Scott Blake’s rectangular, black two-inch wide and one-inch tall flipbook looks pretty harmless. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket and has two normal, plastic covers bound by staples. The shock comes on the first flip through the book: it presents a moving image of the airplane hitting the second of the Twin Towers on 9/11, followed by the beginnings of the building’s explosion and collapse. This might sound like a project aiming for shock value, provoking audiences by trivializing a serious, historically significant event that has come to define the beginning of a new century. Yet the flipbook itself doesn’t feel sarcastic.
A Perfect Home: The Bridge Project was produced in conjunction with Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s exhibition of the same name at Storefront for Art and Architecture here in New York City, which ran from September 14 through December 7 2010. Excellently edited by Yasmeen M. Siddiqui, the volume is more artist book than catalog, less a document of an exhibition than impressionistic of an artistic effort. Intensively designed for maximum info and impact, the slim book is an unorthodox way to look at an exhibition, but its innovations end up making perfect sense for Do Ho Suh’s project, a part conceptual and part emotional attempt to bridge New York with Seoul.
Harmony Korine is known chiefly as a filmmaker, best for writing Larry Clark’s 1995 cult hit Kids. His most recent movie, Trash Humpers, was variously decried and praised for its unabashedly gritty commitment to a certain kind of disturbing, voyeuristic realism. Bill Saylor is an artist who works in a surreal vein of the American visual vernacular remixing ideas of the great West, motorcycle culture and 60s psychadelia into a seething new whole. The pair have collaborated on a recently released zine, called Ho Bags, that springs from a similar milieu: messy, dirty, smudged drawings present the psychotic essence of the unrealized and over-idealized American Dream.
Alison Young is a lawyer and a professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia, but don’t let that intimidate you. She has also extensively covered the Australian street art world, writing and teaching on the “intersection of law, crime and culture.” In Street|Studio: The Place of Street Art in Melbourne, Young works with street artists Ghostpatrol, Miso (Stanislava Pinchuk) and designer Timba Smits to create a book that documents the culture of street art in Melbourne. From introductory essays to photo spreads to in-depth interviews with artists about their work and the role of street art, Street|Studio covers everything you’d want to know about a city’s scene in a way that few other street art compendiums manage to accomplish. Beyond its excellent good looks, this is a surprisingly informative volume.
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.