Category: Recent picks

Art Recent Picks for May

Stunning new art books for autumn reading: Brancusi, Indiana, Warhol & more.

Syndetics book coverCitizen Warhol / Blake Stimson.
“From his life to his work, Andy Warhol is an enigma. The leading figure of the pop art movement, Warhol created paintings, films, performance art, and his famous studio, the Factory, in New York City. Fans, aficionados, enthusiasts, experts, and critics alike have tried to make sense of Warhol, creating a wealth of knowledge and speculation. Blake Stimson builds on this project in this gorgeously illustrated book, which brings new attention to the philosophical and creative influences behind Warhol’s life and work.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverWhistler : a life for art’s sake / Daniel E. Sutherland.
” The first biography in more than twenty years of James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) is also the first to make extensive use of the artist’s private correspondence to tell the story of his life and work. This engaging personal history dispels the popular notion of Whistler as merely a combative, eccentric, and unrelenting publicity seeker, a man as renowned for his public feuds with Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin as for the iconic portrait of his mother. The Whistler revealed in these pages is an intense, introspective, and complex man, plagued by self-doubt and haunted by an endless pursuit of perfection in his painting and drawing.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverAustralian art : a history / Sasha Grishin.
“Provides an overview of the major developments in Australian art, from its origins to the present. The book commences with ancient Aboriginal rock art and early colonists’ interpretations of their surroundings, and moves on to discuss the formation of an Australian identity through art, the shock of early modernism and the notorious Heide circle. It finishes with the popular recognition of modern Indigenous art and contemporary Australian art and its place in the world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe essential Robert Indiana / Martin Krause, John Wilmerding.
“Decoding Robert Indiana’s work for a new generation, this revelatory book explores previously unknown autobiographical elements in the work of the Pop artist and printmaker. Famously proclaiming himself to be “an American painter of signs,” Robert Indiana has created an enormous body of work, much of it boldly colored abstractions. In this incisive new examination of the artist, based on ongoing conversations with Indiana, art historian Martin Krause sifts through autobiographical clues within the artist’s work and finds a wealth of affecting and affectionate references to Indiana’s childhood, literary heroes, and the cultural icons of his generation.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBrancusi New York, 1913-2013 / text by Jérôme Neutres.
“The pure, abstract sculptures made by Constantin Brancusi have had a large and enthusiastic audience in New York ever since they were first shown on American soil at the 1913 Armory Show. The numerous American collectors, muses, friends, and exhibitions that enabled his success had a profound influence on the eccentric Romanian artist who lived in Paris… Over the last one hundred years his effect on the city’s art scene has never waned. Through stunning archival images and text by art curator Jerome Neutres, Brancusi New York tells the story of the mutually beneficial relationship between the sculptor and the Big Apple.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverThe self-portrait : a cultural history / James Hall.
“This broad cultural history of self-portraiture brilliantly maps the history of the genre, from the earliest myths of Narcissus and the Christian tradition of bearing witness to the prolific self-image-making of todays contemporary artists. Focusing on a perennially popular subject, the book tells the vivid history of works that offer insights into artists personal, psychological, and creative worlds… The full range of the subject is explored, including comic and caricature self-portraits, invented or imaginary self-portraits, and important collections of self-portraiture such as that of the Medici.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Art Recent Picks for February 2014

For February, a festival of fabulous new art books:-

Syndetics book coverContemporary art in the United Kingdom / [edited by Black Dog Publishing ; contributors, Nicolas Bourriaud ... [et al.]].
“The fifth title in Black Dog Publishing’s Artworld series, Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom showcases the wealth of contemporary art being produced in the United Kingdom today. Diverse in content and style, Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom features work from artists including, Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin, Fiona Banner, Bob and Roberta Smith, Chris Ofili and Mark Quinn, alongside the work of emerging British artists today. Exploring the phenomenon of the YBA, looking at pre and post-YBA; alongside the growing influence of art fairs such as Frieze and prizes such as the Turner Prize; Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom provides a comprehensive a complexion of the contemporary art scene from all four corners of the British Isles.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverNature morte : contemporary artists reinvigorate the still-life tradition / Michael Petry.
“Current twists on the still life reflect the tradition’s ongoing obsession with death in this survey featuring the work of John Currin, Renata Hegyi, Gabriel Orozco, Cy Twombly, and many others. For Petry (Installation Art in the New Millennium), director of London’s Museum of Contemporary Art, these images are considered nature morte (“dead nature”), as exemplified by the volume’s amusing lenticular cover of an exploding floral arrangement. After discussing the “mortal edge” present in the past five centuries of the still life, Petry traces broad historical changes alongside artistic developments, with selected contemporary works organized into chapters dedicated to “Flora,” “Food,” “House and Home,” “Fauna,” and “Death.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEl Greco : life and work – a new history / Fernando Marías; [translated from the Spanish by Paul Edson and Sander Berg].
“Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known to us as El Greco, was one of the seminal figures of the Spanish Golden Age. This magnificent volume, published to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the artist’s death, features superb new photographs of recently cleaned and restored paintings, revealing hitherto unknown facets of his art. He was a painter not only of religious subjects but also of idiosyncratic portraits executed in his own uniquely dramatic and expressionistic style.” (abridged from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalk the line : the art of drawing / Marc Valli & Ana Ibarra.
“Drawing has always been a fundamental skill and good drawing skills allowed artists to grasp the reality around them. At the turn of the millennium, however, the general impression was that with the wide availability of computers, scanners, digital cameras and image software, drawing would dwindle into a marginal activity. In fact, the opposite happened: the enthusiasm for digital imagery died down and the ability to draw has become a treasured skill. In the art world, attitudes to drawing have also changed. Drawing became a way of making a statement as an artist, of showing masterly skill something that up to then had been most commonly associated with painting. After centuries in the shadow of its more illustrious fine art relatives, drawing started to be appreciated for its own sake, as an art discipline, an end in itself, an art form.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverQueen: art & image
“This publication, in association with the National Portrait Gallery in London, follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II documented in photographs and portraits by some of the most important 20th century artists.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverArt of D*Face: one man and his dog
“D*Face has been a leading figure in urban art for well over a decade. A contemporary of Banksy, he was at the forefront of the urban art movement, and has had a constant presence throughout its meteoric rise into popular culture. This long-awaited monograph shows the development of his career as an artist to date, encompassing his continuing street work, and the path that led him from the early beginnings of the street art genre to multiple sell-out solo exhibitions around the world. Containing previously unseen images of his working process and studio, as well as firsthand anecdotes, and the stories behind his extraordinary work, the book provides an insider’s view of one of Britain’s most important urban artists.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Art Recent Picks for January 2014

