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.
On a recent visit to the Arcana bookstore in Culver City, in Los Angeles, we checked out some beautiful coffee-table books on surfing and surf photography. Among these was a book titled “Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume: 1936-1942.” It’s a collection of sepia-toned photos by Don James documenting his surfing experience and his surfer friends and their lifestyle in Southern California during the pre-World War II era and early war years. The photos reveal what the surfing life was like in its first idyllic golden age when the Hawaiian “sport of kings” was still novel and taking root in California.
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Among our favorite places in Los Angeles is the Arcana bookstore in Culver City. It’s specialized in “books on the arts,” and its collection of books on art, design, photography, architecture and anything aesthetically significant is vast, comprehensive, and well-organized. They seem to have everything. Though Arcana is a business, its ambiance, interior design and space give it a feel that’s more like a library, albeit a handsome, spare, minimalist, post-modern library in a former industrial space. There are long communal tables upon which customers can lay heavy tomes of art and page through these books at a leisurely pace. It’s one of the best bookstores in the world. If GlobalGraphica was an actual place, Arcana would be our preferred physical manifestation of it, though with a kick-ass espresso machine and a rack full of surfboards included.
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.
One of our New Year’s resolutions was to sift through our library here and choose books to throw out, give away or sell. Our bookshelves here at GG HQ in New York are overflowing with printed matter. It should be an easy task, but whenever we embark on one of these semi-annual house-cleaning bookshelf purges, we stumble upon an old book or magazine that stops us; its striking cover design or title forces us to pause and re-consider whether we should throw it out.
That was the case with the anthology of articles and essays by pop-culture writer Chuck Klosterman’s aplty titled “Chuck Klosterman IV,” pictured below. (The title is a nod to British rock legend Led Zeppelin, which the author devotes a dozen or so pages to.) The book’s cover design caught our attention again much like it did the first time we saw it while browsing the “New Non-Fiction” shelf at the McNally-Jackson Bookstore in Nolita.
Anyway, we spent the next hour re-reading a few of the articles and were tempted to keep the book, but in the end, we decided to say “Goodbye” to this volume and find it a new home with a friend or colleague who will enjoy its humor, insights and opinions. If you’re not familiar with Klosterman’s work, “IV” is a good intro. His book “Sex, Drugs and Coca Puffs” is one of the 2000’s pop-culture must-reads, and we highly recommend it.
A couple of weeks ago, we stumbled upon the magnificent “RGB Colorspace Atlas” (Volumes 1, 2 & 3) by New York-based California artist Tauba Auerbach at LACMA in Los Angeles. The artwork contains paper-page cubes and a book or “atlas” of digital offset prints of all the possible color variations in the RGB color model system. The work was recently acquired by LACMA as part of its permanent collection. We’re hearting it very much.
“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.
We love this book of photographs by the renowned Swiss artist duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. “800 Views of Airports” is precisely that: A collection photos taken by Fischli and Weiss at airports visited on travels around the world throughout their decades-long career. The volume is the definition of coffee-table book. “800 Views” is textless. There are no captions, no labels, nothing to indicate where and when the photos was taken. This curatorial, editorial concision gives the hefty tome some mystique and only adds to its beauty. For the well-traveled, many of the airports may be easily identifiable — Tokyo Narita, JFK, London Heathrow, Schipol, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Malpensa — though there are a bunch of photos taken at an airfield that few would recognize, a place where de-commissioned commercial aircraft are put out to pasture.
We love this recent artwork titled “Love Stories” by young Chinese artist Liu Chuang. The installation consists of a table stacked with worn copies of Chinese romantic pulp-fiction paperback books that were once part of a lending library. The photos here show the artwork as it appeared as part of the Shanghai-based Leo Xu Projects gallery space at the Frieze Art Fair New York earlier this year. – VC
Classic framed poster for Les Aventures de Tintin for the “Au Pays des Soviets” edition of the comic book series by Belgian author Herge (a.k.a, Georges Remi). This poster is in the bathroom of the Belgian restaurant Petite Abeille in Tribeca, in New York City. The entire restaurant is decorated with Tintin artwork and dozens upon dozens of Tintin comic books in French are in stacks at the bar.
This week we added a striking new volume from Taschen to our library of coffee-table photography books at Global Graphica HQ. “Leroy Grannis, Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s” is a massive retrospective collection of iconic photographs by one of the leading image-makers of the the genre and the era. Grannis witnessed and exhaustively documented surfing’s modern evolution as sport and sub-culture in Southern California and Hawaii. We love the picture the editors at Taschen chose for the cover.