The Celestial Handbook: Lutz Bacher

Curator: Hilary Greenbaum
date: April 2, 2012
Categories: Illustration
Tags: art, language, space
Lutz Bacher, The Celestial Handbook, framed offset book page, 2011

Lutz Bacher’s series of eighty-five prints entitled The Celestial Handbook, now on view at the Whitney Biennial, is obviously not a graphic design project. But the set of works, which are nothing more than framed pages from a forty-six-year-old, self-published book about astronomy, poignantly address the gap that sometimes occurs between the visual and verbal articulations of an idea—a gap that has both inspired and plagued the field of graphic design.

According to a transcription of the audio guide regarding the project, “In her work, Bacher simply frames and re-presents the pages of Burnham’s book. In doing so she literally spaces them out, making them objects of independent focus. One thing that comes forward as a result is the relationship between the images and Burnham’s captions. Sometimes these are poetic, sometimes they’re minimally factual. Either way, they rarely seem to describe their subjects adequately. In Bacher’s staging of the original book, that failure becomes a point of interest. It suggests that the work’s real subject may be the cosmic chaos that exceeds the reach of language.”

The form of this project is deceptively simple, yet it addresses the complex notions of representation, language, art and space—all through re-purposing the form of a found object. Very impressive.
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