An arts book recommendation: Testimony by Robbie Robertson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2lAgql7.
Mr. Robertson, in “Testimony,” occasionally leans too heavily on mythopoeticism. But just as often his writing is wonderfully perceptive.
Book description from amazon.com:
The New York Times BestsellerOn the 40th anniversary of The Band’s legendary The Last Waltz concert, Robbie Robertson finally tells his own spellbinding story of the band that changed music history, his extraordinary personal journey, and his creative friendships with some of the greatest artists of the last half-century.      Robbie Robertson’s singular contributions to popular music have made him one of the most beloved songwriters and guitarists of his time. With songs like “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” he and his partners in The Band fashioned a music that has endured for decades, influencing countless musicians.      In this captivating memoir, written over five years of reflection, Robbie Robertson employs his unique storyteller’s voice to weave together the journey that led him to some of the most pivotal events in music history. He recounts the adventures of his half-Jewish, half-Mohawk upbringing on the Six Nations Indian Reserve and on the gritty streets of Toronto; his odyssey at sixteen to the Mississippi Delta, the fountainhead of American music; the wild early years on the road with rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks; his unexpected ties to the Cosa Nostra underworld; the gripping trial-by-fire “going electric” with Bob Dylan on his 1966 world tour, and their ensuing celebrated collaborations; the formation of the Band and the forging of their unique sound,  culminating with history’s most famous farewell concert, brought to life for all time in Martin Scorsese’s great movie The Last Waltz.       This is the story of a time and place–the moment when rock ‘n’ roll became life, when legends like Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley criss-crossed the circuit of clubs and roadhouses from Texas to Toronto, when The Beatles, Hendrix, The Stones, and Warhol moved through the same streets and hotel rooms. It’s the story of exciting change as the world tumbled through the ’60s and early 70’s, and a generation came of age, built on music, love and freedom. Above all, it’s the moving story of the profound friendship between five young men who together created a new kind of popular music.     Testimony is Robbie Robertson’s story, lyrical and true, as only he could tell it.
The book is rated 4.13/5 at goodreads.com, from 1208 ratings. See 237 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2l1aXka.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tskZ5n.

An arts book recommendation: Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction by Anne Umland

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2vbJH6H.
Even when the contributors properly contextualize the role of strong influences, the images themselves have their own say.
Book description from Google Books:
By rejecting consistency, Picabia powerfully asserted the artist’s freedom to changeIrreverent and audacious, restless and brilliant, Francis Picabia achieved fame as a leader of the Dada group only to break publicly with the movement in 1921. Moving between Paris, the French Riviera, Switzerland, and New York, he led a dashing life, painting, writing, yachting, gambling, racing fast cars, and organizing lavish parties. Like no other artist before him, Picabia created a body of work that defies consistency and categorization, from Impressionist landscapes to abstraction, from Dada to stylized nudes, and from performance and film to poetry and publishing. A primary constant in his career was his vigorous unpredictability.Illustrated with nearly 500 reproductions, this sweeping survey of Picabia’s eclectic career embraces the challenge of his work, asking how we can make sense of its wildly shifting mediums and styles. In her opening essay, curator Anne Umland writes that with Picabia, familiar oppositions “between high art and kitsch, progression and regression, modernism and its opposite, and success and failure are undone.”In 15 superb essays, additional authors–including distinguished professors George Baker, Briony Fer, and David Joselit and renowned Picabia scholars Carole Boulbes and Arnauld Pierre–delve into the radically various mediums, styles, and contexts of Picabia’s work, discussing his Dada period, his abstractions, his mechanical paintings, his appropriations of source imagery, his multifaceted relationship with print (both in his paintings and as a publisher and contributor to vanguard journals), his forays into screenwriting and theater, and his complex politics. Marcel Duchamp, of course, but also Nietzsche and Gertrude Stein make repeat appearances along the way.Turning to Picabia’s contemporary legacy, Catherine Hug maps the history of his critical reception and interviews contemporary curators and artists, including Peter Fischli, Albert Oehlen, and David Salle. A lively 30-page chronology illustrated with archival photographs and ephemera gives readers a year-by-year account of the artist’s colorful life and of his interactions with fellow artists and critics, friends, and lovers.Together these essays suggest that the unruly genius of Picabia offers us a powerfully relevant and provocative alternative to the familiar narrative of modernism.Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction accompanies the major 2016 exhibition on the artist, jointly organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Kunsthaus Zurich.Francis Picabia was born in 1879 in Paris, the only child of a Cuban-born Spanish father and a French mother. His first success came as a painter in an Impressionist manner. He went on to become one of the principle figures of the Dada movement in New York and Paris. In 1925 Picabia moved to the south of France, where he lived and worked through World War II. Following the war, Picabia returned to Paris, where he died in 1953.
The book is rated 4.20/5 at goodreads.com, from 5 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2uSSGP1.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2vciwc8.

