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Category: art

Pithy posters for writers


Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner once said, "Civilization begins with distillation," and now you can have that on a poster. It's one of several pithy sayings by authors that have been given visual representation by New York-based artist Evan Robertson.

Robertson has created 15 illustrations to go along with literary quotations. There are novelists, poets, a philosopher, quippers and criticizers. One poster has Molly Bloom's soliloquy from the end of "Ulysses" (spoiler alert!). Here is a selection of quotes:

All truths wait in all things. -- Walt Whitman

That's not writing, that's typing. -- Truman Capote

Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form. -- Vladimir Nabokov

Poets are always taking the weather so seriously. -- J.D. Salinger

Have you ever heard the earth breathe? -- Kate Chopin

How embarrassing to be human. -- Kurt Vonnegut

How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless. -- Paul Bowles

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. -- Edgar Allan Poe

In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile. --  Hunter S. Thompson

The appropriate response to reality is to go insane. -- Philip K. Dick

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Write drunk. Edit sober. -- Ernest Hemingway

Robertson has done his homework; he describes the literary context of each quote on the sales pages of his Etsy shop, Obvious State. For example, Capote had some specific writing (or was it typing?) in mind: He was criticizing the work of Jack Kerouac. Which gives his quote a little extra edge.

Previously, Robertson also had posters with quotes from Mark Twain and Kerouac, but those aren't currently being offered for sale. These are. The digitally created illustrations are, by turns, witty and elegant. Each poster comes as a 13-by-19-inch giclée print with a white border. They're for sale, unframed, for $24 each.


Visions of scripturience (say what?)

Here's a dictionary for warped minds

Considering tweeting about working on your novel? Think twice.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Images: Posters created by Evan Robertson. Credit: Obvious State shop on Etsy

Visions of scripturience (say what?)

If you've ever Scipturiencebeen possessed by a violent desire to write, you may not have been able to put that feeling into words. However, there is a word for it: you were feeling scripturient.

It's one of the rare words that have been gathered and then graphically rendered by the Project Twins, a pair of designers based in Cork City, Ireland. James and Michael Fitzgerald do design work for a number of companies and have created their own projects independently. A-Z of Unusual Words is one of those independent series.

Some of the words, like scripturience, do not appear in abridged dictionaries. But they can be found in the heftier versions, and, of course, the massive standard, the OED.

A sampling from the Project Twins lexicon:

Acersecomic: A person whose hair has never been cut

Biblioclasm: The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media

Fanfaronade: Swaggering; empty boasting; blustering manner or behavior; ostentatious display

Noegenesis: Production of knowledge

Pogonotrophy: The act of cultivating, or growing and grooming, a mustache, beard, sideburns or other facial hair

Ultracrepidarian: A person who gives opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge

Vernalagnia: A romantic mood brought on by spring

Zugzwang: A position in which any decision or move will result in problems.

The words alone are charming, and the graphic images created by the Project Twins even more so. Originally displayed in 2011 at the MadArt Gallery Dublin during DesignWeek, limited edition prints from the A-Z of Unusual Words are now for sale on the Project Twins website for about $250 each. Hat tip to Design Taxi for the link.


Every writer's nightmare: the wordless Web

A dictionary for warped minds

La-La Land now the dictionary definition of Los Angeles

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: The poster for "scripturient" by the Project Twins. Credit: The Project Twins


It's Taschen's bargain warehouse sale

Art book publisher Taschen launched its semi-regular warehouse sale today, marking books down by 50% to 75%. The online sale continues through June 24; its stores, like the one in Beverly Hills, will also be offering bargains.

The warehouse sale includes discontinued titles, books that are "slightly dented" and "retired review copies." That means they're in limited supply, and this might be the last chance to get a book you've been keeping in your sights. One of the first to sell out is the "Big Penis Book 3D" -- but maybe that's for the best. Who knows who'd put their hands on it?

Taschen's warehouse is full of photo books, books that showcase art, even books about type -- "Bondoni" is a reprint of the 1818 typeface masterwork by the offical printer for the Duke of Parma, Giambattista Bodoni. There are many books about classic art and contemporary design. There are more than a few sexy books. There are books with photos of exotic locations, wild animals, movies, living spaces abroad, robots and Marilyn Monroe.

Taschen is the company of Benedikt Taschen, whose eclectic tastes govern its offerings. "He will stand behind every book that he publishes, no matter what," the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2011, "a directional choice that has not only defined the Cologne-born publisher as a seminal maverick in the world of books, but also as a rebellious risk-taker."

