Art Smart on the Sly

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Since you never know what crowd you’ll be falling into –we’ve compiled a non-threatening mix of books to get your Art Smart on. Some cover the hype of a few well-known art stars, and others take you into current art movements. There are a few biographies and “text” book like works on our list, but that’s because it makes it easier to appreciate the new when you know what influences the artist drew from. We’re not promising to turn you into art aficionados, but we can help you load your bookshelf down with a couple of gems.  The oldies but goodies you should already own.

  1. History of Art by HW Janson – The seminal art history textbook. The one to which all others pale in comparison. I used this when I took my first Art History class, and it totally changed the way I looked at art and gave me a basis with which to view art that I still call upon today.
  2. 501 Great Artists:   A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of the Art World by Susie Hodge – Another basic text for art lovers, easy to read and very educational.  It’s a very good “primer” on who makes up the bedrock of the art world.
  3. Lust for Life by Irving Stone – Irving Stone is a wonderful writer and this account of Van Gogh’s life is quite amazing.  This book gives you an idea of what a tortured soul he was, and how hard he tried to find his place in life.
  4. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone – This time Stone writes about Michelangelo’s life. He was so clearly a genius since youth. It takes you through his time painting for sponsors, and then his grand patrons, the Medici’s. His relationship with the Pope was a complex one as well, and Stone brings this all to the book. A must-read.
  5. Going Postal by Martha Cooper – Because stickers from the US Postal Service, UPS, DHL and FEDEX are so readily available, it became the perfect canvas for the graffiti culture. Graffiti photography Martha Cooper showcases a collection of more than 200 photographs of some of her favorite handmade postal stickers from around the world.
  6. Jean -Michel Basquiat: 1960-1988 by Leonhard Emmerling  – This is an amazing bio of Basquiat, who in less than a decade became an international art star. His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became eventually became a victim of.
  7. Provenance:   How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo – This is the story of John Drewe, an alleged physicist and avid art collector, who began passing off copies of famous art pieces as genuine, and then forging their provenance.  A real page-turner about a con artist and how he got away with it for so long.
  8. Hiding in the Light:  On Images and Things (Comedia) by Dick Hebdige – A wonderful back to the basics book about the meaning of Post-Modernism.
  9. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:  A to B and Back Again by Andy Warhol – Andy writes about himself, no holds barred. A great book from the Master’s own mind.
  10. Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton – This is an incredible book about the in’s and out’s of the art world.  We get a great ride ‘behind the scenes’, a detailed look at how a painting is brought to auction, and the intricate hierarchy that exists between the collector and buyer. I didn’t think it would be interesting, but I was into it from the first page.
  11. Subway Art by Martha Cooper – Yet another must-have book from photographer Martha Cooper. This book covers the epitome of classic NYC graffiti, a veritable Bible for this subculture.
  12. Steve Powers: A Love Letter for You by Steve Powers – Graffiti Artist, Steve Powers started painting his “ESPO” alias across the walls and rooftops of Philadelphia in 1984, just as the city’s Anti-Graffiti Network was launched. Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 2009, he returned to Philly, armed with 1,200 cans of spray paint, 800 gallons of bucket paint and 20 of the finest spray painters in America, to inscribe an epic love letter on the rooftops facing the Market-Frankford line, as a public art project. Powers consulted the community in West Philly and collaborated with The Mural Arts Program and the Pew Center, and with their help, transformed this 20-block stretch of buildings into visual and architectural Valentine poems.
  13. Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now by HenryChalfant and Sacha Jenkins – Throw some old school B&W photos of break dancers at Coney Island (is that the Cyclone I see in the background), a table of contents designed to look like an NYC Subway stop, interviews with graffiti legends like Lady Pink, andSkeme, and I’m all ready to meet the mailman at my door on the regular until my Amazon package shows up.Seriously though, Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now promises authentic first–person accounts from the graffiti artists whose creative genius fueled the movement from its beginning in late 1970s and early 1980s New York.

5 Street Art Instagrammers You Should Follow

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  • Martha Cooper / Handle: Marthacoopergram – Legendary Graffiti Photographer, Martha Cooper is basically ‘have lens will travel’. Most recently she was in Puerto Rico capturing street artists: Vhils, Luis Perez, Monica Parada, NEPO, and Colectivo Fibra in action. You wanna stay in the know – follow Martha – her pictures come from the core of the inner circle. I mean, you did see the surprise mural put up for this graffiti darlings birthday at the Wall (Houston & Bowery) didn’t you?

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  • JR / Handle: JR – No one bounces around the globe quite like JR & his crew. This TED Talks street artist brings the faces of urban communities into the forefront with his large scale wheatpastes. It’s all so job fantasy camp, whether you’re viewing pics of their global meet-ups (parties) or looking at a aerial view of his work lacing the favelas of Brazil. Not to miss: snapshots of prideful smiles when JR revisits his muses.

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  • Os Gemeos / Handle: osgemeos – The Brazilian twins document their process extensively on their account. You’ll get to drop in on their murals in progress, see their sketches forming…though my favorite moments come when other street artists drop by their gallery shows to wish them luck and then show up in their feed.

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  • Jonathan LeVine Gallery / Handle: JonathanLevineGallery – The Gallery’s Instagram puts you in the thick of their shows: you can catch the artist preparing the gallery, see the install, pieces from the show, and drool over the after-party. The account should come with a tagline “We’ll make you wish you were here.”

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  • Seth GlobePainter / Handle: seth_globepainter – French Street Artist, Seth Globepainter is everywhere. You’ll globe trot with him via the colorful large scale murals he leaves behind. His Modus Operandi is achieving a culture vibe by taking a photo of a local in front of the mural once it’s completed. Gotta admit, It’s a pretty significant way to humanize a projects.