As I have always gravitated toward literature and books, it has been very tempting to use this source for collage material. But doing this, I ran into a road block: It was just hard to butcher books for my art projects. I guess the stigma of book burnings and banning of literature runs deep in our consciousness, and the destruction of books is hard, even with the best intentions. But as I created more and more book designs myself, I thought I earned the right to tear a few up as well. So now, even though it still gives me the chills to rip thriough the spine of a beautiful old volume, it is also a very satisfying process to use the precious parts and give the book a whole new identity.
I'm showing 28 collages, and the show is up till April 2nd, 2018.
Read Print Magazine's blogpost about the collages (by Steven Heller) here.
This book made a huge impression on me, when I read it as a teenager. So I was very happy when Danish publishing house Gyldendal asked me to make a new cover for the classic. As chance would have it, I had just started working with vintage photos and plant parts, when I got the assignment. The combination of the Victorian gentleman and the grotesque shape of the lotus flower pod seemed to illustrate the book's theme of beauty vs. ugliness and youth vs. old age well.
Shown here is the cover and the original assemblage plus some other pieces in my series, "Flower People". Some of the art pieces are available at Marie Baldwin Gallery
Here is a story about "The Flower People" written by Steven Heller in Print Magazine.
This book by Norwegian author Erik Fosnes Hansen follows the teenager Sedd as he navigates through life in his grandparents' mountain hotel. The title refers to a lobster in the hotel restaurant's seafood tank, who survives as he can't be served due to his missing right claw.
Thanks to Lobsterdamus for letting me photograph their majestic animals for the cover. Sad to say, the model didn't survive long after the photoshoot.
I was very excited when my old classmate from SVA, Fabrizio LaRocca, asked me to illustrate this cocktail book by Erica Duecy.
Creating the collages from old liquor labels and other period scraps was a lot of fun, and on top of that I got to photograph (and taste) all the 40 cocktails.
The book is now out of print, but I still have a bunch, should anyone be interested...
Book design by Chie Ushio.
Here is a story by Steven Heller in Print Magazine about these collages.
Read about my process in Steven Heller's Book "Graphic Style Map", page 56.
When I was asked to do the jackets for Primo Levi's memoirs from Auschwitz, "If This Is a Man" and "The Truce", I wanted to give the feeling of detention, so the covers were split up in cells separated by heavy black walls. Maps, images and floor plans from the camps along with photos from my archives are used to convey the desolation of the inmates.
On the back covers, I used the barcodes in extreme enlargement to symbolize the bars of the prisons.
"The Angel Esmeralda" is the title story of Don DeLillo's first collection of short stories. The story takes place in the 1990's in New York. Esmeralda is a 12 year old girl living on the Bronx's killing streets, and after her death, neighbors claim to see her face in an orange juice advertising billboard, considering it a miracle.
I chose to create this totem portrait of Esmeralda out of debris and paint-splatter to resemble a semi-religious inner-city memorial.
This Roth novel follows Coleman Silk, the dean of a New England university. As a light-skinned black man he has not revealed his African-American background to his family or his work place. This comes back to haunt him when he is accused of racism by 2 black students.
Silk's love interest in the book is Faunia Farley, a woman he believes is illiterate and who works at a dairy farm, milking the cows. I chose to create the picture of the milk bottle Silk picks up from the farm weekly (to get close to Faunia) for the cover, because it gave me a not too literal opportunity to illustrate the black/white theme in the story, but also because the image somehow associates with the title on an unconscious level.
However, the editor of the book chose the second cover with the picture of the crows. This photo (which I took on a trip to Japan) refers to a crow, Prince, which Faunia kept as a pet. She was fascinated with his blackness and his ostracization from his peers.
This cover was created for the Danish imprint Gyldendal.
This was one of the first Paul Auster jackets I did (for Danish publisher Per Kofod), and it gave me the chance to go visit Paul in his Brooklyn studio. The book describes Auster's relationship with his father, and I took the opportunity to make a modern version of the old trick photo of Auster Sr. that had been chosen for the cover.