"Most books look so ... dispassionately done; they are disposable from the beginning," Taschen told the Journal. "Their books are not designed to become significant objects, so most books have no identity, no soul. I'm not saying all, but the vast majority [of publishing houses], with a few exceptions, have lost their profile and personality. It doesn't look like they have spent a lot of care and love."

Taschen publishes about 100 books a year; about 125 titles are part of the warehouse sale.


Meet Benedikt Taschen

Hugh Hefner for cheap? Taschen's big 2011 sale

Taschen makes its mark with high-end bookstores

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Get ready for the election with 'Presidential Campaign Posters'


Before the era of the 24-hour news cycle and weekly televised debates, the predominant and most creative outlet for presidential candidates to communicate their vision was the campaign poster.

With "Presidential Campaign Posters" (Quirk Books, $40), the Library of Congress takes a look back at two centuries of memorable election art.

The book begins with the 1828 Andrew Jackson-John Quincy Adams race, spanning through 2008's Barack Obama-John McCain battle -- including Shepard Fairey's memorable Obama "Hope" poster -- and covering every campaign in between.

"We began in 1828 because it was the first election you didn't have to own property to vote," said W. Ralph Eubanks, publishing director at the Library of Congress. "We felt that was the beginning of modern presidential campaigns."

While the names and faces may have changed and artistic styles evolved, the nature of American politicking, issues and mudslinging have remained constant throughout our country's history. Often the attacks were personal and vicious. Jackson's opponents painted him as a murdering military general in a poster filled with caskets and accounts of his bloody deeds, while Adams represented establishment and ties to the founding fathers.

"The most common slogan has been a variation of 'Bring America Back' or 'Push It Forward,' " Eubanks said. He noted that a recurring theme is the candidate as the common man: James Garfield as a farmer, Ulysses S. Grant as a tanner, and Robert Kennedy's Alfred E. Neuman look-alike psychedelic poster from 1968.

"It's so visually appealing with strong graphics. It makes you like the candidate and feel some connection," Eubanks said in describing what makes a successful poster.

GALLERY: Presidential campaign posters

Political cartoons and parody posters can be a way to connect to popular culture. Among the top candidates in that genre: Ronald Reagan reimagined as a Rambo clone named "Ronbo," Gerald Ford dressed up as Fonzie with the tag line "Fordzie: Happy Days are Here Again" and Jimmy Carter as Jesus Christ ("J.C. Can Save America").

In addition to the 100 pullout posters, there are related materials that give readers what Eubanks calls "a sense of the temper of the times." For Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential run, a copy of his gold button and a "Grand Wizards for Goldwater" photo are featured along with the poster.

Mixed in with the comedic lampooning is an homage to masterpieces such as Delacroix's 1830 painting "Liberty Leading the People," reimagined for the 1984 campaign of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. Posters designed by noted artists include Ben Shahn's 1968 Eugene McCarthy peace poster and James Montgomery Flagg's Uncle Sam in "I Want You F.D.R" in 1944.


Rockwell Kent's graphic appeal

'The Great Gatsby' trailer: yea or nay?

-- Liesl Bradner

Photo: Abraham Lincoln's full first name wouldn't fit on a flag-themed poster for his 1860 campaign with running mate Hannibal Hamlin, among the treasures in "Presidential Campaign Posters." Credit: Quirk Books / Library of Congress


A natural history that almost wasn't: 'America's Other Audubon'

"Nest and Eggs of a Field Sparrow"
As a little girl in Ohio in the mid-1800s, Genevieve "Gennie" Jones would accompany her country doctor father in his buggy as he visited patients. Along the way they'd discuss the natural world, which turned into a lifelong passion. Then in 1876, consumed with heartache from a broken engagement, Jones traveled to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Here she viewed John James Audubon's masterpiece, "Birds of America."

Inspired by the beautiful watercolor drawings, she returned home with a new sense of purpose, determined to create a companion book illustrating birds' nests and eggs. Encouraged and financed by her father, Jones set about creating the artwork. Her brother, Howard, collected the specimens, wrote the field notes. With help from her friend Eliza Shulze, they practiced sketching the eggs and nests and learning the lithography process through correspondence.

After completing just five illustrations, Jones was stricken with typhoid fever and died. Overcome with grief, the family decided to continue working on the project as a memorial to their beloved. Seven years later in 1886, "Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio" was published.

