Friday, December 16, 2011

Featured Item of the Week: Ubu Roi

One of our most unusual items is a copy of Alfred Jarry's surrealist play Ubu Roi: Drame en Cinq Actes, notable not only for its illustrations by the Chilean expressionist artist Roberto Sebastian Matta, but also for its bold designer binding by Georges Leroux. The book is accompanied by a reproduction of a 1950s Japanese toy robot, which served the inspiration for Leroux's design. Leroux chose to depict Father and Mother Ubu, the drama's main characters, as robots sculpted in relief on the front and rear covers, set against a background of bright vermilion calf. He incorporated a series of gears, springs, and clock wheels into the chest cavities of both figures, and added multi-colored wires, metal widgets, sheet plastic, and marbles. One of Father Ubu's most striking features is that his holographic eyes appear to spin in his head.

In The Art of Contemporary Bookbinding, Jan Van Der Marck writes, "Attracted to the incongruous, like the Surrealists, Leroux indulges his love of tinkering by analyzing, dissecting, and reproducing the most salient imagery and features of a given text and illustration," often using irony and "tongue-in-cheek visual rhymes." For Ubu Roi, he drew on Matta's bold color palette, and the spiral clock spring inside of Father Ubu's chest plays on the characteristic, distinctive spiral designs used both in Matta's illustrations and in Jarry's original depiction of the greedy ruler.

For more information and images of Matta's illustrations, please visit our website.

Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing another of our favorite items with you next week.

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