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Gag On This: The Scrofulous Cartoons of Charles Rodrigues
Gag On This: The Scrofulous Cartoons of Charles Rodrigues
by Charles Rodrigues
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.16
58 used & new from $13.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Charles Rodrigues was an equal opportunity cartoonist, he offended everyone, April 30, 2016
If you remember his cartoons in the National Lampoon, from 1970 to 1993 you can relive the laughs with this chunky square book containing several hundred drawings. There is no doubt that he took advantage of every human foible, mental and physical so if you are incredibly sensitive, easily shocked or a paid up member of the religious Right I think you should avoid this book.

Not only great humor but wonderful, scratchy drawings done with pen and ink, I think his style added to the outrageousness of the jokes, his hand-lettering was pretty cool, too. Charles Rodrigues (1926-2004) was unique, the man who could find humor in any human tragedy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2016 8:26 AM PDT

Frederic Chaubin: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed
Frederic Chaubin: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed
by Frédéric Chaubin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $39.13
66 used & new from $33.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Monumental failure, April 27, 2016
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Frederic Chaubin, in his book, has managed to capture some of the ugliest modern buildings in the world. Page after page of structures that were a product of the failed Soviet state. They seem devoid of any discernable style other than, mostly, being big and brutal. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Soviet planners and their Five Year Plans which had a quirky view of production, in lots of cases it was based on weight rather than quantity, which is why Soviet products tended to be chunky and heavy. Factory managers could achieve their output goals by making heavier but fewer units. Maybe architects got their plans approved by using as many bags of cement and tons of steel as possible.

The author, in his rather rambling essay, mentions the Soviet obsession with the future, especially space travel. The design of many buildings seems to be inspired by flying saucers with another influence Saarinen's curvy TWA terminal (now demolished) at JFK, New York. Soviet architects of the brutalist school couldn't keep things simple, they had to add bits and pieces to the external walls or cut oblong and circular shapes into them. So much of this appears to be just decoration for the sake of it.

Chaubin's photos reveal an interesting side to Soviet buildings, a lack of attention to the finish. Moisture stains appear on walls, walkways have badly fitted concrete blocks, railings with supports that aren't upright, tiled floors that have not been laid in a straight line, gutters aren't upright, big patios outside buildings are not flat. As the only client was the state why should the builders worry about the look of the finished place ("So long as the bosses pretend to pay us, we'll pretend to work"). Though some of the structures are less than forty years old they are crumbling, probably through lack of attention because they are uneconomic to use now that the state doesn't cover their costs.

The book is perhaps as monumental as it's subject. I found it too large (ten inch square would have been ideal) because the photos are big enlargements and most don't reveal lots of detail to take advantage of the book's size. All the buildings are captioned for location, date, architect, place and sometimes a comment from the author.

Chaubin's photos of ninety Soviet buildings is a fascinating record of structural failure.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2016 12:25 PM PDT

Price: $14.99

2.0 out of 5 stars It would have been worth a read but not a look, April 21, 2016
This review is from: Citizenfour (Amazon Video)
A fascinating and amazing story about lengths a government will go to know everything and deny they are doing it (we were lying for national security reasons) but I wonder how many people will watch this documentary twice. The problem I found with Laura Poitras's film is that the subject isn't really visual. This would have been a wonderful long forme article in the New Yorker, Atlantic or Vanity Fair where copy editors knock it into shape to make every word count. Thankfully there is no print equivalent of out of focus camera work, visual padding with no commentary, white noise background sound (prevalent at the start of the film) or sloppy filming of three men, in a Hong Kong hotel, discussing how to leak secrets. It could all have been summed up in a few thousand words and two or three photos in a magazine.

STATIONS: An Imagined Journey
STATIONS: An Imagined Journey
by Michael Flanagan
Edition: Hardcover
66 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Making tracks, April 20, 2016
An early example of a graphic novel (published in 1994) with the graphic aspect totally unrelated to the conventional meaning of the term. There are thirty-nine paintings by Michael Flanagan (1943-2012) on the right-hand pages but you really have to see some to appreciate the extraordinary amount of work that has gone into them. Each image has a photographic style rendering with some handwriting underneath. This writing is typeset on the left-hand page and printed on a color panel. Additional type on the page is the novel and if you read the editorial review from Publishers Weekly above you'll get a good idea of what this aspect of the book is about.

I thought the story was worthwhile enough but my interest in the book is primarily the paintings. Flanagan has managed to capture a bygone age of the railroad but in a unique way. The pictures are on torn and crumpled paper with stains, creases, tape stuck on a tear and nicely here and there additional pieces of paper underneath the top sheet, all this has
been painted Actually it's a shame that the book wasn't bigger so the reader can enjoy these amazing images. I couldn't find any reference to how big the originals were, with the amount of handwriting below each image I would guess they were three or four times the size in the book.

