Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Art Books & Nonfiction: Suggestions?

I haven't read these books...
Should I?

Various works of nonfiction on the visual arts, intellectual property, piracy, and the "politics of culture" in general.

I don't read many books that are newer than 20 years old, and I wonder if I'm missing out. See, a lot of people are really into reading the "latest political bestseller" – stuff written by radio personalities or sensational polemics like God is Not Great. (I made the mistake of reading The FairTax Book. It was terrible. It's reassuring to know that there are even some Republicans in this state who, in reasoned terms, take issue with the Boortz plan.)

Although I've highly enjoyed books like Jon Stuart's Naked Pictures of Famous People, I haven't found many that could hold my attention. But I suppose I shouldn't give up.

Above: Culture Critic Susan Sontag's text on photography (2001) is the second oldest in the cluster, clocking at 10 years "younger" than Imagined Communities (1991). I've never read her before, but she's been mentioned on NPR several times. The book, although its subject is an intensely visual phenomenon, contains no illustrations. The Guardian cites it as evidence of her "immense [and perhaps audacious] self-confidence..."

Books published by Taschen are awesome.

Occasionally, you'll find these bastards on the Barnes & Noble bargain table. To appropriate from our dear friend, Jonathan... it's a $teal!

Any other good suggestions on art books? Any particular artists you'd recommend? I don't own any books on photography whatsoever. This is a problem...

Sometimes I just need a good clean image; the writing isn't very important in that case. With books, it seems like a sort of inverse relationship - as the images improve, the writing gets smaller. And worse. Although Susan Sontag is certainly one extreme of the sliding scale, I'd like to think there's a way to harmonize good writing with a healthy amount of graphics.

Technology helps.

Graphic novels: New Avengers and Doom Patrol;
Nonfiction: Batman and Philosphy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

Someone recently made the suggestion that I'm a "book snob." Although I am very picky and although I think the comment was intended as a compliment, I just wanted to let everyone know:
Comic Books also = Awesome.

A is the End of A and She's Got a Gun by local Atlanta artists Ben "Bean" Worley and Nancy Floyd

Does anyone have any other suggestions besides what I've posted here - similar or radically different? I'd like to try my hand at a few book reviews this summer... Preferably newer titles - focused on art history, pop culture, theory, etc.

Of course, there's always a few 'zines popping up by various other dear friends...



Cinque said...

I have Richard Florida's "Rise of..." holding up dust next to my reading chair. Seems like an important one to get to. Meanwhile, not an art book, but a book every Atlantan ought to read is Charles Rutheiser's "Imagineering Atlanta." Basically it explains how a weak city government, unalloyed boosterism, and the politics of enforced racial segregation filter into every operational particular of the present day city. So much makes sense now...

Ben Grad said...

Did I give you Doom Patrol? Isn't it amazing? The League of Dada is the best super villain team in the history of comics.

I didn't like Rise of the Creative class - this may have more to do with Lit Major snobbishness than the book's actual value.

Miss Darrow said...

The Susan Sontag book is pretty good. It's not great, but it's pretty good.

I just finished Michael Kimmelman's (critic for NYT) AN Accidental Masterpiece which is pretty good. Reads similarly to a travel writer, but I liked it.

She's Got a Gun was great if you liked the show. Even if you didn't you'll probably like it. And it's a fast read.

I read a book last year by Lisa Saltzman called Making Memory Matter: Strategies of Remembrance in Contemporary Art which was great.

Jeremy said...

Thanks guys! I'm definitely going to check these out...

Jonathan said...

Santog's "On Photography" is one of my favorites - its required reading for anyone wielding a camera

troylloyd said...

Ah, I can't pass this topic up!
Please pardon any eccentricities or overloaded input, books are my favorite unthingly objects & I have an infinite biblio desiderata which can never be filled. The pageless library of the w.w.w. offers no comparison to the haptic totalization of acid-free alpha pulp bound to spine & imho the greatest portable technology we've ever come up with.

About photography, I'm not too knowledgeable--I did come across "The Family of Man" book at the junkstore & must say I really diggit. As for 'theory',perhaps Barthes "camera lucida",John Berger "Ways of Seeing" or Vilém Flusser - "Towards A Philosophy of Photography".

More recently,"Between the Eyes" by
David Levi Strauss may be more pertinent to our current condition of modernity,(I haven't read it,but did some online browsing),perhaps in our postinfo hyperreality the older books & essays about photography may seem
near-medieval-- could it have been anticipated how absolutely oversaturated with the photographic ghost the world was capable of becoming? The ubiquity of photo-trace is just that, ubik image alloverness.
this journal is pretty fresh :

Ed Templeton with "teenage smokers" & "The Golden Age of Neglect" is much the goodstuff photobook I think.

