Archive for the Books Category

Art into Type: Books We Talked Up in 2010

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2011 by arttextstyle

Last year saw several books published that we recommended to clients and purchased for family and friends.  Among these were Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-century Designers by Leslie Williamson, a collection of photographs of beautiful, iconic, and undiscovered mid-century interiors, including the homes of Russel Wright, George Nakashima, Harry Bertoia, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eva Zeisel, among others. Williamson’s photographs show these creative homes as they were lived in by their designers: Walter Gropius’ historic Bauhaus home in Massachusetts; Albert Frey’s floating modernist aerie on a Palm Springs rock outcropping; and Wharton Esherick’s completely handmade Pennsylvania house, from the organic hand-carved staircase to the iconic furniture.

Another favorite volume of ours was 3-D Typography. We added “text” to the title of this blog so that we could cover two things we are passionate about: art that involves text and interesting books.  3-D Typography, which includes work by Gyöngy Laky and dozens of other artists who have created lettering out of everything from shopping carts and toilet paper to toothpaste and pinched flesh, fits both criteria.  The book’s creation was serendipitous.  The authors, Jeanne Abbink and Emily CM Anderson looked at three-dimensional type in the course on a redesign of American Craft magazine in 2007. There’s a 3D Typography Book blog, too at:  If you enjoy the book as much as we have, check out the blog, including Bavarian pretzel alphabet.

Long overdue was the first comprehensive survey of modern craft in the United States, Makers: A History of American Studio Craft, by Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf.  Makers follows the development of studio craft–objects in fiber, clay, glass, wood, and metal–from its roots in 19th-century reform movements to the rich diversity of expression at the end of the 20th century. More than 400 illustrations — including two photographs by Tom — complement this chronological exploration of the American craft tradition. Keeping as their main focus the objects and the makers — including Lenore Tawney, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Katherine Westphal, François Grossen, Lia Cook, Warren Seelig, Arturo Sandoval, Gyöngy Laky, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Clare Zeisler, Anni Albers, Lillian Elliott, Helena Hernmarck, Norma Minkowitz and Trude Guermonprez — the authors offer a detailed analysis of major works and discuss education, institutional support and the philosophical underpinnings of craft.

Another very special volume from 2010 is Written Weed, by Marian Bijlenga, published by Hein Elferink. This exquisite book includes 111 paste-ups / collages by the artist made of dried leaves, grasses and seeds. The images are like handwriting, Chinese characters, the letters of an alphabet. In order to emphasize the graphic quality of these works, the book is published in black/white. Only 400 copies were produced; each is numbered and signed. You can order it from browngrotta arts for $185.00

Though it was written in 2009, I didn’t discover The Bird Catcher, by Laura Jacobs, until last year. I loved it and ordered copies for several friends.  It’s a tender story of grief and healing in the big city.  But it was the detailed description of the protagonist’s window displays for a high-end department store and the evolution of her closest friend’s craft gallery — including a display of elegantly crafted goblets — that I most appreciated.


JUST IN: Books Make Great Gifts 2010, Artist Recommendations V

Posted in Books with tags , on December 30, 2010 by arttextstyle

Our last 2010 artist recommendations — and these really are the last — present interesting examples of art intriguingly related to books.

Detail of Randy Walker's SAW PIECE NO.4 (AUTUMN)

To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, by Philippe PetitRandy Walker, who works regularly with threads and ropes and cables, writes, “Although it is a story involving only a single length of fiber, To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, by Philippe Petit is one of the most inspiring, true stories I’ve ever read. Man on Wire was the movie about Petit, and it was fantastic too.”

Detail of MEGALITH IV by Simone Pheulpin

Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology, 1927-1984

The Fold: Liebiniz and the Baroque

Two books that have inspired Simone Pheulpin’s works of folded cotton are The Fold: Liebiniz and the Baroque by G

illes Deleuze and Life in the Folds by Henri Michaux. The Fold was translated into English in 1992. An English excerpt of Life in the Folds appears in Darkness moves: an Henri Michaux anthology, 1927-1984 Simone also regularly refers to photography books on nature, desert, sea, archeology and fossil to inform her work.

Books Make Great Gifts, Artist Recommendations, Part IV

Posted in Books with tags on December 15, 2010 by arttextstyle

Oops! The last post was a false alarm. Here is the final set of artist recommendations for 2010. That’s more than 30 titles; enough for an erudite 2011.

Gyöngy Laky is currently reading  The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Schlain, which she says,” is intriguing me in relation to much of my recent work. According to Schlain, a holistic, simultaneous, synthetic and concrete view of the world is feminine while linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract thinking is male! These are opposites that exist in all individuals, he states, but it’s the balance that is critical and the balance was upset first by writing and then by the alphabet – literacy developed the left brain.  Maybe most curiosity provoking is Schlain’s belief that art precedes physics.  Hmmmm….”

