Archive

Observed

Last weekend we went to Warsaw to a Patti Smith concert (and yes, she rocked) and used the opportunity to visit the exhibition of the International Poster Biennale in Wilanów. Having seen at least the last six exhibitions, we feel we have a decent sense of the direction the competition is taking and, unfortunately, we didn’t love this year’s selection. Of course, there were glorious exceptions and we’ll show you a couple below but, in general, the selected group of works felt very uniform and not in a good way.

Most of the posters, especially the ones you see right after entering, shared a few characteristics: a messy all-over-the-place composition, often-pointless typographic games and, worst of all, a general lack of ingenious ideas. This goes against what we usually like in poster design, hence our disappointment. While the previous exhibitions showed enough variance to satisfy all kinds of taste, this year we felt most of the posters were similar and attacked us with their joyful chaos without satisfying our craving for smart ideas and clear design. I guess most of the jury shared similar taste, more so than during previous editions, and a little different from ours.

Enough complaining. Obviously, we also found a few great works and these are the ones we’d like to share. Disclaimer: we certainly missed a few interesting things (as well as the whole student selection) so just because something doesn’t appear here, it doesn’t mean we didn’t like it.

dmitry-mirilenko-majakowskiThis series of posters by Dmitri Mirilenko about Mayakovsky won a third prize (one of three) and we feel it could’ve won more. Seeing as this kind of dispersed typographic composition dominated this year’s selection, and was not always used successfully, we really appreciate how in these posters it’s made to click. This works in a somewhat abstract, but legible, way appropriate for the work of an avant-garde poet and we appreciate this kind of thinking. Also, the trend is made to work for the subject matter not against it.

yanting-chen-young-expo

Among a multitude of posters which were based on filling the space with many elements (and all looked so similar), this was the only one that really stood out for us because it shows that the author controls the chaos up to every little detail (which makes it anti-chaos?). Also, it has an idea, simple as it is (young=egg), and – last but not least – it’s very pretty. This one is by Yanting Chen.

ryszard-kaja-abc

A Polish accent, a poster by Ryszard Kaja. We appreciate this one because sometimes designers who were very strong when the Polish School of Posters dominated don’t fit in so well with newer aesthetics but not so in this case. (Also, during the last biennale Kaja charmed us with his series of posters for various regions of Poland, check them out some time.)

apeloig-street-scene-poster

Currently we’re spending way too much time on material typography so obviously we picked out all the posters which also used it and pretty lovely examples these are. The first one by Philippe Apeloig, with a nice nod to modernism and an impressive control over his medium.

ariene-spanier-1 ariene-spanier-2

Two posters (which may or may not be our favorites of the whole exhibition) by Ariene Spanier. Nice use of materials to reflect the subject matter and great ideas.

wisniowy-sad-homework

One more Polish accent, The Cherry Orchard poster by Homework. We’ve been fans of their minimalism for quite a while now and we add this one to the list of their posters we love.

youri-toreev-malevich

Finally, a couple of posters that focus on ideas rather than just playing with form. A tribute to Malevich by Youri Toreev, with a nod to the black square.

anita-wasik-monumental-art-2013

And a poster by our friend Anita Wasik for a yearly edition of a festival of street art. This one is a continuation of her previous poster for the festival, which we love dearly and which looks like this:

anita-wasik-monumental-art-2012

However, we’ve yet to see a poster whose joy value would equal feeding squirrels in the park, which we did after we saw the posters. So, we’ll leave you with this happy picture to wish you a good week.

re-squirrel

more-books-01

As we keep working on our not-yet-to-be-shown projects, we use the opportunity to continue with the awesome books we have recently bought. We could be doing it for a year and more but we’re planning to actually return to showing our creative efforts soon. However, for today enjoy these.

In one of the previous book-related posts we showed you a catalog for Gierymski’s exhibition in Warsaw but that wasn’t all we brought from that show. The museum also published quite a charming companion publication for children. Now, we’re great fans of this kind of part-educational, part-entertaining materials accompanying exhibitions (hint, hint, we’d love to make some) and are often a little disappointed by their quality and lack of original ideas. But this one is actually what we might expect, with nice design and illustrations, tasks that make sense and even a pleasant kind of paper.

