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Quote of Note | James Welling on Publishers’ Logos

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“In the early 1970s the most cited writer in Artforum was the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. So I sought out Merleau-Ponty’s books published by Northwestern University Press. After some struggle I realized I couldn’t make sense of his ideas. But I came to love his publisher’s distinctive interlocking arrows on the front cover, and the interior layout and typeface. So I looked for other books published by Northwestern. When I was in New York I’d visit Papyrus Books near Columbia University and spend the evening reading philosophy and poetry in the aisles. Then I’d carefully select one volume to buy. Like Northwestern’s arrows, each publisher had a distinctive, memorable logo. Vintage Books had a fiery, anthropomorphic sun on its spine; Hill and Wang’s logo comprised interlocking black letter initials; George Braziller’s clean serif-type name locked down the title page; Grove Press placed a funny Y on the spine. Each publisher’s logo held the promise of an exciting and difficult intellectual journey.”

—Artist James Welling, a professor in the department of art and the area head of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles, in “A List of Favorite Anythings,” which appears in the winter issue of Aperture

Mediabistro Course

Mediabistro Job Fair

Mediabistro Job FairLand your next big gig! Join us on Janaury 27  at the Altman Building in New York City for an incredible opportunity to meet with hiring managers from the top New York media compaies, network with other professionals and industry leaders, and land your next job. Register now!

With Malformed, Give the Gift of Medical Oddities

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What do you get for the person who has everything (and anyone with the last name “Sedaris”)? A cache of formalin-preserved human brains, of course—or at least exquisite photos of them. Such is the creeptastic achievement of photographer Adam Voorhes and journalist Alex Hannaford‘s Malformed, new from powerHouse Books. The book lingers on the sulci and gyri of human brains assembled by the Austin State Hospital—né the Texas State Lunatic Asylum—and traces the sordid history of the collection. The normal and abnormal specimens were languishing in a storage closet at the University of Texas when Voorhes came upon them in 2011 while on assignment for Scientific American. He and Hannaford soon discovered that the current collection is about half the size of the original. “It’s a mystery worthy of a hard-boiled detective novel,” notes Hannaford, “100 brains missing from campus, and apparently no one really knows what happened to them.”

Quote of Note | Yang Liu

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“Pictograms are the earliest means of communication in all cultures. Simple illustrations slowly developed into pictorial characters and then into scripts as we know them today. I want to keep my visual means as concise as possible so that the content is in the foreground. In traditional Chinese culture, it is considered the highest of art forms to portray profound content with the fewest visual means. That tradition has also undoubtedly influenced me on a formative level.”

-Beijing-born, Berlin-based designer Yang Liu, who has followed up her East meets West with Man meets Woman (Taschen), “a documentation of my impression of gender roles and equality” in clever pictograms

Quote of Note | Ellen Lupton

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“[Henry] Dreyfuss‘s Honeywell Round, introduced in 1953 after ten years of development, remains the most widely used thermostat on the planet. A thermostat is pure interface: it is a switch for turning a system on and off, and it is a display that communicates the system’s current and future state. Users operate the Honeywell Round with a simple twist of the dial, and they can intuitively compare the set temperature and the room temperature. The Honeywell Round replaced clunky boxes that users often mounted crookedly on the wall. Dreyfuss reinvented the lowly thermostat—produced with little consideration for users—by subjecting it to his process of designing for people.”

Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design at the Cooper Hewitt, in Beautiful Users: Designing for People (Princeton Architectural Press), a companion to the exhibition opening December 12 along with the new Cooper Hewitt.

Quote of Note | Thomas Mallon

weegee cover“I read old photographs for unexpected details, such as the faces in the crowd, the people witnessing what a historical novelist can only try to reconstruct. I keep photos around me while I write the way other authors keep music on in the background; they provide not only evidence but a kind of atmospheric stimulation. I don’t think I could have written Bandbox, a comic novel about the 1920s, without long exposure to that era’s madcap tabloid photography, and I can’t imagine Fellow Travelers, a novel I set during the McCarthy period, without the flash-lit, noirish Weegee photo that went onto the cover of both the hard-bound and paperback editions. For Watergate, the details of dress and facial expression in a photo of ‘the Rose Mary Stretch’—the president’s secretary attempting to re-enact how a gap in one of the Nixon tapes might have been created—told me more about Rose Mary Woods’s agonized embarrassment than any transcript of her testimony could.”

-Novelist and critic Thomas Mallon in The New York Times Book Review

Mark Mothersbaugh’s Myopic Moment

myopia coverNearsighted devolutionaries, don your energy domes and unite! DEVO co-founder and multi-talented artist Mark Mothersbaugh is the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Curated by MCA Denver director and chief animator Adam Lerner, the exhibition traces Akron-born Mothersbaugh’s shape-shifting career in art and music from the early 1970s through the present, with documentation and music from his DEVO days; prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures, rugs, and video animations; performance footage; newly produced musical and sculpture installations; and a life-long series of postcard-sized works, exhibited in its entirety for the first time.

