About the Contributors #15

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Over the years John Wood created many unexpected pairings. The resulting titles were interesting new interpretations of contemporary and classic text and photography.

Examples include Flor Garduno illustrating The Sonnets of Shakespeare, Brigitte Carnochan’s flowers and nudes with Raul Peschiera’s The Shining Path, and Imogen Cunningham paired with William Morris.


John Wood, from The Sonnets of Shakespeare

…The reason the sonnets were immediately seen as applicable to a women is because of their universality. They are about Love and its power. An artist’s intention is historically interesting to note, but it is by no means the sole meaning of a work of art. Art always speaks to us in ways its creators did not envision; that is its power; that is why it lasts. And it is only in the context of the narrative of the entire sequence that particular poems, with few exceptions, can be identified as having been written for the young man. No one reads sonnet sequences for their plots, since lyric poems do not really tell stories, and few people read them from start to finish. One picks and chooses and reads randomly for pleasure. And so these universal poems are finally monuments to the universal power of love and the finest such monuments in the English language.

I spoke of Shakespeare as a great psychologist, but so is Flor Garduno. She understands woman more universally, it appears to me, than any other visual artist. She sees woman in all her dimensions-as Siren, Eve, Medusa,Venus-sees her in the sweep of all her varied powers and attractions. Her work is finally a deeply moving tribute to woman, to all women, because, as I suggested earlier, her Venus is Everywoman.

Shakespeare’s genius, like Garduno’s, comes from his deep understanding of human nature. In play after play we see ourselves strutting about in all the cruelty, jealousy, meanness, bad temper, good humor, compassion, honor, and love we are capable of. He shows us our burden and our glory…


John Wood, from The Shining Path  

…That is Carnochan’s shining path-beauty in perfect measure. But that is not The Shining Path of Raul Peschiera’s brilliant poem that accompanies these photographs. The shining path he refers to is Sendero Luminoso, a violent Peruvian revolutionary movement of the 1980’s that disrupted the country’s economy and caused perhaps as many as 25,000 deaths before its leader was captured in 1992.

Carnochan photographs and Peschiera poetry might then seem not merely a strange marriage but an impossible yoking of two dissimilar bodies of work having nothing in common. But a perusal of Peschiera’s poem makes it clear that his shining path and Carnochan’s are the same. He writes of the same intoxication with sensuality and beauty that Carnochan photographs. The central figure of his poem is ostensibly Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Sendero Luminoso, and the poem narrates several of Sendero Luminoso’s most violent acts, but The Shining Path is actually a love poem with both Guzmán’s wife, Augusta, and Peru at its center. In the eye of its turbulent violence slumber luxury, calm, and pleasure. And Peschiera invites us into the dream.


John Wood, from Symbolist

What influence, one might wonder, could William Morris, poet, Utopian Socialist, revolutionary, English Arts and Crafts movement leader, textile and furniture designer, Pre-Raphaelite, a founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and creator of the Kelmscott Press, have had on the work of the great Modernist American photographer Imogen Cunningham? Hardly any, one might assume. Yet she claimed him as an influence, and his influence was intellectual, social, and visual.

Cunningham, a radical herself, grew up in a radical and progressive household, and so her sensibilities were ripe for the influence of William Morris. Her father was “a humanist” she said. “There’s no question about that. And his…life was much motivated by theosophical beliefs. He never drove it into anybody, or tried to tell people what they ought to think,….”

#7/16: An International Year

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.


Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil)

John Wood suggested to Eikoh Hosoe that we pair his work with the poet, Charles Baudelaire, and Eikoh told John that Baudelaire was his favorite poet. They each initially selected 11 poems–9 of them matched! Eikoh, John, and I spent a full day, as John Stevenson hosted us at his then Platinum Gallery in Chelsea, for the signing ritual of the platinum prints and the colophon pages. Eikoh was methodical in signing all of his prints. He would sign for an hour and then close his eyes for 15 minutes or so. It was a real dance and an honor to watch. I admire him and his demeanor, which is not unlike what I would expect if I were to meet the Buddha. In fact, I believe I did.


The Sonnets of Shakespeare

Flor Garduño does not speak English. I do not speak Spanish. So working with each other was a new challenge, even though we had a translator. This edition was three years in the making and contains many of Flor’s greatest images.


Crowd and Shadows of the Dream

This set of books further challenged our standards of production. After printing all of the books letterpress with metal type and spending three days with Misha Gordin at the Hotel Northampton signing the mounts for the silver prints he made, the binder contacted us with a concern about very faint yellow fibers in the European made 100% cotton paper noticeable only if held up to the sunlight. While it seemed insignificant at the time, we had no way of knowing if whatever this was could migrate further. After meeting with a representative from the paper mill and bringing our own chemist in, and then months of further deliberation, we realized that we could not determine whether it was a problem or not. So, I decided that we had no choice but to start over again. And, even though it cost us tens of thousands of dollars, we have been able to sleep at night ever since.  


The Shining Path

John Wood’s pairing of Brigitte Carnochan and Raúl Peschiera embellished our diverse offerings. Brigitte Carnochan’s personally printed silver gelatin prints and Raúl Peschiera’s epic poem of love, revolution, and violence in recent Peruvian history blends the life and loves of failed revolutionary Abimael Guzmán, the founder of Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path. Peschiera depicts him as both the passionate revolutionary and the passionate lover. Carnochan, one of the greatest photographers of both flowers and women, takes on beauty as her subject and theme. The result is a book of intense beauty–one that interweaves the floral and the feminine within the context of love and political passion. The book comes with one of Carnochan’s original, classic hand-colored prints.

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