As we near the end of 2022, we’re taking a look back at the year, starting with the books we found most compelling, impressive, and inspirational. We’ve published dozens of articles on artist monographs and compendiums of broader topics across art and design and science and history over the last 12 months, and these are the 10 titles that impacted us most.
Head to Bookshop to browse all 25 books on our list, including the highly anticipated Hilma AF Klint Catalogue Raisonné, a glimpse into rarely-seen works by Ruth Asawa, and a dive into the history of protest art.
Across its 352 pages, Ocean, Exploring the Marine World dives into the planet’s notoriously vast and mysterious aquatic ecosystems, traveling across the continents and three millennia to uncover the stunning diversity of life below the surface. It presents science and history alongside art and illustration, including biological renderings by Ernst Haeckel, Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock prints, and works by artists like Kerry James Marshall, Vincent van Gogh, and Yayoi Kusama.
From floral Soundsuits and found-object sculptures to a multicolor web of millions of pony beads, Forothermore surveys the 30-plus-year career of artist Nick Cave and accompanies a massive retrospective of the same name.
Learn the distinctive stitching techniques of artist Emillie Ferris with Paint with Thread: A Step-By-Step Guide to Embroidery Through the Seasons. The how-to volume contains instructions for creating five whimsical projects that utilize Ferris’s long and short stitches to create textured portrayals of flora and fauna.
Spanning nearly 350 pages, Great
Women Painters highlights more than 300 artists across 500 years and a vast array of movements and aesthetics. The book pairs icons like Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington with contemporary artists like Ewa Juszkiewicz and Katharina Grosse in a broad and diverse overview of the women who profoundly impact art today.
From East Asia to West Africa and New Zealand to Uzbekistan, this volume traverses the globe as it acknowledges the recognized greats of the medium and uncovers overlooked artists, traditions, and techniques. The book contains hundreds of images across decades, including works from Western icons like Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Man Ray, and Ansel Adams and African studio photographers like Sanlé Sory, Michel Kameni, and Malick Sidibe.
This enormous, nearly 500-page monograph explores the inimitable career of artist Olafur Eliasson. The edition comprises a breadth of works from the 1990s to today, including “The Weather Project” from 2003 (shown above) and the more recent “Life,” which flooded Fondation Beyeler with murky green waters.
Across nearly 450 pages, PRIME, Art’s Next Generation offers a broad and insightful survey of the Millenials defining the future of the art world, including Jordan Casteel, Tau Lewis, and Firelei Báez. The tome takes a broad look at what’s emerged from a cultural and creative landscape shaped by the internet.
This monograph accompanies the expansive King Pleasure exhibition that opened earlier this year in Chelsea and offers an intimate and holistic glimpse at the life that inspired Jean-Michel Basquiat’s oeuvre. The 336-page book features a broad array of works, interviews with family members, and an in-depth consideration of his life.
We’re continually concerned with the effects of the climate crisis, and this collection within Thames&Hudson’s World of Art series draws together an array of works that respond to the current moment.
Shop all 25 titles on our list on Bookshop.
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Since 2018, German photographer Tom Hegen (previously) has been soaring above regions from western Australia and Senegal to France and Spain as he documents the vivid landscapes of salt production. His mesmerizing aerial images peer down at evaporation ponds that carve the earth into a patchwork of vibrant hues. “What attracted me was the graphic and abstract appearance of these landscapes, which almost has a painterly quality. This is also the core feature that aerial photography has to offer: an unfamiliar few at ordinary things that surround us,” Hegen shares about the project.
Spanning nearly 300 pages, a forthcoming book titled Salt Works compiles more than 160 images from the series. Although their footprints vary widely, many of the areas spotlighted approach extraction in a similar manner: Harvesters often route seawater into these fields or small pockets of land, and the sun and wind help evaporate the liquid, leaving the crystalline minerals behind. Micro bacteria tint the salt into striking pastures of rose, aqua, and ochre, transforming the areas into rich tapestries of color.
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The first major retrospective of its kind, Young Lords and Their Traces unveils the aesthetic and intellectual lineage that’s guided artist Theaster Gates for the past two decades. Accompanied by a forthcoming monograph, the landmark exhibition encompasses a broad swath of Gates’ work and life and shows how his understandings of preservation, memory, and collective knowledge have continually evolved and manifested. In addition to vast archives, small ceramic sculptures, and his sweeping, multi-panel tar paintings, the Chicago-based artist also brings new site-specific installations to the New Museum to create communal spaces for gathering and reflection.
