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Cuban posters

A recent auction of famous movie poster by Sotheby’s inspired me to have another look at the 70’s Crouwel designed catalogue which was made for the Cuban poster exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum. In 1971 the Stedelijk Museum had the foresight of organizing a Cuban poster exhibition. They recognized the outstanding quality of these posters. Political images were presented in colorful and powerful posters, but the auction shows a different side of these Cuban posters. Their interpretation of famous classic western movies. The Cuban designs were “classic” films with a twist. These posters were used to advertise famous titles in Cuba. Their strong designs and vibrant colours recall Havana in its heyday. The Cuban poster catalogue from 1971 is available at www.ftn-books.com

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Tajiri… a double design by Wim Crouwel

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Part of the inside of both publications is the same. Covers are the same , but here comes the difference. Backcovers are different and there are less pages in the Steendrukkerij de Jong catalogue. It is clear that Steendrukkerij de Jong used the same design by Wim Crouwel he made for the van Abbemuseum for this iconic Sixties catalogue. But where the van Abbemuseum is scarce, The Steendrukkerij de Jong publication is nowhere to be found anymore. This is probably because it was a simple “handout” publication for the exhibition at the printers. My guess is only a few hundred were printed and this is one of the only surviving ones. The publication is now available at www.ftn-books.com

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13 sculptors from Paris…cat no 50

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Published within the Stedelijk Museum series with no. 50, designed by Willem Sandberg and with the “creme de la creme” of sculptors from France / Paris, this has arguably become one of the most important exhibitions and catalogues for the Stedelijk Museum from the Fifties. Within the catalogue you will encounter only the most famous of names. Here they are: Brancusi, Gonzales, Gargallo, Laurens, Arp, Chauvin, Zadkine, Lipchitz, Giacometti, Richier, Couturier and Auricoste. Another important aspect to this exhibition is the catalogue. It uses multiple kinds of brown and glossy papers, making this one of the first for a series of catalogues which were designed by Willem Sandberg in such a way for the Stedelijk Museum. This design was typical for Sandberg in the Fifties and he continued to use these papers throughout his career as a designer. Wim Crouwel broke with this tradition and presented a much cleaner, more contemporary design, but i admire these Sandberg catalogues and this is probably one of the very best and most important.

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Kitaj (1932-2007)

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Robert Brooks Kitaj was born in the US but his art is closely related to the British Pop Art. I am writing this blog because i recently acquired a german catalogue on his exhibition at the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf and i was impressed. Later i learned that Kitaj received a lot of criticism on his art as the press slaughtered his exhibition at the Tate gallery in 1994. Her is what i found on Wikipedia

A second retrospective was staged at the Tate Gallery in 1994. Critical reviews in London were almost universally negative. British press savagely attacked the Tate exhibit, calling Kitaj a pretentious poseur who engaged in name dropping. Kitaj took the criticism very personally, declaring that “anti-intellectualism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism” had fueled the vitriol. Despite the bad reviews, the exhibition moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and afterwards to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1995. His second wife, Sandra Fisher died from hyperacute haemorrhagic leuco-encephalitis in 1994, shortly after his exhibition at the Tate Gallery had ended. He blamed the British press for her death, stating that “they were aiming for me, but they got her instead.” David Hockney concurred and said that he too believed the London art critics had killed Sandra Fisher.[14] Kitaj returned to the US in 1997 and settled in Los Angeles, near his first son. “When my Wife died”, he wrote to Edward Chaney, “London died for me and I returned home to California to live among sons and grandsons – It was a very good move and now I begin my 3rd and (last?) ACT! hands across The Sea.” Three years later he wrote: “I grow older every day and rather like my hermit life.” The “Tate War” and Sandra’s death became a central themes for his later works: he often depicted himself and his deceased wife as angels. In Los Angeles No. 22 (Painting-Drawing) the beautiful young (and naked) girl records the shadow of her aged lover (on whose lap she sits) in a pose directly taken from the Scots Grand Tourist David Allan’s Origin of Painting. The latter was included by Ernst Gombrich in his 1995 National Gallery exhibition (and catalogue) on Shadows so that Kitaj would have seen it two years before he left England for ever. 

Personally i think the critics are wrong. Kitaj deserves his place among the great European Pop Art artists and the future exhibitions that will include his works will probably prove me right. Some Kitaj catalogues are availableat http://www.ftn-books.com

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An important Tajiri/Crouwel book

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It was in the earliest years of his career that Wim Crouwel was invited to design the catalogues of the van Abbemuseum and in these years several iconic publications were published that were designed by Crouwel. I have encountered over the years many of them and have a nice selection for sale at www.ftn-books.com, but until last month i never had seen the Tajiri catalogue from 1961. It was one of the earliest of Tajiri his catalogues for a major museum, but Wim Crouwel must have felt the same about the catalogue as Tajiri did. Both must have the iedea that is was important for them personally. The typography on the cover is outstanding and the photograph by Cas Oorthuys even enhances it. This is a thin 12 page catalogue with a special 4 page inlay ( with photographs of sculptures), but every page shows the quality of Wim Crouwel his design in combination with the works by Tajiri.

