Swiss Photobooks: 1927 to Present

swiss photobooks

My interest in photography has grown recently and i’ve been on the prowl to find quality books on the subject. One of my latest additions and the one i’m most excited about traces the history of the Swiss Photobook.  Compiled by the Swiss Photographic Foundation (Fotostiftung Schweiz) and published by Lars Mueller, Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present highlights classic and influential titles that exlemplify the era. Weighing in at 7.5 pounds, the massive visual compendium features lush spreads, in-depth summaries, an extensive bibliography and introduces over 60 pieces. A pleasure to look at and an engaging read, this volume is a well-crafted ode to the distinct character of the Swiss Photobook.

swiss photobooks

swiss photography

swiss photobooks

swiss photobooks

swiss photobooks

Pick up a copy at Lars Mueller, Amazon or your local book store.

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Also worth viewing:
Matthias Heiderich
Mark Shaw Photography
Laurent Nivalle Photography

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Jesse Ragan

Type designer extraordinaire, Jesse Ragan, released the latest iteration of his website this past week. Chock full of new and meticulously designed work, Jesse’s type design gets more interesting with each project. His projects range from the current typeface of V Magazine, to the logotype for Glade, to working closely with Hoefler-Frere Jones on major typefaces like Gotham and Archer. Jesse, a self proclaimed designer of serious typefaces, is sure to continue to awe and inspire aspiring (and current!) type designers.

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Also worth viewing:
Page 1: Great Expectations
Gratuitous Type / No. 2
James Edmondson

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Gary Taxali Interview

gary taxali

Today’s Grain Edit interview is brought to you by guest contributor Deva Mirel, and features the words and works of illustrator/fine artist Gary Taxali. We catch up with Gary after he returned in early May from his first solo show abroad at The Outsiders in London. Gary lives and works in Toronto but is originally from India. Here he discusses his most recent show, locating the desi in his work, why kids love him, and some straightforward tips on being in the business of making art.

First off, thanks so much for taking time for this interview. I know it’s been an extremely busy few weeks for you. Your work was shown in California in the show “New Blood,” curated by Morgan Spurlock. The aim of that show was to highlight the game changers of the art world with an eye on the future. Every big name artist brought on board a protégé’ to exhibit alongside them. At the same time, you had your first UK solo show–”My Feelings Like You”–at The Outsiders in London. What challenges did you face having 2 shows opening at once?
The only challenge was that the openings were so close in date so it was impossible for me to attend both. Naturally I picked my solo show. I loved Morgan’s concept for the show and it was really great that Thinkspace Gallery got behind it.

gary taxali

How has your work evolved from your last major solo show–”Hindi Love Song”–in New York?
I don’t know if it’s evolved in a tangible way but perhaps what’s more concise is the messaging in my latest show. That is, I think there are themes I explored that are more cohesive from piece to piece. For example, In “My Feelings Like You”, I really wanted to show more narrative pieces. In a recent interview I did for Lust and Found, I wrote:

“The themes explored are just as much about introspection as well as searching. There are a lot of assertions in the works I make about states of being and status of place. Yet there are also inquisitive, questioning and curious follies regarding various emotions and relationship dynamics. These are realized through my constant exploration of angst, happiness and catharsis that I hope is evident in the characters I draw and paint. A common character I am known for, The Toy Monkey, makes a few appearances in these new works. He’s a guide, if you will. Many people may surmise that he’s taking the viewer to a past time, in particular the 1920s or 1930s, but I’d like think that the place is just a byproduct and the real journey is in conveying the emotions through narratives.”

gary taxali
Skunk Electrical Soap

Practically everything I’ve read about your show at The Outsiders notes the debut of your largest work to date. Skunk Electrical Soap measures in at 152 X 203 cm. When I googled the conversion to inches (60″ x 80″), I learned that those are the measurements of a queen size mattress. That’s big! Now your other work is mixed media, often painted or silk screened onto found or repurposed materials that already include some scribble, stain, or marking that inspires you. Are the larger pieces in this collection born of blank canvas?
Skunk Electrical Soap is my largest work to date. Large works, due to the logistical nature of their size, have to b planned out to be realized in the way I envision, otherwise there is too much loss of control that may pose disastrous results. That said, I still employed my usual spontaneous methods of painting, draw characters and words, and so on.

In other interviews you’ve stated that you’ve never suffered a creative block and that you are always drawing. Can you take us through the actual process of how you take a piece from a doodle and develop it into a work of mixed media fine art?
For the most part, I work on several pieces at once. I’ll often draw a character that stems out of multiple sketches. From there, I may screen print on a random surface. I may even begin from scratch and draw directly on the paper. Sometimes, I’ll plot out a few characters and text and do larger screen prints on various paper surfaces that I experiment with. I also do straight painting (as is in this show) that employs more traditional methods. As for creative blocks, I never have time to ruminate endlessly over pictures. I always have some kind of deadline for shows and projects so I have to dive in head first and just make stuff!

gary taxali
Gary Taxali tribute to Maurice Sendak for the New York Times

Do you have any rituals, routines, habits, or superstitions unique to you that are part of your creative process?
No, but I probably should. The only habit I have, which is not unusual or interesting, is that I cannot work without listening to music. That is vital for my working process.

