Many years ago I came across a lamp that screamed my name at a local Williamsburg thrift store, it was a LIP LAMP!!! For one who has been wearing too many layers of lipstick for years (and years and years!) this lamp seemed like a MUST HAVE. The shop was closing when I spotted the object of my desire and when I inquired abut it the worker said there was no price tag on the lamp and he would have to ask his boss for a sale price, he thought it would be no more than $75 bucks or so. I was told to come back the next day and he would have a price. So I did. At which time I learned that the owner of the shop decided NOT to sell it… I was heartbroken!!! I thought about the lip lamp often (I really did… I was in Love, L-U-V!) This was probably about 4 or 5 years ago… by 2013 dreams of owning the lovely lip lamp had almost completely faded from my memory.
However, this past Sunday, my desire to possess le lip lamp sprung to life again… thanks to the Frieze Art Fair. At the fair I came across a newer, shinier, mo’ red LIP LAMP! These light up lips were installed in a gallery booth, surrounded by very expensive contemporary art.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Upon reading the label I realized the lip lamp was an editioned piece, first made in an edition of 25 in 1969 and now available again from a 2000 edition of 25. The lamp was created by an artist called Nicola L., from France. I inquired with the gallerist about the price of the lip lamp, and I was quite shocked to hear him utter the price tag, $16,000 dollars, cold hard cash. The luscious lip lamp WOULD NOT BE MINE once again.
I need to go back to my local thrift store to see if the slightly beat up 1969 edition is still kicking around somewhere in the back. I am not sure how much the older version would be worth but I imagine more than $75 buckeroos. Maybe once I explain to the shop owner
how it is fate that the Lip Lamp and I be united, at last, she will cut me a deal.
Oh, how I long for the glorious, plastique LIP LAMP again!
If you happen to be in Minneapolis you should check out this exhibition:
Sonnenzimmer at The MCAD Gallery
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design
January 18 – March 3, 2013
More info here. Sonnenzimmer website here.
From the MCAD website:
Sonnenzimmer is the Chicago-based art, design, and print studio of Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi. Merging backgrounds in typography, fine art, printmaking, and publication design, the couple’s commissioned and self-initiated work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including a recent exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Known primarily for their idiosyncratic take on printed matter, especially the screen printed poster, Sonnenzimmer has carved out a niche for their small commercial art studio, servicing an array of clients as varied as the Poetry Foundation, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sub Pop records, and numerous free jazz groups. Their work has been published by Gestalen, Rockport Publishers, and Princeton Architectural Press and is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Design and Architecture collection and the Museum of Design Zürich’s poster collection. Founded in 2006, Sonnenzimmer sees a bright future for the graphic arts as a new generation of image-makers emerges.
My favorite poster.
“Improved styling constantly adds to the ease and grace and gaiety of American Living.”
“Homes have more than new plans, they have new patterns for living, made attractive by luxurious interiors.”
“Women and men alike are increasingly interested in the look of things, they eagerly give their attention to what is new and beautiful and advanced.”
“Those who dream in design are always contributing to our ways of work.”
“There is a fresh look to fun in the America today, stylists have added new zest to recreation by bringing an exciting look to the large variety of things which make leisure hours more pleasurable.”
“The family at home is enjoying the convenience and the functional beauty of walls of glass, merging room with room, blending inside with outside.”
Kraftwerk box set, DAP
FW Books, Dutch Contemporary photo books
Paper Monument-Saddest ashtray ever
Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe – Marlborough Gallery
Swiss Room (one of my favorite rooms, above 5 pictures)
Desert Island Comics
Above spreads from Chapter One: Down The Rabbit Hole, Unique Silkscreened book,
33 x 46 cm, 2010
C & P: How did Bongoût begin? How did you start collaborating with Anna Hellsgård? When did you open the Bongoût art space/store? Who runs the Bongoût store? Are the shop, the graphic design/illustration business (Re:Surgo!), and the artist representative agency (Bellevue Illustration) all run by the same people, in the same space? Is this all you and Anna Hellsgård?
Bongoût/Christian: I started pretty punk. My first silkscreen atelier was in a huge alternative warehouse project across the Rhine, in Kehl (Germany), that was hosting rehearsal spaces, recording studios and event spaces. I was publishing silkscreen hand-printed artist books in a very DIY matter. Some of my friends started a small garage punk & noise label, so I would design and print the record covers. Meanwhile we organised concerts, exhibitions, raves and parties, So I was in charge of doing the design and print to advertise the events.
