Turn the lights off, and this month’s pick of books suddenly looks more menacing than their authors had intended them to be. You won’t hear us complaining though, as it probably means we’ll get to hold on to them a little longer…

Photography Yassin Serghini


From left to right: Black material: volume 01 (00), Drawings (kunsthaus-Bregenz), The valley of the shadow (Gestalten), Catalogue déraisonné (Steidl), Contraband (Steidl)

Drawings – Work comes out of work (2008) by Richard Serra – Kunsthaus-Bregenz

Known for his steel sculptures, Richard Serra’s 2007 retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art cemented his contribution to the world of contemporary art. His career has spanned 40 years and lesser known but just as formidable is his large body of drawings. The exhibition ‘Drawings – Work Comes Out of Work’ displays six series of his dramatic use of black paintstick, a wax-like grease crayon, in all his work. Dense layers of pigmented waxy material cling to the surface, absorbing light and weighing the work down with density and physicality not often seen in pieces of this nature. Large format illustrations and photographic insights into the artist working in his studio add to the penetrating portrait art historian James Lawrence included in this substantive book, celebrating an understated facet of this conceptual artist.

Available from Amazon

Black material: volume 01 (2010) by Robert Knoke – 00

Robert Knoke’s Black material: volume 01 acts more like a “who’s who” of this decade’s cool cats than your average monograph. Fortunate enough to have sat opposite those at the vanguard of contemporary creative practice, the German artist captured their essence with his monochrome and expressionist style, blending markers, grease pencils, ball pens, gloss paint and glitter. Along with reproductions of his large scale drawings, close-ups and views from installations, the book also offers an intimate peek at his atelier and candid shots of his subjects, that range from established icons (Patti Smith, Marc Jacobs, Jean-Baptiste Mondino), avant-garde designers (Rick Owens, Bernhard Wilhelm, Terence Koh), to hipster darlings (Leigh Lezark, The Kills) and underground heroes (Bruce LaBruce, Thomas Hirschhorn).

Available from 00

The valley of the shadow (2010) by Miron Zownir – Gestalten

We deliberately avoid numerous sights of our everyday life. A self-confessed ‘phenomenographer’, Miron Zownir has spent the past 20 years capturing those painful realities we try so hard to ignore or revealing the depths of lifestyles deemed so deviant we cannot fathom their existence. Haunted by childhood memories of post-war landscapes, crippled veterans and mutilated widows, Zownir journeyed across Berlin, Eastern Europe and New York, exposing the true face of society, be it hidden in the dens of counter-cultures or in the broad daylight of our streets. His coarse photographs, carrying an inevitably strong shock factor, could easily be dismissed as sensationalist and gratuitously provocative, if it weren’t for their brutal honesty and balanced subjectivity.

Available from Amazon

Catalogue déraisonné (2010) by Jean Pigozzi – Steidl

Jean Pigozzi, self-described international businessman, traveller and collector, takes his camera with him wherever he goes. And wherever he goes is usually somewhere glamorous and celebrity-infested. Everyone from Mick Jagger, Tim Burton and Jack Nicholson to Dash Snow, Gilbert & Georges and Roy Lichtenstein make appearances in this heady, good-looking and sometimes frankly hilarious insight into the underbellies of celebrity culture. Gigantic art dealer Larry Gagosian, for instance, is shown to be quite the joker, pulling faces whenever possible. Oh, and there’s also a photograph of Steve Jobs‘ (surprisingly hairy) feet sporting Birkenstocks.

Available from Amazon

Contraband (2010) by Taryn Simon – Steidl

Taryn Simon’s Contraband is a mesmerising visual account of four days spent photographing items intercepted at New York’s JFK airport. Boasting 1,075 photographs, everything from counterfeit American Express travellers cheques, overproof Jamaican rum, purses made from endangered species to pirated Disney DVDs, prohibited sausage and undeclared gold dust is minutely archived. With each and every item seized captured on a white background and playfully set directed, Simon’s approach somehow manages to demystify and categorise an otherwise bewildering array of contraband. Topping our list of intrigues was the unhealthy amounts of erectile dysfunction medication that seems to come through American borders.

Available from Amazon