Category: Book Recommendations

Books Make Great Gifts 2011: Artist Recommendations

This year we asked the artists we represent just one question:

What was the most enjoyed/most inspirational book you read this year?? Here are their wide-ranging replies:

Nancy Moore Bess and her friend, artist Sharon McCartney share studios with for occasional “play dates” that involve hours of restorative art chat, small handwork and book sharing. It was Sharon, Nancy says. who introduced me to the exhibition catalogue, El Anatsui at the Clark (Clark Art Institute). “I had seen ads for his work,” adds Nancy, “but the catalog was more than glorious photographs – it placed his current work in the larger context of his entire career/life. Known now for his monumental ‘fabrics’ with metals and Nigerian liquor bottle caps, his earlier work with wood, found metals, steel sheets, etc. was equally exciting for me. I love rust! I was extremely sorry to have missed the exhibition which was installed in the Stone Hill Center at the Clark Museum, but delighted to have access to the book.

Sharon loved a book that Nancy owned, Boro, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, who lives and works at the Blue & White shop in Tokyo. When she tried to order it, she found a different book that Nancy recommends,  Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan by Yukiko Koide and Kyoichi Tsuzuki (Aspect). Both books illustrate the traditional practice of reusing rags and stitching them into clothing and household textiles. Amy’s book concentrates on mostly indigo fabrics which she collects. Both books include impressive photographs with the closeup images really illustrating how the fabrics are used. “Sharon and I both do a great deal of top stitching,” Nancy says, “she on her fabric constructions (she is the queen of French knots!) and I on my experimental paper work. The variety of garments in her book and the variety of fabrics really inspires me to get to the book store!!”

“I have one great book to add,” writes Gyöngy Laky, “though only peripherally art related:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown; National Book Award) . This is a semi-autobiographical novel by award-winning author, poet and film-maker, Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has been named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by The Boston Globe as “an important voice in American literature.” He is one of the most well-known and beloved literary writers of his generation, with works such as Reservation Blues and War Dances. He also wrote the screenplay for the film, Smoke Signals, based on a short story from his book, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.   In his novel, Alexie tells the heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautifully written story of a young Native American teen, Arnold, as he attempts to break free from the life he was destined to live.  Arnold’s drawings illustrate the book.”

Kate Hunt’s suggestion was a CD, rather than a book, Souvenirs, featuring opera star Anna Netrebko. The Independent says she is, “in a word, sensational . . . Netrebko’s strength is not just in the mobility of her voice and the razzle-dazzle of her upper register’s big-money notes – no, it’s the fullness and beauty of the middle voice that singles her out . . . properly overwhelming. For once, fullness of heart is truly matched in fullness of sound.”

Mutsumi Iwasaki enjoyed,「朝鮮陶磁図録」(tyousen toji zuroku), a book on ancient Korean pottery that accompanied last year’s exhibition of Korean Ceramics – 50 Years After the Death of Muneyoshi Yanagi at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo.

Lawrence LaBianca recommends The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford (Modern Library) and Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (Simon & Schuster) by Thor Heyerdahl. Both are true accounts of heroism and determination and creative reasoning used to reach historic goals in exploration — Huntford in the South Pole and Heyerdahl in the South Seas..

Sue Lawty, wrote to us about Edward R. Tufte’s Envisioning Information (Graphics Press), a book I bought for Tom a few years ago.  Sue bought the book, which covers wide-ranging systems, patterns or logic for presenting information from mathematics to maps, a couple of weeks ago in London as a present for her nephew, but now she wants a copy of her own. “It stimulates thinking,” writes Sue.  “For example, in the micro/macro design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, artist Maya Ying Lin had the vision of ordering names chronologically (resolutely resisting pressure for a more pedestrian telephone directory-type listing) thus, within the overwhelming density of 58,000 named dead, the unique loss of each individual is retained. I know I need this book on my shelves to dip into at sly moments and be informed by.”

“I read a good book called The Craftsman by Richard Sennett (Yale University Press),” Mary Merkel-Hess  wrote. “It is a broad-ranging analysis of what it means to do good work. His definition of a craftsman extends beyond those who work with their hands to include everyone who wants to do a job well. So many references to literature, sociology, society — it was fascinating.” Mary also enjoyed Architecture of Silence: Cistercian Abbeys of France, photographs by David Heald which contains marvelous photos of stone buildings and their simple but inspiring interiors and the catalog from Stimulus: art and its inception (browngrotta arts). “[S]peaking of inspiring, thanks for the Stimulus catalog! It’s great!”

