As an ex-librarian and book collector, one of my favorite things to do is to ferret out new publications and share them with readers. Whenever I’m traveling, I scour local bookstores and museum shops for interesting books. (Carting heavy art tomes home on an airplane is a familiar experience.) I also keep an eye out for new titles online, in magazines, newspapers, and book reviews.
For the first time on Gwarlingo, I’ve assembled a list of 26 of my favorite art, photography, film, and design books published this year.
This list is my gift to you this holiday. These are titles I discovered at wonderful local shops like 192 Books in Chelsea, Crescent City Comics and Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, the Mass MoCA store, Hello Hello Books in Maine, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art store.Why make it so long? Well, I wanted to create a “best of” list that I would like to peruse as a reader. I hate book lists that share little information. One recent list I came across in a major newspaper didn’t even bother showing the covers of their recommended titles, and they were recommending art books! (How can I tell if an art book looks interesting if there is no visual?) Bare-bones lists force the reader to do all the work of researching, finding links, searching for photos, page spreads, etc. It’s a lot of effort to assemble quality photographs, write descriptions, etc. but the result is an easy-to-use, one-stop-shop reference that is simple to browse, but rich with information for those who want to know more.
As always, a percentage of ALL the purchases you make through the Gwarlingo Amazon portal benefit the website. (Yup. Even the purchase of toilet paper, socks, or a new camera added to your shopping cart while purchasing a book counts!)
And for those of you who have a great local shop nearby, you can use the IndieBound link to purchase a title through your local bookstore. If you make the purchase online, Gwarlingo will also receive a small portion of your purchase.
And if your budget doesn’t permit such splurges, ask your local library. Most libraries offer interlibrary loan, a fabulous service that allows you to borrow titles from public and university libraries throughout your state, even if your own library doesn’t have the item in their catalog.
If you enjoy Gwarlingo’s 26 Favorite Art, Photography, Film & Design Books of 2013, I hope you’ll spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
This in-depth list is my gift to all of the Gwarlingo readers out there who keep this site thriving and free of advertising.Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!
Interaction of Color: 50th Anniversary Edition & iPad App
By Josef Albers. Yale University Press, 208 pagesI discovered this special 50th anniversary edition of Josef Albers‘ art classic Interaction of Color at 192 Books, a small but marvelously curated bookshop in Chelsea, and couldn’t put it down. Albers spent his career exploring the subject of color in his artwork and developing the complex color theory principles detailed here. It’s fascinating to see how colors shift and change when placed beside one another.
Originally conceived as a handbook and teaching aid for artists, instructors, and students, this new edition presents a significantly expanded selection of close to sixty color studies alongside Albers’s original text, demonstrating such principles as color relativity, intensity, and temperature; vibrating and vanishing boundaries; and the illusion of transparency and reversed grounds.
With over a quarter of a million copies sold in its various editions since 1963, Interaction of Color remains an essential resource on color, as pioneering today as when Albers first created it. If you’re an artist, designer, teacher, or reader interested in the subject of color, you’ll want to add this new addition of Albers masterwork to your library.
iPad users will want to check out the Interaction of Color app. This beautifully designed app lets you actually interact with Albers’ images. You can create, share, and save your own color studies. This is an innovative and elegant education tool for art teachers and students alike.
Todd Hido: Excerpts from Silver Meadows
By Todd Hido. Nazraeli Press, 336 pages with 120 four-color plates
I‘ve been a long-time admirer of Todd Hido‘s photography. His luminous, eerie landscape photographs of houses and apartments at night, foreclosed homes, and stark interiors perfectly capture the isolation of suburban America.
Excerpts from Silver Meadows is Hido’s sixth monograph with Nazraeli & his most ambitious project to date. The title of the book, Silver Meadows, is the name of a street that runs through the neighborhood in Kent, Ohio, where the artist grew up. The setting of Hido’s childhood, it also became the creative wellspring for his work. Here, it serves as a point of departure for Hido’s reexamination of a Midwestern suburban upbringing; “a trip through the innocence of childhood and adolescence and into the darker aspects of life beyond.” Beautifully printed on matt Japanese art paper, and featuring an “installation” of tipped-in images on the case binding, Excerpts from Silver Meadows is printed in a first edition of 3,000 copies.
The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems
By Emily Dickinson, Jen Bervin, Marta Werner, & Susan Howe. New Directions, 272 pages
Poet and artist Jen Bervin was one of the first Gwarlingo Sunday Poets back in 2011, when I featured a fragment of one of her book-length erasure poems. Bervin’s exquisite eye, facility with textiles and erasure poetry, and numerous projects using the work of Emily Dickinson make her the perfect co-editor for this beautiful collection of Dickinson’s envelope poems (along with Dickinson scholar Marta Werner).
This book has had positive buzz, and for good reason. I saw my first copy at the fabulous Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, just after the book was released, and loved it so much that I bought a copy on the spot to bring back for a friend’s birthday gift.
The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems is the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear. This deluxe edition of her late writings, presents this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it: on scraps of envelopes, offering readers a never-before-possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets.
