A valuable, permanent record of transitory and improvised events, embedded in a particular historical and artistic moment,...

THE ART DOCKUMENTS

A personal, wide-ranging account of the artistic community in downtown Los Angeles during the 1980s.

Amid the squalor of an industrialized wasteland, a group of artists coexisted in an abandoned building dubbed the Citizens Warehouse. In this thoroughly engrossing book, Davis (Bipolar Bare, 2009) provides an in-depth catalog of the works he exhibited between 1981 and 1986 in the Art Dock, a loading dock attached to his studio. As he states in his manifesto, this savvy, provocative decision resonates by “epitomizing the nature of contemporary art in the on-loading, off-loading, and up-loading of commodity.” With a few exceptions, each chapter contains an image of the artist (usually taken by Ed Glendinning), photographs of the art installation, concurrent sketches from Davis’ “daily diary page” (often reflecting his state of mind at the time), an interview with the artist and a postscript with follow-up information about his or her subsequent career. Along the way, the author relates the concepts explored in the exhibited works to his own autobiographical narrative, as he reveals personal struggles with sexual identity, substance abuse, mental health, career path, finances and dyslexia. While he focuses primarily on the Art Dock, Davis includes artistic and political happenings in other areas of LA as well. For example, he observes the changing relationships among artists, the homeless population, building inspectors and the police force, especially as precipitated by the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. Readers may notice occasional editing lapses in the text or the repetition of the phrase “I asked” during reproduced conversations, but these minor drawbacks do not lessen the overall impact of the project. It’s also worth noting that not all is doom and gloom; alongside real suffering and marginalization are tales of humor and companionship. In fact, Davis ends on an uplifting note of clarity in the epilogue, where he recalls one particular exhibit not included in the original chronology: a playful, interactive installation he created with his young daughter. He comments: “ ‘Snowflake House’ reminded me of what is so wonderful about art. There is the pure delight in creation. There is the happiness and meaning it provides for others.”

A valuable, permanent record of transitory and improvised events, embedded in a particular historical and artistic moment, which otherwise may have been lost.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1461082101

Page Count: 296

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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