For Lija Rage, her most-enjoyed book this year was Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Penguin), the first work by Salman Rushdie after The Satanic Verses (Random House Trade Paperbacks). She’s also been reading about Chinese culture in preparation for her next exhibition.

“The most important book this year is for me,” writes Heidrun Schimmel, “is the catalog of the Venice Biennial, 54.Esposizione Internazionale d´Arte Illuminations. I visited most of the exhibitions in Venice for three days and of course there are many ‘pros’ and ‘cons.’ But this year the catalog is very good and there is an English edition, The Venice Biennale. 12th International Architecture Exhibition. People meet in architecture (Marsilio Editions). In Munich now you can see two wonderful exhibitions with works of Ellsworth Kelly. In Pinakothek der Moderne you see 60 drawings of plants (through January 8th) http://www.pinakothek.de/en/kalender/2011-10-07/14412/ellsworth-kelly-plant-drawings. And the catalog is an inspirational artwork for itself! But there is only a German edition.”

Karyl Sisson reports that, “Sometimes I just need to laugh.  Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books) did it for me.”

Wendy Wahl, writes that, “It is with pleasure I sing the praises for a book that is pure joy to consume in a vicarious living sort of way. Rosamond Bernier has written Some of My Lives, A Scrapbook Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The author’s voice comes alive as she tells the stories of her amazing life’s experiences with leading personalities of the 20th century in the world of art and music. She has lead such a vivid and unique life; the book is fabulous armchair travel.” (Full disclosure: my day job is with this publisher’s parent.)

Sensual Relations by David Howes (University of Michigan) is Deborah Valoma’s recommendation.

Randy Walker  found Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century by Carl Schoonover (Abrams) to be inspirational. His wife bought the book for her sister, who is a Doctoral student in Psychology, but when Randy saw the images in the book, he nabbed it and his wife had to buy another one for her sister.

Lena McGrath Welker loved Jane Urquhart’s  Sanctuary Line (MacAdam/Cage Publishers).


Press News: Stimulus: art and its inception — our 40th catalog now available

Stumulus catalog front and back covers

We are very (and this will date me) jazzed about our 40th catalog, Stimulus: art and its inception. It’s a departure for us, not in the variety of artists and number of countries represented — sculpture, ceramics, art textiles and mixed media by 55 artists from 14 countries — but in what’s new — images and statements designed to give readers a sense of each artist’s creative process. For each of the pieces highlighted in exhibition, the process of finding an image to illustrate the genesis  — whether an event, an object, an emotion, a place —  and of working with the artists to share something of that process in words, was stimulating for Tom and me.  We were also energized by working with Jane Milosch, Director, Provenance Research Initiative, Smithsonian Institution, and former curator, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, who writes about creativity and its embodiment in this exhibition in the introductory essay.

Stimulus Catalog: Norma Minkowitz Compound with Stimulus

The stimuli identified by the artists in this catalog is diverse. Current events, like the earthquake in Japan and global warming, inspired some of the artists,  including Norma Minkowitz, whose stitched wall work, Compound, illustrates the attack on Osama Bin Laden. “I began in a spontaneous, unplanned manner,” Minkowitz explains, “arranging lines and subtle patterns, until I had a feeling of the direction it would take. Suddenly the linear image took on the apparition of an aerial view of the compound that I had seen in a newspaper article. Compound combines a replica of the space and my vision of the event.”

Mcqueen, Bess, LaBianca, Serino, Henriksen, Akers, Bijlenga, Hunt, Walker

Several artists, including John McQueen, Nancy Moore Bess, Lawrence La Bianca and Naoko Serino of Japan, have taken Nature as their inspiration. In Serino’s case, Generating-3 was inspired by a Philodendron selloum, which she tended for 22 years before it finally bloomed. Others were inspired by the efforts of previous artists.  Ane Henriksen of Denmark, considered the work of coverlet makers from the 1800s; Adela Akers‘ work references Mbuti designs from Africa. Palimpsest 1, a wall piece by Marian Bijlenga, of the Netherlands, was composed by following the pinholes on the walls of Dutch masterweaver Herman Scholten’s studio to recreate the nearly erased surface.
Still other artists looked to their immediate surroundings. Trio 4, a sculpture of twine and newspaper by Kate Hunt, was inspired by the goats who share her studio. Echoed Surface, an energy-charged object by Randy Walker, was made from a charred and deformed badminton racquet that he found near his home;  Re-Tire,  is a basket Dona Anderson created from a tire chain she found by the roadside.
The catalog is 140 pages and contains 197 color photographs.  It can be purchased on our website: http://browngrotta.com/Pages/c36.php