The quality of the paper, printing, and photographs are all first-rate, but the book’s design also contributes to its beauty. Not only does The Gorgeous Nothings include all 52 of Dickinson’s envelope poems, but they are reproduced life-size in full color both front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in the reading. Best of all the editors have given each piece plenty of white space on the page, allowing us to fully appreciate not only geometric shapes, but also the sentences and stanzas in Dickinson’s scrawled handwriting.
Envisioned by the artist Jen Bervin and made possible by the extensive research of the Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner, this book offers a new understanding and appreciation of the genius of Emily Dickinson. You can expect to read more about The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems on Gwarlingo in the coming weeks!
The Wes Anderson Collection
By Matt Zoller Seitz. Introduction by Michael Chabon. Abrams Books, 336 pages
Calling all Wes Anderson fans! Here’s a book for that special someone who loves Anderson’s offbeat style and sense of humor. The director has made eight films to date, including the critically lauded Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Moonrise Kingdom.
Anderson’s quirky vision is one most people either love or hate, but he is a masterful fabulist. There are few directors with such an acute eye for color and set design combined with impeccable taste in music. His movies make me laugh out loud—a rarity these days. And what other film soundtrack can successfully combine the music of Benjamin Britten, Françoise Hardy, and Hank Williams?
The Wes Anderson Collection is the first in-depth overview of Anderson’s filmography, guiding readers through his life and career. Previously unpublished photos, artwork, and ephemera complement a book-length conversation between Anderson and award-winning critic Matt Zoller Seitz. There is also an introduction by the awesome Michael Chabon.
Nylon magazine had this to say: “Your coffee table wants—no, scratch that—needs this book . . . Packed with 400 images of everything from behind-the-scenes set shots to makeup inspiration to hand-drawn storyboards, the massive tome is pure eye candy. But in addition to the visuals, Seitz also dives deep into each and every Anderson film.”
By Oliver Chanarin & Adam Broomberg. Mack, 768 pages, 614 color plates
Nope. Not that Holy Bible. This is not a book you’re going to find in your hotel nightstand. This Holy Bible is by London-based artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, and it’s another title I first saw at 192 Books in Manhattan.
Violence, calamity and the absurdity of war are recorded extensively within The Archive of Modern Conflict, the largest photographic collection of its kind in the world. For Holy Bible, Broomberg and Chanarin mined this archive and overlaid specific images onto each page of the book. As described in Wired.co.uk the images ”are representative of the horror and madness of global catastrophes we have become numb to, due to the filtration of those images by mainstream media. Those themes of hardship and horror are common occurrences in the Bible, hence the pair have used the ancient tome to point to a cycle of retribution we appear to be living in still, with a vengeful god today replaced by law and nation.”
“The idea for Holy Bible arose when Broomberg and Chanarin came across Bertolt Brecht‘s own copy of the text. ‘It caught our attention because it has a photograph of a racing car glued to the cover,’ Chanarin told Wired.co.uk.”
“‘Brecht was deeply concerned about the use of photographs in newspapers, something that was relatively new at the time,’ said Chanarin. ‘He was so suspicious of press images that he referred to them as hieroglyphics in need of deciphering or decoding. We share this concern, in fact now more than ever, images of conflict that are distributed in the mainstream media are even less able to affect any real political action.’”
Holy Bible is not just a collectible book, but a work of art in and of itself.
Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living
by Todd McLellan. Thames & Hudson, 128 pages
Here’s a fun book for the geek, tinkerer, or photography lover in your life. I’ve been watching Todd McLellan‘s photographs fly around the Internet for some time now. Given the enthusiastic response his work has received from art, design, and tech blogs, it was only a matter of time before the images were compiled into a book. I came across Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living at the Mass MoCA bookstore this summer and was immediately sucked in.
These images of a disassembled SLR camera, clock, espresso machines, grand piano, and typewriter are fun and fascinating to study. McLellan’s photographs reveal the inner workings of some of the world’s most iconic designs–parts and pieces we typically don’t see.
Maclean’s describes the evolution of the Canadian photographer’s work in more detail: “When still a child in Saskatoon he disassembled an old stereo his father brought home, tearing it up into its constituent parts. His compulsion just made sense: dad was a carpenter, his mother a technician with Northern Telecom. A few years ago McLellan, now a Toronto-based commercial photographer, got hold of an old rotary phone and, after leaving it plugged into his wall for a few months, took it to his studio with a mind to shooting it. Try as he might, and despite his passion for its sturdy, handsome design, its beauty remained elusive. So he ripped it apart, laid it out like a frog’s dissected body, then dropped its guts from the ceiling. The resulting photographs—innards arrested in midair or spread, with a serial killer’s logic, beneath the lens—are making McLellan famous.”
The photographs are interspersed with essays by notable figures from the worlds of restoration, DIY, and design innovation, who discuss historical examples of teardowns, disassembly, and reverse-engineering.
Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist
By Jim Elledge. Overlook, 384 pages
Fans of self-taught, Chicago artist Henry Darger or of Jessica Yu‘s award-winning 2004 documentary In The Realms Of The Unreal will want to get a copy of this surprising new biography by Jim Elledge, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist.
Utterly unknown during his lifetime, Henry Darger led a quiet, secluded existence as a janitor on Chicago’s North Side. But when he died, his landlord discovered a treasure trove of more than three hundred canvases and more than 30,000 manuscript pages depicting a rich, shocking fantasy world—many featuring hermaphroditic children being eviscerated, crucified, and strangled.
While some art historians believe Darger to have been psychotic, Elledge’s thoughtful, sympathetic biography argues that Darger has been tragically misunderstood. His narrative shows Darger as a damaged and fearful gay man, raised in a world unaware of the consequences of child abuse or gay shame.
As Michael Bonesteel writes in his Chicago Tribune review, Elledge, a writer who has published numerous titles in the field of queer culture, “makes the claim, supported by meticulous research conducted over 10 years, that not only was Darger gay, but that his good friend, William Schloeder, was his ‘life partner’ and that they tried to adopt a child together. Once Elledge presents all of the evidence, his hypothesis does seem brilliantly persuasive — amounting to a veritable bombshell in the annals of Darger scholarship — challenging long-held notions about Darger’s personal life and explaining many unanswered questions about his art.”
According to Bonesteel, “a number of opinions have been advanced regarding Darger’s psychological state, including Asperger’s syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, gender confusion, obsessive-compulsive disorder and hypergraphia (the overwhelming urge to write). The hypothesis of homosexuality — clearly no longer considered a mental disorder — that Elledge puts forth in his biography is one of the most significant and important contributions to date.”
Drawn from fascinating histories of the vice-ridden districts of 1900s Chicago, tens of thousands of pages of primary source material, and Elledge’s own work in queer history, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy also features a full-color reproduction of a never-before-seen canvas from a private gallery in New York, as well as a previously undiscovered photograph of Darger with his lifelong companion William Schloeder, or “Whillie” as Henry affectionately referred to him.
Engaging, arresting, and ultimately illuminating, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy brings alive a complex, brave, and compelling man whose outsider art is both challenging and a triumph over trauma.
Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe
By Tim Leong. Chronicle Books, 196 pages
Here is the perfect book for the comic book and superhero lover on your list. This fun, affordable collection caught my eye at Crescent City Comics in New Orleans, and I couldn’t put the book down (a good sign, since I’m no comic book aficionado).
Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe was created by Tim Leong, an art director at Wired magazine. This quirky book maps the graphic world through a collection of pie charts, timelines, bar graphs, scatter plots, and more. As the publisher says, “Super Graphic offers readers a unique look at the intricate and sometimes contradictory storylines that weave their way through comic books, and shares advice for navigating the pages of some of the most popular, longest-running, and best-loved comics and graphic novels out there.”
“From a colorful breakdown of the DC Comics reader demographic to a witty Venn diagram of superhero comic tropes and a Chris Ware sadness scale, this book charts the most arbitrary and monumental characters, moments, and equipment of the wide world of comics.”
Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits
By Vivian Maier, John Maloof, & Elizabeth Avedon. powerHouse Books, 120 pages
For almost forty years Maier worked as a nanny in Chicago. During those years, she took more than 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes in Chicago. But her photographs remained unknown and mostly undeveloped until they were discovered by a 26-year-old Chicago historian and real estate agent, John Maloof, in 2007. Maloof bought 30,000 prints and negatives from an auction house that had acquired the photographs from a storage locker that had been sold off when Maier was no longer able to pay her fees.
Many details about Maier’s life are unknown, though Maloof has done a great deal of research. We know that she worked in a sweatshop in New York in her 20s. “She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person,” writes Maloof. ”She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. She wore a men’s jacket, men’s shoes, and a large hat most of the time. She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone.” Near the end of her life, it’s possible that Maier was homeless for a time. She lived on Social Security and the children she had cared for in the early 1950s bought her an apartment in the Rogers Park area of Chicago and paid her bills. In 2008, she slipped on ice and hit her head. She never recovered and died in 2009 at the age of 83.
It wasn’t until Maier’s death and the establishment of the Maloof Collection that her arresting photographs, which often depict street scenes in New York and Chicago in the 50s and 60s, began to receive critical recognition. We may never know the entire story of why Maier chose to keep her work private throughout her life, but this talented nanny is finally getting the attention she deserves.
Maloof’s highly acclaimed book, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, is the best introduction to Maier’s work, and I highly recommend it, as well.
This new collection of images, Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits, reveals the fullest and most intimate portrait of the artist to date with approximately 60 never-before-seen black-and-white and four-color self-portraits culled from the extensive Maloof archive.
