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8 Art Books to Read This February

This month, we turn to books that raise questions and open up new possibilities, with digital culture on our minds as always and photography looming large as a tool for both oppression and self-determination. A series of free printable zines focused on the Palestinian cause offer accessible educational resources, while the upcoming catalog for Samia Halaby’s canceled show serves as a testament to the Palestinian artist’s decades-long practice. We also find moments of wonder in Søren Solkær’s images of swarms of starlings in the sky, sculptural shapes that seem to have been formed just for us, and much more. —Lakshmi Rivera Amin, editorial coordinator

Recently reviewed

Filterworld: How algorithms flattened culture by Kyle Chayka

As critic Sarah Hromack writes in her review of the author and former Hyperallergic editor Kyle Chayka, “Those familiar with Chayka’s frequent essays on technology and culture for the New Yorker and, perhaps, in his previous book, The longing for less: living with minimalismwill recognize in Filter world his talent for giving the Internet’s amorphous social space—its platforms, moments, moods, and microtrends—a dimensionality discernible on the page. Bringing the Internet to life in words is no easy task. (The general tendency is to fall into hyper-specific anecdotes about history and events online, thus trapping the reader in a murky abyss of reportless language about the industry.) Filter world, Chayka more frequently makes broader, more readable, and more conversational connections between digital culture and culture at large—the “outside” world, so to speak. Like his journalistic efforts, Filter world It is a fluid and fascinating read.”

Read the review | Buy in Bookstore | January 2024

on our list

Samia Halaby: Energy Centersedited by Elliot Josephine Leila Reichert, Rachel Winter and Samia Halaby

Palestinian-American artist Samia Halaby waited 87 years for her first retrospective in the United States, only to see it canceled shortly before its opening date. Indiana University’s Eskenazi Art Museum won’t say it explicitly, but the most likely reason for the cancellation is Halaby’s pro-Palestinian statements on social media. It is unfair and disturbing, but we can take solace in the fact that the exhibition catalog is still available and offers a valuable study of the decades-long career of this important and unashamedly outspoken artist. —Hakim Bishara

Reserve in Bookstore | Hirmer Publishing, March 2024

Collaboration: a potential history of photography

This collage of essays on “collaboration” in photography is much like the medium itself: never neutral and constantly moving. The organizing scholars Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas, Leigh Raiford and Laura Wexler, who have worked on the project for more than 10 years, recognize the book as an experiment aimed at highlighting the inherently collaborative nature of photography. Scholars and enlisted artists wrote short essays to highlight the relationship between dozens of photographers and the communities they photographed, often drawing our gaze to the oppressive and liberating potential of the medium. It is a captivating and essential resource, sensitively addressing images such as the photograph of Emmett Till and the daguerreotypes of Papa Renty and his daughter Delia, accompanied by a letter from Azoulay to Tamara Lanier, a descendant of Renty who continues her years-long fight to Recover the photographs from the Harvard University archives. —THE

Buy in Bookstore | Thames and Hudson, February 2024

Pleasure Pie, “We (Palestinians) are not leaving (2023)

Print your own Palestinian zines

Zine Coop has put together a selection of printable zines focused on Palestinian solidarity available for free download, embodying the anti-capitalist and accessible spirit of the format. While some are more compelling than others, the posts range from 2014 to last month, attesting to the years-long movement for a free Palestine and the enduring importance of educational resources, from “A Practical Guide to Writing to Your Congressmen to Demand a ceasefire in Gaza” by Andrea Chu to “We (Palestinians) are not leaving” by Pleasure Pie. —THE

Access on | December 2014 to January 2024

Søren Solkær: Starling

If you put a starling feather under the lens of a microscope, the image will probably look like a tree leaf. And if you’re patient enough to follow flocks of starlings across the skies of Europe, as Danish photographer Søren Solkær has done for years, you’ll notice how this multitude of murmuring birds shapeshift into trees, animals, or a large bird. That’s the wonder of creation, and it’s impressively captured in a two-book series, including the photographer’s previous publication titled black sun (2023). —half pension

Buy in Bookstore | Círculo Edition, December 2023

Ajanta Caves Ancient Buddhist Paintings from India by Benoy K. Behl

Since the first known literary reference to the Ajanta Caves by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang in the 7th century AD, the Buddhist site has been celebrated as a masterpiece of art history. This book, a revised edition of the original 2005 publication, brings together the paintings that make this UNESCO World Heritage site unique, including the spectacular image of the Visvantara Jataka palace, one of the most popular jātakas of Theravada Buddhism; the dream tale of Hamsa Jataka (story of the goose that laid the golden eggs); and dozens of other scenes depicting stories that would inspire the monks of these ancient monasteries, which often combine Buddhist and Hindu decoration and aesthetics. A solid introduction for those interested in learning more about one of the world’s most important ancient monuments. —high voltage

Buy the book | Thames and Hudson, November 2023

The witness: memories of the Colombian armed conflict through the lens and voice of Jesús Abad Colorado

(photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

With 700 full-color and black-and-white photographs on more than 1,372 pages, The witness (meaning “The Witness”) is a memoir of the armed conflict in Colombia that lasted more than 30 years. Photographer Jesús Abad Colorado’s images of human rights activists, environmentalists, journalists, students, judges, revolutionaries and many others tell a personal, multifaceted story of the civil war in four volumes, which come wrapped in fabric that makes you feel like someone simply. He gave you a secret package that you must keep safe. It’s easy to get lost in these pages, and the bilingual text helps you understand the horrors of war. The images of children, especially soldiers, were especially striking to me, as was the text explaining that there were 8,624 recorded cases of recruitment of child soldiers during the conflict. In an era where images of war and pain are all too prevalent, these justify photo books as a still relevant format for conveying difficult images with proper context to a wider audience. —high voltage

Buy the Book | National University of Colombia, 2022

Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network

When Bing Lee, Ken Chu, and Margo Machida came together to form Godzilla Asian America Arts Network, they made sure that anyone who attended a public meeting was a voting member. Godzilla, in other words, was an “anarchist lizard,” as Machida once described him. For about a decade, the network organized exhibitions, newsletters, parties, and other events in the spirit of providing broad support for Asian American artists. Published in 2021 and now especially relevant given the collective’s landmark exhibition at Eric Firestone Gallery, this monumental book captures the group’s history in a year-by-year chronology with art, photographs, typewritten letters, meeting minutes, exhibition records, and other archive footage. that give life to the dynamic period. Essays by writers such as Alice Yang, Pamela Lee, Karin Higa, and Machida herself help us understand the historical sociocultural context of the time, with a rise in Asian-American immigration in the 1990s. It is essential reading for both students of racial justice as well as for artistic movements. —mine ax

Buy in Bookstore | Primary Information, November 2021



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