A selection of new art books as varied as Wellington’s “summer” weather:-

Syndetics book coverFace to face : Flanders, Florence, and Renaissance painting / Paula Nuttall.
“This lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the Huntington Art Collections that runs from September 28, 2013 to January 13, 2014. Co-curator and scholar Paula Nuttall explores the transmission of ideas, techniques, and modes of artistic rendering that first developed in the Burgundian court and became hugely influential in southern Europe—notably painting in Florence, usually considered the artistic epicenter of Renaissance Europe. Nuttall treats thematic groupings of the exhibition, exploring the diptych as an art form, the portrayal of the face of Christ, the development of portraiture, and the virtuosic renderings of materials and textures.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverDamien Hirst : relics / curator, Francesco Bonami ; essays by Francesco Bonami, Abdellah Karroum, Michael Craig-Martin ; and an interview by Nicholas Serota.
“A groundbreaking work, this catalog accompanies the largest exhibition ever realized on Damien Hirst, surveying the oeuvres of the highly acclaimed British artist. Published on the occasion of Relics, Hirst’s first retrospective exhibition in Doha, Qatar, this richly illustrated book offers a different perspective on the work of one of the best-known artists working today. Tracing Hirst’s career from his emergence on the art scene in the Young British Artists movement to his present status as one of the most controversial and highly regarded artists of his generation, this volume offers a complete overview on his wide-ranging practice, which includes installation, painting, sculpture, and drawing and challenges the boundaries between art, science, and popular culture.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAmerican mirror : the life and art of Norman Rockwell / Deborah Solomon.
“In this well-paced, insightful biography of the iconic illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, art critic Solomon (Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell) reveals an enormously complicated man whose wholesome vision of America was not merely commercial kitsch, but art that sprung from an emotional life fraught with anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. This sympathetic portrait depicts a repressed and humble Rockwell-a fastidious realist whose style and obsessions clashed with the values of modernism… Though Solomon opts to simplify and quickly dismiss criticism of Rockwell (such as Dwight Macdonald’s), her substantive narrative captures the abundant complexities of this unusual artist, and reclaims him as a master storyteller.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBalthus : cats and girls / Sabine Rewald.
“Accompanying an exhibition at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art that opens in September 2013, this captivating catalogue focuses on French painter Balthus (aka Balthasar Klossowski, 1908-2001) and his obsession with childhood and the pubescent girls who modeled for his best-known works. Veteran Balthus scholar Rewald, a curator of modern and contemporary art at the Met, lucidly provides both the biographical and art-historical context for Balthus’s young subjects, whom he often depicted in gawky poses that heighten the tension between their innocence and looming puberty. Balthus vehemently denied the work’s eroticism. The girls are typically accompanied by smug cats-possibly erotic symbols and perhaps “a stand-in for the artist.” Cats had been a theme of Balthus’s since his childhood; at age 11, he completed 40 ink sketches of a stray he called Mitsou, and published the sketches with the support of poet Rainer Maria Rilke; they are splendidly reproduced here.” (Adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe Vatican : all the paintings / Anja Grebe ; introduction by Ross King.
“This comprehensive and heavy tome illustrates all the works of art on display in the Vatican and underscores the variety of its art, including works that popes commissioned from painters as well as works that were accumulated for art appreciation and prestige beginning in the 17th century. The book is divided into 22 sections representing the museums and areas of the Vatican. This includes the Pinacoteca (painting gallery), with paintings given to or purchased by the popes or removed from altarpieces of papal churches. Also included are images of art from the Borgia Apartments, the famous Raphael Rooms, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. This book, which has a DVD that includes every work of art, will appeal to readers who are interested in the art of the Vatican.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Art Recent Picks for December 2013

Art now, and then: several new and fascinating surveys of the art world for the festive season:-

