Artful Volumes

Bill Cunningham’s street-style photographs, New York, 2012 and 2009.
Bill Cunningham’s street-style photographs, New York, 2012 and 2009.

Gracing the cover of BILL CUNNINGHAM: ON THE STREET: FIVE DECADES OF FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY (Clarkson Potter, $65) is the subject of this tome, rendered as a white silhouette and wearing his trademark bleu de travail. He’s hiding his face behind a camera and perched sidesaddle on a golden bicycle—colored, surely, to match his generous heart. Cunningham died in 2016 at the age of eighty-seven, working to the very end on what he adored most: documenting beauty. His decades-long presence at the New York Times, for which he captured Gotham’s most nattily attired—regardless of age, race, sex, or class—is sorely missed. But succor is offered via Tiina Loite, a former Times photo editor, who perused Cunningham’s seemingly fathomless archives and produced this lovingly assembled collection. (“My rough guess was that the number of photographs to research would equal the number on the national debt clock,” she says in the preface. “As it turned out, I was pretty close.”) Loite unearthed some gems: a 1974 snapshot of Geraldo Rivera dancing with socialite Nan Kempner in celebration of Sly Stone’s nuptials at Madison Square Garden; a ’90s pic of big-haired Blaine Trump, in patrician plaid, yakking it up with a flint-faced Pat Buckley. But of course we see hundreds of regular New Yorkers, too, who were Cunningham’s true inspiration: from girls in Biba-style peasant frocks and kids wearing baggy raver pants to peacocking fashion eccentrics and the most discerning of colorblock queens. “We all dressed for Bill,” writes Anna Wintour. He must’ve cherished every minute of it. —Alex Jovanovich

Anna Cleveland in a look by Larry LeGaspi, 2017.
Anna Cleveland in a look by Larry LeGaspi, 2017.

Larry LeGaspi (1950–2001) was a Jersey boy from a dysfunctional family who grew up to be a handsome, hirsute fashion designer of extraordinary imagination and skill. His freaky, fantastic garments—as if ’60s French clothier André Courrèges took erotic cues from Heavy Metal magazine—were worn by the famous and fabulous, such as disco-funk darlings Labelle, cock-rockers Kiss, and the alien captain of the Holy Mothership, George Clinton. But time is capricious and cruel: Toward the end of his life, penniless and ravaged by aids, LeGaspi virtually disappeared from public memory. LEGASPI: LARRY LEGASPI, THE 70S, AND THE FUTURE OF FASHION (Rizzoli, $75) is a tribute to this architect of kinky silhouettes in Lurex and Ultrasuede, pulled together by a LeGaspi superfan (and, unquestionably, spiritual heir), the glittering goth styliste modéliste Rick Owens. The slim hardcover is not an exhaustive foray into the LeGaspi oeuvre, but more of a thoughtfully conceived mash note from Owens. It includes archival materials, blurry stills from the dystopian 1936 sci-fi epic Things to Come (one of LeGaspi’s favorite films—written by H. G. Wells—and a major influence on his work), and great interviews with Patti LaBelle (who still has everything LeGaspi created for her), Paul Stanley (aka “The Starchild”) of Kiss, and Valerie Arnoff LeGaspi, the couturier’s muse, widow, and keeper of the flame. (She gave Owens her blessing to produce this volume, as well as a good portion of its contents.) There’s also a lengthy and disturbing excerpt from LeGaspi’s unpublished autobiography, provided by his sister, that details the abuse he and his siblings suffered under their alcoholic, pedophilic stepfather—a bitter end to a beautiful book. Nonetheless, LeGaspi is a necessary introduction to a febrile, fertile mind that left us far too soon. —A. J.

Fugazi performing at Fort Reno, Washington, DC, 1997.
Fugazi performing at Fort Reno, Washington, DC, 1997.

Are Fugazi the most Gen X band of all time? Overshadowed and outnumbered by Boomers and Millennials alike, the Xers have seemingly fallen out of the public consciousness—as has that generation’s worry about selling out. Likewise, the obsessively independent Washington, DC, group, one of the most influential outfits of the 1990s, is often left out of conversations about that decade. This is in part because Fugazi’s music was sometimes eclipsed by their reputation for prudish moralizing and stringent DIY idealism.

