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!