August 12, 2006

Artist Coloring Books, Some NSFK

version_coloringbk_cham.jpg version_coloringbk_divorce.jpg

The other day in Printed Matter, the always amazing artists' book store/exhibition space in Chelsea, I started wondering about what books artists might have made for kids. Given the thousands of publications on hand, I ended up narrowing the search to coloring books.

It was immediately obvious that this search strategy was imperfect at best. There were plenty of artist books [books as art, i.e., made by artists as an experimental/creative/political/whatever expression, not books about artists, or exhibition catalogues.] that could fascinate and engage even a tiny kid. And there were definitely examples of the, um, ironic use of the coloring book format to communicate some very adult ideas.

There were also coloring book compilations, where an editor collected line drawings from a bunch of artists, famous and not, usually for a cause or charity of some kind. I had considered doing exactly that, so it was good to see how uninteresting these compilations usually were, or how unsuccessful as coloring books, anyway. Saved me from a heap of work and disappointment.

Anyway, you can search Printed Matter's online catalogue for more, but here are a couple of prominent examples of the genre:

  • Just Add Color : A Coloring Book With Drawings by Contemporary Artists, 1991, ed. by Maura Albers and Thomas Cvikota, $20: Includes drawings by Alex Katz and Sol Lewitt, but also by Eric Fischl, George Condo, Kenny Scharf, Polly Apfelbaum...it's kind of an artifact.
  • Let's Play!, 2005, by Chip Duyck, $20: This is by far the most authentic coloring book-style title I found. Suffice it to say, though, that by depicting the life of French author/philosopher/manwhore Jean Genet so faithfully, Mr Duyck will not be appearing as a host on Sprout anytime soon. And unless you're ready to explain what young Jean is doing kneeling in front of that prison guard, you will want to keep this one away from the kiddies.
  • Version Magazine 0.6 - Coloring Book, Edited by Gabriela Vanga, Mircea Cantor, Ciprian Muresan, $18 [illustrations above]: A Romanian artist-published magazine, which did a very ambitious, varied, uneven, but generally awesome coloring book issue in collaboration with 50+ artists. It'd be my top pick even if it weren't available as a 93-pg PDF.

    Search "coloring book" at Printed Matter [printedmatter.org]

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