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Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 27 March 2015

Architecture

                  The retro-futuristic epoch is one of the most visually spectacular in architecture's history. The utopian buildings of the 1960s and 1970s never go out of style. This book compiles radical ideas and visionary structures. The notion of utopia proves as diverse as it does universal. From exuberant master plans to singular architectural expressions, the rise of the utopian architectural movement in the 1960s and 1970s represents a critical shift in ideology away from mid-century traditionalism. This period shakes off the conformity and conventions of the 1950s in favour of a more experimental post-war agenda. Marked by ground-breaking reinterpretations of both the single family house as well as more large scale developments, the embrace of utopian and generally progressive thinking mirrored the cultural revolution of the times. These daring, charming, futuristic, and hopeful designs were not isolated to a particular part of the world. Visionary voices longing for a fresh approach to architecture began appearing across France, Japan, the United States, and beyond.

                 The life of urban nomads places new demands on cities, buildings, residences, and working spaces. This book presents temporary architecture, flexible room and furniture concepts, and the fitting tools for a generation that feels at home in every corner of the globe. Today’s internet generation no longer needs a home. It is mobile. It works six months in a shared office in Berlin, spends the summer in a caravan in Chile, and shows up just in time for the next project at a temporary desk for a client in New York. Growing up with the internet and digital tools means living and working differently. Aside from a functioning wireless connection and good coffee, web developers, designers, musicians, journalists, and other creative entrepreneurs need, above all, inspiration, new ideas, contacts, and international exchange. So they travel from one co-working space to the next, alternating countries and continents, as well as accommodation, friends, and cultures. The New Nomads documents this trend, in particular showing the architecture, interior design, modular furniture, and multi-functional tools that this nomadic generation has developed for its own specific needs. Divided office floors with flexible uses, temporary living and working spaces that move with the nomads, multi-functional objects that are at once chair and storage space, table and bed, or cupboard and desk are all featured in the book. The necessary infrastructure is not hidden away but becomes the distinguishing design feature. Compactness and functionality meet a high standard for aesthetics, sustainability, and material.

 

Photography

                Landscape in my Mind is a pictorial journey through the landscapes of current art photography. The exhibition covers the whole gamut of current positions in international landscape photography from Hamish Fulton to Andreas Gursky. Always a network of connections between man and nature landscape presents itself as a mental projection level of the perception of our surroundings – both close and distant. The works of art function as 'distorted' mirrors of perceived reality; they are not pure documentations produced at the click of a camera but hybrid tableaus between fiction and abstraction, metaphors of the view of the world and beyond. Typically, the photographs are 'pictures painted with the camera' in large format, which exude the self-confidence of New Photography. Blurring effects and compositional qualities enhance the tableau’s painterly and pictorial value. Consequently, artists such as Elger Esser or Jörg Sasse, for example, see themselves more as 'picture composers' rather than photographers. Rather than the objective perception of landscape as found in say Thomas Struth, these images elicit emotions in the observer, including feelings of being overwhelmed, melancholy, disquiet and dread.              

 

 

Theory

                What is the function of style today? If the 1970s were defined by Stop curating! And think what curating is all about. This book starts from this simple premise: thinking the activity of curating. To do that, it distinguishes between 'curating' and 'the curatorial'. If 'curating' is a gamut of professional practices for setting up exhibitions, then 'the curatorial' explores what takes place on the stage set up, both intentionally and unintentionally, by the curator. It therefore refers not to the staging of an event, but to the event of knowledge itself. In order to start thinking about curating, this book takes a new approach to the topic. Instead of relying on conventional art historical narratives (for example, identifying the moments when artistic and curatorial practices merged or when the global curator-author was first identified), this book puts forward a multiplicity of perspectives that go from the anecdotal to the theoretical and from the personal to the philosophical. These perspectives allow for a fresh reflection on curating, one in which, suddenly, curating becomes an activity that implicates us all (artists, curators, and viewers), not just as passive recipients, but as active members. As such, The Curatorial is a book without compromise: it asks us to think again, fight against sweeping art historical generalizations, the sedimentation of ideas and the draw of the sound bite. Curating will not stop, but at least with this book it can begin to allow itself to be challenged by some of the most complex and ethics-driven thought of our times.

