The Menil Collection Dedication, Typographie, The Morphology of Human Blood Cells, and The John and Dominique deMenil Collection

The Menil Collection Dedication
Dominique de Menil
June 4, 1987
Program designed by Don Quintance
Public Address Design
Opening Night Gala Menu included

The Menil Collection celebrated it’s thirtieth anniversary in 2017. Thirty years of making art accessible to all and fostering personal encounters with works of art. It’s a beloved respite in a city where, putting it nicely, beauty is hard to come by. It transformed the cultural landscape of Houston in a remarkable way and, for us at least, made this city a place worth living. The museum embodies its founders, John and Dominique de Menil, from the architecture to the art.

Tucked away in a glass case at the Rice Village location of Half Price Books was this program for The Menil Collection’s dedication in 1987. In retrospect, the fact that we debated this purchase seems odd—it was such a lucky find, and a relevant and interesting artifact to us. While we couldn’t have been at the opening of the museum ourselves, it’s fun flipping through the program and imaging the day’s festivities. William Middleton describes it in his recent publication about the de Menils:

The day before, thundershowers had swept through town, flooding streams, sweeping cars off roads, and throwing funnel clouds out over Galveston Bay. But the two thousand invited guests were not deterred by a touch of weather. At 5:00 p.m., just in time for the local news, all eyes were fixed on the new museum. “The event is grabbing the attention of the art world and getting word out that Houston has more to offer than cowboy hats and pickup trucks,” announced one local reporter.

“The New York Times says the collection could make Houston a center for the visual arts,” suggested a newsman. “That’s a switch—just a few years ago, that newspaper said that Houston had a few nice buildings but they were surrounded by 2,000 gas stations.

As Dominique de Menil stepped to the lectern at the entrance of her new museum, surrounded by the blocks of modest bungalows that she and her husband had bought over the years, all painted the same shade of soft gray, she was determined to focus on what really mattered. “Artists are economically useless and yet they are indispensable,” she said with conviction. “A political regime where artists are persecuted is stifling, unbearable…We need painters, poets, musicians, filmmakers, philosophers, dancers, and saints.” And at a moment when she might have been expected to make a case for patronage, she went the other way. It was a small but significant sleight of hand. “The gifted artists are the great benefactors of the world,” Dominique announced. “Life flows from their souls, from their heart, from their fingers. They invite us to celebrate life and to meditate on the mystery of the world, on the mystery of God. Artists constantly open new horizons and challenge our way of looking at things. They bring us back to the essential.” —Excerpt from Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil by William Middleton

Further Reading

The High Society Love Story Behind Dominique and John De Menil’s Legendary Art Collection
By William Middleton

Double Vision, The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil
By William Middleton

A Modern Patronage: The De Menil Gifts to American and European Museums
By Marcia Brennan and Alfred Pacquement

Art and Activism: Projects of John and Dominique de Menil
By Laureen Schipsi and Josef Helfenstein

Sacred Modern: Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in the Menil Collection
By Pamela G. Smart

 

Typographie: A Manual of Design
Emil Ruder
1967, 1st Edition
Printed by Zollikofer & Co. AG, St.Gall
Bound by R. Weber AG, Heiden
Published by Arthur Niggli Ltd., Teufen AR

Words by Steven Shultz

“Typography has one plain duty before it and that is to convey information in writing. No argument or consideration can absolve typography from this duty. A printed work which cannot be read becomes a product without purpose.”―Emil Ruder, Typographie

Emil Ruder was born in Zürich, Switzerland in 1914. When he was 15 he began a four-year typesetters apprenticeship and in his late twenties attended the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts. In 1942 at age 28 he began teaching typography and in the ‘50s gained renown as a leading voice in the International Typographic Style movement. In 1967, after twenty-five years of teaching and just 3 years before his death, he would compile his magnum opus, Typographie: A Manual for Design. It is the accumulation of a lifetime of knowledge — summarizing Ruder’s ideas, methods, and approach to typographic design and education.

Typographie has influenced graphic designers and typographers the world over for decades. It has been published in nine languages and is now in its seventh edition, a testament to its continued relevance. Like Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color (1963) it is a masterwork in art education. Through the lens of typography the most universal of design principles are brought into focus — function, form, proportion, color, rhythm, point, line, surface are beautifully unpacked.

