Four Corners Familiars
Our series Four Corners Familiars features artists’ responses to classic novels and short stories. They provide a fresh look at the tradition of the illustrated novel, with each artist choosing a text to be reprinted in full alongside their newly created work.
Each book is different in style and format, according to the needs of the artwork and the text. Seven titles have now been completed, with more being prepared. The Familiars series was nominated for the Brit Insurance Design Awards 2011. The series designer is John Morgan.
1 The Picture of Dorian Gray
Words by Oscar Wilde, art by Gareth Jones
Words by Bram Stoker, art by James Pyman
3 Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor
Words by Franz Kafka, art by David Musgrave
4 Nau Sea Sea Sick
Sea stories with images by Kay Rosen
5 A Stick Of Green Candy
Stories by Jane Bowles & Denton Welch, art by Colter Jacobsen
6 Vanity Fair
By William Makepeace Thackeray, images by Donald Urquhart
7 The Prisoner of Zenda
By Anthony Hope, illustrated by Mireille Fauchon
8 Madame Bovary
By Gustave Flaubert, art by Marc Camille Chaimowicz
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On the 19 November, we'll be publishing our new book, Pirate Nightmare Vice Explosion, which excerpts pages from mens magazines of the 1950s and 60s to produce a compendium of the psyche of the American male. Or at least one American male: all the pages are from an anonymous collection, found by comic artist Michael Kupperman, who explains the project in the original introduction to the book. (We're delighted to say that the final book contains an introduction to the book drawn by Michael as a comic strip, but the text below was too good to waste!)
The Whatshisname Collection
Sometimes I buy old magazines. As an artist I'm inspired by the way the magazines look; as a person I'm impressed by how different attitudes were. The further back you go, the better the design and the stranger the behavior.
In the late 1990s I would go to A&S, which was a real old-timey used magazine store located on a sunless block of New York City facing the side of the Port Authority bus station, around the corner from the unhealthy-looking Chinese restaurant with a sign that read “DINERSTY”. Everything in the store felt as if it had a thin layer of bus-related grime. There were racks of magazines stretching to the back, including, of course, a sizable girlie magazine section, for those looking to save a few dollars by buying previously owned pornography. I mostly went to get copies of magazines I had been in, such as The New Yorker or Fortune, so I would have extra tear sheets to give art directors.
One week I went in and there was a row of cardboard boxes full of odd-looking magazines along the aisle. The magazines were lumpy and misshapen and slightly grubby. A quick examination showed that they were decades-old men's magazines that someone had been tampering with, the spines crudely stapled around pages of varying size, the covers marked with dark scrawls. They'd come into the store along with some other, more intact periodicals and the store owner was disposed to let them go cheap because of their condition.
Where did they come from? I think Connecticut was mentioned, but I'm not completely sure (they do feel as if they'd been stored in a garage). They all had the owner's name stamped on them, but, hilariously, the stamp is slightly illegible, so that I never know if the name is C. Buechtel, C. Brockel, C. Buschol, or some other variant. This man – I'm assuming it was a man – spent years acquiring lurid men's magazines, with titles like SIR!, REAL ACTION, and MAN'S THRILLS, and taking them apart, using the contents to form his own hybrid magazines with the pages from several reassembled inside the cover of one. With a grease pencil he'd cross out the headlines on the covers that didn't apply anymore, and stamp his name on the results, along with a number. Why was he doing this? It's not clear. It might have been a need to make the magazines seem like a serious collection, his re-editing emphasizing his sober interest in subjects such as modern fiction and wife-swapping. Maybe this was one way he justified collecting these lurid periodicals, to himself or a spouse. Or maybe it was a version of the impulse that drives many artists (and three-year-olds): a need to remake and impose personal order that comes from some very deep place.
These magazines are definitely a post World War II phenomenon; many of the readers were probably ex-servicemen who felt they'd missed out on some poorly defined "real action." They start in the late Forties, and continue through to the late Sixties, a point at which the romanticization of war was falling out of favor with the general public, and fully clothed pinups weren't enough to satisfy an audience which was developing a taste for harder stuff. The general tone is sensation-crazed, painting a murky, monochromatic world where mysterious, energetic sin is always happening behind closed doors. Pictures of couples grappling feature slanted bars covering their eyes, the same shots re-appearing in various stories: WEIRD NEW VICE-SQUAD HEADACHE: BORED WIVES WHO HUSTLE IN SELF-SERVICE LAUNDRIES. LUST ROUND-UP OF SUBURBIA'S SIN-WIVES. THE "NO-LIMIT" NUDE PHOTOGRAPHY CLUBS. RAW, ROUGH, READY… THAT'S THE CATSKILLS. ELKO: HOME OF RELAXED VICE. BOSTON: CITY OF BANNED BOOKS AND OPEN SIN. THEY TOOK MY MANHOOD. ANGELS OF MERCY FOR THE BEASTS OF BUSHIDO. HE WAS FINGERED FOR MEMBERSHIP IN THE DEPRAVED FRAT HOUSE OF DEATH. LUST SLAVES OF THE SHE WOLVES.
I was instantly captivated by this bizarre goldmine and took most of the restructured collection; more than three hundred magazines, filling several boxes. Back at my apartment I took them apart again, putting the most interesting pages and all of the covers in clear plastic-sleeved binders, so I could have them available for study and easy reference. In a way I was continuing the cycle that the original owner had started; but I have got a lot of use out of them. I've mined them for visual reference, imitated the ads, parodied the language, been inspired by the contradictions; they've become part of my vocabulary as an artist. The remaking that the original owner subjected them to gave me license to become more intimate and casual with them than I would've otherwise felt comfortable with. Which, of course, eventually resulted in this book.