Syndetics book coverArt now. Vol. 4 / [edited by Hans Werner Holzwarth].
“Think of this tome as a global go-round of the world’s most influential galleries: if it’s hot in the art world today, it’s in this book. Emerging artists are featured alongside established greats like Chuck Close, David Hockney, or Brice Marden. A to Z entries on more than 100 artists include images of important recent work, an introductory text, and a short exhibition history with bibliographical information. The illustrated appendix collects contact details for the galleries representing the artists as well as auction results of the last few years” (adapted from Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverA map of the world : according to illustrators & storytellers / edited by Antonis Antoniou, Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann, and Hendrik Hellige.
“Maps help us understand the world. This book features the most original and sought-after map illustrators whose work is in line with the zeitgeist. Drawing a map means understanding our world a bit better. For centuries, we have used the tools of cartography to represent both our immediate surroundings and the world at large–and to convey them to others… A new generation of designers, illustrators, and mapmakers are currently discovering their passion for various forms of illustrative cartography. A Map of the World is a compelling collection of their work.” (adapted from Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverArt since 1980 : charting the contemporary / Peter R. Kalb.
“Charts the story of art in contemporary global culture while holding up a mirror to our society. With over 300 pictures of painting, photography, sculpture, installation, and performance and video art, we are led on an illuminating journey via the individuals and communities who have shaped art internationally” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverMasterpieces of Chinese painting, 700-1900 / edited by Zhang Hongzing ; with essays by Ling Lizhong … [et al.].
“Painting has always been regarded by the Chinese as a supreme art, equal to those of poetry and philosophy. But dating back over 2,500 years, many Chinese paintings were made to be viewed just for a few hours or weeks. As a result, the masterpieces of the form have been seen very rarely, and then only by a few. This spectacular book accompanies a major V&A [Victoria & Albert Museum, UK] exhibition that brings together some of the world’s greatest paintings on silk and paper—many of which will be displayed only for a short time. All the paintings are reproduced in full, together with enlarged details.” (adapted from Amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverArt cities of the future / 21st century avant-gardes / authors, Antawan I. Byrd, Suygu Demir, Hyun Jung [and nine others].
“The explosion of global biennials and art fairs has been cited by some as the instrumentalisation of the art world by the financial world. Others see it as a sign of the destabilization of Western dominance and the emergence of new art centers. This book takes the latter position, arguing for 12 new international sites-Beirut, Bogota, Cluj, Delhi, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Lagos, San Juan, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Singapore, and Vancouver. Another significant effect of this opening of art worlds is the rise to prominence of the curator as a key figure who both elucidates and organizes this new topography. This work brings together curators from the regions mentioned above, each of whom has a highly specialized background. Each title city is introduced with a brief description of the locale’s political and contemporary art history written by the curator. Eight artists (and collectives) represent the avant-garde of their cities, and all share a commitment to experimental art and to their local milieu…” (abridged from Syndetics summary)

Art Recent Picks

Six wonderful new art books including: Street art, Chinese art, art scandals, and Breakfast with Lucian [Freud].

Syndetics book coverThe museum of scandals : art that shocked the world / Éléa Baucheron, Diane Routex.
“Art scandals are as old as art itself. Centuries ago, the liberal representation of naked flesh and all-too-obvious hints at political injustice broke many a taboo. In modern and contemporary art, too, provocative actions regularly attract attention. In this stunning book Éléa Baucheron and Diane Routex have collected the most outrageous scandals of art history from the Middle Ages to the present day, from Michelangelo to Ai Weiwei.” (Cover)

Syndetics book coverThe Chinese art book / contributors, Colin Mackenzie, Keith Pratt, Jeffrey Moser, Katie Hill.
“Taking on a dauntingly vast topic, this book attempts to survey discrete images and historical contexts from the long history of Chinese art while maintaining threads of cohesion. China is widely considered the oldest extant civilization, and the visual arts that emerged from Chinese cultures remained intricately entwined with their attendant politics, spiritualties, and material realities. Rather than organize this immense visual history along chronology or medium, the authors present the generously reproduced images in suggestive pairings on opposing pages, each work receiving its own page and a brief contextualization… The necessary concision of the prose, the lavish beauty of the images, and the accompanying timelines of Chinese and world history all aid in creating a pleasurable, heuristic read, worth the distraction regardless of the reader’s familiarity with calligraphic techniques or dynastic histories.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPainted on 21st street : Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959 / curated by John Elderfield ; in cooperation with the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler.
“Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) came to New York City in 1949 at age 21 and created many of her most original paintings in the 1950s, in a studio on East 21st Street. This handsome book includes many superb reproductions of her paintings from the period and follows Gagosian Gallery’s spring 2013 exhibition of her ’50s work-the first time these paintings had been shown together in more than 40 years. An informative and thoughtful essay by Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, introduces the collection, convincingly arguing that it’s crucial to go beyond painter Morris Louis’s description of Frankenthaler as “a bridge between Pollock and what was possible”; we must instead view her work as “its own destination,” he writes” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe art of drawing : British masters and methods since 1600 / Susan Owens.
“This beautiful book reveals works from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s rich collection of drawings ranging from the early 17th century right up to the present day. Reproducing, often for the first time, works by foremost British artists, this book offers fresh insights into the wide range of ways in which these artists have used drawing to think on paper, build up ideas, and make finished exhibition pieces. Including examples from the greatest masters—William Blake, Thomas Rowlandson, John Constable, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Paul Nash, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, John Piper, Grayson Perry, and others—author Susan Owens discusses the art and craft of drawing, materials, and techniques, and why artists chose them.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverBreakfast with Lucian : a portrait of the artist / Geordie Greig.
“For ten years Geordie Greig was among a very small group of friends who regularly met Lucian Freud for breakfast at Clarke’s restaurant on Kensington Church Street. Over tea and the morning papers, Freud would recount stories of his past and discuss art. It was, in effect, Freud’s private salon. In this kaleidoscopic memoir, Greig remembers Freud’s stories: of death threats; escaping from Nazi Germany; falling out with his brother Clement; loathing his mother; painting David Hockney; sleeping with horses; escaping the Krays; painting the Queen; his controversial role as a father; and why Velazquez was the greatest painter. It is revelatory about his art, his lovers, his children, his enemies and his love of gambling.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe world atlas of street art and graffiti / Rafael Schacter ; foreword by John Fekner.
“Since its genesis on the East Coast of the United States in the late 1960s, street art has travelled to nearly every corner of the globe, morphing into highly ornate and vibrant new styles. From Steve Powers (Espo) in New York to Kid Zoom in Australia, taking in Banksy’s London, Paris as transfigured by Honet and OX, and the gargantuan murals of the Brazilian twins ‘Os Gêmeos’, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti is the first truly geographical history of the form. Featuring specially commissioned works from major graffiti and street art practitioners, The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti offers the reader an insider’s view of the urban landscape as the artists themselves experience it. This beautifully illustrated book, produced with the help of many of the artists it features, dispels the idea of such art as a thoughtless defacement of pristine surfaces, and instead celebrates it as a contemporary and highly creative inscription upon the skin of the built environment.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