Reading Typographie was a reminder of the things I learned in my first years of art school that I’ve somehow forgotten. A profound experience that catapulted me back to my formative years as a designer — when making an interesting composition was challenge enough.

Despite its relevance, it is unmistakably the product of a bygone era. Ruder `writes, “The craft of the typographer, like any other, necessarily reflects the times. The age gives him the means with which to satisfy the needs the age creates.” That said, he was concerned about the amount of information competing for our attention and felt that good design had become something taken for granted. He was critical of the excess of superfluous typefaces available — typefaces the present age made possible. What would He think about the ease with which we make and publish work in 2018?

The Morphology of Human Blood Cells
L.W. Diggs, M.A., M.D., Dorothy Sturm, Ann Bell, B.A.
1957, 2nd Edition
Published by W.B. Saunders Company

Intending to become a book designer, Dorothy Sturm set off to take courses in New York at the age of nineteen. She had an interest in biology, and once visited the laboratory of Dr. Florence Sabin, who was studying the role of the body’s white blood cells in tuberculosis infections at the Rockefeller Institution. Sturm observed her own blood cells through Dr. Sabin’s specially developed microscope, and her curiosity grew. She was fascinated by what the microscope revealed, and took courses in biology to learn more. This passion for the microcosmic world and her talent as an illustrator led her to become a prominent medical illustrator. While it seems she later moved on from this field, she remained an advocate of the relationship between art and science saying, “Art and science naturally go together. Both are investigative endeavors aimed at trying to understand the universe.”

By the 1950’s she started experimenting with paper collage. Her curiosity led her in many directions, and she experimented freely and unrestrictedly with many different mediums (enamel, glass, metal, and found objects). Her work blurred the lines between art and crafts when the distinctions between the two were rigid. She devised her own techniques, developed her own style, and quickly gained recognition.

My personal encounter with Sturm’s work was in the pages of The Morphology of Human Blood Cells, like many Hematology students. Her illustrations, now accompanied by photomicrographs in the book’s seventh edition, are still vital. While a lot of my reference materials from school were packed away after graduation, this one remained at hand for many years. It has since been replaced on our shelves with the 1957 second edition of the text, and it serves more as a work of art.

References

the Archives, “Undergraduates Investigate the Work of Artist Dorothy Sturm: Reflections on Research,” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 13-Jul-2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.aaa.si.edu/blog/2015/07/undergraduates-investigate-the-work-of-artist-dorothy-sturm-reflections-on-research. [Accessed: 04-Jan-2018]

“Dorothy Sturm,” The Enamel Arts Foundation – Collection. [Online]. Available: http://www.enamelarts.org/index.php?collection&action=view_artist&artist_id=57. [Accessed: 04-Jan-2018]

“Dorothy Sturm,” Self-portrait with dog by Constantin Brancusi on artnet. [Online]. Available: http://www.artnet.com/artists/dorothy-sturm/biography. [Accessed: 05-Jan-2018]

“Master Metalsmith Dorothy Sturm – Ganoksin Jewelry Making Community,” Ganoksin. [Online]. Available: https://www.ganoksin.com/article/master-metalsmith-dorothy-sturm/. [Accessed: 05-Jan-2018]

University of Tennessee Health Science Center, “UTHSC Health Sciences Library,” Go to UTHSC Health Sciences Library. [Online]. Available: https://library.uthsc.edu/history/dorothysturmexhibit/. [Accessed: 04-Jan-2018]

The John and Dominique deMenil Collection
Forward by Robert Goldwater
1962
Designed by William and Caroline Harris
Printed by Manhattan Art Press, Inc.

In writing about the Art of New Guinea exhibition catalog, we came across several interesting publications at Fondren Library including this one titled the John and Dominique de Menil Collection. It was published to accompany an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Primitive Art in 1962, some 25 years before their collection would get a more permanent home at the museum here in Houston.

The Museum of Indigenous Art, as it was originally known, was founded by Aldrich Rockefeller and held in a townhouse that adjoined his childhood home that sat across the MOMA. For almost two decades the museum housed Rockefeller’s ethnographic arts and held many landmark exhibitions at the hand of the museum’s director Robert Goldwater—this one included.

“It is always a privilege for a museum to show an excellent private collection. There is the possibility of enjoying works only rarely seen, and a chance to glimpse—and to speculate on—the cohesive mixture of taste and personality that transforms a gathering of objects into a realized collection. The quality and diversity of the John and Dominique de Menil collection ensure a wonderful opportunity to indulge these pleasures.

