Alan Riddell (editor): TYPEWRITER ART. London: London magazine Editions, 1975. First edition. A near-fine hardcover book in a very good dust jacket; DJ lightly worn to edges. Interior unmarked and very clean. Out-of-print. Beautifully designed and printed at the Shenval Press.
Alan Riddell (editor)
7.5 x 10 hardcover book with 160 pages and 118 images by 65 practitioners from 18 countries, among them France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Sweden, Japan and the United States. An extraordinary anthology: highly recommended.
From the camera obscura in the sixteenth century to the holograms, lasers and computers of today, new inventions have been welcomed by artists. But long before the glamorous mid-twentieth-century tools came into the artists' hands a commonplace of the technological age - the typewriter - had been taken up as an artistic instrumcnt. The earliest surviving example of typewriter art was made in 1898 - a quarter of a century after the commercial typewriter came on the market in 1874 - when an Englishwoman, Flora Stacey, typed a drawing of a butterfly.
At that stage most typewriter art works were produced by amateurs, but in the 1920s the typewriter was taken up by serious artists. The painter Josef Albers used it to teach aspects of the theory of form at the Bauhaus in Germany, and the Dutch painter-typographer H. N. Werkman was experimenting at Groningen. Werkman's 'typeprints' explore the abstract visual rhythms of the keyboard's signs and letters in a striking way.
Further experiments followed in the 1940's, and with the growth of the international concrete poetry movement in the late 1950's and early 1960's a new stimulus was given to typewriter art and a new element added to it: verbal meaning. Poems combining the visual and the verbal were composed on the typewriter in increasing numbers and many are included here.
Apart from concrete poetry, other recent art movements have been reproduced on the typewriter, including constructivist and systems art and op and gestural abstraction (the German Timm Ulrichs was typing optical effects in the early 1960s at the same time as Bridget Riley was painting hers in England).
Interestingly, many of the most striking examples of typewriter art are among the most recent - notably those of Steve McCaffery in Canada and Dom Sylvester Houedard and Tom Edmonds (who died tragically young in 1972) in England. This book includes 118 images by 65 practitioners from 18 countries, among them France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Swede, Japan and the United States. The first of its kind, it is an unusual though fitting celebration as the typewriter enters its second century.
Alan Riddell, himself a poet, has written an illuminating introduction, setting typewriter art into its historial perspective.
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