edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 1/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
By W.H. Bailey with a foreword by Adam Gopnik
New York: Harry N. Abrams, $40
136 pages, 95 illustrations (65 color)
Framing a client's art—or, for that matter, one's own—can be vexing. Here are many imaginative solutions assembled by W.H. Bailey, who has taught display techniques at New York's Parsons School of Design and Bard Graduate Center and advises the city's Museum of Modern Art on frame solutions for work by Cézanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, et al. Following a foreword by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, who likens a frame to a "superior detective, come to force the picture to confess its real intentions," Bailey's idiosyncratic survey of framing history begins with prehistoric landscapes defined by cave openings, then progresses to borders on Minoan frescoes and altarpieces in Renaissance churches. He carefully explains how frames from many periods and cultures enhance the meaning of the art within or the pleasure of the viewing experience. And he shows us frames found, designed, and made by artists as well as trompe l'oeil frames painted by artists. Like all very good books, this one offers insight into the subject matter. Like only the very best books, it also offers insight into a broader and more valuable subject: how to see with intelligence.
By John Pawson
New York: Phaidon Press, $30
128 pages, 200 illustrations (150 color)
John Pawson, the minimalist's minimalist, has designed almost 50 houses and apartments, almost a dozen shops for Calvin Klein, the installation of the recent Biennale di Venezia, and much more. This little book, its appropriately spare design by William Hall and Nicholas Barba, is not the customary monograph chronicling job after job—Deyan Sudjic's John Pawson Works having performed that duty in 2000. Instead, John Pawson: Themes and Projects examines ideas inherent in the British architect's work.
The book's 12 one-page essays consider such subjects as mass, light, ritual, and order. These are rather general, but they're followed by more interesting ones—the latter illustrated with details of specific projects and including pleasant tributes from a Pawson client, someone who grew up in a Pawson house, and a Pawson-house neighbor. More substantial is Sudjic's "Definitions of Architecture" chapter, which presents Pawson's practice as "outside the architectural mainstream" and "without professional or historical baggage." Sudjic argues that this sui generis quality is what gave Pawson's early work the "shocking quality of a cold-water drenching," explaining why his example has been so widely emulated.
A chapter titled "Wabi," actually an essay by the late travel writer Bruce Chatwin, compares Pawson's philosophy to the Japanese principle of voluntary poverty. Chatwin concludes with an excellent summary: "To live in one of his interiors is not for the lazy or lazy-minded, [but neither does it require] a hair-shirted mentality. This kind of 'reduction' is not the antithesis of enjoyment, but invigorating and enjoyable. Any 'thing' retained is forever pressed into proving its worth. Any useless 'thing' chucked out is a gain."
By Heidrun Zinnkann
New York: Prestel Publishing, $20 paperbound
94 pages, 150 illustrations (81 color)
Compact, attractive, and informative, this excellent guide to 30 woods commonly used in furniture design is based on a selection assembled by the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt as a complement to the museum's furniture collection. These include the wood of deciduous trees from amaranth to wengé and coniferous trees from fir to yew. Each species is identified by origin, distinguishing characteristics, and historical use; each is also illustrated by a color photograph of the wood in its native state, plus images of use in furniture. An introduction covers structure, cutting techniques, and applications such as intarsia and marquetry. There is also a brief glossary for each wood and a bibliography for wood furniture in general.