I used the leftover contact sheets (remember those?) to make the random mosaic of Paul for myself. I did end up using it on the back though.
The photos of Auster smoking and reading his hand-written manuscript are from the same day.
This is one of the books where the title gave me the whole cover concept. I had long been fascinated by the "Tramp Art" tradition of making boxes and frames out of burnt matches, so I designed this background for the title.
My intern at the time, Dushan Milic, suffered greatly from the sulphur fumes of the matches, but he survived to become a prolific illustrator in his own right.
When I was working with antique cabinet cards for my Flower People series, I often found the typography below the photos and the graphics on the back to be just as intriguing as the portraits. There was such a rich material of artful illustration, script logos, dingbats and swishes that I couldn't resist taking them apart just to put them back together in different colors, sizes and orientations.
Here are 4 examples of these excercises and some shots of the original material.
After making the Dorian Gray cover, I started looking at my Flower People pieces from a more literary angle, and I realized that several of them would work as covers for some of my favorite books.
None of the ones shown here have been published, but I'd be happy to work with any publisher that might be interested.
Showing a few more from the series at the bottom.
Some of the pieces are for sale at Marie Baldwin Gallery
Here is a cover for a collection of quotes by Danish writer Ann Mariager. All the quotes are from women, and the title quote, “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History,” is by the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
This assignment gave me an opportunity to use a couple of images from my collection of vintage photos. These are amateur photographs that I have found at flea markets, in vintage stores etc. I have been searching for images for years, and now have a series of exceptional photographs — I call them “The Lost and Found Pictures.” I’m always looking for ways to share these pictures, and I have used them quite a number of times for my book jackets. Sometimes I combine images in photo-collages, and sometimes, like on Ann’s book, I use them in their original form.
When I got the title of this book I immediately thought of these two photos; on the cover, the timid lady on the springboard, contrasted by the jubilant girl doing a back flip on the reverse.
There are still countless images in my boxes waiting to be let out for their moment in the limelight. Below you can see a few of them.
Mr. Bones is the dog who tells this story, and Mr. Christmas (who unfortunately won't survive chapter 2) is his human companion. I chose to illustrate the scene where Mr. Bones bids Christmas farewell on a Baltimore sidewalk.
The photo I used is of a dog I passed every day on my way to my Lower East Side studio. I had 3 pictures of him, and I used them all for this jacket. I like the coincidence that the store across the street is actually a funeral parlor.
When I got the title for this collection of essays, I immediately thought of an old El Amor cigar box I had in my studio. The angel and the elf engaged in a kiss was for me a very pure depiction of love. To take the edge off the romanticism, I placed the image on top of an Ernst Haeckel siphonophorae; an organism that can be as deadly as it is beautiful.
Mary Niall Mitchell's book examines the destinies of the first generation of freed slaves in the mid-1800s and the resistance to the abolition of slavery in the South.
I was blown away by the beauty of the photographic research material and decided to keep the notes scribbled over this portrait of Isaac and Rosa, rather than trying to clean it up.
When my good friend, the jazz bassist Chris Minh Doky, asked me to help him make a book of his favorite recipes from his travels all over the world, I didn't hesitate a second to accept. I knew this was going to be good: Minh would have to cook all the dishes in my studio, and I would get to eat the food after photographing it. And I could use a lot of photos from my archives as well.
With inspiration from the Blue Note school of album design of course the book would have to be square. For the cover I had fun transforming Man Ray's iconic "Le Violin d'Ingres" into an edible double bass.