But a museum also feels some slight constraint in putting a private collection on public view: how to take it from its natural surroundings without altering its character? It is curious and paradoxical that works of art which have come so far from their original homes and the uses of their original intentions should, once gathered together, somehow belong together. Yet this is what constitutes a good collection, and it is the museum’s task to do its best to conserve the flavor despite the unaccustomed surroundings.”—Richard Goldwater, excerpt from The John and Dominique de Menil Collection.

The bulk of the catalog is devoted to photographs of the collection itself. Our favorite was a full bleed black and white spread of a pair of masks from the Gabon Owgowe River in Mpongwe, Zambia. Their catalog description is succinct, noting only that they were made of soft wood, and white paint, as well as their dimensions 13 and 14 inches, respectively. I photocopied the page a few times with no clear purpose in mind, and tucked them away. Remembering an exhibition of African masks from West and Central Africa at the Menil, I looked back at photographs from our visit. I was hoping to spot the pair of Zambian masks, but had no luck. However, this large colorful mask (pictured below) from Ghana did make an appearance in both.

We later found a place for the photocopy in a series of three over our hutch. I did feel a twinge of uneasiness using the work without permission, but perhaps that is a different, deeper conversation best saved for another day. I found a copy of the catalog online for purchase, second hand, and it eased my conscious for the time being.

Motivator aside, it’s nice to have another publication concerning the de Menils in our collection. As Houstonians, our interest in them is connected to the affection we feel for our city. Hopefully over the years our collection will grow, and we will continue to learn more about them.


Series of three.

The Menil Collection Exhibition of African masks from West and Central Africa.

 

Truck Nest, Art of New Guinea, Design for Space, and These Islands

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Truck Nest-Nine Years in the Making

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Truck Nest-Nine Years in the Making

Truck Nest: Nine Years in the Making
Tokuhiko Kise and Hiromi Karatsu
2012
Japanese/English
Published by Shueisha

Seeing the accomplishments of others and the culmination of their work, it’s simple to overlook the time that passed between conception and fruition. For Tokuhiku and Hiromi of TRUCK—it was nine years in the making.

“Seeing our friends in Noosa enjoying their everyday lives, the answer seemed clear. Now that we had a child, that perception struck us even more deeply. They were leading truly rich lives, with their feet planted firmly on the ground. Here, with abundant trees and space, they enjoyed their lives in their own way. “Isn’t this the kind of lifestyle we should lead?” we thought. I didn’t want to wait until I grew old and retired. I wanted to do this while we were still building and creating TRUCK. I became convinced we had to change our own lifestyle so we continue to make things that were good. That’s what I took away from our fifth visit to Noosa.” —Tokuhiko

The publication of TRUCK nest itself is a testament to the way Tokuhiku and Hiromi work and live their lives. The feeling they experienced each time they departed Noosa is, in a way, how we felt reading about their path to TRUCK. It was a motivator, but also a sounding board for many of the practices and philosophies we intend to follow in our own path.

 

“If we are together, I’m confident whatever we do will work.” —Hiromi

Their ideal life is one that keeps them together at home and at work, making things just the way they want. Timelines, expansion, and trends are distractions, the importance lies in making something genuinely good.

And they have. They’ve made something truly great, and it seeps from the pages of their book. It’s one we will reach for again and again, inspiring us to live a purposeful life, mixed with rituals and spontaneous moments. Each time we read it we will be reminded that the path is just as beautiful as the destination.

 

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Art of New Guinea

Art of New Guinea
Forward by Jay D. Frierman
1967
Catalog Design by Saul Marks and Ted Organ (Orland)
Typography by The Plantin Press
Printing by California Litho-arts

You might assume that this book is missing its dust jacket as the binding is plain and the text simple—it’s not. This publication is not a book at all, but an exhibition catalog bound by a former owner. It documents an exhibition of Art in New Guinea presented in 1967 by the Museum and Laboratories of Ethnic Arts and Technology, UCLA, and the Ethnic Arts Council.

In our personal consumption of art we’ve never sought to appreciate ethnographic arts apart from their superficial aesthetic value, and this was still the main motivator behind the purchase of this catalog. While probably standard practice or an issue of cost, the black and white photographs throughout feel like pieces of art in their own right. The complementary page layouts and type are neutral and unassuming on first glance. However, it’s clear the design was considered and is a beautifully executed catalog specimen for the time period.

