Monday, April 9, 2012

Peace, Love and Art

The Rainbow Box was a series of four small books written by Joseph Pintauro (1930 -) and beautifully illustrated and designed by Norman Laliberté (1925 -). They were published as a boxed set by Harper & Row in 1970 and came packaged with the fold-out "Peace Poster" seen below. Pintauro, who was a priest, poet and a playwright (A—My Name is Alice), was given leave from his parish to work in advertising at Young & Rubicam. In the late 60s he collaborated with Sister Corita Kent to write a trilogy of books about belief of Things, God and Man. His prose for The Rainbow Box series rose out of the 60s Peace and Love decade and the bitterness of the Viet Nam War. At times it is rather dark, and other times is very optimistic and revealing. The quartet was divided into the four seasons, each relating to themes of time, love, peace and magic, and are quite distinct from one another, revealing Laliberté's remarkable versatility as an artist. Some of the books are entirely hand-lettered in his signature style, while others rely on a liberal use of press type at times. The set of four books, consisting of The Peace Box, The Rabbit Box, The Magic Box and A Box of Sun, came nicely packaged in a square-cubed box. It was originally printed in an edition of 15,000 and sold for $15.95 when it was introduced in 1970. A short time later it earned Laliberté the AIGA Award for Design when it was selected for the Fifty Books of the Year exhibition in 1971. See more photos of the boxed set here.

With rabbits and the joyful signs of renewal in the air, I was reminded of the The Rabbit Box book, one of the four seasonal books in The Rainbow Box quartet. This book of Spring is the most simply-designed book in the boxed set. Perhaps an economic decision—it is printed just 2-color sepia tones to give it that mock nostalgia feel. Laliberté combined old found photos, bits of ephemera, and hand-shadow illustrations, with beautifully hand-lettered script for this entire book. The cover design using Palace Script, is an injustice however, and I wince every time I see it next to his lovely hand-lettered script inside the book.

Laliberté's brilliant artwork is always colorful, diverse and imaginative. Early in my career I  discovered his influential book 100 Ways to Have Fun With an Alligator, and it totally flipped on a switch in my head. Co-authored with Richey Kehl, it is an invitation to a party written with exercises and inspirational quotes for art education teachers, and playfully accompanied with Laliberté's lively illustrations. My own tattered paperback copy with loose pages and marginalia, still gets occasional use whenever I need to re-boot and do some serious problem solving. Although difficult to find, he co-authored numerous other books on art education in the 60s and 70s which are just as relevant today. A prolific artist, Laliberté has always explored a variety of styles and media, including stencil, woodcut, collage, pencil, watercolor, and papercuts to name just a few, and his work has continued to evolve in his later years. As the seasons change, I will continue to chronicle each of the other three books in The Rainbow Box series, as there is far too much design goodness to share in just this one post.
:: More stuff from the Letterology Library 

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