Category: Books

Grotesque Seduction: The Photographs of Tod Seelie.

High Heels Crowd Surf, by Tod Seelie. From Bright Nights: Photographs of Another New York, published by Prestel.
High Heels Crowd Surf, by Tod Seelie. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

Bright Nights, by Seelie, was just published by Prestel.

In the mail today came a book I am super ecstatic about: Tod Seelie’s Bright Nights, which gathers all of his New York photographs into one handy tome. Even as the city becomes a monochromatic carpet of condos and faux retro watering holes, Bright Nights is a reminder that even at its most Bloombergian New York has always retained pockets of creative chaos (and hopefully always will). This book is a tribute to those pockets — and all the bloody noses that come with it.

Bright Nights by Tod Seelie
My essay!

What’s more, I got to write an essay for this baby, which I’m pretty dang proud of. (Thank you, Jeff Stark, for the mad editing skills.) I’ve been an admirer of Tod’s work for years, from the time his images first started to pop up on Flickr years ago. I’ve long been enthralled by what they covered: under-the-radar events like Bike Kill, Japanther concerts, vogue-ing competitions and journeys made by Swoon on her flotilla of hand-made rafts. But it’s his framing and his sense of color that makes his work rise above simple documentation.

It was a thrill to be able to contribute a few words to the spaces between the pictures. So go out and get the book! And while you’re at it, check out Tod’s website, his Instagram, and his Twitter.


Calendar. 11.20.13.

New Year's Party Balloon, from Brisbane, Australia, 2011, by Anthony Lister
New Year’s Party Balloon, in Brisbane, Australia, 2011, by Anthony Lister. From The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti, by Rafael Schacter. A book launch will be held this evening at PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn at 7pm. (Image courtesy the author and Yale University Press.)

  • NYC: Christian Marclay, New Paintings and Works on Paper, at Paula Cooper Gallery. Opens Friday, in Chelsea.
  • NYC: Dotty Attie, The Lone Ranger, at P.P.O.W. Opens Thursday, in Chelsea.
  • NYC: Boris Mikhailov: Four Decades, at Dominque Lévy. Opens Saturday, on the Upper East Side.
  • NYC: Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Through March 9.
  • NYC: Devotion: Excavating Bob Mizer, at 80WSE Gallery. Opens Saturday at 6pm, at NYU.
  • NYC: Matthew Newton, Two Friends Talking Duets, at Airplane. This Saturday at 7pm.
  • S.F.: Dissident Futures Art and Ideas Festival, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This Saturday from noon to 9pm.
  • L.A.: Yutaka Stone and Benjamin Weissman: What Every Snowflake Knows In Its Heart, at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Opens Thursday, at 8pm, in Santa Monica.
  • L.A.: Andrew Piedilato, at Patrick Painter Gallery. Through December 21, in Santa Monica.
  • L.A.: Gods and Heroes: European Drawings of Classical Mythology, at the Getty Center. Through February 9, in West L.A.
  • L.A.: The Un-Private Collection: Robert Rauschenberg, a discussion with Mark Bradford and Katy Siegel, at the High School of the Visual and Performing Arts. Saturday at 2pm, in downtown.
  • L.A.: The NSA Domestic Spying Program, a screening and discussion of a film by Laura Poitras, at 356 S. Mission Road. This Saturday at 7pm, in Boyle Heights.
  • Plus: Get your tickets for the premiere of Ryan Trecartin’s latest at BAMcinématek on December 11. They’re on-sale now.

Outside the Lines at MOCA today!

Outside the Lines artist coloring book by Souris Hong-Porretta

Hey Folks:

Souris Hong-Porretta is launching her Outside the Lines artist coloring book at MOCA Grand Avenue today, Saturday, from 3-6pm.

There will be music and coloring and plenty of artistes present, including Bret Nicely, Carol Es, Celso, CYRCLE, Dabito, Gary Baseman, JEGA, Jeni Yang, John Freeborn, Katsuo Design, Keith Scharwath, Kozyndan, Laurie Lipton, Lia Halloran, Min Cha, RISK, Saelee Oh, Shepard Fairey, Sherise Lee, Silvio Porretta, Steven Harrington, Theresa Castro, Tofer Chin, Travis Millard, Young Kim and Yuri Shimojo.

If you don’t already have a book, you can pick one up at the MOCA bookstore. And if you’re not in L.A., there is always the internets.


Hive Mind: Please recommend your favorite travel and travel-related books!

Brisky's in Micanopy, FL
Booooks!!! I need your booooooks!

Dear Hive Mind:

I have just scored the dreamiest dream job a travel writer could every hope for: I’m curating a travel library for a cultural center abroad. I have been a dedicated reader of travel literature since I could crack open a book. I have crates filled with travelogues, travel photography tomes and journals of expeditions. If I could have Wade Davis’s One River tattooed directly into my brain, I would.

But, no one person can know everything. Which is why I’m doing an open call for your suggestions. Do you have have a favorite classic travelogue a la Travels with Charley? A book of photography that conveys a sense of journey or exploration, like Robert Frank’s Peru? Do you rely on a particular shopping or design tome to big cities that you think is essential to understanding a place — like Gestalten’s Berlin Design Guide?

My focus will be on the Americas and Europe, with other smaller categories to include subjects such as architecture, art, shopping, photography and food and drink. I am taking any and all suggestions — from how-to manuals on travel photography to sensational accounts of epic journeys. If it’s even tangentially related to travel and you think its good, then I want to know about it!!

There is only one rule: no fiction.

