as an artist of no repute whatsoever, i occasionally have cause to obtain an exhibition catalogue of an artist i admire in the hope that some of their ability may prove influential. it's often quite expensive to travel to individual galleries, usually in london, to view the works in the flesh so to speak, so the next best thing is the printed page. having had an exhibition or two in my dim distant past, i am well aware of the tosh that usually accompanies the catalogue of works, invariably written by an art critic or similar worthy intent on raising their own worth, while at the same time associating themselves with the artist in question. i think i'd be correct in positing that most of us, artists or otherwise, would happily settle for a book of paintings with captions, and do without the verbiage.
i cannot, in any way, shape or form, compare myself to those who can command a full colour, hardback catalogue available from a gallery, at a cost admittedly somewhat less than buying one of the paintings, and it is these that are temporarily under discussion here. were these on sale through the pixels of amazon (for instance), they would be described as coffee table books. since mrs washingmachinepost and i do not, in fact, own a coffee table, books of this ilk are often wasted upon us; holding such a weighty tome upon crossed leg is a lot harder to peruse than michael hutchinson's last paperback. the finest reason i can think of for producing volumes of this genre, is the generous allowance of glossy real estate to display often beautifully observed photographs.
of course, a predisposition to enjoy the subject matter of such photos is necessary to part with often substantial amounts of cash. in this case, the title of the book custom bicycles is, in my opinion, slightly misleading: i had expected to be regaled with chat and pics of bicycles that had been modified by their owners in similar fashion to those who plasteer chrome and flames over a 57 chevrolet corvette. not entirely disappointingly, the contents are, in fact, an homage to some of the world's builders of bicycle frames - the sort of vehicle you would have made to suit your particular frame dimensions or materials. in short, the north american handbuilt bicycle show, but devoid of its physical audience.
the photographs are exemplary, as would be expected, but the accompanying words are leaning towards the anodyne. it is unlikely that any of those within the book's pages are in the business of building bicycle frames as a road to fame and fortune; they're there because they love the bicycle and they love what they do. it therefore seems slightly unnecessary to tell the reader this over, and over, and over again.
'whatever the desire, the attention to detail is second to none.'
'each frame gives evidence to the pursuit of aesthetic functionality.'
'trying to stretch the design boundaries of the bicycle in order to create a point of difference.'
'the next step in bike building that pushes the boundaries of what is being created today.'
the above are excerpted from the text accompanying four different builders (written by the authors, not necessarily the framebuilders themselves), but they are completely interchangeable. sadly, however genuine the sentiments expressed, it's a bit like the beauty queen who says she hopes for world peace. and there are also quotes from satisfied customers, but at the risk of turning into even more of a cynic than i have already received credit for, they'd be very unlikely to have included words from the less than satisfied.
by all means acquire a copy of the book for photographs of some beautiful bikes - they are well worth the price of admission alone, but however well meaning messrs elliot and jablonka are (and i have it on very good authority that they are genuine enthusiasts), they would have been better off leaving out the words which add little to the enterprise. and if you already own the catalogue from this year's nahbs, you may have everything you need in front of you, minus the foreword by phil ligget (why he?).
bizarrely, images publishing website lists the book under motoring, something that i doubt would gain the favour of those included in the book. (framebuilders portrayed include: ira ryan, richard sachs, moots, cyfac, bilenky, vanilla, independent fabrication, signal, kirk, dario pegoretti and many others.)
posted on saturday may 2 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................