I think this is a remarkable book which you can pick up for less than the shipping costs.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2016 10:56 PM PDT

Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers
Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers
by Evelyne Posseme
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $48.86
111 used & new from $30.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Designed to catch the eye, April 18, 2016
The first sixty-seven pages of this lavish book are four illustrated essays on deco jewelry but basically from a French perspective (it was originally published by Editions Norma, Paris). One by Arlette Barre: 'Captivating the world', nicely covers the wider aspects of the subject and the connection to the various art 'isms' of the first thirty-five years of the last century and the importance of the 1925 Paris International Exposition.

Another essay intriguingly considers jewelry and graphic design (plus typography) but looking through the pages at rings, bracelets, pendants and vanity cases I can see a connection between the flat graphics of posters and deco book covers of the period. Jean Fouquet and Gerard Sandoz work captures this feel perfectly. So much of the jewelry here is a clear contrast to the Art Deco bronze and ivory statues of Chiparus, Descomps or Preiss with their precise detail of dancer's costumes and females faces.

After the essays the rest of the book considers eighteen designers and companies who probably produced the world's finest deco jewelry between 1910 and 1937. Each name gets several pages with an essay and photos (mostly color) of their work which are all captioned though oddly without any dimensions for the pieces.

'Art Deco jewelry' is an excellent look at this particular creative art but also worth considering is a book with the same title by Sylvie Raulet published as a chunky paperback in 2002 with 792 photos (261 in color).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2016 3:03 AM PDT

The Anatomy of the Architectural Book
The Anatomy of the Architectural Book
by Andre Tavares
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $35.47
38 used & new from $25.06

5.0 out of 5 stars Building a book, April 1, 2016
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The author, Andre Tavares, has researched a fascinating study of the architectural book through the centuries. While a Visiting Scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture he used their extensive library of historical books about building design and they provided the majority of the 120 images throughout these pages. The book is in two sections with Part one considering titles related to the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition and Giedion's 1929 book 'Befreites wohnen' (Living liberated). Part two is divided into five chapters based on the essentials of architecture: Texture; Surface; Rhythm; Structure; Scale.

Giedion's book, has the most pages devoted to an individual title (forty-three) and Tavares uses it as a reasonable template for the ideal architectural book, though Giedion was no book designer and it shows. Professor Sokratis Georgiadis is quoted that the design "is not just devoid of style, it is, deliberately, downright ugly." Pages eighty and eighty-one reproduce twenty-five spreads showing a mixture of upright photos and landscape ones requiring the book frequently to be turned round. In the chapter devoted to Rhythm there are reproductions of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's 'Moterei, photographie, film' (1925) and Erich Mendelsohn's 'Amerika' (1926) which both have a much more interesting page design.

Part two with its five chapters reproduces some wonderful pages from architectural books. Obviously a book was the best way of passing on construction knowledge though printing techniques sometimes meant that text was printed first then another print run for the images. Two spreads from a 1521 book about Vitruvius show a very clean looking layout with text and images, it looks clean because there are no separate paragraphs, all text runs on with paragraphs indicated by a symbol within the text. Architect Humphrey Repton in his 1800 book 'The Red Book of Hatchlands in Surrey' developed a technique of overlays for his building pictures allowing the reader to flip from reality to the building's future look. Several examples of this technique are shown. The chapter on Structure gets down to basics of construction. Two French books reveal the details using pictures, one from 1762 has a spread showing a pile-driver, an 1859 one dissects an interior buttress and the springing point of an arch. The last chapter on Scale features several pages from books and a prospectus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they all look as interesting as his buildings.

I think it's worth commenting on this book's anatomy. It's beautifully conceived with two columns per page, a wide one for the main text and a narrower one for the Notes, there are just over nine hundred of these, other publishers might have put them in the back pages where they would require plenty of flipping backwards and forwards. The Notes here appear on their relevant pages. All the images of book spreads and pages are treated as cutouts with the addition of a slight shadow to give them a dimensional look on the page. The non-text pages (title, contents, index et cetera) are designed with an elegant simplicity that works for the reader.

Andre Tavares has written and Lars Muller published a remarkable book about building books.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2016 12:40 PM PDT

Fifty Years of Movie Posters
Fifty Years of Movie Posters
by John Kobal
Edition: Spiral-bound
22 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood on your wall, March 28, 2016
A clever publishing idea from 1973 that only half comes off. Hollywood movie posters have been a visual treat for decades but unless you worked in the industry virtually impossible to get hold of. Why not publish a very large spiral bound book so the poster can easily be removed. The page size is 17.25 by 12 inches with the whole page posters are a bit less because of the margin. Where it falls down slightly is that only half the book is in color: the right-hand pages. Most of these are whole page but sometimes two landscapes stacked.

