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Exactitude: Hyperrealist Art Today
Exactitude: Hyperrealist Art Today
von John Russell Taylor
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 49,38

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Looks like Art, 17. Mai 2011
If you don't have the three Photorealism books by Louis Meisel `Exactitude' will sort of bring you up to date. Meisel's last book came out in 2002 and it firmly related art of the title: Photorealism at the Millenium. Since then, though, the genre has moved on and to judge by the subject matter of the artists in these pages Photorealism doesn't really capture the feel so Clive Head used the term Exactiude. The precision and clarity is still evident but one of the main ingredients of Photorealism was capturing American commonplace, many artists in these pages have moved completely away from this.

The twenty-seven painters in the book (with ten from north America and ten from Britain) are arranged alphabetically kicking off with John Beader. One of the first generation Photorealists, although Meisel, in his first book, included him in the `Artists related to Photorealism' section. Here he is, still creating wonderful diner paintings full of sparkle and wit. To show how things have moved on the next artist is Paul Beliveau. So completely different from Baeder in subject matter: close-ups of book spines.

Beliveau like other artists in the book: Pedro Campos; Cynthia Poole; Cesar Santander have chosen to include plenty of print typography in their work, which, to my mind, is probably the hardest type of painting to achieve perfection, especially when painted on canvas. Duplicate letters have to look exactly the same, something Santander with his close-ups of tin boxes seems to achieve with ease. Wonderful to look at but I thought they seemed to more technical exercises than creative.

The subject matter chosen by the book's painters is, mostly, either exteriors or still life close-ups. Exceptions are David Ligare who returns to the classical past with his mythological content and the fantasy architectural content of Carl Laubin. Simon Hennessey is the only portrait painter in the book concentrating on eyes. City and industrial landscapes get a good showing from David Finnegan, Clive Head, Ben Johnson, Christian Marsh, Robert Neffson, Francisco Rangel and Steve Whitehead.

The paint of choice is oil or acrylic for everyone except for Andrew Holmes who uses colored pencils on paper (I wonder if this actually paint in a pencil) and achieves some incredible finishes on his trucks and mirror looking tankers.

This is a thick chunky book (check out the Product Description) with 550 paintings. Another reviewer has commented on the reproduction in relation to the Meisel books. His three and this one are all printed with a 175 screen on reasonable matt art paper in each case. My impression is that this book is slightly lighter in printing quality and lacks true blacks especially when compared to `Photorealism at the Millennium' title. Print relies heavily on the quality of the originals, either digital or transparencies.

Overall I thought this was a fascinating look at realist painting with enough variation of subject matter to appeal to anyone interested contemporary art.

The Art of Street Jewellery
The Art of Street Jewellery
von Christopher Baglee
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 44,52

5.0 von 5 Sternen Signs that sell, 15. Mai 2011
How refreshing to come across a book that delivers on every level: well written by the two authors who are obviously experts on the subject; illustrated with about 2500 enamel signs and related graphics; beautifully designed and printed and with a delightful bit of whimsy because the book's title is printed on a metal sign that's stuck on the cover.

Baglee and Morley have written other books on the subject but these 240 pages must surely be the definitive study about street jewellery. The book is really in two parts. The first hundred or so pages look at the development of these permanent signs in Britain and a nice touch is the addition of many shop photos from the early years of the last century showing how the signs would be placed anywhere on the building and because they were virtually indestructible they would stay there until the place was demolished.

A long chapter on the companies that made the signs and how, shows some wonderfully flamboyant trade catalogues. The Wildman & Meguyer pages show an amazing number of typefaces in all sorts of styles. Part of the chapter looks at sign makers around the world and there are plenty of European signs in the illustrations.

The second part of the book shows hundreds of enamel signs divided into various trades, like breweries, stores, garages, petrol companies, chemists etcetera. Transport gets a good showing with shipping lines, cars and bikes. Airlines, least European ones, were too new for this sort of advertising.

The back pages have an eight page Gallery showcasing signs from around the world, a six page Products and Inventions Timeline with a lovely bit of line art showing, in profile, a row of shops with little colored signs in position. There are two indexes, first a general one and the second lists all the product signs.

