Archive for Book Recommendations

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: http://www.3dtypographybook.com.  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.

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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 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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