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Photography

A New Volume Compiles Five Decades of the Pudgy, Curious, and Drowsy Pups in Walter Chandoha's Photographs

September 21, 2020

Grace Ebert

Mixed-breed and the photographer’s daughter Maria, Long Island, New York, 1956. All images © Estate of Walter Chandoha, courtesy of Taschen, shared with permission

Dubbed the 20th century’s greatest pet photographer, the late Walter Chandoha was renowned for capturing the unique personalities of furry companions. From black-and-white candid shots to those posed in the studio, Taschen’s new volume, Dogs, compiles five decades worth of capricious, curious, and playful pups. The 296-page book is a sequel to Cats, which similarly collected hundreds of the iconic photographer’s images, and is edited by Reuel Golden.

In his early years, Chandoha served as a combat photographer during World War II. He went on to be prolific across mediums, having written dozens of books and captured more than 225,000 images during his lifetime, many of which were used in magazines and advertisements.

Check out some of our favorite shots of pudgy bulldogs and blue-eyed Weimaraners below, and pre-order a copy of Dogs, which will be released in October, from Taschen or Bookshop.

 

Pugs, Long Island, New York, 1957

Weimaraner, Long Island, New York, 1955

 

 



Design History

A New Book Chronicles the 125-Year History of the Button, Its Design, and Its Role in Cultural Change

September 10, 2020

Grace Ebert

The cover of Button Power. All images © Christen Carter and Ted Hake, shared with permission

If something is “fit for the back of a postage stamp,” it’s generally understood as lacking depth and nuance. A similarly sized object, however, has been upending that saying for 125 years. From political campaigns to punch lines to keepsakes, the button has packed bits of incredibly rich history into just a few inches. “It seems like a niche little object, but it really tells a very general American history,” collector and manufacturer Christen Carter tells Colossal. The wearable item is, in fact, an entry point into the complexities of the past.

Carter recently co-authored the forthcoming book Button Power—which is available for pre-order on Bookshop—with notable dealer Ted Hake, who’s been collecting the objects for around 60 years. Through composed displays and black-and-white photos, the tome delves into the item’s history, spanning its invention in 1896 to contemporary usages. “Early on people were wearing buttons, and mostly it’s a temporary thing. It’s a moment in time,” Carter says. “They connected you to something else. One-hundred-twenty-five years ago, images weren’t as prevalent as they are now.” Button Power compiles a diverse array of notable figures, from Shirley Chisholm and the Ramones to Rube Goldberg and Muhammad Ali, each represented through the wearable item.

 

From the Obama Inauguration 2012

Originally a casual collector, Carter now is responsible for the world’s only museum dedicated to the medium, which is housed in the Chicago-based manufacturer Busy Beaver Button Co. The institution currently boasts more than 40,000 buttons and is accepting donations. Currently, it’s closed because of COVID-19, although a virtual archive of about 9,000 is available to scroll through on its site.

A medium with popularity perpetually in flux, the button has risen and fallen since its creation and notably surged in the 1960s and 1980s as it was used more widely for countercultural movements and protests. Of course, mainstream efforts from political campaigns, public figures, and large-scale events generally still sought out buttons to share their visions. Many of the slogans and broader undertakings of alternative movements that may have evaded popular narratives, however, also are preserved by the object. “It’s a people’s history, too. There are so many things I learned,” Carter notes. One example involved a series centered on transportation. “What is this ‘good road’ stuff about?” she wondered. “I learned that before there was income tax, there was a movement to have infrastructure built.” Telling a story she didn’t learn in school, the buttons offered a glimpse into the advocacy of previous decades.

 

While the manufacturing process and function hasn’t evolved much, the objects’ value has. Carter notes that when they first emerged, people regarded them as collectibles that were prized as a piece of printed matter. Today, they remain a symbol of the wearer’s political affiliations and interests.

