By The Art Book Review

Reviews of art books.

Michael Dean

Reviewed by Tiziana La Melia     Flooring the floor. Dooring the door. Walling the wall.   — To / the look of touch.   In the video of bpNichol, Echoes Without Saying (1983), the Canadian poet says: “One of the things that you have when you have a book, anybody’s book, from an accounting textbook on, is you do have a hunk of sculpture . . . You have a little piece of sculpture that you can do things with.” bp is known for making books that tried to get out of books. Michael Dean makes books that are…

Kitsch Encyclopedia

Reviewed by Alison Cooley     Encyclopedia might be the wrong word for Sara Cwynar’s Kitsch Encyclopedia: A Survey of Universal Knowledge. The text is not a categorical rundown of all the kitsch on earth, but rather a kind of dialogue between New York–based Cwynar’s own magpie-like photographic practice, and three texts: Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations and Roland Barthes’s Mythologies.   Following Kundera’s formulation of kitsch (that kitsch is a pleasantly simplified, aestheticized version of life that allows its recipients to ignore life’s disagreeable or difficult aspects), Cwynar traces its analogues in Baudrillard and…

Outland

Reviewed by Ananda Pellerin   “Sexy boys, fancy boys / Playboys, bad boys / I fink u freeky and I like you a lot” —Die Antwoord   Long curling toenails and rats in dirty beds: Roger Ballen’s world can be an ugly place. In fact it’s unrelentingly ugly in this new anthology  by the New York-born, Johannesburg-based photographer. Cross-eyed and one-eyed men and children with misshapen heads; animals that are better groomed than their destitute owners—they are unsettling but certainly transfixing, these domestic mise-en-scènes set in small South African towns. Originally published in 2001, this recently expanded edition of post-Apartheid…

Picturing Beirut

Reviewed by Iris Yirei Hu     All the Clocks Have Stopped at Different Times   I am traveling back home—a distant land, one that I never inhabited for more than a summer. I am returning to the same flat that my grandmother adopted in Taipei after World War II and the Chinese Civil War. The one in which my mother and five of her older siblings were born. It is the vessel that houses my history, though I am only familiar with it from a distance.   It is with this lens that I am writing about artist Gilda…

New York School Painters & Poets – Neon in Daylight

Reviewed by Lorraine Lupo     In a way it should never have been called the New York School – maybe New York Hangout/Party/Get-Together? Which isn’t to say they weren’t serious. Which isn’t to say that fun wasn’t crucial.   New York School Painters & Poets – Neon in Daylight (deftly assembled by editors Jenni Quilter, Bill Berkson and Larry Fagin, and with excellent essays by Quilter) tells the history of the brushing up against, and full collaboration between, visual artists and poets of what we call, for better or worse, the first and second generations of the New York…

Girl in a Band

Reviewed by Lia Trinka-Browner   #Who’sKimGordon?   The 1970s was the first era that learned how to exploit youth culture, and it was the birthplace of corporate rock. It didn’t last long. By 1977 the Clash had written a song with the lyric “No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones” and Iggy Pop and the Stooges had burst forward as the first punk rockers. But Iggy had been there all along, rumbling under the beatific skies of the 1960’s—a disruption into what was supposed to be entertainment and positive vibes. Iggy walked out into the audience, broke glass, smeared himself…

Newsletter Compendium 2007–2015

  Reviewed by Amy Lam   Newsletter Compendium 2007–2015 by Lisa Smolkin, a Toronto-based artist, is a collection of 19 handwritten, personal newsletters. The one-page newsletters include recipes, poems, pregnancy-prevention/fertility-control tips, snippets of conversations between Lisa and her son Jackie, recommendations for movies, short stories, dreams, etc. They were originally mailed to people on an irregular basis (there are no newsletters between 2011 and 2013). There’s lots of memorable one-liners—“Alienation corner: I dressed up like a flapper for Halloween :(”—mixed in with information that is more mysterious—“A 3-step process for making magical rags.” (“What you do with your magical rags…

