Seven Summer Art Books to Know and Love

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Last fall, I drew up a list of fresh, noteworthy art books on the market. They ranged from books about art to books written about artists to books about living a creative life. This summer's selection is no different; my criterion for judging a good art book is that it be thoughtful, evocative, and a little sexy. Not unlike the qualities I look for in a new friend.

Larry Sultan & Mike Mandel
The artists Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel met as graduate students at San Francisco Art Institute and collaborated on over thirty art projects, including the influential found photography book Evidence, during Sultan's lifetime (he passed away in December of 2009). The book acts as a kind of visual retrospective, and includes essays from the LACMA curator Charlotte Cotton, the novelist and essayist Jonathan Lethem, a longtime admirer of the artists, and the former Berkeley Art Museum curator Constance Lewallen, among others.

Larry Sultan & Mike Mandel

How Should A Person Be? A Novel From Life
Sheila Heti

The Interview Editor at The Believer magazine, Sheila Heti, has just penned her third novel. And she is only thirty-five. This one, titled How Should A Person Be? A Novel From Life is one part intimate diary entry, one part dramatic play, one part existential query. With a form unlike any other book I have read, it queries the (often paradoxical) anxieties and desires of a young, creative person, trying to be sexy, intellectual, and above all, known.

How Should a Person Be?

Dead Men Don't Look Like Me
Paul Schiek

Concurrent with his recent exhibition, Dead Men Don't Look Like Me, Oakland-based artist Paul Schiek published a small, fifty-six page artist's book of the same title. Introduced with a text by the esteemed photography critic Vince Aletti, the book features a series of mug shots, re-photographed by Schiek from the originals, of criminals from the 1950s. The male subjects are bruised, but shockingly handsome and tender looking. All stains, tears, staples, and general damage done to the surface of the images (they were initially found in an abandoned prison in Georgia) remain intact. Printed in an addition of 800, the books will go fast.


Dead Men Don't Look Like Me

Draw It With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment
Paper Monument is the arts supplement of the esteemed literary Journal n+1. They publish instructional narrative books for artists that are both earnest and tongue-in-cheek. Last year, they published an etiquette guide for conducting studio visits, which was very popular. Most recently, they have come out with Draw It With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment . The book is what it sounds like: a series of artists and teachers recounting the most (and least) popular assignments that they have given and received. The collection is funny, perverse, generous, and insightful. And at $15, it's a steal.

Justin James Reed
Horses Think is most commonly known as a popular art blog, with an emphasis on photography. However, the artist who runs it, Ofer Wolberger, has also published a series of his own appropriative-style books. For the first time, Wolberger's press has published a book by another artist, Justin James Reed, entitled 2013. The limited-edition, twenty-four page book uses invisible "firefly ink" that needs to be viewed with a black light flashlight. In addition, Wolberger's book Covers, is being released concurrently from the press. Both books ARE the work of art, rather than simply a documentation of an existing exhibition.

Sanja Ivekovic: Sweet Violence
The recently closed exhibition Sanja Ivekovic: Sweet Violence at the Museum of Modern Art in New York blew me away; this cunning, feminist Croat artist had flown under the radar for too long. Ivekovic's exhibition catalog does not disappoint either. Replete with deep essays from the exhibition curator Roxana Marcoci -- whose contribution illuminates the contemporary history of protest art before and after the Iron Curtain in the former Yugoslavia -- and the philosopher Terry Eagleton, who contemplates the nature of tragedy itself. (Another forthcoming catalog that I am looking forward to is Teeny Tiny Woman: Amanda Ross-Ho at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.)

Sanja Ivekovic, Make Up-Make Down (video still), 1978.

Little Paper Planes: Twenty Artists Reinvent the Childhood Classic
Kelly Lynn Jones

The Oakland-based company Little Paper Planes has published a book titled Little Paper Planes: Twenty Artists Reinvent the Childhood Classic. Each of the participants has (appropriately) created artwork around the theme of the paper airplane. Printed with perforated edges for easy removal and assembly, each page/plane is a unique work of craft and design, as well as being a workable toy. Kelly Lynn Jones, the founder of LPP, has brought together artists ranging from Gemma Correll, Michael Hsiung, Julia Rothman, Alyson Fox and Lisa Congdon for the book, which was printed by San Francisco's Chronicle Books.