Books

April Reading List: Material Fixation

These books each offer a fresh take on the aesthetics of consumer culture, from "Bling Bling Baby!," to "The Red Thread."

These books each offer a fresh take on the aesthetics of consumer culture, from "Bling Bling Baby!," to "The Red Thread."

The Many Lives of Erik Kessels (Aperture) is packed with more than 450 images compiled, discovered, or shot by the acclaimed polymath himself. But the book is not an anthology so much as it is a re-education manual for a society oversaturated with images. In the spirit of the Dadaists, Kessels toys with ugliness, imperfection, and banality in attempt to jar viewers out of a state of passive reception. As Kessels puts it, “People consume photographs. They don’t look at them anymore.”

Tara Bernerd: Place (Rizzoli) takes a deep dive into 18 of the British interior designer’s projects, illuminating the most minute details across a spread of 250 color images. Texts by Richard Rogers, Jason Pomeranc, and Charlotte and Peter Fiell provide commentary, further revealing Bernerd’s aim with her work: to reconcile a desire for warmth and home with the vicissitudes of a global world.

As the Danish word hygge (meaning a particularly Scandinavian style of coziness) became the American obsession this past year, den röda tråden (the red thread) could very well be next. Referencing a string that connects the essence of one thing to another, the phrase is well-suited to describing the aesthetic unity found in Scandinavian design. The Red Thread: Nordic Design (Phaidon) explores just that, probing the creative philosophy of functionality and simplicity that has made Nordic pieces staples of tasteful interiors the world over.

But before anyone swoons too hard over simple lines and humble materials, Bling Bling Baby! Glitz, Glamour, Grotesque: The Art of Exaggeration (Hatje Cantz) is here to remind us that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Thirty-three photographers contributed work to this celebration of all things gauche, tawdry, and over-the-top. A maximalist visual missive designed to catch the eye, the album carries on a tradition of artistic exaggeration as old as Byron, and every bit as dramatic.

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