A Brief History of Pop-Up Books

RARE’s current exhibition, “Sjoerd Hofstra with Karen O'hearn: Books in Motion,” presents a wealth of the pair’s interactive and high-concept takes on the pop-up book. The complexity of the books themselves is a testament to the richness of a technique that is now primarily used for children’s books, but has enjoyed a varied history spanning religion and high-art.


Commonly conceived of as a visual treat for children, the pop-up book—originally known as a “movable book”—was actually first employed by Benedictine monk Matthew Paris circa 1250 to track holy days. (Paris used a “volvelle,” or pivoting wheel.) In circa 1305, poet and mystic Ramon Llull introduced volvelles to the West as a means of divining spiritual answers, in the fashion of a multi-layered Ouija board.

(left: A volvelle)

 


This technique was only applied to children’s books in the mid-18th century, when bookseller Robert Sayer created a “lift the flap” book for children about a comic ne’er-do-well named Harlequin in 1765.

(left: A Cherokee Chief in London, 1772)

 

 

 

 

The commercial explosion of children’s books came in 1929 with the first Daily Express Children’s Annual, published by S. Louis Giraud. Priced modestly, and produced inexpensively, Giraud pushed pop-ups—which he called “living models”—to a new and mass audience.

(left: Daily Express Children's Annual No. 2 , 1930)

 

 

The pleasantly deceptive simplicity of the pop-up book was appropriated in the later twentieth century for high-art by figures like Andy Warhol, whose Index Book featured tear-out inserts of a cardboard can of tomato paste (at left) and an inflatable balloon; one can see a similar sense of childish glee in the removable sticker on his famous design for the Velvet Underground’s debut album cover. Tony Award-winning production designer Peter Larkin has also intermittently released selections of a massive pop-up history of burlesque, twenty years in the making, called Panties Inferno. (The book remains unrealized, his vision perhaps being either too complex—or expensive—for publishers.)


Hofstra and O’hearn’s designs are of a different stripe, entirely. Like a Frank O’Hara poem come to life, they examine whimsical and odd negative spaces in city scenes, as well as enigmatic structures built upon familiar 2-D landscapes (at left, a spread from All Meadows).They probe the representation of public space, rearranging familiar scenes and urban locales with often beguiling results. The exhibit reveals a full history of the pair’s previous collaborative output, in addition to two new pop-ups created specifically for RARE and a series of nine framed, moveable wall pieces.

“Sjoerd Hofstra with Karen O'hearn: Books in Motion” is now on view at RARE through January 30, 2016.

Posted in Art, Design on January 21 2016

Opening Reception for “Sjoerd Hofstra and Karen O’hearn: Books in Motion”

A few photographs from the event...!

"Sjoerd Hofstra with Karen O'hearn: Books in Motion" is now on display through Saturday, January 30, 2016. For more information on the work and artists, please visit the exhibition page

Posted in Art, Design on January 15 2016

Sjoerd Hofstra with Karen O’hearn: Books in Motion

Now open through January 30, 2016, "Sjoerd Hofstra with Karen O'hearn: Books in Motion," presents the beautiful and ingenious pop-up books of Brooklyn-based artists, Sjoerd Hofstra and Karen O'hearn.

For more information, please visit the exhibition page

Posted in Art, Design on January 14 2016

Special Holiday Pop-up: Daniel Gibbings Jewelry

RARE is pleased to host a special holiday pop-up featuring the stunning hand-crafted jewelry of Daniel Gibbings, known for its sophistication, boldness, and authenticity. 

 

The Daniel Gibbings Jewelry pop-up will be on display at RARE through Friday, December 18, 2015. For more information about the show, click here

Posted in Art, Design on December 11 2015

Panel Discussion: The Artists and Writers of National Lampoon, Moderated by Steven Heller

On Wednesday, November 18th, artist Rick Meyerowitz was joined by two of his colleagues from National Lampoon—Tony Hendra and Peter Kleinman—for a discussion about the magazine's history, personalities, and lasting cultural impact. It was moderated by acclaimed art director, author, 
teacher, and design historian Steven Heller.

This event was held in conjunction with RARE's current exhibition, "Rick Meyerowitz's National Lampoon." For more information about the work on display, please visit the exhibition page

Posted in Art, Design on November 21 2015

Rick Meyerowitz’s National Lampoon Opening Reception

Posted in Art, Design on October 30 2015

Rick Meyerowitz’s National Lampoon

Installation shots from our current exhibition, on display through December 5th, 2015. For more information about the show and related events, visit the exhibition page

Posted in Art, Design on October 30 2015

Opening Reception for “No gate, no lock, 
no bolt”: The Dobkin Family Collection of Feminist History

A few pictures from last night's reception...!

 

“No gate, no lock, 
no bolt”: The Dobkin Family Collection of Feminist History is now open through Saturday, October 24, 2015. For more information, visit the exhibition page

Posted in Art, Design, Literature on October 15 2015

“No gate, no lock, 
no bolt”: The Dobkin Family Collection of Feminist History

 

Posted in Art, Design, Literature on October 14 2015

The Story Behind the Ramones Album Covers

The cover image of the first Ramones album (1976)—which the record company paid only $125 for—was shot by Punk magazine’s Roberta Bayley, and features the four band members leaning against a brick wall in New York City, dressed in t-shirts, sneakers, ripped jeans, and leather jackets. When Ramones was released, the cover made a huge visual impression in stores, even though actual record sales lagged (it would take an additional 35 years for the album to go gold). Danny Fields, the Ramones’ manager, has stated that Bayley’s image “was perfect,” and it served to both establish the Ramones culturally and create what would become the “punk look.” It is now considered one of the most important and definitive music images of the decade.
 

Leave Home (1977) was the Ramones’ second album, and in a misguided attempt to “upscale” the band, the record company took over the design of the album and chose a well-known fashion photographer shoot the cover. Printed in full color and utilizing the skewed perspectives and modern aesthetic of high-end editorial work, the resulting image was the antithesis of the gritty, downtown urban persona the band had previously embodied. Fields has referred to this cover as both a “disaster” and a marketing “nightmare.”
 

 

For Rocket to Russia, the band’s third album (1977), Fields was determined to recapture the visual identity Bayley had established so memorably on Ramones. The original location of the first shoot was no longer available, so Fields found an alley with a similar appearance behind CBGBs and photographed the band himself, positioning the members to not so much replicate Bayley’s iconic prototype as pay a respectful homage to it and channel its unorthodox mood and power. However, Fields also wanted to clearly differentiate Rocket to Russia from the purely black-and-white look of the first album, so for the cover type he requested a strong hot pink color—a deliberately not-ordinary hue—that was only possible with a fifth plate. Initially, the record company resisted the extra expense, but after continuous prodding from Fields, they finally agreed to the color, which would go on to become “punk pink,” the emblematic color standard of the entire punk movement.

Posted in Art, Design, Photography on September 29 2015

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