The title Gyöngy is eager to read next, Proust Was a Neuroscientist,  by Jonathan Lehrer, is a logical follow up. In his review in The New York Times, D.T. Max called it ” … a precocious and engaging book that tries to mend the century-old tear between the literary and scientific cultures.”  Gyöngy notes that in his July 2008 article in The New Yorker,  “The Eureka Hunt,” Lehrer explored what she thinks of as the basic activity of making art “…the “aha” moment of sudden insight in the brain – “…a surge of electricity leading to a rush of blood.” Lehrer’s most recent book, How We Decide also seems very germane for people in the arts, Gyöngy points out, quoting the review from The New York Times, “Explaining decision-making on the scale of neurons makes for a challenging task, but Lehrer handles it with confidence and grace. As an introduction to the cognitive struggle between the brain’s ‘executive,’ rational centers and its more intuitive regions, How We Decide, succeeds with great panache.

Gyöngy still recommends Zen Architecture: The Building Process as Practice by her friend Paul Discoe (with Alexandra Quinn and Roslyn Banish). “His collection of wood from street trees removed by local cities that he saves and mills, is a marvel,”  Gyöngy writes. “If you’d like to see some of it used in an interior and happen to be hungry in Berkeley, California be sure to visit his new and wonderful restaurant, Ippuku at 2130 Center Street.”

Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part III

Posted in Books with tags , , , on December 13, 2010 by arttextstyle

Here is the final set of this year’s book recommendations from artists whose work browngrotta arts represents. In the next posting, I’ll list the books Tom and have been talking up in 2010.

Kiyomi Iwata finds The Human Condition, a six-volume novel by Junpei Gomikawa a continuing inspiration.  Published between 1956 and 1958, Kiyomi says, “it is an epic novel about an ordinary man who tried to live true to his own soul during the Second World War.”  It is not available in English, but a well-reviewed film version, Ningen No Joken, directed by Matsaki Kobayashi, can be found on DVD. Among Kiyomi’s favorite books are Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio, who photographed 30 families in 24 countries – 600 meals in all, and  Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables by Joan Gussow. And Kyomi casts another vote for Haruki Murakami as best in 2010, ranking 1Q84 as the best book she read this year. (Lena McGrath Welker selected Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore as her favorite read this year.) There are three volumes in the 1Q84 series, which has created a sensation in Japan. The first two have been translated into English and will be published by Knopf in September 2011. A third translation will follow.

Nancy Moore Bess reports, “Some version of How to Wrap Five Eggs will always be on my coffee table, in my studio, or on my lap. The most recent purchase in a Tokyo used book bookstore is a boxed edition from the early 1970s and includes all the images we love, plus many photographs documenting the process of making. What a find! New workshops inspired me to reread (with some care) Kunio Ekiguchi’s Gift Wrapping: Creative Ideas from Japan which is much more than a book about giving gifts. Much of her introduction explains the connection between traditional packaging (tsutsumi) and gift wrapping (origata), something I had forgotten.”  Nancy notes that her “art” reading has been devoted to trying to understand the “vocabulary of beauty.”  She writes, “I have an old, dented copy from the Strand of Japanese Sense of Beauty. I have reread every copy of every book I own that discusses wabi-sabi in Japan. Diane Durston’s Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life is the one I keep by my reading chair. I can flip it open to any page and be delighted. Tim McCreight wrote two books I go back to: Design Language and Design Language: Interpretive Edition. I love the way these books all make me evaluate what I want to look at and touch.”

For continuing inspiration, Helena Hernmarck returns to Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master.  The book includes dozens of key works by Stölzl  accompanied by excerpts drawn from her journals, letters and articles. The writings offer an intimate view of the artist’s life and work as a student, a Red Cross nurse during the war, student and then master of the weaving workshop  at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau and founder of her own hand-weaving business in Zurich. “The illustrations are beautiful,” says Helena, “and it’s so interesting to read Stölz’s impressions of what occurred at the Bauhaus, as it was happening.” Helena is currently reading My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor.  Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist experienced a massive stroke at 37 when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. The stroke taught Taylor that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away and can be accessed by stepping to the right of our left brains.

Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part II

Posted in Adela Akers, Books, Ceca Georgieva on December 9, 2010 by arttextstyle

Here are eleven more book suggestions from artists — books that inspire and perennial favorites and best this year.

