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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 week we took J to an exhibition in Sopot that shows three Japanese poster designers. He didn’t seem much awed by those masters but we were, and so we’re sharing with you some highlights. (Note: the gallery didn’t allow for photos in the exhibition so all the images are internet-derived.)

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We were definitely most impressed by Ikko Tanaka, who started his long career in Tokyo and worked for many institutions and corporations. We knew some of his work, mostly the posters based on illustrations of  faces, but seeing many posters displayed together allowed us to admire the style he developed. He combined modernist love for geometricization with a sensitivity to the Japanese tradition of woodcut and illustration. He also managed to make these posters very decorative with the choice of color and with a really good sense of how to use simplification to create attractive forms.

Tanaka’s famous face posters: on the left the most well-known one. These show his mastery of simple forms and colors.

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Tanaka’s geometricized natural forms form the possibly most accessible part of his work.

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The second designer, Yusaku Kamekura, is probably the most revered one, and slightly older than the other two. He also combined Western inspirations with Japanese tradition but in a less consistent way: he used different techniques, geometric, painterly, even photographic. He’s most famous work is probably that related to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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There is something very decorative and ornamental about many of Kamekura’s posters.

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And the third one, Shigeo Fukuda, differs a bit. He didn’t seem that inspired by either modernism nor Japanese traditional art but instead sought surrealist metaphors and visual illusions. While we like his ideas, the style speaks to us the least, reminding us of some later Polish poster designers we don’t necessarily enjoy as much.

Fukuda returned many times to the same motifs, like the folded piece of paper…

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…or the most charming one, an Escherian dachshund.

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In addition to the very interesting poster exhibition, the gallery also held two more typically art exhibitions: one of Polish painting (mostly from 19th and early 20th century) and one of contemporary art inspired by a Polish modernist sculptor, Katarzyna Kobro. These excited our son more, particularly the projector used for one of the modern exhibits.

A most impressive painting by Weiss, showing school girls on a walk in Kraków. We were awed by the subtle color palette and the photographic composition, particularly that not all of Weiss’s work is equally exiciting.

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Speaking of dachshunds (?), a charming pastel sketch by one of our favorites, Stanisław Wyspiański.

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A variation on a medieval illumination turned into a fairy tale by Zbigniew Waliszewski (“The Hunt”).

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From the modern art exhibition something right up our valley, a typographic installation by Aurelia Mandziuk-Zajączkowska. Letterforms inspired by Polish modernism.

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And this is Kobro’s work, a nude.

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Recently we visited a local museum and in the gift shop we found a little gem illustrated by a friend from work, Joanna Czaplewska. The book tells the story of the most famous painting you can see in our area, The Last Judgment by Hans Memling (here, if it’s not famous enough). In simple illustrations it shows how the painting was created and how it ended up in Gdańsk. The book is remarkable not only for its historical detail but also a subdued, painterly color palette.

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