                By the time Umberto Eco published his best-selling novel The Name of the Rose, he was one of Italy’s most celebrated intellectuals, a distinguished academic and the author of influential works on semiotics. Some years before that, in 1977, Eco published a little book for his students, How to Write a Thesis, in which he offered useful advice on all the steps involved in researching and writing a thesis—from choosing a topic to organizing a work schedule to writing the final draft. Now in its twenty-third edition in Italy and translated into seventeen languages, How to Write a Thesis has become a classic. Remarkably, this is its first, long overdue publication in English. Eco’s approach is anything but dry and academic. He not only offers practical advice but also considers larger questions about the value of the thesis-writing exercise. How to Write a Thesis is unlike any other writing manual. It reads like a novel. It is opinionated. It is frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious. Eco advises students how to avoid “thesis neurosis” and he answers the important question “Must You Read Books?” He reminds students “You are not Proust” and “Write everything that comes into your head, but only in the first draft.” Of course, there was no Internet in 1977, but Eco’s index card research system offers important lessons about critical thinking and information curating for students of today who may be burdened by Big Data.

                The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s documents a tectonic change in the way women portray themselves in art. Historically, women were depicted as a projection of male fantasies, prejudices, and relationships. However in the 1970s, for the first time, female artists began collectively to investigate visual representations of their own selves. They studied their own bodies and created the prospect of determined feminine identities. Editor Gabriele Schor explores the Feminist Avant-Garde to emphasize the role that these artists played for the last four decades. The works are provocative, radical, poetic, ironic, angry, cynical and heartfelt. The artists shared a collective consciousness that reassessed, and even rejected, what came before, turning to new ways of expression in the fields of photography, performance, film, and video. The collection SAMMLUNG VERBUND founded in 2004 in Vienna focuses on the feminist art movement of the 1970s as one of the main areas and is with 500 works the largest collection with this emphasis. Included are works by Eleanor Antin, Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, Nil Yalter, Ketty La Rocca, Birgit Jürgenssen, Renate Bertlmann, Francesca Woodman and others. This important book emphasizes the accomplishments of women artists who have made a name for themselves while encouraging the young generation.

 

Art

                The Enjoyment of Photography presents a broad selection of Josephine Pryde's work from 1990 to 2014. In photographic works that encompass the full range of the medium's historical and current genres, styles, and techniques, but also through sculpture and writing, the Berlin- and London-based artist (*1967) offers incisive, often ironic, and provocative commentary on the values, hierarchies, and economies subtending the field of contemporary art against the backdrop of larger societal shifts. Estranging the familiar or conversely expressing the common in a radically unforeseen manner, Pryde's ingenuous choice of subject matter, unusual formal solutions and surprising juxtapositions continue to capture international exhibition audiences. Prefaced by art historian André Rottmann, the volume features new essays by scholar Rhea Anastas and artist/critic Melanie Gilligan that insightfully survey Pryde's work over the last two decades, providing in-depth discussions of the artist's continuous engagements with photographic imagery, visual culture, social and artistic conventions, as well as political issues associated with feminism (among other concerns). An illustrated exhibition chronology and detailed bibliography provides further information on the artist's career.

 

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Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 13 March 2015

Graphic Design

                A must for letterpress enthusiasts and graphic designers, this is a covetable showcase of Alan Kitching’s fount collection. Each page has been carefully created by Alan Kitching in collaboration with Angus Hyland, making this book a work of typographic art in its own right. Presented as an A to Z, the individual letters are divided by full alphabets, giving the reader access to a large range of founts to reference in their own work.

 

Photography

                Roland Fischer’s Façades are spectacular photographic pictures: a visual grammar of architectural structures, an alphabet of abstract forms full of art-historical references. Roland Fischer (b. 1958), whose work is exhibited worldwide in important museums, lives and works in Munich and Beijing. Since the 1990s the artist has been photographing the exteriors of buildings, of banks, corporate headquarters and museums in the metropolises of the world, including Beijing, Tokyo, Shanghai, New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Osaka, Boston, Brasilia, Los Angeles, Paris, São Paulo, Singapore, Dallas, Madrid, Washington, Mexico City, Chicago, Toronto, Chongqing and Montreal. The results of this breathtaking project form an unusual series of some 100 façades: a vocabulary of global architecture, an inventory of city landmarks. The structures and colours of the contemporary metropolitan universe are transformed into pictures that resemble abstract paintings.

