edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Il Modo Italiano: Italian Design and Avant-Garde in the 20th Century
edited by Giampiero Bosoni
Milan: Gruppo Editoriale Skira, distributed by Rizzoli International Publications, $75
384 pages, 491 illustrations (343 color)
This book catalogs an exhibition recently at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal and traveling next to Toronto and Italy. A monumental exhibition it must be, featuring objects as large as actual Vespas and Alfa Romeos. The book shows us not only these but also other Italian designs not in the show.
A four-part structure divides the material into roughly chronological phases. "Boundless Optimism" includes the Snail Room chair by Carlo Bugatti, the Delphos dress by Mariano Fortuny, and work in many mediums by Duilio Cambellotti. "Monumentality and Rationalism" brings us the sculpture of Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla, the architecture of Giuseppe Terragni and Antonio Sant' Elia, and the vases of Carlo Scarpa and Gio Ponti. "Reconstruction and the Economic Miracle" offers a Gino Valle clock, Bruno Munari ashtrays, and a Marco Zanuso armchair. And, finally, "Postmodern Testing Ground" gives the last word to Joe Colombo, Ettore Sottsass, and Gaetano Pesce, among other furniture designers.
There are also eight introductory essays, interviews with six designers, a list of objects, almost 200 brief biographies, and a bibliography. The only thing missing is an index. Want to find the 10 items designed by Mario Bellini? Buona fortuna.
George Ohr, Art Potter: The Apostle of Individuality
by Robert A. Ellison, Jr., foreword by Martin Eidelberg
London: Scala, distributed by Antique Collectors' Club, $65
176 pages, 192 color illustrations
Author and pottery collector Robert A. Ellison, Jr., coauthored a previous George Ohr monograph, The Mad Potter of Biloxi—a title that, while less dignified than the present one, certainly catches the spirit of Ohr's eccentric output. Martin Eidelberg's foreword characterizes the maverick Mississippian as someone who "could shout 'No two alike' with just reason" and who "like a Walt Whitman. . .stood tall and alone, proudly singing his song."
Some almost symmetrical but all modified from the norm by a degree of indenting, folding, or twisting, his pots have a history as bizarre as their shapes and glazes. After Biloxi's disastrous 1894 fire destroyed Ohr's workshop, he replaced it with a building that an 1899 newspaper clipping describes as "a cross between a Chinese pagoda and a Russian country house." From then on, Ohr's pottery was always determinedly unconventional and never commercially viable. There were a few articles written about it during his lifetime, but he had been completely forgotten by the 1970's, when a New Jersey antiques dealer stumbled on a storeroom of roughly 7,000 pots and bought them all.
This book shows us fine photography of 302 previously unpublished examples. The last sentences are a quote from a New Orleans newspaper reporter who visited Ohr's studio four years after the potter's death: "Never have you seen craftsmanship which bore the mark of the maker to such a degree. . . . Here is bare stark personality in every jar and jug."
Museums in the 21st Century: Concepts, Projects, Buildings
edited by Suzanne and Thierry Greub
New York: Prestel Publishing, $60
215 pages, 583 illustrations (396 color)
The design and construction of art museums seem to have been on an unstoppable roll ever since Frank O. Gehry & Associates's 1997 Guggenheim Bilbao proved itself capable of both housing art and driving prodigious feats of urban redevelopment. Meanwhile, in a less commercial way, museum building seems to be the present-day equivalent of Gothic cathedral building. The introduction to this book—the catalog for a traveling exhibition launched at the Kunst des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts in Düsseldorf, Germany—quotes Robert Kudielka, a professor at Berlin's Akademie der Künste, describing a museum as a place for "speculation. . .combining looking, reflecting, and understanding."
In the pages that follow, we see dozens of post-Bilbao examples, 26 of them in detail. Some are recently completed; others, still in the planning stages, are illustrated by computer renderings. Firms include Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Shigeru Ban Architects, Mario Botta Architetto, Zaha Hadid Architects, Steven Holl Architects, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Essays look at museum-building activity in Asia, Australia, and the U.S., from the glass-walled 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, to the winged steel-and-glass Milwaukee Art Museum.
What They're Reading. . .
Yolande Milan Batteau
Owner and creative director of Callidus Guild
Richard Serra: Torqued Spirals, Toruses and Spheres
essay by Hal Foster, photography by Dirk Reinhartz
Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, $34
64 pages, 44 black-and-white illustrations
To do truly visionary work, Batteau says she's convinced, "You must approach familiar materials with new processes." None other than Richard Serra gave her that advice when they chatted one-on-one after his lecture at a New York bookstore. And the words have since become her mantra. A consultant who handles "couture" plasterwork, painted glass, and murals for Peter Marino Architect and Richard Meier & Partners, among others, Batteau bought a Serra catalog that day and asked the sculptor to sign it. His graceful, powerful work reinforces not just her approach to interiors but also her own abstract and representational oil paintings and encaustics.