Photo, artwork, and book by David Orr.
Photo, artwork, and book by David Orr.
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our longtime friend and supporter Clive Piercy - loving husband, loyal friend, cycling enthusiast, avid baker, author, and graphic designer extraordinaire.
Clive was a towering Brit whose breadth of knowledge, quick wit, and oft-times acerbic delivery left me alternately in awe, stitches, or fuming on many an occasion. We have fond memories - and a few grainy pictures attached - from when we were fortunate enough to host the publication party for his "Pretty Vacant" on the 'nade way back in 2003 for which he produced a front window display as well as an elegant limited edition just for the occasion. Beyond its title's puckish Sex Pistols double entendre, "Pretty Vacant" is a glorious little book that is both clever in a manner unique to Clive's nature, and likely to be the enduring photographic typology of the until-then underappreciated Dingbat Apartment architecture of his adopted home. His decades of similarly stylish practice at Ph.D, AirConditioned, and Art Center College of Design have fixed his imprint firmly on the local design consciousness.
We extend our condolences to Clive’s lovely wife Annie Field, good friends Robin Hurley and Jon + Carol Kono-Noble, colleagues, students, and everyone else held in his sway over the years. Go you Spurs! - we'll miss you, mate.
Lee + Whitney
It’s a bittersweet moment as Erin Schneider leaves Arcana for the green pastures of Goldsmiths in London for graduate school. Erin defines “one of a kind” and we will miss her enormously. Her vast knowledge of a wide array of subjects (and her opinions thereon) and her inimitable way of sharing it has been a gift to us. Who will be playing obscure fiddle music in the store? Who will tell stories of dancing at the VDL house, playing accordion at the local Swedish dance, storing cosmic energy at the Aetherius Society, and sacred heart singing workshops? Who will zero in on EXACTLY the right book on – just about anything for just about anyone? Who will bring us donuts procured at 3 am and the tales of the concert/art show/ jam session/ or tryst that preceded them? With her leaves a store of cultural, musical, artistic, academic, and spiritual information, an untamable effervescence, and a crackling intelligence that we will dearly miss. She leaves us having graced us with her vibrant presence for 3 ½ years and she will forever be a part of the Arcana. We love you, Erin!
"We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense." Barack Obama, US President. "BANG" by Kerry James Marshall
Culturally I'm a child of the sixties, and therefore have always been an ardent admirer of the illustration and design work of the great Alan Aldridge. His collaboration with David Bailey - "Goodbye Baby and Amen" - is frequently pulled from the bookshelves and perused; and the entry to my home office displays my prized signed copy of his at-the-time banned poster for the original London screening of Andy Warhol's "Chelsea Girls". Alan may be best known for his innovative work as a book designer for Penguin UK, and for compiling the classic two-volume set of "The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics", but he also created graphics and identities for John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Apple Records, The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, The House of Blues, and many, many more. And while John Pasche is officially credited as the originator of The Rolling Stones' iconic "tongue" logo in 1970, it is hard to look at Mr. Aldridge's "Day Tripper" illustration from 1969 and not feel a strong sense of … synchronicity... In 2008, London's Design Museum presented a tour-de-force retrospective of his work that was accompanied by a magnificent hardbound catalogue. Here's an engaging article that appeared in The Guardian at the time of that show in which Alan describes "How I Designed the 1960s".
Alan lived in Los Angeles for thirty years, and we were introduced by our mutual friend, hair stylist extraordinaire Gill Hodgson. On the occasions when our paths crossed at Taboo salon or Arcana, he could not have been more gentlemanly or charming. Blessed with a flock of talented children, he moved back to London a few years ago to be closer to them as his health began to decline. I read the news today that Alan has passed, and want to wish his family, many friends and admirers all the best. If you are unfamiliar with his work, definitely check out "The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Art of Alan Aldridge". It can't not bring a smile to your face!
By the time I began formulating the path that led me from working at Rhino Records to opening Arcana: Books on the Arts down the street on Westwood Boulevard in a tiny one bedroom apartment in 1984, the notion of the gentleman bookseller catering to the erudite carriage trade had all but disappeared. Then as now, the independent book trade consisted mostly of a bunch of idiosyncratic entrepreneurs eking out mostly-modest livings doing what they loved – mostly with too many books and too little room. In Southern California, this group included such departed greats as Harry Bierman, Jake Zeitlin, Peggy Christian, Charlie Saltzman, Melvin Gupton, Jerome Joseph, Alan Siegel, and Chuck Valverde - whose personalities were each as large and varied as their inventory.
