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Wim Crouwel….SM Gedrukt in Japan / 1967

Wim Crouwel is a regular name appearing in my blog. This is not only because i have many titles available at www.ftn-books.com, but mainly because i consider Wim Crouwel the most important graphic designer from last century. There are some that are important too and i think of Gerstner and Sandberg, but Wim Crouwel is in my opnion the absolute best. Wim Crouwel made some 200+ designs between 1960 and 1980 for the Stedelijk Museum, Among them posters, catalogues an folders and many have become iconic for graphic design in the Sixties. There was of course the VORMGEVERS catalogue which is in high demand and extremely hard to find, but the one i would like to discuss now is the GEDRUKT IN JAPAN catalogue, which has become rare and expensive too. It is of great graphici quality and although it is only 20 pages, for me it is the summit in design from the sixties. A simple but highly effective lay out. The use of Magenta on the front . The SM logo and underneath a very very fine line with below it one of the logo’s for the Osaka Art Festival . Published in 1967 with no. 407……it is perfection on the 20 pages.

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Jackson Pollock and the Stedelijk Museum.

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Willem Sandberg was the fan and admirer who initiated the first presentations of Jackson Pollock in Europe. The Stedelijk Museum presented on several occasions his art and during these exhibitions made acquisitions resulting in some of the most iconic and important paintings in their collection. Among them is REFLECTIONS OF THE BIG DIPPER from 1947.

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Reflection of the Big Dipper consists of built up layers of paint with dripped enamel as the final touch, concluding the composition. It was around 1947 that Jackson Pollock traded in his brushes for sticks, trowels and knives and began adding foreign matter, such as sand, broken glass, nails, coins, paint-tube tops and bottle caps to his canvases. From this point on, Pollock’s application of paint became his main theme, which he tried to radicalize. With the body of work he thus created, Pollock found a unique position within the concurrent Abstract-Expressionist movement. Reflection of the Big Dipper was exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1948, along with sixteen other paintings by Jackson Pollock. The show received positive reviews. Pollock’s works from this time are a transitional step between a more traditional handling of paint and his revolutionary technique of dripping paint on canvases off a large scale.

www.ftn-books.com has a nice selection of Stedelijk Museum  publications on Jackson Pollock available.

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“Negerkunst uit Centraal Afrika”

taal museum

Yesterday morning there was an article in the Volkskrant about the way art in museums by colored people and minorities must be described . The reason why the dutch museums are also looking for a desirable idiom is that also in dutch history there is a part of their history which is very doubtful. The catalogue which is in the title is the example which was given in the article ( available at www.ftn-books.com ). The exhibition was in those days, (which is very recent history) announced by the journalists and museum as “primitive art by natives inspired by western civilization a way of announcement as if we in Western Europe were civilized and others not.” A complete wrong way of describing the art from these artists. On the positive side…Sandberg was the one who thought these artists deserved a museum platform in the Stedelijk Museum as early as 1957. which was the place for these artists where they could, for the first time, present and show their art , side by side with Malevich and Mondrian. I can really understand why some words and expressions can not be used any longer, however …where a museum decides to remove an object from an exhibited collection and with this action denying some of the history from a country, should not be done…. in my opinion a better way would be to keep it within the collection and add an explanation why the museum thinks different nowadays about an object . This way explaining and not judging. Let the public judge for itself if the object is still beautiful or not.

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Centraal Museum Utrecht and book design

Every decade in Dutch design and typography has its own specialties. In the Interbellum there was the photomontage, Isotype and typography by Zwart, Schuitema and Arntz. After WWII , the Stedelijk MUseum was a source of inspiration for its director Willem Sandberg who made beautiful catalogues for his exhibitions in the Stedelijk. In the late fifties and early sixties Benno Wissing and Wim Crouwel lead the way in design, followed by the Total Design agency who had a leading role in dutch design in the seventies and eighties, which brings us to the Nineties. Here it becomes interesting. The large museums in the Netherlands practically all had their contracts with dutch “house” designers. Walter Nikkels for the van Abbemuseum, Swip Stolk for the Groninger Museum and Gracia Lebbink for the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag were such designers. And then there is the Centraal Museum. They had a very consistent publication program in which design , specially sized/formatted books and bindings were very important. www.ftn-books.com has some excellent examples of these publications for sale . I knew of course of these publications, but when i rearranged some of my inventory, it struck me that these publications are and will become more important in the world of book design every year from now. These publications are still available at reasonable prices , but it will not be long before others will recognize the importance of these books too.