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Wim Crouwel (continued )

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Early September 2019 i recommended the Mr Gridnik exhibition which would open shortly  after in the Stedelijk Museum. Just a few days before opening Mr.  Gridnik/ Wim Crouwel died  and he never witnessed his tribute at the Stedelijk. Since i have not found the time to go to this exhibition myself, but now that i finally have the opportunity and started planning my visit, i found out that all rooms are photographed and can be visited on line. It is a worthy tribute to one of the greatest designers from the last decade, but could have been much more complete. It focusses for 90% on the Stedelijk Museum publications, but it is still a very impressive sight to see so many great designs collected, but the real surprise is that i noticed that i have almost all of the books on show in my inventory. (www.ftn-books.com)

For those living too far away to visit the exhibition….here is the direct link to the rooms and showcases with Crouwel material:

https://www.stedelijk.nl/nl/crouwel-vitrines

and another excellent site with 19 photographs:

http://dutchdesigndaily.com/nl/nieuw/wim-crouwel-mr-gridnik/

 

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Mark Tobey (1890-1976)

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Mark Tobey is a great artist and well ahead of his time with his abstract painting. His works look to be coincidental, but these abstract paintings and drawings are far from accidentally. It is a bit like the painting by Hans Hartung. The sketches he makes are the starting point for the paintings. Tobey has influenced Jackson Pollock with his paintings, but never has become the household name that Pollock became after his death. Still his paintings are impressive and there are always parts to discover and admire. It is a way of modern painting, greatly influenced by Chinese calligraphy,  that never grows old fashioned. It fascinates from beginning to end. Finding Tobey paintings in Europe is a hard job. There are some of them to be found in the Beyeler and Kunstmuseum Basel since he moved to Switzerland in the Sixties with his companion. But his paintings are rare, i am not completely sure, but according to my information, but even the Stedelijk Museum has no works by Tobey in its collection. They had an exhibition with Tobey in 1966, which catalogue was designed by Wim Crouwel and is one of the best Crouwel designed in the Sixties for the Stedelijk Museum (available at www.ftn-books.com), but that is all i could find. Still Tobey is well worth checking out, since he is the natural link between Jackson Pollock and the newest generation of Abstract painters.

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Fritz Wotruba (1907-1975)

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A truly visionary artist Fritz Wotruba was. He is almost forgotten, but deserves to be recognized as one of the great European artists who shaped modern art and combined this with great architectural designs. Wotruba is like a cubist sculptor, but his shapes consist of parts put together and seen from nearby it seems as they have no relation with each other. But from further away figures emerge.

His sculptures are magnificent, but when you once have seen his architecture you are completely sold .

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This is the discipline in which he excels and is a one of a kind artist. Fritz Wotruba has had several exhibitions in the Netherland in the 50’s and the 60’s, but is after these events almost forgotten. Instead in Austria he is still one of the greatest Modern Artists. Catalogues of these events are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Pop Art exhibitions in the Netherlands

A few years ago one of the most recent in a long line of Pop Art and Pop Art related exhibitions was being held at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. But since the mid Sixties numerous exhibitions have been held on Pop Art and Pop Art related artists. There were exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Groninger Museum, Nijmeegs Museum, Kunsthal and the Gemeentemuseum and every time they were a huge success. My guess is that because the art is recognizable and because Pop Art established itself as a true mouvement in Art History, it has become popular to the masses.

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Warhol, Lichtenstein and Wesselman are now household names and their works known by many. Perhaps it has even become to successful since images by these great artists are now part of Commercial activities and publicity campaigns which is a pity since these were not meant for being used this way. http://www.ftn-books.com has some nice duthc Pop Art publications available.

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Jaap Wagemaker (1906-1972)

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Jaap Wagemaker, fascinated by Cobra, but never wanted to connect to the mouvement. Instead he searched for his won style. Influenced by and admiring Burri he discovered an interest in Oceanic art too. This influences he mixed into a style of his own. Building layers of paint and other materials into 3D paintings. Giving them a feel of assemblages, using materials that only few had used before. Bolts, paper, sand, wood everything could have a place in the paintings as long as it had an abstract function. This is how his painting became recognizable and in the last decade or so, his paintings are sought after and fetch prices higher than average.

Now that Zero is hardly affordable and kinetic goes the same way. It is time to focus on something different. I am sure that Minimal will fill this void, but this kind of material painting comes in a close second. Jaap Wagemaker publications are available at http://www.ftn-books.com including the impressive one Wim Crouwel designed for the Jaap Wagemaker exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.

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