Haunted Air by Ossian Brown is a 216 paged book that shows off one man’s collection of vintage Halloween photography, from ghosts to ghouls. It includes a foreword by David Lynch and a prologue by Geoff Cox and a brief historical note. It contains hundreds of devilish photographs taken on Halloween from the turn of the last century, and even includes one tintype that is likely dated back before 1900s. The photographs themselves are haunting and encapsulate the spirit of the holiday and incredible for one man’s personal collection. I enjoyed the way the photographs are presented as is, which I feel is important when showing vintage photography. However and this something I normally don’t talk about in my reviews as monetary value is very subjective to the person, I felt Haunted Air was lacking in the quality and quantity for the price I paid. The book is about two times too big for even the largest of photographs shown inside of it, the photographs are just swimming in white background and I think that greatly detracts from them. Not to mention about 50% of the pages don’t even feature any photography on them at all, leaving so much wasted space and adding to the book feeling lacking; the 216 pages probably yields less than 100 photographs which is kind of absurd to me. As well none of the photographs have any information on them, no dates, no locations, nothing about their historical context except and inferred interpretation that they are taken around Halloween. Not to mention with a quick Google search you can find the finest and creepiest of all vintage Halloween photography that exists that is vastly and far superior to any photograph you will find in this book. I understand one man is not going to have all the greatest Halloween photographs from a certain period of time at his grasp but why create a book of your collection if it isn’t worth being seen in its entirety? As well the foreword by David Lynch is most likely included at the beginning or at all mostly because of whom he is (and I love his movies). It’s not even close to a decent foreword as it basically can be summed up as “I had a friend who showed me these photographs and I like them”, it doesn’t even mention the core of the collection is based around the holiday so if you picked up this book and read the forward and wanted to gleam what the concept was, you couldn’t. And on the other hand the prologue is basically paragraphs and paragraphs about what can be described as poetry about Halloween using even word in the dictionary that is even remotely connected to the holiday. At times I didn’t even know what Geoff Cox was on about, it sounded like he was describing murder half the time. I also have a bone to pick when he says “These are pictures of the dead” – no they are not, they are photos of people who have most likely died but they were very much alive in the photo. It’s a rubbish thing to say when there are many examples of photography of actual dead people, a morbid and fascinating practice of the last 1800s that on its own is far more hauntings and fascinating than this entire collection. The historical note is the only thing I enjoyed reading and should have been at the forward as the photos are nothing without their historical context to begin with. I adore vintage photography, and if this book was half the number of pages and half the price I would be raving about it right now despite not being the greatest example of vintage Halloween photography. I’d love it just because it was one man’s collection and I respect the work he must have done to collect it. However it’s not, it’s a grossly overpriced and completely lacking in almost every way. If you are dying to see more vintage Halloween photography than what you can see for free online, it’s the only book like it so like me you may want to have it anyways despite of what I’ve said but if you don’t fall into the extremely niche subsection – I wouldn’t bother.
Pick of the Week: Junko Mizuno’s “Hell Babies”
Hell Babies is a 2006 art book by artists Junko Mizuno that features her illustrations of surreal female characters that can be described as kawaii, disturbing, sexual and gothic all at once. Hell Babies is 94 pages and features her work from 1998 to 2001 with a padded sparkly plastic cover (I love this cover). She divides the book into 3 sections, starting with Hell Babies from 1998-1999, Vulgarity Babies 2000, Baby Files 2001 and an extra Unpublished Babies section that is on shiny cardstock. Each page in most cases features 1 manga/comic style illustration of a particular baby, usually along with her name in English and Japanese. The section for Baby Files is slightly difference and features a short story about each baby which I enjoyed very much. All the illustrations featured are very reminiscent of her currently style although less refined. It’s a good look into the start of her career and each illustration is very unique and indivialistic. The book is very well curated and flows nicely together, each illustration deserves its place in the book and it doesn’t grow boring or repetitive at any point. As an extra bonus at the end of the book there is page that can be cut out to make a paper doll with several outfits and accessories. Hell Babies would be a wonderful addition to your collection if you appreciated Junko Mizuno’s art, however if you are more use to her newer work you might want to pick up Flare instead. I have the Upgraded version which features the extra Unpublished Babies section for those of you wanting to pick this up (some versions are signed by the artists as well). I picked up mine a few months ago from Akatako.