An arts book recommendation: You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn by Wendy Lesser

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2wF0hg2.
This remarkable, readable and humane book pairs painstaking research with poetic interpretations. No detail is too small, as long as it sheds light on one of the 20th century’s most admired, influential architects.
Book description from Google Books:
Born in Estonia 1901 and brought to America in 1906, the architect Louis Kahn grew up in poverty in Philadelphia. By the time of his mysterious death in 1974, he was widely recognized as one of the greatest architects of his era. Yet this enormous reputation was based on only a handful of masterpieces, all built during the last fifteen years of his life. Wendy Lesser’s You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn is a major exploration of the architect’s life and work. Kahn, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century American architect, was a “public” architect. Rather than focusing on corporate commissions, he devoted himself to designing research facilities, government centers, museums, libraries, and other structures that would serve the public good. But this warm, captivating person, beloved by students and admired by colleagues, was also a secretive man hiding under a series of masks. Kahn himself, however, is not the only complex subject that comes vividly to life in these pages. His signature achievements—like the Salk Institute in La Jolla, the National Assembly Building of Bangladesh, and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad—can at first seem as enigmatic and beguiling as the man who designed them. In attempts to describe these structures, we are often forced to speak in contradictions and paradoxes: structures that seem at once unmistakably modern and ancient; enormous built spaces that offer a sense of intimate containment; designs in which light itself seems tangible, a raw material as tactile as travertine or Kahn’s beloved concrete. This is where Lesser’s talents as one of our most original and gifted cultural critics come into play. Interspersed throughout her account of Kahn’s life and career are exhilarating “in situ” descriptions of what it feels like to move through his built structures. Drawing on extensive original research, lengthy interviews with his children, his colleagues, and his students, and travel to the far-flung sites of his career-defining buildings, Lesser has written a landmark biography of this elusive genius, revealing the mind behind some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated architecture.
The book is rated 4.29/5 at goodreads.com, from 65 ratings. See 19 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2wEIGFg.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2xkIXk9.
Google Books preview available in full post.

An arts book recommendation: Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2wEoaUU.
Though the details of Tutti’s career are consistently fascinating, these glimpses of life outside it are what gives the book its warmth, and provide a much-needed counterbalance to the relentless awfulness of P-Orridge.
Book description from Google Books:
“A bravura rock memoir vibrating with fierce and fearless memories–a must-have item for Chris and Cosey and Throbbing Gristle fans”–Kirkus Reviews (Starred) Art Sex Music is the autobiography of a musician who, as a founding member of the avant-garde group Throbbing Gristle and electronic pioneers Chris & Cosey, has consistently challenged the boundaries of music over the past four decades. It is the account of an artist who, as part of COUM Transmissions, represented Britain at the IXth Biennale de Paris, whose Prostitution show at the ICA in 1976 caused the Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn to declare her, COUM and Throbbing Gristle ‘Wreckers of Civilisation’ . . . shortly before he was arrested for indecent exposure, and whose work continues to be held at the vanguard of contemporary art. And it is the story of her work as a pornographic model and striptease artiste which challenged assumptions about morality, erotica, and art. Wise, shocking, and elegant, this is the life of Cosey Fanni Tutti.
The book is rated 3.94/5 at goodreads.com, from 172 ratings. See 31 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2xjHYk4.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2xkgyKX.

An arts book recommendation: Language of the Spirit: An Introduction to Classical Music by Jan Swafford

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2xgUQra.
All the while, Mr Swafford entertains as he informs. But in the end, music to him is a thing unto itself, “a language of the spirit—its essence can’t be captured in words.”
Book description from Google Books:
For many of us, classical music is something serious-something we study in school, something played by cultivated musicians at fancy gatherings. In Language of the Spirit, renowned music scholar Jan Swafford argues that we have it all wrong: classical music has something for everyone and is accessible to all. Ranging from Gregorian chant to Handel’s Messiah, from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to the postmodern work of Philip Glass, Swafford is an affable and expert guide to the genre. He traces the history of Western music, introduces readers to the most important composers and compositions, and explains the underlying structure and logic of their music.Language of the Spirit is essential reading for anyone who has ever wished to know more about this sublime art.
The book is rated 4.21/5 at goodreads.com, from 39 ratings. See 10 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2wCbo9w.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2wCi1sB.

