Book Reviews – Miltos Manetas: Paintings from Contemporary Life and Fraktur Mon Amour

I would usually not write about monographies but nothing feels better than breaking my own rules today: the first book is starring blackletter also known as Fraktur or Gothic type, the second one is dedicated to the paintings of Miltos Manetas.

0aafrakturamout.jpgFraktur Mon Amour, by designer Judith Schalansky (Amazon USA and UK.)

Publisher Princeton Architectural Press says: Blackletter also known as Fraktur or Gothic type was commonly used throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. By the end of the Renaissance it had mostly been replaced by the typeface Latin Antiqua. The use of Blackletter type became taboo in Germany after World War II because it was incorrectly associated with the Nazis who actually banned its use in 1941 because it was falsely believed to be a Jewish invention. Revelations about the true history and meaning of Blackletter type have resulted in a resurgence in usage by graphic designers. (…)

Fraktur Mon Amour reproduces 300 variations of Blackletter fonts ranging from historical fonts to contemporary reinventions in a sensuous beautifully crafted hot-pink prayer book-style catalog that is destined to become a fetish object for designers and type enthusiasts. Each Blackletter font is presented on a full page along with its complete alphabet date of origin the name of its designer and its original foundry. On the facing page is a composition created from that font that explores the subversive beauty of this unique typeface. In addition 137 of these fonts–including four created exclusively for this book–are collected on an enclosed CD (Mac and PC) for free private and restricted commercial use. Fraktur Mon Amour is the winner of several awards including the Type Directors Club of New York’s 2007 Award for Typographic Excellence.


Who knew that fonts could have such fascinating lives? I believe this book has received a huge echo in design blogs but as it is the most elegantly and skilfully designed book i have received in 2008, i thought it deserved a few more words here. Closed it looks like a bible. Open it and you get over 700 pages of pure pink font porn. My expertise and talent at discussing fonts being extremely limited i’ll end with a video flip through the book:

0amenetazserty.jpgMiltos Manetas: Paintings from Contemporary Life, (Bilingual edition italian-english at Amazon USA and UK.)

Publisher Johan & Levi Editore writes:
Every electronic componenet portrayed bears witness to a certain period in the development of technology, implicitly marking the pace and duration of Manetas’ research and immediately flagging up a ‘present’ and a ‘past.’

In his work Manetas acts as an observer of this daily phenomenon. At times he works from a ‘subjective’ angle, bearing witness to both our total involvement in technology, and the sense of alienation that comes from interacting with machines. Other times he takes a ‘bird’s eye view’ to draw attention to the gestures, often underestimated or taken for granted in daily life, that man performs on machine, in a world which is lacking in concrete ‘actions/ that point up to what is going on.

Echoing Baudelaire’s famous ‘Painter of Modern Life’, Manetas, as an observer of the contemporary world, is part of a time-honoured tradition in art> the practice of depicting man and the elements which represent modernity in the era in question has been a prerogative of the Impressionists, the Realists and the exponents of New Objectivity, not to mention the paintings of Post-Revolutionary Russia, where ‘modern’ meant ‘industrial.’


Joysticks and joypads, plugs, keyboards and routers, a shoe lost among cables, a pair of feet emerging behind an open laptop, videocassettes, websites and girls watching intensely at a computer screen. Miltos Manetas hands a thought-provoking mirror to the gadgets blogs, tech magazines and even new media art exhibitions. The soft-coloured canvases reminds us that we are not merely ‘users’ ‘interacting’ with ‘devices’, but people absorbed in activities which might still appear as trivial to some but are nevertheless essential to our new human equilibrium.

The introduction essay is penned by the only media theorist and guru who is as flamboyant as Manetas himself: Lev Manovich.


On 24th – 25th January and 13th February, Manetas will perform some live internet paintings in the East Wing of The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The Internet Paintings will also be included in the forthcoming exhibition, Unreal, “Altered Perspectives in Painting’ at the Saatchi Gallery, London.

Image on the homepage part of Judith Schalansky’s fraktur set.

Related stories: Superneen world and Book review: Hand Job: A Catalog of Type.