Though there are a huge number of signs in the book everything is presented in a simple, elegant straightforward manner that makes looking through these pages a pleasure. If only other books that featured large collections of visual items looked as good.

Books of Nudes
Books of Nudes
von Alessandro Bertolotti
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 42,55

5.0 von 5 Sternen Art or erotica?, 14. Mai 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Books of Nudes (Gebundene Ausgabe)
The index lists 172 photographers in Bertolotti's fascinating book and maybe you can say he forgot so and so (not Stanley Tunick I hope) but it's his personal collection of books that are featured here and not a definitive study of the nude photo book. He's collected over 160 and surely this must included almost every significant title up to the early years of this century.

The twelve chapters cover various themes historically starting with Academies, the name given to nude studies that circulated in France in the 1910s, essentially for creative folk to look at the female form but off course used as erotica by everyone else. The European naturalist movement was the perfect market to allow publishers to print books of nude photos and as chapter seven reveals, in Nazi Germany, titles like the 1939 'Spirit and Beauty' showed the perfect Aryan female body.

Chapter nine features twenty-five Japanese books from the sixties onwards. Quite intriguing because the photography and the book layouts are unlike anything seen in the West, they seem almost non-erotic. Chapter eleven: 'Gay pride' has sixteen titles and the last chapter looks at twenty-six books in the Narrative format. From the sixties nude photo books evolved into telling stories, illustrated with the work of Araki, Les Krims, Helmut Newton, Bettina Rheims, Joel-Peter Witkin among others.

I like the format of the book, just like Parr and Badger's two Photo Books or a recent Taschen title: Photographers A-Z. The featured books have their covers and two or three spreads with some text about the photographer and nicely some social background regarding the years when the books were published. Though the majority of images are in mono they have been printed in four colours (with a 175 screen) on a good matt art. A tip of the hat to Shawn Dahl who did a great design job and also to Liz Nash who translated the original French book into easy to read conversational English.

Photographers and publication designers will love the book and as it seems to an over-stock title now it's a bargain at the prices I've seen on the net.

Braun - Fifty Years of Design and Innovation
Braun - Fifty Years of Design and Innovation
von Bernd Polster
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 49,90

5.0 von 5 Sternen Good looks look good, 11. Mai 2011
I recently reviewed the excellent 808 page 'Less and more' (ISBN 9783899552775) book about Braun. It will probably be considered the definitive title about the company with a thorough analysis of the products and in particular the role of designer Dieter Rams. It had one annoying fault though: the photo pages used profile product shots that were really too small and made worse because they had a page to themselves facing a left-hand page with a head-on photo of the product.

Bernd Polster's book is essentially a visual catalogue of Braun products with a photo of each (and it would really have looked stunning if it had used, at a proper size, the profile shots from the 'Less and more' book). The product lines are divided into eight chapters: Entertainment electronics; Photography and film; Clocks and pocket calculators; Lighters and flashlights; Electric shavers; Body care; Oral care; Household appliances. Each of these starts with an introduction and picks out milestone products for a detailed overview followed by photos and brief captions which visually trace the history of the line. The photos are straightforward shots, beautifully taken and used as cutouts on the page with a hint of a shadow to give them all a dimensional look. The Braun approach to design shines out from every page.

The first seventy pages cover the history of the company using text and photos and the back of the book has a comprehensive listing of every product with page numbers where an item has a photo. This is a beautifully designed book (with the photos printed in a 250 screen on a matt art paper) which celebrates the Braun product design philosophy.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
von Klaus Klemp

10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Less is more, more or less, 30. April 2011
I thought this was fascinating and comprehensive overview of Braun and Dieter Rams contribution to the success of the company though I think it has a quite a serious editorial flaw.

The publishers have been quite clever in accommodating the huge amount of text and graphic material in a book of just over eight hundred pages. The text, German on left-hand pages and English on the right, has been printed on very thin paper (known as bible stock in the trade) which has a certain amount of show-through. The excellent product shots (314 pages) have been printed on a good matt art with another paper used for the remaining photo essays. Incidentally the color work in the book is printed with an impressive 300 screen, most art books run to 175 to 250.

