From Dior to dummies, a look at the season’s most interesting art books.
“Dior Impressions: The Inspiration and Influence of Impressionism at the House of Dior” (Rizzoli New York; available Sept. 17), by curator Florence Muller with texts by Philippe Thiebaut, Farid Chenoune, Barbara Jeauffroy-Mairet and Brigitte Richart. Christian Dior had a fascination with color and flowers, and it was illustrated by most of his collections. The passion was shared by the Impressionists, who loved to paint in lush rural locales like Granville, where Dior grew up, and where the Dior museum is located in what was once his family’s house. This new Rizzoli book, which accompanies an exhibition running at the museum until Sept. 22, draws explicit parallels between Impressionist works and Dior designs by the house founder, along with those of John Galliano and Raf Simons. It shows paintings next to dresses that were inspired by them or that they resemble. Roses, lilies of the valley, poppies, tulips, wildflowers and even ivy turn up on all sorts of day, cocktail and evening looks, but especially the last. “Each new collection is like a new spring, with the pieces of fabric as new shoots,” Dior wrote in his memoirs.
“Fashion A to Z: An Illustrated Dictionary” (Laurence King; available now), by Alex Newman and Zakee Shariff. This small book, by authors who are, respectively, a writer and designer and an artist and designer, is intended to inform textile or fashion students and others with an interest exactly what such things as Dior’s Y-Line — looks with a Y-shape from fall 1955; a pagoda sleeve — a funnel-shaped oversleeve, and a ruana — a poncho-style garment from the Andes — actually are. Shariff created the extensive illustrations.
“Dennis Hopper: On the Road” (Fundación Museo Picasso Málaga/Legado Paul, Christine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso/D.A.P.; available Aug. 31). In the Sixties, actor/director/art collector Dennis Hopper was in the habit of carrying a camera everywhere. The book is meant to resemble a road trip across America, and it covers film shoots, movie stars, musicians, artists, street scenes throughout the country and Warhol’s Factory, where Hopper spent a lot of time. There are quite a few photos of Warhol himself, including a great one that shows him in silhouette with a camera. Hopper was one of the first to own a Warhol Campbell’s Soup can, which he bought for $65. Other photos show The Byrds, Brian Jones and a strange tableau featuring Ike and Tina Turner, in which she is pretending to drink from a giant Coca-Cola bottle. Some of the images are well known, while many others have never been published. “I was born in Dodge City, Kansas, and am really just a middle class farm boy at heart,” Hopper once said. “I really thought acting, painting, music, writing were all part of being an artist. I never thought of them as being separate.”
“Famous: Through the Lens of the Paparazzi” (Thames & Hudson; available now), by Bruno Mouron and Pascal Rostain, with an introduction by Philippe Garner. This book is by a pair of Paris Match photographers, partners in the Sphinx agency, who specialize in showing celebrities in unguarded moments. Garner, a director of Christie’s, writes of Mouron and Rostain, “They refer to themselves as ‘mercenaries,’ ‘Zouaves,’ ‘snipers,’ and explain that, as young men, they…wanted to be Zorro or James Bond…An assignment could involve days, even weeks, of scouting and subterfuge to create the opportunity they needed to home in on a moment of truth.” There are shots of Frank Sinatra at the beginning of his career, wearing a bathrobe and eating breakfast; Brigitte Bardot at the height of her beauty, mugging for photographers in 1962; Johnny Hallyday and Sylvie Vartan, startlingly young in 1967; David Bowie in Paris in 1978, and Kate Moss, looking 12, with a dishevelled Johnny Depp in 1995.
“American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe” (MoMA/D.A.P.; available Aug. 31), by Esther Adler and Kathy Curry, both assistant curators in the Department of Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art. This book was created to go with an exhibition at MoMA that will run from Aug. 17 to Jan. 26, 2014. It will showcase the institution’s holdings of the named artists, along with those of Andrew Wyeth, Elie Nadelman, Alfred Stieglitz, Gerald Murphy, Charles Sheeler, Stuart Davis and others. In the Thirties, MoMA deliberately set out to collect the work of living American artists as a counterbalance to what was considered at the time its concentration on European works. A detail of Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolor “Evening Star, No. III” from 1917 appears on the cover of the book. The Edward Hopper holdings here are remarkable, including the 1921 etching “Night Shadows,” the 1925 painting “House by the Railroad,” the 1926 “Mrs. Acorn’s Parlor,” the 1928 “Night Windows,” the 1939 “New York Movie” and others.
“BLITZ: As Seen in Blitz — Fashioning ’80s Style” (ACC Editions; available now), by Iain R. Webb. If you’re nostalgic for the heyday of Boy George, Steve Strange, Leigh Bowery, the Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, this is the book for you. Webb, who was fashion editor of the publication, shows his favorite photos and talks to the designers, photographers, models and makeup artists for the shoots, which all had a DIY aesthetic. Webb describes the “Wanted” shoot, from May 1987, this way: “I have always loved the movie ‘Once Upon a Time in America,’ so when Yohji Yamamoto presented a men’s wear collection full of turn-of-the-century tykes, I was excited to make my own chain-gang look. I got some sew-on numbers from a sporting store and tacked them onto tweed and tartan jackets and caps. Knitted waistcoats and sweaters, sourced from the local Oxfam shops, were mostly too small…splitting at the seams.” Model Andre Van Noord, who appeared in the shoot “Skin and Bone and Everything in Between” in May 1987, said, “In the morning I’d wake up in London in a squat with no heating; in the afternoon, I’d open Jean-Paul [Gaultier’s] show in Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. Yeah.”
