my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: Princeton Architectural Press

Recap: Here's the introduction to the First Impressions series of posts.

Princeton Architectural Press is distributed to bookstores by Chronicle Books.  These three books on their spring list absolutely wowed the reps in the conference room – wonderfully illustrated books, a quirky take on pop culture, a peek inside the lives of creative people.  You can count on PAP to deliver books in those veins every season, right alongside their signature architectural monographs and reference books for professionals.

Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?
by Kate Bingaman-Burt
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988900 | $19.95 | Mar 2010

Alien anthropologists wondering where all our money went in the first decade of the third millennium A.D. would do well to lay their tentacles on this book.  On the surface, it's a diary of self-absorption and typical consumerism, but with a closer look, Obsessive Consumption cleverly leaves those first impressions in the dust.

A professor of graphic design in Portland, Bingaman-Burt has been documenting her personal relationship with consumerism across a range of artistic endeavors.  Here in this book, though, she bears witness with a daily drawing of something that she spent money on that day, beginning on February 5, 2006.  The book covers the first three years of her documentary urges and her impulse spending.  From her monthly credit card bills to a bottle of soda at the CVS to an iPhone (finally, on 11/21/08!) to more fancy artist's pens (the last entry), Bingaman-Burt bears witness to how we live today, and where all the money goes.

Her drawings are tart doodles, combining representative line art, squiggly captions, and how much money she spent and where she spent it.

Fans of the documentary & book Handmade Nation (also from Princeton Architectural Press) will recognize her work - she provided all the illustrations for the book.  Kate Bingaman-Burt can be found here on the web, with a blog here and you can even buy a print of one of her pages at 20x200TwitterEtsyFlickr. Frankly, I think she may be the most findable, connected author I've ever profiled on my3books.


Lists: To-do's, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts & Other Artists' Enumerations from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art
By Liza Kirwin
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988887 | $24.95 | March 2010

This book makes a nice pairing with Obsessive Consumption, above, providing another way to peer inside the surprisingly mundane lives of artists.  Curator Liza Kirwin has gathered from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art dozens of examples of unremarkable lists made by remarkable men and women. 

The lists themselves demonstrate clearly that geniuses truly are just like you and me. But it is precisely those actual accomplishments outside of the mundane list-making realm that make these lists worthy of collection, curation, and in the case of this book, further study.  We see lists of paintings sold, lists of appointments, lists of books to read and more.  Many of the lists give us more than just daily ephemera: we see Pablo Picasso listing his recommendations for the epoch-making Armory Show in 1912, Alexander Calder's address book is a who's who of the Parisian scene when he lived there.

The catalog copy provides a list of its own: the artists who have been collected here, including Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth.  And yes, the list does goes on.


Bird Watching
by Paula McCartney
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988559 | $50 | Feb 2010

Another clever subversion of the observer's expectations, Bird Watching documents artist Paula McCartney's recent work in art and nature photography.

Each photograph captures a scene of purest wilderness - trees, branches, sky, pine needles underfoot, distant trails.  Carefully framed in each photograph is a beautiful specimen of passerine, or perching bird.  Notations accompany each photo, citing location, weather conditions and descriptive text of each documented bird.

Look a second time at these photos, though, and you may begin to see that there is more artist than naturalist at work in this journal.  Each bird has been carefully affixed with wires or strings to the branches, because these birds were purchased at craft stores.  McCartney's work is walking the divide between the artificial and the real, and along the way, she has found a way to make the real world feel that much more vivid.

You can spot some examples of her work on her page at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, and at the web site for the Photo-Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.  Her own web site is here.