All the Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far
By James Gulliver Hancock. Universe, 64 pages
Fans of Roman Mars‘ excellent design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible may be familiar with James Gulliver Hancock‘s quirky drawings of New York City. Hancock was featured on a recent 99% Invisible show, which is where I first learned of his work. There is something about the originality of Hancock’s drawings that allows the viewer to see even the most ordinary buildings with new eyes. Cornices, fire escapes, arched doorways, and water towers pop out, and the artist’s merging of perspectives gives us glimpses of rooftops and architectural details that aren’t always visible to pedestrians. As New York Spaces says, ”Sometimes it requires an out-of-town guest to get a native New Yorker to take a fresh look at all the architecture-landmark and otherwise- in our midst…His obsession might save you some shoe leather, or inspire you to burn some.”
All the Buildings in New York is a love letter to New York City, told through Hancock’s unique and charming drawings of the city’s diverse architectural styles and cityscape. Organized by neighborhoods, the book features iconic New York buildings, such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and Flatiron Building, as well as the everyday buildings that make up New York City—the boutique shops in SoHo, timeless brownstones in Brooklyn, and rows of busy markets in Chinatown. New Yorkers and tourists alike will savor this one-of-a-kind volume that uniquely celebrates the energy and spirit of the city that never sleeps.
Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990
By Nathan Benn, Richard Buckley, and Paul M. Farber. powerHouse Books, 168 pages
I discovered this riveting photography book through The New York Times‘ Lens blog. Nathan Benn‘s Kodachrome images are funny, poignant, and capture everyday America in the age before the Internet, when regionalism was, arguably, less watered down.
“On D-Day 1972, fresh and ready to begin a photo internship at National Geographic, Benn, hitherto a black-and-white photographer, was delivered his marching orders: You shoot Kodachrome now,” writes Matt McCann on Lens:
“I hardly ever shot color until I shot for National Geographic, and then I shot all in color,” Mr. Benn, 63, recalled. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of my photography up until June 6, 1972, was done without color.”
It was a good thing the decision was made for him. Kodachrome was known at the time for rendering rich colors, but also turned out to be remarkably durable: while Ektachrome photos faded and warped over time, Kodachrome images resisted deterioration. So while Mr. Benn didn’t set out to assemble a book 40 years later composed exclusively of Kodachrome work, it happened that that work made up the bulk of his best-preserved images.
As the book’s publishers explain, in revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st-century perspective, Benn “discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to editors of the 1970s and 1980s, but now resonate—in beautiful Kodachrome color—with empathic perspectives on everyday life in forgotten neighborhoods.”
“Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces….An essay by scholar Paul M. Farber contextualizes the creation and selection of these images, offering a fresh perspective about color photography on the eve of the digital revolution.”
David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition
By David Hockney, Richard Benefield, Sarah Howgate, & Lawrence Weschler. Prestel USA, 228 pages
This vibrant book showcasing the most recent decade of work by British artist David Hockney was recommended by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith and is the catalog accompanying an exhibit by the same name on view at the de Young Museum (on view in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park through January 20, 2014). This first comprehensive survey of Hockney’s work since 2002 includes more than 300 works and covers one of the most prolific periods of the artist’s career.
David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition builds on the success of a recent exhibition organized by the Royal Academy of Arts in London, but encompasses a much larger scope, and includes many portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. In addition to watercolors, charcoals, oil paintings, and works in other media, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is also the first to exhibit and publish The Arrival of Spring in 2013 (twenty thirteen). This series consists of 25 charcoal drawings, which Hockney describes “as capturing the bleakness of the winter and its exciting transformation to the summer.” David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition includes some of Hockney’s grandest works both in terms of size and concept, such as The Bigger Message, his 30-canvas re-working of Claude Lorrain’s The Sermon on the Mount.
This lush and impeccably produced book features over 100 full-color works of art from museum collections and Hockney’s private studio, including the major new works mentioned above. It also includes multiple-image galleries (spread over gatefolds) of some of his iPad drawings and self-portraits, plus film stills from the artist’s “Cubist” movies. Hockney’s own insight into this latest chapter of his career is found across the book’s pages and is accompanied by thoughtful commentary by renowned critic Lawrence Weschler and art historian Sarah Howgate.
Over a career lasting more than 60 years, David Hockney has consistently displayed a passion “to look deeper and see more,” as Lawrence Wechsler writes in his essay for the exhibition catalog. David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition displays the artist’s constantly searching curiosity, his desire to always move forward, and his unique genius for seeing.
By Emmet Gowin, Keith Davis, & Carlos Gollonet. Aperture, 240 pages
BBorn in Danville, Virginia to a Methodist minister and Quaker mother, photographer Emmet Gowin has influenced an entirely new generation of artists through his work and his 25-year teaching career at Princeton. His beautifully printed, black-and-white images show the influence of his own teachers, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, whom he studied with at the Rhode Island School of Design.
While I’m a fan of Gowin’s intimate images of family life (the photographs of his wife Edith are reminiscent of Callahan’s famous images of his own wife, Eleanor), it’s Gowin’s beautiful, abstract aerial images of environmental devastation at Mount St. Helens and the American West that capture my imagination. Edward Burtynsky may be more famous for his jumbo-sized, technically perfect aerial photographs of environmental damage, but Burtynsky lacks Gowin’s warmth and luminescence. This long-awaited survey pays tribute to Gowin’s remarkable career and his impact on the medium.