a closer look at the book:
Manufactured Landscapes is a 160 pages hard covered book that covers Edward Burtynsky career as a photographer. Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who has travelled around Canada and the world capturing scenes that most people would be unfamiliar with. Whether it’s shooting ship stripping in Bangladesh or the results of mining in BC, Burtynsky gets access to places often hidden away from view and inaccessible to most. His work focus is the leftovers from man’s industrial relationship with nature. And his photography is delivered in the style of grand landscapes so instead of nature’s mountains and rivers we are shown tire mountains and rivers of industrial waste. That isn’t to say his work cannot be haunting or that there isn’t beauty too it, the way he captures the shot it takes you a moment to see what it really is. I am obsessed with his work, the grandiose scale of the landscapes are within themselves such a feat and any photography buff or casual observe can see the value of his contribution to photography. His work simply is breathtaking, but also disturbing for its implication about modern society and our current environmental crisis and almost denial that this is the reality. It’s an important book (and movie) for people to see but that doesn’t mean I don’t have uses with this book. As specular as the photography is the book presentation a less than ideal for viewing Burtynsky’s work. My biggest issue is for a book featuring literal waste the format seems to insist on there being a lot of wasted pages and you cannot help but think about that when you flipping through a book that seems to have empty pages over and over again (or maybe just me). I could easily see this book being 30 pages less if not more. The intros and essays and “Message from the Sponer” are really overbearing and take up the first 55 pages of the book and serve to add context to Burtynsky’s images but tend to be on the excessive side. I am not a big fan of art books that feel they require essays to explain the context of the artist and believe the images should speak for themselves. To give you a run down on a various portions of writting that start off the book we have: Message from the Sponser, Foreword, Auther’s Acknowlegements, Artist’s Acknowledgements, See the Big Picture, Edward Burtynsky: Traditions and Affinites, Form Versus Portent: Edward Burtynsky’s Endangered Landscapes, The Essentials Element: An Interview…I mean come on, it doesn’t help that there is more at the end of the book like List of Works, Chronolgogy, Selected Exhibitions, Public Collections, Selected Bibliography. I don’t believe I have EVER seen a book, art book or not that had in it “A Message from the Sponsers”, that alone literally just makes me cringe. I mean I could go on about the ridiculousness of it all but I wont, I will simply put it out there that this book has a really bad structure to it and even if they kept all of those sections they really should have put all of them at the end of the book and not required people interested in Burtynsky work to flip to page 55 to see his photography. As well I will point out that there is 61 photographs featured in this 160 page book, leaving there to be 66 pages of writing and 29 blank/heading pages. Regardless of the excessive written portion of the book, let us look at the photography portion. To begin with the flow of this book is very stop and start for me over all. They section off the book into various sets sometimes only containing 3 photographs and often only include 1 photo per two pages and never utilize the full two pages to show the largest possible representation of his work which would be ideal consider the scale at which his landscapes are. The size of the book is quiet large so that does help at being able to see the finer details of his work but in my opinion the pages could have been utilized far more and there was no reason that I can see to leave blank pages with nothing on them. Sometimes artist use pages to provide a break between different themes in their work and use the page to provide additional information however that is not the case in this book. I found the pages containing two images far more alluring to the eye than the contrast to the ones left on their own with a white page. His work as well carries one theme throught so the visual breaks are not needed. Despite the issues I have with this book, Burtynsky’s photography is a must see and it’s a really good book if you were interested in photography in general or the ideas that he explores. I have not had a change to look at his other book featuring his photography but I would recommend looking into those ones first before picking up this flawed book.
