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With the pandemic limiting access to art events, we have recently learnt of a fantastic one, and held in the open so it’s virus-free. It is a part of a women art festival and this particular outdoor installation has been created by our friend, Anita Wasik. After childbirth she took up embroidery and developed it now into a project integrated into a beautiful green area in Gdynia.

The installation is called Genesis and consists of 12 embroidered objects the author half-jokingly calls “pussies” that have been installed into 12 tree hollows. You can walk around the park and find them, on purpose or by accident. We love this project for two quite different reasons. One is that it looks fantastic. And also shows mad embroidering skills. The other one is more political: it feels like in some environments anything relating to either women or nature these days is, if not downright dismissed or met with hostility, at least considered a lesser subject. So art which manages to combine these subjects, potentially opening a door for an interesting discussion about the relationship between the feminine and the natural, but without being obvious and ugly, as political art often is, get our highest marks. Also, we love trees and tree hollows, so this endears the project to us even more.

If you happen to be in Gdynia this summer make sure to check out Genesis.

(All photos courtesy of the author.)

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As our focus drifts now a little to babies (and as we did some huge bookshelf cleaning recently), we remembered one of the first artsy books that our son liked: ABC by Bruno Munari. Bruno Munari was quite a fascinating Italian artist and children’s books were just a small part of his wide artistic and scientific explorations – but it’s the one we’re most familiar with. ABC is a classic letters primer, which uses very elegant, high-contrast typography and lovely, slightly old-fashioned illustrations. While this might not be a book in which you find new tiny details during each re-reading, its very simplicity appeals to children and its high aesthetic level develops their sensitivity.

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This is one gorgeous onion.

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Last time we talked about the huge Wyspiański exhibition we saw in Kraków and how impressed we were by the number of exhibits. But because of a mess of circumstances we didn’t get to spend as much time on the exhibition as we wanted to so we were glad to find a large, reliable catalog, presenting all the objects with descriptions.

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(We don’t necessarily agree with all the design choices made for the catalog but we don’t know how it was created and under what circumstances. We’re mostly just happy to have such a huge, nicely printed book full of Wyspiański’s work.)

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This week we went on a somewhat eventful trip to Kraków, where we visited a large exhibition of works by Stanisław Wyspiański.

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Wyspiański (1869–1907) is one of the most brilliant Polish writers who also created wonderful art in different genres, particularly pastels. But the exhibition in Kraków focuses more on his ventures into applied arts, which makes it particularly interesting as he dabbled in pretty much everything. He designed theater costumes, furniture and particularly elements of large-scale interior decoration (including stained glass windows) for churches.

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A kids lesson about designing and creating stained glass windows.

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Wyspiański was impressively good at drawings resembling Gothic paintings on stained glass.

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The exhibition is discreetly but adeptly designed. Here a little ornamental decoration presumably drawn from Wyspiański’s work.

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The exhibition shows not only the finished products of his work but also preliminary stages – sketched, designs – which we found fascinating. It might have been too specialized for some visitors but we drank it up.

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One room shows better-known works: paintings and pastels,

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including this lovely drawing of a boy.

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Supposedly this furniture was meant to be uncomfortable so that the city council would not spend too long sitting in it.

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Fragment of staircase that we would totally have in our place. It wouldn’t match anything but who cares.

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We fully recommend seeing this extensive collection, should you happen to be in Kraków one of these months.

In case you want it, here’s a 3-day promo link for free shipping in our Society6 store.

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In the middle of winter (well, hopefully, at the end of it), we’re sharing a vaguely spring design we did last year. We created a catalog for an exhibition called Planting Seeds that happened in the Łaźnia Art Center. This was an event by Irwin group from Slovenia.

The exhibition was promoted with the photo of the artists who were, well, planting seeds and we needed to use it on the cover. At first, we planned to cut it into four parts, with different covers having different parts of the photo but it was necessary to use the whole photo in the end. So we arranged it in such a way that you can combine two covers to see all of it.

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Inside we used a bright pink color for one language version of the text and as a strong visual element. As a decorative motif we created a grid of dots to symbolize seeds and used them throughout the publication.

Title page with dots and pink.

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Close-up of the contents pages.

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Introduction to the catalog.

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As Irwin art is rather conceptual the catalog contains more texts than images so it was important to find a good layout for the articles.

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Catalogs – always one of the best kinds of job.

