A Book About Death — My Side of the Story

If you read this blog, you know I participated in Matthew Rose's most interesting theme show, A Book About Death. Artists were invited to send 500 postcards based on the theme A Book About Death. Visitors would come to NY to the Emily Harvey Foundation and pick and choose between the cards to create their own unbound book about death. The idea for the exhibition stemmed from the late Ray Johnson, collagist and installation artist extraordinaire, who had created his own Book About Death.
I was busy preparing for my own show that opened this weekend, and attending was impossible. I was depressed to think that I would not get to see the other artists' interpretations and cards. So I asked my daughter Rose, who lives in Northport on Long Island, to attend and collect the cards for me. I warned her to bring a bag, it might get heavy. She had invited her friend Shane Blewett to go with her and help with the collecting. To add to the mystery and intrigue, I did not show my daughter what my card looked like!

The day after the show, she called me to report on how it went. "This was a free for all!" She reported. She described and extremely packed gallery. Lots. Of. People. Indeed. Packed. Heat. Scrambling. Sweat.
She had to stand in line for an hour in order to get in. Luckily the card stacks held and she was able to bring me over 424 cards and even a pile of duplicates!
She brought them up to me this weekend at my show opening.
I ended up sitting down and really looking them over yesterday. What an interesting and amazing group of artworks! I couldn't believe the effort that some had put into the work. I couldn't believe the high quality of the cards. I really liked the various takes on the theme, with some humorous, some serious, and some dedication cards.

I am currently an adjunct at SUNY Cobleskill teaching a Typography and Layout course. I couldn't help but notice the various myriad uses of typefaces on these cards. Some really used type in the work and I challenged my students to a font face-off! I had the duplicates spread out on the table and I had the class split into 2 teams. Each team would pick thru the cards, pick out 10 cards representing 3 different type categories and then most importantly, pick out cards in which the type accented the design and help propel the overall idea behind the card. This was a super exercise, and the students spent at least 15 minutes looking over the cards and inspecting them for graphic design inspiration. At the end of the exercise, I let them take the cards if they wanted. I noticed when I left, several were left on the table.
The postcards worked as a great example of the use of typography.!!
But, I'm not so sure that freshman college students are ready for Death!


Bill Evertson said...

Nice write up and I was also taken with the great variety of those who used typography as a design element. Also glad to find a link to your great site :)

benude media said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with the next generation of passioante artists. I was totally moved by the effort that the artists gave to this project.I was among the lucky few to show my point of view on the subject: www.benudemedia.com
and I can tell you that A BOOK ABOUT DEATH has a LIFE of its own as it continues to circulate around the world.
Betty Esperanza

The Politics of Shoes said...

Thank you so much for the write up and for sharing the works with your students. I love the font face-off bad pun intended concept - it brings to mind the documentary "Helvetica" which is one of my favorite films from the last xx years.

Julie Sadler said...

Teaching the typography class really has me examining things closer graphically.
I loved challenging these students to pair up the font's attitude with the postcards' attitude about Death.
Good stuff there...Their queeziness about death was also intriguing. A good learning experience was had by all!

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