A selection of pages from the book:
Miss Van’s first book “Twinkles” is a 88 paged hard covered book featuring her paintings from the art show of the same name as well as others. Miss Van or Vanessa Alice Bensimon started out as a graffiti artist in France before moving into paintings around 2004. Her feminine characters have taken a departure from the cartoonish quality of her street art into more mature and refined area and the colors this time around seem to be more dark and intense but as always they remain the focus of her work. “Twinkles” is filled with her known coy and mischievous feminine figures as well as exploring the themes of masks, animals, and the circus/cabaret. The work is presented in the book almost always on its own with some spanning across both pages and a few side by side. I love the order of her work and how it moves you along to the different ideas she is exploring, dipping in to the brighter paintings before bring you back into the moodier pieces. However the physical layout doesn’t work as much as it could, the paintings spanning across to pages frequently are left with the usual awkward placement of the focus being concealed in the spine of the book. And as most paintings are left simply on one side, I grew a little weary of the bright white page beside it taking me out of her tone. I think they would have been better off doubling up the pages as it works wonderfully when they do and kept me more immersed. They added information of each work to the page with name, year, and material – always a nice touch. The quality of the book is very good and I always enjoy books on the large scale, measuring at 25cm by 32cm. There is a brief intro in the beginning of the book that servers are highlighting the progression of her work and add more context to the paintings. I would have liked to have had something written in her own words instead. All in all “Twinkles” shows a move in her work to a darker tone and it does a great job of showing the reader her work from around that time (2010). This is book for the fan of her later painting work, much like her newer book “Wild at Heart”. It must be said that it is still a great book to pick up even if you are more a fan of her graffiti or earlier brighter colorful paintings. Her work absolutely captures my attention and I am pleased to have added this to my collection.
“Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” is the classic story by Lewis Carroll featuring illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia, in a hardcover 160 book. When I ordered this book, I thought it might be a graphic novel or just be inspired illustrations taken from scenes in the book. I was delighted to find that this is actually a book featuring the full store of Alice in Wonderland with illustrations through-out of Camille Rose Garcia’s work. There are over 40 full color illustrations included in the book from full paged scenes to characters immersed in the text. There are many small touches incorporated in the book, like stylized gold font for the beginning of chapters and more. It’s easy to see that this was a labour of love and there was a lot of work and thought put behind where the illustrations will go and how to add elements of her style into the book. It’s easy to see why her work has been influenced by her childhood and growing up close to Disneyland. What I like most about this version of the book is the overall style of the book and how her work brings out the more lurid parts of the story closer to the actual acid influence of Lewis Carroll than the Disney version. Her interpretation of the characters will feel alien yet familiar all at the same moment. If you wanted to pick up a refreshing look into Alice’s world or you wanted to pick up a fun fresh version of this classic childhood book you will not be disappoint. Her interpretation is very well executed and you get a good idea of her person style with the imagery and the magic of the Alice in Wonderland. If interest as well she has an illustration book for the story of Snow White.