Of the 90 completed, only 26 intact copies have been located. One (valued at $80,000) on display in a plexiglass case at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History caught the attention of the new assistant librarian, Joy Kiser, who would walk by it every day. Captivated by the story of the Joneses and their unbridled devotion to completing Genevieve's endeavor, Kiser, now a writer and editor for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, spent the next 15 years meticulously researching materials, tracking down relatives and telling their story at seminars.

She chronicles the tragic yet triumphant story behind the making of the Joneses' extraordinary 19th century book in "America's Other Audubon" (Princeton Architectural Press: $45). The cover of "America's Other Audubon"

"Despite praises and positive reviews from naturalists and ornithologists, Jones' book was never given the proper reception," said Kiser, who felt a strong connection through a shared appreciation of nests and eggs when she was a child. "Finishing the book was a way to keep her alive."

It was a laborious undertaking by the Joneses. Although Shulze left to study art in New York, she trained Jones' mother, Virginia, how to draw on the lithographic stones; nearly 90 copies of every illustration had to be hand colored, so they hired local girls to help.

The life-size color and black and white illustrations were drawn and colored by hand with imported Winsor and Newton watercolors and printed on the same Whatman's Hotpressed Antiquarian paper that Audubon used. The intricate details of the nests' construction are accentuated with the occasional burst of baby blue eggs.

PHOTOS: Images from "America's Other Audubon"

Jones' father, Nelson, depleted his retirement savings and sold subscriptions to museums, naturalists and even President Rutherford B. Hayes and Harvard student Theodore Roosevelt. During production, Howard and Virginia contracted typhoid, leaving Howard with heart damage and Virginia nearly blind for two years.

"America's Other Audubon" features original field notes and reproductions of the 68 original lithograph plates representing 129 species. Actually, 130 were intended, but, alas, the nest and eggs of the Cerulean Warbler could not be found.


The World's Most Expensive Book

-- Liesl Bradner

Images: (Top) "Nest & Eggs of the Field Sparrow," Illustrated by Virginia Jones. (Bottom) The book's cover art . Credit: "Americas Other Audubon," by Joy M. Kiser. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.

Considering tweeting about working on your novel? Think twice.


Twitter is a connector, a place for micro-stories, an Internet water cooler. As a result, it is a tempting procrastination tool, particularly for people who are inclined to be sitting at a computer, fingers poised over a keyboard.

Like, for example, hopeful novelists.

Just go to @WrkOnMyNovel for proof. The new Twitter account gathers tweets that reference working on novels — which, of course, someone is not doing with tremendous focus if they're tweeting about it. In fact, some who tweet about working on novels admit they're in the middle of doing something else entirely: Watching "Dr. Who," PBS or "Gilmore Girls," filling Etsy orders, spending time on Pinterest.

Others who tweet about their writing environments do seem to be writing, or at least ready and set for it. Coffee shops and chai are popular. There is the occasional glass of red wine. One writer, @sonyazombiee, tweeted: "Thinking of working on my novel all day in bed tomorrow. Hmm," which does sound rather pleasant.

But is the project meant to highlight the aspirations of hopeful writers or to showcase how futile those hopes can be? Clearly, tweeting about writing a novel is not writing the novel itself. Writing a novel is a lot harder than tweeting that you're writing a novel. I myself have finished many tweets — almost 7,000 of them — but I have not finished a novel (OK, I finished one, but that was really just an MFA manuscript, never published). My mother used to say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." If tweets were novels, we'd all be novelists, many times over.

The person behind @WrkOnMyNovel, which launched April 18, is the programmer and artist Cory Arcangel; he acts as curator. Another Twitter project of his is the search for "follow my other Twitter," which, he told Interview magazine, is "kind of an inside joke about social networks. People often have two identities and they’re always asking people to follow the other one." When asked if he would present these projects as artwork, Arcangel said, "I would present it as an artwork that exists on the Internet, but not in a gallery. And maybe as a book one day."

Of course, if you're telling an interviewer about putting together a book, you're not actually doing it. But anybody who tweets about writing a novel could tell you that.


Birth of a Twitter trend: #replacebooktitleswithbacon

Twitter answers, What public domain ebooks have you downloaded?

Twitter is full of readers: "Why I Read" makes trending topic

— Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Screenshot of the Twitter feed for @WrkOnMyNovel


Kickstarter and the NEA: Who funds more?

Last week, based on two record-breaking campaigns, the crowd-sourcing fund-raising site Kickstarter projected that it would distribute $150 million in 2012. That's just a shade more than the National Endowment for the Arts; the NEA will distribute $146 million.

