Flames Descending Into Darkness: Richard-Paul Lohse and Rosa Luxemburg

This dust jacket, designed by Richard Paul Lohse, is probably my favorite example of book design from the 1930’s – a remarkable example of storytelling through form.

It was created for the first German translation of a work which had originally appeared in Dutch two years prior. The poet and socialist Roland-Holst was a close friend of Luxemburg. Following the ascent of the Nazi party, it was almost impossible to publish books with a socialist or pacifist attitude in Germany, and many such German language books were published in Switzerland, as with this title. Jean-Christophe Verlag was a publishing house closely allied with the Buchergilde Gutenberg, famous for publishing B. Traven. (See here for an earlier post on the flight of that press from Germany).

 

 

This shift allowed the Swiss designer Richard Paul Lohse to work on a variety of socialist books, including this title, which features one of the most striking and enduring dust jackets of the 1930’s. The front is graced with a photograph of Luxemburg; the rear panel reproduces a letter from Luxemburg to the author. The two panels are linked by a photomontage of marching socialists which begins on the back panel and marches downward to disappear into darkness on the spine, but not before coloring the word “Rosa” rose – a striking link between meaning and form. The procession ascends again at the front panel to burst into stark relief against Luxemburg’s blouse, the flags seeming to burst into flames.

 

We’re grateful for Felix Wiedler’s excellent book design blog, where we first learned about this work.

Roland-Holst, Henriette [Lohse, Richard Paul]. Rosa Luxemburg: Ihre Leben und Wirken. Zurich: Jean-Christophe Verlag, 1937. First edition. 8vo, 223 pp, bound in dove grey cloth printed in blue; illustrated dust jacket. Inquire. 

The Strongest Woman in the World

A photograph of Miss Dorian Berth, of the early 20th century equilibrist duo Ansel & Dorian. While Ansel would go on to have a longer career with other performers in the theatrical and vaudeville arts, we can find very little biographical information on this remarkable woman. If you know more about her work, please get in touch.

Judo and Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void

Yves Klein throws an opponent into the void.

Yves Klein throws an opponent into the void.

Before the leap into the void, Klein was an accomplished practitioner of Judo. His achievement of a fourth degree blackbelt at the age of 25 was a highly unusual accomplishment for a Westerner at that time.

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Tarpaulin and photomontage aside, it is difficult not to believe that this training was incorporated into his “Leap Into the Void” four years after the publication of this issue of a French popular science magazine featured a 9 page article about Judo with black and white illustrations, some of which feature Klein.

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The cover of the journal is also illustrated with a color photograph of Klein holding his opponent in the void.

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Sign-Up Sheet for Destruction: DIAS Symposium, 1966

Detail from the Prospectus for the DIAS Symposium. London, 1966

Detail from the Prospectus for the DIAS Symposium. London, 1966

The Destruction in Art Symposium took place from September 9-11, 1966 at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden in connection with a number of happenings throughout the month in London. The Honororary Committee, led by Gustav Metzger, brought a great deal of international attention to various artists and groups then working in obscurity.

This call for entries, issued in advance of the Symposium, is fascinating not only for giving a brief overview of antecedents on this theme, with reference to actions by the Gutai Group, John Latham and the Skoob Towers project, Jean Tingueley, Wolf Vostell, and Millares, but also exemplifying the inclusive nature of the project. The various prospective subjects listed on the form show how extensive the Committee understood this theme to be by that point in the 1960’s. Rather than present the theme as an outlier or exotic subject, the Symposium treated destruction in various guises as being a common vantage point from which a number of seemingly disparate strands of activity had a common zeitgeist.

 

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Metzger, Gustav et al. Call for Submissions for the Destruction in Art Symposium. London: DIAS Honorary Committee, 1966. 7 7.8 x 11 1/8″ invitation, mimeographed from typescript.

This copy with the response form intact.

Folded twice for mailing, with toning and a couple of small stains. Very good.

Inquiries.

John Cage, 4’33”, and Four Colors of Silence

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Four different examples of the handbill for the first New York City performance of 4’33” in 1954

 

The premiere of John Cage’s composition 4’33” took place in Woodstock, New York, in August 1952. The piece wouldn’t be publicly performed again until April 14, 1954 by David Tudor , at Carl Fischer Hall in New York City. April 14th is Ruination Day, on which a number of historical disasters have occurred, as documented in the Gillian Welch composition of the same name, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to claim that this evening in New York City destroyed the traditional ways in which people perceived music.

This New York performance was likely where many of Cage’s fellow musicians and poets first encountered it, making that evening a landmark event not only in the history of conceptual art, but also a formative event for a certain attitude in the New York arts scene exemplified by the New York School and Fluxus. It is tempting to imagine who may have been in the audience, but, aside from a review the next morning in the New York Times, I’ve had difficulty finding many accounts of it in published records.

Two different handbills for the first night exist, one in a larger format on newsprint which mentions 4’33” explicitly, , and a second, smaller format handbill pictured above. At least four colors exist – light blue, cream, green, and gray, a fact I didn’t realize until I discovered this set of the cards in an apartment on the Upper West Side last month. I’ve never managed to find any ephemera documenting the Woodstock premiere, making this perhaps the first printed ephemera in relation to Cage’s most famous composition. And back in 1954, if you wanted to see David Tudor perform this piece, tickets could be ordered directly from John Cage himself with a SASE and a check for $1.80 made out to David Tudor, sent to Cage’s 12 East 17th Street address, as this card points out.

[Cage, John] David Tudor. Handbill for Two Recitals by David Tudor, including the First New York Performance of 4’33. New York: [1954. 4 x 8 1/4″, offset printed on recto. Inquire