Despite the indisputable importance of digital media in the art world, the appetite for physical books remains undimmed and this year has seen the release of some beautifully crafted works. So, in no particular order, here are our favorite books published in 2022.
‘4000’ by INVADER
The Parisian-artist’s global invasion is undoubtedly one of the largest and most ambitious art projects that has ever been undertaken. In addition to photos of all the 4000 pieces which he has created in 80 cities worldwide over the last 23 years, this dense, pocket-sized almanac also provides statistical analysis about everything – from which city has the most surface area covered to the number of tiles used each year. The book accompanies an exhibition of the same name which runs into the New Year at OTI in Paris.
‘SPRAYNATION’ by MARTHA COOPER
Subway Art is undoubtedly the bible of graffiti, but Spraynation, created from the contents of Martha Cooper’s extensive archives, demonstrates just how rich and deep the culture was during New York’s Golden Age. The book contains photos of a pristine Seen whole car running through the Bronx, writers painting at Sam Esses’ Graffiti 1980 studio, a Stay High 149 tag in the wild, Lady Pink hanging in her kitchen and innumerable other gems. Cooper’s photographs often consciously capture the works’ surroundings and, in doing so, help to set stylewriting in its wider societal context.
‘FLIP FLOP’ by MOSES & TAPS
In many ways, FLIP FLOP™ is a followup to the German duo’s 2014 book SAME SAME; a celebration of the repetition of the throw-up. 362 pieces wrought on trucks, track sides, trains, rooftops and underpasses in their trademark yellow and blue. The publication has been arranged in such a manner that it can be viewed as a flick book which creates a beautiful mis-match between the fleeting time an image catches the eye and the time, risk and commitment required of the writers to execute each piece.
‘LIFE’S A MISSION, THEN YOU’RE DEAD’ BY REVS AND XSOUP w/ ABOR
Reading Life’s A Mission is like sitting on the Writer’s Bench listening to 100 of New York’s finest graffiti writers from over the last half century each recounting a memorable bombing story: Snake 1 recalls police officers spraying his brand new leather jacket after catching him tagging buses; Desa MTA remembers painting the Manhattan Bridge on the night before being sentenced to jail time; False DKLT describes doing a tribute piece standing on a sketchy awning above a pizza joint in the Lower East Side. But the cherry on the top of this compendium of mischief and mayhem is that the cover of each copy has been hand-drawn by none other than the legendary Revs.
‘BEAUTY OF A TRAGEDY’ by ESCIF and friends
Tamara Djurovic, known to many as Hyuro, was one of the brightest and most vital new talents to emerge over the last decade. So her untimely passing was felt keenly by not just those who knew her personally but also those who came to understand the world we live in better through her subtle and considered work. The book documents the distinct visual language which Hyuro crafted to eloquently address issues ranging from the discriminatory prohibition of abortion in Brazil to the roles played by women in times of conflict.
‘JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: KING PLEASURE’ BY LISANE BASQUIAT AND JEANINE HERIVEAUX
There’s no shortage of publications about Basquiat – Harvard’s library alone has over 100 books on the man – but what sets King Pleasure apart from the others is its intimacy. The book accompanies an exhibition staged by his family earlier this year and, in addition to large-scale paintings such as Hollywood Africans, the book also contains previously unseen sketches, his complete video collection and even maps of New York showing the shop on Canal Street where he bought his paint.
‘HELL HOLE HOPE’ by MiMA
Hell Hole Hope documents the first five years of the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MiMA) in Brussels. Since opening, the museum has been squarely focused on engaging its visitors but, rather than doing this through a diet of superficial eye candy, they have instead pursued a program dedicated to artists whose work is conceptually interesting and relevant; MiMA have sought to bring a greater understanding of this work so that members of the public become hooked on the ideas contained within. Boris Tellegen’s A Friendly Takeover particularly stands out for its breadth and depth, but the book also demonstrates the consistently high quality of shows since including Escif and Todd James.
‘THE RED SKEIN’ by SWOON
It’s been over a decade since Swoon last released a monograph and, given just how creatively fecund she is, you would imagine that 224 pages would only scratch the surface of the projects she’s created over the intervening period. But The Red Skein is a book that goes deep; deep into her own personal trauma and deep into society’s wounds. Importantly, the New York-based artist’s work also contains a strong focus on the path to healing which is explored through multiple pathways including installation, workshops and, most recently, live animation.
‘REPRODUCTION’ by BARRY MCGEE
Reproduction is Barry McGee’s first book dedicated exclusively to the medium of photography and at times it strangely feels both like one of his DIY zines and a fine art photography publication. The images are a record of the communities and environments in which he lives and they act as the inspiration and source material for much of his studio work. Recurring subjects include buffing and graffiti, burnt out cars and urban detritus, surf trips and family portraits; all of which he can then mentally process before recycling them back into his paintings, sculptures, and installations.
‘POLARITIES’ by JOSÉ PARLÁ
This catalog accompanied the José Parlá exhibition by the same name at Library Street Collective in Detroit. The free-form composition of the works creates an asymmetrical sense of balance which asks the question whether art and eduction can act as a counterweight against the increasing political and religious extremism we see in the contemporary world; Parlá explores these ideas further in the book through poetry. The multiple layers of paint in Parlá’s work create a physicality and topography which is captured with surprising dexterity in the catalog’s photos.
Photo credit: feralthings