Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, March 14, 2014

Week ending March 14, 2014

Art Studio America: Contemporary Artist Spaces. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 600p. ed. by Hossein Amirsadeghi. photos. index. ISBN 9780500970539. $95. FINE ARTS
artstudioamerica031414In this oversize and lavishly illustrated book (597 color reproductions), preceded by its British companion volume (Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and Their Studios), Amirsadeghi, a publisher, a writer, an editor, and a Middle Eastern Art specialist, and Maryam Eisler, an executive editor, take readers on a journey through more than 100 American artists’ studios and their environments. Contrasting the spaces with the landscapes that have inspired these artists and others, the book examines the dreams, ideas, and thoughts of a selected number of contemporary American artists including those living abroad, focusing on various themes not limited to artistic paths, influences, mentors, personal histories, media, the processes of making art, the art market, and more. Offering glimpses into the workings of the worldwide American art community, this book includes essays by curators, academics, and art experts. Featuring established figures such as Marina Abramovic, John Baldessari, Francesco Clemente, Chuck Close, John Currin, Alex Katz, Jeff Koons, Bill Viola, and Lawrence Weiner, as well as lesser-known artists, including Diana Al-Hadid, Tauba Auerbach, Mark Bradford, Theaster Gates, and Rashid Johnson, each thought-provoking interview is presented in Q&A format and generously interspersed with photographs of each artist of the artists in their studio and community.
Verdict Of significant interest to students, scholars, art lovers, and others, this artfully presented, cleverly conceived, and well-researched publication belongs in large public and academic libraries, where it will serve as an important reference resource on contemporary American artists, their spaces, and their more expansive working environments.—Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia

Carroll, Henry. Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs. Laurence King. 2014. 128p. photos. index. ISBN 9781780673356. pap. $17.95. PHOTOG
This handy little book provides a succinct overview of techniques and tips for beginning photographers. Although its title is a bit inflated, anyone who reads this book and follows the author’s advice will take better photographs. Carroll, a professional photographer and teacher, covers all the basics related to composition, exposure, and light in a clear, well-organized manner. He also includes excellent chapters on photographic lenses and solid suggestions on how to take better photographs. Read This concludes with a useful appendix, with a few troubleshooting tips, and an index.
Verdict Amateur photographers will love this practical and accessible guide; it will be appreciated by anyone who enjoys photography. Highly recommended.—Raymond Bial, First Light Photography, Urbana, IL

Goodman, Susan Tumarkin. Chagall: Love, War, and Exile. Yale Univ. 2013. 147p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300187342. $45. FINE ARTS
There have been countless exhibitions of the work of the noted modernist artist Marc Chagall. Aside from major retrospectives, most have featured his earlier work, done in Russia or France, his biblical illustrations, or his work in stained glass. But the Jewish Museum’s recent exhibition Chagall: Love, War, and Exile is the first gathering in the United States of his work from the 1930s and 1940s. The show included approximately 31 paintings and 22 works on paper, as well as selected letters, poems, photos, and ephemera, many of which are featured here (including 11 of his poems). They reveal a lesser-known side of the artist, during crucial years in his life and work: happily living in France, he and his wife, Bella, fled to New York in 1941 as World War II spread through Europe; news from Europe and his homeland in Russia was increasingly devastating; and Bella died suddenly in 1944. His visions from his youth in Belarus became merged with visions of a suffering, crucified Jewish Christ and madly escaping Jews. His paintings of his new love were infused with his continuing love for Bella. Thoughtful and revealing essays by Goodman (senior curator, Jewish Museum) and Kenneth Silver (art history, New York Univ.) explore Chagall’s “fractured years” and Chagall, Jews, and Jesus.
Verdict A treasure, and revelation, for lovers of Chagall’s work, beautifully done.—Marcia G. Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Lib., Hanover, NH