September Photography

This month two influential New Zealand photographers feature prominently in our selection. Laurence Aberhart and Ans Westra, household names in the world of photography, bring us two views of what once was and how things have changed. In stark contrast the works of fashion and celebrity photographers Brian Bowen Smith and the Markus & Indrani pair take us to a world of glamour and artifice, showing how photography has chameleon like qualities and is a tool that can depict very different facets of the world.  Historical and nature photography are not ignored either, nor the staple of instructional manuals.

Laurence AberhartLaurence Aberhart – Recent Taranaki Photographs
Published to accompany the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition of the same name, this fittingly understated yet gorgeous book contains the 30 new works comissioned for the exhibition, together with earlier photographs representing Taranaki and held by the gallery. A celebration of Aberhart, one of New Zealand’s most respected photographers, as much as the Taranaki region, and the special bond that connects them, this book is also a reflection on Aberhart’s relationship with and depiction of  some of New Zealand vanishing landscapes and landmarks.
Words that come to mind to describe Aberhart’s work range from quiet, contemplative, melancholy, timeless to austere. This quote from the artist “What inherently interests me is the transitional: the pieces in our landscape that were something once, aren’t that anymore, will be something different in the future, or may not exist. I’m interested in capturing them when they’re somewhat adrift”, is an apt description of his aesthetic and intellectual focus.
The book also includes insightful essays on Aberhart’s work and creative process. (Staff review; Image supplied by Govett-Brewster Art Gallery)

syndetics-lcNga tau ki muri = Our future
“The purpose of the book is to give a directive to the country, an awareness of things changed and lost within its short history. If we don’t plan for the long term and keep taking stop-gap measures, we leave very little behind. Instead of becoming like the rest of the world, this beautiful place should become a shining example of hope for survival in a newly balanced environment. ” Includes 137 Westra photographs of the New Zealand landscape, with text contributions from Hone Tuwhare, Russel Norman, Brian Turner, David Eggleton and David Lange. (Syndetics)

syndetics-lcBrian Bowen Smith – Projects
“Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Brian Bowen Smith became a professional photographer by a less traditional route than most. While performing as a pro athlete, Bowen Smith happened to catch the eye of legendary photographer Herb Ritts, who invited him to appear in a Gap ad campaign. Ritts subsequently became his mentor and friend. Four years spent as Ritts’ assistant helped Bowen Smith to establish his photographic style, and assignments for W, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Self and Interview soon followed. Now living in Los Angeles, Bowen Smith has established himself as a veteran celebrity and beauty photographer, having worked with some of the best-known TV, music and movie stars of today (both up-and-coming and established), among them Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Warren Beatty, Orlando Bloom, Adrian Brody, Cindy Crawford, Sheryl Crow, Cat Deeley, Emily Deschanel, James Franco, Scott Glenn, Ethan Hawke, Demi Moore, Carolyn Murphy, Winona Ryder, Brooke Shields, Hillary Swank and Billy Bob Thornton, among many others. As this first monograph shows, many of these stars have gone on to become close friends. Projects spans the gamut of Bowen Smith’s work, from personal work to commissioned assignments done over the past ten years.”(From amazon.com)

syndetics-lcMarkus + Indrani – Icons
“Markus Klinko and Indrani–the hottest team in celebrity and fashion photography–have produced album covers for Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and David Bowie, and shot everyone from Lady Gaga to Kate Winslet, Jay-Z, Lindsay Lohan, and Naomi Campbell. As former stars of the Bravo series Double Exposure and in past lives as a recording artist and top model, respectively, Markus and Indrani have spent most of their lives in front of the cameras, giving them a unique perspective on the realities and fantasies of their celebrated subjects. The result is a collection of powerful, definitive, iconic images of some of the most engaging stars of our time. As cutting edge as ever seventeen years into their career, with Icons Markus and Indrani showcase their work for the first time in book form. The text, based on interviews with the photographers and many of the stars they’ve shot, describes the uniquely fascinating professional partnership of the former lovers, how they work, and tells stories about the famed subjects of their photography–at turns funny, fascinating, and endearing. Filled with more than 250 full-color photographs in crisp detail, Icons is an engrossing showcase of the hottest stars of our day in all their glamorous, glossy, and dynamic perfection. It’s a dream package for legions of celebrity followers and photography enthusiasts.” (Syndetics)

syndetics-lcShort nights of the Shadow Catcher : the epic life and immortal photographs of Edward Curtis
“Edward Curtis was dashing, charismatic, a passionate mountaineer, a famous photographer–the Annie Liebowitz of his time. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his great idea: He would try to capture on film the Native American nation before it disappeared. At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan’s book tells the remarkable untold story behind Curtis’s iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance–six years alone to convince the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. He would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his twenty volumes. But the charming rogue with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise–his great adventure succeeded in creating one of America’s most stunning cultural achievements.” (Syndetics)