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Fernand Leger…wegbereider ( 1957)

If there is one book book from the Fifties published by the Stedelijk Museum and designed by Willem Sandberg, it is the catalogue no. 158…Fernand Leger / Wegbereider. The typography and book design is typical Sandberg and “stunning” and to mark the end of January this book is for a limited time (until the 5th of February) for sale for only $ 25.00 when you use the discount code “Sandbergforonly25”

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More Leger and Stedelijk Museum publications available at www.ftn-books.com

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Henri-Georges Adam (1904-1967)

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One of the most striking catalogues from the Fifties by Willem Sandberg was done for the Adam exhibition in 1955. The use of simple brown colored paper and the special print by Henri-Georges Adam on the frontcover made this one very special and an example for many catalogues which were published since. The use of brown colored paper. the special print on the outside , the typography and lay out made this an outstanding catalogue by Sandberg . Willem Sandberg must have admired Adam, because you can feel the love that went into this catalogue.

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Adam a typical Fifties artist was groundbreaking in his etchings and because of the forms he used is typical for the abstract art which appeared in that decade. In the Netherland there were Ouborg, Hussem and Nanninga in France there was Henri -Georges Adam.

Here is an excellent biography on Henri-Georges Adam i found at gallery MC.

Henri-Georges Adam was born in Paris in 1904. In 1918, after his studies at the school of clock industry, he started working in his father’s workshop, jeweler. He followed (1925) evening classes to the art school Germain-Pilon in Montparnasse, then to the Beaux-Arts. Henri-Georges Adam became a drawing professor of the city of Paris. Then, he made satirical drawings and political caricatures. 
In 1934, he got injured after an accident and while his resting time he approached the etching. During all his life he wanted the etching to be black and white. In 1934 was organized his first exhibition. He met regularly Surrealists: Breton, Aragon and Eluard. In 1936, he created a series of etchings violently expressionists around the war of Spain. Adam adhered in 1936 to “the Association of the writers and revolutionary artists” where he met Estève, Manessier, Pignon or Arpad Szenes. He took part in the exhibition “July 14th” with Romain Rolland (and Picasso, Matisse, Dufy, Chagall, etc). 
Mobilized in 1939, he was taken prisoner; drafted the hospital of Besançon as a medical orderly, he carried out many drawings of soldiers and casualties. Released in 1940, Henri-Georges Adam discovered the sculpture two years later. His etched work, initially figurative, stuck more and more to the purity of the lines, the plans and their articulation together. In 1943, he was one of the fifteen clandestine founders of the Salon de Mai. This same year, he created decorations and costumes for “Les mouches”, the first play of Jean-Paul Sartre, put in scene by Charles Dullin. The artist made friend with Pablo Picasso who lent him his atelier in the Grand Augustin-street until 1950 and his property of Boisgeloup (1948-1949). 
From 1947, Adam made paperboards for the tapestry. An exhibition of his whole work was devoted to him in 1949 to the Maeght Gallery. In 1952, the Bookshop-Gallery La Hune presented his copperplate etchings cut. During 5 years, he was professor of drawing in Anthony (1950-1955). In 1955 a first retrospective of his work was organized in Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam. Adam created in 1956 and 1957 one of his most famous series of etchings, “Dales, Sable et Eau”, around the plays of the sea, sand and the granite, and the series of sculptures “Mutations marines”. He carried out new tapestries (French Embassy in Washington, UNESCO, etc). “The Signal”, set up on the square of the House of the Culture in Le Havre in 1961, was the first of his monumental sculptures. Adam multiplied from 1962 the architectural sculptures. Henri-Georges Adam was named in 1959 etching professor then chief-professor-atelier of monumental sculpture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris. He set up his own atelier and his printing press in La Ville du Bois, close to Montlhéry, while many exhibitions of his work were presented in the French and European museums. The artist carried out in 1961 an important series of sculptures, “Cryptograms”. 
A retrospective of his work was presented in 1966 at the national Museum of modern art of Paris. 
The following year, in full creative activity, Henri-Georges Adam had a heart attack at the 63 years age. Many retrospectives of his work will be organized after the death of the artist.

Some of the Henri-Georges Adam publication are at this moment available at www.ftn-books.com

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Mark Rothko (1903-1970)….Walls of light

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I discovered that in the over 1000 blogs i published i never have written one about Mark Rothko and you must know that Rothko is one of the painters i admire most. There are several exhibItions i have seen on Rothko  . The first one was the Spiritual In Art, which had some Rothko’s within the exhibition and then there was recently the exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag which i liked very much and which had a near perfect chronological overview of his painting including the one he just made before his suicide, which was presented next to Piet Mondrian’s final painting,

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but the exhibition which impressed me most was the Rothko special exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao (2004). I did not know it was there and when Linda and I entered the room we both were overwhelmed with the paintings on show.