A look at the book:
Duchamp by Jose Maria Faerna
Duchamp by Jose Maria Faerna is a 64 pages hard-covered book that covers Duchamp’s art throughout his life. It’s apart of Edicones Poligrafa’s collection of books about various turn of the century artists. This is more of academic book that the other art books I usually review and the reason I chose this is because really enjoyed going through this book and there not many good art books about avant-garde artists of his day. As well this was before the norm of artists creating books of their own work and most would usually create a publication or magazine about their thoughts on art instead. As someone who was only aware of his readymades this book goes into great details about his earlier work and the build up to his life’s work. The book is very informative and structured in a way that does not come across as dull or over saturated with facts. He switched from many movements and was always expand his personal definition of what art should be and the book covers all aspects of his artwork and shows his natural progression. The images in this book are what impressed me the most, I have quiet a few books about dadaists and earlier avant-garde movements and usually they are focused solely on text so this one of the few times I’ve seen of Duchamp’s work outside of the readymades I’ve seen in museums and art history classes. The photography of his work is very well done in the book and the layout works great. There is a focus on making the images as large as possible which serves his art well as it is very large in person and usually suited to be viewed that way. Of the various movements that Duchamp went through in his life, none is over looked in this book and they do a thoroughal job at showing the complete body of his work. This book may be hard to get as it has been around for awhile, however I highly suggest if you are interested in earlier 1900’s art and the creation of modern art or looking into cubist, surrealist, dadasist and conceptual art at the time that this is good book to pick up and it does a great job at showing Duchamp’s art. (I got mine for $5 at a used book store)
a look into the book:
Paper Cutting: Contemporary Artists Timeless Craft
Paper Cutting complied by Laura Heyenga highlights the resurgence of paper cutting art in the last few years and featuring 26 international artistes who are currently creating innovative and intricate pieces of work in176 pages. It starts off with a preface by Rob Ryan which is delightful and captivates why people get into paper cutting as a way to express their artistic desires. The preface is followed by a 10 paged introduction by Natalie Avella that is informative and a bit long winded. Natalie’s introduction starts off strong explaining the origins and history of paper cutting and how it started out in China in 600CE up to the current resurgence of interest in the craft. After the strong start, she goes into brief detail about contemporary artists and their choice of mediums and subject matter. At the beginning it feels informative but lags toward the end when it starts to feel like someone gave her the list of what artists were going to be featured in the book and ask her to write a paragraph blurb about their work. This would have work if it had been incorporated into the book in each artist’s section, it is not however and each artist section already contains a blurb describing the same things without Natalie Avella’s personal impressions and to make matters more repetitive there is biography in the back as well. However containing each blurb into the introduction creates this weird flow. In fact the structure of the introduction gives it away as she just uses paragraphs for each artist almost eliminating any flow at all from one artist to the next when reading. It would have been nice if they had insisted on structuring the book this way to also perhaps included artists that were not featuring in the book to give a complete canvas of paper cutting artists. This is a minor issue, as honestly although I do read introductions but I do not get much value from them in art books. The inclusion of artist’s work in the introduction was the only thing really propelling me to the next page. So introduction aside this is a beautifully put together book with a variety of types of paper cutting artists who use a plethora of materials. It does not just single out artists who white stock paper, instead showing colors and installations, shadow pieces and pretty much all the types of paper cutting that exist currently. The work featured in this book is captivating, and faithfully captured for our eyes. I especially enjoy the installations and the shadow pieces which were shot wonderfully. Each artist is given several pages with multiple pieces of work shown, with the information on each piece like date, name and sometimes materials. I love how they’ve created each artist name in paper cutting font, it is a simple but elegant touch. Speaking of nice touches, the book sleeves include paper cutting in them, with the front sleeve having flowers and the back birds. It was the first thing I noticed about the book and I adore it. This is a magnificent book and as soon as I caught my eye on the cover at the Architecture Centre’s gift shop I knew I had to have it. My experience before reading this book with paper cutting was always seeing student work at Universities and it always amazed me then and this books gives you a look into a fascinating medium and wonderful pieces of art. Its really must have, and a great way to see fascinating contemporary art.