syndetics-lcDesert Air
“Hyper Arid is the first comprehensive photographic book on all of the world’s extreme deserts (defined for the purposes of this book as those that receive no more than 4 inches of precipitation per year), the most remote and inhospitable places on earth. It is also a visual adventure story by one of the world’s top expedition photographers who has spent the last 15 years on this epic body of work. The stunning and surreally beautiful photographs are enriched with stories from his adventures in the world’s most difficult places: smuggling his aircraft into Libya, getting arrested for spying in Iran, crashing into a tree in Western China, and into the ocean off the coast of Mexico. The book is a comprehensive exploration of virtually every dune field and patch of barren ground that add up to the last great class of wilderness left on our planet. To visualize these remote places in a unique way, Steinmetz learned how to fly the world’s lightest and slowest aircraft, a motorized paraglider. This experimental foot-launched aircraft consists of a backpack motor and a parachute-style wing that lets him fly low, and slow, to take pictures of places that have never been seen before. Together, these extraordinary places are like a disparate family of co-evolved landscapes, each similar, but uniquely beautiful” (Syndetics)

Blogging for photographers
“The days of fame through word-of mouth are gone. In order to be successful and seen, you need to be online and you need a blog. This book is for photographers—whether enthusiasts or established professionals—who want to show their photography to the world. Jolie O’Dell, blogging guru, teaches all the necessary skills required to set up and maintain a successful blog about photography, from the technical side of things to writing intriguing, appealing posts.” (from amazon.com)

syndetics-lcDirection & quality of light : your key to better portrait photography anywhere
“Learn how to: determine the optimal subject position for natural light portraits; position hard light sources and soft light sources; choose light modifiers to adjust the light quality; adjust the distance and position of the main, fill, hair, and background lights for refined results; combine ambient light and flash for seamless, natural looking results; use on- and off-camera bounce flash to produce big results with small light sources; balance the light levels on the subject and the background for more effective portrait designs; mimic the beauty of window light with flash; get amazing results with video lights; gel your lights for flawless color balance or creative color effects; produce beautifully lit portraits in less-than-ideal situations.” (Syndetics)

syndetics-lc Sports Photography: from snapshots to great shots
“Starting with the basics of equipment, camera settings, and exposure, Bill covers the fundamental techniques of sports photography–understanding lighting, handling composition and focus, and timing peak action. He explains how to choose a shooting position on the field of play, identify the defining moments away from the action, and learn the etiquette of covering live sporting events. He then breaks down the shooting processes of specific sports, outlining the challenges and demands of each and showing how to isolate individual athletes in action.” (Book cover)

Art recent picks August 2013

Syndetics book coverCornelia Parker / Iwona Blazwick ; foreword by Yoko Ono ; introduction by Bruce W. Ferguson ; commentaries by Cornelia Parker.
“Described as a “physicist with the virtuoso skills of a craftsperson,” British conceptual artist Parker (born in 1956) has received glowing praise since the 1990s for her scientific research-based work and violent transformations of found objects. Wonderfully photographed and featuring a foreword by Yoko Ono … Unfortunately, Blazwick’s five essays do not adequately explain Parker’s enthusiasm for objects associated with history and famous people: a light-box display of Mia Farrow’s blue gown from Rosemary’s Baby; photomicrographs of Einstein’s chalk board; a pillow cut by Henry VIII’s sword. Viewers are supposed to be intrigued by these historical abstractions, but they can feel superfluous. As Parker writes, “Very often, the process involved in my work is just a flimsy excuse to get my hands on these objects that changed the face of history.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverFrancis Bacon : painting in a Godless world / Rina Arya.
“Arya (Univ. of Wolverhampton, UK) examines a contradiction of Francis Bacon’s oeuvre: the atheist’s denigrating use of religious imagery that seems to reinforce the potential meaning of the source material. According to Arya, Bacon’s art engages questions of theological debate while exploring the human condition through themes such as animalism, violence, suffering, alienation, and death … In examining connections between Bacon’s life, art, and religious association of symbolic and compositional devices, the book achieves its chief aim of consolidating recognition of religion’s significance in Bacon’s art…” (Syndetics review)

Syndetics book coverBoaz Vaadia : sculpture 1971-2012 / essay by Wendy Steiner ; foreword by Ivan C. Karp ; introduction by Anthony Brown ; artist Impressions by Boaz Vaadia.
“Eye-catching, life-size, and natural stone sculptures creatively conceived and intricately constructed that stop passersby in their tracks, are the hallmark of sculptor Boaz Vaadia. Drawing inspiration chiefly from what Vaadia calls ‘the primal connection to nature,’ he carves and assembles multilayered figurative pieces from glacial boulders and bluestone – originally discovered by Vaadia when bluestone sidewalks in SoHo were being replaced by concrete in the mid-1970s. He sculpts the bluestone in assorted sizes and colours to portray stunning likenesses – all named from the Old Testament – of family members, friends, and even the occasional accompanying dog or cat…” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverZainul Abedin / edited by Rosa Maria Falvo, with essays by Abul Monsur, Nazrul Islam, and Abul Hasnat.
“Zainul Abedin (1914-1976), reverently called the Shilpacharya or guru of art, is the architect of the modern art movement in Bangladesh, which began with the setting up of the first Government Art Institute in Dhaka in 1948. For his devotion to art education and his visionary and artistic achievements he has always been the undisputed protagonist of the Bangladeshi modern art scene. This book showcases Zainul Abedin’s work over a period of 40 years, with more than 200 colour and black and white plates illustrating his special relationship with his country, from various artistic, social, and political perspectives. This ground-breaking work retraces his personal vision and provides the best interpretative angles into a culture and reality that has been often overlooked and even misunderstood in the West. Abedin’s humanitarian stance and his commitment to art forged the way for an entire generation of Bangladeshi contemporary artists”
(adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverThe Bay Area School : Californian artists from the 1950s and 1960s / Thomas Williams.
“Tracing the development of Abstract Expressionism and the counter-blast of Figurative art on the West Coast of America during a decisive period, this important publication marks a milestone in the on-going understanding of the post-war art scene in the United States. The movement had its origins in the art schools of San Francisco and Berkeley in the early 1940s and rose to prominence in the 1950s as a major challenge to the dominance of New York. Starting with the work of the ‘first generation’ artists, such as David Park and Richard Diebenkorn, whose pioneering images explored both figuration and abstraction, the movement’s ‘bridge’ and ‘second’ generation artists, including Paul Wonner and Joan Brown, also feature. Including insightful discussions regarding the importance of drawing as a group activity, The Bay Area School skilfully presents a thorough survey of key works of the period and successfully argues the mutual influence of abstraction and figuration during this critical period, demonstrating, in turn, the continued importance of the these artists today” (amazon.com description)