An arts book recommendation: Untitled Memoir by Phil Collins

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2li0W5f.
While not a terribly inventive lyricist, Collins turns out to be a gifted storyteller and a likable narrator…
Book description from Google Books:
Phil Collins pulls no punches–about himself, his life, or the ecstasy and heartbreak that’s inspired his music. In his much-awaited memoir, Not Dead Yet, he tells the story of his epic career, with an auspicious debut at age 11 in a crowd shot from the Beatles’ legendary film A Hard Day’s Night. A drummer since almost before he could walk, Collins received on the job training in the seedy, thrilling bars and clubs of 1960s swinging London before finally landing the drum seat in Genesis. Soon, he would step into the spotlight on vocals after the departure of Peter Gabriel and begin to stockpile the songs that would rocket him to international fame with the release of Face Value and “In the Air Tonight.” Whether he’s recalling jamming with Eric Clapton and Robert Plant, pulling together a big band fronted by Tony Bennett, or writing the music for Disney’s smash-hit animated Tarzan, Collins’s storytelling chops never waver. And of course he answers the pressing question on everyone’s mind: just what does “Sussudio” mean?   Not Dead Yet is Phil Collins’s candid, witty, unvarnished story of the songs and shows, the hits and pans, his marriages and divorces, the ascents to the top of the charts and into the tabloid headlines. As one of only three musicians to sell 100 million records both in a group and as a solo artist, Collins breathes rare air, but has never lost his touch at crafting songs from the heart that touch listeners around the globe. That same touch is on magnificent display here, especially as he unfolds his harrowing descent into darkness after his “official” retirement in 2007, and the profound, enduring love that helped save him. This is Phil Collins as you’ve always known him, but also as you’ve never heard him before.
The book is rated 4.02/5 at goodreads.com, from 2179 ratings. See 346 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2kvBKnJ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2saX5HJ.

An arts book recommendation: Play All: A Bingewatcher’s Notebook by Clive James

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2dPdUjw.
But don’t let these minor encrustations put you off. “Play All” is a small book but by no means a slight one.
Book description from Google Books:
A world-renowned media and cultural critic offers an insightful analysis of serial TV drama and the modern art of the small screen Television and TV viewing are not what they once were–and that’s a good thing, according to award-winning author and critic Clive James. Since serving as television columnist for the London Observer from 1972 to 1982, James has witnessed a radical change in content, format, and programming, and in the very manner in which TV is watched. Here he examines this unique cultural revolution, providing a brilliant, eminently entertaining analysis of many of the medium’s most notable twenty-first-century accomplishments and their not always subtle impact on modern society–including such acclaimed serial dramas as Breaking Bad, The West Wing, Mad Men, and The Sopranos, as well as the comedy 30 Rock. With intelligence and wit, James explores a television landscape expanded by cable and broadband and profoundly altered by the advent of Netflix, Amazon, and other “cord-cutting” platforms that have helped to usher in a golden age of unabashed binge-watching.
The book is rated 3.60/5 at goodreads.com, from 189 ratings. See 38 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2fjrqkn.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tCBRWY.

An arts book recommendation: Mr. S by George Jacobs

A critic review (source AV Club) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2mZPycL.
Mr. S offers a curious sort of double-voyeurism, with Jacobs inviting readers to vicariously experience his own vicarious access to the life of one of pop-culture’s preeminent icons. Sinatra’s story is so compelling and larger-than-life, though, that even a secondhand account like Jacobs’ packs a powerful punch.
Book description from Google Books:
“Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra, by former valet-aide George Jacobs with an oh-so-able assist by William Stadiem, has at least five quotable and shocking remarks about the famous on every page. The fifteen years Jacobs toiled for Frank produces a classic of its genre — a gold-star gossip-lover’s dream…. “The rest is showbiz history as it was, and only Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, and Betty Bacall are spared. Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Juliet Prowse, Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Mia Farrow, Elvis Presley, Swifty Lazar, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Jimmy van Heusen, Edie Goetz, Peter Lawford, and all of the Kennedys come in for heaping portions of ‘deep dish,’ served hot. Sordid, trashy, funny, and so rat-a-tat with its smart inside info and hip instant analysis that some of it seems too good to be true….
The book is rated 3.79/5 at goodreads.com, from 546 ratings. See 62 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mZDiZo.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tIdWWr.
Google Books preview available in full post.

