Willem de Rooij – Character is Fate. Piet Mondrian’s Horoscope

Here we are sneakily drawn into a game full of pitfalls. Mondrian, OK, but not Mondrian as we expect to find him. This is a book whose designer knew perfectly well what the idea was and has been able to translate it perfectly. First he investigated the contents. In 1911, shortly before Mondrian left his home in Amsterdam to move to Paris, he had his horoscope cast by astrologer Adriaan van de Vijsel. He then carefully kept the documents with him up to his death in New York in 1944. The Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) in The Hague acquired the horoscope in 2012, after which Willem de Rooij made an installation of it in the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, where it was exhibited in 2015.

In the making of this artist book, designer Žiga Testen was able to withstand the tremendous pull of Mondrian’s visual universe. There is nothing in the layout to make one think of Mondrian, and that is a carefully deliberate decision. Nevertheless it takes us inside Mondrian’s personality and we experience a certain sense of voyeurism as we leaf through the typed horoscope – extensively reproduced here against a black background, beginning to fade slightly. The basic premise of this exceptionally consistent and unarticulated design is restraint. ‘Everything is exactly right,’ sighed the panel. Even the blank line and the indenting are permanently at the service of the narrative that the essayists and artists present. ‘This is living typography created out of “nothing”,’ observed one panel member.

 

Nevertheless, the book remains a fetish, and the almost Broodthaersian cover contributes to that. (Marcel Broodthaers, 1924-1976, Belgian artist) Fold back the flap of the brown jacket, however, and we are treated to one of Mondrian’s early oil paintings: Lighthouse at Westkapelle. A subtle hint.

 

Edition: 2015
Language: English, Dutch, translated by Wouter Kruithof, Hessel de Ronde, Renée Staal
Final editor: Willem de Rooij, Defne Ayas, Amira Gad
Publisher / commissioner: Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam
Designer: Žiga Testen, Melbourne (AU)
Printer: Lecturis, Eindhoven
Binder: Hexspoor, Boxtel
Dimensions: 220 x 285 x 16
Amount of pages: 192 p.
Number of copies: 500
Price: € 30
ISBN: 978 94 91435 40 9
Font and foundry: Sabon (Linotype)
Binding style: sewn Otabind with dust jacket
Material: 135gsm LuxoArt Samt (interior), 250gsm LuxoArt Samt (cover), 170gsm Sirio Color Bruno (dust jacket)