Thursday, 30 June 2016

Expressionism & Film

Expressionism & Film
Rudolf Kurtz wrote Expressionismus & Film in 1926, and it was published in German. It was written at the height of Expressionism's influence, long before other studies of Weimar cinema such as From Caligari To Hitler (Siegfried Kracauer).

After ninety years, this seminal text is now available in English as Expressionism & Film. The new edition, translated by Brenda Benthien, also includes a long essay on the book's impact by editors Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil (which first appeared in a 2007 German reprint).

Oriental Rugs

Oriental Rugs
Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon Of Motifs, Materials, & Origins is an expanded second edition of The Oriental Rug Lexicon, by Peter F Stone. It was intended as "a single source for commonly accepted definitions of oriental rug terms" and it's certainly an authoritative dictionary of oriental rugs.

The book covers not only Persian and oriental rugs, but also Indian, European, and Native American examples, making it a comprehensive reference. It also has an extensive bibliography. Around 1,000 colour images are included, though the rugs they illustrate are not dated, and some of the photographs are printed at quite a low resolution.

Oriental Rugs & Carpets: A Comprehensive Study, by Arthur Urbane Dilley, was one of the first histories of oriental rugs in English. Oriental Rugs: A Comprehensive Guide, by Murray L Eiland, is an excellent modern history of the subject. (The second edition of Eiland's book has additional coverage of Indian rugs, and better illustrations; Stone consulted Eiland during the writing of The Oriental Rug Lexicon.)

A History of Textile Art (by Agnes Geijer, illustrated in black and white) and 5,000 Years Of Textiles (a definitive study, edited by Jennifer Harris) are general surveys of textiles and weaving. The Encyclopedia Of Antique Carpets (by Abraham Levi Moheban), published in two volumes, is a comprehensive guide to all areas of carpet production.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

St. Kitts Music Festival

50 Cent was arrested after appearing at the St. Kitts Music Festival on Saturday night. Performances containing profanity are illegal in St. Kitts, though 50 Cent sang P.I.M.P., which includes lyrics such as "I'm a motherfuckin' P.I.M.P."

The concert was held at Warner Park in the St. Kitts capital, Basseterre. 50 Cent was briefly held in custody, and left the country on Sunday after paying a fine.

Friday, 24 June 2016


Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Map: Exploring The World, edited by Rosie Pickles and Tim Cooke, features 300 maps from the past 3,000 years, including works by acclaimed cartographers such as Abraham Ortelius, Gerard Mercator, Andreas Cellarius, and Joan Blaeu. The maps are "organized in complementary or contrasting pairs," with 200-word descriptions, and a detailed chronology provides historical context.

The book includes not only realistic cartographic maps, but also illustrated examples, such as an 1877 map depicting Russia as a giant octopus, its tentacles reaching out into Europe (Serio-Comic War Map, by Frederick W Rose; based on an 1870 design by JJ van Brederode). James Gillray's personification of England as George III excreting onto France (A New Map Of England & France, 1793) is equally satirical. Maps by artists are also included, as are infographics such as Joseph Minard's representation of Napoleon's Russian campaign (1861).

Map follows the same format as The Fashion Book, The Art Book, The Photography Book, The Pot Book, and The 20th Century Art Book, also published by Phaidon. It includes useful biographies of key cartographers, though the bibliography is limited to very recent publications.

The Story Of Maps, by Lloyd A Brown, was the first guide to cartographic history. Leo Bagrow's History Of Cartography (revised by RA Skelton) is the most comprehensive single-volume history of the subject. The History Of Cartography, a multi-volume work edited by David Woodward, is the definitive global survey of cartography.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Logo Modernism

Logo Modernism
Logo Modernism, published in folio format by Taschen, features 6,000 logos designed between 1940 and 1980. The logos are reproduced in black and white, and classified into three categories: "Geometric", "Effect", and "Typographic". Julius Wiedemann edited Information Graphics and Understanding The World in addition to Logo Modernism.

The book begins with an introduction by Jens Muller giving a brief account of the evolution of logo design, illustrated with historical examples. A 300-page logo directory is followed by profiles of seven key graphic designers, including Yusaku Kamekura, whose book Trademarks Of The World (1956) is described as "a standard work for the period." There's also an extensive bibliography.

Marks Of Excellence (by Per Mollerup) remains the most comprehensive guide to logos and trademarks. The two leading histories of graphic design both include chapters on logos: "Corporate Identity and Visual Systems" in A History Of Graphic Design (by Philip B Meggs and Alston W Purvis), and "Corporate Identity in Germany and America" in Graphic Design (by Stephen J Eskilson).

