l'architetto e suoi libri
Curated by Catherine De Smet.
We know Le Corbusier the architect, urban planner and entrepreneur, and Le Corbusier the advertising man, theoretician, writer and photographer; in short the artist, at once designer, painter and sculptor. There is another side to his activities, however, which is none of these varied activities but which is linked in some way to each of them, something that Le Corbusier gave himself untiringly to, namely producing books, and it is this that the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art is dedicating an exhibition to today as it has been the subject of research carried out by Catherine de Smet, the curator of the event, which appears in the monograph accompanying the exhibition, Le Corbusier, the architect and his books, published by Lars Müller.
This exhibition therefore is about Le Corbusier the man of books, author of more than 35 works published between 1912 and 1960. In his case, book production is to be taken in its broadest sense; he saw his books as both an intellectual and material exercise and loved looking after the overall development: the publishing project - format, page layout, choice of paper and typeset - the preface to the notes, the appendices and the cover.
Indeed, on Vers une architecture (1923) Le Corbusier wrote: This book draws its expressive strength from new means; its magnificent illustrations are a discourse of great strength parallel to the words. The explicit and revelatory idiom of illustration in this new concept of the book enables the author to avoid ineffective description; the facts leap out at the reader through the force of images.
The books of Le Corbusier are at once a mirror, exegesis and workshop of his architectural and artistic work, and by perusing these volumes with their highly diversified but always richly illustrated format and content, the visitor is offered a new perception of last century through the eyes of one of its protagonists.
Tapestries, drawings, paintings, sculptures, books, homes and urban plans are nothing else for me than one, single manifestation of a stimulating harmony within a new society based on machines. (Le Corbusier)
As the curator Catherine de Smet points out in the introduction to her book: "When Le Corbusier draws an explicit link in Le Modulor between 'typographical art' and the 'art of constructing' he follows a long-standing tradition in which books were imbued with the spirit of architecture, both as regards text and internal layout as well physical coordinates, long before printing was invented. Le Corbusier reprises this link back in history and develops a particular version of it".
Viewing the graphic work of Le Corbusier from the standpoint of the "virtue" of books attributed by Paul Valéry: their quality as objects and their "physique", Catherine de Smet in her research and in this major exhibition sets out to "verify the simple hypothesis that Le Corbusier himself had formulated: A great part Le Corbusier's creative work was developed in his books".
In the library exhibition area of the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art of Prato, painted in the three colours of "architectural polychrome", the public can see how mastery of the process of publishing and typography techniques progressively led Le Corbusier towards putting his architectural and artistic experience towards enhancing his publishing.
The way the exhibition is structured, blending the chronological with the thematic, highlights the important features of each major period from the 1910s to the 1960s, and also shows some additional, incidental aspects such as the typography, the book as a plastic object, the relationship with the publishers etc.
A unique, occasion, therefore, for getting to know and appreciating the publications of Le Corbusier: a nucleus of thirty-five works accompanied by a series of works such as l'Œuvre complète, the magazine L'Esprit nouveau; and a number of original documents such as sketches and notes which enable us to reconstruct how his books were developed. There are also four paintings which testify to Le Corbusier's interest in the book as a plastic shape and thus illustrated in the setting of a painting.
Lastly, a rich photographic documentation has been created especially for the occasion, drawing from the Fondation Le Corbusier of Paris, which enables us to view the inside of the works on show and enrich the presentation of the processes of how the books were created.
The event is being promoted by the Municipality of Prato, The Prato Savings Bank, The Prato Savings Bank Foundation, and the Pecci family. It is co-produced with the Mart - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art - of Trento and Rovereto and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Strasburg and was made possible thanks to the indispensable cooperation on the part of the Fondation Le Corbusier of Paris.
The curator Catherine de Smet is an art historian and teacher of the history of graphics in a number of French art schools. She has written many articles on the history and aesthetics of graphics, on contemporary graphic design and on contemporary art.
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