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Sunday 12.23.12

« Nativity 3.0 | Main | Top Posts for 2012 »

Last Minute Gifts and Book Reviews

Just before Christmas many people are running out of time and ideas, here are two books that most anyone with an ounce of creativity in their being will find fascinating.


My first suggestion is the fantastic limited edition Clouds by artist Ben Young and Container Corps. Using a rare and out of print cloud atlas (not the horrible movie) Young then created sculptural examples of the various types of clouds. They range from your typical "fluffy" cumulus to the much more interesting cirrocumulus floccus which combines the high thin quality of the genus cirrus with the species floccus, which resembles and derives its name from fluffy handfuls of sheep's wool but is made of high altitude ice crystals. Young's example looks like it could be made of flour or powdered sugar but it is also completely convincing, turning this into an inverted zen rorschach test.

The fantastic thing about this project is the way it calls Stieglitz's Equivalents Series of photographs while being a handy compendium for anyone who looks into the sky and wonders. Who says contemporary art is useless and wholly self serving? Instead, this work serves as a guide, and fits the exciting developments Ben's work has made over the years.

In the last few years Young's practice has become a sort of shamanistic/philosopher/explorer's fetish of the preparations for a journey into the outdoors and this is simply the coolest art book ever created in Portland (RACC awarded this project with a project grant). The design itself with its sparkly silver hardbound cover and black pages would be an ideal gift for anyone who loves to hike and listens to David Bowie... or has the soul of a poet/scientist.

Limited edition of 500 is available at Monograph Bookwerks or through the publisher

Ai Weiwei holding Weiwei-isms

Without question Ai Weiwei is the biggest artist who walks the earth these days... partly because he's the only major artist who seems to be completely outmatched by his main subject matter (the Chinese Government). Without them he's merely an interesting provocateur, with them he's something more than an artist. Either way, Mr. Ai's collection of short pithy statements "Weiwei-isms" is an interesting read.

The work is constituted of categories like On Freedom of Expression and On History, the Historical Moment and the Future, etc.

Nuggets like, "If a nation has no past it has no future," do have a comical touch of Yoda to them in that it is complete common sense and yet can be threatening to the powers that be. Others are quite sad and serious, "It's hard to recover. You become not so innocent. You become, in a way more sophisticated, which I think you shouldn't. We should all have more simple happiness....You become bitter." Everything here provides perspective, whether you agree with it or not. The point is as an artist dealing with his world perhaps no-one in recent memory has been playing with such high stakes, giving this volume weight beyond its compact size. It reminds me how books can be very dangerous items... as Heinrich Heine once famously said, "Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings."

Weiwei-isms is available at Powells

Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 23, 2012 at 23:46 | Comments (0)


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