Various Small Books: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha
By Jeff Brouws, Wendy Burton, Hermann Zschiegner , Phil Taylor, & Mark Rawlinson. The MIT Press, 288 pagesVarious Small Books was another find from 192 Books in Chelsea. The MIT Press consistently publishes some of the best art books today, and this collection with its cloth cover, quality paper, and sewn binding is no exception. Of course, it’s what’s inside that really matters. This wonderful book-within-a-book is a testament to the influence of pop artist Ed Ruscha. Here is the publisher’s description: “In the 1960s and 1970s, the artist Ed Ruscha created a series of small photo-conceptual artist’s books, among them Twentysix Gas Stations, Various Small Fires, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Real Estate Opportunities, and A Few Palm Trees. Featuring mundane subjects photographed prosaically, with idiosyncratically deadpan titles, these ‘small books’ were sought after, collected, and loved by Ruscha’s fans and fellow artists. Over the past thirty years, close to 100 other small books that appropriated or paid homage to Ruscha’s have appeared throughout the world. This book collects ninety-one of these projects, showcasing the cover and sample layouts from each along with a description of the work. It also includes selections from Ruscha’s books and an appendix listing all known Ruscha book tributes. These small books revisit, imitate, honor, and parody Ruscha in form, content, and title. Some rephotograph his subjects: Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Forty Years Later. Some offer a humorous variation: Various Unbaked Cookies (which concludes, as did Ruscha’s Various Small Fires, with a glass of milk), Twentynine Palms (twenty-nine photographs of palm-readers’ signs). Some say something different: None of the Buildings on Sunset Strip. Some reach for a connection with Ruscha himself:17 Parked Cars in Various Parking Lots Along Pacific Coast Highway Between My House and Ed Ruscha’s. With his books, Ruscha expanded the artist’s field of permissible subjects, approaches, and methods. With Various Small Books, various artists pay tribute to Ed Ruscha and extend the legacy of his books.”
William Kentridge: Fortuna
By William Kentridge, Lilian Tone, & Kate McCrickard. Thames and Hudson, 320 pages
Everywhere I go these days, someone is raving about the work of artist William Kentridge. Artist friends and curators in particular discuss Kentridge with the kind of admiring reverence typically reserved for a beloved religious figure. In the past few years alone his work has been shown at MoMA, dOCUMENTA (13), the Louvre, and the Jewish Museum, and traveled to Moscow, India, Amsterdam, England, Rome, Oaxaca, Jerusalem, Rio de Janeiro, and Budapest.
If, like me, you missed the William-Kentridge-boat the last time it sailed through, this new book will get you up to speed. William Kentridge: Fortuna is the first major monograph on the widely acclaimed South African artist and brings together nearly two hundred of his works made between 1989 and 2012. Exploring Kentridge’s diverse expressions across a wide range of media, from film and video to sculpture, design, drawing, and printmaking, the book is lavishly illustrated with more than 2,000 images. As the publisher says, “it reveals Kentridge’s love of contradiction and uncertainty, his work moving variously between the personal and political, the static and temporal, the humorous and profound, the real and metaphorical, and between acts of making and of disassembling or erasure.”
“Kentridge’s dynamic way of working in his Johannesburg studio is revealed, a creative process that can be described as an act of performance during which he searches for forms of expression for his powerful and poetic ideas. His own lively commentaries accompany his works, offering indispensable insights into his working methods and creative thinking. Essays by Lilian Tone and Kate McCrickard put his practice into wider context, investigating the conceptual and visual tendencies in Kentridge’s work, and the relationship between his art and his native South Africa.”
Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
By Guillermo Del Toro and Marc Zicree. Harper Design, 256 pages
Del Toro’s biography is one of the most compelling things about this talented filmmaker. “I was not a child who was beaten or locked in a closet,” he told Metronews, ”but I really have a very intense relationship with the horror of Catholic guilt and the dogma. My grandmother was like Piper Laurie in Carrie. I was like a chubby version of Carrie. It was very difficult for me to get over that….I would cry at the concept of burning in hell, or the concept of purgatory and original sin. Mexican Catholicism is very, very brutal and very, very gory. That all affected me.”
When del Toro was in his 30s, his father, automotive entrepreneur Federico del Toro, was kidnapped in Guadalajara. Although Federico was eventually released safely, del Toro’s family had to pay twice the ransom originally asked. The event forced the family to leave Mexico.
Del Toro could have easily been derailed by this political and religious oppression, but instead, he channeled it and used it to create his own unique brand of horror—an uncanny mix of politics, authoritarian oppression, fairy tales, mythology, and monsters. ”To me, art and storytelling serve primal, spiritual functions in my daily life,” says del Toro. “Whether I’m telling a bedtime story to my kids or trying to mount a movie or write a short story or a novel, I take it very seriously.”
The filmmaker is also a collector of drawings, ephemera, books, posters, notebooks, etc. He even keeps a separate house used exclusively for his collection of books, poster artwork and other belongings pertaining to his work, explaining, “As a kid, I dreamed of having a house with secret passages and a room where it rained 24 hours a day. The point of being over 40 is to fulfill the desires you’ve been harboring since you were 7.”
