During my internship at the Letterform Archive, I wrote about a recent acquisition donated by Elaine Lustig Cohen’s estate.

Credit: Letterform Archive, Original artwork and poster for Martin Venezky: Selections from the Permanent Collection of Architecture and Design, SFMoMA, 2001.

On paper, Martin Venezky is an artist, designer, photographer, and educator. He is also a collector, and some might even consider him a sort of curator. He often plays these roles all at the same time, whether he’s working on a project or not. In both his life and in his practice, he tells stories by combining and recontextualizing images and objects found in the world to create new worlds. His process reveals a lot about his own story too — one of imperfection, surprise, and patience.

When I met with Venezky, he brought a large blue binder filled to capacity with photocopies. It’s apparently one of 30 binders with images pulled from a closet of 19th-century magazines, Solotype books, antique B2B catalogs that he has been using since the ’90s. “The binders are purposefully unorganized,” he proudly told me as he paged through the one in his hands, flipping past illustrations of jewelry, cowboy hats, to a variety of typefaces and more. The binder is where he begins any project — selecting one off a shelf at random, without a plan or sketch to follow. Serendipity is an intentional part of the process. “If it’s going to be about tools, and I just look for tools, then that’s all you find,” he said. “You don’t surprise yourself. Sometimes the topic will intersect with things in an unexpected way.”

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