Please leave your suggestions below! I will review each and every one. And I’ll be deeply grateful that you took the time to help me out.

Thanks, as always, for reading C-Mon.



Art books and fake books at the Printed Matter L.A. Art Book Fair

The age of the e-book has created a quandary for people who like to display the things they read (or aspire to read) on the shelves in their homes. Your e-reader may hold a PhD’s worth of Jacques Lacan tomes, but how will your dinner guests know about it? Enter the E-Book Shelf Surrogate (click the image above to supersize), introduced by Hol Art Books at the Printed Matter LA Art Book Fair. At the fair, any visitors who pick up an e-book, will also get an 11×17 print that can be folded into the model of a paper back book, so that you may chicly and casually show off your intellectual ability to your friends. All for only $15!

Tip: while you’re there, pop over to the Gagosian booth, where they’re selling a Destroy All Monsters zine with CD for $30. Probably the only thing I’ll ever be able to afford at Gago, besides the sneering condescension (which is free).

The fair is on through Sunday 6pm, at MOCA Geffen in Little Tokyo.


What I’m reading.

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? by Touré, a thoughtful look at the Black experience in the post Civil Rights era. Certainly, there are a million good reasons to read this book. But it should hold special interest for the artsy fartsies, since this tome teases out ideas about contemporary Black identity that were articulated, early on, in the world of art — specifically, by artist Glenn Ligon and curator Thelma Golden at the Studio Museum Harlem, in the 2001 exhibition Freestyle. The book, refreshingly, features interviews with many artists as part of its research: Ligon, as well as Rashid Johnson, Kara Walker, Lorna Simpson, Kehinde Wiley, Julie Mehretu, Barkley Hendricks and others.

From an interview with Carrie Mae Weems, on p. 209 (Free Press, Kindle Edition, 2011):

One of the ways in which I measure whether or not someone is really being successful is to the extent that their work is allowed to really circulate broadly throughout American culture. To that extent it’s a very circumspect and very confined territory that Black artists occupy. We’re certainly not considered a part of the cannon, the great canon of American artistic practice. When we look at the great movements in art, whether it’s abstract expressionism or modernism or impressionism or cubism or constructivism, we’re not a part of those movements. We’re not seen as part of those aspects of invention so to that extent, you’re always marginalized because you’re not considered part of the group of people who really had a hand in the shaping of quote, ‘serious artistic practice.’ So, you know, when your work comes up for auction, it’s not considered a part of the major cannon, it’s like this derivative practice. So you might spend a couple hundred thousand for it but you would never spend $10 million for it. Basquiat is in the million-dollar range but he’s sort of like the anomaly and he’s still not the commodity that Warhol is or any of the other practitioners that came along with Basquiat at that moment right. His auction price sort of tells you how he’s really considered in the grand scheme of things next to those people that are considered major. So my great humiliation is that the work is always considered in light of the bigger cannon and in that sense I’m just small potatoes.

I’m not trying to give up my Blackness so that I can be an artist. I’m interested in my Blackness being considered a part of the greater humanity like whiteness. If we assume that when we talk about de Kooning, we assume that de Kooning is speaking to all of us even though he’s painting white people. Why can’t my ‘Kitchen Table’ series stand for more than the Black woman who’s in the picture? Why does it have to be considered less than Cindy Sherman’s films do? It’s still considered less than those things because of this sort of changing same, because it was made by a Black person and Black people still are not completely taken seriously in the same way for their production. And I can’t think of the person who’s really surpassed that or surmounted that yet in any serious way. And certainly not as a group.

Weems’s photographs are currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, as part of the exhibit Blues for Smoke.


C-Mon Giveaway Extravaganza: LP New York City.

Hey Folks:

My latest travel tome (co-authored with the very awesome Brandon Presser and Cristian Bonetto) is now out, and it covers none other than NYC. I wrote the sections on Brooklyn, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Central Park and Harlem. (Charles Pan-Fried Chicken, FTW!!!) It also contains what has to be the single best hotel review I’ve ever penned in my life:

Hotel Williamsburg: This hipster hotel on the fringes of Williamsburg was a work in progress at press time, and like the second Death Star in the Empire Strikes Back, not fully operational. (It opened, behind schedule, in late 2011.) It’s insufferably chic, with tiny, minimalist rooms with glass-walled bathrooms — a stunning opportunity to see your traveling companion on the pooper. There is a large pool surrounded by design-conscious loungers, a too-cool-for school vinyl library, two bars and a restaurant. Overall an attractive spot, but pricey given the less-than-convenient location.

Thank god for Lonely Planet, ‘cuz those aren’t the sort of details you can get in the luxury rags. Credit for the Star Wars joke goes to my partner-in-crime, Celso, who is always handy with a turn of phrase. In the meantime, this handy little guide (a $20 value) could be yours for F-R-E-E. Just leave a comment below.



What I’m Reading.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, about art and the writing life in Paris in the 1920s. Especially worth it for his reminisces of Gertrude Stein (“she does talk a lot of rot sometimes”) and the hot mess of a couple that was Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

P. 69 (Bantam Edition, 1965, found in an untidy little bookstore in Salta, Argentina):

You got very hungry when you did not get enough to eat in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food. When you had given up journalism and were writing nothing that anyone in America would buy, explaining at home that you were lunching out with someone, the best place to go was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the way from the Place de l’Observatoire to the rue de Vaugirard. There you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cézanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry. I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted; but I thought possibly it was only that he had forgotten to eat. It was one of those unsound but illuminating thoughts you have when you have been sleepless or hungry. Later I thought Cézanne was probably hungry in a different way.