A pick n’ mix of new books:

Buzz : the life and art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

University Press of Kentucky, 2011 University Press of Kentucky, 2011

It’s a wonder really that Busby Berkeley’s life hasn’t been made into a movie itself. The absolute master of massed, precision choreography during the golden years of the Hollywood studio system (no surprise that he drilled soldiers in formation marching during his short military career), Berkeley’s private life included 6 wives, severe alcoholism, a car crash that killed 2 people, etc., etc. Where on earth he found the time to create all of those extraordinary musical extravaganzas I’ll never know!

Outermost : the art + life of Jack Gaughan by Luis Ortiz

Nonstop Press, 2010 Nonstop Press, 2010

Jack Gaughan’s name is new to me, but much of his artwork for various science-fiction magazines and books looks very familar, which isn’t surprising given his fairly colossal output. It’s great to see so many of these really interesting commercial artists and illustrators finally getting some serious attention in their own right.

Film moments : criticism, history, theory edited by Tom Brown & James Walters

Palgrave Macmillan/British Film Institute, 2010 Palgrave Macmillan/British Film Institute, 2010

This fascinating book brings together a range of critics and scholars to discuss particular moments and scenes from films that are, in some way or other, iconic, memorable or telling. Some of the usual suspects are here (the chest-burster from Alien for instance), but by and large the selection of scenes and films is wonderfully eclectic and surprising; I mean, Gary’s Broadway scene from the all-puppet Team America, or the vision of Terence Stamp’s discarded clothing from Pasolini’s Teorema! And much as I love Bette Davis’s entrance in William Wyler’s Jezebel, for my money the opening scene of The Letter (also Wyler and Davis) stands as one of the greatest openings of any movie, anywhere, anytime! But that might just be me.

Frida Kahlo : her photos, edition and page layout by Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

Editorial RM, 2010 Editorial RM, 2010

A remarkable story sits behind these remarkable photos, locked away untouched and unseen for years in what was once the home Frida Kahlo shared with husband Diego Rivera (the Casa Azul in Mexico, now the Frida Kahlo Museum). With or without the story however these photographs are astonishingly vivid and, at times, astonishingly personal and intimate.

Rita Angus : life & vision edited by William McAloon & Jill Trevelyan

Te Papa Press, 2008 Te Papa Press, 2008

Shortly before her death in 1970 New Zealand artist Rita Angus confidently informed her children, “I’m going to become well known and the paintings will increase in value”. She was correct of course, and her beautiful landscapes and portraits have indeed become part of New Zealand’s cultural patrimony with their vibrant colours, crystal clear outlines and vividly formal composition. Even on the printed page the images positively leap out at the viewer; marvellous stuff!



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  1. Pingback: Melting clocks, prancing rockers, a bit of art and some pictorial physiques « Arts | State Library of Victoria

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