“Paris in the 1920s with Kiki de Montparnasse” (Assouline; available now), by art historian and art history professor Xavier Gerard. You can’t go wrong with Kiki de Montparnasse, and Assouline and Gerard certainly haven’t. This is a big, lavishly produced and comprehensive study of the woman who was considered the greatest muse of her day, the mistress of Moise Kisling, who painted a dozen portraits of her; Foujita, who did a series of monochrome nudes of her, and Man Ray. Man Ray created the most famous portrait of her, “Le Violon d’Ingres,” (a photo of her back with superimposed violin f-holes) which appears on the cover of the book, and Ray also did the portrait of her holding an African mask called “Black and White” and put her in a film called “Retour a la raison.” Kiki reviewed the work of Alexander Calder in a magazine for expatriate Americans and sat for him in a short Pathe film. She could sing and dance, but she walked away from a recording contract because she didn’t want to do anything as a profession. “By 1929, [Paris’] principal protagonists, lost among the tourist throngs, looked, according to Kay Boyle, like ‘survivors of another and far gayer company and of a wilder, more adventurous time.”” Long after her Montparnasse had vanished, Kiki died in 1953.
“Raf Simons” (Taschen; available now), curated by Terry Jones. In an interview done for i-D that appears in the book, Simons, the designer known for his streamlined looks who succeeded John Galliano at Dior, says, “I’m aiming to bring more modernity to Dior. The most exciting and fulfilling part for me is when anybody — just anybody — in the street is wearing my clothes.” The book is full of glossy two-page shots of Simons’ designs from various collections for men and women, with a strong emphasis on men’s looks, since Simons started out in men’s wear, launching his own label in 1995. Bomber jackets were an early signature. Ten years later, he became creative director of Jil Sander, and his collections for Dior thus far have been well-received.
“Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits” (Pointed Leaf Press; available now), by Matthew Rolston. If you were wondering what Rolston has been up to recently, here’s your answer, and it’s miles away from his signature Hollywood glamour. The Vent Haven museum in Fort Mitchell, Ky., was created by W.S. Berger, a Cincinnati businessman and amateur ventriloquist who collected hundreds of ventriloquists’ dummies. Some of the dummies that belonged to Edgar Bergen, the most famous ventriloquist of his day, are here, and the others come from a total of 20 countries. Berger created rooms full of playful dummy tableaux. The book — which features essays by Rolston, Terry Fator and others — reminds us that Bergen had a hit radio show on which he interacted with a favorite dummy, Charlie McCarthy. That’s right, a radio show. The dummies that Rolston chose to photograph are startling and even a bit scary in these extreme close-ups.
“C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon” (Rizzoli New York; available now), by Susanna Salk, with an introduction by William Norwich and contributions from Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Liz Smith, Peter Duchin, Steven Stolman, Paul Wilmot and others. From the cover of the book, which shows her in 1955 at her Palm Beach house, Villa Artemis, with a Great Dane, to the shots of her in the final pages of the book, tending her garden, she epitomizes the classic WASP look and lifestyle. The former Lucy Douglas Cochrane, she married the champion polo player and steel heir Winston Guest in 1947. Their life at their Sutton Place apartment in Manhattan, in the country at Templeton and at their Palm Beach house was effortlessly stylish. So was she. Dressed by Mainbocher, Givenchy and Adolfo, she appeared perennially on the Best Dressed List, and was elected to its Hall of Fame in 1957. But what she was proudest of were her gardens. In 1976, while recuperating from a riding accident, she received so many queries about gardening that it gave her the idea for her first book, “First Garden.” Within two years, she was writing a syndicated gardening column for The New York Post. Meanwhile, with her piquant face, slim figure and understated clothes, she never took a bad picture. And she was also the only one of Truman Capote’s swans who remained his friend after he published portions of his román a clef, “Answered Prayers,” which exposed many a society secret.
“Art & Sole” (Harper Design; available Aug. 20), by Jane Gershon Weitzman. This book shows off the various “fantasy shoes” created by artists for window displays in the stores of her husband, shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. The artists represented include Joanne Bedient, Nina Benley, Firoozeh Boden, Jane Carroll, Anthony Rosiello, Robert Steele and Robert Tabor, and the exaggerated, colorful pieces are made out of everything from corrugated cardboard and watercolor paper to frosting to real flowers to coated steel.
“Rick Owens” (Taschen; available now), curated by Terry Jones. Owens is a California-born designer who designed for the Paris fur house Revillon from 2003 to 2006 and lives and shows his signature collection in the City of Light. “With his long jet-black hair, his look is bodybuilder meets martial arts expert meets Mayan priest,” Jones writes. Owens is known for his loose knits in cotton and cashmere; long, languid skirts, and distressed leather jackets, all in a dark, monochromatic palette. His collections are often labeled “Goth” or “grunge,” but he’s not keen on either label. The book shows shots from his shows, magazine articles and various fashion shoots, all distinctive, even eccentric, looks. Owens puts men in dresses, and he dislikes miniskirts, but likes shorts. “I don’t do miniskirts and I don’t do tight stuff that exaggerates a woman’s femininity,” he tells Jones. “I sometimes feminize men, probably because my materials are soft and there’s a languor to everything I do that it automatically becomes a little androgynous.”