 


Update: Books Make Great Gifts 2010

Last December, in our who’s-reading-what survey, artist Kyomi Iwata selected Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 as the best book she read in 2010. (Lena McGrath Welker also selected Haruki Murakami, in her case, Kafka on the Shore , as her favorite read for 2010.) At the time, 1Q84 had yet to be translated into English, but there’s good news.  A massive volume (944 pages) will be released in an English translation on October 25, 2011.  http://www.amazon.com/1Q84-Haruki-Murakami/dp/0307593312. From Amazon, the book is: “A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.”


Art into Type: Books We Talked Up in 2010

Last year saw several books published that we recommended to clients and purchased for family and friends.  Among these were Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-century Designers by Leslie Williamson, a collection of photographs of beautiful, iconic, and undiscovered mid-century interiors, including the homes of Russel Wright, George Nakashima, Harry Bertoia, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eva Zeisel, among others. Williamson’s photographs show these creative homes as they were lived in by their designers: Walter Gropius’ historic Bauhaus home in Massachusetts; Albert Frey’s floating modernist aerie on a Palm Springs rock outcropping; and Wharton Esherick’s completely handmade Pennsylvania house, from the organic hand-carved staircase to the iconic furniture.

Another favorite volume of ours was 3-D Typography. We added “text” to the title of this blog so that we could cover two things we are passionate about: art that involves text and interesting books.  3-D Typography, which includes work by Gyöngy Laky and dozens of other artists who have created lettering out of everything from shopping carts and toilet paper to toothpaste and pinched flesh, fits both criteria.  The book’s creation was serendipitous.  The authors, Jeanne Abbink and Emily CM Anderson looked at three-dimensional type in the course on a redesign of American Craft magazine in 2007.

 

Long overdue was the first comprehensive survey of modern craft in the United States, Makers: A History of American Studio Craft, by Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf.  Makers follows the development of studio craft–objects in fiber, clay, glass, wood, and metal–from its roots in 19th-century reform movements to the rich diversity of expression at the end of the 20th century. More than 400 illustrations — including two photographs by Tom — complement this chronological exploration of the American craft tradition. Keeping as their main focus the objects and the makers — including Lenore Tawney, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Katherine Westphal, François Grossen, Lia Cook, Warren Seelig, Arturo Sandoval, Gyöngy Laky, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Clare Zeisler, Anni Albers, Lillian Elliott, Helena Hernmarck, Norma Minkowitz and Trude Guermonprez — the authors offer a detailed analysis of major works and discuss education, institutional support and the philosophical underpinnings of craft.

Another very special volume from 2010 is Written Weed, by Marian Bijlenga, published by Hein Elferink. This exquisite book includes 111 paste-ups / collages by the artist made of dried leaves, grasses and seeds. The images are like handwriting, Chinese characters, the letters of an alphabet. In order to emphasize the graphic quality of these works, the book is published in black/white. Only 400 copies were produced; each is numbered and signed. You can order it from browngrotta arts for $185.00

Though it was written in 2009, I didn’t discover The Bird Catcher, by Laura Jacobs, until last year. I loved it and ordered copies for several friends.  It’s a tender story of grief and healing in the big city.  But it was the detailed description of the protagonist’s window displays for a high-end department store and the evolution of her closest friend’s craft gallery — including a display of elegantly crafted goblets — that I most appreciated.


Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part III

Here is the final set of this year’s book recommendations from artists whose work browngrotta arts represents. In the next posting, I’ll list the books Tom and have been talking up in 2010.