Eleven of the nineteen chapters are text (on the thin paper) and explore in as much detail as you could want about German and middle European design in the first decades of the last century and how it influenced Rams, particularly the Bauhaus and Ulm design laboratories. A fascinating sixty-five page chapter: 'Dieter Rams, Braun, Vitsoe and the shrinking world' explores the reasons for the companies success and Rams contribution with brilliant product design. Another chapter: 'Graphic design: Braun and Vitsoe' delves, in part, into the typeface used on the products, always in lower-case and originally Akzidenz-Grotesk but after the sixties switching to Helvetica.

Between the essays and possibly the main strength of the book are the photo product pages, basically electrical products for the home. Each item gets a spread of lovely close-up photos butted together and then a spread with a head on shot on the left and each right-hand page having relevant profile photos. Here, unfortunately, I think the book falls down (and why I've given it four stars) because these photos are just too small and made noticeable because the rest of each page is blank. Matt black was a design element for many of the audio products and to see them basically as small silhouettes with the detail of the fascia, side and backs near invisible seems a nonsense. To have all these product shots this small is just a book designers whimsy and doesn't do the reader any favors. There are other photos essays of Braun products (including fourteen pages of ones that didn't make it) brochures, packaging, Dieter Rams home.

'Less and more' is an impressive book (apart from the small product photos) and could well become the standard work on the company for design students and those who appreciate good product design and want to know about a man and company that created such high standards.

The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past (Popular Mechanics)
The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past (Popular Mechanics)
von Popular Mechanics Magazine
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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3.0 von 5 Sternen A mild future shock, 21. April 2011
One of the editorial mainstays of the American monthly hobbyist magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science was the blending of the future with the present. Every issue had pages of DIY things for the craftsman, usually in the back half of the magazines, before that there were pages and pages of new developments in science and products and how they related to Mr and Mrs Average and their families. Anything to do with transport and speed was heavily featured. The pages of the book pick out the scientific predictions over several decades divided into six chapters.

I thought it was interesting that the earlier predictions, in the first two and a half decades of the last century, really were rather fanciful based on fairly simple scientific principles. In the thirties with the huge increase in new products and developments (and during the Depression, too) the predictions became more tempered and practical. By the late forties and during the fifties the future projections were much more based on reality. Actually a reasonably accurate way of predicting the future was developed in the fifties by the Rand Corporation, called the Delphi Technique. Experts in various disciplines answered questions anonymously and the answers were blended together to created a reliable future projection for all sorts broadly scientific activity. The predictions in this book, of course, don't have that kind of credibility.

I thought chapter two 'Home, sweet home of tomorrow' the most interesting with its mixture of ideas, a lot of which certainly came true because we all live with them now. Included are predictions for the picture phone (1956) prefabricated housing (1922) plastic and synthetic materials for house building (1937) clothing made from casein, a milk derivative (1929) air-conditioned homes (1944) frozen dinners (1947). Fortunately dresses from asbestos (1929) and aluminium (1929) never made it.

The text is a fun read and quite though provoking in parts but I wish the look of the book was equally as fascinating. It should have looked good because Popular Mechanics had wonderful cover paintings, right up to the late sixties when photos finally took over. The illustrations and photos used inside the magazine always tried to put across an idea as simply as possible. Unfortunately all this wonderful graphic imagery is more or less ruined throughout the book. Cover paintings have been hopelessly enlarged and then cropped with caption panels superimposed on them. This also applies to images that appeared inside the magazine. Photos are printed in blue, brown, green or red, over-enlarged and again with captions overprinted. It seems to me that the pictures are just used as graphic items to fill up the pages in a rather heavy handed manner with no thought given to displaying them to their best advantage.

If only more thought had been given to the editorial presentation the covers and illustrations could have really made the book sparkle. 'Yesterday's tomorrows' (ISBN 0671541331) covered the same idea with words and pictures but looked so much better and even 'Future perfect' (ISBN 3822815667) a small paperback full of colour pictures looks better than 'The wonderful future that never was'.

Richard Estes
Richard Estes
von John Wilmerding
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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4.0 von 5 Sternen The king of ambiguous reflections and alluring optical deceptions, 17. April 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Richard Estes (Gebundene Ausgabe)
I bought this rather sumptuous book to update my 1986 Louis Meisel title on Estes and despite some editorial weaknesses I think it's a worthwhile overview of the artist's work.