The designers Saul Marks and Ted Organ (Orland) were both part of Plantin Press, Marks being its co-founder and Organ, an apprentice. Excluding the title which was set in Alburtus, the entirety of the catalog was set in Bembo. We have learned that this was a hallmark of Plantin, who used few but very well-selected typefaces.

Aesthetics and content aside, there was a discovery that made this catalog an interesting and relevant find. It centered around the museum’s director, Ralph C. Altman, whose death preceded completion of the planning process and resulting exhibition. While the museum would go on to hold a proper memorial exhibition for Altman, the posthumous completion of The Art of New Guinea spoke to his staff’s dedication to honoring his memory and vision.

Our curiosity of Altman and a quick search lead us to Fondren Library at Rice University. Among their extensive arts and architecture collection was the catalog for the Ralph C. Altman Memorial Exhibition.

Within its pages we learned that, in addition to his role as museum director, Altman was a beloved lecturer at UCLA.  Jay D. Frierman wrote, “His courses, which included the whole sweep of primitive art, folk art, and ancient art, were to be his greatest achievement. His lectures were models

of lucid exposition, the result of infinite, painstaking, meticulous research—continuously re-examined with the most careful and critical scrutiny. Whether it was his lecture on the art of the Upper Paleolithic, which was a masterpiece, or a discussion of some minor ephemeral folk art, his lectures were always models of concise objectivity. There never was a compromise, even in the last spring semester, when the pain was so severe, the quality and enthusiasm never waned. It is not surprising that his students were so devoted to him. Ultimately this is the measure of a teacher, that he pass on not only information, but some kind of a weltanschauung , a sense of order and worth beyond the facts themselves. This Ralph Altman did to perfection.”

Altman’s collected works were listed at the end of the catalog, including articles, exhibition catalogs, and book reviews. We were delighted to discover the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on that list. It turns out, Altman wrote an essay for Totems Not Taboo (1959), an exhibition curated by the first professional director of the Contemporary Arts Museum (then Contemporary Arts Association), Jermayne MacAgy.  It’s known to be her most successful exhibition, and one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of primitive art organized in the United States by that time.

Looking at photographs of the exhibition, it felt approachable and immersive. MacAgy utilized Mies van der Rohes’ Cullinan Hall beautifully— intermixing the artifacts with plants, platforms, and plinths. It’s easy to see  why it remains one of the most remarkable and rememberable exhibitions in Houston’s history. Altman’s essay paralleled the exhibition. So often exhibition catalogs are written with fellow scholars in mind, and they are lost to the masses. Altman introduces primitive arts, explains the fault in this nomenclature, and expresses the nature in which you should view them in an approachable way.

We can only make assumptions as to why Altman was chosen, but it’s safe to say that he was an important figure in his field and played a vital role in the growing appreciation of ethnographic arts through his work.



Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Art of New Guinea

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Art of New Guinea

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Art of New Guinea

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Art of New Guinea

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Art of New Guinea

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Totems Not TabooTotems Not Taboo

 

Images

Art of New Guinea artifact photography by William Doherty with Dennis Olsen; isolated images seen here edited for this article.

Installation views of CAMH exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Totems Not Taboo, 2/26/1959- 3/29/1959. Photos: Maurice Miller, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Archive.

Resources

Arnold, Miah. “Vim and Vigor, Indelicate Language and Bursts of Temper: The Story of the de Menil Cadre and the Emergence of Houston’s Counterculture Arts and Politics .” Cite Summer 2010: 3237. OffCite. Rice Design Alliance. Web.

De Lima Greene, Alison. “Modernism in Houston.” Art Lies 41.Winter (2003): 1923. The Portal to Texas History. Web.

Edwards, Katie Robinson, Ph.D. “The 1950s and Houston.” Midcentury Modern Art in Texas. Austin: U of Texas Press, 2014. 17475. Print.

Frierman, Jay D., and Franklin D. Murphy. Ralph C. Altman Memorial Exhibition. Los Angelas: UCLA Ethnic Art Galleries, 1968. Print.

Harmsen, Tyrus G. The Plantin Press of Saul and Lillian Marks. Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1960. HathiTrust Digital Library. Web.

