The 40 Best Books That I Read in 2015

If you're looking for me, I'll be in my cave, reading a book.

If you're looking for me, I'll be in my cave, reading a book.

The 40 best books that I read in 2015 in alphabetical order. Some titles are recent, and some are older. Most of these books were new to me, but a couple were re-reads. My top picks are in bold. Links go to Amazon. Enjoy!

Another Happy Day - Jonah Samson

Asylum of the Birds - Roger Ballen

Chewing Gum and Chocolate - Shomei Tomatsu
 

Chuck Close: Photographer - Colin Westerbeck, Chuck Close, Terrie Sultan

Codex Seraphinianus - Luigi Serafini
 



 

The Collected Hairy Who Publications 1966-1969 - Dan Nadel, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum

Definitely Maybe - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

The Dog of the South - Charles Portis

Drive - Andrew Bush

Eye in the Sky - Philip K. Dick

Forming - Jesse Moynihan


 

 

Hard to be a God - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Hitchcock - Francois Truffaut

Hustlers - Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Invisible City - Ken Schles

Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s - Ivan Vartanian, Ryuichi Kaneko

Journey to Onomichi - Wim Wenders

The Lines of My Hand - Robert Frank

Megahex - Simon Hanselmann

Ninety-two in the Shade - Thomas McGuane

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Pomona Queen - Kem Nunn

The Queen's Gambit - Walter Tevis

Raised by Wolves - Jim Goldberg

So Long, See You Tomorrow - William Maxwell

South of Market - Janet Delaney

Subway - Bruce Davidson
 

Sunburn - Chris McCaw
 

True Grit - Charles Portis

Very Casual - Michael DeForge

Weathercraft - Jim Woodring

Worst Behavior - Simon Hanselmann

Thanks to J.E., J.L., J.J., M.E., S.M. and C.S. for the book recommendations.
 Check out Goodreads to see what else I'm reading.

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Pier 24: Secondhand Photography Exhibit Time-Lapse

Pier 24 Photography presents Secondhand, an exhibition featuring artists who build repositories of found images. Amongst the treasures in the 1000 pictures on display, there is a room featuring every photo in Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan's book Evidence. The exhibit also features a large room showcasing work collected by Erik Kessels in the In Almost Every Picture series, including Shooting Gallery, Black Dog, and a slide show of Fred and Valerie.

The exhibition runs through May and is free.
Make your appointment here: http://pier24.org/

The time-lapse was shot with a GoPro Hero 4 Silver on a simple rotary clamp mount, and edited using Lightroom 5, QuickTime 7, and iMovie 10. The music is by Group Doueh.

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WRLD: End of 2014 Art Intake Report

1959 Ford Levacar Mach 1

1959 Ford Levacar Mach 1

Watching

Los Angeles Plays Itself [Netflix, Amazon] - A documentary about movies made in Los Angeles. I don't always agree with CalArts professor Thom Andersen, and some of the sources are a bit obscure, but this documentary is a must see for any cinephile.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present [Netflix, Amazon] - I'm not typically a fan of performance art. This documentary about the godmother of the genre is very well done, and brings up a lot of interesting questions about the nature of art. Worth watching for artists working in any genre.

Frances Ha [Netflix, Amazon] - Not as dour as Baumbauch's previous work, this film explores a dancer coming to grips with not making the cut. Along the way, we get a wonderfully shot exploration of that time in your late 20's when relationships change, living situations change, and you may have to decide who you want to be when you grow up.

Inherent Vice - Paul Thomas Anderson did Thomas Pynchon proud with his screen adaptation of this hilarious novel. The Big Sleep meets the Big Lebowski is still an apt one line description. Wonderfully wild and woozy, this opens in wider release on 1/9/2015.

 

Reading

Redheaded Peckerwood / Christian Patterson - This was on a lot of best of lists in 2011, and I was just able to get a copy of the third printing. Documents Charlie Starkweather's killing spree that was the inspiration for Terence Malick's Badlands. Astonishing and essential.

How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment / George Nelson - This could be titled curmudgeon with a camera insteadA 2003 reissue of a 1977 book on how designer & photographer George Nelson evaluates the man-made world.

A Criminal Investigation / Watabe Yukichi - A press photographer follows a murder investigation in 1958 Japan. The photography, editing, sequencing, and book craft are all superb. One of the best photo books that I've acquired in the last few years.

The Cage / Martin Vaughn-James - A precursor to the modern graphic novel, this 1975 cult comic from Canada was out of print for a long time. Very surreal, mysterious, and haunting. A book that I still think about long after I finished reading it. Highly recommended.

Annihilation / Jeff Vandermeer - Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. Many of the expeditions into this zone have not returned...this is the story of the 12th expedition. The first book in a trilogy that was universally applauded by my book club, which is unusual. 

Hard Rain Falling / Don Carpenter - A story of being down and out in Portland and San Francisco with a great cast of lowlifes and outlaws. I couldn't put this one down. A hard-boiled classic.

Nijigahara Holograph / Inio Asano - Like David Lynch's best work, something unsettling is lurking just beneath the surface. Wonderfully drawn, elegant storytelling with a dark and twisted feel.