I once saw a television interview with del Toro where he gave a tour of this special “bleak house,” cluttered with memorabilia, sketchbooks, life-sized monsters, and books. Cabinet of Curiosities, has all of the chaotic, macabre strangeness of that space. In his new book del Toro reveals the inspirations behind his signature style, sharing the contents of his personal notebooks, collections, and other obsessions. The result is an intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world’s most creative visionaries. Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotations that contextualize the ample visual material, this deluxe compendium also contains contributions from James Cameron, Neil Gaiman, John Landis, and others.
The Best American Infographics 2013
By David Byrne and Gareth Cook. Mariner Books, 184 pages
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that infographics are everywhere these days. The medium is a burgeoning art form that displays information in compelling, interesting ways. And the best infographics are also masterworks of design.
In the era of big data, where information moves faster than ever, infographics provide us with quick, often influential bursts of art and knowledge—on the environment, politics, social issues, health, sports, arts and culture, and more—to digest, to tweet, to share, to go viral.
The rise of infographics across virtually all print and electronic media—from a striking breakdown of classic cocktails to a graphic tracking 200 influential moments that changed the world to visually arresting depictions of Twitter traffic—reveals patterns in our lives and our world in fresh and surprising ways.The Best American Infographics 2013 captures the finest examples from the past year. This is one of those books any curious friend or family member would appreciate. Or buy it for yourself. It would make a great bathroom book.
John Singer Sargent: Watercolors
By John Singer Sargent, Erica E. Hirshler, Teresa A. Carbone, and Richard Ormond. MFA Publications, 248 pagesWhile I’ve always liked the dramatic oil portraits that John Singer Sargent is known for, it’s his colorful, unconventional watercolors that excite me most.
Sargent held only two major watercolor exhibitions in the United States during his lifetime. The contents of the first, in 1909, were purchased in their entirety by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The paintings exhibited in the other, in 1912, were scooped up by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. John Singer Sargent Watercolors reunites nearly 100 works from these collections for the first time, arranging them by themes and subjects: sunlight on stone, figures reclining on grass, patterns of light and shadow. Enhanced by biographical and technical essays, and lavishly illustrated with 175 color reproductions, this publication introduces readers to the full sweep of Sargent’s accomplishments in this medium, in works that delight the eye as well as challenge our understanding of this prodigiously gifted artist.
As the book’s publisher explains, Sargent’s ”dynamic and boldly conceived watercolors, created during travels to Tuscan gardens, Alpine retreats, Venetian canals and Bedouin encampments, record unusual motifs that caught his incisive eye.” His approach to the medium was entirely original and went beyond ”turn-of-the-century standards for carefully delineated and composed landscapes filled with transparent washes, his confidently bold, dense strokes and loosely defined forms startled critics and fellow practitioners alike. One reviewer of an exhibition in London proclaimed him ‘an eagle in a dove-cote’; another called his work ‘swagger’ watercolors. For Sargent, however, the watercolors were not so much about swagger as about a renewed and liberated approach to painting. In watercolor, his vision became more personal and his works more interconnected, as he considered the way one image–often of a friend or favorite place–enhanced another.”
Whether you’re a fan of Sargent or of the watercolor medium itself, you’ll want to add John Singer Sargent Watercolors to your collection. And if you’re in Boston before January 20th, be sure to visit the Sargent watercolors show at the MFA. This fascinating exhibit of the artist’s watercolors was on view at the Brooklyn Museum earlier this year and is a rare opportunity to see this collection under one roof.
By John Cage & William Gedney. Little Brown Mushroom, 64 pages. Limited edition of 1000 copiesIris Garden is an intriguing, posthumous collaboration between composer John Cage and photographer William Gedney. The book is unusual in that it is unbound and in the tradition of John Cage, designed “to encourage chance encounters with the content.”
The book combines 22 of John Cage’s stories with 44 of William Gedney’s photographs (including several of the composer himself) with an ingenious design mirroring Cage’s concept of chance. The photographs were selected by Alec Soth and include Gedney’s photographs of New York City, Appalachia, India, and Cage on a mushroom hunt.
This book was recommended by photographer Jason Fulford, who explains that the ”texts are a selection of Cage’s one-minute stories. Each story is meant to be read aloud in the space of 60 seconds, so the reader must speed up or slow down, depending on the length. The book design, by Hans Seeger — unbound and intertwined spreads and gatefolds — is meant to encourage chance encounters with the content.”
Alas. The last time I checked, Iris Garden, which had only a 1000-copy print run, was selling quickly from its publisher Little Brown Mushroom. By the time you read this, your only hope of purchasing the book may be from a used or alternative bookseller.
Skyscrapers: A History of the World’s Most Extraordinary Buildings
By Judith Dupre. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 176 pages
Judith Dupre‘s exquisite, best-selling books Churches, Bridges, & Skyscrapers have been personal favorites of mine since I met Judith at The MacDowell Colony many years ago. I’ve been craving a copy of her book Skyscrapers for ages, but unfortunately, the publication is out of print and used copies can be hard to come by.