Michael Kupperman is an American comic artist and the author of Tales Designed To Thrizzle, Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret and Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s and Saturday Night Live. If you don't have any of his books, we highly recommend getting hold of an issue (or volume) of Tales Designed To Thrizzle as soon as possible.
Pirate Nightmare Vice Explosion will be available in the UK from 18 November. If you feel like reserving a copy, you can pre-order it at Amazon UK and The Book Depository. The North American publication date will be announced shortly.
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We're pleased to announce the first of our three books for this Autumn - The Graphic World Of Paul Peter Piech, by Zoe Whitley. This will be the first book on this artist whose work we adore, and we're very grateful to Piech's family, to Zoe Whitley, to the V&A and to the University of Reading, who all have worked hard to help make this book possible. A very special thanks goes to the V&A for access to their amazing archive of Piech works and for photographing his prints so beautifully.
Four Corners Books, in association with V&A Publishing, London:
The Graphic World of Paul Peter Piech
Born in New York, Paul Peter Piech (1920-1996) worked for most of his life as a printmaker in the UK, producing prints, posters and books from his home in the London commuter belt and, later, Wales. Piech’s works, sometimes joyful, sometimes angry, always inventive, tackle the political concerns of the late 20th century, combining the artist’s advertising expertise with his forthright personal beliefs. The Graphic World Of Paul Peter Piech reproduces over 120 prints drawn from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the University of Reading.
We're aiming to have the book out for 7 October, and it will be a lovely hardback volume designed by Familiars designer-in-chief John Morgan. Later this summer, we'll post information about this book, as well as for our other Autumn titles, including Pirate Nightmare Vice Explosion (we'll have to explain what on earth that is in due course) and the latest in our series of Four Corners Familiars.
Now in shops is book number 8 in our Familiars series: Madame Bovary. Flaubert’s great novel is lavishly illustrated with over 250 images created for this volume by Marc Camille Chaimowicz. As with all books in the series, the text of the novel is included complete, set in a new typeface, specially comissioned for this edition, based on fonts in use in France in the 1800s.
The book is available in a number of fine establishments, including (in London) Waterstones Piccadilly, Artwords, the ICA, Claire de Rouen and Hatchards.
Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s recent exhibitions include Jean Genet... The Courtesy Of Objects, at NUCA (Norwich), Nottingham Contemporary and Focal Point Gallery (Southend). He lives and works in London and Burgundy.
Paperback, £20. 536 pages. 210 x 270mm.
Join us to celebrate the publication of our latest book!
In 2005, Alyse Emdur unearthed a photograph of herself posing in front of a tropical beach scene while visiting her older brother in prison. Since discovering this first portrait in her own family album, she invited hundreds of prisoners to send her photographs for inclusion in this collection. Prison Landscapes is a collection of over 100 photographs of prison inmates representing themselves in front of visiting room backdrops. Such backdrops, often painted by talented inmates, are used within the prisons as portrait studios. As inmates and their visitors pose for photos in front of these idealized landscapes they pretend, for a brief moment, that they are somewhere else.
The launch takes place at Marcus Campbell Art Books (near Tate Modern) on Tuesday 23 October, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
We are delighted that we will be publishers-in-residence at Marcus Campbell Art Books in London this autumn. Our two-month residency begins with a talk by John Morgan, who is the series designer of our Familiars series.
This event is now fully booked.
We will be announcing further events over the course of our residency.
We will be at the London Art Book Fair from 21-23 September, at the Whitechapel Gallery. The fair offers the chance to meet artists, authors and receive special discounts on books from around the world. Artists’ books, catalogues, rare publications and zines from over 75 international exhibitors will be on sale.
The fair is open from 11am to 6pm, 21 to 23 September. Admission is free. For more information visit thelondonartbookfair.com
Since its formation in 1987, Critical Art Ensemble has set out to explore the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. The award-winning group has exhibited and performed in a variety of venues internationally, from the street to the museum to the internet. Disturbances is the first book to assess the group’s 25-year history, examining the environmental, political and bio-technological themes of their various initiatives. Each project is presented by the group itself, from Flesh Machine (1997–1998), in which they exposed the role of eugenics in the fertility market, to the multimedia Marching Plague (2005–2007), which revealed the farcical failures of governmental germ warfare programs. The book, which features an introduction by Brian Holmes, will be published in the UK and in North America this autumn.
Our next book will be Prison Landscapes, by Alyse Emdur.
In 2005, Alyse Emdur unearthed a photograph of herself posing in front of a tropical beach scene while visiting her older brother in prison. Since discovering this first portrait in her own family album, she invited hundreds of prisoners to send her photographs for inclusion in this collection. Prison Landscapes is a collection of over 100 photographs of prison inmates representing themselves in front of visiting room backdrops. Such backdrops, often painted by talented inmates, are used within the prisons as portrait studios. As inmates and their visitors pose for photos in front of these idealized landscapes they pretend, for a brief moment, that they are someplace else.
Prison Landscapes explores this little known and largely physically inaccessible genre of painting and portraiture seen only by inmates, visitors, and prison employees. Created specifically for escape and self-representation, the idealized paintings of tropical beaches, fantastical waterfalls, mountain vistas, and cityscapes invite sitters to perform fantasies of freedom.
To be published in the UK on 29th October.
Four Corners Books
56 Artillery Lane
London E1 7LS
+44 (0)20 7247 8948
Four Corners Books was established in 2004. We are always keen to hear from readers, booksellers and potential collaborators, and while we are only able to publish a small number of books each year, we endeavour to offer advice and support to those who contact us with book proposals.
Richard Embray & Elinor Jansz
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