Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Cosy Little Read

One of the lovely things about books is that they're so comfortable to curl up in a chair with (as opposed to a Kindle, for instance). This cannot be said of our newest art book - 30,000 Years of Art: the story of human creativity across time and space. Produced by the slick arts publisher Phaidon, this baby clocks in at about 25 pounds. But since it truly does attempt to cover all of human artistic expression, you can understand why it's a bit hefty. Taking a chronological approach (instead of using geographical or cultural delineations), this book begins with "Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel" from 28,000 B.C. and ends with a piece currently under construction: "Roden Crater" by James Turrell. Along the way, readers can explore the whole spectrum of art and expression from across the globe. Each page features a large color photo of the piece, its time and place of creation, the artist (most of the pieces were created by unknown artists), the medium and the current location. Considering some of the recent news stories about repatriation of artistic and cultural treasures, it's very interesting to see how many of these global pieces are in museums and galleries of Europe and North America. There is also a short descriptive analysis of each piece. The most fascinating thing about this book is that it allows you to look at artistic styles across cultures. For example, you can see pieces produced in 1350 from Japan, Tibet, Nepal, New Zealand, Turkey, Zimbabwe, China and Thailand. The appendices contain a cultural/political timeline, and an artistic timeline that places each piece in the book in context with each other and major global events (wars, plagues, inventions, etc.). This is a wonderful book not just for students of art, history or culture, but also for anyone interested in the way humans communicate their deepest feelings and desires visually. Just don't try to read it in bed.

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