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia is on view at MCA Denver through April 12, 2015, after which it will travel to Minneapolis (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), Cincinnati (Contemporary Arts Center/Cincinnati Art Museum), Austin (The Austin Contemporary), and Santa Monica (Santa Monica Museum of Art), ending up in New York (Grey Art Gallery at New York University/Drawing Center) for early 2017. Until the show comes to a city near you, take a closer look at all things Mothersbaugh in the accompanying volume from Princeton Architectural Press. The book includes a foreword by Wes Anderson, for whom Mothersbaugh has scored films such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Rushmore, as well as essays by street artist Shepard Fairey, writer and art dealer Steven Wolf, and punk scholars Maria Elena Buszek and Cary Levine.

Erik Spiekermann Explains It All

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hello I am erikLike most beings who can have their day ruined by a sign set in Comic Sans, we’ve long admired the typographic genius of Erik Spiekermann, but who knew he was also a master of similes? “Having a color copier in ’77 was like having your own nuclear reactor in the basement,” he told a rapt audience earlier this week at Parsons The New School for Design, where he appeared with designer Johannes Erler to promote Hello I am Erik (Gestalten). Edited, written, and designed by Erler in close cooperation with Spiekermann (who designed the book’s lone typeface, “and whose son, Dylan, provided the English translation), the biography-cum-pictorial history documents the self-described typomaniac’s projects, traces milestones in his life, and offers his perspectives on design alongside essays by the likes of Neville Brody and Stefan Sagmeister. Below are some of the most illuminating Spiekermann-isms of the evening, which was organized and sponsored by the Type Directors Club.

On Hello I am Erik:
I had nothing to do with this book except I employed somebody to go through what little archives I have—because I had this big fire in ’77 and then a couple of floods, and my ex-partners threw away all my archives, so there was very little there. Poor Inga had to spend a year finding stuff, which was impossible.

On the typeface he created for the book:
I kept out of the design [of the book] because I was the subject, not the doer. The one requirement I had was that I’ve always wanted to do this particular typeface that is based on the weight of Akzidenz-Grotesk. There’s a specific weight that only existed in very large wooden or resin letters, and I’ve always liked it…and this was the opportunity to do it. So I said to Johannes, OK, I’m going to design this typeface—one weight only—and you will only use one weight in this whole book.

On the fluorescent cover:
We both happen to like dayglo. I’m not much of a color person. I’m very black and white. But I’ve always liked orange dayglo.
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On the Art of the #Artselfie

artselfie“In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects,” wrote Susan Sontag in On Photography. “Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.” But what about when the subject is the photographer, with his or her face jutting into the frame alongside a painting, drawing, or other work of art? Then you’ve entered the meta-interpretative world of the #artselfie. The keen cultural observers over at DIS Magazine peg the birth of this self-portrait-with-artwork phenomenon, now ubiquitous at most any museum or gallery exhibition, to 2012, “right as the recent photographic phenomenon known as the selfie reached its tipping point.” Having seized upon the #artselfie as an “aggregated mode of art-tourism and documentation” with a dedicated Tumblr, DIS teamed with Mathieu Cénac and David Desrimais‘s Jean Boîte éditions to publish a book full of them. Recently feted at Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, the volume includes an introduction by Douglas Coupland and a discussion between Swiss Institute director Simon Castets and DIS. Order a copy here and then take a photo of yourself reading it for an #artselfieselfie.

Now Read This: Alphabetabum

alphaThe standard alphabet book takes a turn for the nostalgic—and slightly creepy—in Vladimir Radunsky and Chris Raschka‘s Alphabetabum, new from the New York Review Children’s Collection. The benevolent ghost of Edward Gorey hovers over the book’s faux-weathered pages, on which vintage photos of children (from Radunsky’s vast collection of antique black-and-white photographs) are joined by playfully alliterative names and rhymes penned by Raschka. Among the questions posed by the playful tome: Are these children our great-great-great grandparents? We knew “Excellent Edwin Eugene” looked familiar!

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Editions/Artists’ Books Fair Returns

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As you bid Archtober adieu with a Halloween-themed candy binge weekend, ready your sturdiest tote bag and a swath of shelf space for New York’s Editions/Artists Books Fair. The extravaganza of contemporary art publishers and dealers gets underway Thursday evening with a festive preview (tickets here) and then runs through Sunday, November 9, at the newly-renovated Art Beam building in Chelsea. Back after a brief hiatus (see also: “Sandy, Hurricane”), this marks the sixteenth installment of the fair, which has lined up 44 exhibitors, from Michael Steinberg Fine Art and the paper maestros at Dieu Donné to Bartleby & Co. and Purgatory Pie Press (“a sanctuary for artists, designers and typographers who are seduced by the kiss of type and the touch of metal”), presenting works by hundreds of emerging and established artists. Speaking of the latter category, Enoc Perez has whipped up a limited-edition benefit print for the fair—Fontainebleau, Miami—that looks ahead to the next big event on the global art calendar: Art Basel Miami Beach.

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