The LA Project: Kathryn Andrews and Kaari Upson's artist books

Different artists, different artist books-

Here are some of the pages from the artist books of the LA show I have been looking at. I would say that artist books are more like scrapbooks of inspiration than an artwork by itself, because many artists incorporate things personal in the artist book and the flow of the book is not necessarily comprehensible to everyone. I think it's more about how the parts of the artists' ideas and inspirations flow logically in the book to themselves than how well the audience understands the artists' ideas. 

In that way, it's quite similar to how I use the IB Arts website, sort of like a wikispace that all IB Arts classes at my school use to share works, where I can see the connection between each of my artworks in the slideshow of my work.

Sometime before IB comes to an end, I want to try making my own artist book, to bring to college.

Paul McCarthy

I read an interesting article about how the provocative installation and performance artist, Paul McCartchy installed a very sexually explicit monumental sculpture in the middle of Paris' Place Vendome, home to the French justice ministry. 

Here's the picture of the euphemistically-titled, "tree." 

After the inflatable sculpture was installed, the artist received backlash from the conservative citizens of Paris, who thought that the installation of the work was a humiliation to Paris. Eventually, after a week, the sculpture was vandalized and destroyed by two attackers, and McCarthy made the decision not to recreate the work to avoid even more extreme conflicts. 

This was so interesting to read because I remember so vividly researching about Paul McCarthy for the Los Angeles project, the current exhibition at UCCA, during my internship at the museum last Summer and being shocked by how "sexually-connotated" his installations are. 

His works make strong political and cultural statements through the use of shock value- but I wonder what it would be like if something like this was to be built in my neighborhood. Sure, it is art, and it is freedom of expression, but I don't know if installation is the most appropriate way to make a statement, considering how disturbing McCarthy's work can be.

There are some distinct characteristics that define art of artists from LA: The use of vivid or pastel colours, use of mixed media, commentary on popular culture and/or the internet age... I'm guessing it has a lot to do with the prevalence of the entertainment industry in LA... or maybe just the sunny weather, who knows. 

The LA Project: Ryan Trecartin and Alex Israel's Artist Books

Yesterday, I received the artist's books for the current exhibition at UCCA, the Los Angeles Project. The LA Project is an anthology of seven exhibitions of seven contemporary artists from Los Angeles, Kathyn Andrews, Aaron Curry, Alex Israel, Matthew Monahan, Sterling Ruby, Ryan Trecartin, and Kaari Upson. 

It's interesting why the exhibition specifically focuses on the city of Los Angeles. Researching briefly about each of these artists who are specialized in wide variety of media and styles, I noticed that the only obvious thread that ties these artists together is the fact that they are all active in Los Angeles.

But the Beijing and LA are beyond different. Sunny LA and Polluted Beijing. The beaches and the... gray hutongs. There seems to be no commonality between the two cities so maybe that's why UCCA put up the exhibition in the first place. 

So I received seven books in total for each of the artists in the exhibition. Originally, I thought they were normal catalogs that introduce the artworks that are put on display at the museum, but they actually turn out to be "artist's books," something I had never heard of. According to the sources on the internet, artist's books are:

Unlike an art book, catalog or monograph that tend to showcase artworks created in another medium, the term ‘artists’ books’ refers to publications that have been conceived as artworks in their own right.
They are not children’s books
They are not sketch books.
They are not diaries.
They are not blank books.
They are not exhibition catalogs.
They are not reproductions of a body of an artist’s work.
They are not art books(a common misnomer).
However, they may parody or play with any of the above, as well as all other standard categories such as novels, self-help books, non-fiction, cookbooks, operating manuals, manifestos, travel guides, essays, etc. Artist’s books function in the same way as contemporary art: as an expression of someone’s creativity, often with social commentary, but sometimes in a purely abstract way, in absence of words or recognizable imagery.

So interesting. 

(Please excuse the collection of badly taken photos. My camera and phone broke at the same time) 

(Please excuse the collection of badly taken photos. My camera and phone broke at the same time) 

I first looked at Ryan Trecartin's artist's book, "Yet." The front page of the book already is extremely intriguing, because it looks like a badly photoshopped and bordered collage of an image of space and Microsoft's WordArt that reads: "NASA says It Has Found The Most 'Earth-Like" Planet Yet." Now, I have no idea whether that is actually a title of a published article or just something Trecartin came up himself, but it's very, very intriguing.. 

Because I wasn't aware that an artist's book is something very, very different from an ordinary published book, I didn't know how to react at first. Not only did the book not have any text, it was filled with eccentric and somewhat trippy pictures that were just confusing. The whole book was a collage of tinted images that somehow made me extremely uncomfortable. A lot of the images were not properly shot; they were blurry, tilted, and badly cropped. And it was strange to see bad quality photos on a properly published book like this. The subjects of the photos ranged from internet users and random pedestrians to trippy patterns, article titles, and Iphone screen and so many more. There seemed to be no connection between each of the images, and it actually did make me wonder if the artist was trying to show what it is like being on drugs. What's interesting about this book, and artist's books in general, though, is that when I'm looking at it, it actually feels as if I am peeking into someone's head. It's a completely different experience than reading a book written by someone, and I would definitely consider an artist's book as more of a work of art than a book. The only thing really common between a book an artist's book is the media. 

Alex Israel's book was a sticker book. His artist's book was simply called the "Sticker Book," and apparently, it is currently the most sold out of the seven books at the UCCA bookstore. 

It's just a sticker book with a bunch of random stickers and a bunch of random scenes. I don't know why, but I feel like I can sometimes tell that an artist is from Los Angeles just by seeing the pastel colors and the strange juxtapositions. Their works are modern, and I guess, stylish, but they're always so obscure. It's very interesting.

But I love this idea of artist's books. It's like a form of art that the audience can easily access and/or purchase. Maybe for my next IB art piece, I can try making an artist's book- I don't know if that counts as a studio work, though. 

I will be posting up my reactions for the rest of the artists' books soon! I will also be visiting the actual exhibition soon, so I'm very excited to see if the works of these artists are very similar to what I have in mind after reading the artists' books. I'm actually really curious to see what Ryan Trecartin's work is like, but it's probably very... hallucinatory.



Sotheby's Preferred [Sept-Oct 2014]

Xu Bing, the artist who I recently researched about, was on this month's Sotheby's Preferred magazine so I decided to pick it up. 


The article was about the installation the artist did for the Sotheby's exhibition, Beyond Limits, in front of the Chatsworth House in England. The installation is based on a 5th century Chinese fable called Tao Hua Yuan, in which a fisherman discovers a perfect garden, but when he tried to lead his friends to it, fails to find the garden again. With rocks the artist brought all the way from China, Xu Bing created a beautiful traditional Chinese garden in Chatsworth. The garden does not look like real garden in the sense that everything is laid out in the way very similar to what things look like in the traditional landscape that you may find in these scroll paintings. It's a very beautiful piece that I wish I had the opportunity to look at in real life. 

I also noticed that Yue Minjun's work looks slightly different. There are less shading, colors and number of teeth in this piece than the other pieces of his that I'm used to seeing. 

I love this painting.  The dripping paint makes the piece really special and I love the contrast between the Utopian background and the dirty paint drips in the foreground. 

I saw another piece by Xu Bing towards the back of the magazine. I love these pieces so, so, so much. I think they are like bird cages made out of Chinese characters and English alphabets.


I wish I had more time to go through the stash of auction catalogues in my house..