Saturday, 18 June 2016


Scarves, by Nicky Albrechtsen and Fola Solanke, is a comprehensive guide to scarf designs of the twentieth century. More than 250 scarves are included, all photographed in colour, followed by biographies of fifty key scarf designers. The book itself is lavishly produced, with a padded satin cover.

Albrechtsen also wrote The Printed Square, about handkerchief designs, though Scarves is superior in many ways. Whereas The Printed Square (also published by Thames & Hudson) is a compact book, with examples from only four decades, the large-format Scarves covers the entire twentieth century. Unlike The Printed Square, each illustration in Scarves is dated and attributed, and each chapter begins with an introduction.

"Scarves are works of art in their own right," as the book clearly demonstrates. It features scarves from Europe, America, Asia, and Australia, in a wide variety of styles including abstract, geometric, figurative, and commemorative. The scarves are beautifully reproduced as vibrant, full-page illustrations.

Like handkerchiefs, scarves are a largely overlooked example of fashion accessories and printed textiles. The Scarf (1989), by Andrew Baseman, is the only previous guide to scarf designs. The early histories of scarves and handkerchiefs are summarised in Accessories Of Dress (1940), by Katherine Morris Lester and Bess Viola Oerke.

Friday, 17 June 2016

National Enquirer

In recent months, the National Enquirer has broken several UK injunctions: PJS, NEJ, and RA. Now, it has broken four more, by naming three football players and a manager who were granted injunctions to prevent details of extra-marital affairs being published.

The four men were named on the Enquirer's website on 1st June, though the site is geo-blocked outside the United States. One of the footballers was named in the magazine's issue dated 13th June: "The ENQUIRER this week names more celebs and sports stars who've desperately tried to hide their sordid secrets using the British courts! One of America's top soccer players, Robbie Keane, is among them!"

All four are named in the issue dated 20th June: "Three players - Robbie Keane, star of the LA Galaxy, Gareth Barry and English goalkeeper Joe Hart - were named by The ENQUIRER. Married English soccer boss Alan Pardew got a court to hide his sleaze".

Some of these injunctions are almost a decade old, and UK football is not a particularly popular sport in America. It seems either that the Enquirer is scraping the bottom of the barrel in its search for exclusives, or that it is breaking the injunctions so that UK tabloids (especially The Sun) can use the American media coverage to justify lifting the reporting restrictions in the UK.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Printed Square

The Printed Square
The Printed Square: Vintage Handkerchief Patterns For Fashion & Design, by Nicky Albrechtsen features more than 200 reproductions of handkerchiefs from the 1920s to the 1950s: "The early twentieth century was a particularly innovative and inspiring period of design, stimulated by the popularity of the printed handkerchief as an essential accessory."

The book (which is square, to match its title and subject) begins with a brief social history of handkerchiefs and their designs. The selected handkerchiefs are floral and geometric, arranged according to their colour schemes. Full-page colour photographs make this a useful design sourcebook, though it's not a work of reference because it has no details about the dates, designers, or manufacturers of the handkerchiefs.

Albrechtsen is a co-author of Scarves (also published by Thames & Hudson), which covers another largely overlooked aspect of fashion accessories and printed textiles. The early histories of handkerchiefs and scarves are also summarised in Accessories Of Dress (1940) by Katherine Morris Lester and Bess Viola Oerke.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Art Of The Pastel

The Art Of The Pastel
Leonardo da Vinci
Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Jean-Etienne Liotard
The Art Of The Pastel, by Thea Burns and Philippe Saunier, is "the only comprehensive history of this most appealing medium." It was originally published in French as L'Art Du Pastel, edited by Emmanuelle Gaillard; the English edition was edited by Nicole Lanctot.

The book begins with Renaissance drawings in chalk, including Leonardo's portrait of Isabella d'Este, "the only extant drawing incorporating red, black, and yellow chalks traditionally attributed to him". In the seventeenth century, pastel emerged as an art form in its own right, though it "oscillated conceptually between drawing and painting".

Pastel's heyday came in eighteenth-century France: "The eighteenth century is rightly regarded as pastel's golden age, and the French artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour in particular is considered one of the most talented pastel masters of all time." La Tour dominated French portraiture of the period, though Jean-Etienne Liotard's works in pastel are equally outstanding. Liotard is also interesting for his Turkish affectations: he wore a full beard and styled himself as "le Peintre Turc".