First off I think John Wilmerding is to be congratulated on his very lucid and fascinating text on Estes. Full of observations and nicely, lots of references to other artists and styles that encourage me to further research. From experience this sort of monograph can easily land the reader with a writer full of elitist clichés and bad writing, fortunately not the case here. Wilmerding reveals Estes different styles over the years and I liked the frequent references to how he goes about creating his work, from the initial photography, preparing the canvas and application of paint.

My clear favourites of Estes work are the New York street scenes. Full of detail that pulls the eye into the work and more so when he extended the idea to use reflections in windows to produce clever and visually challenging paintings. Several in the book are bleed size. Estes window style probably inspired the leading British Photorealist Clive Head to produce some wonderful paintings: Clive Head. Estes ship and mountain landscape work doesn't have quite the same appeal for me as his city street scenes. Incidentally one of these, the 1995 painting `Fairway' has two spelling mistakes on a poster hanging in a supermarket window. Presentation and receipt are spelt prensentaion and reciept. With significant amounts of typography in his paintings maybe Estes should employ a proof reader!

As to the editorial weaknesses, there are several: throughout the book so many pages have no numbers which makes a bit of a nonsense of the list of illustrations at the back of the book; captions are annoyingly not next to the paintings and many of them seem to appear anywhere on a page, sometimes two pages before the painting they refer to; there is a huge amount of empty page space everywhere and many paintings could have easily have been larger without destroying the integrity of the book's design; though, perhaps not an editorial weakness I found the way Wilmerding's text meandered through the pages rather annoying, I would have preferred it to be at the front of the book leaving the paintings to be revealed in date order.

A thing I noticed immediately after a first quick look through the book was the variable colour especially when compared to the earlier Meisel book. There are a few in that book which are comparable in size to this Rizzoli one and the colour is much lighter in Meisel's title. One painting in particular, the 1984 `Broadway and 64th' on page 124 has parts which seem almost black yet on the opposite page is an enlargement of the painting revealing the detail that's in the original. There is one advantage to this Rizzoli book though, a finer printing screen: 300dpi reveals much more than the 150dpi used for printing the Meisel book. In fact the screen is so fine that individual brush strokes can be seen in some of whole spread paintings and so much of the detail work is clearly visible.

Overall and despite the editorial lapses I think I'll be enjoying this book for a long time and I think it's worth checking round the net for a good price as I think the title is now classed as a remainder.

W.Eugene Smith: The Camera as Conscience
W.Eugene Smith: The Camera as Conscience
von Gilles Mora
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen Great artist or great photojournalist? Both, 30. März 2011
I didn't realise until doing some research on Smith that he took that famous November 2, 1948 photo of Harry Truman holding up the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune with the erroneous headline: DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. Oddly, though, it isn't included in the 352 photos in the book but a minor loss in this fascinating overview of Smith's life.

The five contributor essays merge into the photo sections of the book with Gilles Mora's the first with interesting revelations about Smith and his work. His obsession with how his photos were used in publications eventually made him leave Life magazine where he had worked for many years completing 170 assignments, though not all published. The 1954 photo feature on doctor Schweitzer caused the break, probably because Life wanted to present the doctor as the humanitarian he was generally perceived to be while Smith photographed a controlling and authoritarian medical personality. Life's twelve page photo essay of Schweitzer appears in the book with three other of Smith's major essays for the magazine: Country doctor; Spanish village; Nurse midwife, all as large spreads.

After Life the book looks at various photo projects that he worked on from 1955 to 1975. Probably the two most famous were Pittsburgh (1955-1956) and Minamata (1971-1975). Pittsburgh has twenty-seven photos from the thousands he took. Smith wanted them published in a book but had to settle for eighty-eight over forty-eight pages in a 1959 Popular Photography's yearly Annual. Minamata was a Japanese fishing port were the inhabitants had suffered for years from the pollution caused by a chemical plant built in 1946. The company was prosecuted in 1969 but the victims lawyers wanted as wide a coverage as possibly of the disaster. They contacted Smith and he spent some years there eventually producing a book of photos in 1975. Ten are included in the book including the remarkable and rightly famous one of a mother bathing her daughter who had suffered from mercury poisoning. This one photo celebrates Eugene Smith as a great humane photographer.