An arts book recommendation: London: The Information Capital: 100 Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You View the City by James Cheshire

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2uIhOD4.
Cheshire is a geographer; Uberti a designer. Together they have managed to create something that I hesitate to call mindblowing, but it is certainly mind-expanding.
Book description from Google Books:
The British Cartographic Society WINNER The BCS Award 2015 WINNER The Stanfords Award for Printed Mapping 2015 WINNER John C Bartholomew Award for Thematic Mapping 2015 In London: The Information Capital, geographer James Cheshire and designer Oliver Uberti join forces to bring you a series of new maps and graphics charting life in London like never before When do police helicopters catch criminals? Which borough of London is the happiest? Is ‘czesc’ becoming a more common greeting than ‘salaam’? James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti could tell you, but they’d rather show you. By combining millions of data points with stunning design, they investigate how flights stack over Heathrow, who lives longest, and where Londoners love to tweet. The result? One hundred portraits of an old city in a very new way. Dr James Cheshire is a geographer with a passion for London and its data. His award-winning maps draw from his research as a lecturer at University College London and have appeared in the Guardian and the Financial Times, as well as on his popular blog, mappinglondon.co.uk. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Oliver Uberti is a visual journalist, designer, and the recipient of many awards for his information graphics and art direction. From 2003 to 2012, he worked in the design department of National Geographic, most recently as Senior Design Editor. He has a design studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The book is rated 4.56/5 at goodreads.com, from 86 ratings. See 11 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2uI3zOA.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2uIz3Eo.

An arts book recommendation: Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction by Anne Umland

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2vbJH6H.
Even when the contributors properly contextualize the role of strong influences, the images themselves have their own say.
Book description from Google Books:
By rejecting consistency, Picabia powerfully asserted the artist’s freedom to changeIrreverent and audacious, restless and brilliant, Francis Picabia achieved fame as a leader of the Dada group only to break publicly with the movement in 1921. Moving between Paris, the French Riviera, Switzerland, and New York, he led a dashing life, painting, writing, yachting, gambling, racing fast cars, and organizing lavish parties. Like no other artist before him, Picabia created a body of work that defies consistency and categorization, from Impressionist landscapes to abstraction, from Dada to stylized nudes, and from performance and film to poetry and publishing. A primary constant in his career was his vigorous unpredictability.Illustrated with nearly 500 reproductions, this sweeping survey of Picabia’s eclectic career embraces the challenge of his work, asking how we can make sense of its wildly shifting mediums and styles. In her opening essay, curator Anne Umland writes that with Picabia, familiar oppositions “between high art and kitsch, progression and regression, modernism and its opposite, and success and failure are undone.”In 15 superb essays, additional authors–including distinguished professors George Baker, Briony Fer, and David Joselit and renowned Picabia scholars Carole Boulbes and Arnauld Pierre–delve into the radically various mediums, styles, and contexts of Picabia’s work, discussing his Dada period, his abstractions, his mechanical paintings, his appropriations of source imagery, his multifaceted relationship with print (both in his paintings and as a publisher and contributor to vanguard journals), his forays into screenwriting and theater, and his complex politics. Marcel Duchamp, of course, but also Nietzsche and Gertrude Stein make repeat appearances along the way.Turning to Picabia’s contemporary legacy, Catherine Hug maps the history of his critical reception and interviews contemporary curators and artists, including Peter Fischli, Albert Oehlen, and David Salle. A lively 30-page chronology illustrated with archival photographs and ephemera gives readers a year-by-year account of the artist’s colorful life and of his interactions with fellow artists and critics, friends, and lovers.Together these essays suggest that the unruly genius of Picabia offers us a powerfully relevant and provocative alternative to the familiar narrative of modernism.Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction accompanies the major 2016 exhibition on the artist, jointly organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Kunsthaus Zurich.Francis Picabia was born in 1879 in Paris, the only child of a Cuban-born Spanish father and a French mother. His first success came as a painter in an Impressionist manner. He went on to become one of the principle figures of the Dada movement in New York and Paris. In 1925 Picabia moved to the south of France, where he lived and worked through World War II. Following the war, Picabia returned to Paris, where he died in 1953.
The book is rated 4.00/5 at goodreads.com, from 4 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2uSSGP1.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2vciwc8.