Tuesday, December 12, 2006

words in the underblows...

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although lustig's work for new directions are his most well known, i have to say i'm partial to his earlier work for the ward ritchie press in the late 1930's and early 1940's. the above pages are from ghost in the underblows, an epic poem by alfred young fisher (who was one of sylvia plath's teachers and mfk fisher's first husband). they are the most sophisticated of lustig's works that build images out of pre-existing type ornaments. by creating complex visual forms with a set of relatively simple pre-existing, and pre-determined, tools; lustig comes up with an early kind of sampling - recontextualizing pre-existing fragments to make them "sound" new.

it's a stretch, perhaps, but there are formal relationships to these works and early conceptual and minimal art such as sol lewitt's early cube pieces, which use a pre-determined set of parts to build a variety of wholes. of course, lustig isn't after the same things that lewitt would be interested in 25 years later; but both saught vocabulary expansion through limitations.

you really have to hold these pages in your hands (or at least click on them and see them actual size...) and feel the texture of the pressing of the type into the paper to get a sense of the parts that make up the images. they're so complex and beautiful they make a piece of paper feel like a world you can fall into. lustig has created a substantial visual world with something previously thought to have little meaning (ornament).

the images below are from another ward ritchie press book called words and their meanings by aldous huxley. here you can see lustig's design sense clearly with a repeated motif featured on the dust jacket, the book cover, and the first page. several years ago i was in an exhibition titled "a simple complex" and here, i think the phrase is totally apt. lustig repeats the image in various directions based on spatial proportions of design elements... his seemingly simple decision on the dust jacket to lay it on it's side, is simplicity and complexity all rolled into one.

perhaps huxley's last sentence in words and their meanings relates to lustig's ideas about design, particularly if you insert the word "design" into the place of the word "words".

"words and the meanings of words are not matters merely for the academic amusement of linguistics and logisticians, or for the aesthetic delight of poets; they are matters of the profoundest ethical significance to every human being."

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey steve, I found your blog.
You have some great information here.
Where did you find these books?

8:54 PM  
Blogger sroden said...

hey, good to hear from you! basically every sunday at 5 am flea market for the last 25 years, and ebay of course... check this, it's the one quote i loved from that language book i gave you... enjoy the break.

11:28 PM  

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