more-books-02 more-books-03 more-books-04 more-books-05

Alice in Wonderland and the Moomin series are some of these books that you don’t even have to come across in early childhood and you will still enjoy them and then the magic just stays with you forever. They are even not so much about storylines – though we love those too – as about the atmosphere. So finding a combination of both in Tate’s bookstore in the form of Alice illustrated by Tove Jansson left us dumbfounded with delight. Apparently this was originally a Swedish edition then published by Tate in English and Jansson’s illustrating style matches wonderfully the dreamy nature of Carroll’s story. We’ve seen many versions of Alice‘s illustrations and normally we will always pick the classic version by John Tenniel, but this one is definitely worth having. Maybe because it has this nostalgic quality that books from childhood will have for adults.

more-books-06 more-books-07 more-books-08 more-books-09 more-books-10

And the last book is perhaps the most stunning of all. The High Street by Alice Melvin apparently won some sort of award for best new illustrator and no wonder at all. We also found it in Tate and fell in love with it but when we read it our fascination increased even. It tells a story of a girl gone shopping through an array of old-fashioned little shops, each selling one type of products rather than everything, mall-style. In this it basks in the passing (or maybe returning? that would be awesome) glory of small shops. The illustrating style is lovely in that it combines a bit of theme-becoming old-fashioned-ness with modern clarity. This is exactly what we love, especially seeing as each illustration has a lot of details and you can look at it over and over. But the best part is that the illustrations showing shops can be folded out to reveal the inside of the shop! Now, I’m quite secure in saying that many of you must share our fascination with the inside of buildings that you only see from the outside. As children we loved this kind of drawings and we still do. So, this is a perfect little book, both in idea and execution (it even has a plot twist!), and we encourage you to buy it, should you have a chance (no, no one is paying us for all these recommendations though they may, if they want to).

more-books-11 more-books-12 more-books-13 more-books-14 more-books-15 more-books-16

re-popups-01

We didn’t see as much of London as we had planned but we did visit a whole lot of museum gift stores and today we’ll show you how our collections of pocket pop-up books is growing. We bought the first ones in Paris but Britain has more of them: we found five (to Paris’ three). However, sorry but the French name Petit pop-up panoramique wins with English A Three-Dimensional Expanding Guide. No challenge there.

Still, the illustrations are just as charming (by the same illustrators, mostly) and we were thrilled each time we found a new one in a bookstore. We’re easily amused people.

re-popup-02 We didn’t see a whole lot of royal palaces but we liked the book.

re-popup-03 re-popup-04

We did manage to visit Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey (the square quite a few times because we went to the National Gallery twice and also you always seem to end up there when you start doing touristy things).

re-popup-05

And of course we’ve already told you about Tate Modern a few times. We enjoyed the bookstore there too.

re-popup-06

We didn’t hope for much from the Tower of London but we were pleasantly surprised: what an entertaining place it actually is. And the ravens were awesome.

re-popup-08

But our favorite was the last find, Shakespeare, which we only discovered at the Globe, where we just dropped in for a few minutes on our last day. One side shows places connected with Shakespeare’s biography but the other one shows scenes from various plays, which is very refreshing after all the architecture of the other volumes. It helps that we’re currently re-reading all of Shakespeare, probably.

re-popup-07 re-popup-09 re-popup-10

_MG_1015_0093

Things are so hectic here these days (or, you know, just exhaustingly, monotonously filled with work, which is not the same as hectic, I guess) that we didn’t even get to show you the books we bought during our recent trips. We bought a lot, especially in London, but for today we only shot catalogs for two amazing exhibitions we saw.

Matisse’s cut-outs in Tate Modern (more info here) is possibly the best exhibition we’ve ever seen or definitely up there with the best. It’s still on till September so if you can make it to London by then, you won’t regret it. It’s emotional, exciting and just freaking great. There is also a huge catalog published for the occasion, which tells you a lot about Matisse’s late years and the process of the cut-outs (we’re assuming; it’s not like we have time for reading or anything) and it has plenty of pictures: everything you see on the exhibition and some more.

_MG_1000_0078 _MG_1001_0079 _MG_1002_0080 _MG_1005_0083 _MG_1008_0086 _MG_1010_0088 _MG_1019_0097

In Warsaw, on the other hand, we saw a more locally known painter, but one of Poland’s best, Aleksander Gierymski, whose impressively comprehensive collection is on show in the National Museum. This exhibition is also accompanied by a large catalog, very professionally assembled, presenting a large collection of his works with such interesting details as the paintings’ background  (and such uninteresting ones as the history of all exhibitions where they were shown; TMI for us but I’m sure it’s useful for someone). We also like the layout of the catalog – it might be a bit too modern for the subject matter, from a puristic point of view, but it’s refreshing and makes the catalog a pretty object to look at.