The authors also discuss pastel's revival in the nineteenth century, and its use by Impressionists and Symbolists. This is a stunning book, with over 300 lavishly reproduced colour illustrations, many of which are full-page. The definitive history of pastel as an artistic medium, it also has an extensive bibliography.

Friday, 10 June 2016


Brick, edited by William Hall, is a survey of over 150 brick buildings, from a 4,000-year-old ziggurat in Iraq to a twenty-first century structure built by a robotic arm. Published by Phaidon, it follows exactly the same format as Hall's earlier Concrete: full-page photographs with extended captions, arranged in themed chapters.

In his introduction, Hall notes that "no illustrated books have been published on the subject for over a decade." The last history of brick architecture - James WP Campbell's comprehensive Brick: A World History - was indeed written around ten years earlier (in 2003). The first international survey of brick buildings - Brickwork: Architecture & Design, by Andrew Plumridge and Wim Meulenkamp - was released a decade before that (in 1993).

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Stanley Kubrick & Me

Stanley Kubrick & Me
Stanley Kubrick & Me, the autobiography of Kubrick's personal assistant, Emilio D'Alessandro, was published in Italian in 2012. An English translation, Stanley Kubrick & Me: Thirty Years At His Side, was released last month. The memoir was written by Filippo Ulivieri, and translated by Simon Marsh.

D'Alessandro, an Italian driver living in London, first met Kubrick in 1971, and eventually became his most trusted assistant: "I'd been hired as a driver, but in fifteen years I'd become an electrician, plumber, vet, gardener, carpenter, and builder. Every day there was something new. I spent less and less of my life away from Stanley."

As Ian Watson wrote in his essay Plumbing Stanley Kubrick (2000), D'Alessandro was a central figure in Kubrick's life: "Emilio became much more than merely a driver. Short, dark, and wiry, he had kept practical matters ticking over at the manor house for many years, playing a major role in trying to steer catastrophes back into mere mishaps."

Kubrick's production operation "consisted of dozens and dozens of cogs: some small, some large, but all of them important. Each one was a necessary working part of the engine that was Stanley Kubrick." D'Alessandro was one of the largest cogs in that machine, and his relationship with Kubrick was closer and longer than that of any other staff member (and arguably closer than anyone outside Kubrick's family).

D'Alessandro was Kubrick's driver and personal assistant for almost thirty years. (D'Alessandro was a former racing driver, though Kubrick's driving was somewhat less accomplished: "Whenever he drove me somewhere, I felt I was staring death in the face.") He dealt with Kubrick's personal possessions, his correspondence, and, above all, his beloved pets: "Stanley's love for animals was limitless, bordering on the preposterous, and was extended unconditionally to all living creatures."

Ulivieri writes in his afterword: "If you asked, and I did want to ask, any random day spent with Kubrick would have been enough to fill a hundred pages." His book contains new Kubrick anecdotes on every page, and it reveals more of Kubrick's character than any previous book on the director.

D'Alessandro was the last person to see Kubrick before he died, during the post-production of Eyes Wide Shut: "He had reached the absolute limit of physical and mental exhaustion". The book's final chapters deal with Kubrick's funeral and D'Alessandro's return to Italy. (D'Alessandro was interviewed at his home in Cassino for S Is For Stanley, a feature-length documentary inspired by Stanley & Me.)

D'Alessandro and Ulivieri allow us, for the first time, to see the real Kubrick: "In the collective imagination, Stanley Kubrick was a kind of ogre. A misanthrope, who lived alone in his castle, isolated from the world. Stanley was quite the opposite: he was an altruistic man, capable of generosity without the need for recognition, an artist who valued his privacy because it allowed him to devote himself to what he cared about most of all: his family, his animals, and the cinema."

The Italian edition has a more comprehensive index, though in other respects the English version is superior. It has more colour illustrations and longer captions than the Italian edition, and the photographs have been enhanced. (Kubrick completists will want to have both editions, as they each include a different selection of location photographs taken by Kubrick at Mentmore Towers. An Italian digital edition, Stanley Kubrick & Me: 30 Anni Al Suo Fianco, includes even more photographs.)

Reading between the lines, D'Alessandro seems somewhat estranged from Kubrick's estate. "Out of respect for Stanley," he declined to attend the European premiere of Eyes Wide Shut. He was not interviewed for the official documentary A Life In Pictures (Jan Harlan, 2001). His appearance in the documentary The Last Movie (Paul Joyce, 1999) was cut out when it was released on DVD. Anthony Frewin and Leon Vitali (two former employees) have become de facto spokesmen for Kubrick's estate, though D'Alessandro's book contains no mention of Frewin and only a passing reference to "an actor named Leon Vitali".

