The nine letters organised in the grid on the facing page were drawn and arranged in this way by Hans Bernd Becher. It’s little known that Bernd Becher, co-founder with Hilla Becher of what has come to be known as the ‘Düsseldorf School’ of photography was enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf as a student of Typography in Professor Walter Breker’s class from 1957 to 1961. The alphabet grid drawing is reproduced from an undated booklet titled ‘Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Klasse Angewandte Graphik’ which documented the work of Breker’s class.
The booklet and Becher’s incomplete alphabet landed on the table in Raum 106, but we found ourselves unable to build words and communicate with this limited set of characters. Thomas Artur Spallek allowed his hand to be guided by Becher and drew the remaining 17 letters to complete a full A −Z, which left us asking more questions.
Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Klasse Angewandte Grafik (exhibition booklet), undated.
Bernd Becher (1931 − 2007) was a German conceptual artist and photographer working as a collaborative duo with his wife Hilla Becher. They are best known for their extensive series of photographic images, or typologies, of industrial buildings and structures, often organized in grids. As the founders of what has come to be known as the ‘Becher school’ or the ‘Düsseldorf School’ they influenced generations of documentary photographers and artists. Becher studied painting at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart from 1953 to 1956, then typography under Walter Brecker at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1957 to 1961. If we were to apply a typology to the letterform Becher drew, we might call it a ‘Modern’, a classification characterised by extreme contrast between thick and thin lines − an unornamented ‘modern’ appearance which first appeared in the late 18th century. Here Becher uses the term ‘Antiqua’, a classification we might more typically associate with earlier types from 15th or 16th century, however in this particular German context ‘Antiqua’ most likely refers to ‘Roman’ as opposed to ‘Fraktur’.