The comparison to the NEA immediately led to confusion -- even on the part of Kickstarter itself. Talking Points Memo spoke with  Yancey Strickler, one of Kickstarter's three founders, about the news Friday.

“It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the NEA,” said Stricker in an exclusive phone interview with TPM. “We view that number and our relationship to it in both a good and bad way.”

As Strickler explained, the milestone is "good" in the sense that it means that Kickstarter may now reach a point where it will funnel as much money to the arts as the federal agency primarily responsible for supporting them, effectively doubling the amount of art that can get funded in the country.

While I'm all for increasing arts funding, and also all for Kickstarter, something here didn't ring true. My cousin and her friends used Kickstarter to help establish an Internet cafe and microbusiness incubator in Cambodia -- a worthy cause that I was delighted to support, but hardly an arts project. Just because the amount Kickstarter may distribute is similar to that of the NEA, it doesn't mean Kickstarter will provide more funding to the arts -- or does it?

It does not, as Clay Johnson shows today at the Information Diet, by taking a snapshot of Kickstarter's currently funded projects (be sure to check out the graph). In his reckoning, 33% of the project funding is going to design; those projects are predominantly iPhone and other Apple accessories, with a pair for coffee, one for photography and a pen. Only the last two, at a stretch, could be considered arts funding.  Similarly, technology, which made up 17% of the project funding, was full of interesting projects that had little to do with the arts.

Johnson rightly points out that part of the NEA's mandate is to provide access to the arts, to fund projects all over the country. I would add that another key difference is that the NEA mostly funds nonprofits, which have to meet certain state and national requirements to ensure fiscal responsibility. When not funding nonprofits, it provides grants to individual artists, who must fill out long applications, which are vetted and selected by experts.

Kickstarter, on the other hand, is kind of a free-for-all, which is part of its charm. It has projects from real companies with proven successes, like gamemaker Double Fine Productions, one of the million-dollar projects (trying to raise $400,000, its tally now stands at more than $2 million) -- yet it also has projects like a zine-to-be about Eastern European arts and culture by a Chicago graduate student. It's come one, come all. It's exciting. Its projects can be outrageous, profane, individual, monumental, even crazy. 

Interestingly, of the obviously arts-ish Kickstarter funding that Johnson tallied, film/video is the biggest share, followed, in descending order, by comics, music, art, publishing, theater, photography and dance. Maybe Kickstarter could be even more of a resource for independent publishers.

Kickstarter is stepping in where traditional business funders and institutions such as the NEA have left a gap. But it's not fulfulling an identical function. And it doesn't seem to be anywhere near meeting the amount of arts dollars the NEA provides.


2012 NEA writing fellows

Slake Magazine is Kickstarter's project of the day

Filmmakers behind George Plimpton documentary seek final funds on Kickstarter

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rocco Landesman, head of the National Endowment for the Arts, at the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.

Garage Magazine includes art condoms in its second issue

HaringcondomIn its second issue, dedicated to sex and relationships, Garage Magazine has included an appropriate, unique gift: artist-designed condoms. The designs are from artists Keith Haring, Sue Webster, Tim Noble and Mat Collishaw.

The magazine is part art, part fashion, a high-end blend of the two. As ArtInfo writes, it had to work hard to top issue No. 1. When it debuted in 2011, it had three separate covers; one was adorned with a Damien Hirst-designed peel-off butterfly sticker, underneath which there was a not-safe-for-work Damien Hirst-designed tattoo.

Garage was founded by Dasha Zhukova and named after an art center she opened in Russia in 2007. On the magazine's website she writes, "out of an increasing abundance of ideas, Garage the magazine was born."

The second issue promises to include stories about Internet dating, the legalization of gay marriage, and the advent of fertilization technology. But don't expect it to be too straightforward: Issue No. 1 was creative, artistic, and sometimes baffling. “It is so very, very different from other magazines,” Garage’s art director Mike Meiré told the N.Y. Times. “It’s like a box of Pandora.... You don’t know what is happening on the next page.”

The condoms can be found in every issue of the magazine, and in Andre Saraiva’s Le Baron nightclubs in Paris, London, and New York during Fashion Week.


What book inspired Carlos Campos' Fall 2012 collection?

Thing Magazine: The Dave Eggers shower curtain

Art meets books: very cool and far away

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Keith Haring condom wrapper. Credit: Garage Magazine

Art meets books: Very cool and far away

MomaAn intriguing museum exhibition that's all about print is taking place in February and March. Unfortunately for Angelenos, it's at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Print/Out will exhibit more than 200 works of printed materials such as artists' books from MOMA's collection, including pieces by Martin Kippenberger, Ai Weiwei, and SUPERFLEX. It's the first such exhibit since 1996.

