More Things Like This: 289 Drawings with Funny Words Also on the Same Drawing, The Editors of McSweeney’s. (Chronicle Books) $35
The Editors of McSweeney’s have compiled a selection of art based on a simple premise: that each piece incorporates words to humorous effect. In his introduction Dave Eggers contends that after the 90s the line between fine art and comics was blurred, largely due to Raymond Pettibon’s success (who’s responsible for the more notorious Black Flag and Sonic Youth album covers). There are other heroes of the witty, self-referencing text-art clique, like Maira Kalman and David Shrigley, who Eggers also credits as inspiration to put together such a collection.
There’s also a brief, interesting introduction by critic Michael Kimmelman, about how the small texts of prayer incorporated into some classical Italian painting evolved into the art of Duchamp, then eventually mutated into the contents of this book. He makes the obvious comics connections to publications like Mad and points out how even Goya slipped a few sentences into his work, in the series “Disasters of War” and “Los Caprichos.”
MTLT a pretty tongue-in-cheek book about a consistently tongue-in-cheek genre. The majority of the artists profiled are people like David Berman and Kenneth Koch—critically acclaimed artists in their own respective genres—whose precocious scribbles sometimes suggest the desire to create meaningful visual art without the determination to pursue the skills that requires. The collection also includes several of Shel Silverstein’s rare personal work, a couple Ralph Steadmans, and artists like Peter Saul, Banksy, Matthew Vesvovo, and Steve Powers, all talented visual artists whose engagement with the incorporation of text is interesting.
It’s obvious that the book is a slight indulgence to the aging hipster McSweeney’s aesthetic—I wouldn’t be surprised if the book has sold out in Williamsburg and Echo Park. The interviews with the artists and the brief history lesson are interesting, though, and worth the read. All things considered, it’s good art book.