Barbara Kruger: Picture Readings


KRUGER, Barbara. Picture/Readings. Self-published, 1978.

Oblong 8vo; illustrated throughout in black and white; printed wrappers. Near fine.

First edition. This book is an early work that shows Kruger developing the use of text in combination with image to address her abiding artistic interest, the interplay between public space and private consciousness. As she herself put it, “Picture/Readings was an early indicator of my interest in exterior and interior spaces and how they form us as much as we form them.” Kruger found the book an ideal venue to explore this dichotomy. Each text-and-image diptych consists of the exterior of a dwelling pictured opposite a speculative narrative about the inhabitants. This work, both thematically and in the use of a democratic, unprecious medium, prefigures the signature style Kruger would later arrive at in the eighties. Her iconic works--many appearing as posters, billboards, or magazine covers--were stark designs of black, white and red combining high-contrast photographs with pointed phrases spelled out in a signature typeface, Futura Extra Bold Italic. Perhaps because it was so striking, and thus became an ubiquitous emblem of the decade, Kruger’s work was sometimes faulted as “mere design," but this criticism fails to recognize that though her work deployed the principles and techniques of design, its real substance of lay in its critique of society and engagement with the public sphere. Though this book precedes the stylistic maturity that would make her widely known, the seriousness of Kruger’s work is already perfectly clear.
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RUPPERSBERG Greetings From L.A.

Ruppersberg, Greetings from LA

Ruppersberg, Greetings from LA, interior

RUPPERSBERG, Allen. Greetings From L.A. Los Angeles: Self-published, 1972. 

8vo.; orange printed wrappers, spine very lightly sunned, otherwise fine copy.

First Edition; Signed and numbered 47 from an edition of 200 copies (of the edition an unknown number, probably fewer than half, actually were signed and numbered.) The back cover blurb, written by Ruppersberg, is a parody of the puffery found on the sort of pulp novels that maintain pretensions of literary style. The blurb is accurate, however, in calling the writing “austere.” In fact there is very little writing at all with eleven pages of text scattered throughout the book and the other pages numbered but otherwise blank. The text, what little there is of it, is a "Tinseltown" pastiche that reads like third-rate Raymond Chandler. But, for Ruppersberg, it is the blanks that count. As with his earlier, photo-based artists’ books and the photo series Where’s Al?, which is based on his own repeated failures to appear, Greetings from L.A. is about what’s missing. Its a conceptual exploration of narrative that works by understanding how the mind will, if presented with the merest suggestion of a storyline, immediately begin to read between the lines. It is a book about the imagination confronting blankness, or to put a Hollywood gloss on it, a “Dream Factory.” So perhaps Ruppersberg’s book is the quintessential L.A. novel. At the very least Greetings from L.A. is the perfect rejoinder to the famous quip about Los Angeles--after all, is not a city where “there’s no there, there,” the ideal venue for the imagination at play?

Ruppersberg’s influence seems only to grow with time. He is increasingly seen as major innovator on par with such Los Angeles contemporaries as Ruscha, Nauman, and Baldessari. This book is an iconic early work.
(sold)

Quincy, by Carl Andre

Andre, quincy 1

ANDRE, Carl. [Quincy]. Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1973.


Oblong 8vo; title and exhibition information loosely inserted on a printed leaf; illustrated throughout in black and white; pictorial wrappers; stapled. Fine.


First edition. This book--which accompanied an exhibition but does not reproduce any of the works shown or make specific reference to them--is not a catalog, but rather an essay in images by Andre on the origins of his personal aesthetic. Andre grew up south of Boston in Quincy, Massachusetts, then attended Phillips Academy, in Andover, 35 miles to the north. After graduating from Phillips, Andre spent a short time in college but left school and spent several years developing his taste for heavy industry through first hand experience. He worked in a factory, did a stint in the military, and spent four years as a brakeman and conductor on freight trains before settling in New York and turning to art full-time. Twenty years after graduating, he returned to Phillips (the Addison Gallery is part of the school) where he put on an exhibition entitled Six Alloy Plains and published this book in conjunction with it. Photography had not been a part of Andre’s artistic practice, nor would it figure much in his later work.

The photos were taken in winter with a light blanket of snow on the ground. Andre uses this to his advantage--each object and space is clearly defined in stark black-and-white. Quincy is a working-class town marked by heavy industry and Andre's pictures focus on this side of the town. There are old stone quarries with unused granite blocks strewn about the surrounding lots; heavy iron girders laid out at a work site; and railroad yards, cranes, and transfer stations stacked with logs, lumber, and cable. Headstones and monuments, locally quarried, appear throughout the book, including the wryly humorous cover image: a grave marker reading “Andre.” There are also photos taken in the woodsy outskirts of town, showing small creeks, dirt roads, and footpaths in the forest. Andre famously said that, “my idea of a sculpture is a road,” and the statement resonates here. Given the concerns of Andre’s work-the heaviness, solidity, and specificity of sculptural materials and the ways in which they can be used to define space-it becomes clear that Quincy is an extraordinary combination of autobiography and aesthetic statement.
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