Archive for category Publisher: Damiani

7 Deaths of Maria Callas || Marina Abramović

This is a full photographic record of Marina Abramović’s performance piece, in which she re-enacts seven death scenes as performed by the late opera diva.   “Like so many of the characters she created on stage, she died for love”, Marina says in her short introduction, adding, “Most operas end with the woman dying and, more often than not, it is because of love”.

Marina is a performance artist and these are pieces without words, so this record is as close as you can get to the action without actually being there.   The reproduction quality is superb and it has to be concluded that the book was planned all along; these are not happily available images cobbled together as an afterthought.    The unbilled eighth death, Callas’s own, is performed with Willem Dafoe and has a voiceover script, which is reproduced in full.

There’s not a lot more to be said, expect that this is beautifully conceived and produced.   It’s a must for any fan of Marina Abramović and, I suspect, Callas as well.

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Artist Studios New York || Marco Anelli

If you like peeking into artists’ studios, this is a treat. Marco Anelli is a photographer who specialises in projects and this one is exactly what you’d expect from the title. The quality both of the photographs, which include the artists themselves as well as their spaces, and the reproduction are superb and this is an absolute delight to look at. I’m not that bothered by studios myself – I prefer the artist’s work – and yet I’m saying that. The generous format of the book helps a lot.

Not all the names will necessarily be familiar, but Marina Abramović and William S Burroughs stand out. If I was going to be picky (when am I not?), I could have done with some text. However, Marco would probably counter that he’s a photographer and that, if the images don’t stand for themselves, it may be me who’s missing something. The overall quality here would suggest that he’d be the one who’s right.

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Spiral || Louise Bourgeois

This retrospective looks at the use of spiral forms in the work of Louise Bourgeois from 1947 to 2009. There is no commentary, but occasional quotes do help to amplify the theme and the opening, “The spiral is an attempt at controlling the chaos. It has two directions. Where do you place yourself, at the periphery or art the vortex?” helps to guide you into the illustrations that follow. There is also a handy chronology of Bourgeois’ life at the end.

There isn’t a great deal more to say about this. It is what it is and is a further insight into one of the major figures of Twentieth Century art. Casual readers may prefer something more general and regard it as one for the completists, though.

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Memory Banks || Karin Mamma Andersson

The afterword to this catalogue of an exhibition is more helpful than the introductory essay. Here, we learn that Andersson’s paintings are loosely based on her photographic archive and are a link between the central focus of the 2018 FotoFocus biennial and the thinking behind painted art. As the rest of the book is simply a collection of images, this is helpful, especially for those not familiar with the context or the artist’s work.

The introductory essay attempts to achieve in words what the paintings do visually. In this, it is only partly successful. Broadly elegiac, it draws comparison with the crumbling Vasa galleon that was raised from Stockholm harbour in 1961 without modern conservation techniques. Kevin Moore uses this comparison to examine how the imperfections of human memory can be traced through a painting created from a sharp photographic original. Actually, having written that, I’m starting to get an idea of where we’re at, but the original is hard work (ironically almost a reversal of the process involved with the images). It’s fair to point out that the essay isn’t a direct attempt to explain the corpus but, if it tends to confuse, it is perhaps less than helpful.

For all that, this is a collection of intriguing images that, while it tends to prompt the initial reaction, “meh”, draws you inextricably in. Maybe that’s the best indicator of success.

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Cézanne’s Objects || Joel Meyerowitz

This is a beautiful and intriguing book. Working through it initially raises more questions than it answers. Its large-format pages for the most part feature a photograph of a single object, set on a marble table and against a nondescript and rather shabby background. The sharpness of the images is sometimes questionable and the whole has what one would call, in a moment of charitability, a vintage feel.

And yet, as I said, it’s beautiful and intriguing. The questions it raises are a work of art in themselves, forcing the viewer not merely to ask what they’re looking at, but also why and how. It becomes a visual essay in looking, seeing and understanding; a meditation, even. The sombre nature of the images and those technical limitations make it clear that it’s not about the photography, or even the objects, which are all obsessively mundane – but something else. The puzzle becomes to work out what that is and the answer, I suspect, won’t be the same for all viewers.

Early on, an essay entitled Twilight, by Maggie Barrett – the author’s wife – discusses the experience of looking at an artist’s studio and, briefly, of Cézanne’s use of form and light. This, deliberately, I’m sure, does not explain the book. It’s about entering into an artist’s creative space as a whole, not seeing his everyday accoutrements in isolation. The idea that one can connect with an artist by looking at the objects he touched and sometimes painted is at best teasing but, given the care that has gone into the book, I suspect also deliberate.

It isn’t until the end that we get Meyerowitz’s own explanation. His reaction to the space he found is foreshadowed by Barrett’s piece. It’s short, and tells us nothing about Cézanne’s work, but everything about the interpretive process of creation. Actually, it’s so short that it does none of that, except that, having worked through the book and absorbed the very deliberately presented images, it does exactly that. As I said, it’s a conundrum of understanding.

I’ve never seen anything like this, but I find it deeply and emotionally beautiful. A real eye-opener in a way I’ve never experienced before.

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Or you could have the limited edition:

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Tales of The Brothers Grimm with drawings by Natalie Frank

I’m not a great fan of fairy tales. They belong (to me) to a slightly alien world and, in spite of claims that they’re part of folk art, collections made from the oral tradition, I get a strong sense of authorship – that the “compilers” in fact altered things to fit their own morality and world view. Presenting them, as they so often are, as something for children is also misleading. It’s an infantilising of now-forgotten origins, just as with nursery rhymes, that does no service either to the stories or the children whose nights are traumatised by the frankly horrific.

All that said, if you disagree with me, then I think you’ll love this new edition. The thirty-six stories that are included here are unsanitized (as the blurb has it) and therefore appear as their authors/compilers intended. The seventy five gouache and pastel illustrations are properly scary, Gothic and Surrealist and the marginalia maintain a sense of mystery and menace throughout.

Just, please, don’t buy this for your children!

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