The following books, I have actually read & can highly recommend:

Jean Dubuffet,"Asphyxiating Culture and Other Writings"

Alan Fletcher," The Art of Looking Sideways"

Darren Wershler-Henry,"The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting"

These books are certainly
look worthwhile:

Francis Picabia,"I Am a Beautiful Monster"

Liz Kotz,"Words to Be Looked At"

Aaron Betsky & Adam Eeuwens,"False Flat: Why Dutch Design is so Good"

Jonathan P. Binstock,"Sam Gilliam,a retrospective" (the High at one time was showing one of his late 70's heavily encrusted scraped and pitted grooved asphalt paintings ,total stunner,it was eyesome)

Yes, comix are awesome - I'm a funnybook fanatic.The antho Kramers Ergot is always good. If you're ever in Athens be sure to check out Bizarro Wuxtry - it's the rulingest comicshop ever. A few links:





Okay, I'll shaddup...but one more thing,the work of Brian Dettmer is incredible:


...he recently moved to Atlanta,but I'm clueless as to where to see his work around here?

OOKKI-SAN! said...

you should definitely read susan sontag's "on photography". my dad actually suggested that i read it when i was in high school and big into photo/video art, so i borrowed his copy from when he was in college (i think thats when it was from). very very good stuff, some true, some not so true, as she isnt a photographer, which she points out.

Jeremy said...

I have a funny story about Camera Ludida, but it's best told in person...

Troylloyd: Have you read Mythologies? It's kind of amazing, in that late 1950s sort of way. There's an essay, which is basically a negative review of The Family of Man show viewed first hand by Barthes. It's not an aesthetic review; the critique is ideological... all about the semiotics of the "politically correct."

littlejoke said...

Sontag's other books are, ahem, classics that I used to get my bearings in the then avant-garde thought and politics of a day when there was an avant-garde instead of a less pretentiously antiestablishment scene...but I've never read On Photography for exactly the reason you mention...an illustrationless philosophy of photography by someone whose metier is literature and philosophy and (then) popular culture? On the other hand, her essays on films and directors don't have film stills accompanying them, either.

If Sontag was the conduit through which some of us discovered Roland Barthes, Claude Levi-Strauss (and how quickly THAT phenomenon passed as structuralism's late-60s post-ers clobbered it), and ways to think about Godard et al, that very fact renders her in need of subsequent translation and excerpting. We need, if not a hermeneutics, an erotics of Sontag's essays. (Parody of the famous final sentence of "Against Interpretation")

ATLanta ARTnews said...

go to lang harm next week
there is a book sale
to benefit eyedrum

littlejoke said...

And now that I have raised the issue of Sontag revisionism, I recommend www.susansontag.com as better than nothing in terms of figuring out how to navigate through her oeuvre.

Where the Stress Falls, which by accident was released in the pivotal month of September 2001, is probably the best intermediate book wherein Sontag reassesses the achievements of the 20th century in terms of the concerns of the 21st. (And reprises her introduction of some of the 20th century's late bloomers such as W. G. Sebald, who was gone almost before we knew he was there.)

I like this quote from the website: "Susan Sontag has said that her earliest idea of what a writer should be was 'someone who is interested in everything.'"

troylloyd said...

No, I haven't read Mythologies - I need to get around to it though, it is a seminal work. It's kinda funny he took FoM to task, when I came across it I did sense a 'cheese factor', but many of the photos are actually moving.

I found this little tidbit which is kinda funny too :

Jennifer Beals (former “Flashdance” star and currently casted as an art department head on Showtime’s “The L Word”) listed five photobooks she admires for the Wall Street Journal’s fluffy “Weekend Journal” section. First on the list was the exhibition catalog for the 1955 Steichen curated MoMA show. I was surprised; I’ve seen so many abandoned copies of this book that I was beginning to think no one actually possessed one, that were they were all either in libraries or on Salvation Army shelves. Full of dated, “othering” photographs of the world’s many cultures, it’s an awkward historical document and kind of a surprise to see at the top of anyone’s favorite list.


...& there's this FoM2007 thing which is fairly interesting:


It's a strange event that Camera Lucida was Barthes last work - the heavy themes of death & mourning and how the ghost of his mother hovers within the pages...cradle to grave.

More on Dubuffet, his writings also have a late 40's/mid 50's vibe, but I think that inherent spirit he invokes so often is still relevant today.He opened up a crucial critique about enculturation and remained committed in his ideals until the last breath.Reading his stuff when I was a young punkrocker really had an impact and still sticks with me - an essential formative element of my worldview.

I found a pretty good primer to his writings (in the form of a MA thesis), which can be found here:


roula said...

hey, i'm late to the party, but:

i have read parts of the sontag and the benedict anderson and thought that i should probably read the rest sometime. so i'd recommend them, with the caveat that i have not read all of either so i may not know what i'm talking about.

the one on the "creative class" was the talk of the blogs (that i was reading) sometime last year i think, and while there are interesting ideas in there i don't know if you'd get that much more out of reading the book than just reading *about* the book.

also, since someone mentioned "way of seeing" -- have you ever seen the video series of the same name that berger made? i think it's kind of awesome.

roula said...

ps that leslie ditto stuff you posted above is pretty crazy.