I was looking at pictures from your 2009 show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York and also at the photos you posted on Facebook from your recent show in London and there seems to be a reoccurring theme: the presence of absolutely adorable kids at your show. How fun is it for you to be able to create and exhibit works that appeal to the junior art set?
That’s a great observation and something I haven’t really thought in depth about. I get a lot of nice response from children and I love having them at my shows. At my “Hindi Love Song” show at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, my friend and amazing artist, Stephen Kroninger, came with his wife and 2 lovely young twin daughters, Hanna and Rachel. Hanna and Rachel were walking around the opening, sketching various works. I thought that was fantastic! At my show last week in London, a beautiful little blonde haired girl named Nancy presented me with a signed drawing she made. She must have been about 3 or 4. She was absolutely adorable!

“Hindi Love Song” elicited a lot of chatter about your roots in India and the influence of Indian culture on your work, for obvious reasons. “My Feelings Like You” conjures the same cast of characters, but the name of the show seems to work with a universal immediacy that neuters the reading of these pieces as mindfully Indian. Do you agree?
I do agree. For a while now, I’ve been planning a series (possibly a show) of portraits of non-existent Bollywood stars. “Fake” portraits, if you will. I had one in my “Hindi Love Song” show and have also done this in the past but since it’s something I wanted to revisit in a more in depth way, I suppose I may have consciously chose to set aside specific Indian themes for that reason. Next time, for sure!

Aside from attending your opening, what else did you do while in London?
I saw some terrific shows while I was in London. I was lucky enough to have my show coincide with Damien Hirst’s retrospective at the Tate Modern. I also saw a terrific show at the Cartoon Museum by a deceased British Illustrator named H.M. Bateman. His work is incredible. David Shrigley also had an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, which was a spectacular show of his amazing works. I met some local artists including the brilliant Simon Spilsbury and Paul Davis. And finally, I ate the best Indian food! Vandana, myself and friends (on Vandana’s suggestion) went to Moti Mahal in Covent Garden. For a great Indian culinary experience, I recommend this restaurant! The vegetarian tasting menu is heavenly.

One word I associate with your style is playful. At the same time, you seem quite astute as a business man. I know your sister Vandana is your agent and together you rival the Wonder Twins with your super powers. Any advice, on the business side of things, you can offer to up and comers who don’t have a Vandana in their family tree?

My advice is for emerging artists is to never devalue your work. It’s easy to get excited about doing fun projects and seeing your work in print but one must never forget that someone is making money off your work and you should be compensated accordingly. I’m not talking about pro bono work for charities and other non-profit organizations with great causes; I’m referring to commercial enterprises that sometimes take advantage of artists by offering low fees and unfair contractual terms. My advice is to purchase Tad Crawford’s “Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators”. My other piece of advice is for young artists to build a social network of other artists and to really nurture those connections. It’s easy to work in a vacuum but the fact is, we need each other. So many great business tips as well as emotional support can come from fellow artists who share the same challenges and frustrations.

A few months back, the Royal Canadian Mint released 6 coins of your design, making Canada the country with the coolest currency in circulation. You’ve had your characters made into toys, put out a children’s book, and have also been nominated for a Grammy for your cover art on Aimee Mann’s album. What’s next?
The Royal Canadian Mint released 5 coins in January. Each of the 5 had a theme of “Birthday”, “New Baby”, “Wedding”, “O Canada” and “Tooth Fairy”. In the fall, the Mint will be releasing the 6th coin, “Holiday”. Other than that new coin coming out, I will be working on a number of group shows. I’m also doing some writing now for some new children’s book ideas that I’m pretty excited about. Lastly, I need a vacation! I’d like to visit Canada’s east coast like Cape Breton as I haven’t been and it looks lovely.

gary taxali
Good Husband/Good Lover

You’ve noted in previous interviews that the characters you create are, to some extent, a mirror of yourself. So I have to ask, are you the head with or without the mustache?
Both, depending on the hour of the day!

*Lead Photo of Gary Taxali by Ian Cox

We would like to extend a great big thank you to Gary for sharing his work with Grain Edit. Please be sure to visit his website to see more work. Also, don’t forget to stop by the shop to pick up his latest books and accessories.

Select books including Mono Taxali, I Love you, Ok? and This is Silly! are available at Amazon.

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Also worth checking:
Sanjay Patel Interview
Tad Carpenter Interview
Hans Hartmann

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Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

Lots of cool, crisp typographic work from Denmark-based Mads Burcharth. I love his clean, minimal approach to lettering and type design and his ability to add flourishes and interesting details to his work. His style is strong and bold, and has a great flair to it as well.

Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

Mads Burcharth

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Also worth viewing:

Recently Received
This Is Forest — Joel Speasmaker
Designer’s Bookshelf: Amy Cartwright

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Herbert Matter Documentary

visual language of herbert matter

If you missed The Visual Language of Herbert Matter at your local theater you can now pick up a copy of the film at iTunes or Amazon. The 78-minute documentary directed by Reto Caduff traces Herbert’s life and work and includes interviews with design luminaries such as Steven Heller, Jessica Helfand, Robert Frank and Massimo Vignelli.

From the website:
With the help of historical footage, vintage photographs, never-before-seen film excerpts (some shot by Matter himself) and a broad overwiew of his extensive body of work, the feature length documentary helps in bringing the picture of an almost forgotten creative genius back into focus.

Interwoven with interviews from a who’s who list of legendary artists, designer and photographers, the film sheds light on a remarkable career and its impact on the evolving language of design during the short 20th century both in the USA and Europe.

For the first time in an encompassing and comprehensive way, the film touches on the innovative expressions of his free experimental work, his fashion and advertising photography and his portraiture. His amazing talent of combining bold combinations of words, images and space is shown in his iconic Swiss travel posters, pavilion designs for the New York World’s Fair 1939, photographs for Condé Nast publications; corporate image programs for Knoll furniture, the New Haven Railroad, exhibition- and numerous catalog designs for the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum; covers for the legendary Arts Architecture magazine and his lesser known work in film, the prime example being a film on the works of Alexander Calder.

Also available in Europe (PAL Format).

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Also worth checking:
Swiss Graphic Design by Geigy,
Jorg Hamburger,
Hans Hartmann,
Zurich Map

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Tomi Um

I love the portfolio of Tomi Um. Her work is clever and thoughtful—just so perfectly editorial—and yet retains such an artful feeling, that she takes the idea of conceptual/op-ed illustration to a different level. I’m consistently impressed at her ability to bring a vibrant visual life to news articles, and makes me hope that I can bring the same sort of excitement to my own work. Tomi has rightly won several awards and accolades over the past few years (such as ADC Young Guns Print Magazine’s NVA), and here’s to many more for this great young illustrator.

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Also worth viewing:
Julianna Brion
Micah Lidberg
Jon Han

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Graphic Modern

graphic modern

Greg and Patricia of Display have curated an amazing collection of design work that embodies the spirit and ideology of Modernism. The exhibition which features pieces from the U.S., Italy and Switzerland is on view from now through July 26, 2012 at Fordham University. If you’re in the NY area, I highly recommend checking this out.

More details after the jump.


graphic modern

Bringing together over 75 works from Display, Graphic Design Collection, graphic Modernserves as an overview of this important period of design and features advertisements, periodical covers, posters and ephemera examples from design pioneers including: Herbert Bayer, Lester Beall, Robert Büchler, Confalonieri e Negri, Alan Fletcher, Karl Gerstner (Gerstner + Kutter), William Golden, Carl Graf, Franco Grignani, Max Huber, Lora Lamm, Matthew Leibowitz, Alvin Lustig, Herbert Matter, Fridolin Müller, Remo Muratore, Hans Neuburg, Erik Nitsche, Bob Noorda, Sigfried Odermatt, Giovanni Pintori, Paul Rand, Emil Ruder, Studio Boggeri, Albe Steiner, Ladislav Sutnar, Fred Troller, Massimo Vignelli, Carlo Vivarelli and Yves Zimmermann among others. The varied and unique styles and sensibilities of these designers are the foundation for the visual language of today and presumably, tomorrow. From the experimental to the playful to the rational, Modernism’s strong idealism is a testament to its vitality and long standing. graphic Modern is a unique opportunity to view such a varied collection of items, many rarely exhibited in the United States.

An informal talk and walk-through of the exhibition will take place on Friday, June 15th at 5pm.

Graphic Modern
USA, Italy and Switzerland 1934–66
June 4–July 26, 2012

Fordham University at Lincoln Center
Center Gallery 113 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023 map
Gallery Hours: Monday–Friday, 10am to 6pm
212.636.6073

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Also worth viewing:
Italian Modern book
Pino Tovaglia
Japanese Graphic design of the 1950s

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Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb
If you’re a letterpress fan, be sure to check out the work of UK-based Ian Gabb. Ian is a designer, printer and letterpress technician at the esteemed Royal College of Art. He has a fantastic array of printed work on his table-top style website.

Ian is a true craftsman, as is made obvious by the exquisite execution of his work. I love the mixture and play between the digital and analog elements in his work, and his interesting layouts and color choices.

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

Ian Gabb

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Also worth viewing:

Recently Received
This Is Forest — Joel Speasmaker
Designer’s Bookshelf: Amy Cartwright

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