By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
For a kinder, gentler book, try Paul Graham's End of an Age (Scalo, $40, 104 pages). Consisting of portraits of young people on the threshold of their adult lives, the book takes us into nightclubs in London and New York, where the security blanket of choice is a drink and a cigarette. Some of Graham's subjects are exquisitely beautiful, others look terminally confused; he is clearly moved by all of them, and his pictures have an elegiac quality that's surprisingly affecting. "These are white, Western, monocultural kids, and the future is multicultural," says Graham of his subjects. "Anyone who doesn't realize that is living in a fantasy, so the book is addressing the twilight of an era."
Striking a similar note is Walter Niedermayr's Momentary Resorts (Cantz Verlag, $50, 116 pages). An Italian photographer native to the Dolomite Alps, Niedermayr explores the impact of the leisure industry on nature in pictures that transform the physical world into a form of abstracted minimalism. His panoramic shots of ski slopes are so vast that the people in them are reduced to mere pinpricks of color, and the ski lifts read as scratchy patterns of lines -- they look like Cy Twombly paintings. The pictures grow less abstract as you move through the book, and by the halfway point we're seeing details of ski-lodge architecture (it's relentlessly ugly), Alpine-type housing developments, and the heavy machinery necessary to rape a hillside. Think Richard Misrach's Desert Cantos at high altitude and you'll have an idea of what Niedermayr is up to. There's a bunch of blathery art writing at the back of the book, best ignored.
There's good art writing, on the other hand, in Jim Shaw: Everything Must Go (Smart Art Press, $25, 127 pages), the catalog for the Shaw retrospective that opened in May in Luxembourg. Including short, pithy essays by Doug Harvey and Amy Gerstler, the book also features a Q&A between Shaw and artist Mike Kelley, Shaw's closest friend for more than 25 years. Other than the artist himself, nobody knows Shaw's work better than Kelley, and their conversation is illuminating and fun to read.
Another offering from the drudgery factory is James Turrell: The Other Horizon (Cantz Verlag, $50, 248 pages). One of the founding fathers of the California Light and Space movement, Turrell is an artist of tremendous subtlety who deserves better than this turgid tome. In addition to an incomprehensibly tortured translation of an essay by Peter Noever (let's give Peter the benefit of the doubt and assume he writes decently in his native German tongue) and some philosophical hogwash from Georges Didi-Huberman, the book features a matter-of-fact commentary by Turrell that reveals him to be a straight-talking man of relatively few words. One wonders how he feels about the reams of florid prose that have been produced on his behalf. Also included are floor plans for Turrell works, along with how-to instructions, which are puzzling: Is it assumed readers will attempt to build a Light and Space installation in the family den? Published to accompany an exhibition at the MAK Museum in Vienna, this would be a throwaway but for the fact that it's a serviceable reference book -- and, of course, the pictures are good.