Books have beguiled us since they first emerged in the form of ancient scrolls and codices around the world. The way we access, utilize, and enjoy reading material has seen technological transformation over the centuries, from Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century, to the first dictionary produced in 1532, to the advent of affordable pocket paperbacks in the early 20th century. Paper tomes have had an immeasurable impact on society and our ability to relay knowledge, and even in an age of digital e-readers, the physical volume still embodies an appeal as timeless as literature itself. In a new exhibition in London, the world of reading provides a starting point for the seven artists to explore a wide range of themes and materials, highlighting our perennial fascination with the printed and bound medium.
Cheri Smith, Russell Webb, Guy Laramée (previously), Aron Wiesenfeld, Guillermo Martin Bermejo, El Gato Chimney, and Claire Partington (previously) work across a wide range of styles including sculpture, illustration, painting, and printmaking. In Bookworks, Laramée’s deconstructed reference volumes are transformed into miniature topographical landscapes that challenge our sense of scale. Cheri Smith’s paintings, sometimes painted onto book covers, reference the eccentricity of animals and how they are categorized in natural history catalogues. El Gato Chimney constructs elaborate narrative illustrations in accordion-style publications that follow an eccentric band of characters as they confront giant creatures.
Bookworks is on view at James Freeman Gallery through June 4.
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Laetitia Ky exercises art activism by braiding African identity into hair sculpture. Born from the lack of representation she experienced growing up on the Ivory Coast, her practice started by cutting the silky straight strands off of her Barbie doll heads and meticulously re-stitching curly extensions as a child. In Love and Justice, Ky’s towering sculptures are embedded into aspects of everyday life. She draws on the strength and durability of Black hair texture to weave traditional instruments, regional wildlife, and bodies in motion into interactive portraits that capture the beauty in common aspects of culture across the continent.
Each image in this 200-page collection published by Princeton Architectural Press makes a statement. Ky explores the roots of this work through the creative shape and design of traditional African hairstyles pre-colonialism. She uses symbols in her sculptures to respond to current struggles like a justice scale balancing gender icons on either side, a uterus with fallopian tubes that transform into middle fingers, or stretch marks on a woman’s body. In her self-love chapter, Ky’s images explore the joys of self-knowledge with acts such as playing a guitar made of hair, toasting a braided wine glass, or wrapping her neck with a life-sized hand that offers the scent of a flower.
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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. As its title suggests, the massive tome is a primer on the innovative, subversive, and category-defying works that are captivating curators and art professionals. The volume is collated based on time period alone, bringing together more than 100 international artists working across mediums who were born between 1980 and 1995—this includes Jordan Casteel, Tau Lewis (previously), and Firelei Báez (previously)—in a look at what’s emerged from a cultural and creative landscape shaped by the internet and increasing connectivity. PRIME will be released on May 25 and is available for pre-order on Phaidon and Bookshop.
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A New Book Illuminates the Lives of the Elusive, Pink-Plumed Flamingos in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula
In the Yucatán Peninsula, the rich wetland environment of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is one of the most important sites for flamingos. The pink-pigmented birds flock to the area for breeding each year, with officials registering approximately 15,000 nests and 30,000 adults inhabiting the area in 2021 alone.
A biologist by training, photographer Claudio Contreras Koob has spent years visiting the lanky, big-beaked avians in the reserve and documenting their mannerisms and habits, amassing a broad collection of images now compiled in a book published by teNeues Verla in collaboration with the Nature Picture Library. Flamingo contains 132 of Contreras Koob’s shots spanning from aerial views showing the creatures as rosy dots on the green landscape to intimate glimpses of a chick peeking through its mother’s plumage for a feeding—the photographer shares with Inhabitat that the latter image captures the critically important blood-red crop milk, which parents regurgitate to nourish their young.
Both elusive and widely recognized, the birds are increasingly vulnerable due to pollution, the effects of the climate crisis, and human encroachment, and the photos illuminate the potential loss if they’re left unprotected. Contreras Koob describes the collection as “covering all aspects of the flamingo life cycle: feeding, bathing, migration, courtship, life in the colony, chick rearing, etc. to present a portfolio that allows us to understand the complex life that flamingos go through,” a process that required patience and repeated encounters to encapsulate. He explains:
By far the biggest challenge is to be able to get close to them. They live in muddy, slimy wetlands or in some very salty pools, and you just cannot walk to them and expect to take your images. It is easy to scare them, and once one of them enters in panic mode, all others follow suit. By not taking the time, you could create havoc in a colony.
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A Mammoth Three-Volume Book Collection Presents Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Stunning 1:1 Detail
Millions of tourists stream through the hallowed halls of Vatican City to see one of Western art history’s most treasured artworks: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Gazing up 44 feet from the floor, visitors witness dramatic biblical scenes unfold throughout the monumental painting as it sprawls across the expansive architecture. The only drawback of looking up at such a height is that it’s difficult to discern smaller features and subtleties. The Sistine Chapel, a massive three-volume tome published by Callaway Arts and Entertainment and Italy’s Scripta Maneant, is dedicated to the details and presents up-close 1:1 scale images of the artist’s seminal painting in a limited-edition book.
Reminiscent of the way Michelangelo erected scaffolding to paint the scenes over 500 years ago, over the course of 65 nights, two photographers ascended a 33-foot scaffolding to access close views of the ceiling. The structure was assembled and disassembled every evening to allow tourists to visit during the day. Approximately 270,000 high-resolution images captured the incredible characteristics of movement, contrast, and expression that cannot be seen from ground level.
Printed in Italian and English and limited to 1999 copies by the Vatican—which also stipulated there will be no reprints—only a few English language copies remain, although the price tag is an eye-watering $22,000. The 20-pound set includes additional masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other Renaissance artists. (via Kottke)
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Spanning an open-air Taiwanese warehouse to a Cuban theater teeming with vibrant leaves, the sites that Jonathan Jimenez visits are relics of the industries and cultural institutions of the past. The French photographer, who works as Jonk (previously), has cultivated a practice centered on documenting abandoned structures around the globe, many of which have been cloaked in mosses, lush foliage, and even jungle-like vegetation.
In his most recent collection, Jonk visits 35 locations in 25 countries and captures the crumbling roofs, peeling facades, and rusted trains in their midst. He compiles the series in his seventh book titled Urbex Monde, which pairs the largely architectural photos with notes, histories of the sites, and anecdotes from his encounters in a consideration of nature’s enduring ability to reclaim what humans have left behind.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.