Marian Bantjes’ “I Wonder” was first published in Europe by Thames & Hudson and in the United States by The Monacelli Press in 2010. Eight years later it is republished with a new, lighter, more luminescent cover. Same book, new cover, curiously even more appealing. In the course of the ensuing eight years, graphic style has changed in distinctive ways. Bantjes ushered in the “ornamentalist” wave of the 2010s, which for some reason began to recede almost as soon as the book was published. This is not to say that ornament, especially typographic ornament, was passe but it did indicate that a back to modern simplicity was emerging.
Bantjes work is more than complexity for its own sake, her signature woven patterns and embellishments are majestic and comic, exquisite and confounding. There is a Klimt quality to some and a Mr. Bill wit to others. Frankly, I can’t stop looking at this book, which is a good thing because after pouring over the first edition, it had to be retired to a high, out of reach shelf.
I don’t usually review a paperback reprint, but this is a renewed ornamental life — a 21st Century timeless illuminated manuscript.