Art recent picks for July 2013

Take a few art vitamins to fend off the cold! Try these great new books:

Syndetics book coverVitamin D2 : new perspectives in drawing / project editor, Matt Price.
“This handsome sequel to Phaidon’s 2005 contemporary drawing survey, Vitamin D, is a generous overview of the last eight years in drawing, a medium traditionally perceived as playing a lesser role in visual art, but one that, nevertheless, carries spontaneity, humor, and political bite-traits that characterize this broad and richly illustrated volume. Nominated by 78 curators, critics, art historians, and museum and gallery directors, the 115 represented artists (some emerging, some established) convey the limitless possibilities of the medium, not to mention the staggering diversity of recent art…”(Publisher Weekly) (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMilk and honey : contemporary art in California / by Justin Van Hoy.
“Milk and Honey: Contemporary Art in California” highlights new work by contemporary artists who are aesthetically and regionally joined through a variety of mediums and demographics. By showcasing unknown and emerging artists alongside established icons who all call California home, “Milk and Honey” recognizes the fact that region and lifestyle directly influence the working process and ultimately the state of contemporary imagery. In the same spirit as Roger Gastman and Jeffrey Deitch’s recent seminal MOCA show: Art in the Streets, “Milk and Honey” celebrates a group of contemporary artists with roots across various areas, including graffiti art, surf, and skate culture, and other uniquely Californian influences…” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverHopper drawing / Carter E. Foster ; with contributions by Daniel S. Palmer … [et al.].
“In 1967, Hopper’s widow, Josephine Nivison Hopper, bequeathed her husband’s artistic estate to the Whitney Museum of American Art, including a fascinating collection of more than 2,500 drawings spanning his entire career. This group of works has never been the subject of in-depth study and many have never been reproduced before. Hopper kept these drawings for personal reference as he revisited various themes throughout his career. Carter E. Foster examines how Hopper used his drawings to develop his paintings, arguing that the artist’s work can only be fully understood after careful study of these preparatory sketches. Foster also argues that Hopper was, in many ways, a traditional draftsman who methodically developed schematic ideas into detailed studies to refine content. However, the steps toward this refinement are unique to Hopper and reveal how he turned the mundane into poetic images with universal appeal.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverStreet art London / Frank Steam156 Malt.
“London: The Capital of Street Art – Banksy isn’t the only one to express himself on the streets of London. Names like D-Face, Eine, Mobstr and Paul Insect vie for space with international guests such as Obey, Roa, Mr. Brainwash and C215. Street Art London is focused on the latest and best of London’s many street artists. The ephemeral pieces that infuse the street scene with new meaning are preserved in this book, which also sets them in a broader context. Full of unique quotes from many of the artists, Street Art London is a unique opportunity to find the cream of the crop, and to become inspired by, and acquainted with, the street artists of London.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverShort cuts : artists in China / Thomas Fuesser.
“In this stylishly designed book of photographs, German photographer Fuesser documents his interactions with Chinese artists since he first began photographing them in the 1990s, when the now-successful subjects of these 17 portraits were unknown. As art dealer Lorenz Helbling notes in one of the four introductory essays, back then “the country was stirring with reforms and the unprecedented atmosphere was the catalyst for a select group of artists to fly well above the cultural clouds.” …The journey through these photographs is thrilling. The minimal text, which, in addition to introductory essays by curators and critics, includes artists interviewing and commenting on another-is strikingly idiosyncratic and sometimes perhaps tellingly obtuse. Although female artists are underrepresented, the journey through these photographs is revelatory.” (Publisher Weekly) (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPicasso and truth : from Cubism to Guernica / T.J. Clark.
“This masterful volume reproduces six lectures that U.C. Berkeley emeritus art historian Clark (Farewell to an Idea) gave at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 2009 as part of the prestigious Mellon Lecture series. The renowned scholar (and member of Retort, a Bay-area-based collective of radical leftist writers and thinkers) tracks Picasso’s work from the 1920s through the ’30s with gusto and precision, culminating in a close look at the 1937 masterpiece, Guernica… This satisfyingly rigorous book is grounded in Picasso’s paintings and drawings throughout.” (Publisher Weekly) (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Photography – mostly, black & white and subdued. Some garish elements allowed.

