Superunknown / Night (2022) is an extraordinary art catalogue that brings together work by two prominent Surrealists with contemporary Swiss artist Urs Fischer (b. 1973). The edition, printed by Generation Press, and bound by Diamond Print Services, is a lavish tribute to two exhibitions that took place during the pandemic: ‘Superunknown’ at Nahmad Contemporary (New York) in 2020; and ‘Night’ at Nahmad Projects (London) last year.
The original shows juxtaposed paintings by Max Ernst (1891-1976) and Yves Tanguy (1900-55) with Fischer’s installations. The plates reproduce the two Surrealists’ visceral work in four-page sections that include an inner double spread showing a high resolution detail. Each section is interspersed by half pages on bible paper that display photographs from the two shows: the monochromatic interiors of ‘Night’ and the construction site panels of ‘Superunknown’.
Designer Giles Dunn / Punkt, known for his close collaborations with idiosyncratic artists such as David Sylvian and Kaws, has worked with the Nahmad family for years, and designed the exhibitions’ initial branding. When commissioned to make a book he recalled his first impression of ‘Night’ – ‘You immediately fall into a dark gallery space with these spotlit surrealist masterpieces’ – and decided to construct a volume with that in mind. To ensure that readers went straight to the art, he tucked the catalogue essays, a booklet printed on bible-paper, into a pocket on the inside front cover.
Dunn was aware that the chance to examine privately-owned works such as Fleurs-écaille (Ernst, 1928) and Les Amoureux (Nuages) (Tanguy, 1930) in such detail, printed on silky 170 g/m2 Tatami, was a rare privilege. The type-only cover is debossed, ‘to parallel the darkness’. The opening page of the plates section is a translation of the final sentence from Nadja (1928), by the Surrealist movement’s self-proclaimed founder André Breton: ‘Beauty will be convulsive or it will not be at all.’