DETOUR: THE BUTTERFIELD CATALOG
Good morning. I thought I’d show you some of the work that makes it so I occasionally go off the Monster radar. The last few months were consumed almost entirely with this beast:
This is the catalog for the Deborah Butterfield show at L.A. Louver in Venice, CA. You may remember them from such previous projects as the Rogue Wave catalog and the David Hockney catalog. This one was our most ambitious project yet: 280 pages culled from literally thousands of behind-the-scenes photos, a retrospective of Deborah’s past work with the gallery, an extensive and fascinating interview between Deborah and Lawrence Weschler, and photos of the current show by Robert Wedemeyer, of course. Kimberly Davis wrote the introduction, and Lisa Jann’s credit is misspelled “Edited by” when it should actually have been “Edited, wrangled, kept alive and breathing in the face of adversity, and made altogether possible by.”
The sculptures themselves are fascinating, because they look like wood, but aren’t. Each horse is originally composed from branches Deborah finds in Montana and Hawaii. Once she’s happy with the piece, it’s photographed extensively before all pieces are numbered and sent to a foundry in Walla Walla. There each branch is cast in bronze in a waste mold, meaning the original branch is destroyed in the process. The bronze branches are then reassembled, welded, and finally painted and varnished to look like the original wood. In other words, enormous effort goes into a deceptively simple result, the true complexity of which is perceptible only to the initiated few. (You can see why I’d like it.)
Because of this process, these horses look like they’d weigh as much as a stack of wood, when they really weigh tons. The book mirrors this. It’s a petite volume at just 5.5 x 7 inches, but clocks in at a surprising 1lb.6oz. And by “surprising” I mean you pick it up and you say “Whoa! That’s heavier than I thought.”
The way the catalog is laid out, each new scuplture is introduced with a title page, then shown in extreme close-up, revealed in a medium view, and finally in its entirety on the fourth spread:
The book then moves to the interview section, which has pretty little pull quotes that color coordinate with the images on each spread. I almost ditched the pull quotes, because we were getting close to the deadline and I was exhausted. But then I gave a sanctimonious lecture to a student about the need to always go the extra mile on the typography. At that point I started getting pretty red in the face and realized that I had to stay up another night and take care of typographic business.
Then we get a few nice shots from around Deborah’s workshops in Montana and Hawaii:
Lastly, there is a retrospective of work Deborah has done with L.A. Louver over the past ten years:
Oh, and then there’s an 18-page biography of Deborah’s shows since 1972. Lots of nice fiddly typesetting bits for those of you who like that sort of thing. Here’s a closeup:
And how else could you end a book like this than by letting it ride into the sunset? (No, I’m not above that sort of humor — the imperceptible-to-anyone-but-me kind.)
So you can see how this is the kind of job that takes a fair amount of time to design. And let’s not even talk about the printing. Except to say that it took five days and nights, because I put in oodles of complex crossovers that make printers go crazy, and make it so I get to sleep on press for a week. But, as per usual, my friends at Typecraft worked miracles.
So there. I thought I’d show you. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Hey, by the way, I hope you know that 344 LOVES YOU