In this month’s picks the contemporary collections seem at times to borrow from the historical in their style and choice of topic. A photographic depiction of la dolce vita brings some colour, lightness and frivolity to an otherwise mostly monochromatic selection. A how-to-do manual also delves into early printmaking processes, showing readers how to create modern-day versions of pre-digital style prints.

syndetics-lcMan Ray – Portraits
“The artist May Ray (1890–1976) initially taught himself photography in order to reproduce his own works of art, but it became one of his preferred mediums. As a contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements in Paris during the 1920s, Man Ray was perfectly placed to make defining images of his avant-garde contemporaries, including Jean Cocteau, Peggy Guggenheim, and Gertrude Stein. Man Ray also photographed his friends and lovers, among them Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), Lee Miller, who helped him discover the solarization printing process, and Ady Fidelin. Man Ray continued to take portrait photographs throughout his career, including little-known images from 1940s Hollywood, and of stars such as Ava Gardner and Catherine Deneuve taken during the 1950s and 1960s.
An essential reference on Man Ray’s life and work, this book includes an introduction by Terence Pepper and essay by Marina Warner exploring the artist’s creativity and appetite for innovation and experimentation. Complete with first-hand testimonies from the artist’s sitters and over 200 beautifully reproduced images, this handsome volume provides a survey of the finest portraits from one of the most inventive photographic artists of the 20th century.” (book cover)

syndetics-lcThe Evening Hours
“Ben Cauchi’s photographs seem to arrive from another time and place, yet are thoroughly of the present. His use of the mid-nineteenth-century wet collodion photographic process is a means to question and undermine the certainties that we continue to invest in the photographic image. Cauchi’s is a subtractive practice, dwelling on absence, lulls, the uncertain, the opaque, and the fleeting elements of life. His shadowy images fixed on metal and glass explore the psychological dimensions of viewing and the nature of photography itself by continually moving within and expanding the grey areas between truth and untruth, presence and absence, the empirical and the incorporeal, seeing and believing. The Evening Hours brings together new writing on Cauchi’s practice with reproductions of over eighty of his photographs. The artist has played an active role in this process, returning to his own archive just as he trawls through photographic histories to select, re-present and sequence a decade of work. Ben Cauchi was born in 1974 in Auckland, New Zealand. He became interested in photography in 1997 and has exhibited regularly since 2000. His work is included in every major public collection in New Zealand, as well as in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Australia. In 2007 he was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago, Dunedin. Cauchi was an Arts Foundation of New Zealand New Generation Award recipient in 2011 and in the following year was awarded the 2012 Creative New Zealand Berlin Visual Artists Residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. This is his first monograph.”  (Syndetics)

syndetics-lcIt’s true that it’s been a long time since I thought about turtles.
Published to document the large-scale retrospective of major works by Roni Horn at the Sammlung Goetz in Munich showing until 31 August 2013, this catalogue does not seek  to prescribe a linear narrative but offers a variety of situations, locations, and positions from which to experience and see the works according to many different viewpoints, moods, and attitudes. The various essays are intended to foster and strengthen what the exhibition itself provokes: taking a stance and seeing the work of Roni Horn from ever changing standpoints as one of the outstanding bodies of work in contemporary art, encompassing sculpture, drawing, photography, language, and installation. (Adapted from publisher)

syndetics-lcSlim Aarons, la dolce vita ” It was in post-war Rome that Slim Aarons realized his professional mission in ilfe: to photograph, in his famous phrase, “attractive people who were doing attractive things in attractive places.” The photographer had survived World War II, witnessing the fall of Tobruk, the Anzio invasion and the liberation of Rome, and had come away from it with a distinct aversion to war, a career as a photojournalist, and a passion for Italy. After leaving the army for a brief stint in Hollywood, he relocated to Rome when Life magazine opened a bureau there. In these luminous 1940s, when Rome and the rest of the world were coming back to life, Slim Aarons discovered his great subject: the cavalcade of high society and aristocracy and celebrity – and the settings where this special class of people displayed themselves to best effect. The beautiful people who flocked to Rome in those years would become Slim Aarons’ principal subjects for the next fifty years. Tracing a journey from the 1940s to the 1990s, this lavish fourth volume paints the cultural geography of fifty years in Italy and distills one photographer’s vision of la dolce vita.” (Adapted from book cover)

syndetics-lcDennis Hopper – The Lost Album
“Lying hidden away in Dennis Hopper’s home until their discovery months after the artist’s death in 2010, this collection of spectacular photographs, exhibited only once in 1969-70 at the Fort Worth Art Center Museum, is a testament to Hopper’s prolific and enormous talent behind the camera. These photographs are spontaneous, intimate, poetic, observant, and decidedly political. While some are portraits of figures within Hopper’s circle of actor, artist, musician, and poet friends – including Jane Fonda, Paul Newman, and Robert Rauschenberg – they also include images from his extensive travels in Los Angeles, New York, London, Mexico, and Peru. Hopper’s abiding support of the Civil Rights movement and social justice is evident in his shots from the march on Selma and Harlem street scenes. In images of beauty and stillness he transfers Abstract Expressionism into the artistic language of photography. Throughout this stunning volume Hopper’s sensitive, keenly observant eye shines through, making it clear that he was a deeply committed chronicler of the events that were unfolding around him.” (From amazon.com)