_MG_1020_0098 _MG_1022_0100 _MG_1026_0104 _MG_1029_0107 _MG_1030_0108 _MG_1035_0113 _MG_1040_0118 _MG_1041_0119 _MG_1046_0124

warszawa-2014-06We’re a little late with this post because we spent the weekend in Warsaw, where we went to see Pixies live (and it was pretty cool). But we also happened upon a nice little typographic exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art presenting the phenomenon of Polish vernacular typography.

warszawa-2014-06-14While not very large, the exhibition is pretty well thought out because it shows the history and ramifications of the whole phenomenon. Polish vernacular typography functioned in a different situation than e.g. American one, without the pressure of free market. As such, it was primarily informative but also pretty unconstrained. Sometimes business-owners did it themselves, but sign painter was also a job and the exhibition interestingly includes a few quotations from people who worked as such before economic transformation forced them out. It has a charming, if too small, collection of original signs from that time:

warszawa-2014-06-04 warszawa-2014-06-05 warszawa-2014-06-02 warszawa-2014-06-03From the top the signs say: “H. Dąbrowski, Tailor” | “Your Carelessness May Cause Fire” | “Tenants! Remember to Save Light and Water to Prevent Wastefulness” | “Please Don’t Smoke.”

When economy changed in the 90s, Polish street typography turned pretty terrible, which is showed in the exhibition with a collage of photographed street signs, clearly made by amateurs thanks to the sudden availability of cheap print and ready-made letters. Unfortunately, you can still see the results of this outbreak in the streets today.

And finally there is also a part of the exhibition which shows modern designs inspired by Polish vernacular. It includes not-so-interesting artsy compositions, but also more directed designs. This is, for instance, an identity designed as a diploma project for a fish stall in Ustka (a small town by the sea). The author designed the whole alphabet (called, I guess, “Fish from Ustka”), with marketing slogans playing on communist slogans.

warszawa-2014-06-06 warszawa-2014-06-08And this is another branding project for a shoe-maker. The old-fashioned job fits well the old-fashioned typographic look.

warszawa-2014-06-12 warszawa-2014-06-10And another interesting part (that we failed to photograph, apparently, but maybe you can see something in this through-the-window shot below?) was a set of re-created alphabets based on letters taken from old surviving signs, a sort of exercise in both inspiration and conservation.

warszawa-2014-06-15

 

Circuit Bijou websiteDuring our vacation in Paris we saw not only the typical tourist attractions, but also were lucky to chance upon some exciting temporary exhibitions, one of which happened to be Circuits Bijoux: Dans la ligne de mire in Les Arts Décoratifs. We want to share this with you particularly because of the unusual idea for the arrangement of the exhibition. (Photo above by the organizers.)

We visited the museum to see toys and furniture after a whole day of looking at paintings and sculptures and were surprised to come upon preparations for a temporary exhibition: surprised, because the preparations did not take place in a closed off section of the museum but among the regular exhibits, marked with square stickers and an aura of surrealism:

re-circuits-07

(Also, sorry for the touristy photos but we don’t like to travel with a heavy camera.)

As the museum closed early that day we returned two days later to look at more furniture, only to find a huge line at the entrance. It turned out to be the opening of the exhibition and if you were there we were very spottable as the completely unglamorous people.

Circuits Bijoux, judging by the website, is a large event that promotes contemporary jewelry design in France and the exhibition in Les Arts Décoratifs is only one of associated events. It shows not only jewelry but also installations and photographs and if you’re around you should definitely visit (it’s open till March) but we paid more attention to the arrangement than anything else.

In fact, the regular exhibition of Les Arts Décoratifs is interesting in places but quite random and leaves you wanting for more. I suppose someone who lives in Paris wouldn’t necessarily feel any need to visit the dusty baroque sofas and Napoleonic lamps. However, placing the modern jewelry among old exhibit accomplishes two things at once: it enlivens the old show and puts the new works in context. It also turns the museum visit into a children’s game where you have to search for the elements of the exhibition you came to see among things which are not a part of the show at all. (I’m not sure how well the involvement part worked though because some of the visitors, while breathtakingly stylized and beautiful, looked bored to death – but maybe they were forced to come).

To make the spotting game quite easy a brilliant design solution is used: the identity of the event is in neon pink that really stands out.

re-circuits-02

The exhibits are marked with pink tape and signed nearby on simple rectangular stands.

re-circuits-04 re-circuits-03

This is completed with faultless (if not that exciting) typography and quite a lovely logo that combines a diamond, circuits, C and B (I do think they should use the logo more but the website uses something else).