Even social media hasn’t eclipsed the ephemeral object. Although the pithy messages and quips prevalent on sites like Twitter function similarly to the sayings of the button, they lack a material presence and are subject to being deleted or lost when a platform folds. The physical item, on the other hand, has a lasting effect. “It creates a momento,” she says. “It’s not something you can as easily forget about like a Tweet or something like that because you’ll come across it in your sock drawer.” They’re also a more intentional medium, Carter notes, due to the design, manufacturing, and distribution processes and the effort those require.

 

From 1981

Overall, buttons are overwhelmingly uplifting, inspiring, or humorous in messaging, even when centered on serious topics or issues. One tells people to “hang in there” while displaying a rendering of a cat clinging to a rope nearby, while another (shown below) simply is emblazoned with the words “I Love Ringo.”  The optimism helps to start the inevitable conversations from a constructive point. “More positive buttons make them more wearable,” she says. “A button you have to stand behind. Where online stuff can be pretty anonymous, there’s something about having some skin in the game.”

Despite the mediums’ changes during the last 125 years, the ability to provoke conversation and inspire change is constant.  “The person-to-person stuff is just so important, and I think it’s something we’re missing. I would love for buttons to help bridge gaps between human beings because I think in the end, we all want a lot of the same things,” Carter adds.

 

From 1964

 

 



History Illustration

A 400-Year-Old 'Friendship Book' Contains Hundreds of Signatures of Historical Figures

August 31, 2020

Grace Ebert

Between 1596 and 1647, art dealer and diplomat Philipp Hainhofer traveled around Europe amassing an incredibly rich collection of signatures in the “Große Stammbuch,”  or “Album Amicorum.” Akin to an autograph book, Hainhofer’s register is replete with the marks of Cosimo II de’ Medici, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and Christian IV of Denmark and Norway, to name a few. Covered in red velvet, “Album Amicorum” was part of a larger trend to record family, friends, and acquaintances that began in the 16th Century.

Hainhofer compiled the signatures during the course of 50 years, beginning when he was a college student. As he gained religious figures and royalty as clients, he’d ask them to sign his book and commissioned about 100 detailed illustrations to sit alongside. The elaborateness of the illustrations directly corresponds to the signatory’s status and rank in society.

This week The Herzog August Bibliothek purchased the centuries-old tome—which was thought to be lost until it emerged in a London auction in 1931—for about $3.1 million. It’s the library’s second attempt to acquire the historic book after August the Younger of Braunschweig-Lünebur, who was Hainhofer’s friend, failed to buy for the Wolfenbüttel, Germany-based institution in 1648. (via The History Blog)

 

Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II

Left: August II of Braunschweig-Lüneburg , 1613. Right: Ursula Duchess of Württemberg , 1614

Latin poems

 

 



Art

Fringed Paper Networks Peek Out From Vintage Encyclopedias, Textbooks, and Classics by Artist Barbara Wildenboer

August 31, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Kennis.” All images © Barbara Wildenboer, shared with permission

From the covers of René Descartes’s Cogito Ergo Sum and Homer’s The Odyssey emerge vast webs of spliced pages. Artist Barbara Wildenboer (previously) overlaps countless strands of paper as part of her ongoing Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginably Large series. The new sculptures similarly feature masses of fringed pages, with the hand-cut forms lining the edges of the opened texts and peeking through the hollowed covers. Each spine is left intact.

Wildenboer tells Colossal she’s been preparing for SUPER/NATURAL, a solo exhibition in November at Everard Read, that considers the relationship between science and the supernatural and has influenced her recent choices in books. Alongside photographic collages, the text-based sculptures “function as narrative clues, intertexts, or ‘subtitles,'” she says.

A lot of the new book works deal with subject matter that relate to my understanding of the nature of invisible or quantum reality—a reality that we cannot see with our physical eyes. Where nature is the visible realm, supernature also operates on ‘natural’ laws, although we can’t always see them, i.e. for example, magnetism, gravity, and electricity, the celestial orbits, and star cycles. But it’s all levels of ‘nature.’