So I was thrilled to discover that Judith’s Skyscrapers book has just been revised and updated. This towering book is 18 inches tall and is full of gorgeous, color photos and historical facts about the world’s tallest buildings. The book is a great gift for any architecture or design buff, and the revised edition includes a look at the new One World Trade Center, ten new buildings, and information about some of the recent technological advances in skyscraper construction.
I’ll be publishing an in-depth interview with Judith soon, but until then, check out the publisher’s synopsis of this unique collection of neck-craning architecture:
“Unique in scale and design, Skyscrapers explores in-depth more than 60 buildings, including One World Trade Center, Burj Dubai, the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Petronas Towers, the Tribune Tower, the Lipstick Building, and the Phare Tower. This completely revised and full-color edition presents 10 new buildings, among them The Shard in London (2012, Renzo Piano), the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong (2010, Kohn Pedersen Fox), the Shanghai Tower (2014, Gensler Architects), and the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah (2018, Adrian Smith), which will be the tallest building in the world when completed.”
“Arranged chronologically by date of building construction, each informative spread has photos of the featured building from various angles, building plans, diagrams, the building’s historical background, and technological information.”
“Skyscrapers also offers additional information on such topics as the ancient roots of skyscrapers and visionary cities of the future, as well as a fascinating interview with Philip Johnson, together with other profiles. New topics include the era of the megatall building, the building of a skyscraper, and the explosive growth of skyscrapers in Dubai and China.” The book also includes an interview with Adrian Smith.
Tell Me Something: Advice From Documentary Filmmakers
By Jessica Edwards, Film First, 128 pagesNew York filmmaker Jessica Edwards launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to create this fascinating book, which features advice from fifty emerging and established filmmakers. Legendary directors like Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman and Barbara Kopple, and renegades like Morgan Spurlock, James Marsh, Sam Green, Margaret Brown, and Gary Hustwit deliver advice on everything from career development to personal relationships to risk taking to fashion choices. They even throw in some filmmaking advice too.
With original portraits taken by esteemed photographers, the book features personal stories and anecdotes from the filmmaking trenches. As Edwards writes on the project’s Kickstarter page, “Doc makers are a rare breed, they’re creative, persistent, they’re master storytellers and each film they make is like a graduate degree in their chosen subject. Some of them have spent over 60 years making films, and along they way they’ve learned a lot about how to balance life and art. They’ve got insightful advice for people in any creative field.”
By Garry Winogrand, Leo Rubinfien, Sarah Greenough, Erin O’Toole, Tod Papageorge, & Sandra S. Phillips. Yale University Press 448 pages
Widely regarded as one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, Garry Winogrand (1928–1984) did much of his best-known work in Manhattan during the 1960s, becoming an epic chronicler of that tumultuous decade. But Winogrand was also an avid traveler and roamed extensively around the United States, bringing exquisite work out of nearly every region of the country.
When Winogrand died of gall bladder cancer, in 1984 at age 56. He left behind nearly 300,000 unedited images. Drawing from this enormous output, which at the time of his death included thousands of rolls of undeveloped film and unpublished contact sheets, Garry Winogrand serves as the most substantial compendium of Winogrand’s work to date. This landmark retrospective catalogue looks at the full sweep of Winogrand’s exceptional career, and includes private moments and striking public images of protestors, politicians,and people from marginalized communities.
Lavishly illustrated with both iconic images and photographs that have never been seen before now, and featuring essays by leading scholars of American photography, Garry Winogrand presents a vivid portrait of an artist who unflinchingly captured America’s swings between optimism and upheaval in the postwar era. (Part of the above text is courtesy Yale University Press)
100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age
By Kelly Grovier. Thames & Hudson, 320 pages, 396 illustrations, 360 color plates
There’s nothing like a good list to get people talking, and Kelly Grovier‘s 100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age dares to name 100 of the most important artworks created since the 1990s.
“Grovier curates a compelling list of one hundred paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, performances, and video pieces that have made the greatest impact from 1989 to the present. The global cast includes Marina Abramović , Matthew Barney, Christian Boltanski, Louise Bourgeois, Maurizio Cattelan, Marlene Dumas, Olafur Eliasson, Andreas Gursky, Cristina Iglesias, On Kawara, Jeff Koons, Ernesto Neto, Gerhard Richter, Pipilotti Rist, Kara Walker, Cy Twombly, and Ai Weiwei. Many of the pieces reflect the cultural upheavals of recent times, from the collapse of the Berlin Wall to the blossoming of the Arab Spring.
A daring yet convincing analysis of which artworks best capture the zeitgeist of our time, Grovier’s list also provides a much-needed map through the landscape of contemporary art. Illustrations of key works are supplemented by comparative images, and short texts offer a biography of each artwork, tracing its inception and impact, and offering a view not only into the imagination of the artist but into the age in which we live.”
