It’s time again to randomly browse our bookshelves at HQ and re-discover a forgotten coffee-table tome. Today we’ve pulled out a book on Japanese graffiti art. Its title is “RackGaki,” a modified phonetic spelling in the Roman alphabet of the Japanese word for graffiti usually written as rakugaki. Indeed this book from the 2000’s is a document of the works by dozens upon dozens of Japanese graffiti writers and artists throwing up spray-painted tags and images throughout Japan, though mostly in Tokyo and to lesser degree Osaka. The book reveals the heavy influence of early American hip-hop culture in Japan and is a testament to its global reach over the decades. One of the graffiti writers featured in the book goes by the moniker “VERY,” who we met and interviewed for a zine we were editing while living in Osaka way back in the year 2000.
Last week, we stumbled upon this vintage copy of Yoko Ono’s influential 1964 conceptual-art book “Grapefruit.” It was in a display case arranged with various jewelry, accessories and other small objet at General Store in Venice, Los Angeles. The cool-as-fuck book cover has a black-and-white photo of Ono and titles in a lower-case serif typography of a style that has re-surfaced in recent years in the indie magazine and graphic design worlds. The book itself is not so much an artwork as it is a collection of instructions for creating specific performance art pieces and media, a legit artificat from art’s Fluxus movement of the 1960s in downtown New York, where Ono established herself as a leading figure.
We stumbled upon this this first-edition copy of the long and precisely titled “Surf Photographs from the Eighties Taken by Jeff Divine.” Published in 2011, this art-coffee-table book presents hundreds of images by prolific and influential surf photographer Jeff Divine that document surfing in the 1980s, a more visually vibrant and colorful decade in surfing history in terms of style, design, fashion and surf culture. The edition pictured here is the house copy at Sandbox Coffee, a cafe popular with surfers in Ventura, California. The book is so well worn that its binding is held together by duct tape.
“ME TV” is a photography book collected and edited by Thomas Sauvin and Erik Kessels that presents an obscure, mysterious collection of found photos in the format of an actual, ordinary photo album. The book has been published in a limited edition of 300. The photos in the book show a Chinese woman in her sixties standing next to a TV somewhere in China in the 1980s. In each picture, the TV, the setting, and her pose (her left pinky always sticking out ) remain the same, but her clothes are different and there are slight variations in saturation hue and the angle and distance of the camera to the subject. Why these pictures were taken and who took them is a mystery. The publishers have spent years hunting down and publishing found photography (also called “vernacular photography”), images found in the personal photo albums of strangers and amateurs discovered at flea markets, libraries, garage sales and on the Internet. These are mostly photos never intended for aesthetic consideration by a wide public audience.