Kiyomi Iwata finds The Human Condition, a six-volume novel by Junpei Gomikawa a continuing inspiration.  Published between 1956 and 1958, Kiyomi says, “it is an epic novel about an ordinary man who tried to live true to his own soul during the Second World War.”  It is not available in English, but a well-reviewed film version, Ningen No Joken, directed by Matsaki Kobayashi, can be found on DVD. Among Kiyomi’s favorite books are Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio, who photographed 30 families in 24 countries – 600 meals in all, and  Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables by Joan Gussow. And Kyomi casts another vote for Haruki Murakami as best in 2010, ranking 1Q84 as the best book she read this year. (Lena McGrath Welker selected Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore as her favorite read this year.) There are three volumes in the 1Q84 series, which has created a sensation in Japan. The first two have been translated into English and will be published by Knopf in September 2011. A third translation will follow.

Nancy Moore Bess reports, “Some version of How to Wrap Five Eggs will always be on my coffee table, in my studio, or on my lap. The most recent purchase in a Tokyo used book bookstore is a boxed edition from the early 1970s and includes all the images we love, plus many photographs documenting the process of making. What a find! New workshops inspired me to reread (with some care) Kunio Ekiguchi’s Gift Wrapping: Creative Ideas from Japan which is much more than a book about giving gifts. Much of her introduction explains the connection between traditional packaging (tsutsumi) and gift wrapping (origata), something I had forgotten.”  Nancy notes that her “art” reading has been devoted to trying to understand the “vocabulary of beauty.”  She writes, “I have an old, dented copy from the Strand of Japanese Sense of Beauty. I have reread every copy of every book I own that discusses wabi-sabi in Japan. Diane Durston’s Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life is the one I keep by my reading chair. I can flip it open to any page and be delighted. Tim McCreight wrote two books I go back to: Design Language and Design Language: Interpretive Edition. I love the way these books all make me evaluate what I want to look at and touch.”

For continuing inspiration, Helena Hernmarck returns to Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master.  The book includes dozens of key works by Stölzl  accompanied by excerpts drawn from her journals, letters and articles. The writings offer an intimate view of the artist’s life and work as a student, a Red Cross nurse during the war, student and then master of the weaving workshop  at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau and founder of her own hand-weaving business in Zurich. “The illustrations are beautiful,” says Helena, “and it’s so interesting to read Stölz’s impressions of what occurred at the Bauhaus, as it was happening.” Helena is currently reading My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor.  Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist experienced a massive stroke at 37 when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. The stroke taught Taylor that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away and can be accessed by stepping to the right of our left brains.


Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part I

I asked the artists whose work browngrotta arts represents to weigh in with book recommendations again this year. Specifically, I asked them to provide a list of any or all of the following: “What book(s) inspired you in the past?” “What book(s) continue to inspire you?” “What book(s) remain among your favorite(s)?” and/or “What was the best book you read in the last year?” As always, people responded swiftly and thoughtfully, with enough suggestions to fill a few posts. Here are ten suggestions to start.

For Lena McGrath Welker, books that provide past and continuing inspiration include Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore, which has an excellent section on creativity, Wabi-Sabi, the original text by Leonard Koren, and poems by Anna Ahkmatova (You Will Hear Thunder and Complete Poems) and Anne Carson (Nox, Decreation and Glass, Irony and God, among others). Welker has been very involved in preparing her one-person exhibition this year (currently at the North Dakota Museum of Art – more on that in an upcoming blog) but she says the best book she listened to this year was Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Debra Sachs says, “I mostly prefer fiction but after hearing Barbara Strauch in an interview I decided to read her book, The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. It is so affirming to those of us of a certain age who feel like our minds are constantly betraying us.” Sachs adds; “How does it influence the artist me? I can’t remember!!!”

Heidrun Schimmel has been very interested in books about New York as “the metropolis of modern and contemporary art,” including  Just Kids by Patti Smith and Fifth Avenue by Stephan Wackwitz, of the Goethe Institute in New York. Fifth Avenue was published this year by S.Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt and has not yet been translated into English. Wackwitz’ previous work, An Invisible Country, is available in English.

The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey Without Borders, is recommended by Tamiko Kawata. The serious and studious book looks at the life and art and racial problems that faced the artist, who once said that his “longing for affiliation” was source of his creativity.

Scott Rothstein recommends Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz are collectors of American Outsider Art. In Kantha, which are made by self-taught artists, they saw the same spirit and vision as in the art they have acquired over the last 25 years. Scott played a role in growing the Kantha collection for his hometown museum’s collection, having discovered some of the Kathas in the Bonovitz collection while he lived in India. Scott shares the couple’s appreciation for Outsider Art. See his blog: Art Found Out: for more on Outsider Art around the world.

More to come.

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