Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 8/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life
by Todd Oldham
Los Angeles: AMMO Books, $200
420 pages, 400 color illustrations
It could easily be said that Todd Oldham's designs epitomize the whimsical. From hotels in Miami Beach to furniture and textiles for La-Z-Boy, Oldham has honed his penchant for quirkiness bordering on kitsch, and his flea-market foraging is well documented. On one thrift-store tour in 2001, he unearthed his aesthetic soul mate amid a pile of dusty old magazines. What resulted is this extensive monograph on Charley Harper, a Cincinnati artist and draftsman who worked from the late '40's until his death earlier this year. Although the illustrations might at first seem simplistic, they blossom into highly sophisticated compositions under the reader's gaze.
Oldham's decision to print the book at mammoth scale (12 by 17 inches) allows every swath of color and flourish of Harper's pen to be studiously scrutinized and sweetly savored. In addition to a straightforward Q&A between artist and author, nearly all of Harper's oeuvre appears here, from his 25-year tenure at The Ford Times, a lifestyle magazine published by the Ford Motor Company, to his own Birds and Words of 1974. It's an encyclopedic overview rarely afforded to graphic artists.
Fittingly, Oldham's interest has inspired two hometown exhibitions. "Graphic Content" runs at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center through February, and "Minimal Realism: Charley and Edie Harper," which also includes Harper's wife, opens in August at the Cincinnati Art Museum. For those unable to see the work in person, Oldham's book performs beautifully as a traveling show. —Deborah Wilk
Textiles in America 1650-1870
by Florence M. Montgomery
New York: W.W. Norton, $50
496 pages, 372 illustrations (117 color)
First published almost a quarter century ago, this definitive study showcases the textiles that played such an important role in the daily life of early America—some made by the colonists, some traded with Native Americans, and others imported from Europe, India, and China. The book's first half is devoted to subjects such as furnishing practices in England and America, bed hangings, window curtains, and upholstery; the second half is a dictionary of over 1,000 textile terms, many of them illustrated. There is also an extensive bibliography, not updated.
As Linda Eaton, textiles curator at the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate in Delaware, writes in her introduction to the new edition, the Textiles in America part of the title is "somewhat misleading, as the information that the volume contains is just as relevant in Europe as it is in North America. . . . Over the years, there have been numerous requests from researchers and textile enthusiasts alike for a reprint." It's a pleasure to have this book back in stores.
Pretty Dutch: 18th Century Dutch Porcelain
edited by Ank Trumpie
Rotterdam, Netherlands: 010 Publishers, $59
160 pages, 300 color illustrations
Beyond its rather odd title and surreal cover photo, this book offers endless visual delights and all the information one could possibly desire about porcelain in Holland from the 1700's to the present. Between the covers, photography ranges from small shots of catalogued items to medium-size ones accompanying mini-biographies of notable porcelain makers and a few fantastical spreads of the objects in action. Meanwhile the text side, in both Dutch and English, offers scholarly essays and a brief bibliography.
The book accompanies an exhibition on view at the Princessehof Ceramics Museum in Leeuwarden through October.
What They're Reading. . .
Principal of Brininstool + Lynch
Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky
by Lori Pauli
New Haven: Yale University Press, $60
160 pages, 110 color illustrations
What happens when a landscape has been altered so profoundly that the change seems natural? The question weighs heavily on Brad Lynch's mind when considering the line between what is and is not environmentally sound. "I heard a discussion on green parking garages," the architect begins. "There was chuckling that the term is really an oxymoron." As LEED certification continues to elude most projects, often due to cost, designers are forced to make hard decisions about what being green really means.
For clarity, Lynch turns to Ed Burtynsky's luridly beautiful photographs of industrial settings. "A landscape full of color turns out to be of a contaminated river," Lynch says. "It makes you think about where notions of beauty come from." Seeking to foster a global dialogue, Burtynsky makes the case for taking the hardest line possible. —Deborah Wilk