Pikin Slee / Vivian Sassen - Pikin Slee takes the photographic language that's so familiar, and rearranges everything into a different blend. Art and documentary. Color, and black and white. Light and shadow. People and still life. Texture. Mystery. And a short 1 page essay at the end that doesn't ruin that mystery. The editing, sequencing, and printing are all superb. Highly recommended.

 

Listening

Live in Paris 28.05.1975 / Fripp & Eno - My favorite music purchase of the year. These concerts were often bootlegged, but not officially released until 2014. Eno's original loops were found and painstakingly synched to the best available bootleg. The first track has a lot of crowd noise, but beyond that the fidelity is pretty great, as is the performance. And the original loops are included on disc 3. I could listen to these discs on repeat for a long time. Highly recommended.

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything / Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra - I have mixed feelings about the evolution of this group. I'm a big fan of GYBE, but sometimes Efrim's vocals are a little bit much for me. That being said, the song What We Loved Was Not Enough really struck a chord, and seemed to nail the zeitgeist of 2014.

IAO Chant from the Cosmic Inferno / Acid Mothers Temple - A 51 minute album length tribute to the band Gong for 99 cents, and a nice entry point into the rather prolific catalog of Acid Mothers Temple.

Unrest / Henry Cow - I recently digitized my old LP of this 1974 album, and the music continues to amaze after all of these years. More on this classic album on The Quietus.

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Time-Lapse Video of the Pier 24 Photography Exhibit A Sense of Place

Today I was lucky enough to visit the Pier 24 exhibit A Sense of Place before it closes at the end of May. Pier 24 is an amazing, free photography museum right under the Bay Bridge. Only 20 people are allowed in at a time to view an amazing selection of photos. This exhibit explores how photographs shape our perception of environments. I really enjoyed seeing work by Paul Graham, Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Edward Burtynsky, Todd Hido, and Rinko Kawauchi. The absolute highlight was an entire room full of Lee Friedlander's America by Car series. Unfortunately this book is currently out of print. And speaking of print, Pier 24 has exhibition catalogs from some of their previous shows available at very reasonable prices. The next exhibit is scheduled to open in August of 2014.

Time-lapse technical details: The time-lapse was shot with a Ricoh GR camera on a strap around my neck. The exposures were 1/30 at f/4, ISO 800. The camera was set to shoot small jpegs every 2 seconds. The resulting 1,425 images were minimally processed and then cropped to 1280x720 in Lightroom. The time-lapse was assembled and output in Photoshop. Titles and music were added in iMovie. The music is Perfect Dream from the 2006 self-titled album by Natural Dreamers.

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Words: Ted Orland on art, marketing, and fame

Josef Albers teaching at Black Mountain College
Josef Albers teaching at Black Mountain College

Still, if the only goal were to attain quick visibility in the art world, the formula (at least on paper) is absurdly simple: devote ten percent of your effort to artmaking, and ninety percent to marketing and self-promotion. But that gambit works (when it does work) only as long as you keep sprinting down the fame & fortune treadmill -- pause for an instant and it's a straight drop into oblivion. The fact that cultivated fame has little substance behind it, however, hardly slows the stampede. In our media-dominated culture it's an open question whether fame is the result of accomplishment, or whether fame -- all by itself -- is the accomplishment.

Page 90, The view from the studio door: How artists find their way in an uncertain world / by Ted Orland.

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Nevada Car Forest Night Photo Rendered in Wood by Ian Smith

Ian Smith is a marquetry artist based in the UK. He creates amazing hand made images by designing, cutting, and laying out wood veneers. A few months ago he completed a wood version of a 360 night panorama that I shot of an old gas station in Desert Center, California. The gas station piece was a hit in a recent art show, and will soon be making the journey from England to California, where it will be displayed on my wall. Last week Ian finished a wood picture inspired by one of my night photos of the International Car Forest of the Last Church. The original photo and Ian's wood version are below. I love the way he rendered the cars, and the way the wood grain looks in the sky. You can see more of Ian's work at themarquetryshack.com

A row of cars under star trails at the International Car Forest - by Joe Reifer
A row of cars under star trails at the International Car Forest - by Joe Reifer
Car Forest marquetry by Ian Smith
Car Forest marquetry by Ian Smith
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Marquetry artist Ian Smith: 360 night panorama made of wood

Desert Center Gas Station -- 360 Night Panorama by Joe Reifer

Desert Center Gas Station -- 360 Night Panorama by Joe Reifer

In January, an artist named Ian Smith from Manchester England contacted me about creating a wood version of my Desert Center 360 night panorama.

Ian Smith works in the ancient art of marquetry, which involves cutting pieces of wood veneer by hand to create an image. Ian described the project as:

I am hoping to do a more modern pastiche of the baroque style (defined by bold curving forms and dramatic effects with a touch of the bizarre). I have been checking out your amazing work and in particular I love the 360 degree picture of the old gas station.

I sent Ian a high resolution image to work from, and the piece is nearing completion. I was really blown away by Ian's interpretation of the image.

Desert Center Gas Station -- marquetry version by Ian Smith

Desert Center Gas Station -- marquetry version by Ian Smith

After being marveled by Ian's work for the last few days, I decided to buy the marquetry gas station pano after Ian's big art show next month. I'm planning to hang the wood version on my wall. You can view more of Ian's work on The Marquetry Shack. And stay tuned -- Ian is already considering doing another wood version of one of my 360 night panoramas.

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