Ethel Stein offers a wide-ranging list. The first is a new book by her son, Carl Stein, Greening Modernism: Preservation, Sustainability, and the Modern Movement, which has garnered great reviews including this one from Diane Lewis, a professor of architecture at Cooper Union: “A crisp, radical, and luminous book. Stein’s writing and selection and sequence of images offer an inspiring crystallization of the integrity of architecture and sustainability rooted in the principles of the Modern movement.” (Ethel must be so proud!).

The second is a children’s title,The First Dog, the story of Adam and Eve’s dog, written by Benjamin Cheever and illustrated by Tim Grajek. Finally, she recommends, La Cucina di Lidia: Recipes and Memories from Italy’s Adriatic Coast by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Jay Jacobs, which contains her favorite recipe, Smothered Escarole, which she says is simple and delicious.

Architecture Without Architects, by Bernard Rudofsky, the landmark volume that accompanied the exhibit of the same name at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1964, remains a favorite of Adela Akers. “[V]ernacular architecture does not go through fashion cycles. It is nearly immutable, indeed, unimprovable, since it serves its purpose to perfection,” Rudofsky wrote in his highly influential work. Another favorite of Adela’s is The World From Above (a Terra Magica Book) by Hanns Reich and Otto Bihalji-Merin, a small book of black-and-white images taken from the air.

Presently, Adela is reading books on or about Agnes Martin, including Briony Fer’s essay, “Drawing Drawing: Agnes Martin’s Infinity,” from 3 x Abstraction: New Methods of Drawing by Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz and Agnes Martin, reprinted in Women Artists at the Millennium and “The Untroubled Mind,” by Agnes Martin, which is included in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art – A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings.

Ceca Georgieva made four recommendations, including The Book of Bamboo by Vladislav Bajac, a poet, publisher and novelist who has translated the Beat poets and Leonard Cohen from English into Serbian. His first novel, The Book of Bamboo, has been translated into Bulgarian, French, and Russian but apparently not yet into English, though his award-winning historical novel, Hamam Balkania, has. Ceca also recommends Let Me Tell You a Story, by Jorge Bucay, which one reviewer called, The Book of a Thousand and One Nights in a Paolo Coehlo style. This book can be found in the original Spanish and in French, while Bucay’s The Power of Self Dependence, can be found in an English translation. She also recommends To Have or Be by Erich Fromm and finally, a Bulgarian book, The Herbs: Food and a Cure by Boris Michev, Alipi Naidenov, Sonia Chortanova and Todor Malinov.

Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part I

Posted in Books, Debra Sachs, Heidrun Schimmel, Lena Welker, Scott Rothstein, Tamiko Kawata with tags on December 7, 2010 by arttextstyle

I asked the artists whose work browngrotta arts represents to weigh in with book recommendations again this year. Specifically, I asked them to provide a list of any or all of the following: “What book(s) inspired you in the past?” “What book(s) continue to inspire you?” “What book(s) remain among your favorite(s)?” and/or “What was the best book you read in the last year?” As always, people responded swiftly and thoughtfully, with enough suggestions to fill a few posts. Here are ten suggestions to start.

For Lena McGrath Welker, books that provide past and continuing inspiration include Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore, which has an excellent section on creativity, Wabi-Sabi, the original text by Leonard Koren, and poems by Anna Ahkmatova (You Will Hear Thunder and Complete Poems) and Anne Carson (Nox, Decreation and Glass, Irony and God, among others). Welker has been very involved in preparing her one-person exhibition this year (currently at the North Dakota Museum of Art – more on that in an upcoming blog) but she says the best book she listened to this year was Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Debra Sachs says, “I mostly prefer fiction but after hearing Barbara Strauch in an interview I decided to read her book, The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. It is so affirming to those of us of a certain age who feel like our minds are constantly betraying us.” Sachs adds; “How does it influence the artist me? I can’t remember!!!”

Heidrun Schimmel has been very interested in books about New York as “the metropolis of modern and contemporary art,” including  Just Kids by Patti Smith and Fifth Avenue by Stephan Wackwitz, of the Goethe Institute in New York. Fifth Avenue was published this year by S.Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt and has not yet been translated into English. Wackwitz’ previous work, An Invisible Country, is available in English.

The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey Without Borders, is recommended by Tamiko Kawata. The serious and studious book looks at the life and art and racial problems that faced the artist, who once said that his “longing for affiliation” was source of his creativity.

Scott Rothstein recommends Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz are collectors of American Outsider Art. In Kantha, which are made by self-taught artists, they saw the same spirit and vision as in the art they have acquired over the last 25 years. Scott played a role in growing the Kantha collection for his hometown museum’s collection, having discovered some of the Kathas in the Bonovitz collection while he lived in India. Scott shares the couple’s appreciation for Outsider Art. See his blog: Art Found Out: for more on Outsider Art around the world.

