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 wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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