Byrne, a former Baltimore resident and ex-Talking Heads frontman, has always had a knack for conceptual art. At their peak, the Heads were a sublime hybrid of hip-shaking funk and punk framed by head-spinning ideas and visual art—Byrne's big white suit and Robert Rauschenberg's limited edition Speaking In Tongues cover art were among the highlights. Since the band's demise, Byrne's talent for conceptual art, especially the art book, has really blossomed. 2001's The New Sins and 2003's Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information were about as sly, witty, and gorgeously packaged as contemporary art books get. This new volume is basically a sketch-book, albeit one that's jam-packed with whimsical humor and high-brow analysis. It's an engaging mix, especially when Byrne abandons sub-conscious noodling in favor of more focused social commentary. Keeping a straight face, he makes the reader smile, and think—an all too rare, but always appealing, combination.
"Issue No. 1" (Locus)
Local art magazines have a tough time surviving—some, deservedly so. But Locus is off to a promising start with this "Small Is Beautiful" issue, which succeeds on both counts. Almost pocket-size, it exudes beauty and a wonderful sense of curiosity without ever succumbing to preciousness or sentimentality. The entire issue merits a look, but Nathan Duncan's photographs (a peculiar and compelling mix of William Eggleston and Andrew Wyeth), an interview with pinhole camera enthusiast Chris Peregoy, and an essay by a rail-riding migrant worker from Baltimore are particularly noteworthy. Editors Emily Hunter and Arthur Soontornsaratool get kudos for choosing high-quality content that leaves readers wanting more. This issue sold out soon after its release, and a new issue hits the street next month. In the meantime, you may want to visit locusartmagazine.org.
I Keee You!! A Collection of Overheards
Edited by Benn Ray (Atomic)
Put together by Atomic Books co-owner Benn Ray, this slim (but potent) volume collects snippets of overheard conversation that have been brought to life by various illustrators and comics creators. By turns sobering and hilarious, the "overheards" (contributed by numerous sources, including Baltimore editor Hannah Feldman) provide candid, unvarnished peeks at urban life that seem straight out of The Wire or, at times, a John Waters film. Drug addiction and violence mingle with crudity and eccentricity, and the overall effect is oddly entertaining and somewhat enlightening. City Paper contributors Tom Chalkley and Emily Flake provide some of the best visuals.