Great Art in Great Books of 2010
Asian Art Now by Melissa Chiu and Benjamin Genocchio (Monacelli Press, $60)
Chiu is the Museum Director of Asia Society in New York. Genocchio is an art critic for the New York Times. Together they have written an up-to-the-second survey of contemporary Asian art. Throughout this lavishly illustrated book, the authors reflect on the conflicted responses of artists, both established and emerging, to the super-fast changes in their lives. The book is fascinating primarily because the Asian landscape is changing so rapidly. This forces artists to confront these changes and examine the impact on their social, economic, and urban culture and environment. The front cover is just one example of the dynamic work the two authors examine. It is an illustration of Ah Xian's China, China ---Bust 14, a cast porcelain with traditional Chinese ceramic designs and motifs.
Hokusai by Matthi Forrer (Prestel, $120)
This large format book traces the career of the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). He is best known for his immensely popular woodblock, The Great Wave off Mount Kanagwa which depicts an enormous wave about to sink some tiny boats in the area around Mt. Fuji. Hokusai began his career painting actors and courtesans but it is his late-in-life nature prints that are so ubiquitous. He once said: "At seventy-three I learned a little about the real structure of animals, plants, birds, fishes, and insects. Consequently when I am eighty I'll have made more progress. At ninety I'll have penetrated the mystery of things. At a hundred I shall have reached something marvelous, but when I am a hundred and ten everything I do, the smallest dot, will be alive."
The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images Editor-in-chief, Ami Ronnenberg, Editor Kathleen Martin (Taschen, $39.99)
Even if you are not a Jungian, an art collector, or someone interested in archetypal images, you should check out this fascinating encyclopedic book. It will appeal to anyone interested in the deepest meanings of particular symbols and images. The text is readable --not at all academic -- and the images help to support the text and to convey the hidden dimension of meaning in all sorts of every day images, For example, the first image explores is egg in Chapter I, "Creation and Cosmos." To illustrate meanings for egg the editors chose an Indian image of a cosmic egg, an ancient Egyptian alabaster jar of a newly hatched fledgling surround by four eggs, and an Easter Island artifact. Not surprising that this book took 13 years to develop.
Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles: The Mary Hunt Kahlenberg Collection edited by Ruth Barnes and Mary Hunt Kahlenberg (DelMonico Books -Prestel, $95.)
Beautifully designed with 300 color illustrations and highly informative essays, this volume is impressive in its scope and its research. Kahlenberg has been studying and collecting Indonesian textiles for 30 years. The first image is of a particular type of Geringson cloth woven on an ancient form of body-tension loom. The archival photo is of two young men from Yogyakarta (Java) 1890-1910. (Tropenmuseum Amsterdam).
Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator by Adam Lewis (Rizzoli, $65)
Often called "Dean of American Decorators," Billy Baldwin (1903-1983) was one of the most influential interior decorators of the last century. He was known for combining modern and classical styles, clean lines, a tailored look, and bright colors. Baldwin's style is presented so that readers will recognize why he was able to pioneer his own distinctive look which contradicted long established design conventions.
Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View by Shirley Neilsen Blum (Monacelli Press, $60)
Just as Degas was intrigued with ballet dancers, Henri Matisse painted windows. With every change of residence from Paris to Nice, he incorporated the motif of the window into his work. This is not just a coffee table tome to admire. Each of the 55 works, illustrated in color and arranged chronologically, is accompanied by a brief essay.
Naked: The Nude in America by Bram Dijkstra (Rizzoli, $75)
Dijkstra is a distinguished scholar and art critic, always lucid and original. Here he examines both "high" and "low" art -- think John Singer Sargent vs. pin-up queens in a semi-chronological and thematic order. He explains their influence on American society as well as other artists and art forms.