Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Pop-up shop (2): Ken Garland

A while ago, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on an autumn Thursday, Ken Garland gathered leaves from the street outside his London terraced house. Then he photographed them. The result was a book – a book of leaves.

This was one of the first of the (to date) nine books in the ‘Close Look At’ series published by Ken under the imprint Pudkin Books. Other titles focus on fire hydrants; Bangladeshi rickshas; Mexican windows; pebbles; Brighton street graphics (graffiti, shop fascias); landscape sequences; etc. A part of the wonder of these books is their modesty – that though the photographs might have been published large format, glossy, at a price to match, they are not. They are small (105 x 150 mm), and they cost the same as a text-only novel or poetry book.

A selection of these books will be among the wares for sale at the CBe/Eyewear Pop-up Shop (201 Portobello road, London W11, 1st–7th July, 10 a.m. till late). And on the walls – (how can you have a bookshop without wall-to-wall shelving? Come and see; you can even turn this to advantage) – there’ll be around 30 of Ken’s photographs, available for order as unframed prints (approx. 290 x 390 mm).

Ken Garland, now in his eighties, worked as art editor of Design magazine from 1956 to 1962, when he formed his own design studio. ‘Whether producing posters for CND marches or shaping the face of the Labour Party in more leftist times, designing the identity of Galt Toys and creating sleeves for RCA Records, Ken and his studio consistently pushed the boundaries of graphic design and united the practice with ethical values at the same time’ (James Cartwright). His 1960s ‘First Things First’ manifesto (‘We have reached a saturation point at which the high pitched scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise. We think that there are other things more worth using our skill and experience on …’) was updated in 2000 and signed by 33 designers from around the world. He still teaches; this year alone he has lectured in Berlin, Australia, Mexico …

From the fly-leaf of a monograph on his work published last year, KG in interview: ‘I’ve always thought it important to be able to say to someone: “You don’t need this – you can do without this symbol or you can do without that sign.” I think graphic design will only come of age when it can take on these sorts of questions, and sometimes answer them by saying, what you need here isn’t graphic design, it’s whatever else. Or maybe nothing.’

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