New Books

I’m always on the look out for new books to add to my collection. As an artist and educator, I know there is something wonderful about the physical feel of a book, the way the pages smell, and the beauty of a really high quality reproduction. Recently I’ve added the Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonne, a wonderful investigation of Hilma af Klint, and some other texts. A few of the new books are listed below.

Riva Lehrer – Circle Stories

Riva Lehrer is a profoundly important Chicago-based artist who has worked on disability and identity for her entire career. Circle Stories, put out by Gescheidle in 2004, is a wonderful way to introduce her work to my students and to commemorate the power and presence of her work. The portrait of Rebecca Maskos (above) is particularly special to me, as one of my daughters has osteogenesis imperfecta.

I appreciate the leanness of the book. The statements are direct and clear. The images are evocative and give an indication of the passionate work and depth of feeling that Lehrer brings to her painting.

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Chester Arnold – Evidence

I love Kelly’s Cove Press, a small publisher focused on California and Bay Area artists. Their Squeak Carnwath and Diebenkorn books are, to me, essential viewing for painters. I REALLY hope they plan to publish something on the drawings of Manuel Neri or the wonderful paintings of Kim Frohsin sometime soon.

In this book, the work of Chester Arnold is featured. There is a wonderful play between smaller works and larger, more realized pieces in the design flow of the book. Covering a number of decades, this is an ideal introduction to Arnold’s work for those of us who aren’t as familiar with it. Frankly, I was blown away when I received the book. Arnold’s handling of narrative structure and symbolic force is rare. So much of contemporary representational painting pays lip service to story and metaphor without the depth necessary to deliver an image of lasting power. Chester Arnold really hits home with these paintings, and he’s been doing it for decades.

Arnold’s manner of painterly facture, compositional array, and use of symbolic objects and associations strongly reminds me of the great Maine-based artist Robert Barnes, as well as the frenetic interiors of Gideon Bok (also working out of Maine). What an interesting show these three would make together.

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Emil Ferris – My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

Ms. Ferris is a force of nature, and her first graphic novel is set to become legendary.

Every single page is a wonder to behold. The story moves with a familiar strangeness, recalling the moodiness of fellow Chicagoan Chris Ware’s work. It’s also an ode to the Pulp Era and Hammer Horror films. The artwork feels so close to the artist’s hand – the line quality and the sense of notebook paper (complete with “holes” for a 3-ring binder) are astounding. Ferris’s use of ballpoint pen exists here as both a limitation and an extravagant, magical tool.

I also really love how Ferris constantly brings art history into her work as a real player in the story. She does this particularly with art that’s readily available to be seen in Chicago. The city, its buildings, its people, and its art are all palpably present.

My suggestion would be to listen to the fantastic profile conducted by NPR here. I think you’ll find yourself as compelled as I was, and you won’t regret picking up this phenomenal book.

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An Awesome New Diebenkorn Book

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I just recently picked up a fantastic new Diebenkorn book, and it turns out to be very impressive. No, I’m not talking about the new Berkeley Years catalog (though I did buy that a few weeks ago and am enjoying it). This is a volume out of a small California publisher called Kelly’s Cove Press.

The book, Richard Diebenkorn: Abstractions on Paper contains 88 full color images and a few black and white shots of Diebenkorn’s studios. There are a few points that make this paperback book exceptional. First, it contains dozens of works that have never before been published. This isn’t because they were lacking in quality; many of the pieces shown here really display Diebenkorn’s quintessential processes very well. Secondly, the book shows abstractions on paper from all of the major locations where he worked throughout his life: Sausalito, Albuquerque, Urbana, Berkeley, Ocean Park and Healdsburg.

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The Healdsburg works contained in this book make it indispensable for aficionados of Diebenkorn’s work. I’ve followed every Diebenkorn publication, traveled to see his work in many states, and searched widely to find examples of his work. There simply is no other publication that contains as many Healdsburg-era works that I know of.

The book lacks any scholarly essays, which is a virtue. The only words are short quotes from the artist interspersed among the images and a short biography at the end. This gives us nearly 125 pages of beautiful artworks, printed nicely in an 8 by 6 inch format. I’ll definitely be keeping this book close to me for informal browsing. But don’t let the small size fool you – the overall feel and color quality is excellent.

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Authorized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, the book was produced in support of what should be a fantastic traveling exhibition titled The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949-1992. The exhibition starts at the College of Marin Fine Arts Gallery (Kentfield, CA – 9/28/13-11/21/13) and then moves on to San Jose State University (4/15/14-5/17/14), American University (Washington DC – 11/8/14-12/14/14), Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (6/6/15-8/23/15), and ends at The University of Montana (Missoula, MT – 9/24/15-12/12/15).

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This book is well worth the mere $20 it costs to pick it up. If you’re into Diebenkorn, it’s essential. If you love Abstract Expressionism, works on paper, gestural painting, collage, West Coast art, or the California art traditions, you’ll love this book. Click here to buy it.

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I’ve had the chance to write about Diebenkorn’s work a few times. My most recent essay about the artist is Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park: Provisional Action, Provisional Vision, and is available to read here.

Visiting Ocean Park

Recently I visited Fort Worth to experience the retrospective of Richard Diebenkorn‘s Ocean Park paintings. I have spent the last two weeks trying to process what I saw and what I think about what I saw. I’ve loved Diebenkorn’s work since my first encounter with it. I had to wait nearly 15 years to get the chance to really see the work in context. I’m in the midst of writing my reflections; they’ll appear over at Neoteric Art sometime in the next month or so. For now, check out some pictures of me and Marcus taking in the majesty of Ocean Park.

Marcus sketching from Ocean Park #30.

Marcus scrutinzing Ocean Park #135 – that’s the corner of Ocean Park #93 above his pencil.

Me taking in the glory of Ocean Park #40 from across the gallery.

Here I am considering Ocean Park #79.

And jump here and here to see some pages from my notebook written/scribbled during my time in the exhibition.

If you can’t make it to the venues the show will travel to over the next year, be sure to see this nice photo essay from the current iteration of the show.