Sensory Deprivation

Toledo, Ohio, USA, 1974 Image © Bernd and Hilla Becher

Gas Tanks

Bernd and Hilla Becher

“The famous Düsseldorf photographers’ formal investigation of industrial structures displays their serenely cool, rigorous approach to the structures they photograph as variations on an ideal form. The Bechers make no attempt to analyze or explain their subjects. For more than 35 years, the Bechers have been creating a monument to the most venerable buildings of the industrial era through their photographic art. They have re-awoken the forgotten or unnoticed beauty of water towers, gas holders, lime kilns and blast furnaces, and their photographs have told the story of the process of industrialization. Their head-on, deadpan photographs express an almost Egyptial sense of man’s heroic effort to put his mark on the landscape. Gas Tanks presents four principally different forms of gas holders or gas tanks taken over three decades.”

Publisher: MIT
Hardback: 144 pages


A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat

Arthur Rimbaud

A Season in Hell is the first-person account of a teenager who honestly believed he could transform reality—reinvent life—through the magic of his imagination. The spiritual victory of which he speaks can only be achieved through a potentially deadly battle with the self. Yet if one believes in something strongly enough, passionately enough, and possesses the requisite faith in possibility, it can be brought about through sheer focus of will. The book itself, the implications of its very title, are testament to this. The tale is characterized by mellifluous language, vivid imagery, adolescent sarcasm and an almost religious belief in the redemptive power of art, all rolled into one. The Drunken Boat, written earlier, is a 25 stanza poem of 100 lines with the boat itself as the speaker. An allegory of liberation and the intoxication of vision (“I have seen what men have thought they saw!”) which ends with the return to the humble confines of everyday existence. “I am the master of phantasmagoria,” Rimbaud contends in A Season in Hell and equals the claim. MDG

Publisher: New Directions
Paperback: 103 pages

Action Art: A Bibliography of Artists’ Performances From Futurism to Fluxus and Beyond

Compiled by John Gray

Those who have tried to locate any information at all about performance-oriented art from before the ‘70s and ‘80s (when the genre finally started to enjoy increased coverage in such publications as High Performance, Artforum, Flash Art), will truly appreciate the value of this handy and compact little volume. The first of the book’s three sections focuses on the “formative years, from Marinetti’s 1909 Futurist stage works to John Cage’s ‘Untitled Event’ of 1952. Section Two covers Action Art’s most fertile period: from the early ‘50s Gutai Group actions, to late ‘50s and early ‘60s Environments and Happenings, to the Fluxus and event art of the early and mid-’60s, to the hideous blood orgies of the Viennese Actionists, and including the Dutch Provos, the Situationist International, and the hijinks of the Guerrilla Art Action Group. The final section is devoted to biographical and critical studies of over 115 Action artists and artists’ groups. All this is followed by five appendixes filled with all sorts of useful information and obsessive cross-referencing, and, finally, four indexes—by artist, subject, title and author. A revelation for those who think performance art was invented by Laurie Anderson, Karen Finley or the Kipper Kids. DB

Publisher: Greenwood
Hardback: 360 pages

Alexis Rockman: Second Nature

Alexis Rockman

Alexis Rockman is a successful New York-based painter who is also tremendously popular with the clientele of the Amok bookstore. The reasons for this are easy to see. Aside from a striking technical fluency, Rockman’s work samples a categorical pool which is in many ways similar to the one that gave birth to Amok—R&D, Surrealism, Pulp Sci-Fi, Freaks!—it’s all here. If Hieronymus Bosch were commissioned to produce didactic panels for the Museum of Natural History, they might look something like this. Colliding various established painterly genres such as the still life and landscape with the instructional schematics of scientific display, Rockman meticulously renders tableaux that effectively reconstitute the abstract, theoretical realm of models, graphs and cross sections as organic matter, wholly susceptible to the cycles of decay and regeneration. And that’s not all—as a crowning touch, these naturalist allegories are submitted to the grotesque and paranoid machinations of a budget-horror mise-en-scène. Genealogical trees are turned upside-down by natural forces; dioramas spring suddenly to life and total zoological chaos ensues. By way of interspecies copulation, mutation, gene-splicing or plain old Frankenstein surgery, every taxonomic, phylogenic boundary is systematically transgressed. The result is an exploration of evolutionary anarchy at its most basic and most sophisticated levels.
Second Nature presents a comprehensive overview of this troubling and darkly humorous oeuvre, generously illustrated with sharp, color plates of the paintings, plus an additional selection of source materials from the artist’s own photographic archive. An unusually informative series of critical texts by such science- and art-world luminaries as Stephen Jay Gould and Douglas Blau completes this attractive package. JT

