Brush Up On Art History This Week

These beautifully illustrated volumes are perfect for art lovers, whether you just casually enjoy art or consider yourself an art connoisseur. From rare antiques, to painting collections, to sculpture and more, these books are perfect coffee table additions to any home. 

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Rare Antique Asian and Colonial Decorative Arts

9781911300038This lively, lavishly illustrated volume presents rare decorative arts from Asia – all of exceptional quality – from ornate handled daggers and exquisite silver filigree boxes to diamond-studded jewels, magnificent embroidered silk and divination bowls by master craftsmen.

The decorative arts of South and Southeast Asia, and especially those of the 18th and 19th centuries, and trade items produced during the same period, constitute a much neglected area. Such items, which in a Europeanized context tend to be labeled objets de vertu, are underrepresented in public and private collections. While the decorative arts of later Western Europe and North America might be strongly represented, when it comes to South and Southeast Asia, there is a bias towards the ancient, the religious and the sculptural.

And yet the decorative arts of Asia of recent centuries is a more accessible and tangible field for many. The relative attractiveness of more recent Asian decorative arts, for which provenance issues need not be so acute, grows as the movement of archaeological and other early material across international borders becomes ever more complex and problematic, be it for commercial or for exhibition purposes.

Seeking to redress the balance, this volume presents objects of exceptional quality that are often incredibly rare – ranging from ornate handled daggers and exquisite silver filigree boxes to diamond-studded jewels and magnificent embroidered silk. Only some of these objects were made for religious reasons, and, though old, few are ancient. Instead, they are the product of cultural influences that have crossed borders, produced in the quest for beauty.

The catalogue also includes a selection of items usually designated as ‘tribal’ art. Many of these have a decorative as much as a ritualistic component. Among the objects from Nigeria are a stunning 19th-century processional staff , topped with the figure of a queen, two museum-quality divination bowls carved by master craftsmen, and a striking and possibly unique five-headed dance costume. Most have been sourced from old UK and European collections, and most are likely to have been collected during the colonial era. This is important. Overwhelmingly, most ‘tribal’ art items available commercially today are reproduction pieces and have no place in serious collections.

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Georgiana Houghton

9781911300021The birth of abstract art is typically associated with Kandinsky and others in the early 20th century. Houghton’s work, however, predates this momentous artistic breakthrough by half a century. In this respect, she anticipates the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), whose work is now appreciated for its significance in the early history of abstraction.

Houghton was a prominent figure of the early spiritualist movement in Victorian England, which played a significant role in various spheres of 19th century culture and was later championed by such influential figures as Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Spiritualism emerged as the belief that contact with a spirit realm was possible and that such communication could bring one closer to God. Houghton, a trained artist as well as a medium, pioneered the use of drawing as a method of channeling and expressing communications with spirit entities. During the 1860s and 1870s, she produced a series of unprecedented abstract watercolors as part of her practice as a spirit medium. Houghton called these works ‘spirit drawings’. Remarkably complex, layered watercolors and technically highly accomplished, their bold colors and fluid forms have a mesmerizing and deeply absorbing effect. Detailed inscriptions on the back of the works declare that her hand was guided by various spirits, including family members, several Renaissance artists, such as Titian and Correggio, and higher angelic beings. Although produced in a very different context, Houghton’s abstract works have close connections to the ways in which 20th Century artists developed abstract languages of art to transcend the everyday realm of representation and consciousness.

In 1871 Houghton rented a prestigious gallery space in Bond Street and presented 55 of her spirit drawings to a perplexed London audience. The critic from The Era newspaper pronounced it to be “the most astonishing exhibition in London at the present moment.” The Daily News likened the works to “tangled threads of colored wool” and concluded that “they deserve to be seen as the most extraordinary and instructive example of artistic aberration.”

Georgiana Houghton: Spirit Drawings will present more than 20 of these remarkable works. Unlike anything typically associated with Victorian culture, it will be a fascinating opportunity to consider their place within the history of art; both as products of their times and as precursors of radical 20th Century art.

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Sensory Systems

9781910221105Sensory Systems documents an engaging group exhibition presented at the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, England, in autumn 2015. The exhibition is the first in a new annual program by the gallery each fall that will revolve around the theme of light, and timed to coincide with the famous Blackpool Illuminations – a six-mile-long outdoor display of lights that has drawn many visitors to the town each year since it was first switched on in 1912.

The exhibition and publication feature works by internationally acclaimed artists interested in the technology and science of light, and how this can be used to affect our perceptual experiences of space. Whether through sculpture, projection, or immersive architecture, each artwork presented in the exhibition invited a dialogue with the viewer, utilizing color, pattern, movement, and other factors to evoke a variety of spatial and sensory experiences.

The selection of prominent figures working internationally today who feature in the exhibition and publication are: Angela Bulloch, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Ann Veronica Janssens, Anthony McCall, and Conrad Shawcross. Among these, Anthony McCall was one of the early pioneers in the field, alongside figures such as James Turrell, Mary Corse, Robert Irwin, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Dan Flavin. McCall, who moved to New York from England in the early 1970s, was highly influential with his ‘solid light’ installations. In this exhibition and publication, McCall presents ‘You and I, Horizontal’ (2005), a slowly evolving, curving sculpture made of light.

The publication includes a foreword by Richard Parry, Curator at the Grundy Art Gallery, an essay by Dr. Luke Skrebowski, Director of Studies in History of Art at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, and has been designed by Joe Gilmore / Qubik. The project has been supported by Blackpool Council, Coastal Communities Fund, Arts Council England, and is co-published by the Grundy Art Gallery and Anomie Publishing. The publication is distributed internationally by Casemate Art.