More to come.

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Sneak Peek: Catalog No. 37, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection Catalog, Essay by Christa C. Mayer Thurman

Posted in Agnieszka Ruszczynska-Szafranska, Anna Sledziewska, Anna Urbanowicz-Krowacka, Anne and Jacques Baruch, Art, Books, Central Museum of Textiles, Christa C. Mayer Thurman, Czech tapestry, Exhibitions, Hanna Czajkowska, Jan Hladik, Jolanta Owidzka, Krystyna Wojtyna-Drouet, Lilla Kulka, Luba Krejci, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maria Laszkiewicz, polish tapestry, SOFA, The Art Institute of Chicago, Weaving, Wojciech Sadley, Zofia Butrymowicz with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2010 by arttextstyle
catalog cover

Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection

The 37th catalog produced by browngrotta arts, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection, will be available beginning November 10, 2010.


PALISADES (Detail), Anna Urbanowicz-Krowacka, wool and sisal, 55" x 70", 1992

Prominent art dealers Anne and Jacques Baruch first opened the Jacques Baruch Gallery in Chicago in 1967. The Baruch’s gallery focused on contemporary art and artists from Central and Eastern Europe, which Jacques once described as “the finest work of tomorrow…not what is known…the new blood.” Many of the works presented at the gallery were by artists who began their careers under Communist occupation. The gallery’s early years coincided with worsening political conditions behind the Iron Curtain. On August 20, 1968, the Baruchs left Prague just five hours before Soviet tanks rolled into the city and brutally ended a brief period of democratic reforms.


LUNE DE MIEL I (Detail), Magdalena Abakanowicz, sisal and linen, 55"x 78" x 8", 1986

Making trips behind the Iron Curtain during these years was a complex and, at times, dangerous, way of making a living. Despite these difficulties, the couple managed to find a significant entourage of artists to exhibit, among them a group of innovative textile artists, who had gathered acclaim at the Lausanne Biennials of International Tapestry and other European exhibitions, but who were not well known in the US. “We were captivated by their energy, experiments and bold compositions,” Anne would write of the Polish fiber artists she and Jacques met in 1970. “Though there were…shortages of studios, materials and most necessities for daily life, all their problems did not hamper their work. Rather, it stimulated their creativity, and their use of sisal, rope, metal, horsehair and fleece as well as the traditional wool, flax and silk, revealed new artistic thought with results which were dynamic, highly personal and original.”


LEATHER SKETCH (Detail), Jolanta Owidzka, high warp linen, sisal, leather 27" x 45" x 4"; 70 x 110cm, 1977

These artists included Magdalena Abakanowicz of Poland (whose tapestry Lune de Miel 2 is installed at Chicago’s McCormick Place and whose sculpture installation Agora,  a group of 106 iron cast figures, is in Chicago’s Grant Park), Jolanta Banaszkiewicz (Poland), Zofia Butrymowicz (Poland), Hanna Czajkowska (Poland), Jan Hladik (Czechoslovakia), Luba Krejci (Czechoslovakia), Lilla Kulka (Poland), Maria Laszkiewicz (Poland), Jolanta Owidzka (Poland), Agnieszka Ruszczynska-Szafranska (Poland), Wojciech Sadley (Poland), Anna Sledziewska (Poland), Anna Urbanowicz-Krowacka (Poland) and Krystyna Wojtyna-Drouet (Poland). It is work by this group of historically significant artists that is featured in this catalog.

CO-BOG ZLACZYL (WHAT GOD HAS JOINED), Lilla Kulkaa wool, silk 55" X 48", 1987

Christa C. Mayer Thurman has written an introductory essay about Jacques and Anne Baruch for the catalog. Thurman, who was the Chair and Curator of the Department of Textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1967 through 2009, has also written brief essays about several of the 14 artists whose works are featured in the catalog. Thurman is the author and co-author of numerous books about textiles, including, Raiment for the Lord’s Service (1975); Claire Zeisler: a Retrospective (1979); Lissy Funk: A Retrospective (1989); and Textiles: The Art Institute of Chicago (1992). For European Tapestries in the Art Institute of Chicago (2008), Thurman was the general editor, contributed to the resulting volume as an author and oversaw the collection’s conservation. Thurman and her late husband, Lawrence S. Thurman were friends of the Baruchs for many years. During Thurman’s tenure at the Art Institute several textiles from behind the Iron Curtain entered the collection either as gifts, bequests or as purchases.

PODROZ (Journey) from the Kolodia series Agnieszka Ruszczynska-Szafranska linen, sisal, wool 60" x 56", 1986

The 76-page color catalog can be ordered from browngrotta arts beginning November 10, 2010.