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Nobuyoshi Araki: Self Life Death
(Phaidon, hardcover, $70.00US) Born in 1940, Nobuyoshi Araki is arguably Japan’s greatest living photographer, and certainly its most controversial. His inexhaustible creative energy is attested to by the more than 300 books he has published in the last four decades, while his work, which often challenges social taboos surrounding sex and death, has drawn critical attention both at home and abroad.

In 1971 Araki privately published Sentimental Journey, an intimate account of his honeymoon with his wife Yoko. In the Preface to this book, Araki declared that his ‘point of departure as a photographer was love ... and the idea of an I-novel [a form of Japanese fiction written autobiographically and in the first person]’. With this statement, Araki established the genre of ‘I-photography’, in which his own life and feelings became the central subject of his work. The idea was to have a great impact on a new generation of Japanese photographers, especially in the 1990s.

By 1990, the year of Yoko’s death, Araki had produced an immense body of work. Through his photographs he has created his own universe, where the themes of sex, life and death are closely intertwined. Tokyo, Araki’s home city, often plays a leitmotif in his work, while his rich visual vocabulary is drawn from the erotic Shunga of the Edo period (1600–1867) as well as the glossy imagery of the new commercial culture. Through his innovative approach to his medium – sometimes combining painting, drawing and film – Araki has become an influential figure in contemporary art, beyond the field of photography.

This major publication provides the most comprehensive overview yet of Araki’s prolific 40-year career. Araki’s key series of works are included alongside many rare and previously unpublished photographs. Featuring an interview and essays by writers from Japan and Europe, this book examines Araki from a broad range of perspectives and gives a cultural context to his work. Also included are a large selection of Araki’s writings, translated into English for the first time, as well as complete illustrated and annotated bibliography of his own books. Reflecting Araki’s principle of ‘I-photography’, the book is divided into three sections that follow the main recurring themes in his work: Self, Life and Death.

Egon Schiele

(Phaidon, softcover, Sept. 2006, $12.95 ($9.95US)) by Simon Wilson. The Austrian painter Egon Schiele is now recognized as a major figure in the history of modern art and in the development of the Expressionist movement. He was only 28 when he died in 1918, yet his output was prolific and in his short life he produced a remarkable series of intense and powerful images. Although dogged by accusations of pornography throughout his career, he pursued his vocation as an artist with uncompromising intensity, giving expression to his most powerful feelings with an anguished honesty that gave his paintings the power to shock even one hundred years later.

Schiele’s Expressionist leanings are revealed in the way that he expertly combines the modernist need for abstraction with traditional Renaissance techniques such as the naturalistic portrayal of his subjects and the use of symbolism and allegory. The freedom of line, unrestricted brushstrokes and expressive use of colour give Schiele’s paintings an extraordinary vigour and visual richness that set them apart from the works of many of his contemporaries.

In this recently revised book, art historian and curator Simon Wilson explores Schiele’s obsession with sex, life and death, which gave rise to his famous nude self-portraits and paintings of female nudes. Schiele’s unique vision of the artist in society is also examined, as well as his perhaps less controversial work as a landscape and portrait painter. Wilson’s insightful text combines with the many striking illustrations to make this book a fascinating and informative appraisal of Schiele’s life and work.

Tacita Dean
(Phaidon, softcover, Sept 2006, $39.95US) Although she emerged in the 1990s, Berlin-based English artist Tacita Dean has in her work a quiet depth that sets her apart from the hype of the ‘cool Britannia’ scene. Her film installations explore the ways that chance and coincidence influence daily life, constructing narratives that connect past and present, fact and fiction, private histories and larger events. In Disappearance at Sea (1996), Disappearance at Sea II (1997) and Teignmouth Electron (2000) Dean documents the tragic account of Donald Crowhurst and his attempt to fake a solo voyage around the globe, which culminated in his eventual loss of sanity and his death at sea. These works tell Crowhurst`s story through various fragments and landscapes, including a magnificent sea vista from a lighthouse beacon that produces a mysterious ‘missing narrative’ (as the artist calls it) reminiscent of 19th century atmospheric seascape and landscape painters.

Dean`s impulse to archive forgotten fragments of history is perhaps best captured in FLOH (2002), a collection of photographs she discovered in flea markets across Europe and America – holiday snaps or banal occurrences retrieved and preserved for the future. Other works include a jukebox filled with ambient sounds recorded around the world on the eve of the new millennium (Jukebox, 2000), a rotating view of Berlin from the Fernsehturm television tower (Fernsehturm, 2001) and a frustrated attempt to follow directions (as misleading as they are meticulous) to Robert Smithson’s submerged Spiral Jetty in Utah’s Great Salt Lake (Trying to Find the Spiral Jetty, 1997).
Tacita Dean`s work has been presented at museums and galleries throughout the world (including the DePont Foundation, Tilburg, the Netherlands; Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel; Tate Britian, London; Fundacao la Caixa, Barcelona; the Hirsshorn Museum, Washington D.C.; Musee d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris; and Museu Serralves, Portugal) as well as international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (2003 and 2005). Her films have also been screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

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