Their convictions stemmed from an artistic and business strategy that, now, seems like a straightforward approach to maintaining musical and financial control: They only played all-ages shows (where the average ticket price was five dollars); refused to produce or sell merchandise; directly called out, from the stage, overly aggressive “dancing”; played a preponderance of local benefit concerts; and rejected coverage by mainstream media giants like MTV and Rolling Stone. The recently reissued and expanded KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN: THE FUGAZI PHOTOGRAPHS OF GLEN E. FRIEDMAN (Akashic, $35), a compendium of pictures taken between 1986 and 2002, comes at the perfect time to remind contemporary cynics that another world is possible.

Friedman, who made his name documenting the early years of then-underground scenes like hip-hop, skateboarding, and hardcore, marvelously captures the band’s non-hierarchical structure and spirit; the posed shots that punctuate the live-show images always feature all four members, aligned on a single plane, and the remarkably crisp concert photos also attempted to capture the entire band. These images bristle with the manic yet controlled energy that characterized all of Fugazi’s performances. Sweat sparkles, bodies contort themselves, microphone stands fly off the stage.

Friedman has a knack for capturing an insider’s perspective of community-centered underground culture. Keep Your Eyes Open feels intimate and direct, full of verve and conviction. It also gives a distinct sense of the raw, inexplicable emotions aroused by fast, loud electric guitar—the devotion of frontmen Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye to the instrument’s power is evident in their eternally furrowed brows. Though they haven’t performed in seventeen years, Fugazi never broke up, choosing instead to go on an indefinite hiatus. In their absence, America’s national rot continues to deepen. —Canada Choate

Nan Goldin, C performing as Madonna, Bangkok, 1992, ink-jet print, 30 × 45".
Nan Goldin, C performing as Madonna, Bangkok, 1992, ink-jet print, 30 × 45".

When photographer Nan Goldin was eighteen years old, she moved to Boston and fell head over heels for a drag queen. She was enchanted by the whole scene, really, headquartered at the Other Side, a city gay bar where they all hung out. According to Goldin, she searched the library for literature about women who fell in love with drag performers, and could only find one mention, in an “abnormal psychology book from the 1950s which said that we were so perverse as to be unclassifiable.” (We’re a long way from Drag Race’s world; back then, a queen could be arrested for “female impersonation.”) A newly expanded edition of Goldin’s THE OTHER SIDE (Steidl, $55), originally published in 1993, gives us a glimpse of that vanished, charming, risky scene. The earliest shots, from 1972 and ’73, capture the photographer discovering her signature aesthetic; the black-and-white portraits of Ivy, Naomi, and Crystal feel a little like Diane Arbus, if Arbus had cared about showing out, but when Goldin switched to color, the style immediately became her own, the flash-lit gold sequins and red lipstick popping, the unguarded expressions conveying the familiar Goldin hallmarks of affection, trust, and intimacy. Along with the formative Boston images, the book features a candid, riveting series of pictures of trans East Village artist Greer Lankton from the mid-’80s; shots of queens in New York City, Berlin, and Paris from the early 1990s; pictures from a drag tour of Bangkok; and photographs of various Goldin intimates, taking us up to 2010. An interview with Goldin’s frequent subject Joey, as well as texts by the artist and B., give subtly guiding context to the glam goings-on. Rarely has a love letter been so persuasive: It’s difficult to see a photo like Misty with a Cop, Sheridan Square, NYC, 1991, and not experience a little of the love at first sight Goldin felt back in ’72. In this image, Misty wears a spacey lamé top, its high collar broken up with a silver square, like a priest from Mars. She’s wearing Margot Tenenbaum eyeliner, has bright blue hair, and Goldin has shot her mid-sentence, her mouth caught spitting a sassy phrase. Even the beat cop in the background is smiling. —David O’Neill

Xeroxed cover of SISTER, July 1973. From The New Woman’s Survival Catalog.
Xeroxed cover of SISTER, July 1973. From The New Woman’s Survival Catalog.