The first color one is 'How Bella was won' from 1911 then each decade gets a showing up to the sixties with a mono 'Walk on the wild side' (1962). With a rough count of the index I reckon there are 250 plus posters in the 174 pages. Find a copy of the book and start your own movie poster gallery.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2016 9:02 AM PDT

Esther Bubley's World of Children in Photographs (Dover Pictorial Archive)
Esther Bubley's World of Children in Photographs (Dover Pictorial Archive)
by Esther Bubley
Edition: Paperback
29 used & new from $3.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Small world, March 18, 2016
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There are no details about these photos in the book and as it was published in 1981 it's reasonable to assume they were taken at least forty years ago. My guess is that they are from the late sixties and through the seventies.

Bubley had a knack of photographing people and children as if she wasn't there. The 159 photos here show this with hardly any child looking at the camera. I think the best images involve pets, like the cover photo and children by themselves exploring their immediate surroundings; looking at flowers; pressing a piano key; listening to a record. Fortunately there are hardly any showing under fives making a mess of things, for example babies and food is always a favorite snap taken by parents.

I think Bubley's work has been rather neglected, apart from this book of children photos there are only two others worth considering, the excellent 'On assignment' published by Aperture and her work for the FSA/OWI published in the 'Fields of vision' series from Giles..
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2016 12:45 AM PDT

The Orange and the Dream of California
The Orange and the Dream of California
by David Boulé
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $27.88
31 used & new from $21.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Fruit of California's golden years, March 1, 2016
A fun look at those golden globes that helped make CA the new world paradise in the early decades of the last century. It is basically a picture book based around the author's remarkable collection of orange related ephemera with thirteen chapters taking a lightweight coverage of citriculture (but really only considering oranges) in the State. Before 1900 the perfect climate encouraged plenty of new arrivals to try their hand at running an orange grove though frequently they knew very little about cultivating, picking and shipping the fruit. To the rescue came the Washington navel orange, the perfect fruit, page forty-four mentions that 31, 422 carloads of these were shipped out of the State in 1904/5.

The orange industry really came to maturity with the formation of the California Fruit Growers Exchange in 1895. Collectively looking after quality, packing and marketing this organisation became Sunkist in 1908 and explored the wider potential of what to do with the millions of oranges that members grew. Wrapping them individually was one idea (save the wrappers for a free recipe book) another was crushing them for juice (selling an electric Sunkist juicer) how about making marmalade (an also ran of an idea because it needed few oranges but lots of sugar and jars). Orange juice, promoted as a healthy drink was a neat way to use the product though decades later Florida provides nearly all the oranges for (processed) juice.

Apart from the history and the industry the author covers all sorts of orange related subjects: National Orange Shows; oranges and popular music; Hollywood stars and promoting oranges; tourist tours through the groves and of course crate labels with fourteen lovely examples shown. Finally there is a very short piece about the decline of the industry because the huge increase of California's population which needed land for housing and industry.

As I said above this is a brief look at oranges in California, you could probably read the main text in one go, the long picture captions probably have more words. For a visual book it's a pity it wasn't more professionally produced. The publisher's seem to have a house style of having two columns, side by side on a page with the second column one line short and sometimes with two columns the lines don't line up. Having the long captions in small type and printed in orange means they are not easily readable in a domestic lighting environment. There is a comprehensive bibliography, image credits but no index.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2016 11:28 AM PST

The Genius of Color Photography: From the Autochrome to the Digital Age
The Genius of Color Photography: From the Autochrome to the Digital Age
by Pamela Roberts
Edition: Paperback
21 used & new from $2.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Just add color, February 29, 2016
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Historically photography to most people is black and white but look through these pages and be amazed at the photos from decades ago and in color. First off the obvious thing was to hand-color mono prints, OK for the masses but photograhers before 1900 were experimenting with film to create something like real life. Page sixteen has a panorama of a French town taken by Ducos du Hauron in 1877, the caption says it is the first color image of an outdoor scene. The Lumiere brothers, in 1907, were the first to sell a commercial product, the autochrome, that enabled photographers to take reasonable color photos. A really nice feature of the book is that all the images dealing with the early development of the medium (up to the mid-1920s) look so lovely, with their softness and warm or reds and ochres. This rapidly disappeared in a decade or so as film technology advanced and delivered a product that captured precise edges.

Once it was technically perfected color took off but mostly in the commercial world of advertising and publishing, especially magazines. The art world ignored vulgar color (it's so life like!) until John Szarkowski's 1976 MoMA exhibition of photos by Willam Eggleston. The book takes the subject right up to date with the last chapter looking a digital work.

The author considers color, least in the photos selected, in the art sense (including documentary material) rather than looking too closely at the popular use of the medium with Kodachrome and other mass market film producers. I thought the image selection throughtout the pages first-class, lots of work from famous names but luckily not their best known pictures. This gives the subject a freshness and makes it much more interesting.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 29, 2016 11:08 PM PST

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