer like his father. He’d rather become a commercial representative and drive flashy cars. Art wasn’t his cup of tea either: “I didn’t have the urge to create.” But Cor at age sixteen had to cope with his father’s sudden demise. As the oldest Rosbeek son he had to jump in and continue the family business. Born in 1944, he had grown up in the family home above the printer’s shop where his father produced all sorts of commercial print for small industries and for private people living in the area of Hoensbroek. His father’s prewar dreams of becoming the chief of the in-house printing shop at Bata’s shoe factory were disturbed by WW II. The Czech-born Bata owners, of Jewish descent, escaped to England. But Cor Rosbeek the elder knew about printing and by hard work single-handedly managed to build up a small business of his own, with only his sons, Cor junior and Jean, and their younger sister helping out when it was busy. In his off time, father Rosbeek liked to make music. He could play no less than thirteen different musical instruments.

The best ever
Cor Rosbeek went to trade school. Bent over maps and atlases he fantasized about other worlds. On Saturdays he put on his fashionable shoes and went dancing: rock and roll. But he was ambitious. He wanted to surpass his father and move on to a better world, he had an open mind as well as an eye for the modern times, and he explored whatever cultural life there was in his remote corner of the Netherlands. It was only later that he fell in love with the printing profession. “From that moment on no one could stop me, I wanted to be the best.”

Interior at Rosbeek in Nuth

His first client, the paint producer Jo Eyck whose company became a part of the Sikkens group and their distributor for Limburg, had taken over his own father’s management position around the same time as Cor. Jo Eyck was fascinated by anything related to art and design and already collaborated with designers. He was a perfectionist and a demanding client. Cor Rosbeek admitted he learned much from Jo Eyck: “Everything you do, should be done well and with quality in mind. Jo always aimed for a position in the quality-conscious market of architects, project developers and their clients. I noticed this was a highly effective approach. In his Heerlen head office Jo Eyck organized exhibitions about the role of paint in art, presenting artists such as Richard Lohse, Ad Dekkers, and Peter Struycken. He collected contemporary art and bought Wijlre castle to turn it into a private museum. He had architect Wiel Arets build a glass pavilion for a part of his art collection, the Hedge House, open to the public.” A second influential contact was with interior architect Herman Zeekaf, who sold modern furniture in Heerlen. With Zeekaf, too, Cor Rosbeek developed close ties. Zeekaf designed the new building for the printing company as well as later extensions and renovations.

Goodwill publications
The production of high-quality print in collaboration with leading designers became Rosbeek’s goal. The brothers looked at printers such as Meijer in Wormerveer and Steendrukkerij De Jong & Co in Hilversum, where graphic designers produced daring print projects including the famed Christmas editions of Drukkersweekblad en Autolijn and the Kwadraat series published by De Jong & Co. In their own region, Rosbeek acquired assignments through designers like Baer Cornet and Geert Setola from clients such as furniture producer ’t Spectrum, Océ van der Grinten copiers, Stork machines, and Randstad (temp workers). Wim Crouwel was one of the first designers coming “all the way from the West” to collaborate with Rosbeek on work commissioned by fashion importers Kreymborg. Jan Bons brought his calendar designs for Van Ommeren shipping. Others followed, bringing with them a growing number of clients, including Art Unlimited and the Rijksmuseum. These clients came from all over the Netherlands.

Many of these publications by Rosbeek are available at www.ftn-books.com

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the oldest Stedelijk Museum i have in stock is on Aug. Legras

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To be honest … i had never heard of Legras before, but the catalogue is impkrtant enough to add it to my inventory. Since this is rare. Published in a time that the world was at war and the Netherlands was neutral. What struck me, is that like many of his fellow artists Legras was charmed by North Africa. he visited countries and villages and translated his observations into drawings and paintings. This catalogue is special and a very welcome addition to all who collect the Stedelijk Museum catalogues.

legras sm a

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Sigfrido Martin Begue (1959-2010)

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Mix Gino Severini with Hergé and put in some of the great poster art of the 20th century and you will have an idea of the works of Sigfrido Martin Begue. He is the third of the lesser known artists i would like to propose to you.

