7 Art Books to Start the New Year

What’s a New Year’s resolution list without some art books in the mix? For our first art reads of 2024, we bring you several titles that break the mold and encourage us to read outside the box this year. Balint Zsako’s beautifully illustrated Bunny and Tree may be categorized as a children’s book, but is nonetheless a stunning example of wordless storytelling meant for readers of all ages. Meanwhile, a hybrid physical and open-access online publication from the Getty Research Institute invites us to explore the everyday objects that populated 18th-century French artists’ lives and practices — including books. We also recommend scholar Silvia Rodriguez Vega’s writing on the stories of children held in detention centers at the US-Mexico border and the artworks they create, a field guide to stray shopping carts, and more. —Lakshmi Rivera Amin


On Our Reading List

Drawing Deportation: Art and Resistance among Immigrant Children by Silvia Rodriguez Vega

A powerful book that is hard to get through because of the harrowing and detailed stories of children placed in detention in the United States and the art they create. Author Silvia Rodriguez Vega does a fantastic job of contextualizing the research in the long and well-documented history of American white supremacy and its role in family separations. For instance, she writes:

Indeed, in 1904 when Irish immigrant children were deemed uncared for because of the dire poverty they experienced and were thought not to acclimate well to elite adoptive families in New York, the Catholic Church of New York placed the children in the homes of Catholic Mexican families in Arizona. Even though the religion was the same, this was considered an act of “racial transgression” and sparked violence by Anglo vigilante groups, who abducted the children from Mexican home and nearly lynched the nuns who placed them there.

She documents the fears of these children, including displacement, incarceration, abandonment, and separation, and illustrates her research using the art by the children themselves, including some self-portraits created in a class by Judy Baca (like we need another reason to adore the always insightful and groundbreaking artist best known for her role in “The Great Wall of Los Angeles”). Take your time with this important record of the inhumanity taking place daily at the US-Mexico border. —Hrag Vartanian

Buy on Bookshop | New York University Press, February 2023


Artists’ Things: Rediscovering Lost Property from Eighteenth-Century France by Katie Scott and Hannah Williams

Art historians Katie Scott and Hannah Williams’s study of the forgotten items, keepsakes, and seemingly inconsequential materials that populated the lives of artists in 18th-century France gives new life to the quotidian, from camera obscuras and sketchbooks to shell collections, marriage contracts, and powdered wigs. Also available in an open-access online format that allows for a more visual experience, this exploration of the objects that made bygone artists’ lives tick might make you think differently about the objects in your everyday environment, too. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | Getty Research Institute, January 2024


Bunny & Tree by Balint Zsako

Balint Zsako’s wordless children’s book tells the moving tale of a friendship between a lonesome tree and a bunny on the run from a big, bad wolf. The unlikely friends shield and protect each other as they set out on a perilous journey to a place they can call their own. So tender and beautiful, this book will teach your little ones — and remind you — of the many rewards of just being a good, kind person. —Hakim Bishara

Buy on Bookshop | Enchanted Lion Books, July 2023


Hokusai’s Fuji by Kyoko Wada

Move beyond “The Great Wave” and into the depths of Japanese Edo artist Katsushika Hokusai’s devotion to capturing Mount Fuji from a range of perspectives with this forthcoming book. Critic Wada Kyoko’s compilation places two series in conversation with other studies and paintings the artist created, contextualizing the iconic imagery of the mountain and elucidating its place in Hokusai’s body of work. The book itself also does justice to its content, with an extensive glossary of Japanese art historical terms, chronological images, and a fittingly subtle design that honors its source material. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | Thames & Hudson, January 2024


The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Revised) by Julian Montague

Making a case for the abandoned shopping cart as a life force in itself, designer and photographer Julian Montague’s updated edition of this 2006 publication is required reading for anyone who’s ever been to a grocery store. One of the more memorable categorizations is Class B/Type 12 entitled “Simple vandalism,” featuring a photo of a cart improbably hanging from a one-way street sign — simultaneously a sculptural masterpiece and, in my view, a disrespectful mockery of shopping carts everywhere. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | University of Chicago Press, October 2023


Indigenous North American Type by Kevin King

Design studio Typotheque’s illuminating compendium of Native languages is a feast for the eyes. The new volume draws from conversations with Indigenous communities and research into the distinct needs of different languages to present a comprehensive collection of typography. As a snapshot of an ongoing research project, typographer Kevin King and fluent Inuktitut speaker Janet Tamalik McGrath’s study of the specificity of the written word offers a richly detailed account for the future. —LA

Buy the Book | Typotheque, January 2024


The Other Side: A Story of Women in Art and the Spirit World by Jennifer Higgie

Hilma af Klint may be the best-known spiritualist woman artist, but she certainly wasn’t the only one. Editor and critic Jennifer Higgie presents a useful introduction to the host of other women artists engaging with spiritual beliefs. She braids her travels and personal relationships with artists, such as Palestinian writer Vivien Sansour, with research on historical figures including Klint, Georgiana Houghton, Emma Kunz, and others. Her engaging, disarming narrative voice makes this a crucial read and a useful starting point to learn more about the women artists’ incalculable spiritual range. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | Pegasus Books, January 2024

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