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John Raimondi

9781938086403John Raimondi (b. 1948) is a contemporary American artist whose more than 100 monumental works of outdoor sculpture have earned him international distinction and acclaim. During his forty-five year career, he has experimented with a wide variety of styles, ranging from the simplicity of strong, angular lines and planes to the more graceful, curvilinear renditions of the natural world and human figure, to improvisational elements in his dignified series on American jazz greats and Indian chiefs.

A constant in every style and approach in Raimondi’s sculpture is his classical sense of design and craftsmanship along with his keen appreciation for scale and a subject’s social meaning. His sculptural works are also distinctive in how they are made not cast in bronze but formed, rolled, welded, and fabricated into shape from large sheets of bronze or Cor-Ten steel. The results are unforgettable pieces that are monumental yet elegant, solid yet ethereal.

Behind most of Raimondi’s sculptural pieces are his conceptual drawings, which are works of art in their own right. These drawings—based on astute observations in the field and an immersion into scholarly readings—become fundamental, singular translations of the artist’s feel for and understanding of a subject. The drawings are then rendered into cardboard models that become templates for larger-scale models for the eventual work of art. Raimondi then makes new drawings of the completed sculpture in order to provide a sense of closure and complete the artistic process.

John Raimondi: Drawing to Sculpture is a seminal new book that presents not only an unprecedented number of Raimondi’s sculptures and drawings, but also a sense of his ever-evolving career and creative approach to making unforgettable art. The book also complements a forty-five-year retrospective of Raimondi’s work at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

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Wolfe von Lenkiewicz

9781910221099This is the first major monograph on the work of one of Britain’s most dynamic artists, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz. His striking paintings and drawings mine the hallowed halls of art history and popular culture in search of visual languages, imagery, themes, and motifs that he can appropriate, adapt, use, and abuse, bringing together different movements, genres, periods, and styles in dialogues that are surprising, innovative, and sometimes provocative.

Lenkiewicz’s imagination and energy seem to be inexhaustible, concocting endless amazing hybrids such as iconic Renaissance paintings invaded by characters from nineteenth-century Japanese woodblocks, French Revolutionary masterpieces spliced with German Romanticism, or Cubism infiltrated by Victorian children’s illustration. The result is a peculiar and fantastical cast of characters and scenarios, whether Nazi soldiers trampling through the snow towards a crashed UFO in the middle of a village scene by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Snow White making an uncomfortable guest appearance in an already troubling Balthus interior, or a guillotined head assuming a cameo role in an otherwise serene still life.

These painterly chimera are cultural mash-ups. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes witty, other times simply beautiful, odd, and arresting amalgams, they are always poignant, pertinent, and decidedly thought-provoking, inviting the viewer to think across time, cultures, countries, and ideologies about the many languages of art. In the process, Lenkiewicz has established his own distinctive oeuvre, one that perhaps perfectly illustrates the notion of post-modernity within painting – an oeuvre of juxtapositions and non-sequiturs, binary oppositions and the uncanny, ruptures and elisions, the real and the irrational. As well as often encouraging us to look at the history of art with fresh eyes, Lenkiewicz’s practice asks about visual culture today, about how our understanding of the past rests on shifting sands.

With an introduction by distinguished art critic Edward Lucie-Smith and a major new essay by writer and editor Richard Dyer, this beautifully designed and produced hardback book presents an impressive selection of works produced by the artist between 2009 and 2015.

Born in 1966 and based in London, Lenkiewicz is of German and Polish descent; he studied philosophy at York University, graduating in 1990. He is the son of the late painter Robert Lenkiewicz and great grandson of Baron von Schlossberg, court painter to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the Swan King.

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Soaring Flight

9781907372858Accompanying a major exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery, this catalogue explores a remarkable and unprecedented series of paintings by Peter Lanyon (1918-1964), one of Britain’s most important and original post-War artists. Lanyon sought to create a new vision of landscape painting for the modern era. He considered himself to be extending the landscape traditions of earlier artists, in particular Turner, whom he admired greatly. Lanyon strove to find a language of painting that expressed his direct experience of the landscape which might also probe questions about the nature of our existence within the world.

During the 1950s, he produced radical, near-abstract paintings of the tough coastal landscape of his native West Cornwall. He was fueled by a desire to experience that landscape as completely as possible. In the summer of 1956, Lanyon was walking across a high cliff top when he looked up, saw three gliders soaring overhead and realized that this was the experience he desired. He began gliding seriously in 1959 and went solo for the first time in 1960, clocking up many flying hours over the next few years.

Freed from a land-bound perspective, Lanyon poured his new gliding experiences into his art, producing paintings that offer a thrilling sense of his encounters with the land, sea and air, collapsing the multiple perspectives of his flights into each new composition. The paintings are also profoundly shaped by Lanyon’s newfound glider pilot’s knowledge of the character of the air – its different movements, textures and forces, as well as the dangers and lifelines that it presents as one navigates through the thermals and up-draughts that are the invisible map essential for the glider’s survival in the sky.

Lanyon’s gliding paintings stand as a unique achievement of twentieth-century art, reinventing and furthering the tradition of landscape painting in ways that can also be seen to engage deeply with the pressing existentialist concerns of the post-War world. This remarkable project was cut short by Lanyon’s unexpected death in August 1964 whilst in hospital recovering from a gliding accident.

Accompanying the first ever exhibition devoted to Lanyon’s gliding paintings, this book will offer a pioneering account of this important but overlooked body of work, bringing together around fifteen major paintings from public and private collections internationally, alongside a small group of constructions.

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