ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 6/25/2024

LIVE from NYPL presents Michael Stipe launching 'Even the birds gave pause'

DATE 6/22/2024

Artbook at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Bookstore presents Penny Slinger launching and signing 'An Exorcism'

DATE 6/20/2024

picturehouse + thesmalldarkroom present Yelena Yemchuk on 'Malanka'

DATE 6/13/2024

ICP presents Eugene Richards on 'Remembrance Garden'

DATE 6/13/2024

LaToya Ruby Frazier, removing the contradiction between ideals and practice

DATE 6/8/2024

"Next-level otherness" in Pride Month staff pick 'Nick Cave: Forothermore'

DATE 6/6/2024

Celebratory and transgressive, 'John Waters: Pope of Trash' is a Pride Month Staff Pick

DATE 6/3/2024

In Nan Goldin's 'The Other Side,' you are who you pretend to be

DATE 6/2/2024

Green-Wood Cemetery presents Eugene Richards launching 'Remembrance Garden: A Portrait of Green-Wood Cemetery'

DATE 6/1/2024

There's no such thing as being extra in June! Pride Month Staff Picks 2024

DATE 5/28/2024

'Mickalene Thomas: All About Love,' on view at The Broad

DATE 5/24/2024

Celebrate Memorial Day weekend with Garry Winogrand's intimate, flashing mirror of America

DATE 5/24/2024

Beautifully illustrated essays on Arab Modernists


BOOKS IN THE MEDIA

HERBERT PFOSTL | DATE 2/6/2015

Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'

Here is a fairytale dream of a book on the history of Czech puppetry in some 750 images— a rigorous, almost exhaustingly informative exploration of artists and styles in the Bohemian and Moravian workshops and theaters of the first half of the twentieth century. It is lavishly produced and marvelously illuminated by numerous archival images (including many very fine color photographs) of the individual puppets, puppeteers and proscenium settings.

Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'
ABOVE: Two bearded men, Mikoláš Sychrovský, Mirotice, after 1850, marionettes from the inventory of the traveling puppeteer František Pfleger.

The book unfolds before us as an operatic forest of stories about good and evil in near endless variations of signs and archetypes. With white stags and highway robbers, luckless girls and chimney-sweeps, Indians and iron knights, as well as many other light-figures and night-characters, The Puppet unburies a vanished world of staged miracles and The Uncanny. This is an epic history of performances created mainly to inhabit and present both childhood joys and childhood terrors.

Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'
ABOVE: Sea creatures, scene from the play Faust by the puppeteer Lagron, c. 1910.

Beginning with the Art Nouveau and Symbolist eras, it traces Czech puppetry through its Expressionist, Cubist and Art Deco incarnations, ending among the avant-garde experiments "and modernist currents in twentieth-century art." Observe the countless carvings of characters "charmed by hand" and think of Heinrich von Kleist’s On the Marionette Theater for tone, or of Walter Benjamin’s not always healthy obsession with old children’s books.

Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'
ABOVE: Czech painter Mikoláš Aleš' puppets for Antonín Münzberg’s company, Prague, 1913.

A particularly affecting element in this collection of characters can be found in the archival images of carvers and their puppets, puppeteers and their marionettes. Fragments from, and footnotes to, now forgotten biographies. Grand plans and failed businesses amid stage waves and skies. Hidden stories on the fetish character of all things, the shadowy theaters of history in general and the hallucinations of art in particular.

Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'
ABOVE: Czech historian, organizer and propagator of puppetry Jindřich Veselý at the puppet exhibition in Topičův Salon, Prague, 1921. A collection of the oldest puppets (left) and the puppets of Matěj Kopecký (right) are in the background.

The design of the book is rich and right, and one wishes for another treatment like it on other aspects of the subject: a multi-volume history of puppetry in all of Europe, for example, or—better still—in all the world.

Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'

HERBERT PFOSTL works at New York City's New Museum, where he curates the Store's selection. He is the co-editor of To Die No More with Kris Minta, and recently published Light Issued Against Ruin with The Brother In Elysium. His artwork and upcoming projects can be viewed at Paper Graveyard and Blind Pony Books.
Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'
Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'
Herbert Pfostl on 'The Puppet and the Modern'