Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Early Word: New Art and Photography Books (in Song)

    Got to hurry on back to my hotel room,
    Where I've got me a date with Botticelli's niece.
    She promised that she'd be right there with me
    When I paint my masterpiece.

My writing about some of the more notable and quirky art and photography books out there this holiday season will never be misconstrued as a masterpiece, but Bob Dylan’s music-meld of art and commerce wherein he’s “Sailin' 'round the world in a dirty gondola / Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola!” got me to thinking of appropriate songs for some of the books I stumbled upon. Well, that, and plus the fact that I had the headphones on and a whole lot of CDs and LPs within inspiration’s reach.

Monkey Portraits by Jill Greenberg, Paul Weitz

Feeling a bit anthropomorphic lately? You would’ve thought Chuck Berry said it all:

    Blond haired, good lookin' - tryin' to get me hooked.
    Want me to marry - settle down - get a home - write a book!
    Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.
    Too much monkey business for me to be involved in!

But with 76 emotion-ranging photos, Jill Greenberg displays some surprising images of monkeys and apes, many of whom have appeared on film or in television shows. Maybe she found them more disciplined than the Hollywood celebrities she used to photograph for major publications.

My Secret: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren

As the Beatles once implored:

    Listen,
    Do you want to know a secret?
    Do you promise not to tell, whoa oh, oh.

    Closer,
    Let me whisper in your ear…

Or just mail them to Warren for this follow-up to the bestseller, PostSecret, his 2005 exercise in community art in which strangers mailed him anonymous postcards with their innermost secrets. This time around Warren has personally selected never-before-seen anonymous postcards created by teens and college students from across America with such hilarious and off-the-wall messages as:

  • "My friends think I was homeschooled. I spent high school in juvi."
  • "I am avoiding you because you are socially below me."
  • "I know the truth to the lie my parents tell... "

A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005 by Annie Leibovitz

The Kinks once sang:

    People take pictures of the Summer,
    Just in case someone thought they had missed it,
    Just to proved that it really existed.
    People take pictures of each other,
    And the moment to last them for ever,
    Of the time when they mattered to someone
    .

Many photographers have taken pictures of the celebrities and scenes documented by Leibowitz in her career with Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. With shots of such famed figures as Johnny Cash, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Keith Richards, Michael Jordan, Joan Didion, R2-D2, Patti Smith, Nelson Mandela, Jack Nicholson, William Burroughs, and George W. Bush; and scenes from the siege of Sarajevo in the early '90s, and distinctive landscapes and ad campaigns -- many collected in this volume -- Leibowitz brings her own style to “the moment to last… forever.”

The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe

Ray Davies also sang as an “Art Lover”:

    Pretty little legs, I want to draw them,
    Like a Degas ballerina.
    Pure white skin, like porcelain,
    She’s a work of art and I should know
    I’m an art lover.

Manet, Pissarro, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley, Morisot, and Cassatt. Private Lives constitutes a rich illustration of these revolutionary artists known for their atmospheric landscapes and candid depictions of everyday life - paintings as much valued now as they were disdained then. For a full portrait, Roe provides more biographical breadth and depth than you get in most art books.


Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life by Linda H. Davis

Sure he’s “Mysterious and spooky, all together ooky” - he was, after all, fascinated by "the aberrations of life." But is he “Neat. Sweet. Petite?” Find out as we “ get a witch's shawl on / A broomstick you can crawl on" to pay a call on the darkly-humored New Yorker cartoonist in this scintillating biography which includes previously unpublished artwork, photographs, and personal drawings.


Shelter Dogs by Traer Scott

Tom Waits sings of their canine cousins:

    Inside a broken clock
    Splashing the wine
    With all the Rain Dogs
    Taxi, we'd rather walk.
    Huddle a doorway with the Rain Dogs
    For I am a Rain Dog, too.
In photographer Traer Scott’s empathic and poignant portraits of fifty beautiful shelter dogs -- some of whom eventually found good homes, others not so lucky -- Scott raises awareness of animal rescue causes, and especially the need for more adoptive homes for abandoned dogs.


Other intriguing finds:

Postcards from Mars: The First Photographer on the Red Planet by Jim Bell

The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw, and Never Will See, in The New Yorker

Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006 by Roz Chast

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain De Botton

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories by Ivan Brunetti (Editor)

Life: The Platinum Anniversary Collection: 70 Years of Extraordinary Photography

Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles & Scrawls from the Oval Office by Cabinet Magazine, David Greenberg

Ocean by Robert Dinwiddie, Louise Thomas, Fabien Cousteau (Foreword)

Deadwood: Stories of the Black Hills by David Milch

The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles by Martin Gayford

Robert Polidori: After the Flood by Robert Polidori, Jeff L. Rosenheim (Introduction)

Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution by James L. Swanson, Daniel Weinberg

Shoes: A History From Sandals to Sneakers by Giorgio Riello (Editor), Peter McNeil (Editor)

Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft by Simon Houpt, Julian Radcliffe (Foreword)

Born to Run: The Unseen Photos by Bruce Springsteen, Daniel Wolff (Introduction), Eric Meola (Photographer)

The Radio City Rockettes: A Dance Through Time by James Porto

The Anime Encyclopedia, Revised & Expanded Edition: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 by Jonathan Clements, Helen McCarthy

Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album by Matthew Robertson

Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) by Kirk Varnedoe, Earl A. Powell III (Foreword), Adam Gopnik (Preface)

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