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A while ago we designed identity for an exhibition When Is a Neighbor a Stranger? in the Center of Modern Art Łaźnia, which was a great fun. The fun was even greater when later on we were asked to design a catalog for the exhibition because catalogs are definitely one of our favorite jobs.

The identity was already established so we used the same colors, typography and the symbol of frame but, of course, designing a catalog required many more decisions and allowed us to play more with specifically print-related options. The aqua-green color of the cover is Pantone spot color, which makes it very even. We decided to use an extra neon color both for the cover and the interior. We also used a die-cut on the cover to make the window/picture frame more tangible.

The holes in the cover, when the book is open. The holes have different dimensions, which makes for a nicely layered effect.

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The fully opened cover contains a list of all involved artists. The cover inside printed in neon Pantone color.

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The text inside is in two languages, Polish and English. Throughout the publication we used the neon color for the English version of the text. We used a flexible grid for the contents and so each page needed individual attention and design. It made for much slower typesetting but was more satisfactory than a more typical page layout which remains the same for the whole book.

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Beginnings of essays and an example of flexible layout.

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Because of the conceptual character of the exhibition the catalog contains a lot of text so we needed to accommodate that.

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List of contents close-up.

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Cover close-ups.

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Back cover fully-open, with a neon-colored photo.

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We are very satisfied with the result of the project: it was great to play with unusual, vivid colors and arranging interesting contents, and the book is quite a pleasure to hold in one’s hand.

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As promised, today we want to share a few wonderful books we found in Paris. We spent a lot of time in museum bookstores and, as if that wasn’t enough to run out of money, we lived near a wonderful little bookstore specializing in art books and children books. I’m sure it was put there specifically to bankrupt us and it nearly did. But our collection grew again. In the post we will show you a few more French finds of our stay.

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As usual we enlarged our collection of Petit pop-up Panoramiques, which we keep showing you every time. In addition to Paris and Louvre, which we already had, this time we found the whole of France compressed into a small book of pop-ups. This one has more painterly, delicate illustrations than other books in the series, less humorous and more fashion-like, which we find refreshing. It also has so many places we’ve yet to see.

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In Musée d’Orsay’s bookstore we found a whimsical and quite charming comic Moderne Olympia, a story of Manet’s Olympia and her ambitions to become an actress. We haven’t read the whole story yet (our French might not be enough to get all the jokes, sadly) but the most lovely idea is that the story happens among famous pictures from the museum. Various scenes and characters are recreated from the paintings but, of course, in a different context. This is the kind of illustrative and intellectual fun that we always look for in art books and only sometimes manage to find.

re-paris-02 re-paris-03 re-paris-04And if one is not quite an art history expert the code at the last page is supposed to give you a list of all the paintings used in the story (we haven’t tested that yet but it’s certainly a good idea).

re-paris-10Now, I’ll admit at first sight I overlooked Romance. But once you give this book a few minutes of your time and take care to understand its concept, it’s quite breathtaking. It’s an entirely fresh experiment in storytelling, married with gorgeous illustrations and impressive technical savoir-faire (heh).

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The story expands from chapter to chapter and invites you to participate in telling it. Illustrations, words, even typography combine to add to the history, which makes it incredibly intriguing. It’s like a fairy tale that you heard million times as a child but always managed to find something new in it.

Additionally, and this is explained by the fact that the author has a silkscreen experience, it employes a neat technical trick. All the colors are special colors instead of regular CMYK and four special colors – applied with amazing understanding of how halftone works – create the whole color scheme of the book, including all the tints. This might not seem very exciting if you don’t think about the technical side of printing much but for us it was quite awe-inspiring.

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And finally our possibly favorite new acquisition, Oh! Mon chapeau. You certainly noticed the little fact that we are suckers for pop-up books but more often than not we are disappointed to find them matched with bland illustrations and lacking in creativity. None of this applies to Chapeau. It’s as creative as books get, with a wonderful understanding of what pop-ups can add to the story (for instance, it uses very well the simple fact that something can hide behind a pop-up). The illustrations (as, if fact, the whole technical part of the book) are deceptively simple but it’s rare to see simplicity matched with such charm and lightness. Many illustrators try to achieve it as it is, clearly, a trend of today but few manage in such a seemingly effortless way.

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In addition to the lovely Mondrianesque color scheme, the book has a difficult to define Parisian feel. Instant love.

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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.

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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.

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