Although there are plenty of books on Kubrick's films, and a couple of unauthorised biographies, there are very few memoirs of Kubrick by those who knew him well. Frederic Raphael's Eyes Wide Open is incredibly self-serving. ("S.K.: Caesar's Gallic Wars... Have you read it? F.R.: Stanley, I read it in Latin when I was nine years old.") Michael Herr's Kubrick is a concise and affectionate tribute. ("I reminded him that he hadn't turned the computers off. "They like to be left on," he said ironically, factually, tenderly.") But Stanley Kubrick & Me is the most intimate and moving portrait of the world's greatest director.

Ends Of The Earth

Ends Of The Earth
Spiral Jetty
Double Negative
Ends Of The Earth: Land Art To 1974 was "the first large-scale museum exhibition of Land Art" and "the most comprehensive survey of Land Art to date." The exhibition, curated by Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon, was held in San Francisco in 2012, and its catalogue was edited by Michelle Piranio.

The catalogue includes essays by Virginia Dwan and Willoughby Chase, who organised the first Land Art exhibitions: Earthworks (1968) and Earth Art (1969), respectively. It also features an interview with Germano Celant, author of Art Povera (1969). A detailed chronology covers Land Art from 1933 to 1974, followed by an extensive bibliography. Illustrations include sketches, notes, and magazine articles, in addition to photographs of Land Art.

Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) is perhaps the most famous example of Land Art, and Smithson is one of the movement's pioneers: "Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Charles Ross, Robert Smithson: These are the high priests of Land Art". De Maria and Heizer "chose not to participate" in the exhibition, though photographs of their work - including "arguably the most iconic piece of Land Art," Heizner's Double Negative (1969) - are featured in the catalogue.

Jeffrey Kastner's Land & Environmental Art (1998) is an equally comprehensive study of Land Art. It includes reprints of seminal essays such as Notes Toward An Understanding Of Earth Art (Willoughby Sharp, 1969), A Sediment Of The Mind: Earth Projects (Robert Smithson, 1968), and The Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson, 1970).

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mid-Century Modern Complete

Mid-Century Modern Complete
Mid-Century Modern Complete, by Dominic Bradbury, is a survey of design in the post-war era. The book, published by Thames & Hudson, follows the same format as Alastair Duncan's Art Deco Complete: profiles of the major designers in each medium (including Charles and Ray Eames, Dieter Rams, and Alec Issigonis), and an alphabetical guide to other designers and manufacturers.

The book includes concise essays on mid-century glassware (Glass Design, by Joy McCall), ceramics (Mid-Century Ceramics, by Alun Graves), textiles (Artist-Designed Textiles, by Sue Pritchard), industrial design (From Computers To Corporate Identity, by Jana Scholze) and, especially, graphics (Mid-Century Confluences, by Steven Heller). There are also more than 1,000 colour illustrations, including many full-page plates.

The Mid-Century Modern style was first described by Cara Greenberg in Mid-Century Modern: Furniture Of The 1950s (1984; not listed in Bradbury's bibliography). Greenberg's book focused on furniture and interior design from 1947 to 1957, though Bradbury covers furniture, interiors, lighting, glass, ceramics, textiles, products, and graphics from the mid 1940s to the late 1960s.

As Bradbury writes in his introduction, the period he surveys "was an age of ages - the atomic age, the space age, the jet age, the computer age". Inevitably, this is beyond the scope of a single book, even one with more than 500 pages, and some areas receive more attention than others. There are profiles of individual designers, though no general overviews of trends in furniture or interior design. While American and European designers are well represented, Japanese design (such as Sony's transistor radios and televisions) is largely excluded.

The post-war period, especially in America, was an era of consumerism, with the rise of branding, fast food, and international popular culture. Bradbury describes it as "a sustained era of golden growth that spurred demand for a whole new spectrum of goods, products and services, which the world of design was happy to provide."

Post-1945 design has also been covered by other books, including Modern Furniture Classics (Charlotte and Peter Fiell, 1991), Cold War Modern (David Crowley and Jane Pavitt, 2010), and The Art Of Things (Dominique Forest, 2014). The forthcoming third volume of Victor Margolin's World History Of Design will also cover post-war design.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Irish News

The Irish News
The head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland unsuccessfully attempted to prevent The Irish News from printing the name of a man suspected of involvement in the 1976 massacre at Kingsmill. Last Friday, the newspaper's website named the suspect as Colm Murphy, and revealed that his palm print had been found on the killers' getaway vehicle.

