Art World Baubles

Books that celebrate contemporary aesthetic possibilities

The book is an impressive documentation of both the move and the contents of the studio itself. Cappock pulls back the curtain on Bacon’s work, showing us hundreds of photographic sources, dozens of drawings (Bacons always said he never drew), several unfinished works including his last, and views of the studio in all its glory.

Cappock connects the various items from the studio to Bacon’s paintings, and the reproductions include rarely seen work from his entire career. We see Bacon’s obsession with his lover George Dyer, and the reliance he had on photos before, during, and after a painting’s completion. This book is a must have for fans of Bacon’s work, as well as a unique look into the artist’s private laboratory.

The Chapman brothers, enfants terribles of the Great Britain’s Young British Artist (YBA) scene since the early 90’s, have been consistent in their obsession with Francisco Goya. Years ago, they produced miniature models of each of Goya’s “Disasters of War” prints. Last year, they went a huge step further by actually altering—they call it “improving”—an original set of prints, drawing distorted clown and puppy heads over those of the victims. Needless to say, the art world was torn over the question of whether the brothers had gone too far or had made a masterpiece.

Similarly, White Cube Gallery in London has published this book of recent 2D work by the brothers including their latest set of Goya print alterations. Taking a set of “Los Caprichos,” the Chapmans have inserted all sorts of monsters and mutants over the prints of their favorite subject. In addition, the book has sections on numerous drawings and print portfolios including their “Giant Coloring Book,” “Exquisite Corpse” series, as well as their own, completely original, set of the “Disasters.”

Critics of the brothers have always felt they were a fad, especially when producing their obscene mutant children sculptures. However, love or hate them, this collection shows that the brothers are not only sticking to their guns but taking their Goya obsession to the absolute limit every time. This beautifully produced book is further proof of that persistence.

So many survey books are published annually that it becomes difficult to find a decent one. However, “Vitamin D” is the most thorough and beautifully produced book on contemporary drawing, or art in general, in recent memory. The book’s subject is matched perfectly by its format and design––large, beautifully reproduced images in full color on thick cream paper with deckled edges for each of the 110 artists chosen for the book. The pages feel like actual works of art laid into the book’s spine.

Instead of getting a “greatest hits” package of the same old names, “Vitamin D” serves up primarily fresh work from emerging artists around the world. The majority of the artists included have seen little if any space in books before, though this volume still allows a handful of established names, making “Vitamin D” is an exciting journey from cover to cover.

Kiki Smith, a New York artist who emerged in the ‘80s as an artist to watch, is being honored this season with a slew of traveling exhibitions and books covering the span of her work to date. This book, published by Monacelli Press, is one of two in depth monographs on the artist relating to a major traveling retrospective on Smith’s work in the United States.

Kiki Smith, daughter of sculptor Tony Smith, has succeeded in developing her own language in sculpture, installation, prints, and numerous other media for the past two decades. This lush book provides almost 200 full color reproductions of all of Smith’s major work to date, including her eerie figurative sculptures and her carefully produced objects. The photos succeed in capturing the work’s feel, which is difficult when trying to convey 3D work in a book, and brings Smith’s universe right to you.

Although a second retrospective monograph from Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center is also available, the Monacelli Press’ book is a wonderful introduction to Kiki Smith’s unique world and a complete examination of her important contributions to contemporary art.

The book is one of a long line of releases that resemble a ‘zine or scrapbook, pulling together hundreds of photos of New York’s “finest” at their most decadent moments. If you want a decent look at the art that has been paraded through the galleries, you’ll be frustrated by page after page of 20-somethings partying in the name of fine art. Deitch has a good eye (and ear), and has put on some truly amazing shows and events, but this book isn’t a good place to see them. Rather, it focuses on the cliché lifestyles in Deitch’s scene, documenting all the filth and fun.

If you still like watching MTV or read magazines like “Interview,” this book is perfect. A great gift for a teenager who wants to see how cool people pose for pictures, but as an art monograph “Live Through This” ultimately fails. Hopefully Deitch & company will put out a stuffy companion to “Live Through This” so we can enjoy more of the artwork.

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