Maya Fuhr

Reviewed by Lunakhods     Since first picking up a 35-mm camera in high school in her hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, photographer Maya Fuhr, now based in Toronto, Ontario, has produced lush, soft-hued images with an engaging and elusive quality. Her self-published book of photographs, made by Montreal’s Anteism, is a distillation of her aesthetic, which combines girly pastels and strong feminine expression in equal measure. The book is minimalist in its design, with one full-colour photograph laid out on each of its 13 white-page spreads. Fuhr’s curated selection of documentary photographs is pulled from a variety of favourite…

Land & Animal & Nonanimal

Reviewed by Xenia Benivolski     I acquired a copy of the wonderful and determined Land & Animal & Nonanimal at the book’s launch at Art Metropole in Toronto, where I was late to hear Mitchell Akiyama talk about the subject of camera stalking and masculinity, which is at the centre of “Unbecoming, Animal”, the second of his two essays in the book. While familiar with Akiyama’s musical work, I had no idea that he was writing on the Anthropocene, a subject on many pages and minds these days. This intersectional focus on theory and practice is clearly established as…

Apart From

Reviewed by Jared Baxter     It begins with a question posed by the French poet Bernard Noël: “What sort of question would involve no reply?” The answer, the quotation continues, has to do with something like intersectionality. It would exist between the two categories of question and reply, and this existence would be the contradictory one of something that comes into being through self-negation.   This, more or less, is also the structure of Kitchell’s book, which defies further classification in its use of elements of narrative, theory, poetry, photography, and symbolism. At its heart is an encounter between…

Incantations for Navigating the Cardinal Directions of Los Angeles—of the North, South, East and West

Reviewed by Adrienne Walser     The Oracle of Los Angeles knows that traveling the city transforms you. She knows that as you crisscross freeways, circle cul-de-sacs and solve roundabout puzzles, take one-way streets, ascend secret stairs, fly down bike paths, encounter valleys and hills, that you get mixed up, disoriented, reoriented and transformed. To help you, her Initiate, find your way, the Oracle provides four small magical books: Incantations for Navigating the Cardinal Directions of Los Angeles—of the North, South, East, and West. As she makes her magic and sends you forth into the city, she calls on the…

How to Train Your Virgin

Reviewed by Sarah Williams     “I’m not sure that Fifty Shades of Grey got it right or got it wrong. But what’s important is that young people are responding to the idea that women can write about sexual pleasure and female sexual fantasy.” – Wednesday Black   The New Lovers series from artist Paul Chan’s Badlands Unlimited Press offers a seductive invitation to the world of erotic fiction, for those whose taste in literature and sexual adventure are too discerning to be caught reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Each written by a female author, the three novellas are multifaceted…

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes: The Autobiography of Alice B. Shoe

Reviewed by Andrew Berardini      I decided that being a shoe salesman is a really sexy job. -Andy Warhol   Clothing and its accessories are merely costumes. What role do you want to play? What character would you like for me to see you performing? These things are not our actual selves but just the one we want others to witness.   This is what makes the desperate throb of consumer capitalism possible.   Buying a thing, you can become the person who owns it, someone different, someone better. A decadent party girl might buy these chunky heels to…

Exercises in Kinesthetic Drawing and Other Drawing

Review by Andrew Berardini Nine Pencil Breaks A sentence written on a hangover. A sentence that always comes too late, but is welcome anyway. A sentence that can’t make up its mind. A sentence written while staring into oblivion. A sentence where every keystroke is carefully observed. A sentence with a break, it stepped outside, took a few deep breaths of hot spring air, and then returned to finish. A sentence that wishes it was blue, that it could break out of the linear lines stacked around it and be free and scattered on a naked page. A sentence that…

Available Light

Reviewed by Jaye Fishel      “If light is images, and shadows are blocking light, in some sense shadows are really blocking images and that does lead to some nice surprises.” Bob Miller, Light Walk – Exploratorium, 1982     Come in through the dark. Imagine if we could remember being born: the immediate shock of light. This question is even borderline too trite for me to ponder. But that an image from a book can evoke this question with enough evocation of pure curiosity, it must be a wonder.   Available Light offers images of images of the world…