WALKER EVANS AND THE PICTURE POSTCARD
by Walker Evans, Jeff Rosenheim
Steidl, UK £40.00 , US $65.00, EC €45.00
Walker Evans started collecting postcards at the age of 12 and even at that early age it was the everyday scenes, ordinary buildings and small-town urban landscapes they depicted which appealed to him. A relatively new phenomenon when Evans was a boy, the postcard came into existence in the US in 1907 when American postal deregulations allowed correspondence to be written on the address side of the card. Evans wrote of his collection: “The very essence of American daily city and town life got itself recorded quite inadvertently on the penny picture postcards of the early 20th century…Those honest direct little pictures have a quality today that is more than mere social history…The picture postcard is folk document.” Evans’s vast collection of 9,000 postcards, arranged into categories such as ‘American Architecture,’ ‘Factories,’ ‘Automobiles,’ ‘Street Scenes’ and ‘Curiosities’, is not only a fascinating record of the changing American landscape but also offers new insight into the documentary photographs that Evans would go on to take. Steidl’s publication accompanies an exhibition of Walker Evans’ postcards at The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York until 25 May.
JEFF IN VENICE, DEATH IN VARANASI
by Geoff Dyer
This is an outstanding work by the genre-defying writer Geoff Dyer who has written books about the First World War (The Missing of the Somme), DH Lawrence (Out of Sheer Rage), jazz (But Beautiful) and, most recently, photography in his quirky history entitled The Ongoing Moment which won the ICP Infinity Award for best writing on photography. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is Dyer’s first novel for 11 years and well worth the wait. The first part takes place in Venice during the biennale and Dyer’s writing about the art – both contemporary and renaissance – is terrific, as are his observations of the art world, the parties and the bellini-swilling. At the heart of the book is a wonderfully erotic romance between a jaded journalist, Jeff-with-a-J, and a beautiful American gallerista named Laura. The book moves to Varanasi for the second part where the same Jeff, we presume – or perhaps a reincarnated version? – undergoes something of a meltdown, renouncing all the desires and hedonism which dominated the first part of the book. The two halves of the book are like mirrors, reflections of one another, inextricably linked. This is perfect pre-Venice Biennale reading.
by Nicholas Bourriard
Tate Publishing, £17.99
The curator of this year’s Tate Triennial has not only given us a reasonably stimulating exhibition but a new word! ‘Altermodern’ is the title of the exhibition and it’s not the first time that the French curator Nicolas Bourriard has given the art world a new term. ‘Relational Aesthetics’ was Bourriard’s term for interactive works of art made by artists such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Olafur Eliasson and Liam Gillick. His latest coinage ‘Altermodern’ refers to a new kind of art being made by artists whose range of references is cross-cultural, cross-border and cross-disciplinary. Traditional boundaries – whether geographical or artistic – no longer apply and are there to be broken down and resisted. Among the most exciting works in Bourriard’s exhibition, and further illuminated in this publication, are Lindsay Seers and Nathaniel Mellors. The book also includes interviews with the participating artists and contributions from prominent writers, art historians, artists and philosophers, including Tom McCarthy, TJ Demos, Carsten Höller and Okwui Enwezor.
Hatje Kantz, € 39.80, CHF 69.00
Johannes Kahrs uses photographs as the starting point for his paintings, but he turns these images, often of celebrities or well-known news stories, into oblique distortions of reality. Using a predominantly grey and black palette, Kahrs plays with the original image, removing faces altogether or blurring them beyond recognition. Images depicting moments of crisis, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, are rendered ambiguous, as our gaze is directed away from the central focus of the original image, suggesting a sense of reality. This is the first comprehensive monograph on Kahrs’s work, and it includes an illuminating essay by Ralph Rugoff, who featured the artist’s work in ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ at the Hayward Gallery in 2008. The publication of this book also coincides with a solo show of new work by the artist which opens on 7 May at the Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp.
by Sarah Lucas and Olivier Garbay
Other Criteria, £75.00
This exquisitely produced artists’ book created by the British artist Sarah Lucas and French artist/poet Olivier Garbay takes the format of an old-fashioned address book or dictionary with photographs, drawings, favourite quotations (‘I told you I was ill’, on Spike Milligan’s tombstone) and thoughts from Lucas and Garbay in French and English compiled alphabetically. It’s a kind of illustrated map of their relationship – a non-sexual love affair (Garbay is gay) – created during a four-year period in which the two travelled across Europe for various exhibitions that they were each doing. It’s a massive compendium of thoughts, ideas and images, which gives an unparalleled insight into the workings of these two creative minds.
by Roger Ballen
Phaidon, £35.00, $69.95
For the last five years the South African artist Roger Ballen has been visiting a particular building outside Johannesburg which he calls the Boarding House and which has led to the 75 haunting and curious photographs that make up this disturbing book. It’s a place of transience, great poverty, people coming and going, some on the run, a place with children and animals clinging to the walls, rooms littered with strange objects and alien marks apparent on the walls. The Boarding House is also a place that exists in the imagination (Ballen’s for sure, but also possibly the viewer’s – he has said that “it is difficult to explain this place except that I think it exists in some way or another in most people’s mind”) and it seems to represent a sort of canvas for Ballen which he has embellished with drawings, introducing sculptural elements into the rooms, and altering with his own artistic interventions adn collaborations with some of the inhabitants of the Boarding House. These photographs have been described as being like “images from a waking dream”, and though they are steeped in a strong, pervasive sense of this strange, alluring place, these pictures also possess an otherworldly quality which makes them hard pin down and endlessly fascinating to look at.