Up on My Back, and I Will Take You Thither: Installation and Story by Andy Beach

December 31, 2011
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Up on My Back, and I Will Take You Thither: Installation and Story by Andy Beach

Designer Andy Beach, created this installation, “Up on My Back, and I Will Take You Thither,” taking inspiration from the Centaur Book Shop, Philadelphia’s Prohibition-era radical press, book and record store, and bohemian meeting place. At first glance, the design of the space is great, with modern elements and materials mixed with more traditional counterparts. But the space also has intention and a story.

The installation kicked off the Excursus series at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Excursus is an initiative at the institute, inviting artists, publishers and cultural producers to create—both in the physical gallery and online—an experience that brings together engagement, programing and display inspired by archives and publication.

Design, andybeach, installation
Design, andybeach, installation
Design, andybeach, installation
Design, andybeach, installation

Reading the excerpt below—as I'm sure is the intention of the project itself—helps bring the design and environment to life in a completely different way.

“The proprietor [of the Centaur Book Shop], Harold Mason, was a twenty-nine-year-old of independent means who was fascinated with books, particularly first editions by liberal intellectuals. His bookshop was a small, comfortable room in a three-hundred-year-old house outfitted with bookshelves, wicker chairs, candlesticks, Japanese prints, and a fireplace. Here one could find first editions of avant-garde books and current issues of the intellectual magazines of the day…

The bookshop’s name was taken from a line in the banned book Jurgen, by James Branch Cabell: ‘Up on my back,’ said the Centaur, ‘and I will take you thither.’ The association with Jurgen ‘lent a mild wickedness to the enterprise,’ Mason recalled. When importation of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, considered at the time to be as sinful as booze, was prohibited, Mason arranged for a shipment of a case of books, after the spines had been replaced with those of another book of the same size.

A room over the shop became an after-hours gathering place for select patrons, artists, people of letters, and other friends. It was, like a Greenwich Village salon, bohemian and arty. This was during Prohibition, and ‘in’ members had their own liquor lockers and keys to the room. The outgoing Wharton [Esherick] was quickly inducted into the club, and he made a sign to hang over the door, a modernist centaur of wood and bent iron straps (the ‘sign of the Centaur’).”

From the Excursus online catalog, originally from from Wharton Esherick: Journey of a Creative Mind, by Mansfield Bascom, Abrams, 2010.

Some other hand-picked posts you might enjoy on our Design Blog:

The Embedded Project: Architectural and Interactive Installation
Designs and Installations by Peter Kogler: Playing with Perceptions of Space
Captured: A Homage to Light and Air with 304 Graphics and 252 Space Blanket Cubes

Jessica Patterson

Jessica Patterson

Hi, I'm Jessica. I'm a Designer and Writer at Drawbackwards and write for the Design Blog at Design.org. I enjoy vintage things, letterpress, publication design, and long walks around the Cesar Chavez Park pond. You can follow me on twitter at @jessdoodled for lots of fun randomness.

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Visual Design Lead / Palo Alto, CA

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