Large scale paintings, executed in colors which were either very bright or very close to each other with hardly any contrast in them. It was the first time we visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and on show were large scale works by Oldenburg which on another occasion were replaced for the Richard Serra work MATTER OF TIME and then , surprise….. one of the greatest and best overviews of Rothko paintings imaginable. Here is the text belonging to the announcement by the Guggenheim Museum

MARK ROTHKO

WALLS OF LIGHT

June 8, 2004 – October 24, 2004

Born Marcus Rothkovitz in Dvinsk, Russia, in 1903, Mark Rothko emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1913, settling in Portland, Oregon. Rothko attended Yale University on scholarship from 1921 to 1923, when he left without a degree and moved to New York. He began to paint in 1925 and had his first solo show in 1933. He continued to refine his technique as he developed his famous mature style in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Since his tragic death in 1970, his art has continued to enjoy undiminished popularity. Today Rothko counts among the great pioneers of American postwar art and, alongside Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock, as one of the major representatives of Abstract Expressionism.

In 2003, to mark the hundredth anniversary of Rothko’s birth, the Beyeler Foundation, Basel, in collaboration with the artist’s children Kate R. Prizel and Christopher Rothko, installed a sequence of Rothko rooms, now on view in an extended version at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The exhibition features a representative cross-section of works from all phases of Rothko’s career and provides a moving homage to the artist and his work.

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The Mark Rothko exhibition is still in our minds and we have on our wishlist to go at one time to the Rothko chapel and experience once again the timeless abstract art by Mark Rothko. Rothko is truly timeless and undoubtedly one of the greatest painters the art world has given humanity. There are several Rothko titles available at www.ftn-books.com

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Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1900-1900)

If only one object from the Bauhaus has reached an iconic standing in world design it is the Bauhaus lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld. It is still produced in its original dimension and materials and is one of the design classics from last century. It was such a success in interior design in the last 3 decades that many copies were produced and sold.

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The only original one is done by Tecnolumen, but for much less you can buy an excellent copy. But beside the lamp Wagenfeld designed many more items. teapots, cutlery, candle sticks, door knobs but all with one specific design element. The design had to be “clean”. No curls and no ornaments…just functional design. Wagenfeld was  a true master of this clean design and influence with his designs many of the 20th century designers, including some dutch designers like Kho Liang Ie and Martin Visser , who’s designs were simple and functional .

the Bauhaus Lamp is probably the most iconic piece of lighting to come out of the Bauhaus, William Wagenfeld’s lamp, constructed of precisely cut glass and metal, is among the first objects to emerge under the Bauhaus’ technology-focused regime.

This a description as it is found on the internet, but i would like to add something else…William Wagenfeld is probably the first designer who respected the material and functionality of an object and taught this to his students. It is not the lamp that is iconic, but for me it is the designer, who is the grand master and who designed/invented the iconic Bauhaus lamp. www.ftn-books.com has some nice publications on Wagenfeld ( also one by Sandberg).

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Sandberg design of GKF de Hand en machine

After WWII the 5th of May became a day of remembrance and celebration of the Liberation of the Netherlands. Every year on the 5th of May in those days a special exhibition was held which was accompanied by a special catalogue. Key elements in the cover were always the colours red , white and blue. The colors of the dutch national flag. Personally i think the HND EN MACHINE from 1957 is the very best of these publications. It has everything.  A typical Sandberg design. the use of multiple sorts of paper , great printing quality and a spectacular cover, making this for me personally the best in the series.

 

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Jean Gorin (1899-1981) and Wim Crouwel

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Jean Gorin , a typical 50’s /60’s artist has stayed a little obscure outside France, but this is undeserved. His art is influenced by Piet Mondrian and Constructivism , but has developed into an art typical of Jean Gorin.

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This was recognized by Willem Sandberg who gave Gorin a solo presentation in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1967. Here it is getting more interesting from my point of view, because together with this exhibition one of the very very best Wim Crouwel designed catalogues ever was published. The catalogue typically Crouwel sized was partly printed in black and the other part of the text on the cover executed in embossed printing. Together with the design of the catalogue itself it has become an exquisite artist book on Jean Gorin which is still available at www.ftn-books.com