The New Adventures of Grossmalerman is a pulpy dime-store comic jaunt through the art world, suitable for anyone with a sense of humor, but especially for those with an underlying cynicism about their own art world adventures. Which makes pretty much all of us. The comic, published by Regency Arts Press and created by Guy Richards Smit, chronicles the life of Jonathan Grossmalerman, a late-career German painter “obsessed with fucking” and in possession of a large drinking problem. Think Archie on too many drugs with a predilection for large canvases of women bending over.
Public is a Canadian journal founded in 1988 that comes out twice yearly, a compendium of art, design and writing projects centered around a single theme for each issue. Public‘s latest issue, number 42, is called Traces, and centers around the physical traces history leaves us through art: commemorative works and remembrances that attempt to fix our definition of what our history actually entails. But, Public 42 asks, how can we create works that don’t attempt to fix history, that don’t preserve our problematic ideas? How do we create art that allows history to be dynamic?
Readers will probably figure out that Anne Beck’s artist book State is inspired by the apocalyptic before they read the editorial note that comes at the end of the small volume. The first hints come through in the opening pages: a stark “STATE” in heavy hand lettering that does a horizontal flip on the next page, a reversal that opens up the instability and vagaries implicit in the rest of the book, a collection of painted collages and drawings that together tell the story of a society impaired by its dependence on technology and yet still invested in a clean state of nature. Beck mixes the organic and inorganic into a surreal whole.
In the history of street art, New York’s Dan Witz is a pioneer and one of the only names in the field that continues to enjoy an impeccable reputation based on skill, reinvention, and innovation. Yet, his monograph In Plain View is more than your conventional street art book. Its 220+ pages document a personality who arrived in New York in the late 1970s to attend art school, played in a band in the city’s thriving music scene, started working on the street because of the lack of opportunities for young artists to show in galleries, and continued to develop related but independent bodies of work both in public and in his studio. What makes Witz’s artistic contribution impressive is his endless stream of ideas that demonstrate an incredible knack for adapting to the times without falling victim to trends.
Triple Canopy is an online art publication that funds, produces and publishes some of the most interesting digital contemporary art projects around. Less journal than showcase, Triple Canopy still doesn’t lack for critical dialogue. Art projects coexist with written text and the whole package is wrapped up in a shiny, scrolling digital interface. Triple Canopy’s Issue 12 just came out, and features a particularly interesting showing of Nancy Spero’s “Notes in Time” (1979) that draws attention to the new possibilities of digital art publishing.
In Chris O. Cook’s first book, called To Lose & To Pretend, published by Williamsburg’s own Brooklyn Arts Press, the poet creates a collection of poems that are perfectly suited for subway rides. The brief passages are at times funny, at times ambivalent, turning from contemporary cynicism to a world-weary romanticisim that lends itself to depicting the poignancy of everyday crap. That’s meditations on shitty summers and bad jobs, old girlfriends and meaningless personal flailing, grasping at shreds of nostalgia-inducing pop culture names and places but ultimately only holding on to the feeling of loss.
Kill Screen is a highbrow magazine about video games. If this strikes some as a bit of a contradiction, I wouldn’t be surprised, but it certainly makes sense to me. Being a young’en, I didn’t exactly grow up during the heyday of print journalism. There were no magazines or newspapers or any kind of periodical that defined my childhood, that I felt close to. The internet, with its forums and blogs, came to take that place. Then I found Kill Screen, a magazine that, against all my preconceived notions of print, feels like it was edited and written for me alone.
Though the art world seems to have recovered from crisis mode with the enthusiastic approach to (and beginning) of Art Basel Miami Beach 2010, the remnants of our previous recession-driven apocalypse are still close at hand. Auction successes are blazing beacons of money, but seem shaky and could prove to be singular. Museum administrations have become dangerously insular, commercially driven and intermixed with business and political influences. In comes Jerry Saltz’ Cassandra paean Seeing Out Louder, a collection of the critic’s writing from 2003 to 2009.
This month’s Brooklyn Rail didn’t just update me on the critical reception of the past months’ art exhibitions, it also kept me well-informed about the state of vegetarian burritos, Indian call centers and the misunderstood G train! The November issue (my copy is elegantly covered in a Jonas Mekas lithograph of a hand cradling a flower bud) is a primer for anyone who hasn’t necessarily seen all of the right shows and read all of the right books for the recent spat of cultural production. Taken as a whole, though, the weighty newsprint publication’s most interesting articles lay in unexpected places and concern unexpected topics.
It’s easy enough to tell that The Believer is a publication from California from looking at the cover of their 2010 Art Issue, much less getting to the table of contents. A 70s psychedelic mashup of art icons, a John Baldessari suited figure, a dinosaur figurine, and a Picassoian acrobat by Clare Rojas march up a ray of red and yellow light into … the mouth of a skin-less human body? New York this is not.
Famously co-edited by Vendela Vida, writer spouse of writer wunderkind Dave Eggers, The Believer is well known for its cutesy tone and off-beat vibe, helped along by its graphic design and a coterie of Californian cultural denizens. None of these are bad qualities in themselves, but when editing an “art issue,” it might be best to start looking outside of the narrow perspective of your own aesthetic.
The trek out to PS1 for the 2010 New York Art Book Fair took me on the E train to Long Island City, away from Hyperallergic’s Williamsburg office. Yet somehow, the population of Williamsburg had followed me there. The concrete colonnade and ramped steps leading up to PS1’s converted school building were filled with more keds, more obscure totebags, more skinny jeans and photocopied zines than one often sees in a single place. Once inside, the books on offer only slightly outnumbered the visitors.
The New Museum’s “Free” exhibition is based on the freedom of cultural exchange that has followed the advent of the internet and digital technology. Following up on that emphasis on online activity, the exhibition’s catalogue is entirely digital as well, a website-hosted document that’s somewhere between an online PDF and an interactive vertical blog.
If you’re wondering why I’m reviewing a digital catalogue as a book, it’s because this is a book — it’s just online.