Rectangular Packages With Ribbons

Once they unwrap these, they'll put them on the coffee table or in the WC, and then they'll hug you!

Jindrich Styrsk?y, From the Moving Cabinet series, 1934, collage
Jindrich Styrsk?y, "From the Moving Cabinet" series, 1934, collage

Behind the Curtain

Remember communism? Well, the Cubans sure do, but since we thought the Cuba book wasn't all that (seen one, seen 'em all, I'm afraid), we're headed instead behind the Iron Curtain, to the wonderful world of the Czech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948 (edited by Vladimir Birgus; MIT Press, $50), an unbelievable collection from some of the best relatively unknown photographers of the early avant-garde. Sure, America had Man Ray, Russia had Alexander Rodchenko, and Hungary had László Moholy-Nagy, but their Czech contemporaries were just as talented in photomontage and composition as any we've seen. That there was so much unheralded visionary talent in such a small country for so short a period of time is truly amazing... Looking even further behind the curtain we find Kosmos: A Portrait of the Russian Space Age (edited by Adam Bartos; Princeton Architectural Press, $40), a rare and intriguing look into the Soviet space program. Though these shots aren't particularly visually stunning from our perspective, their rarity is beholden to a history where the commies somehow beat the capitalists to outer space. Glimpsing their dank, depressing world, we can see why they wanted to get the hell off the planet... "Enough about the leftists!" you say? "I'm in the mood for an old-fashioned sales pitch!" Well, lift that curtain to the rafters and send in the clowns or just Step Right This Way (edited by Myles Barth; Friedman/Fairfax, $50) for the far-out frames of Edward J. Kelty. This amazing archive of photos from the traveling circuses of the American Twenties stands as compelling documentation to a bygone era, when reality was still reality. This collection is as journalistic as it is Olan Mills, as our man Kelty was to the circus what Mathew Brady was to the Civil War, snapping everyone from the pinheads to the bearded, the legless, and the scaled. Throw in some clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists, carnies, and a few elephants, and you've got yourself one of the greatest shows (in book form) on Earth.

  • Rectangular Packages With Ribbons

    Once they unwrap these, they'll put them on the coffee table or in the WC, and then they'll hug you!
  • Everyone Adapting Everywhere

    Maria Hong finds that everyone is adapting everywhere in her review of three of the year's most powerful photography collections.

    See, Memory

    "Judging from the places he visited in Texas, he is clearly one New Yorker who believed, or at least wanted to document, the myths Texans tell themselves," writes Clay Smith of Garry Winogrand's photographs in Winogrand 1964.

    Roll Over, Spock, & Tell T. Berry the News

    Fred Rogers knows how to communicate with kids. Let him help you.
  • True West

    "With its interdisciplinary focus, multicultural breadth, and assumption that cultural images are essentially powerful social constructions," writes James McWilliams of Martha Sandweiss' "handsome" new book on the West, "Print the Legend lays bare a trove of historical photographs"

    Bradbury, Now and Then

    What most befits you vis-a-vis ageless Ray Bradbury this season? His new one and an illustrated look back at all the old ones.

    All's I Want for Christmas Is Some Pussy Galore

    "Like the films themselves, Tony Nourmand's collection from the Eon Productions vaults offers much in the way of leggy villanesses and naughty, naughty sidekicks, and enough martinis, models, and megalomaniacs to sate the most cadlike of raffish rakes," writes Kate X Messer.

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