An inquest into the Kingsmill massacre has been opened, and the PSNI contacted the newspaper on Friday night, threatening it with a High Court injunction to prevent it from naming Murphy in the next day's print edition. There was an emergency session at the High Court after midnight on Saturday morning, though the case was adjourned.

By that time, the Saturday edition was already being printed, and the newspaper refused to stop the presses and remove Murphy's name. The front page featured a large photograph of Murphy, and he was named in a subheading ("Colm Murphy claims he is being set up to 'protect' Sinn Fein").

Saturday, 4 June 2016

National Enquirer

National Enquirer
The National Enquirer has broken two celebrity injunctions in the past few weeks: those granted to PJS (partner of YMA) and NEJ. The American supermarket tabloid has now breached a third injunction, by naming RA, who had obtained a High Court injunction to prevent the media reporting that he is being sued for sexual harassment by his hairdresser.

According to the Enquirer's issue dated 6th June, RA is YMA: Elton John obtained a second injunction after his hairdresser filed charges against him. The two-page article boasts that "The ENQUIRER takes the bold step of naming Elton's hairdresser" (John Fallows). It does not describe the alleged "sexual misconduct" in any detail, though the headline is clear enough: "HE TRIED TO GROPE ME!" (Similar charges brought by the singer's bodyguard have already been widely reported.)

The Enquirer also has its sights set on yet another injunction. In its issue dated 30th May, it described "sickening naked photos" of Ned Rocknroll, husband of Kate Winslet: "The Enquirer can reveal the shocking truth about the photos the celebrity twosome desperately fought to hide". The magazine does not have access to the images, and its article relies on unverified descriptions of them. (The photographs were injuncted in 2013, after The Sun newspaper attempted to publish them.)


The 3rd Silent Film Festival In Thailand

The 3rd Silent Film Festival In Thailand opens in Bangkok later this month. Both of the previous festivals featured gala screenings of classic silent films (The Lodger at the 1st Silent Film Festival in 2014, and The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari at last year's festival), and this year's event opens with FW Murnau's Nosferatu.

Like Caligari, Nosferatu is a masterpiece of horror and German Expressionism. It contains some of the most iconic images in silent cinema, especially the sequence in which the vampire - seen only as a shadow - climbs the stairs and extends his talons to clutch his victim's heart.

The Festival also includes Murnau's The Last Laugh and Sunrise. The Last Laugh, a Kammerspielfilm (chamber film), is notable for its mobile camera, and for its lack of inter-titles. Sunrise, which Murnau directed in Hollywood, is one of Sight & Sound's ten greatest films of all time.

The Festival begins on 16th June with Nosferatu at the Scala cinema. Eight other films, including The Last Laugh and Sunrise, will be shown at the smaller Lido cinema. The Last Laugh will be screened on 18th and 20th June, and Sunrise on 19th and 21st June. This year, every film will have a live musical accompaniment, and the Festival will close on 22nd June.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016


The Dhammakaya organisation, a Buddhist sect which has its headquarters at the vast Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in Pathum Thani (north of Bangkok), is suing the organisers of Trasher, a Bangkok club night. Dhammakaya has accused Trasher of mocking its sect and disrespecting the Buddhist religion.

At Trasher's most recent event (Bitch You Better Work It Work Work Work It Out) at CentralWorld on Sunday, images of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and the sect's leader Chaiyabun Dhammachayo were shown on a video screen on the dance floor. Trasher has issued a statement apologising for any offence caused, and acknowledging the possibility of a court case brought by Dhammakaya. (The statement concluded with the first verse of Like A Prayer by Madonna.)

Dhammakaya has been described as a cult, and a distortion of Buddhist teaching. It solicits large donations from its rich followers, promising them salvation in exchange for their financial contributions, and there have been allegations of corruption against Dhammachayo for more than fifteen years. Thailand's Supreme Patriarch recommended that he should be defrocked in 1999 after he registered 600 acres of donated land in his own name instead of transferring it to his temple.

The Department of Special Investigations is currently investigating Dhammachayo for receiving millions of baht in embezzled funds from a banker convicted of fraud. Since 2015, the DSI has repeatedly summonsed Dhammachayo to face questioning, though each time he has refused to appear, citing illness.

Last Thursday, he apparently passed out on his way to the police station, and returned to his temple. Although an arrest warrant has been issued, police have made no attempt to detain him. (Thailand's patronage system ensures that well-connected suspects such as Dhammachayo [and others, including Sondhi Limthongkul, Orachorn Thephasadin na Ayudhya, and Vorayuth Yoovidhya] either avoid conviction or receive suspended sentences.)