Music, fashion…and Madame X. Some of the best books of the season.
New York Noise
Take a look at New York’s underground scene, years 1978 to 1988, through the lens of photographer Paula Court in Soul Jazz Records’ New York Noise. Court shot everyone, including Andy Warhol with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Verlaine, John Cage, Richard Prince and Patti Smith. With anecdotal text from many of these figures, the book is a captivating glimpse into the bygone but not forgotten slice of New York history. “Downtown Manhattan was the rawest and darkest of all,” writes Anita Sarko. “It was Bohemia’s last gasp.”
You may have already seen the work of Xavier Lust. Or, more likely, you may have already sat on, opened and used it. The Belgium native is famous for his furniture designs—his manufacturers include brands De Padova and Driade—and flipping through publisher Stichting Kunstboek’s recent catalogue of his work, Xavier Lust, one can see exactly why. As designer Bruno Fattorini notes: “[His creations] have each been knowingly pared to the essential….They cannot be any less than what they are. Yet what they are has a striking impact.
If there’s an art book to put on your wish list this season, Prestel’s Klimt should be it. The spellbinding monograph benefits from insightful essays by scholars and explores everything from Gustav Klimt’s recently discovered church frescoes in Istria to the influence of James Whistler on his work. The range is certainly impressive; no paintbrush is left unturned in the Austrian artist’s life and oeuvre. The book also screams “collector’s item” for its large-scale 11 1/2–by–16 1/2-inch format, where every picture jumps from the page.
New York 1974
Photographer Dirk Reinartz is perhaps best known for his images of Richard Serra’s sweeping outdoor designs. Steidl’s New York 1974, however, casts a different eye on the German, exposing instead a series of pictures he took during a trip to New York in the Seventies. The imagery is no less arresting. The late photographer picks up on the city’s pulse and, more intimately, its people. And, interestingly enough, with no captions or accompanying text, each snapshot really does end up speaking its own proverbial thousand words.
The Society Portrait
What does Diane von Furstenberg have in common with the 18th-century Duchess of Alba? Or with a certain Madame X, for that matter? Portraits. These ladies have all been subjects of some of the world’s most famous paintings by, respectively, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and John Singer Sargent. In Vendome’s The Society Portrait, author Gabriel Badea-Päun traces the history of society portraiture. It’s a fascinating book, made all the more so by Badea-Päun’s cultural, social and art historical insights.
Katharina Prospekt, The Russians
Fashion designers An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx were so taken with Russia, they curated an exhibition on the country in 2005 at Antwerp, Belgium’s Mode Museum, where they explored Western conceptions of the Soviet land, such as fur, propaganda and nesting dolls. Those who didn’t have a chance to visit the exhibit before it closed can still take a look. The accompanying book, Katharina Prospekt, The Russians, is complete with essays by historians as well as fashion editors Suzy Menkes and Sarah Mower.
Skira’s Twentieth-century Fabrics exposes the reader to more than a century’s worth of textiles, from Sonia Delaunay’s Cubist-style blanket for her newborn to the designs of fashion houses Missoni and Etro. There is an informative and in-depth essay, but it’s the rich archive of images that provides the main draw—more than 200 colorful pages. William Morris’ florals, Liubov Popova’s Constructivist graphics and Walter Albini’s Carmen Miranda pattern are all included. There are even shots of tapestries by Le Corbusier.
Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal
Belgian artist Francis Alÿs once pushed a block of ice for nine hours through the streets of Mexico City, where he lives, till it melted. The result was literally nothing. But that’s the mentality behind much of his work: What matters isn’t the conclusion, but the theme of repetition. Hammer/Steidl’s Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal intimately explores his oeuvre, with a terrific essay by Russell Ferguson. The 144-page book, plus DVD, accompanies a similarly titled exhibit at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
There’s a reason Henry Miller dubbed the Hungarian Gyula Halász, better known as Brassaï, “the Eye of Paris.” Brassaï was famous for his photographs of the city by night. His street scenes seized a certain mysterious and dark, yet no less romantic, mood—lone figures filtered in misty, dim lighting. His snapshots of barflies and prostitutes are similarly nostalgic and telling of the age. Taschen’s Brassaï, Paris digs into this world of the Twenties and Thirties, with chapters spanning from “Artists of My Life” to “Secret Paris.”
The English American
Talk about culture clash. Pippa Dunn, the heroine of Alison Larkin’s The English American, is an adopted American raised by a British couple. In her late 20s, Dunn decides to search out her birth parents in the old US of A. Hilarity follows as her two worlds collide. It’s a story that actually closely mirrors the author’s own life—and one she’s already turned into an acclaimed one-woman show on the London stage. Larkin herself went from English middle class to, as she puts it, “redneck” Bald Mountain, Tenn.