                James Mollison’s photo projects are defined by smart, original concepts applied to serious social and environmental themes. For his latest book, Playground, Mollison photographs children at play in their school playgrounds, inspired by memories of his own childhood and interested in how we all learn to negotiate relationships and our place in the world through play. For each picture, Mollison sets up his camera during school break time, making multiple frames and then composing each final photograph from several scenes, in which he finds revealing “play” narratives. With photographs from rich and poor schools, in countries including Argentina, Bhutan, Bolivia, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Norway, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., Mollison also provides access for readers of all ages to issues of global diversity and inequality.

                Since the publication of Richard Misrach’s best-selling and critically acclaimed publication On the Beach, he has continued to photograph at the same location, building a body of work that has been exhibited as On the Beach 2.0—a reference to the technological and optical developments that have made the intensely detailed, exquisitely rendered depictions possible. The Mysterious Opacity of Other Beings focuses less on the abstraction of water, sand, and mote-sized figures, instead honing in on the gestures and expressions of bathers adrift in the ocean, at play or in poses ranging from relaxation to transcendence.

                For a German football enthusiast like Juergen Teller, summer 2014 couldn’t have been any better. The German national team—not guest of honor in Teller’s work since Nackig auf dem Fussballplatz (Steidl, 2004)—won the World Cup in Brazil, and Teller was there every step of the way. Siegerflieger (literally “the victors’ plane,” the affectionate name given to the German team’s customized jumbo) unfolds in typical diary-like Teller fashion: we see him enjoying a bratwurst or two, a casual round of chess with the family in his hometown of Bubenreuth, and perhaps one drink too many with his students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg. Yet Teller’s obsession for football (also shared by his son Ed, the covert star of this book) remains center stage, be he watching the final live on TV or welcoming home the triumphant team at the Brandenburg Gate. Teller even went so far as to immortalize the German victory in his very first tattoo, a natural step for football fanatics. For the rest of us, we have the exuberant, testosterone-charged Siegerflieger to enjoy.

                In the last decade there has been a major reappraisal of the role and status of the photobook within the history of photography. Newly revised histories of photography as recorded via the photo- book have added enormously to our understanding of the medium’s culture, particularly in places that are often marginalized, such as Latin America and Africa. However, until now, only a handful of Chinese books have made it onto historians’ short lists. Yet China has a fascinating history of photobook publishing, and The Chinese Photobook will reveal for the first time the richness and diversity of this heritage. This deluxe, lavishly produced volume is based on a col- lection compiled by Martin Parr and Beijing- and London-based Dutch photographer team WassinkLundgren. And while the collection was inspired initially by Parr’s interest in pro- paganda books and in finding key works of socialist realist photography from the early days of the Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution era, the selection of books includes key volumes published as early as 1900, as well as contemporary volumes by emerging Chinese photographers.

                Mickalene Thomas is best known for her large-scale, multi-textured and rhinestone-bedecked paintings of domestic interiors and portraits. However, the Brooklyn-based artist has also identified the photographic image as an important touchstone for her work, both as source material and as a medium for creating work. In an interview in the catalog for her solo show at the Brooklyn Museum last year, Thomas described photography as something that “defines [her] practice. It provides a connection between all the works.” As a student at Yale, she took classes with photographer David Hilliard, who encouraged her to photograph herself and her mother—an experience that Thomas sees as an important pivot point for her as an artist.

 

Fashion

                Following the success of I Just Arrived in Paris THE FLOW is the second book in the continuing collaboration between Juergen Teller and Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director of Louis Vuitton. On 1 October 2014 Teller photographed Ghesquière’s Spring-Summer 2015 collection for the house, and the resulting book is a fluid mix of fashion photos in Teller’s inimitable guileless style and images of Paris shot while boating down the Seine. This combination of portraiture, still-life and landscape photography mirrors the eclectic influences and materials which Ghesquière synthesizes in his collections—a bold, unconventional flow whereby innovation unceasingly rejuvenates tradition.

 

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Forthcoming Books Seen This Week 6 March 2015

Art

                 The Petrified Forest National Park in Northeast Arizona protects one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Despite stern warnings, visitors remove several tons of petrified wood from the park each year, often returning these rocks by mail (sometimes years later), accompanied by a "conscience letter." These letters often include stories of misfortune attributed directly to their theft: car troubles, cats with cancer, deaths of family members, etc. Some writers hope that by returning these stolen rocks, good fortune will return to their lives, while others simply apologize or ask forgiveness. "They are beautiful," reads one letter, "but I can't enjoy them. They weigh like a ton of bricks on my conscience. Sorry…" Bad Luck, Hot Rocks documents this ongoing phenomenon, combining a series of original photographs of these otherworldly "bad luck rocks" with dozens of facsimiles of intimate, oddly entertaining letters from the Park's archives.