When I met Anna in 2001, we started collaborating and eventually our work became more structured and sharp. We relocated in Bordeaux for a year and a half. We quickly moved to Berlin. In Berlin we’ve had three different locations, and we’ve been in the space on Torstrasse since early 2008.
Our shop, design & print studio are all in the same location—we occupy the entire lower floor of Torstr. 110. Our illustration agency, Bellevue, is in the 4th floor in the same building. Anna and me run the graphic design studio and silkscreen studio together. We run the publishing company and shop with our partner Alain, and Bellevue is co-run by us and Jakob Hinrichs and Katia Fouquet.
C & P: Is there a silkscreen facility on the Bongoût premises? How often is the press in use?
Bongoût/Christian: The silkscreen print studio is in the back of of shop. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t print.
C & P: The Bongoût web shop sells photography, sculpture, paintings, handmade books, zines, limited edition prints, t-shirts, music, and more. Do you sell as much of a variety of products in the store? Who curates what is sold in the store and online?
Bongoût/Christian: Yes, in fact you can regard it as a sort of select shop—we carry things we like, mostly print publications (from polished offset artist monographs to DIY limited edition zines) but also prints, posters, apparel, vinyl records, and even chinaware designed by artists, and of course original artworks.
Biographical Chapter 12, Silkscreen print, 150 x 200 cm, 2011
C & P: Do you regularly have exhibitions in the space? Are the exhibitions always of people’s work who you sell in the shop?
Bongoût/Christian: For the last three and a half years, we had on opening every month and were having exhibitions non-stop in constant rotation. But we’ve had to focus more and more on our own work as well as the books we are publishing, and needed more space for the office and studio.
We moved them into the former exhibition space and are now having smaller shows every third month in the shop part of Bongoût. It’s not only people whose work is in the shop, but it will often be of artists who we’ve worked with in the past in some form. The connections come about quite naturally, and we develop the concept for the exhibitions together. When we were using the exhibition space we would approach it as a very flexible and modular space, and it looked different for every exhibition—adding temporary walls, changing the lighting, painting the walls different colours… each exhibition had a very unique character.
Loomings Chapter 1, Silkscreen print, 150 x 200 cm, 2010
C & P: Could you talk about the process of working with an artist/illustrator on a book or an art print? Do you silkscreen the book/print or does the artist silkscreen their own work? Or does the process vary from artist to artist, project to project?
Bongoût/Christian: We have very often worked with other artists—in fact, collaborations are an essential part. Each project defines a new set of rules, and in general we have a very good chemistry with our project partners. It’s comparable to making music with different people. It creates a good balance and challenges between our different projects.
C & P: Do you only print limited edition, hand-silkscreened books and prints in house? Do you ever send a project out to an offset press to print a larger edition of a book?
Bongoût/Christian: A few years ago we started to publish offset books. We now have a catalogue of over 15 offset publications, books & catalogues. We are currently working on three big offset monographs: a painting book by ATAK, a book of Marilyn Manson’s watercolours and a photo book with Natacha Merritt.
Given, 72 pages silkscreen book, 93 colours, 40 x 30 cm (above 3 images)
C & P: What is the most involved/complex project you have ever undertaken in Bongoût’s print shop?
Bongoût/Christian: We just finished Given, a huge collective silkscreen book. Three booklets in a cardboard box, 30 x 40 cm, 72 pages, and a run of 145. We used 93 screens for it. We asked 35 artists (Seripop, Tara Mc Pherson, Pakito Bolino, Gregory Jacobsen, Manuel Ocampo….) to submit images and we printed the whole project this summer. It´s massive.
C & P: How do you find the artists/illustrators/comics that you work with and/or represent? Are most of the Bongoût stable friends and/or acquaintances? People who have submitted work through your website? Or people that you have scouted out at schools and in other publications? Are they mostly German?
Bongoût/Christian: The connections happen naturally. The artists we work with come from all over the world. After 15 years of being active, we have a pretty good network, but we are always excited to discover new young talents to collaborate with.
C & P: How many projects do you work on at a time?