Hiroyuki, Shimatani & Matsushima Masato. Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan from the Tokyo National Museum. Cleveland Museum of Art. 2014. 176p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780300206081. $45. FINE ARTS
In retrospect, the forward lurch of progress seems simple and inevitable, but the development of modern Japan after the government was reorganized in the Meiji Restoration of 1868 must have been complicated and confusing for a nation that had maintained a policy of strict isolation from the American and European worlds. We can glimpse the quest for integration of traditional thinking based on Chinese models and the radically different modes of thought that Europeans and Americans advocated in the work of artists in Japan who studied Western art in the period from 1868 to the present. This catalog of an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art shows the efforts to bridge the cultural gap by dozens of artists using calligraphy, ceramics, sculpture, oil paintings, and works on paper. One 1930 work by the artist Tsuchida Bakusen illustrates this perfectly. Using a traditional Japanese color on paper format, the artist portrays a young apprentice geisha sitting in a traditional tatami room. The figure is drawn in flat Japanese perspective, but the room is delineated in vanishing point Western perspective. Each beautifully illustrated image is accompanied by a page of text putting it in context and giving a bit of history of the artist. Short, readable essays concerning the modernist revision of Japanese art and calligraphy precede the main catalog of works.
Verdict Art historians and Japanophiles will truly enjoy this catalog, but it has broad popular appeal for its beauty and its nontechnical access to a fascinating period.—David McClelland, Andover, NY

McDougal, Dennis. Dylan: The Biography. Wiley. May 2014. 540p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780470636237. $35. MUSIC
Music legend Bob Dylan’s life story has been told and retold many times over, and now best-selling author and investigative reporter McDougal (The Last Mogul) has added this accessible but unsatisfying profile to the mountain of Dylan biographies. The strongly opinionated author paints his reclusive and enigmatic subject as an ambitious, calculating, and coldhearted mercenary who has struggled to balance fame and privacy since becoming a celebrated songwriter and musician in the 1960s. McDougal tries to muckrake through Dylan’s private side but fails to interview anyone even remotely close to Dylan’s inner circle, and he relies far too heavily on quotes culled from previously published and readily available interviews, articles, and books. Shallow research into Dylan’s career, frequent speculation about Dylan’s love life and drug use, and strong criticism of other biographies hurt the author’s credibility. Fans interested in gaining insight into Dylan’s life and work have several more deeply researched and authoritative books available, including Robert Shelton’s No Direction Home (1986) and Howard Sounes’s Down the Highway (2002).
Verdict This latest attempt to tell the Dylan story with a critical eye fails to uncover anything new or insightful and is for completists only.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

Patry, Karen. The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered About Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling. Storey. Apr. 2014. 328p. illus. index. ISBN 9781612121420. pap. $19.95. ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
rabbitraising031414Rex Rabbit breeder and blogger (raisingrabbits.com) Patry presents not just a problem-solver but a compendium of knowledge for keeping rabbits as pets or raising them for wool, fur, or meat. Written in Q&A format, the book covers everything the aspiring or novice rabbit owner needs to know: breeds, housing, feeding, breeding, managing the kits, recognizing symptoms and health issues, ethical concerns, even how humanely to euthanize a rabbit. Attractive illustrations, an extensive list of resources, and an index complete the book. Libraries whose copy of the 2009 edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits is “rabbit-eared” will want to add this comprehensive guide.
Verdict Highly recommended for readers who are considering rabbits for fun or profit or for novice owners.—Florence Scarinci, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, NY

Rosa, John P. Local Story: The Massie-Kahahawai Case and the Culture of History. Univ. of Hawai’i. Apr. 2014. 184p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780824828257. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780824839703. CRIME
In 1931, five local Hawaiians were charged with the rape of Thalia Massie, wife of a naval lieutenant stationed at Pearl Harbor. Because of the hung jury and before they could be retried, one of the defendants, Joseph Kahahawai, was kidnapped and murdered by four “haoles” (whites), including Thalia’s husband and mother-in-law. The four were indicted, tried, and convicted, despite having Clarence Darrow as their defense lawyer. The navy and Washington were horrified; since the 19th century, the status of whites over nonwhites was the unwritten rule. To prevent martial law, the territorial governor reluctantly agreed to commute the sentence to one hour served in his office. While this was a sensational episode at the time, it was largely forgotten until Norman Katov’s 1983 fictional account, Blood and Orchids, revived interest in the case. Rosa (history Univ. of Hawai’i Manoa) assembled this case focusing on the nature of historical storytelling and what he calls “the culture of history.” Rosa suggests that “local identity in Hawaii has a constitutive emotive about it that often escapes written accounts.” This book presents another ugly chapter in U.S. history where whites mistreated another ethic group and got away with it. After it was proven that the boys involved did not rape Thalia Massie, no one has ever answered the question of who really assaulted her.
Verdict Recommended for readers who are interested in sensational crime and injustices from the past.—Michael Sawyer, Pine Bluff, AR