Projects (Abrams, $85) chronicles forty-four Andy Goldsworthy installations around the world, as they change and evolve with their environments. This book, a companion volume to Goldsworthy’s Ephemeral Works, includes stunning photographs, site maps, and an extensive interview. You’ll find his usual cones and labyrinths made of wood and stone, but unlike his “ephemeral” works, whose construction marked an endpoint, these pieces began life only when Goldsworthy finished them, for they evolve as they are weathered by the seasons. Goldsworthy documents, for example, walls covered in porcelain clay, as they dry, crack and tear away, and enormous slate chambers, enclosing wind-fallen branches, which gradually transform as moss and fungi cover them. He repaves an ancient forest track with rectangular stones and cuts a new path across an Ohio estate, always maintaining 950 feet above sea level. An igloo of woven branches sits inside a pit, accessed through a doorway via steps in a terraced wall. A flowing line of fallen cypress weaves through eucalyptus trees, which overtake a California landscape. But whatever he does in these installations, Goldsworthy invites us to experience nature freshly. This gorgeous, glossy volume will make an extraordinary gift for the art or nature lover in your life.
Rothko: The Color Field Paintings (Chronicle, $40) is a tribute to one of the greatest periods by a single painter in art history. Mark Rothko (1903-1970), one of the leading Abstract Expressionists, pioneered the large, flat fields of solid color that Clement Greenberg dubbed “color field painting.” He worked his way toward them throughout the 1940s, and by 1949 had “arrived,” as his son, Christopher Rothko, says in the Foreword. The artist pursued color fields for the rest of his life, arranging two, three, and four color rectangles in dramatic and shimmering patterns that establish kinetic relationships between the viewer and the canvas. Presenting fifty of Rothko’s iconic paintings in chronological order, this book allows you to watch the artist develop his style and discover what the colors and rectangles could do; you can see the shades deepen, and darken. The volume also allows you to savor the full, luminous power of each composition, giving you the images one by one, with plenty of white space for the colors to breathe. Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, provides a commentary on Rothko’s legacy.
The ne plus ultra of Vermeer art books, Vermeer in Detail (Abrams, $65) is a conclusive cataloguing of all thirty-two paintings by the master, accompanied by 170 extremely intimate—often full page—magnifications. Satisfyingly, in this one volume is everything the eye can take in from a Vermeer painting, elucidated by a thorough presentation of all the documentation and research we do have about the dismayingly mysterious, historically unreachable Johannes Vermeer. And yet this canonical volume’s greatest asset is the lightness with which author Gary Schwartz wears his learning. An American art historian residing in the Netherlands, Schwartz delivers prose unencumbered by any scholastic staidness or over-certainty, taking an intelligent but lightsome tone wholly befitting Vermeer’s oeuvre (“Dear Reader: it’s every Vermeer scholar for himself on this one,” he avers at one point). The manner in which Schwartz groups his chosen details into chapters is itself a revelation, providing fascinating insight into life in 17th- century Delft, as well as into Vermeer’s technical genius, yet nowhere detracting from the sheer awe of viewing the Old Master at such microscopic proximity.