Bongoût/Christian: We always multi-task and work on several projects simultaneously. That’s how we can keep on being productive and avoid lulls. It is not unusual that a project goes over a time frame of three-six months (sometimes it takes a year or two to put everything on place), so if we were focusing on only one at a time it would be very slow and frustrating. This way we keep ourselves busy and have a steady output, its’ exciting.
C & P: Are there other publishers in Berlin doing something similar to what Bongoût is doing? How about elsewhere in Europe?
Bongoût/Christian: In Berlin I’m not sure. Over the years I saw a few publications that go in a similar direction, but rarely anything consistent. Since the 70´s here is a long tradition of underground art publishing in France, which is part of my background, l´APAAR, Elles sont de Sortie, Le Dernier CRi, United Dead Artists… just to name a few.
C & P: Do you ever collaborate with other independent publishers?
Bongoût/Christian: We carry other publishers’ books in our shop and web shop. We did a few straightforward collaboration too.
C & P: Do you sell Bongoût product anywhere in the USA?
Bongoût/Christian: Cinders Gallery and Booklyn Artist Alliance, both in Brooklyn, are carrying our silkscreen artist books, and in terms of distribution, DAP and LAST GASP are distributing some of our offset books in the USA.
C & P: How long have you been creating artwork? Have you always used the medium of silkscreen?
Bongoût/Christian: I started to publish graphic zines under the name Bongoût in April 1995, and I met Anna in 2001. We essentially silkscreen, but we also paint, draw, photograph, do installations and play in several bands.
Chapter Two: A Pool of Tears, Unique Silkscreened book, 40 x 60 cm, 2011 (above 3 spreads)
C & P: I saw the book Down the Rabbit Hole at the New York Art Book Fair last year and was absolutely blown away by it. It was definitely the most beautiful book I saw at the entire fair, unfortunately I could not afford to purchase it. There is only one copy made? And this year you produced a similar book, A Pool of Tears, which The US Library of Congress purchased. Could you tell me a bit about the process of making these books? Where does the imagery in the book come from? How long does it take to produce?
Bongoût/Christian: Yes, it is a unique book, there is only one copy. It’s a hard cover, with embossing (46 x 33 cm). The book is a mise-en-abyme of media and techniques and the title is obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The beginning it’s very intuitive. The materials go through several iterations and transpositions until the final result is achieved. It just clicks, we know exactly when we have reached what we wanted. At the end it makes it hard to pinpoint one specific technique.
This book is part of a series, with each book being considered as a “chapter”. Each chapter is named after a chapter in Alice In Wonderland. We are currently working on Chapters 3 & 4. Chapter 1 is now in the Standford library collection and Chapter 2 in the US Library of Congress.
C & P: Do you ever take the imagery from a page in one of these books and reuse it to make a poster or present it in some other format?
Bongoût/Christian: Like I said, our work is a constant mise-en-abyme. A time-travel remix. We are reusing film, elements, found material, our own work (paintings, drawings, photos)… one work leads to the next one. The creative process reflect the dynamics of creation and inspiration.
C & P: What is your favorite thing to do in the neighborhood?
Bongoût/Christian: Sorry but I will not advertise them in a public discussion. (Ed.- Understandable, I might have the same reaction to the question in regards to Greenpoint/Williamsburg!) I hang out there with my friends and I want to keep these places genuine and tourist-free as long as possible. That’s why they are my favorite spots.
C & P: Do you feel that you will be able to stay in Mitte for a long time? Or is Mitte changing in a way that it will make it impossible for a gallery/artist run space to be able to operate there in the future?
Bongoût/Christian: Anna and I were discussing it recently. We’ll see what the future brings, but all together I don’t think that it’s changing that fast.
C & P: I just read that Tacheles was closed down this year and the artists who had studio spaces there were evicted. Is this true? How do you feel about the arts landmark being demolished and turned into high priced condos?
Bongoût/Christian: I never felt very close to the Tacheles community or spirit. Tacheles was a pale vestige of a Berlin that is long gone for me. Twenty years ago you had a lot of squats and artist spaces like this, and I loved that energy, but it is something that was particular to the 80’s and 90’s right before and after the fall of the Berlin wall. These creative community had as much to give as the established artists.
But even if the building was amazing, over the last few years, the Tacheless turned more and more into just another tourist attraction. It’s a natural evolution, gentrification is inevitable. No big deal. When it happen move on and do something new.