A look at the book:
The latest hard-covered volume of Tara Mcpherson’s art, Bunny in the Moon complies her art from 2009 to 2012 in 112 pages. She writes in Acknowledgement section “the third time is the charm so they say, and you know what? I agree”, and I agree as well with that sentiment. I thoroughly enjoy her putting the effort to continually publish books of her work, especially in such a digital age where many artists settle for having a website and gallery shows (that are not accessible unless you frequent New York or LA). Bunny in the Moon has much the same format as the previous books except there is no comics included in her latest. Like the previous 2 books there is sketch work and her structure of dividing the book into paintings, posters and sculptures. However unlike her last book Lost Constellation, this comes across as meatier and doesn’t relay as heavily on repeat images in the paintings and the poster sections as well in showing every painting’s sketch. Although keep in mind that most paintings and posters have the sketch work included, and the book is compiled with sketches getting around 40% of the space. I enjoyed the artwork from Bunny in the Moon and although she does not depart from the symbols that are present in all her earlier work it comes across refreshing. There is an evolution of her work without missing out on the things fans have come to love about her style. After being disappointed with Lost Constellation, I was very pleasantly surprised by this book and think for any fan of her work that it is a must. If you are new to her artwork, I highly suggest picking this one up as her bright vibrant work will delight you. For the next book, I hope there is not such a focus on sketch work but I guess we have 2 more years to see!
Don’t forget you can check out her website as well, its lovely!
The Nym Nums
The Nym Nums is a 26 page book collaboration between artist Kristian Adam and author Michael Sasi. The format for the book is mini stories with featured illustrations by Amam for each story. The artwork and the mini stories work well with each other and there are many elements of the illustrations that are featured inside the story. I picked this book up at a gallery back in Vancouver in 2009 on a whim and found it be delightful. The art is what really struck me about the book. The art is very playful and odd. Adam has a unique style and his illustrations are that fine line between adorable and twisted that is present in modern surrealist work. His work becomes even more twisted when you start to read the story and see what is happening in the illustrations unfold. And I love that about The Nym Nums. The short stories themselves are abstract tales of made up creatures that are based off of humans and animals. I love the vivid imagery that Sasi creates with his words, the stories themselves are stand alone and do not collate with the other short stories although you get the sense that these creatures could all be from the same world. I enjoyed all the stories, and found they got more abstract as I continued. Warning though, if you don’t like abstract writing this book will not be your thing. I loved the artwork in this case more than the stories but was not disappointed by either, as this was purchased at an art gallery I am no sure about its availability any more however if you are interested about finding out more about this book, check out the artist’s website: here
Wall and Piece documents Bansky earlier career as a graffiti artist between the years 2001 to 2005 through pictures taken of his work. The book is 240 pages of sometimes crude photography (it’s unclear if all the photos are taken by him) as well as his own insight into his work. He splits the book into sections, Monkeys, Cops, Rats, Cows, Art, Street furniture. My impression of this book on first glance was not good, pictures of graffiti sometimes not that well taken didn’t seem that appealing but going through the book showed me how wrong I was. The first thing that struck me about Wall and Piece when I started going through it was how much of an experience it was instead as my first impression that is simply photos of graffiti. Bansky includes information on as many pieces as possible like how many days or hours it stayed up, the reason behind certain pieces or motifs, political opinions, where it was done and even anecdotes about the people who owned the property where he made it. These offer a unique insight into the mind frame of the artist Banksy and a little to the why’s that surround his art. There is something so telling about him as an artist that he not only goes back to photograph the art he has made but also that he knows how long certain pieces have stayed up for. I was caught off guard about details like that. The photography in parts of the book do a great job at putting you in front of the graffiti like you would see it in person, and showing the surrounding area for certain pieces really elevates the overall impression they give. Since I’m not in the UK, it’s not likely that I will ever see his work in person unless I’m travelling so I really appreciated this detail in his book. Some work needs context, and his work works best with as much context as possible. I found the book humorous and as someone who has always been intrigued by his art and believe in the messages he supports with his graffiti I found the book fantastic. My favourite section was where he showed himself in the middle of museum’s installing fake art. His fake art reminds me of one of my favourite art movement’s the Dadaist and I see Bansky very much to be in the vein of their work. There is a lot of thought and detail put towards his work, and certainly the same thought was put towards this book and it shows. I laughed while going through it which isn’t really an emotion you get often with art books. Honestly anyone who is into current art, art that is changing the world and art that calls for change, I suggest picking up this book.
*below are shots of the book