Herbert, Lynn M. “Seeing Was Believing: Installations of Jermayne MacAgy and James Johnson Sweeney.” Cite Winter 9798: 3033. OffCite. Rice Design Alliance. Web.

Reynolds, Sarah C. Houston Reflections: Art in the City, 1950s, 60s and 70s. Houston: Rice U Press, 2008. Print (Available online at OpenStax).

“Ruins of Exhibitions: Totems Not Taboo.” Nero Autumn 2012: 6173. Print (Available online as text or PDF).

Further Reading

Jermayne MacAgy: A Life Illustrated By an Exhibition
By Dominique de Menil, 1968

Saul Marks and The Plantin Press: The Life and Work of a Singular Man
By Lillian Marks, 1980

 

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Design for Space

Design for Space
Alexander Glushko
2016
Published by DOM

Houston’s half-century long relationship with America’s space program began in 1963 when NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, opened in Clear Lake near Galveston Bay on what used to be 1,600 acres of cattle grazing land. Primarily, Houston would become known for its Mission Control function during the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo–Soyuz, and Space Shuttle programs, à la “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here”. For as long as I can remember I’ve been enamored with all things NASA, and growing up just a stone’s throw away from the Johnson Space Center in the adjacent suburb of Pasadena certainly added a sense of immediacy to the Space Shuttle launches I watched religiously throughout the ’90s.

This is all to say that I’ve had plenty of exposure to American (i.e. NASA branded) space exploration, but what of our Russian counterparts? Alexander Glushko’s Design for Space documents almost 250 mission patches worn by Soviet and

Russian cosmonauts from the beginning of the Cold War to the present. Design for Space is thorough and clear, presenting each patch with a photograph of it in use along with a brief description, the date, and design credit if available. In this way the book achieves its primary objective to be the first comprehensive catalog of emblems and insignia of Soviet and Russian spacecraft and orbital stations. It’s a feat that in some ways sells Design for Space short. Glushko is one of the leading scholars on the history of Russian space exploration and 20th century military uniforms and medals. With this expertise, he is able to provide broader historical context while retracing the formation and evolution of Russian symbolism as it relates to space exploration.

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Design for Space

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: Design for Space

Images

The back-up Soviet-Czechoslovakian crew of the Soyuz-28 spaceship (left to right): N. N. Rukavishnikov and O. Pelczak. Photo from the author’s personal archive.

Patches (left to right): (1)The first variant of the patch of the Russian-American crew on the ISS-1 mission. Used in 20002001. Worn on training and IVA spacesuits. (2) The first sleeve patch for members of crews on Voskhod-type spacecraft. First appeared in 1965 on spacesuits worn by the crew of Voskhod-2. Was subsequently used by several other crews until 1985. Worn on the spacesuits of the crews of the Voskhod-2, Soyuz-5 and Soyuz-11, and on training suits worn by several other cosmonauts, until 1985. (3) The interkosmos patch. Variant for the Soviet-Polish crew, in the Polish language. Used in 1978 by both Soviet and Polish cosmonauts from the principal and back-up crews of the Soyuz-30 spaceship. Worn on the right side of the chest or on the right sleeve of the spacesuit, and likewise on the upper and lower right sides of training suits.

Words by Steven Shultz.

 

Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: These Islands

These Islands
Cereal Magazine
2017
Published by Francis

We’ve yet to travel outside the North American continent, but have plans to make London our first overseas destination. When we book our trip, we’d like to have a thorough itinerary with each day mapped out. The city is huge and while the bulk of our research will be done online, the designers in us cannot resist a good travel publication. When Cereal announced they were publishing their first book, an ode to the British Isles, we pre-ordered without hesitation. If you aren’t familiar with Cereal, they are a biannual travel and style magazine based in the United Kingdom. The photography that fills the pages of their publication and site are something to aspire to, and the destinations are chosen with great care. These Islands is no exception, and we look forward to planning our travels with this book in hand.

“In many ways, this book is Cereal’s tribute to these islands. It’s not only our opportunity to introduce a very special part of the world to those who aren’t familiar with it, but also a chance to celebrate it with those who know and love it. Within these pages, you’ll find essays, paintings, and poetry inspired by these islands, alongside stories dedicated to the 13 locations we chose simply because they are the ones we love the most.” —Rosa Park, Editor-in-Chief, Cereal


Curiosity and Curiosities. Publications I: These Islands