Since Cape Town, where Wildenboer is based, was locked down due to COVID-19, she’s been altering the vintage copies she’s had stored. The result is sculptural series fashioned from the pages of Camera Obscura, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Inventions, and the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Compared to the massive encyclopedias and atlases she often utilizes, the smaller works appear almost miniature.

To keep up with Wildenboer’s sprawling artworks, head to Instagram.

 

“Cogito Ergo Sum”

“Classical Atlas”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Left: “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” Right: “Illustrated Pocket Medical Dictionary”

“Aristotle’s Politics and Athenian Constitution”

Left: “Astronomy.” Right: “Homer’s Odyssey”

“The Garden of Lies”

“World Atlas”

 

 



History Photography Science

Overview Timelapse: A New Book Documents Vast Changes to the Earth's Surface by Human Hands

August 27, 2020

Christopher Jobson

Construction of the Beijing Daxing International Airport 2012-Present. Source image © Maxar Technologies

In a follow-up to the 2016 book Overview featuring stunning imagery of the Earth from above, Overview Timelapse: How We Change the Earth takes a critical look at the numerous ways humans have completely altered the surface of our planet in a very short time through urban development, climate change, and deforestation. Overview founder Benjamin Grant and writer Timothy Dougherty have teamed up to examine some 250 new satellite images that capture the remarkable changes currently taking place all around us from a dramatic macro perspective.

The Daily Overview is an immensely popular Instagram account started by Grant in 2013 that shares a fascinating overview photograph each day. Overview Timelapse is currently available for pre-order on Bookshop.

 

Wuhan hospital construction. Source image © Maxar Technologies

Tire graveyard. Source image © Nearmap

Brumadinho dam collapse. Source image © Maxar Technologies

Las Vegas city expansion. Source image courtesy of The European Space Agency

Source imager © Maxar Technologies

 

 



Art

In 'Human,' Artist Beth Cavener Chronicles Nearly Two Decades of Evocative Sculptural Creatures

August 19, 2020

Claire Voon

All images © Beth Cavener, shared with permission

In the hands of Montana-based sculptor Beth Cavener (previously), clay transforms into mesmerizing, life-size animal figures charged with raw emotion and vitality. ​Human​, her recently released and award-winning monograph, gathers and celebrates nearly two decades of these extraordinary creations, featuring 160 color plates of work from six series. The curious menagerie includes hares, foxes, goats, and other common mammals, with graceful and luminous bodies depicted in situations that are often tinged with a sense of violent tension. They are figures of pathos: Some creatures recoil, as though in fear; others seem paralyzed by some unseen force. Many are suspended, tethered, or slumped over, having seemingly surrendered to their perpetual state of entrapment. Still, others are beasts exuding tenderness, their body language and eyes inviting viewers to draw close.

Cavener is a prolific artist, and as ​Human​ reveals, she has experimented with diverse materials including crystallized sugar, black sand, and smoke. Some of her most compelling pieces engage evocative devices like steel chains and glass vitrines, with several incorporating distinctive objects like a 24 karat gold ring and a wasps’ nest. The resulting animals could be displaced from dark fables. They are haunting, unlucky characters whose precise body language and inescapable gazes express unfiltered views of human nature.

Writing the foreword for ​Human​, critic Garth Clark identifies Cavener’s sources of inspiration: People she personally has encountered during her lifetime—including her own self—“whose psychodramas, emotional catastrophes, and sexual peculiarities play out in her work.” Roiling with unspoken affect, these animals serve as unflinching mirrors capable of appealing at one glance and suddenly unsettling at another. As Cavener has said about her own visions: “Entangled in their own internal and external struggles, the figures express frustration for the human tendency towards cruelty and a lack of understanding. Something conscious and knowing is captured in their gestures and expressions. An invitation and a rebuke.”

Explore this beguiling bestiary by picking up a copy of ​Human​ from the artist’s ​website​ or Bookshop.