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Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design and Culture at Mid-century Hardcover – 5 Oct 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel; 01 edition (5 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791338781
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791338781
  • Product Dimensions: 25.7 x 27.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,085,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

ELIZABETH ARMSTRONG is Deputy Director for Programs and Chief Curator of the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California.

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By Robin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Mar. 2008
Format: Hardcover
A brave and fascinating attempt to pull together the various strands of, mostly, commercial creativity in southern California in the middle of the last century. Case Study Houses and other modern architecture, the output of Pacific Jazz and Contemporary records, abstract art by John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley, furniture design by Charles and Ray Eames are some of the exciting design ideas that blossomed during the affluent tailfin fifties in the sunshine of the Golden State.

The book concentrates on architecture, abstract art, movies, furniture and graphic design. Missing (and I would have thought a good contributor to 'cool') is beat writing but as the book is a catalogue to a visual exhibition it's hardly surprising that it only gets a passing mention. Of the nine essay contributors I though those by Elizabeth Smith and Thomas Hine the most interesting. Smith is the author of the most thorough book on Southern California architecture (Blueprints For Modern Living) and her essay `Domestic Cool' puts architecture exactly in context. Hine's contribution: Cold War Cool really belongs in the front of the book as a succinct overview of the subject.

The visual importance of `cool' in the book is revealed by a chapter that looks at the photographic work of William Claxton. He probably took a photo of every West Coast cool jazzman which were used extensively on the LP covers of Pacific Jazz and Contemporary Records, he designed many of them, too.

As the book is a permanent reminder of the exhibition it covers I thought it was a pity that the editorial has several flaws. There is a thirty page chapter devoted to the year 1959. The editors considered this a pivotal time and wanted to put the book's essays in context.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my friends 40th and it was a winner. For a Mad Men fan this is perfect. Think I'll have to get myself a copy!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tailfin times 9 Mar. 2008
By Robin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A brave and fascinating attempt to pull together the various strands of, mostly, commercial creativity in southern California in the middle of the last century. Case Study Houses and other modern architecture, the output of Pacific Jazz and Contemporary records, abstract art by John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley, furniture design by Charles and Ray Eames are some of the exciting design ideas that blossomed during the affluent tailfin fifties in the sunshine of the Golden State.

The book concentrates on architecture, abstract art, movies, furniture and graphic design. Missing (and I would have thought a good contributor to 'cool') is beat writing but as the book is a catalog to a visual exhibition it's hardly surprising that it only gets a passing mention. Of the nine essay contributors I though those by Elizabeth Smith and Thomas Hine the most interesting. Smith is the author of the most thorough book on Southern California architecture (Blueprints For Modern Living) and her essay `Domestic Cool' puts architecture exactly in context. Hine's contribution: Cold War Cool really belongs in the front of the book as a succinct overview of the subject.

The visual importance of 'cool' in the book is revealed by a chapter that looks at the photographic work of William Claxton. He probably took a photo of every West Coast cool jazzman which were used extensively on the LP covers of Pacific Jazz and Contemporary Records, he designed many of them, too.

As the book is a permanent reminder of the exhibition it covers I thought it was a pity that the editorial has several flaws. There is a thirty page chapter devoted to the year 1959. The editors considered this a pivotal time and wanted to put the book's essays in context. These pages just contain large news photos and related graphics and as such assume much more importance than they are worth. The idea is a good one but a spread devoted to a text timeline would have worked as well freeing up pages for more images in the rest of the book.

The page design seems very arbitrary to me. Many pages have a deep eau de nil band running horizontally across the middle but on some spreads it is missing. The inclusion of this band seems pure designer whimsy and if it wasn't included readers would not be aware of something missing. They unfortunately would be aware of the many missing page numbers though. Frequently captions refer to images on a particular page by their number, also the forty-three pages of historical printed material have no numbers at all but items in this section are often referred to in the index. All of this is really inexcusable for a quality publication though I understand it is not untypical of exhibition catalogs.

The book celebrates the up-market aspects of cool in a particular place and time. To read about down-market cool have a look at 'The Catalog of Cool' by Gene Sculatti. He surveys popular culture at the other extreme in mid-century California and America.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool! 8 Feb. 2008
By James Chan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book, beautiful looking and a delight to read. The credits above omit several of the contributors who make it so good. These include Thomas Hine, Bruce Jenkins, and Elizabeth A.T. Smith, who wrote essays, and Lorraine Wild, who wrote an essay and was one of the book's designers.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great modern images with suburban prose. 30 July 2008
By G. S. Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautiful, and would look great on any book shelf or coffee table. It really gives a good feel for the time. But it seems like all of the contributors have read the same sources, and have nothing to add of their own. This makes the reading (rather than the perusing of the great photos) tedious as the writing is very repetitive. A book about the modern movement in art, design, and culture should include more ideas and discussion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars birth of the cool art catalog 28 Jun. 2010
By Joe R. Frinzi - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
"Birth of the Cool" art catalog
If you ever wondered when "cool" was truly born, a perusal of the art catalog "Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design and Culture at Midcentury" offers its own insightful answer. The book chronicles the exhibition, which ran from Oct. 2007 through May 2009 in four cities across the country, and contains such wide ranging examples as fine art, architecture, jazz records and advertising along with the Pop culture mindset that seemed to engulf American society in the postwar baby boom years of the 1950s and `60s. The book is a true time capsule of that era which still resonates with a surprising cross-section of people over several generations. Nostalgia buffs and modern-day archeologists alike will find much to enjoy here. There may have been cool people in Ancient Rome, in Medieval Europe, in Victorian England and during the "Roaring Twenties" of Chicago, but "Birth of the Cool" makes a persuasive case that it wasn't until mid-twentieth century California that the stork finally arrived.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars super swingin' coolness 28 Dec. 2008
By Tristan Andreas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This giant art book is so cool it's ice cool. Equal parts art, architecture, interiors, style, jazz, the works. I was half expecting to find some cocktail recipes, but these were not included. The art reproductions look great printed full-page on heavy stock. I bought this as part of my home-rebuilding project collection. While other books might be more useful reference for the actual construction, this book will be the centerpiece on my swanky new living room coffee table.
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