The final touch to make the exhibition fun is how the authors used the little spaces that recreate old interiors. They placed there mannequins overburdened with jewelry to create quite fascinating, if creepy, scenes (which, I guess, explains the full name of the exhibition, the scènes du bijou contemporain en France part).

re-circuits-08 re-circuits-05 re-circuits-06

So, whether you’re a fan of jewelry of not, if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris till March, consider visiting Les Arts Décoratifs, because this is one of the most interestingly arranged exhibitions we’ve ever stumbled upon.

Did you miss us? We’re back from our awesome trip to Paris, where we loved absolutely everything (even the crazy rain and swarms of tourists and that waiter that laughed at my French). One of the things we loved the most, though, were Parisian librairies (or bookstores, if we’re not being pretentious). We visited tens of them and bought so many books that we seriously worried about excess baggage. Here’s a few of our purchases, limited to those more Paris-related.

We fell in love with these two books of watercolors by Fabrice Morieau, Paris Sketchbook and Gardens of Paris: they are better than any photo album at capturing that charm of Paris (which we didn’t find overhyped at all).

paris-livres-05 paris-livres-06 paris-livres-07

A view of Paris with our beloved Notre-Dame in the distance.

paris-livres-08

La Defence, which we visited towards the end and that’s why it probably made an even greater impression after ten days of 19th century tenant houses all around. We wouldn’t like to live there, but with a good weather and for a short time that modernism certainly works.

paris-livres-09

Parisian parks are very orderly. We’re used to a little wilder ones.

paris-livres-10

The Louvre is definitely one of our favorite places in Paris.

paris-livres-11

But Notre-Dame is probably the favorite one.

paris-livres-12 paris-livres-13 paris-livres-15

We lived in a charming little apartment nearby fashionable Canal St-Martin (though, I think, in the less fashionable part of the area), just next door to a great boulangerie.

paris-livres-16

Surprisingly enough, the Père Lachaise Cemetery was one of the most charming places we visited during the whole stay.

paris-livres-01

Parisians are obsessed with greenery: parks, garden, window pots, you name it, it’s all there and it looks amazing.

paris-livres-02 paris-livres-03 paris-livres-04These series of books illustrated by Sarah McMenemy presents Paris in general, the Louvre and Versailles as small pop-ups with all the important monuments. Even before we found the watercolor albums, we bought these as a personal souvenir of all the wonders of the city.

paris-livres-17 paris-livres-18 paris-livres-19We actually did not climb the Eiffel Tour (again), seeing the insane lines beneath it. It’s shaping up to be our thing, apparently, because we did a similar thing last time (then it was wind that deterred us).

paris-livres-20 paris-livres-21 paris-livres-22The Mesopotamian and Assyrian art in the Louvre is actually one of the most fascinating things to see there.

paris-livres-23 paris-livres-24 paris-livres-25We spent a lovely Sunday in Versailles, with all the fountains, hedges and tourists.

This was a spontaneous purchase because the sheer practicality of the idea surprised us so much: this book is a list of free, allegedly tested toilets around Paris. We didn’t need to try out the suggestions but the books seems knowledgeable and actually well-designed, complete with the appropriate yellow Pantone.

paris-livres-26 paris-livres-27Paris is full of brilliant, small artsy books. They are like student diplomas, only published. Miss Lisa by Delphine Perret (who is probably not a student, but we don’t really know) is a story of Mona Lisa, who gets bored, leaves the painting and starts a new life. We bought it both for humor and illustrations.

paris-livres-35 paris-livres-36 paris-livres-37What is the one thing Mona Lisa always wanted to do? Sell shoes, of course.

We spent most time in children sections of bookstores because of all the fascinating printing techniques employed for the books and here are two examples (not so much Parisian but at least French). Ma Petite Savane by Xavier Deneux is like those books for two-year-olds printed on cardboard so you can’t tear out pages. But these pages have raised and lowered parts on two pages of a spread, which combine intelligently.

paris-livres-28 paris-livres-29Zebra’s stripes – trees.

paris-livres-30Finally, Après l’été by Lucie Félix tells a charming story of a girl’s orchard in autumn, employing intelligently designed die-cuts. Great part about both this and the previous book is how the fancy techniques tell the story, not just increase production costs.

paris-livres-31paris-livres-32paris-livres-33 paris-livres-34 Of course, there was much more to our stay in Paris than just books (I mean, there were croissants for one thing) but the books were amazing.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,369 other followers