The first time i heard about Begue was when he was having an exhibition at the Living Room. I did not see the exhibition myself, but years later i acquired the catalogue for my inventory and saw for the first time why thsi artist is so attractive to me.

It is is this mix of the absurd and the comic like style i like so much. Just take a look at these 2 examples and you know exactly what i am talking about.

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Julia Ventura (1952)

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Portuguese born, but working in both Lisbon and Amsterdam her works reflect her surroundings. There was a time in the mid Eighties that her work was widely available in the Netherlands because exhibitions were held at many places in the Netherlands including some renowned museums. But starting in the late Nineties her works were becoming more scarce and less available in the Netherlands. Her focus was no longer on the Netherlands and Portugal alone, but her works were presented in Switzerland, China and Spain too. Later i learned that most of her work is now being sold and available in Portugal itself . Julia Ventura is represented by some well known Portuguese galleries.

In her work, Júlia Ventura explores which role the photo can play in the representation of the self. Her initial work features black and white photos of herself in emotion-filled poses. In later work, in ingenious photos of her fingerprint which she adapts using all kinds of methods and techniques, she focuses on the suggestion of authenticity that emanates from the image.

www.ftn-books.com has one of the first Ventura publications available

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Joseph Semah (1948)

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Joseph Semah is an israel/dutch artist who has been working the main part of his artistic life in the Netherlands. His works can be found in the Stedelijk Museum collection.

Artist Joseph Sassoon Semah was born in Baghdad (Iraq), where his grandfather Hacham Sassoon Kadoori (1885-1971) was the President of the Babylonian Jewish community. With his parents Joseph Semah was ’displaced’ to the State of Israel in 1950. In the mid-1970s Semah decided to leave Israel, describing this as a form of self-imposed exile. He lived and worked in London, Berlin and Paris. Since 1981 he has resided in Amsterdam. He regards himself as a ‘guest’ in the Western (art) world.

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Reading into works of art using his native-language Hebrew as the framework, Semah signals a lack of knowledge about Judaism. He believes Jewish layers of meaning are not given enough attention in art history and feels compelled to rectify this: to fill the ‘empty page’. His extensive oeuvre consists of drawings, paintings, sculptures, installations, performances and texts.

www.ftn-books.com has some nice Semah titles available

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Joost Swarte (1947) pins.

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I do not exactly know how many pins by Joost Swarte there have been published during the last 35 years or so, but i have counted 25 of which the most part can be found on Google . These pins are among the very best small collectibles there are. Most of them were published by HET RAADSEL in the early Nineties, but others were published on the occasion of an event  (Film Festival) or commissioned by a large corporation for their museum store (PTT museum). This is a world of small collectibles by Joost Swarte which has not been explored that much. The number of pins published can be overseen and prices are still fair , although rising quickly after recent auctions of these small objects.

www.ftn-books.com has 2 collectable Joost swarte designed pins available.

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Art & Project bulletins (1968-1989)

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Adriaan van Ravesteijn and Geert van Beijeren are in my opinion the most important gallery owners in the history of (dutch) Modern Art. Their gallery was for decades the venue for conceptual art and many important artists have found  in this gallery their starting point for their career.

Art & Project was an institution in the art scene and this was emphasized by publication of their Bulletins , which were published on a regular basis between 1968 and 1989.

bulletins 1-156

In total there were 156 bulletin published and i am proud to say that www.ftn-books.com has BULLETINS available by the following artists: Andre, Antonakos, Boezem, Breuker, Brouwn, Buren, Berghuis, Barry, Camesi, Charlton, Clemente, Chia, Cucchi, Cragg, Dibbets, Darboven, van Elk, Fulton, Flanagan, Giese , Gilbert & George, Knoebel, Leavitt, Long, Lord, Maconey, Mclean, Paladino, Pope, Ryman, Ruckriem, Rosenthal, Ruppersberg, Rajlich, Struycken, Salvo, Tremlett, Tordoir, Visser, Verhoef, Weiner, Yamazaki and the 1972 Catalogue of our Bulletins

( for more information and the “Bulletin” numbers available please inquire)

43 artist of the gallery Art & Project now available at www.ftn-books.com