My workload has increased of late to a degree where I’ve not been looking at many websites that aren’t intended to fulfil some research quest or other. To this end, the Getty Research Institute has become a regular port of call, especially when the GRI section of the Internet Archive is updated regularly with many fine books that you won’t easily find elsewhere. For my purposes, the GRI is especially good with books about architecture, design and ornamentation, like this three-volume collection of The Journal of Decorative Art, “An Illustrated Technical Journal for the House Painter, Decorator, and all Art Workmen” published from 1881 to 1883. The illustrated examples are typical late Victoriana of a type I don’t always have much use for but for anyone who does the illustrations are very good, especially the spreads which were obviously intended to be copied by decorators. Some of these include lettering samples for sign-writers that range from simple post-Pugin Gothic to the excessively detailed styles that were de rigueur in the 1880s.
Continue reading “The Journal of Decorative Art”
Arcus (2019) by Markus Matthias Krüger.
• “Listeners can only make an educated guess as to what the experience of working with Slapp Happy might have done for Faust.” Fergal Kinney on the 50th anniversary of Sort Of by Slapp Happy, an eccentric intersection of Anglo-American rock and German experimentalism.
• Now that the summer is over people are making mixes again. Take your pick this week between a mix for The Wire by Shane Woolman at Stihia festival, The Observatory by Jay Keegan, or DreamScenes September 2023 at Ambientblog.
• Quantum poetics: “How Borges and Heisenberg converged on the notion that language both enables and interferes with our grasp of reality.” William Egginton explains, with a little help from Funes the Memorious.
“I feel as if I am entering Jorge Luis Borges’s Library of Babel, a universe of books and records, or maybe a labyrinth of paper and vinyl,” a flabbergasted Szwed relates. “The temptation is to read and listen to every one of them in hopes of at least finding the meaning behind Harry Smith the reader and listener.” He adds, with pointedly Borgesian anxiety, that “maybe my book is in there, already written.”
Ed Halter reviewing Cosmic Scholar: The Life and Times of Harry Smith by John Szwed
• At The Daily Heller: Photographs of lost buildings and American ruins.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: The unknowable presents…Secretly encoded.
• At The Paris Review: Six photos from WG Sebald’s albums.
• Winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023.
• The Art of Cover Art: A Substack by Rachel Cabitt.
• New music: Le jour et la nuit du réel by Colleen.
• Familiar Reality (1971) by Dr John | Reality Dub (Virtual Reality Mix) (1993) by Material | Reality Net (1994) by Richard H. Kirk
Cover art by Clayton Welham.
I’ve been doing the design duties on albums and singles by Emptyset since their first self-titled release in 2009. The latest album from the electronic duo, Ash, is also the 50th release on the Subtext label for which I’ve once again provided a minimal layout. I’ve no idea how the images by Clayton Welham were created, and I’m quite happy not knowing. Ash is available for pre-order ahead of its release next month.
Work announcements here have been rather scarce of late, in part because I’ve been working on a major project which is nearing completion and will no doubt be announced soon. Watch this space.
George Phillips’ Rudiments of Curvilinear Design (1839) belongs among a subset of books about historic design in which the desire to provide a faithful record of various styles competes with the imagination of the artist creating the illustrations. The artist in this case is Phillips himself who runs through the catalogue of decoration and ornament in a series of beautiful full-page plates, the engravings being credited to publisher Shaw and Sons. Each plate is a tableau of different architectural features—windows, wall decoration, columns, and so on—which Phillips embellishes in a manner that avoids outright fantasy while also deviating from the more accurate renderings you’ll find in similar volumes. The notes at the beginning of the book describe the author’s aesthetic philosophy, a process which involves “engrafting upon that which may be considered as already excellent, some feature enhancing its value, and extending its usefulness to larger or more opulent classes of the community.”
Acanthus leaves abound here, inevitably when so many of the plates feature designs based on Classical styles. The acanthus is a common feature in design books from the 19th century, with some books even showing the correct (ie: Grecian) way to draw or sculpt the leaves if you’re having to create Corinthian columns. Mr Phillips seems to have taken such lessons to heart. For more acanthus, and many fine engravings which aim for greater historical accuracy, see Ornamenti di Tutti Gli Stili (1882) by Camillo Boito.
Continue reading “Rudiments of Curvilinear Design”
Ascending to the Cathedral, Barcelona (1938/1960) by Kati Horna.
• The rise and fall of Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong’s infamous urban monolith. Related: a four-and-a-half-hour walkthrough of Stray, a game in which you help a cat escape from a deteriorated robot-filled housing complex.
• Quote of the week: “The true master requires the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.” Thus Vladimir Nabokov at Lawrence Weschler’s Wondercabinet.
• New music: Orion Nebula by Christian Wittman, and Chthonic by Lawrence English & Lea Bertucci.
Chapter by chapter, Flaubert lampoons his poor pair, who fail at discipline after attempted discipline: landscape architecture, anatomy, history, literature, phrenology, religion, even love, and on and on. In each pursuit, they never lose the optimism or the hubris of thinking they can put their knowledge to work in the world. When they become interested in pedagogy, they adopt a pair of abandoned children who are at turns mystified by and contemptuous of their efforts to improve their well-being. The fruit trees fail, the novel is abandoned, a cat is boiled alive, the children cause scandals.
David Schurman Wallace explores the hazards of distraction with a detour through Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet
• At AnOther: Peter De Potter’s new book explores the erotic performance of social media.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Hobart LaRoche presents…15 experimental video games.
• Take a look at a book chronicling the albums of Island Records.
• At Colossal: Gabriel Schama’s laser-cut plywood reliefs.
• Orion (1986) by Metallica | Shades Of Orion (1993) by Shades Of Orion | Orion (2001) by Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell