It’s that time of the year again! Our 12th “Hot List” of books – a best-of collection that is highly personal and unscientific and sure to provide you with ideas.
Our interests and network continued to spread far afield this year, and we chose a cross-section of books that are well worth your time – whether it’s the stories they tell or the quality of the stock or the revelation of seeing images previously unseen except by a handful of people. We have political, personal, and professional takes on this beautiful street art scene, as well as a careful instruction book on how to make your own
So here is a short list from 2022 that you may enjoy as well – just in case you would like to give them as gifts to family, friends, or even to yourself.
STRAAT: Quote from the Streets. Lannoo Publishers.
In a space massive enough for a Dutch sea vessel, the Street Art Museum of Amsterdam (STRAAT) has one of the largest collections of today’s mural stars anywhere. During its official maiden voyage, curious street art/graffiti/contemporary art fans look to see if this ship is seaworthy. The brainchild of former graffiti writer, curator, and publisher Peter Ernst Coolen in the early 2010s, the D.N.A. of the museum is rooted in his forward vision as much as the ideal waterfront warehouse that showcases close to 200 international artists.
Fabio Petani: SPAGYRIA URBANA
The human-built city has at times been called a jungle, but the concrete and steel environment flatters itself if it really thinks so. The intelligence and beauty present in the natural plant world far outstrips our modern cityscape, centuries after its origination. At least a few artists have been bringing it back to us in murals over the last few years, introducing a calm, lyrical serenity that dives way beneath the conscious, touching our roots.
The young Italian painter Fabio Petani has been reintroducing a natural agenda to cities across Europe for less than a decade – in a way that only a scientist, botanist, and naturalist with a design sensibility could. What is genuinely original is his subtle re-interpretation of the formal conventions of botany, introducing them to a modern urban audience without lecturing – and rising far beyond purely
Fabio Petani “Spagyria Urbana”. Torino, Italy. 2021. Texts by Alessandra Loale. Layout by Livio Ninni with translation by Mauro Italianodecorative presentations.
Buff Monster: Stay Melty
An updated version of his initial “Stay Melty” collection a half dozen years ago, street artist Buff Monster expands and shares with you more of his studio production, paintings, sculptures, murals, and ever-growing industry of collectibles in this photo book, a candy-coated volume of eccentricities that capture this moment in an artist’s evolution.
Carlo McCormick’s original text perseveres here as well, most possibly because it still captures so much of the dedicated madness that is Buff, afloat upon the detritus that demarcates our late capitalism era in dirty old New York. McCormick sagely comments on Buff’s take on “a realm of magical thinking in a contemporary visual culture where a few rare artists like Buff Monster can invoke alternate realities as palpably believable and emotionally transformative.”
Buff Monster. “Stay Melty”. Ginko Press.
Kurt Boone: Jersey City Mural Festival
Poet, urban author, photographer, and longtime NYC messenger Kurt Boone was there too, camera in hand and ready to record the action of the artists getting up on walls and meeting the public. Kurt throws himself into the scene and knows how to navigate while people are enjoying the atmosphere of creativity all around. With his knowledge of the street capturing graffiti, urban cycling, street photography, skateboarding, and busking, you know that his shots are on point.
Instead of uploading everything to a social media platform, Boone asked his friend Anthony Firetto to help lay out his photos to create a book. This is a genuine work of the heart – a self-published hefty book that captures a moment in time, the various players and styles, and a flashpoint in the development of Jersey City as it continues to change.
Jersey City Mural Festival. Photography by Kurt Boone. © Copyright Kurt Boone
Robbie Conal: STREETWISE
The political caricature is a treasured form of public discourse that still holds as much power as it did when we relied on the printing press. Able to express sentiment and opinion without uttering a syllable, the artist can sway the direction of conversation with skill, insight, and humor. Artist Robbie Conal has built a career from visually roasting the most sebaceous of our various leaders in the last few decades, often bringing his posters to the street and installing them in advertisers’ wildposting manner.
With the briefest of texts, slogans, or twisted nicknames, he reveals the underbelly as a face, dropping expectations into the sewer. If it were as simple as a political party, one might try to dismiss his work as only partisan. But Conal’s work functions more as an ex-ray, and frequently the resulting scan finds cancer.
ROBBIE CONAL / STREETWISE. 35 YEARS OF POLITICALLY CHARGED GUERRILLA ART. By G. James Daichendt. With a foreword by Shepard Fairey. Published by Schiffer Publishing LTD. Atglen, PA
Martha Cooper: SPRAY NATION / Signed Limited Edition Box Set.
Martha Cooper: Spray Nation. German/Prestel Edition
Page after page of golden NYC hits from the Martha Cooper archive; this new hardcover tome expands the galaxy for fans and academics of that amber-soaked period when it seemed like New York was leading a Spray Nation of graffiti for cities across the country. Known for her ability to capture graffiti writers’ work in its original urban context, Ms. Cooper once again proves that her reputation as the documentarian of an underground/overground aesthetics scene is no joke.
With an academics’ respect for the work, the practice, and the practitioners, Cooper recorded volumes of images methodically for history – and your appreciation. With the vibrant and sometimes vicious city framing their pieces, an uncounted legion of aerosol-wielding street players raced city-wide at top speed, ducking cops and cavorting with a confident abandon in the rusted and screeching steel cityscape. By capturing these scenes without unnecessary editorializing, Cooper gives you access to the organically chaotic graffiti subculture on the move at that moment – directly through her unflinching eyes.
Martha Cooper: Spray Nation. Signed Limited Edtion Box Set is published by Beyond The Streets. With a foreword by Roger Gastman and essays by Steven P. Harrington, Miss Rosen, Jayson Edlin, and Brian Wallis.
One of the exciting book releases this fall drops today in stores across the country – which is appropriate with a name like Spray Nation.
The centerpiece of the complete boxed set released this spring, this thick brick of graffiti tricks will end up on as many shelves as Subway Art; the book of Genesis that prepared everyone for the global scene of graffiti and street art that would unveil itself for decades afterward. See our review from earlier in the year, and sample some of the stunning spreads here, along with quotes by the book’s essay writers, Roger Gastman, Steven P. Harrington, Miss Rosen, Jayson Edlin, and Brian Wallis.
Martha Cooper. SPRAY NATION 1980s Graffiti Photographs. Edited by Roger Gastman. Prestel. Germany, 2022.
Robert Proch: Sketches 2003-2018
“ROBERT PROCH – SKETCHES” : a collection of all the preserved drawings and sketches created by the artist in the years 2003-2018.
We had the opportunity to hang around with artist Robert Proch in 2015 at the No Limit festival in Boras, Sweden. Unassuming and bright, the artist was creating a painting on a massive wall that seemed to us to be insurmountable. He excitedly and with great ease jumped on the cherry picker and dove into the explosion he had sketched – pouring color and gesture into his futurist composition, bending and twisting the axis, capturing the flying energy and elements that appeared to jump off toward the viewer.
Later at dinner in a private home, it was a pleasure to speak with him. A warm, polite, and thoughtful guy – you would not necessarily know that his internal art view was so expansive, except to see his darting eyes perhaps, which didn’t appear to miss anything.
Robert Proch. “Sketches 2003-2018”. Robert Proch Foundation
MadC: STREET TO CANVAS
You hope for it, but nothing is guaranteed. Transitioning from being an artist with a respected, lauded practice of graffiti/street art to a booming professional career on canvas is not a clearly defined route. Although many have tried, are trying right now.
What does it take, you ask? A potent mix of talent, luck, fortitude, applied effort, guts, and a willingness to change one’s approach if necessary, as necessary. In our experience, the last item proves to be the most challenging.
Yo, but Mad C is mad talented.
She’s made it a dedication to studying and learning the craft, fine-tuning the skills, practicing, perfecting, and persevering. All of those qualities will give you a great measure of personal satisfaction even when it doesn’t land you a big bank balance. In the case of MadC, internalizing the practices and codes of graffiti that originated with the 1960s/70s graffiti writers was core – imprinted her creative DNA forever – even though her first attempt to write was not until 1995 in Germany.
MadC – Street To Canvas. Heni Publishing, London.
Scott Albrecht: IN TIME
Color-blocked basketball courts appreciated from a plane, cheerful abstract murals for restaurants, hotels, and cafes, and massive wood collages comprised of assembled pieces that are each finished before joining. What do these expressions of artist Scott Albrecht have to do with one another? If you study the patterns, in time, you will see.
A handsome cloth-covered hardcopy of works by the Gowanus, Brooklyn-based public/studio artist presents a selection of works from 2017-21 that have a rational color theory, smoothly dynamic geometries, and a soothing certitude in their complexity. Spotlighting public art projects, studio processes, exhibitions in New York and LA, and his residency at Hyland Mather’s place in Portugal, the collection is refined yet human.
C215: THE STENCIL GRAFFITI MANUAL
The Paris-based stencil artist C215 learned his skills in the street and in the studio beginning in the mid-2000s after being influenced by the burgeoning practice in the street art scene of Barcelona and recognizing the practitioners in his home in Paris. Within a few short years, he was watching the evolution of all his peers – and even curating their work into shows. You can see many styles and techniques by surveying the field, and you’ll decide whose work is a cut above.
“The book that you are holding in your hands is, therefore, a manual, an inventory of techniques to be appropriated in order to get yourself started in the art or to help you develop stenciling’s potential. Stencils have no limits and can be adapted to all styles,” says the author in his introduction.
C215 – The Stencil Graffiti Manual. Schiffer Publishing 2022
Bartek Swiatecki / Pener: SELECTED WORKS 15 – 21
A new book here features six years of selected works from a Polish graffiti writer, muralist, and professor of art and painting at a secondary school in his hometown of Olsztyn, Poland. He reckons that his life is one of ‘Planned Freestyle,’ meaning that having structure imposed upon him is very helpful in focusing his creative mind. You may quickly appreciate this characterization if you know any artists.
The collection of selected works here by Bartek Swiatecki is as luminous and optically rewarding to the viewer as they are opaque to the mind and stirring to the heart. With prolific and gently evolving abstractions in movement, you can see an artist at work, at play, and at his personal best – topping his previous work. The grandson of another painter and professor (of philology), Miroslaw Swiatecki, and the nephew of a famous painter and animator, Marek Swiatecki, perhaps it was only a matter of time before this 90s graffiti writer moved into more formal practices on canvas and walls.
Bartek Swiatecki / Pener. Selected Works 15 – 21. Printed in Poland © Bartek Swiatecki
Swoon: THE RED SKEIN
As we prepare to celebrate 15 years of daily publishing stories and insights about street artists from around the world here on BSA, you’ll know that there are some whose work has merited hours of writing and photography much more than others – perhaps because we first knew her work here in our neighborhood of Brooklyn long before we began this site. Following her through almost every iteration and project, we’ve interviewed her on many stages and in her studio as she continues to unfold, self-examine, recognize the damage, heal herself, give to others, and create on the street, in the studio, gallery, museum, and now on screen.
For her second bound monogram, Caledonia Curry, AKA Swoon, reviews her path as a collection of psychological and emotional journeys, or perhaps one all-encompassing voyage with concurrents and tributaries running alongside and underneath. Whether she is showing you her early work on the streets here or in Italy at a festival called FAME, her Konbit Shelter days, her Braddock Project with the church in Pennsylvania, her Perly’s Beauty Shop, her epic installations at Jeffrey Deitch, LA MOCA in Los Angeles, ICA in Boston, the Brooklyn Museum, or DIA in Detroit, we’ve reported to you on them all – so you have an idea where this new book The Red Skein will take you. It is great to see the memories and the people all pulled together here cohesively and to understand the skeins that all weave together loosely and tightly.
SWOON: The Red Skein. DRAGO Publisher. Rome, Italy. 2022