To celebrate playing host to the National Book Award nominees in Miami, we’ve been diving into the wide world of books this month: artists’ books, The Miami Book Fair, books on Instagram, and rocker Thurston Moore’s underground poetry press. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the heaviest (and possibly our favorite) books of all: Art Books. If you select yours carefully, they’ll impress the pants off your snooty friends. We cheated and asked our friends at Distributed Art Publishers to catch us up on the coolest art books of 2014. They even sent them over to the Standard Culture office for us drool over. We have three words for you: Soviet. Space. Dogs.
1. Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986
When one thinks of hot beds of graphic design, California doesn’t necessarily spring to mind. However, this book should change that. Gathering up greatest hits and many lesser-known examples of West Coast graphics, from Eames to Psychedelia, this riotous, vibrant book shows that the West Coast has style for miles and miles.
Mysterious is an understatement with this one. Mollino was a renowned Italian architect and industrial designer. In the 60s, unbeknownst to anyone, he photographed literally thousands of nude women against ornate homemade backdrops. The Polaroids, which remained secret until his death in 1973, are a strange mix — obsessive, seedy, and classical all at once.
The idea of the “open road” is as American as apple pie, and photography has been crucial in exploring its coming, goings, and meaning. One lineage in particular has been mining this terrain for generations, beginning with Robert Frank’s Americans and continuing right up to the young star Ryan McGinley - The Open Road collects them all.
This book is very weird…and very cool. The cover shows the handsome Icelandic twins with a shape that looks like, er...Anyway, the sculptures inside (or are they furniture?) are kind of sexual. There’s fur. There’s shiny metal. Sometimes the objects look like coral. Sometimes they look like testicles. Sometimes they look like animals. But trust us, you’ll dig it. Not surprisingly, Lady Gaga is a fan.
5. Juergen Teller & Nicolas Ghesquière: I Just Arrived in Paris
In keeping with the boundary-pushing aesthetics of its creators, photographer Juergen Teller and Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière’s collaboration I Just Arrived in Paris, is less a book than a beautiful box filled with items to explore. Somehow, it's a perfect representation of the cutting-edge exploration described within.
Gesamtkunstwerk. Bless you! Actually, it means a “total work of art” and the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Alto was one of its foremost proponents. Alto designed incredible, undulating buildings, and together with his wife, he also designed the furnishings, fixtures, and utensils inside — all of which are instantly recognizable as his own.
For those who immediately picture childlike scribbles when they hear the name Cy Twombly, The Essential Cy Twombly will be revelation. Bringing together whitewashed sculptures, photography, and achingly delicate paintings, this book offers a more complete, compelling view of the cryptic master.
Did you know that the first creatures launched into outer space were actually Russian stray dogs? Laika, Belka, and Strelka were their names, and they captured the Russian imagination, appearing all over Russian pop culture. If you like pictures of heroic dogs in space suits, this is the book for you.
Attention players, romantics, and would-be seducers. Casanova, the actual Casanova, was a real man, and you’d be well-served to get familiar with his cosmopolitan comings-and-goings in this deluxe, over-sized illustrated volume. It features passages from his memoirs with shout outs to some of the biggest names of his day, accompanied by nostalgia-inducing photographs of his beloved turf.