Wppt

 

Wppt
Klaus Rinke
1978
Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

printed in Germany

Sadly, I've found very very little written about this catalog. Complicating matters, what little information I have found exists only in German. And the title of the book also seems deliberately impenetrable. (Perhaps an overt—yet unintentional—theme emerging on this blog might be the fact that I’m regularly drawn to books that utterly confuse me and defy easy explanation or categorization.) In fact, the only information I’ve been able to glean about this book at all comes from an insert that was fortuitously included when I found it at Marcus Campbell Art Books in London. The crude yet charming press release (also documented here and included at the end of the slideshow) describes an exhibition catalog, documenting a student exhibit at the Kunst-und Museumsverein Wuppertal organized by artist and professor, Klaus Rinke.

The awkward marriage of the book’s peculiar title and its front and back cover design was immediately seductive. The red-orange type vibrates against the black and white photograph, bluntly wrapping the book and ensuring that the title is never completely legible when viewing just the front or back of the catalog. Peculiar design decisions like this echo throughout the book in various, seemingly haphazard ways.

The only consistent element within is the stark section titles which precedes each new artists’ work. The rest of the content ebbs and flows through increasingly surprising forms with every section giving the impression that it was designed by the individual artist themselves. The result is an engrossing medley of type and image—intertwined and erratic—that successfully breaks many conventions of book design.

As I was paging through this book for the first time, I immediately wondered if Irma Boom had ever seen it. The grand and flamboyant gestures on each page reminded me of her approach which often eschews subtlety and nuance in pursuit of a visceral immediacy. There is an unmistakable energy and point of view in here, but I’m saddened to say I have no idea who to credit for this majestic and weird thing. If anyone here knows anything more about it and would like to contribute to piecing together and sharing its history, please reach out.

 

Shit Plug

 

Shit Plug
Paul McCarthy, Jason Rhoades
2002
Hauser & Wirth, Walther Koenig
ed. 500, signed

design by Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades

In a way, I don't want to write anything about this book and I'd rather let the images alone speak for itself. Because that is exactly how I came to find it, without any context at all. I was recently in London, shopping at Thomas Heneage's historic art book store. As I was mining the stacks I came upon this utter oddity, hidden above a row of books, at the very top of a large shelf, almost touching the ceiling. It was unlike anything I had ever handled—a kind of raucous fusion of color, form, and typography. The blood-red carpeted cover poorly attempts to wrap the contents of the book. Various paper stocks, sizes, and colors jutted out from every side with no apparent motivation other than to disorient the reader. And almost immediately upon lifting the book, a dual-language booklet, split horizontally down the center, fell out. I was profoundly confused and in love. I purchased the book and spent 45 minutes working with Thomas in the basement of his bookshop to safely package it for my flight back home.

I set about researching the origin of the book with few satisfying answers. I do know that it was created in tandem with an exhibition at Hauser and Wirth Zurich, by the artists Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades. The fragmented text within is written by the Situationalist Guy Debort and the accompanying bisected booklet is an essay on the exhibition. It turned out, the damage to the book was not due to an improper handling of the catalog over the nearly 15 years since it was created, but was actually by design. The books themselves came tightly shrinkwrapped and were displayed within the exhibition. The shrinkwrapping, of course, mangled the protruding pieces of the book, bending and tearing their edges—likely an intentional intervention to create a headache for the neurotic collectors. And the overall experience of navigating this catalog is not unlike that of viewing a McCarthy exhibition. It creates a playful, visceral, perplexing, and grotesque world where nuance doesn't exist.

 

W Knoebel Projektion 4/1-11, 5/1-11

 

One of my favorite publications from the Stedelijk around this period. The catalog defies interpretation with no supporting text or explanation of the work present within. The black and white catalog is printed on glossy paper, featuring high-contrast photographs of light and shadows against what appear to be window blinds. 

W Knoebel Projektion 4/1-11, 5/1-11
1972
Stedelijk Museum
20 pp.

design by Wim Crouwel

The repetition of the individual films strips contrasts the irregularity of their placement on the page, creating a beautiful rhythm throughout. The variation of the forms on the page animate across the book like a stop-motion film. 
 
 

 

Ellsworth Kelly — Yellow Curve

 

Ellsworth Kelly: Yellow Curve
1992
Edition Cantz
64 pp.

design by Karin Girlatschek
printed in Germany

Yellow Curve is easily one of the most beautiful and curious books in my collection, containing indeed one of my all-time favorite spreads from any book (pg. 30-31 featuring Kelly’s Orange and Black Ripe). It stands at 12.5” tall and although it couldn’t be considered a large book, contrasted against its slenderness—a consequence of it being only 64 pages long—it feels monumental. By virtue of its sparse layouts and thoughtful pacing, the reproductions of Kelly’s work reach magnificent heights, capturing a kind of grandeur one feels when physically in front of the originals. The grid and type layout takes its cues from European modernism with clear Crouwelian references. Justified type sit along the margins while the interior column/gutter is reserved for images of Kelly’s work, creating a beautiful juxtaposition of organic, colorful forms against the rigidity of the text block. The typography itself is a confusing blend of Univers Extra Black and Optima Regular, with a result that feels wholly unique and ill-suited for the content. 

Despite having some of the most thoughtfully arranged spreads I’ve seen, featuring the canvases and sculptures elegantly stretching across the plain white field of the paper, a few of the installation shots are some of the most unprofessional photography I’ve ever seen printed by a publisher of this caliber. Photos appear grainy and lacking any color and light balance. The overall impression of the book is nothing short of bewilderment. I’m puzzled how the same designer, in the same book, has managed to so elegantly arrange type and image in some spreads and utterly butcher them in others. But often the type of creative work which I enjoy the most is the unfamiliar, and that which I don't fully understand. This book fits perfectly within that category. I don’t understand the logic behind it, yet I treasure the artifact as a curious and endearing publication that has managed to engender simultaneous delight and puzzlement.

 

L'art Vivant Aux Etats-Unis

 

L'art Vivant Aux Etats-Unis
1970
Foundation Maeght
164 pp.

design by  Hannes M. Anrig and Jacques Jouffroy
printed in Switzerland

I love a strong front and back cover relationship. This book uses Gill Kayo (the chosen font for the foundation throughout the period) to great effect here. Sitting on a kind of reverse-shadow of itself, the title is reflected on the back with an inverse relationship of the vibrant red and blue as on the front, creating an optical effect that is nothing short of arresting (and somewhat at odds with the formatting inside). Within, the tone is immediately quieted with a comparatively austere and airy preface typeset in Univers which is handsomely used throughout the rest of this exhibition catalog.

The design of the book, with the exception of the boisterous cover, is relatively reserved and straight-forward. What attracts me to it is its beautiful printing, pacing, and generous use of negative space. In fact, at times I see myself reading the negative space of certain spreads before the content themselves, due to the text and image seemingly retreating to the margins in an effort to avoid recognition, or at the very least create as much space as possible in this tiny catalog. Furthering the curious and quaint nature of this text, due to a publisher error, every copy is missing their 13th and 14th pages.