18 September 2008

Random Visits to the Public Library

Our downtown public library has the most amazing marble staircase with etched detailing, but it's absolutely dizzying trying to make it all the way up to where the art books are. I'm not a smoker (mostly), I'm happy on my bike or the cross trainer, but there's something about those stairs that leaves me light-headed by the time I get to the room with the art books.

I like to visit the library randomly. Most people find what they want online at home and have things reserved, but I never know when my path will lead me to the library. Growing up I was conditioned to bring a list of titles and scribble down call numbers with an itty bitty pencil but since they got rid of the card catalog the process isn't as fun. I know where my kind of books are shelved and I like to see what's there.

My last visit to the library I found these two lovely books:

The Cutting Edge Of Modernity: Linocuts of the Grosvenor School 769.922S193c2002

It's a thin paperback of linocuts. Nice large illustrations. Book was published in the UK, about a 20th century British school of art, that also included Australian artists, and is compared to the Futurist movement. A briefly popular movement that unfortunately lost demand after WWII, for obvious reasons I guess. I am completely ignorant of any linocut movement and since it's one of my favorite mediums, I was of course thrilled to come across this book.

The goal of the founding member of the school was to produce pieces of original art that could be purchased for the price of a pint of beer. You get a sense of brightness and optimism from this collection of prints. I guess that's what I like so much about this medium. So simple and direct and genuine.

Art of the Japanese Postcard

It's important for an art book to have lots of quality color illustrations. This book has over 360 of them, but it's an exhibition catalog published by the MFA in Boston, so I guess that's not surprising. Their city must have people with money who actually care about art. Anyways the book is hardcover and weighs about 3 lbs, so it sits flat on the table and opens very nicely. There are lots of enlarged detail illustrations, which is really great for getting a sense of the printing process and quality of the postcards.

The text is a series of essays by several different authors, who provide a brief bio of each artist as well as details on their printing methods, and explanations of the imagery.

I was mostly excited about the printing information. They often combined traditional and commercial techniques. The most common processes were lithography, collotype, and woodblock, and later photographic transfer/halftone screens. The postcards that were considered to be of higher quality were those that were produced with woodblocks and hand-colored on fine paper. Ooooh I hope to one day see the collection with my own eyes, if it's possible. The collection was on exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. You can take a virtual tour here.


Amanda said...

I love what you found at the library and your interesting descriptions -- you make me want to research interesting and obscure facts in books. Public libraries are the best!

loaded hips press said...

Oh, this from my favorite librarian!!

Emily said...

Those library stairs ARE a doozy!

Anitra Cameron said...

I LOVE the downtown library! Just to walk in and inhale the scent of all those millions of books...aaahhh.

And the staircase. wow. Can't tell you how many children I've taken there over the years, and the pleasure we've had exploring the etchings, and looking through the windows that let you see the rooms on the ground floor.

Haven't been there in ages, so this entry was pure delight. Makes me want to be there now, so obviously a visit Must be scheduled!