The museum writes:

Over the last two decades, the art world has broadened its geographic reach and opened itself to new continents, allowing for a significant cross-pollination of post-conceptual strategies and vernacular modes. Printed materials, in both innovative and traditional forms, have played a key role in this exchange of ideas and sources. This exhibition examines the evolution of artistic practices related to the print medium, from the resurgence of ancient printmaking techniques—often used alongside digital technologies—to the worldwide proliferation of self-published artists’ books and ephemera.

The exhibit will be on the museum's sixth floor. Another, Printin', will be on the second, in the Paul J. Sachs Prints and Illustrated Books Galleries. It takes as its start "DeLuxe," a portfolio of 60 works by Ellen Gallagher, and then "brings work by more than 50 artists from multiple disciplines in a sweeping chronology that extends from the 17th century to the present day, to propose a free-flowing yet incisive web of associations that are reflected in DeLuxe." Both exhibits will be up from mid-February to mid-May.

An associated exhibit opened this week: Print Studio in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building. The independent Brooklyn-based Reanimation Library is among the projects that can be found in the Print Studio through March 9, where interactivity is encouraged. The Reanimation Library is a showcase of books that have fallen out of circulation that have strong visual components. Its "outdated and discarded" books, it writes, "have been culled from thrift stores, stoop sales, and throw-away piles, and given new life as a resource for artists, writers, cultural archeologists, and other interested parties."

Opening in Februrary in the Cullman building is another related exhibit, Millennium Magazines, a survey of art and design magazines. Will it include shelter porn like "Dwell"? Maybe. The exhibit "explores the various ways in which contemporary artists and designers utilize the magazine format as an experimental space for the presentation of artworks and text." Or maybe not. The exhibit closes in mid-May.

A number of gallery talks and other conversations are scheduled for the duration. They include a conversation with Ellen Gallagher, a panel discussion with K8 Hardy of "LTTR," Flint Jamison of "Veneer Magazine," Kristina Lee Podesva and Jeff Khonsary of "Fillip," Anthony Smyrski of "Megawords," and Marina Abramović in conversation with art publisher Jacob Samuel.


Got $10 million? The world's most expensive book could be yours

A different kind of cut-up storytelling: Beatrice Coron

Artist Kara Walker meets the Georgia Review

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The Museum of Modern Art. Credit: Andy Miah via Flickr

Got $10 million? The world's most expensive book could be yours

Book collectors with fat wallets take note: A first edition of the rare John James Audubon book "The Birds of America" will be auctioned by Christie's in New York on Jan. 20. When another copy of "The Birds of America" sold for $11.5 million in 2010, it became the world's most expensive book.

"The Birds of America" was published in the early 1800s as a serial, with subscribers getting a handful of plates at a time. It was printed on oversized pages, more than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide; the original black-and-white engravings were hand-colored. It took a decade to complete the project. There are thought to be only about 120 copies of the book in full, which includes 435 color illustrations.

"The format was chosen not out of any grandiosity but because it was Audubon's remarkable desire –- and ability -- to produce life-sized engravings of each bird," rare book dealer Rick Gekoski told the Guardian. "Thus the finches and cardinals have plenty of space in which to flit about, while the flamingo and trumpeter swan tilt their necks graciously inward and arrange themselves with some care. The effect of this is just terrific." 

The edition of the book that Christie's will auction later this month was purchased as a fully bound set sometime after 1838, the year it was finally completed. Christie's writes that it was bought by (deep breath): William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland PC, FRS, FSA (24 June 1768 - 27 March 1854), styled Marquess of Titchfield until 1809... [or] this set may also have been purchased later by the 5th or 6th Dukes of Portland, the son of the 4th Duke and his cousin, respectively.

Since 1973, 24 copies of the book have come up for sale. 14 of those were sold off page by page, because the individual plates are so valuable. 107 copies remain in institutions and 13 are in private hands. If you've got about $10 million, those hands could now be yours.

And if you haven't got quite that much scratch, a low-resolution, screen-size version of Audubon's "The Birds of America" can be seen at the Audubon website.


The world's most expensive book - by Audubon - sells for $11.5 million

Fantasy xmas shopping for book lovers - Christie's droolworthy auction

Literary letters for auction at Sotheby's

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The page featuring the Common American Swan from John James Audubon's "The Birds of America." Credit: Christie's / Associated Press


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