Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig
by Steve Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen
$50.00 List Price
When looking back at the modernist design revolution of the mid-twentieth century, Alvin Lustig doesn't immediately jump to mind, despite the fact that his influence is all around us. Lustig's career was cut short by diabetes developed as a teenager while he was growing up in Los Angeles. A year before his untimely death in 1955 at the age of forty, he lost his ability to see, yet he continued to work, dictating instructions to assistants and his wife, Elaine Lustig Cohen.
Now, along with Steven Heller, former art director of the New York Times Book Review and prolific design writer, Cohen has coauthored Born Modern, the first book to document the forward-thinking life and work of this California dreamer, who, as the authors note, had "little opportunity . . . to reach the same professional heights as other contemporary designers who were arguably of the same stature, including Paul Rand, Saul Bass, and Charles and Ray Eames." Nevertheless, he "developed a distinct, innovative graphic language," Heller writes in the book's introduction. Cohen, an artist and designer herself, provides valuable firsthand accounts of Lustig's creative process and also granted Heller unprecedented access to Lustig's writings, correspondence, and sketchbooks. (Her daughter, Tamar Cohen, designed the book.)
I discovered Lustig's work as a teenager in the early 1990s. His book jackets for New Directions spoke to me in the way intriguing album artwork did; by drawing me in visually, they opened my head up to new ideas from modernist writers like William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and Dylan