Tuesday, March 25, 2008


There are two things in my life that are slightly incompatible:

1. I love books, and certain books I like to keep in as fine a condition as possible, and
2. I have a two-year old daughter.

My daughter is absolutely amazing, the light of my life, but she's really hard on books. She loves 'em, but her love is often shown in more physically demanding ways than is good for the health of the book.

We have bookshelves all over the house, and none of them are safe from our energetic toddler. Except one. I have one very high shelf over my computer in my studio that is, at this point, toddler-proof. So, over time, the books that I most want to preserve have migrated to that shelf. This hasn't become a place for my favorite literature, as most of that is in paperback form, and I figure that paperbacks are built to self-destruct over time anyway, so there's no sense in being too protective of them. What has accumulated there is a few of the art catalogs in the house that I just couldn't stand to see lose their dust jackets or get dog-eared.

The thought struck me that, in grabbing things that I wanted to keep out of the baby's hands, over time I've created a self-portrait of sorts. Sort of accidentally answering one of those "if you could take such-and-such to a desert island, which would you take" type questions. So here, for what it's worth, is the list of those books, a window into those things that I like to look at and want to keep, a "shelf-portrait".

Light and Lens by Robert Hirsch. This one and the linocut exhibition catalog are sort of oddballs in that my own work is reproduced in them, and so they maybe aren't as much a portrait of my tastes as an example of my vanity.
William Kentridge
The Art of William Steig
Drawings of Jim Dine, an exhibition catalog from a show at the National Gallery of Art
Gregory Gillespie, an exhibition catalog from a show of his late work at the Forum Gallery
International Triennial of Graphic Arts Prague 2004, the aforementioned exhibition catalog containing a few of my linocuts.
In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegleman. This is the first "artist's book" up there.
Brucke, a catalog of woodcuts, with some of the essays for individual prints written by an art-historian friend of mine, Tina Yarborough, who is a professor at the small college in Georgia where I used to teach.
Gregory Gillespie, an exhibition catalog from the Hirschorn from 1978
The Art of Richard Diebenkorn
Poetry Speaks
Drawings by David Hughes. You should visit his website.
The Book of Shrigley. You should visit his website, too.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, of course, but illustrated beautifully by David Hughes.
The Essential Joseph Beuys
Anselm Kiefer, an exhibition catalog from the show at the Philadelphia Museum in 1988. Some day I should tell you about the women wearing white gloves who were turning the pages of his gigantic sand covered books, and how their gloves turned progressively browner and browner, and how amusing I thought that was, and how incredible I thought that exhibition was. Well, I guess I just did.
Anselm Kiefer, a catalog from Marian Goodman Gallery
Arnulf Rainer, from a great show I saw in Chicago
Kleinzueg, an artist's book by Arnulf Rainer, by far the coolest wedding present we received.
Walter Pichler
Artist's Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook
John Virtue: London Paintings, a catalog from a beautiful show we saw at the British Museum in New Haven. Ironically, considering the reasoning behind why this book is on this shelf, this was the first show that my tiny daughter ever attended with us. She slept through the whole thing.
Extraordinary Exhibitions: Broadsides from the Collection of Ricky Jay
Jay's Journal of Anomalies, by Ricky Jay
Dieter Roth: Graphic Works
Roth Time, the catalog from a great Dieter Roth retrospective that MOMA put on when it was in its temporary exhibition spaces during the big recent renovation.
Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck, by Ricky Jay and photographer Rosamund Purcell
Art in its Time by Paul Mattick. I'm not quite sure how this one got up there - it's not in the "must not be dinged" category - more something that must have ridden the studio tides up to that shelf.
Imaginary Economics by Olav Velthuis
Black Box / Chambre Noire by William Kentridge
and finally, a big goofy notebook labeled Every Dumb Idea, which is just a receptacle for everything that crosses my mind that might become a print, drawing, artist's book or whatever. It's not a precious book, just something I need at hand when I'm working on the computer, and it makes a good bookend.

So there's my portrait in catalogs. What would be on your shelf?

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