Publisher: University Galleries
Paperback: 98 pages

Alice’s Adventures Under Ground

Lewis Carroll

Facsimile edition of the handwritten manuscript the author gave to his friend’s daughter, young Alice Liddle, in 1864, complete with original illustrations and an oval portrait of Alice glued to the last page. Revised and expanded with new illustrations, this early adventure was reproduced using a zinc-block photo process (called photo-zincography), and became the Alice in Wonderland tale we are familiar with today. GR

Publisher: Dover
Paperback: 128 pages

Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger

Bill Landis

One might imagine that the author of the Hollywood Babylon books would have reason to shudder at the thought of his own biography seeing print. This book is, however, a loving tribute. Anger’s films are described in lavish detail, and some sense is conveyed of how much impact each film made. Anger is lauded for his work with the Kinsey Institute. This is an important document for anybody with an interest in the development of the American underground film movement. It illustrates the struggles involved when working outside of the mainstream, and the consequences of swimming against the current of Hollywood protocol. SA

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Paperback: 290 pages

Apollinaire on Art: Essays and Reviews, 1902-1918

Edited by Leroy C. Breunig

The most influential poet of his generation and inventor of the word surrealism, Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) was the champion of modern art and the impresario of the avant-garde. Matisse, Picasso and Braque—today all recognized as modern masters—are just three of the painters for whom this “poet-critic” was the most ardent (and for a time, almost single-handed) defender. In reading the essays, it’s remarkable to note that his knowledge of painting and sculpture was almost entirely self-taught. Passionate, lyrical and fiercely subjective (and at points, to his detriment, breezy and vague—anathema to rigorous intellectual analysis and dry academic critique)—Apollinaire possessed the most important trait that marks the true critic: prescience, the ability to recognize genius. Of Picasso, whom he considered without question the greatest artist of his generation, he wrote: “His naturalism, with its fondness for precision, is accompanied by that mysticism that in Spain inhabits the least religious of souls.” MDG

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 546 pages

Art of the Third Reich

Peter Adam

The German Art Association pulled all the “decaying foulness” of modern art out of the museums and exhibited the best examples of “the hunchbacked idiots” in a show titled “Degenerate Art” in 1937. It was an unexpected smash. Wait till they see the good stuff, thought Adolf. So he got all his volk art together in the “Great German Art Exhibition 1939.” “How are we to judge this art?” asks the author. “The eye of the art historian is not enough. Our emotional response to the art produced under Hitler is overshadowed by history… Today, with all the knowledge we have of the horror of the Third Reich, it is impossible to look at these pictures without remembering their actual function. Which is ironically what the Nazis intended. Our suspicion that a wicked regime produces only inferior art is legitimate and widespread. There is evidence for this when faced with the overwhelming mediocrity of the artwork which was exhibited.” GR

Publisher: Abrams
Paperback: 332 pages

Art Under Stalin

Matthew Cullerne-Brown

“In 1932, Josef Stalin abolished all independent artistic organizations in the USSR… Matthew Cullerne-Brown’s fascinating and often provocative analysis focuses on the art of the Stalin era, from 1932 to 1953, and includes discussion of the pre- and post-Stalin years. The author illuminates the political and social framework of the time and provides a complete exposé of Stalinist aesthetics, socialist realism in art and neoclassicism in architecture, the Cult of Personality, art-world debates and isolationism.”

Publisher: Holmes & Meier
Hardback: 256 pages

Assault on Society: Satirical Literature to Film

Donald W. McCaffrey

“Explores over four decades of satirical and dark comedy films, a genre that has been examined only piecemeal before. Since many of these were adapted from novels and dramas, McCaffrey concentrates on literature transformed to the screen. Some works of this genre attack society’s defects with the intent to change them, or at least to enlighten us. If change seems impossible, the absurdist tone of the work has value, as in the case of Dr. Strangelove, Catch-22, The Day of the Locust, or A Clockwork Orange.”

Publisher: Scarecrow
Paperback: 293 pages

At Your Own Risk

Derek Jarman

Second in the series of memoirs by late filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, At Your Own Risk is a distillation of his philosophy of life and a witty guide to gay sexuality from the repressed ‘40s through the AIDS-chilled present. “Landscapes of time, place, memory, imagined landscapes. At Your Own Risk recalls the landscapes you were warned off: Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted; the fence you jumped, the wall you scaled, fear and elation, the guard dogs and police in the shrubbery, the byways, bylaws, do’s and don’ts, Keep Out, Danger, get lost, shadowland, pretty boys, pretty police who shoved their cocks in your face and arrested you in fear.” JAT

Publisher: Overlook
Paperback: 314 pages