C & P: I went to Berlin in early 2000 and again in 2005 and in just five years I noticed that the city had changed a lot… and now I assume it has changed even more. Do you feel that Berlin is a different city now than it was in 2005? Is it becoming more difficult to live cheaply there?
Bongoût/Christian: It might still take a while until all of Berlin looks and feels like Prenzlauer Berg though. Of course, once you’re settled or running a business, you’re pretty happy that you can walk along the sidewalk without stepping in dog shit and having to dodge the drunks. But people were saying the same thing in 1990, and again in 2000. I see tons of galleries and artists moving to Berlin because they think it’s the El Dorado of art. They heard about cheap rents and are hoping to make it big time here, but most of them quickly sober up and realize it’s not as easy as they thought. Financially, the city is still a nightmare—there’s a reason why the beer and the rents are cheap. Most people don’t make a lot of money here. But this is part of Berlin’s flair. And you could see this as a sort of freedom from economic constraints or the pressure of “making it.” If you have accepted that, you might as well do what you like. This creates the basis for the particular kind of vitality and creativity so unique to Berlin. Perhaps the established art world is getting bitter and running in circles, but there are a lot of extremely talented artists working on what they love to do, there are exciting off-spaces, hundred of concerts every night. It’s still really exciting what’s going on here.
C & P: Would you ever move to a different city/place or is Berlin the place for you?
Bongoût/Christian: Even if I could imagine moving to NYC or San Fransisco, Berlin is definitely the place for us. There is an energy in Berlin that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s always been like this. It is a city that is truly alive. This is why we love Berlin. It’s a city of paradoxes, and these paradoxes are its strength.
Cheap & Plastique is pleased to announce that we shall be presenting at the Fountain Art Fair, during Art Basel Miami, December 1 — 4. Our corner of the art fair will include the photography and design of C & P‘s own Christine Navin, prints by Nathan Wasserbauer, paintings by long time C & P contributor Heather Morgan, and the photography of fellow art blogger and fancy lady, Kelsey Bennett.
Come Say Hi! And bring us a tropical drink and peruse issue #9 of C & P!
Photographed Browns studio in London when I was there in July for Print Magazine. It was fun to hang out at the studio for the afternoon & explore/snoop around all 3 floors of the amazing space (studio & Jonathan’s home). I really enjoyed seeing Browns fabulous work in person. Jonathan Ellery was incredibly nice and has pretty damn good taste, in both design and music. Browns seems like a great place to work! See more of Jonathan and Browns work here. Pick up the current issue of Print for a Q & A with Mr. Ellery, or see the Q & A on Print‘s blog here.
In a special visit by one of the world’s most influential and beloved graphic designers and design teachers, Karel Martens will headline AIGA/NY’s fall season.
Martens has been practicing for fifty years and continues to create forward-looking and technologically ground-breaking work that is comfortable in the current moment but not consumed by it. He is a highly influential book designer but considers himself more broadly a “designer of the printed word.” But he’s really a designer of language, even abstract and photographic language. His work extends with equal innovation and clarity of communication across almost all imaginable media, from coins and postage stamps to monoprints to ASCII art to experimental video to electric signs to textiles to building facades. Martens himself says simply that his work should “respect the receiver of the message” and be “answerable.” Honesty and economy of language and material are crucial values in his work, but so are rhythm, color, and “delight.” Martens has described form as content’s “melody.” Robin Kinross says Martens’s work “is not wrapped up, as a closed and sealed thing. Rather, there is openness, textures that you can feel with your hands.” Paul Elliman has pointed out Martens’s love for “working or thinking in the language of the things around him” and says his work invites recipients to feel “how we ourselves, our ideas and perceptions, are formed by what happens around us.”
Indeed, teaching has been an important and integrated part of Martens’s practice since the 1970s. “Every generation,” he says, “has the duty to find form freshly, and the continuation of the status quo is by definition something to be avoided.” In 1998, Martens co-founded the Werkplaats Typografie, a masters program in graphic design that has often emphasized collaboration and commission, in Arnhem, Netherlands. He has also taught graphic design at Yale University since 1997.
Martens is a unique presenter and speaks about his work in a way that nobody else can. This is a rare chance in New York to hear him describe design in his way, through his own work. Register early! Reservations will be first come, first served.