BOOKED (5): German Expressionism in “The Written Image” at LACMA

BOOKED (5): German Expressionism in “The Written Image” at LACMA

WEBl “The Written Image: Books and Portfolios from the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies” is a gem of a show at  LACMA, and a fitting accompaniment to the big exhibition  Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky,which you can read about here.

WEBmYou can read about the show, which is comprised of books and prints fusing visual art, writing and design, created in fruitful collaboration by expressionist artists, writers, teachers, innovators, book designers and publishers.

WEBpThe Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies “….is a research facility devoted to the study of the expressionist movement, which flourished in Germany during the early twentieth century. The center houses a collection of approximately 5,000 prints and drawings and a catalogued library of more than 6,000 volumes. This collection is available by appointment only to art historians, scholars, and students.” -

WEBaWEBbUtopia I-II: Documents of Reality“, by  artist, teacher and color theorist  Johannes Itten, with a cover designed by artist  Oskar Schlemmer, both Bauhaus teachers, was a first attempt at formulating what became the basis for most modern design school curricula.  Bauhaus was a new design school at the time. This original volume has a oddly quaint hands-on quality, its cover combining watercolor and metallic paints with lithography.

WEBeWEBcWEBdKurt Schwitters designed this cover of “The Cathedral”. Schwitters was a practitioner of  Dada, and the creator of  Merz: “Merz has been called ‘Psychological Collage’. Most of the works attempt to make coherent aesthetic sense of the world around Schwitters, using fragments of found objects. These fragments often make witty allusions to current events.” –  Schwitters said, “In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready…. Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.” –

WEBfffWEBffAn richly textured book cover and design, made by artist Richard Janthur.

WEBgWEBhThe Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka combined lithographs and text in this extraordinary work. The vivid colors and black outlines belie the adult subject matter, although the piece was commissioned as a children’s’ book.

WEBiWEBjI had not heard of the artist Carry Hauser before seeing this show, but was entranced by the combination of powerful woodcut image and side stab binding technique.

WEBkThe beautiful simple sewn binding and use of black in this piece by Josef Achmann allow the powerful image to take center stage. The words are masterfully integrated into the design of this piece entitled, “The small town“.

WEBnWEBoMax Oppenheimer, (not to be confused with the film director) achieves incredible detail in this etching and drypoint, “Untitled (Stag Hunt)”. The piece is small, and you really have to look closely. If you do, you will be rewarded by a glimpse of intaglio genius.

Not a large show, this gathering of works is intimate, yet requires time and effort to take in. It requires thoughtful observation, indeed scrutiny, and a reading of the historical period in which these (many collaborative) works were created.  Knowing more about the artists, writers, designers, and the political and cultural climate in which they were working will make your viewing experience all the richer.  As a lover of books and the integration of the verbal and visual, I found “The Written Image” to be the gift that keeps on giving. Revel!


Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part One

Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part One

Our February 13th “Color Muze” segment on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, focused on the fascinating concept and phenomenon of “Synesthesia”, or “Unity of the Senses. I learned about Synesthesia through my color seminars at the IACC-NA (The International Association of Colour Consultants and Designers North America) from Mr. Frank Mahnke, President of the  IACC-NA and the Director of the IACC Education/Accreditation Programs conducted worldwide. Mr. Mahnke lectures on the  psycho-physiological effects of color, light and the human reaction to the built environment, as well as the role of color as information and communication in the field of marketing.

In my first Seminar with the IACC-NA, I learned about how colors (the visual) can provoke associations with our other senses, (smell, touch/the tactile, hearing and taste), as well as affect our perception of weight, volume, size and texture.  In the words of Mr. Mahnke , “It seems that the centers for processing sensory information are linked with each other, leading to crosstalk between the senses.” If this is true, and it would seem from the evidence of our senses that it is, then the concept of Synesthesia is an important consideration in any and every color decision we make, with potentially profound consequences emotionally, physically, aesthetically, and even spiritually!

Let’s look at some examples.

Considering Temperature: Painter, designer, teacher, writer and theorist Johannes Itten wrote about experiments that supported the thesis that we can feel a 5-7 degree difference in temperature in rooms painted blue-green, and red-orange.  When we consider the associations with blue-green (water, coolness), and red-orange (fire, heat) this would seem to make sense!  What experiences have YOU had temperature-wise, being surrounded by architectural color?  Does blue/green always feel cooler, and red/orange warmer to you?  Does it depend on the value, saturation, intensity, tone and context of the color?  And what about the color of that color- its hue?

What about Volume? We can see through experience, that lighter, cooler  colors seem to recede, thus making a room feel larger,  (giving it more “room”) while warmer, more saturated, and darker colors seem to advance, and take up more space in a room, thus making it appear smaller.  Have YOU had this experience? As a color designer, have you used these principles?

Can color affect our perception of weight and size? Darker, warmer and more saturated colors tend to seem heavier, and the areas they cover seem to be larger, while paler, cooler and more pastel colors seem lighter, and the areas they cover, smaller.  Thus a darker, warmer, and more saturated color will seem to bring a ceiling “down”, and the opposite for  a paler, cooler and more pastel color.  Can YOU see this effect in these two ceiling areas?  The effect may be complicated by the fact that the area surrounding both is in the hue range of cream to white!

The above are just a few of the infinite examples of “sensory crosstalk”, or Synesthesia, which I suspect pervades our daily lives far more than we are conscious of.

In a subsequent post, I will explore Synesthesia in terms of our five senses: the visual effect of color as regards to our sense of hearing, touch, taste and smell.  In other words, What scent does the color lime green conjure up?  What flavor would rosebud pink be? Does cobalt blue “feel” rough or smooth?  These are illuminating exercises to try for ourselves, and I am going to discuss just how to do that.

As an example, during her interview,  I queried special guest Rebecca E. Parsons (co-host and creator of Artistically Speaking Talk Show) about her chosen Word for 2011: SOAR.

“What color would you assign to this word, and the meaning it has for you at this time?” I asked her.

“Aqua” she replied, without missing a beat.  This only makes sense.  Rebecca lives in Florida, on island, near the water, and walks on the beach nearly every early morning.  The Aqua color of sea-blue water  which reflects the sky, with its associations of both airiness / expansion, and sublimity / depth would make it the perfect expression of Rebecca’s intention to  dive into her dreams, and Soar with them, making her cre8tive life vision a reality.

You can hear my Muze with Rebecca, as well as her complete extraordinary and  inspirational  interview with co-host Lyna Farkas on Artistically Speaking Talk Show on your computer anytime you wish.  I hope you will tune in to it, as well to Artissima, Blog of ArtiFactory Studio, for Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part Two, and join our Color Full exploration.

What a luscious, luminous world we have as finishers, decorative painters, muralists, artists, artisans and humans, to explore! Please join our Color Muze on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, and Cre8tive Compass Magazine, “where we honor your passion, and your vision, in this community we are co-creating”

Have YOU had an experience with Synesthesia lately?

If you feel so inspired, share YOUR sense and sensibility with us here.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all experiencing this thing called Life, together.