Did I mention Minh is a great cook? I'm still using the cook book (unfortunately out-of-print) to this day. Here's one of my favorite recipes from the book:
Paella and its history remind me so much of jazz. There are many types, and the ingredients are limited only by your imagination. But there's never any doubt as to what it is. My recipe is based on a long, late, and cordial discussion at a hotel in Valencia during the city's fantastic jazz festival. I returned to my hotel hungry as a bear at five a.m. one morning, and asked the night porter what he recommended from the room service menu. He stared at me and, with an unforgettable assurance, answered, “Paella.” Before long we were deep into a conversation about food, featuring paella. A bottle of wine showed up, and my paella was redirected to the reception desk, where the waiter joined the discussion. They told me of paella's exciting history, which—as far as I remember—began with the Arab occupation of Spain in the eighth century (among other thing they brought to Europe rice and, luckily, the guitar.) It was first in the 13th century, when King James I of Aragon limited the growing of rice to the Valencia area, that the word paella appeared (it originates from the Latin patella, which means “round, deep pan”.) Local farmers mixed rice with whatever was on hand: everything good from the Mediterranean and the fertile land that produced olive oil, vegetables, and meat.
400 grams risotto rice (paella or arborio)
7 dl chicken stock
1½ dl white wine
1 level tsp saffron
400 grams fresh live mussels (rinse and scrub; throw out the open ones)
1 chicken breast cut in small chunks
4 fresh scampi (or crabs)
8 large, fresh prawns, without heads, deshelled to the tail
1 red pepper, diced
2 ripe avocados, diced
1 small chopped onion
1 chopped clove garlic
400 grams green beans
4 tbs olive oil
In a broad, deep pan, sauté over medium heat onion, garlic, and red pepper in olive oil.
Add the chunks of chicken and brown them lightly. Add the rice and stir.
Add white wine and saffron. Stir until the wine is absorbed. Reduce the heat.
Gradually add the stock while stirring. The rice must absorb the stock before anything else is added, except for a sprinkle of salt.
When app. 2 dl of stock is left, add the scallops, shrimp, and prawns, together with the rest of the stock. Stir together well. Before the last of the stock is absorbed, add the green beans and tomatoes.
Simmer over low heat until the rice is cooked and the mussels have opened. If the rice is too dry, add a small amount of water and wine.
Drink: Verdejo-white wine from Rueda (Spain)
Music: Chris Minh Doky: Listen Up! (the numbers Doky Folky and Sacre Monte are strongly influenced by Spain)
Translation from Danish: Mark Kline
"A Family's Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving" is the sub-title of this memoir by John Fante's son, Dan.
I have always been a big fan of John Fante's novels, and this book was a great source of background information—especially fascinating since I moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago.
Besides pictures from the Fante family album I used photos from my own archives for this collage.
This collection of Conan Doyle's "Greatest Hits" gave me a chance to work with my friend, the painter and illustrator, Riccardo Vecchio. I always loved his portraits (which are often seen i The New Yorker,) and he didn't disappoint with this iconic depiction of the great detective.
In a small village in Northern Sweden a man is found killed with a fishing spear. The story turns out to be more than a crime mystery, as the reader learns about the unique culture of this remote tundra.
The title compelled me to wrap a fish carcass around the jacket. I got the salmon in Chinatown, and my hard-working intern at the time, Mine Neumann, picked the bones clean. The studio smelled fishy for weeks.
We put the fish on a background from an old wall paper catalog and had a bit of fun with the bar-code.
It was a lot of fun to make these graphics for Matt Dorado and his company, Drunken Devil. Wicked!
Put a silver spatula in your mouth and you'll swim like a fish in the water, blow the golden whistle and you'll travel through time. Impossible? Not in Ib Michael's fantastic love story about Ronnie and Christina.
Following the description in the book, I created the two tools from sculptor's wire and made them the centerpiece on this cover. Unfortunately the replicas didn't work as described in the book. On the bright side; I'm still here...
Few writers have described New York's underbelly as vividly as Colin Harrison in his series of crime novels.
These covers gave me a chance to use some of the pictures I took throughout the years I lived in New York. Brooklyn Blues is a streetscape in DUMBO 1984 and Afterburn (Efterspil) is a multiple exposure circa 2010.
A movie director, an opera singer, a Pakistani murderer and a wolf in Denmark—that's just a few of the actors in this improbable tale from first-time novelist Andres Rønnow Klarlund. I found the wolf in The Museum of Natural History on New York's Upper West Side.