Sunday, October 10, 2010

Three Annual Reports from Ringier

The Swiss-based media company Ringier founded in 1833 has for several years published over 400 fine art books under their imprint JRP Ringier with the likes of Richard Prince, John Baldessari, Louise Bourgeois, Fischli and Weiss and others. What some might not know is that Ringier commissions an artist each year to spice up the corporate droll of their annual reports. Some of these titles are later released for sale (minus the company's financial graphs and information) as artist books but recently I picked up a few of the actual annual reports. Often these differ slightly from the "released" version of the book but they are interesting none the less.

The first is the latest from 2009, John Baldessari's Parse. As you know from some of my past postings I am a big fan of Baldessari and Parse is a new favorite. Working from a large and seemingly endless archive of film stills he "processes" the images by cropping, clipping and juxtaposing them into new visual realizations. Often full of humor and absurdity, they create new narratives like a badly acted B movie.

Within the "chapters" of Parse, Baldessari reveals the original picture in its un-cropped fullness. This can have the effect of a mental flashback where the viewer rests for a moment on the "real" context of the original yet recognizes that the original is as strange as his processed edited version. The way Baldessari designed each page in Parse makes for a fascinating panorama of images where the flow of his fragmented language compels the viewer to make connections.

This "report" edition varies from the released artist book in paper stock and binding. This version is softcover with a thick cardstock covers which for this somewhat thick book makes for a flimsy shell. This is not really a criticism, as it's drooping and floppy nature, for me, is as enjoyably unruly to hold as his images are to decipher.

The second I received is a report from 2005 created by Richard Prince called Jokes and Cartoons.

Made up of clippings, paintings and emails, Jokes and Cartoons repeats a hand full of old gags based on social cliches and expectations engendered by the cultural mainstream. As Prince has said of his material: "Jokes and cartoons are a part of any mainstream magazine. They're right up there with the editorial and advertisements and table of contents and letters to the editors. They're part of the layout, part of the 'sights' and 'gags.' Sometimes they are political, sometimes they just make fun of everyday life. Once in a while they drive people to protest and storm foreign embassies and kill people."

The third report is the oldest from 2002, HELLO... created by the artist Alexandra Mir. If the Baldessari is my favorite, this one runs a close second.

Mir, in trolling through the picture archives of Ringier has created a daisy chain of images where each picture, often a family snapshot or press image includes two people. The person on the right side of the frame connects to the following image where that person appears with a third person which connects to a fourth person and on and on and on. As Ringier is a company has been family owned from its beginnings, this chain work starts with a picture Hans and Annette Ringier on the cover and moves through a world of public figures including the artist herself. Eventually, the chain comes full circle where the last photograph include Hans Ringier again, of course on the right side of the frame connecting him to the cover image - and round and round we go a second time.

This report over its 60 pages makes only a couple hundred connections but the structure of this could potentially amount to a lifetime's work of connections made that encircle the span of the world's photographed population. Skiing is a repeated motif which, for me, appropriately accentuates the ease in which Mir presents these often cleaver connections of people.

Other reports that haven't been released for sale include works by Josh Smith, Richard Phillips, Matt Mullican, Christopher Williams, Liam Gillick, Harold F. Müller, and Christian Philipp Müller.