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Reviews: Two Tomes and Some Vinyl

Light / Dark

For the generalist: Taschen, the vibrant Los Angeles publishing house piloted by charismatic German émigré Benedikt Taschen, has just released the biggest volume on surfing ever published. At some 600 pages, Surfing 1878-2015 is the brainchild of regular Taschen co-conspirator Jim Heimann, a cultural anthropologist and graphics historian with a serious kink for surf history. The “regular” edition is a $200.00 affair. There is also an “XL” (or “Platinum” or “Sumo”) edition, already sold out at the bargain price of $800.00. No tongue-in-cheek, there—Taschen’s limited editions are certifiably blue-chip, investment-grade tomes, with 25 percent annual yields not uncommon. Content-wise, Surfing is solid enough. Construction wise, it’s top-tier. As a single-copy visual library of surf history, it’s extravagant in its color and comprehensive nature. I would have liked to have been surprised more often within its pages, but that’s a quibble and maybe a bit of a canard: we work on the same side of the pasture, with Taschen pulling from roughly the same pipelines of photography we’ve delivered for decades. That said, Surfing gives the category something of a reform-school spanking, and will undoubtedly go down as the last word in the space. If you have a couple of loose Benjamins, there are less edifying ways to blowtorch them. — S.H.

For the visually inclined: T. Adler books recently released An Uncommon Archive, an introductory catalog/mood board/print installation of collected works from the likes of John Baldessari, Craig Stecyk, Walker Evans, Nolan Hall, Morgan Maasen, Scott Soens, and Ed Ruscha. That invite list should tip you to what you’ll find in this stroll through the Cretian labyrinth that is the curatorial mind of Tom Adler. I do a poor job hiding the fact that Adler is my favorite surf-book maker. For this new project, coinciding with the launch of Archiv-e, a fine art print company, Adler removes the surfing governor from the engine, allowing a needle-pinning sprint through a very stylish, very American assemblage. As with all of Tom’s output, there is a literary quality at play here. He manages to be textual with a “limited word carry” arm tied behind his back. I lack that about him.

For the auralist: Litmus, the most resonant surf film of its time, gets a stunning 20th anniversary wax LP soundtrack roll-out, paired with a matching soundtrack LP commemorating the 10th anniversary of Glass Love. Artist/impresario Andrew Kidman also provides a thoughtful, oversized book of words and photographs from the two movies. Dude plays the Sydney Opera House and shreds on Long Island. Versatile! This package, in its totality, is impressive and evergreen. Hit his eponymous site for intel.