An intriguing chapter shows fourteen spreads from a book Smith worked on to sum up his career, called `The walk to Paradise Gardens'. It only existed as a dummy and the spreads have no text. He did the layouts (which clearly wasn't his strong point) but I thought the selection of photos reveals him as one of the world's great photographers. Perhaps it was unfortunate that here was a dedicated artist who put everything he had into his work but chose a medium where the final product was very dependant on decisions made by others which he couldn't always control.

American Monument
American Monument
von Lynn Davis
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 45,01

2.0 von 5 Sternen Uniform grey, 27. März 2011
Rezension bezieht sich auf: American Monument (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Lyn Davis certainly presents an interesting selection of `monuments' or rather man-made structures. When I first saw the book jacket I thought it would concentrate on monuments but I like the idea that this includes everything that was built upward. The hundred photos include a motel sign, lighthouses, military structures (antiballistic complex) abandonment (Albert Frey's Salton Sea marina) grain silos, a large tracked satellite dish, offbeat architecture (Gehry's huge binoculars at the entrance to the Chiat/Day building and Lautner's Chemosphere house, both in LA) and more. Mount Rushmore gets a look-in with a stunning shot of Washington's head sandwiched between two angled silhouettes of the mountain.

Certainly a rich and varied selection but I was very disappointed with the presentation after looking through the pages several times. The problem is the grayness of everything because of the sky, it is far too strong and overpowers the structures. I just wonder if most of the photos were shot in colour with a strong blue sky which when processed into mono assumes much more tonal strength than the original colour. The Becher's, with their industrial structures, carefully shot against a light sky background which held the photo together but didn't overpower the buildings as happens in so many of the photos in this book.

Admittedly all the photos in mono does hold the wide range of places and structures together as a unified whole (just like the Becher's work) but I feel the strength of the photos could just as easily have worked in colour.

Alex Steinweiss. The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover
Alex Steinweiss. The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover
von Kevin Reagan
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Covers the music man, 20. März 2011
Taschen originally published this big book as a limited edition keepsake to celebrate the design work of Alex Steinweiss. Now reprinted in a much more affordable copy so we can all enjoy looking at some remarkable album covers that still fascinate more than five decades later. The Product Details above will give you some background about the book's contents.

It's certainly a lavish production with hundreds of covers, especially those from the Columbia's 78 box sets during the forties. Steinweiss was their Art Director from 1940 (only twenty-three, too) and created fresh different designs for these boxes. Page seventy-one reveals why the covers had a rather unique look. The designs weren't printed using conventional four colour process work but used three or four flat colours, whatever Steinweiss chose depending on the music style. There were no colour photos and very few mono ones. This printing format dictated a rather flat graphic style that would be a challenge for any designer so Steinweiss used bright colours, graphic shapes, simple illustrations and bold typography to create an eye-catching poster style design that clearly stood out in record shops.

I love the big selection of covers for the classics. Somehow their simplicity and directness makes them feel fresh even today. Clearly the restrictive printing style encouraged this. Another restriction that inspired a creative solution was the lack of a local typesetters in Bridgeport, Connecticut where Columbia was located. So Steinweiss drew his own type, a casual hand-lettered script to use on the covers and you can see versions of this pop up on lots of the albums throughout the book. The script was eventually produced by Photo-Lettering, New York, for anyone to use: called Steinweiss Scrawl.

Though most of the book's images are the wonderful album covers, either for the 78 box sets or, from 1948, long player records there are plenty of examples of other work from Steinweiss: brochures; movie credits; magazine spreads; ads and promotional work for Columbia and some packaging. After Columbia he designed covers for Decca, Coral and Everest labels but by the sixties with colour photos of artists now the main visual attraction on LPs I think his work is very similar to the great mass of album covers. At fifty-five in 1972 he decided to ease himself out of print creativity, moved to Florida in 1974 and started to paint, make collages and ceramics. The perfect out it seems to me.

This sumptuous book is worth getting if you are interested in graphic history and although it concentrates on just one person and one part of commercial creativity it does it so well and held my interest right through its 420 pages. Taschen really delivered with this one.

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