For the past two decades, much of Gates’ practice has revolved around shared knowledge and the idea that archiving is an act of devotion, a sentiment echoed in his transformation of a dilapidated South Side bank into a renowned art center and also throughout the exhibition. Its title pays homage to the radical, revolutionary thinkers who profoundly impacted American culture, and an entire floor is filled with references to the artist’s aesthetic and intellectual influences, including curator Okwui Enwezor and writer bell hooks. Objects like the library of the late Russian film and literature scholar Robert Bird and a tar kettle gifted by the artist’s father highlight Gates’ desire for care, conservation, and interpreting the everyday. He describes the latter as a “memorial to the history of labor and the ways in which labor is a beautiful, spiritual way of transmitting energy.”
Young Lords and Their Traces is on view through February 2, 2023, and you can pre-order the monograph on Bookshop.
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“I’m drawn to works that are rich in symbolism and also have a strong element of storytelling,” says Rithika Merchant. “I love seeing the artist’s hand in the work—I have a huge appreciation for small details and works that draw from a multitude of references—literary, mythical, and visual.”
The Mumbai-born artist manifests these same qualities in her practice, creating works that expertly translate concepts and themes through her own idiosyncratic allusions. Beginning with hours of study, research, and reading on an eclectic array of topics, Merchant tends to hone in on an image that she sketches onto sheets of paper, sometimes folded into generous rectangles or triangles. She then paints in gouache and subtle, muted washes of watercolor, layering translucent pigments atop inked renderings of landscapes, mythical hybrid creatures, and patterns of foliage.
While Merchant’s influences are broad—they range from the specific like 17th-century botanical drawings, Kalamkari prints, Mughal paintings, and Kalighat folk art to the general like religious iconography and narrative tapestries—they emerge as a distinct visual lexicon. The artist often gravitates toward symbols that transcend cultural or geographical boundaries, choosing to incorporate human anatomy, celestial objects, and botanical elements. Although universal, these images are married to language in Merchant’s mind and in service of an individual narrative. “I also have a notebook in which I make lots of written notes and diagrams, but I almost never make sketches or studies of things. I sketch more with words than images,” the artist shares.
Evoking the spiritual side of Hilma af Klint and the strange characters of Leonora Carrington, the resulting works are cartographic and chart-like, mapping surreal renderings of feathered wings, cycloptic figures, or a troupe of dancing creatures onto a plane intersected with creases and enclosed by a thin frame. Texture pervades each of the works through mixed mediums, collaged details, and patterns comprised of minuscule dots and lines.
Whether collaged or drawn on paper, each piece illuminates the intrinsic connections between the mind, body, and Earth. “I think there is something powerful in taking whatever scraps you can find and putting them together to create something meaningful,” she says.
Merchant is currently in a residence in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and will release her first monograph titled The Eye, The Sky, The Altar next month. For a glimpse into her studio and process, visit her Instagram.
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Artist Cara Barer curls and rolls the pages of books into sculptures that add colorful dimension to bound tomes. She dyes, shreds, and submerges vintage encyclopedias or instruction manuals in water to distort the typically compact publications. With cracked spins and crinkled pages, the manipulated objects reference the relationship between the natural and human-made as they evoke flowers at peak bloom. For more of Barer’s contorted works, visit her site and Instagram.
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Plant Magick: A 520-Page Book Explores the Vast Esoteric Connections Between Botanics and the Divine
The most recent addition to Taschen’s Library of Esoterica series, Plant Magick delves into the mythical, religious, and metaphysical histories of botanical life. The vast visual compendium explores an array of human interactions with the natural world as they relate to the spiritual and symbolic. Illustrations, photos, collages, and hundreds of other artworks across mediums are nestled within the 520 pages and include references to Buddha’s meditation under the Bodhi tree, the elaborate flower crowns worn during May Day celebrations, and the mind-bending experiences associated with psychedelics.
Similar to the series’ book on tarot, Plant Magick offers insight into the long legacies and enduring links between the creative and the divine. The title is currently available for pre-order from Taschen and Bookshop.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.