Dozens and dozens of used and out-of-print bookstores flourished between Santa Barbara and San Diego, and I visited as many of them as I could each month to pick up new stock for the shop. The San Fernando Valley became my prime feeding ground, and very early on I realized that Dutton’s Books at Laurel Canyon and Magnolia was something special. I bought my first copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment” there from out of the bed of the shop’s pickup truck, and one of my favorite finds of all time – a Grove Press edition of Robert Frank’s “The Americans” that had been rebound in Mexico in a wacky calfskin arrangement whose gilt-stamped “Los Americanos” on its rococo raised and banded spine called out to me from the travel section - still resides on my shelves at home.
Founded in the early sixties by the eponymous bookselling clan, it was a literary haven that catered equally to discerning intellectuals and generations of Valley Village first graders alike. Located inconspicuously between a gas station and a fast-food purveyor redolent of fried chicken grease, the shop possessed an accretive, stylistically eclectic architecture that frequently - but not always - held back the rain from a labyrinth of makeshift rooms, shelving, and décor. The interior was liberally peppered with prints and posters too high on the walls to inspect without use of the store's gigantic wooden library ladder, tables filled with volumes arrayed spine up, and seemingly random stacks of books that truly might contain anything deployed throughout. And there were always those loads of boxes mysteriously coming and going through the rear door from their giant parking lot that seemed to function mostly as a Volvo-littered staging ground. Most importantly, there was its proprietor - Davis Dutton - known to all simply as Dave. Dave possessed an impressive head of snow white hair, a friendly demeanor, and was as generally knowledgeable a man as I can recall meeting. What I immediately noticed upon getting to know Dave was that unlike the esteemed group of colleagues mentioned above, his expertise was always offered freely and graciously without an accompanying dose of prickliness.
Whether personally dealing with a mother frantic to pick up her kid’s assigned reading list on the last day before classes started, or a delusional book scout demanding way too much for the box of crappy paperbacks just deposited on one of the weathered wooden tables out back, Dave always conveyed a sense of good-natured calm. In twenty-some years of regularly visiting that wonderful store, while often frustrated, I cannot ever remember seeing him lose his cool. As the book trade inevitably changed, the Dutton’s chain expanded and contracted, and loyal customers begat children and grandchildren, that ingrained passion for literacy and friendly, impeccable customer service never wavered. Dave possessed the booksellers’ innate gift of always putting the book you never knew you needed in your hand while his wife Judy could usually be overheard from behind the door of the cramped – and when I write cramped, you cannot possibly imagine how gracious a description that is – office in the archaic ritual of calling in the shop’s daily order of new books to Ingram.
Dave pursued other professions in his early life, but ultimately returned to run Dutton’s with his gifted brother Doug. He energetically oversaw buying and selling for a fleet of shops and garages filled with books, artwork, plus god-knows-what, and an ever-rotating staff of characters. He always made time to chat when I visited, and on the occasions I would receive a call to modestly let me know he’d made a book buy that I “might want to take a look at”, I knew to drop everything and head over Laurel Canyon. In later years, Dave granted me access to the as-yet-unpriced material in the secretive, velvet-curtained closet chaotically shelved with treasures presumed to be too precious for the open shelves. This privilege came with the sly caveat that it could only occur when Judy wasn’t around, so she wouldn't take him to task the moment I walked out over his wisdom in allowing me to do this... Even towards the end of the Dutton’s reign when Dave had begun to slow down and his posture was at times as precarious as those stacks strewn about the place, he never lost his sense of humour or that child-like twinkle in his eye.
This week, Davis Martin Dutton passed away peacefully at home a month short of eighty years of age. On behalf of our own “Mom and Pop” shop, I would like to extend sincere condolences to Judy, Doug, sister Dory, and the extended Dutton family. In my thirty-plus years in this racket I have known many great booksellers and a number of gentlemen as well, but have encountered only a handful that combined both qualities as effortlessly as Dave. He is, and will be, missed.
What kind of genius is Rosamond Purcell? Is she an artist? A scholar? A documentarian? A living cabinet of wonders? Her originality defies category…-Jonathan Safran Foer
We heartily encourage you to see the fascinating film AN ART THAT NATURE MAKES about our friend, photographer Rosamond Purcell! Finding unexpected beauty in the discarded and decayed, photographer Rosamond Purcell has developed an oeuvre of work that has garnered international acclaim, graced the pages of National Geographic and over 20 published books, and has enlisted admirers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Errol Morris and Stephen Jay Gould. AN ART THAT NATURE MAKES details Purcell’s fascination with the natural world – from a mastodon tooth to a hydrocephalic skull – offering insight into her unique way of recontextualizing objects both ordinary and strange into sometimes disturbing but always breathtaking imagery. September 2-8 at Laemmle Royal. More tantalizing details at anartthatnaturemakes.com.