Friday, 26 August 2016

A-Z Of Design & Designers

A-Z Of Design & Designers
Charlotte and Peter Fiell's A-Z Of Design & Designers, published this week in collaboration with London's Design Museum, is an encyclopedia of 160 designers and design movements. The concept is similar to Design Of The 20th Century, by the same authors.

Design Of The 20th Century contains many more entries, though it has not been significantly revised since 1999. The new A-Z Of Design & Designers includes coverage of contemporary design, and is so up-to-date that it mentions the death of Zaha Hadid. It also has a much more elegant layout, with large, well-chosen photographs.

The Fiells have written numerous other excellent books on design history, including The Story Of Design, Plastic Dreams, Industrial Design A-Z, and Modern Furniture Classics. The Design Encyclopedia (by Mel Byars) is more comprehensive, though The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia Of Design (edited by Clive Edwards, in three volumes) is the definitive design reference work.

The Phaidon Archive Of Graphic Design

The Phaidon Archive Of Graphic Design
The Phaidon Archive Of Graphic Design
The Phaidon Archive Of Graphic Design is, according to its publisher, "an unparalleled resource of the world's very best specimens of graphic design." Not a book in the traditional sense (though it does include a bound index), the Archive is a box containing 500 loose cards, each of which represents a key example of graphic design from the past 500 years. Each card contains a full-page reproduction on one side, with a short essay and other illustrations on the reverse.

As the Archive weighs 13kg, it's supplied with removable handles. There are several excellent narrative histories of graphic design (Meggs' History Of Graphic Design, Graphic Design: A New History, and Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers), though the Archive is a unique and comprehensive collection of iconic graphic designs.

Masks

Masks
Masks: The Art Of Expression, edited by John Mack, was first published in 1994. The second edition, with a new preface, was published in 2013. It includes chapters on masks from Africa, Oceania, Latin America, Native America, Japan, ancient Egypt, the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome, and Europe.

There are geographical and cultural gaps in the book's coverage (notably Asian countries beyond Japan, such as Thailand's 'khon' masks), though it remains the best general introduction to the history of masks. It has a comprehensive bibliography, and plenty of full-page illustrations. Most of the featured masks are from the British Museum.

Monday, 15 August 2016

20th Century World Architecture

20th Century World Architecture
20th Century World Architecture, edited by Helen Thomas, is part of the Phaidon Atlas series. This large (folio format, 800 pages) book features 757 buildings constructed during between 1900 and 1999. Each building is profiled on a single page, though a handful of exceptions, such as the Sydney Opera House, are given double-page spreads.

This is surely the most comprehensive guide to the buildings of the last century, with "an unprecedented geographical scope, and an unparalleled level of data on twentieth-century architecture". There is substantial coverage of non-Western architecture, including sixty buildings from Africa, and almost 100 countries are represented in total. There are also more than 5,000 images.

Modern Architecture Since 1900 (by William JR Curtis) remains the best narrative history of the architecture of the period, and Architecture Of The 20th Century (by Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser) is an interesting visual history, though 20th Century World Architecture is unlikely to be surpassed as a global record of the significant buildings of the past 100 years. It's so heavy (8kg) that it comes with its own carrying case.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Still Brazy

Still Brazy
Still Brazy, the latest album by rapper YG, has been censored by its distributor, Def Jam. The tracks FDT (Fuck Donald Trump, featuring Nipsey Hussle) and Blacks & Browns (featuring Sad Boy) both contained lyrics suggesting that Donald Trump could (or should) be shot, and those lines were removed before the album was released.

There were two deletions from FDT: YG's line "Surprised El Chapo ain't tried to snipe you" and Nipsey Hussle's "you gone prolly get smoked" were removed. One of Sad Boy's lines from Blacks & Browns was replaced by white noise, to highlight the censorship.

YG and Nipsey Hussle performed a clean version of FDT on the Comedy Central programme The Nightly Show on 22nd July, without any swear words, though ironically they did include the lines censored from the album. Also, when YG and Nipsey Hussle perform the song in concert, they play the uncensored version.

The uncensored version of FDT was released online in April, in advance of the album. According to YG, the Secret Service then contacted Def Jam's parent company, Universal, requesting a copy of the album's lyrics. YG says that the references to shooting Trump were removed by the record company at the request of the Secret Service.

The record company has not commented on the issue, and by definition the Secret Service is also unlikely to make any public comment. Thus, there is no way to verify YG's version of events. The album was certainly censored prior to its release, though YG's explanation about the Secret Service seems exaggerated.

The case recalls that of Cop Killer (1991), the track removed from Ice T's album Body Count. There was a similar controversy over NWA's track Fuck Tha Police (1988), though the song was not withdrawn. The only album to be declared illegal in America was The 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989), which was convicted of obscenity in Florida.

audio

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Ballpoint Art

Ballpoint Art
Concetto Spaziale
Ballpoint Art, by Trent Morse, is billed as "the first compendium of art made with ballpoint pens." The book begins with a concise history of ballpoint art, followed by profiles of thirty contemporary artists who create abstract patterns and meticulous still life drawings with ballpoint pens.

Richard Klein curated the Ballpoint Pen Drawing Since 1950 exhibition in Connecticut in 2013, and his catalogue covers the same ground as Ballpoint Art. Neither of them provides a comprehensive study of the subject, though Morse's book has more material than Klein's slim catalogue.

Morse interviewed Klein for Ballpoint Art, and quotes him on the early history of the medium: "Fontana was the first artist to use ballpoint pen, in 1946". Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale, from that year, is reproduced in both Klein and Morse's books.

In his catalogue, Klein described Alighiero Boetti as a pioneer of ballpoint art: "Boetti's drawings with the pen are the first to dramatically revel in the unmistakable blue of ballpoint ink." He gave Jan Fabre particular credit for his devotion to ballpoint: "Fabre is the first artist to totally embrace the pen as a medium, completing hundreds of ballpoint works between 1977 and 1992, with drawings varying in scale from the intimate to the architectural."

Interviewed in Ballpoint Art, Fabre explains his fascination with ballpoint drawing: "I like the chemical quality of the blue ink from a Bic ballpoint pen". He also compares Biro ink to lapis lazuli: "The blue of the ballpoint pen is connected to the history of art." Similarly, Boetti's blue colour field drawings are echoes of Yves Klein's International Klein Blue paintings.