 

Design

                It is not easy to translate into English the Italian word autoprogettazione. Literally it means auto = self and progettazione = design. But the term ‘self-design’ is misleading since the word ‘design’ to the general public now signifies a series of superficially decorative objects. By the word autoprogettazione Mari means an exercise to be carried out individually to improve one’s personal understanding of the sincerity behind the project. To make this possible you are guided through an archetypal and very simple technique. Therefore the end product, although usable, is only important because of its educational value. A project for making easy-to-assemble furniture using rough boards and nails. An elementary technique to teach anyone to look at present production with a critical eye. The first edition of the book was compiled by the Duchamp Centre and printe for the exhibition at the Galleria Milano in 1974.

 

Photography

                Tones of Dirt and Bone: Mike Brodie. The images in Tones of Dirt and Bone were made between 2004 and 2006, with a Polaroid camera and Time Zero film. Brodie used the characteristics and limitations inherent to this type of camera and film to his advantage. The portraits he made are further enhanced by the peculiar colour palette of the film. Due to the restriction of manual focus and expensive film, that came only ten sheets to a box, each image feels deliberate and precious.

                Photographer Friso Spoelstra has visited numerous traditional folk festivals in sixteen different European countries during the past ten years and recorded the traditions in his photos. Devils & Angels brings these stories together and shows individuality as well as surprising similarities between the various different cultures of ever-growing Europe.

                Three iconic series of photographs by Juergen Teller. Woo (2013) was made after the exhibition of the same name at the ICA, London, in 2013. Debunking the status of both art and fashion photography, the works were all placed on the same level, assembled to form wallpaper covering o ne room of the art centre. This combination of images was like a pin board of family pics, a tangled retrospective of his work as fashion photographer and artist. For this series, Teller has isolated certain parts of this wallpaper, once again changing the way we look at the images: the representation of a representation of a representation. Another series, Masculin (2013), has never been shown before. It was made after Teller visited the exhibition Masculin/Masculin at the Musée d'Orsay (2013), which featured one of his self-portraits. The images answer each other, with each photo from the Orsay exhibition being echoed by a Teller self-portrait. The latter show the artist in a gym, dressed in shorts and trainers and doing exercise, hefting barbells and sweating profusely in poses that evoke nudes in classical painting and sculpture, humorously and self-mockingly recalling all the effort—and grotesqueness—that lies behind attainment of those ideal muscular bodies. The last series of photographs, Irene im Wald (2012), is undoubtedly the most intimate and personal of the three. These small-format photos follow Irene, Juergen's mother, on a walk through the forest of Erlangen, a place familiar to him since childhood. Evoking the balmy mood of an afternoon with the family, each image expresses the photographer's tender vision of his mother, seen in the forest on a sunny winter's day. The words accompanying the images are like voice-overs, the voice of the photographer and also the walker, as the rhythm of walking engenders an introspective mood.

               

Theory

                  The Shape of Evidence examines the role and use of visual documents in contemporary art, looking at artworks in which the document is valued not only as a source of information but also as a distinctive visual and critical form. It contends that for artists who use film, photography or written sources, adopting formats derived from specific professional, industrial, scientific of or commercial contexts, the document offers a way to develop a critical reflection around issues of representation, knowledge production, art and its history. The book invites viewers to reflect upon the production and interpretation of seemingly straightforward images, and proposes that some artists can show us through their practice how to turn these deceptively simple images inside out. It addresses several issues that are key both in art and in general culture today: the role of the museum and the archive, the role of documents and the trust that is placed in them, the circulation of such images and the historical genealogies that can be drawn in relation to images. Its uniqueness, however, also derives from its method: it is based on a close reading of a select number of works of art (e.g. Christopher Williams, Fiona Tan, Jean-Luc Moulène), which makes it approachable and engaging with the reader (the book will be illustrated). It is through looking at a select number of artworks that the reader is led to consider greater issues concerning visual documents. Moreover, the book is unique in its interdisciplinary approach: while being about contemporary art it discusses objects and ideas drawn from a wide spectrum of areas including literature, history, photography history, scientific representation, surrealism, conceptual art, commercial photography and so forth. Ultimately the book invites viewers to reflect upon the production and interpretation of seemingly straightforward images, and proposes that some artists can show us through their practice how to turn these deceptively simple images inside out.

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