In the cultural Sturm und Drang of the early 1970s, antiestablishment zeal met the old American myth of self-reliance to catalyze a groundswell of DIY countercultures. Back then, “self-help” smacked less of entrepreneurial individualism than of communes and mutual aid. One strain of this grassroots empowerment yielded Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie’s THE NEW WOMAN’S SURVIVAL CATALOG (Primary Information, $30), a directory of feminist resources, including women-run presses, radio shows, clinics, daycares, rape crisis centers, divorce co-ops, credit unions, and liberation schools. The book, just republished, testifies to the breadth of community initiatives spawned by the women’s movement, as well as its geographic dispersion, from Albuquerque to Kalamazoo to Tampa and many towns in between.

A pre-internet relic of content aggregation, the catalogue documents an “alternative woman’s culture” that proliferated in the ’70s to circumvent institutional sexism. Descriptive blurbs represent organizations with delightfully second-wave titles like Wollstonecraft Inc. (a publishing house) and Dykes and Gorgons (a lesbian-separatist mag), while other pages feature self-defense comic strips and toilet fixit diagrams. Vintage illustrations culled from posters and zines include a halftone cartoon of Wonder Woman wielding a speculum and an elegant line drawing of lissome nudes, the stylistic progeny of Matisse’s Arcadian dancers, flocking above the brassy headline “The Discovery of the Clitoris.” A spin-off of the Whole Earth Catalog, its environmentalist counterpart, The New Woman’s Survival Catalog purveys a homespun aesthetic hallmarked by paste-up layouts and folksy serifed typefaces. Reflecting both frictions and coalitions within the women’s movement, its content insists that collaborative support networks are integral to the project of liberation. After all, as George Carlin once cracked, consulting the expertise of others isn’t really self-help—it’s just help. —Kaegan Sparks

Beatriz González, La pesca milagrosa (Miraculous Catch of Fish) (detail), 1992, oil on canvas, 29 1⁄2 × 59".
Beatriz González, La pesca milagrosa (Miraculous Catch of Fish) (detail), 1992, oil on canvas, 29 1⁄2 × 59".

Beatriz González has never been interested in easy accolades. In 1964, when, at an early stage in her six-decade career, a series of near abstractions garnered favorable reviews, the Bogotá-based painter responded to the praise by veering in a drastically different direction. She subsequently abandoned the confines of “taste” for a full embrace of the vernacular, as embodied in the commercial prints of Gráficas Molinari & Cía, a company that specialized in mash-ups of iconic paintings and colloquial kitsch. (Think Old Masters meets Norman Rockwell.) González forged an analogous hybridization, balancing appealing pictorial surfaces—flattened figures, confectionary palettes, and subjects ranging from Jackie O astride a camel to the red-bonneted Sun-Maid Raisin girl—with a committed critique of the mediation of images. She was particularly fascinated by the frequent failure of newspaper photos to adequately convey the violence and death plaguing her country.

After the 1985 attack on Bogotá’s Palace of Justice, and the drafting of González’s own son into the military, the artist’s aesthetic shifted dramatically. While she continued to reproduce images from newspapers, her tone grew darker. Her pictures were no longer exact replicas, but, like the Molinari prints, composites; instead of popular tropes, however, they indexed an ever-mounting, anonymous grief, crystallized in the 2009 installation Auras anónimas (Anonymous Auras), which printed silhouettes of corpse-bearers onto 8,957 tombstones that she placed on decommissioned “columbarios” in Bogotá’s old city cemetery. BEATRIZ GONZÁLEZ: A RETROSPECTIVE (Prestel, $45), the extensive catalogue accompanying the artist’s largest exhibition to hit the States, includes essays by Tobias Ostrander, Mari Carmen Ramírez, and Carolina Ponce de León, an illustrated chronology, and a selection of translated historical texts, such as reviews and interviews, in addition to González’s own reflections on her work and a cursory overview of Colombia’s internal war, penned by Gonzalo Sánchez G. Just as the country remains caught up in “the pendulum’s swing between war and peace,” so too do González’s paintings remain suspended between memory and the indifference of representation. —Kate Sutton