Three very different titles this time, but there’s a thread running between them. First up is A Bigger Message, Martin Gayford’s conversations with David Hockney. It’s comfortably the most insightful and inspiring book I’ve read all year. My copy is littered with sticky tabs marking memorable moments or reminders for future research. Hockney looks, sees—sees—then considers. It’s a patient and rewarding exercise, one that is oft overlooked. Seeing, like breathing, might be second nature to us, yet time and again we all need reminding to do it. Seeing is as crucial to Hockney’s survival as breathing. There’s a lot more to be seen that what you’re merely looking at.
MIT Press and the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe’s snappily titled, reflective doorstop A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961–1973 is, well, exactly that. Spanning nearly 600 pages with 650 plates, this is the comprehensive documentation of Yugoslavia’s New Tendencies movement during the 1960s, the discovery and practice of “art as visual research,” and the movement’s critical vehicle, bit international magazine. A must for digital historians and Op Art fetishists, it may not make for bedtime reading but as a source of inspiration and learning there is something new to discover in every opening. It really has to be seen to be believed.
Lastly, this installment’s description-not-needed dessert course, if you will, is (the always exceptional) édition PAUMES’s Pâtisseries à Paris. In a (butter glazed) nutshell, paired with PAUME’s wonderful Paris Bouquins, I have the only two guide books I’ll ever need for the City of Light.
April has been a heavy book buying month for Andi and I. New to our shelves over the past few weeks: Baby Geisha by Trinie Dalton features a liner-note from Afterzine contributor Thurston Moore in which he wrote “I find myself reaching for a magic trapeze as I drink in your sentences. Feeling the sweet desire to swing to new freedom, liberation and surprise. Bring it on, Thurston”. Sold.
Blind by Sophie Calle is very big and very yellow. As with most of her work, it’s also fascinating. Blind documents Calle’s exploration revisiting three of her earlier studies into the representations, perceptions, and memories of blind people.
LACMA’s book to accompany their California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way” exhibition arrived on our coffee table about a fortnight before we actually got to see the show in person. It’s not a substitute for seeing the superbly edited show but it does save you having to photograph all the lush furniture and printed matter on view and also offers expanded insight into the history and legacy of one of the 20th century’s most important and enduring aesthetic movements.
I’m convinced art teachers in England use Claes Oldenburg as a student pacifier. GIANT PAINTED PLATES OF FOOD … HOT DOGS THE SIZE OF CARS … and so on. I saw the fun in his work but wasn’t a huge fan until I saw a little exhibition at the York City Art Gallery of his work in 1960s London. The standout for me was London Knees (above and below), a sculptural homage to the Britain’s swinging capital. Setting out to produce memorials of “objects from contemporary life that seemed to sum up and concentrate the ingredients of a specific time and place … enlarged and inserted into a site in the city” (#) Oldenburg mixed cultural observation and a foresight for iconic symbolism with wry humor to create adventurous proposals for environmental art. He also made sure to reference “the architectural and fetishistic functions of knees” through the work which, frankly, is a refreshing change from feet.