Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Blake de Pastino, Julie Birnbaum, Stephen Ausherman

DECEMBER 22, 1997: 

The Photography Book text by Ian Jeffrey (Phaidon/Chronicle, cloth, $39.95)

This is the kind of book that's almost sinfully enjoyable. As a sequel to The Art Book, which opened up the middle-class art market for the British art publisher Phaidon, The Photography Book combines full-size, full-color reproductions by 500 photographers with remarkably piquant analyses of each artist's work. Intended as both a historical survey and a large-format picture book, The Photography Book manages to succeed on both fronts by making small sacrifices in either direction. In the interest of space, it forgoes mentioning the famous quacks (like Andres Serrano or Anne Geddes), but it also limits each critique to a space about the size of this review. (And we all know what a tease that can be.) Beautiful to look at and even more rewarding to read, the only true failing of The Photography Book is that it credits its brilliant author Ian Jeffrey with nothing more than a footnote in the acknowledgments. (BdeP)

6 Chapters in Design
foreword by Philip Meggs (Chronicle, paper, $22.95)

Nothing has shaped America's visual landscape like graphic design has; and yet, nothing is more conspicuously ignored by the American press. For those of us who have the slightest willingness to appreciate graphic art, though, at least there's 6 Chapters in Design. Best described as a hand-held coffee-table book, 6 Chapters presents the life-work of a half-dozen eminent artists in the field--some of whom, like the Polish brut-folk designer Henryk Tomaszewski, may be somewhat obscure to American audiences. Others in the book, however, will prove to be much more familiar, like theater designer Ivan Chermayeff (of M. Butterfly fame) or the late Saul Bass, who created the ubiquitous logos for Bell, IBM and AT&T. In any case, while the commentary on these artists is regrettably slim, the appreciative reader is bound to get an education, as well as a stimulating tour of contemporary graphica. (BdeP)

Buddha Book
by Frank Olinsky (Chronicle, cloth, $19.95)

Most people probably picture the same type of image when picturing the Buddha. In fact, there is no one Buddha: Buddhas are life forms who have reached the pinnacle of existence and thus can be characterized in any number of ways. Buddha Book is a collection of photographs of the Buddha portrayed in art, compiled by Frank Olinsky, editor and acclaimed designer. The book is simply beautiful, with high-quality color and layout. The images show not only the typical likeness of the Buddha, but uncommon ones from movie frames to multimedia sculpture. Works by Matisse and Kerouac are pictured alongside ancient temple monuments. Anyone with an interest in Buddhism or art history would have a hard time not enjoying the incredible images in this book. (JB)

Decorative Paint Recipes
by Richard Lowther and Lynne Robinson (Chronicle, paper, $19.95)

From the people who brought you Stenciling and Paint Recipes comes this step-by-step guide to finishing touches for your home. I never imagined I would give a book like this a second glance, but last year I bought my first house. Now it seems I spend every spare minute striving to distinguish my home from the twenty-odd suburban clones on my block. Decorative Paint Recipes offers 120 inexpensive ideas, most emphasizing a worn or weathered texture. The reader is encouraged to choose colors and patterns based on personal reasons such as observation, memory and culture but may be required to possess a measure of artistic skill to carry out the instructions. Still, it beats the hell out of Martha Stewart. Now wouldn't everyone like to do just that? (SA)

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