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  • Arranging Things: A Rhetoric of Object Placement
  • Margaret Dolinsky
Arranging Things: A Rhetoric of Object Placement by Leonard Kohen; paintings by Nathalie Du Pasquier. Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A., 2003. 127 pp., illus. Paper. ISBN: 1-880656-82-5.

Privately, author Leonard Kohen introduces his book Arranging Things: A Rhetoric of Object Placement as an addition in the "Dick and Jane" series of reading primers.

Dismayed by the foundations of art and design history that have resulted in lexicons, theories and principles, Kohen states: "Presumably these words and phrases are useful to some, yet for me they fail to convincingly identify principles operating within effective arrangements" (pp. 23-24). Dismissing arrangement according to the art world, he turns his direction to the "real world," despite admitting that the two appear quite similar at times. One is distinguished from the other in a footnote list that includes:

real world: Arrangements have to interact with real things in the real, immediate environment.

art world: Artworks are part of a self-contained conceptual system set apart from the real world.

Kohen models his solution on a mini-history of rhetoric in order to outline eight principles for a rhetoric of arrangement. These include physicality (hierarchy, alignment, sensorality), abstraction (metaphor, mystification, narrative) and integration (coherence, resonance) (p. 41).

The book is generously illustrated with paintings of everyday objects by Nathalie Du Pasquier, which the author cleverly repeats in miniature at the back of the book and describes through his principles. This self-proclaimed primer on arranging 3D objects includes descriptions, for example, on sensorality: "The tall objects are minimally detailed, vertically oriented shapes. The short objects are more articulated, idiosyncratic, squat shapes. Altogether, each object in the arrangement is of a distinctly different type and shape" (p. 86).

Although the analysis of arrangement through paintings may appear ironic in a discussion of arranging objects in the real world, Kohen explains their use in another footnote:

There are, however, certain pedagogical benefits to slightly ambiguous visual information. If the paintings were too realistic and detailed, you, the reader, might be seduced by the fascinating intricacies of the objects themselves and lose sight of the relationship of the objects to each other— the way they are arranged—which is the focus of this book

(p. 108).

Other works by the author include WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing (1976-1981), Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers and Undesigning the Bath.

Margaret Dolinsky
School of Fine Arts, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47408, U.S.A. E-mail: <>


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Launched on MUSE
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