• Steven Heller

A Happy Book About Death

The Rainbow Box was a series of four books written by Joseph Pintauro (b.1930) and illustrated and designed by Norman Laliberté (b.1925). They were published as a boxed set (Harper & Row,1970). Pintauro, a former Catholic priest, poet and a playwright, was on hiatus from his parish in order to work at Young & Rubicam. In the late ’60s he collaborated with Sister Corita Kent to write a trilogy of books about belief of Things, God and Man.

The Rainbow Box was a caustic and comic response to the ’60s era concerns, including the Vietnam War. “At times it is rather dark, and other times is very optimistic and revealing,” wrote a critic. Each book in the series related to specific themes — time, love, peace and magic — and show Laliberté’s versatility as an artist and designer.

There’s an artist’s book aesthetic, including hand-lettered text. The Magic Box (below) involves ragged press type to give the handmade look. The set of four books, consisting of The Peace Box, The Rabbit Box, The Magic Box and A Box of Sun, came nicely packaged in a square-cubed box. It was originally printed in an edition of 15,000.

There’s a visual freshness about The Magic Box that’s relevant in the today’s ironic and lugubrious age. The fixation on death and rebirth has currency today, as does the ad hoc manner of creating anti-design design in the dada, grunge and DIY sensibility – and a proto-Monty Pythonesquery. The beauty of imperfection — distressed graphics and broken types — gives this the feeling of now and forever.

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