100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age is an excellent resource for art teachers and libraries, and a must-read for anyone interested in debating the merits of contemporary art.
The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti
by Rafael Schacter & John Fekner. Yale University Press, 400 pages
Artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey may be responsible for reviving interest in the medium of street art, but as this stunning, four-pound compendium makes clear, the medium has many talented practitioners and a rich history around the globe.
Painted murals first appeared in Latin America in the early 20th century; in the 1950s, spray-can graffiti associated with Latino gangs followed, notably the “cholo” graffiti of Los Angeles. Today, street art has traveled to nearly every corner of the world, evolving into a highly complex and ornate art form. The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti is the definitive survey of international street art, focusing on the world’s most influential urban artists and artworks. Since the lives and works of urban artists are inextricably linked to specific streets and places, this beautifully illustrated volume features specially commissioned “city artworks” that provide an intimate understanding of these metropolitan landscapes.
Organized geographically by country and city, more than 100 of today’s most important street artists—including Espo in New York, Shepard Fairey in Los Angeles, Os Gêmeos in Brazil, and Anthony Lister in Australia—are profiled alongside key examples of their work. The evolution of street art and graffiti within each region is also chronicled, providing essential historical context. With contributions by the foremost authorities on street art and graffiti, this landmark publication provides a nuanced understanding of a widespread contemporary art practice. The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti emphasizes urban art’s powerful commitment to a spontaneous creativity that is inherently connected to the architecture of the metropolis. (Part of the above text is courtesy Yale University Press)
Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door
By Abelardo Morell, Elizabeth Siegel, & Brett Abbott. Art Institute of Chicago, 176 pages
Cuban-born photographer Abelardo Morell has created a range of intriguing photographs over the past 25 years, including lush, black-and-white images of books and domestic objects seen from a child’s perspective. But it was his series of camera obscura images, which he started in the 1990s, that really made me sit up and take notice.
Combining a room’s interior with the view outside into a single photograph is no easy technical feat, and Morell’s images have only grown richer and more masterful (as well as technically challenging). Here is Morell describing the camera obscura technique on his website:
“In setting up a room to make this kind of photograph, I cover all windows with black plastic in order to achieve total darkness. Then, I cut a small hole in the material I use to cover the windows. This allows an inverted image of the view outside to flood onto the walls of the room. I would focus my large-format camera on the incoming image on the wall and expose the film. In the beginning, exposures took five to ten hours.
Over time, this project has taken me from my living room to all sorts of interiors around the world….A few years ago, …I began to use color film and positioned a lens over the hole in the window plastic in order to add to the overall sharpness and brightness of the incoming image. Now, I often use a prism to make the projection come in right side up. I have also been able to shorten my exposures considerably thanks to digital technology, which in turn makes it possible to capture more momentary light. I love the increased sense of reality that the outdoor has in these new works .The marriage of the outside and the inside is now made up of more equal partners.”
In recent years, Morell has increasingly turned to color, exploring not only the camera obscura, but also innovating a tent camera that projects outdoor scenes onto a textured ground. Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door accompanies an Art Institute of Chicago exhibition of over 100 works made from 1986 to the present, and is the first in-depth of Morell’s photographs in fifteen years.
As the publisher says, “this important book examines Morell’s career to the present day, including his earlier works in black-and-white and never before published color photographs from the past decade. An essay by Elizabeth Siegel, along with a recent interview with the artist and an illustrated chronology of his life and works, offers a riveting portrait of this contemporary photographer and his ongoing artistic endeavors.”
Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century
By Michael Lesy & Lisa Stoffer. W. W. Norton & Company, 264 pages with 64 color plates and 21 black-and-white photographs
If you’re a regular Gwarlingo reader, then you already know that I love this book. As I wrote about in my recent review of Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century, 1900-1910, Michael Lesy is best known for his classic photography book Wisconsin Death Trip. Since the early 70s, he has been a trailblazer in the field of archival photography—discovering images, curating them, contextualizing them, and bringing them to wider attention.
In his latest book, Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century, 1900-1910, Lesy and his co-author, Lisa Stoffer, turn their attention to the topic of food. Using the New York Public Library’s quirky, but engrossing Buttolph Menu Collection as the cornerstone of their book, Lesy and Stoffer have written a fascinating account of the American dining experience at the beginning of the 20th century.
Repast is a look at American cuisine before Julia Child, Alice Waters, and Wolfgang Puck. In fact, as I learned from Lesy and Stoffer, we can thank Delmonico’s French-born chef, Charles Ranhoefer and his 1893 book, The Epicurian, for enabling chefs across America to copy Delmonico’s specialties—a wave of influence that would eventually inspire Alice Waters and the chefs at Chez Panisse to create French-inflected California cuisine.
Repast is the story of tea rooms, automats, and conspicuous consumption. Food labels, restaurant menus, cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, and archival photographs all reveal the intriguing story of why Americans ate what they ate between 1900 and 1910. As Ira Glass says in his blurb on the book, the Lesy and Stoffer “make the people of 1900 seems simultaneously very similar to us and so very different.”
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