syndetics-lcPhotography and the american civil war
“Six hundred thousand lives were lost between 1861 and 1865, making the conflict between North and South the nation’s deadliest war. If the “War Between the States” was the test of the young republic’s commitment to its founding precepts, it was also a watershed in photographic history, as the camera recorded the epic, heartbreaking narrative from beginning to end – providing those on the home front, for the first time, with immediate visual access to the horrors of the battlefield.
Photography and the American Civil War features both familiar and rarely seen images that include haunting battlefield landscapes strewn with bodies, studio portraits of armed Confederate and Union soldiers (sometimes in the same family) preparing to meet their destiny, rare multi-panel panoramas of Gettysburg and Richmond, languorous camp scenes showing exhausted troops in repose, diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles, and portraits of both Abraham Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Published on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg (1863), this beautifully produced book features Civil War photographs by George Barnard, Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and many others.” (book cover)

syndetics-lcThe New Art of photographing nature
“A new spin on the classic guide to composing stunning images of nature and wildlife
What is the difference between a good picture and a great one? In this fully revised edition of the classic bestseller The Art of Photographing Nature, master photographer Art Wolfe and former Audubon photo editor Martha Hill team up to explain the art of composing images of enduring beauty. Against a backdrop of more than 250 photographs of nature, wildlife, and landscapes, they share insights and advice about what works and what doesn’t, and how small changes can take an image from ordinary to extraordinary. Throughout, all-new tips from digital imaging expert Tim Grey show readers how to make the most of digital technology, whether by choosing the right color space, understanding sensor size, or removing distracting elements in post-processing. The result is an invaluable collection of expert advice updated for the modern age.” (From amazon.com)

syndetics-lcThe Last Layer
“In The Last Layer, the follow-up to Digital Alchemy, her successful book on alternative printmaking techniques, Bonny Lhotka teaches how to make prints that take their inspiration from early printmaking processes. In this book, Lhotka shows readers step-by-step how to create modern-day versions of anthotypes, cyanotypes, tintypes, and daguerreotypes as well as platinum and carbon prints. She also reinvents the photogravure and Polaroid transfer processes and explores and explains groundbreaking techniques for combining digital images with traditional monotype, collograph, and etching press prints. By applying these classic techniques to modern images, readers will be able to recreate the look of historical printmaking techniques and explore the limits of their creative voice. Best of all, the only equipment required is a desktop inkjet printer that uses pigment inks, and a handful of readily available materials and supplies–not the toxic chemicals once required to perform these very same processes.
Leveraging her training as a traditional painter and printmaker, Bonny Lhotka brings new innovations and inventions that combine the best of centuries of printmaking technique with modern technology to create unique works of art and photography. After years of experimentation and development, these new processes allow alternative photographers, traditional printer makers, and 21st century digital artists to express their creative voice in ways never before possible.” (From amazon.com)

Art recent picks May 2013

From the street to surrealism: an eclectic selection of amazing new art books for May 2013.

Syndetics book coverNew street art / Claude Crommelin (ClaudeLondon).
“Street art is part of every cityscape. By street art, we mean the crazy and wonderful stencils, paste-ups, paintings and little sculptures that decorate our urban landscape, catching our eyes and surprising us with their beauty, humour or pithy comment on society. It is, however, ephemeral and the work can disappear very quickly or be damaged by the elements or vandalism. Through his website, ClaudeLondon has documented thousands of works by artists active in the city.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverDrawing Surrealism / Leslie Jones ; with contributions by Isabelle Dervaux, Susan Laxton.
“An exhibition catalogue for a show at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art and the Morgan Library and Museum, this volume features a text by LACMA curator Jones and two accompanying essays by Dervaux and Laxton. The publisher describes it as the “first large-scale loan exhibition to focus on drawing as a prevailing form of expression for surrealist artists.” …” (CHOICE) (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe books that shaped art history : from Gombrich and Greenberg to Alpers and Krauss / edited by Richard Shone and John-Paul Stonard.
“Written by some of today’s leading art historians and curators, this new collection provides an invaluable road map of the field by comparing and reexamining canonical works of art history. From Émile Mâle’s magisterial study of thirteenth-century French art, first published in 1898, to Hans Belting’s provocative Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art, the book provides a concise and insightful overview of the history of art, told through its most enduring literature …” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverChagall : modern master / Simonetta Fraquelli ; with contributions by Angela Lampe … [et al.].
“Though his paintings of Russian village life, floating figures, flying cows, and roosters are instantly familiar, Marc Chagall (1887–1985) remains one of the least understood artists of his generation. Bringing together more than 60 paintings and a selection of works on paper, this lavishly illustrated book focuses on the artist’s time in Paris before World War I, his visit to Berlin and his exhibition there in 1914, and the years he spent in his native Russia around the time of the Revolution in 1917, all experiences that reinforced his highly personal visual language.” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverTreasuring the gaze : intimate vision in late eighteenth-century eye miniatures / Hanneke Grootenboer.
“The end of the eighteenth century saw the start of a new craze in Europe: tiny portraits of single eyes that were exchanged by lovers or family members. Worn as brooches or pendants, these minuscule eyes served the same emotional need as more conventional mementoes, such as lockets containing a coil of a loved one’s hair. The fashion lasted only a few decades, and by the early 1800s eye miniatures had faded into oblivion. Unearthing these portraits in Treasuring the Gaze, Hanneke Grootenboer proposes that the rage for eye miniatures—and their abrupt disappearance—reveals a knot in the unfolding of the history of vision…” (adapted from amazon.com description)

Syndetics book coverWhat was contemporary art? / Richard Meyer.
“Contemporary art in the early twenty-first century is often discussed as though it were a radically new phenomenon unmoored from history. Yet all works of art were once contemporary to the artist and culture that produced them. In What Was Contemporary Art? Richard Meyer reclaims the contemporary from historical amnesia, exploring episodes in the study, exhibition, and reception of early twentieth-century art and visual culture…” (adapted from amazon.com description)


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