The Bookshelf

August 05, 2020
- Extracurriculars

Of all the things we are enthusiastic about at Funkhaus, art books hold a reigning position.

Collecting books is an art form in itself; from eBay bidding to stumbling across dusty underground stores, to curating shelves and tabletops. Books are like inanimate friends or teachers; they comfort, educate, and inspire. As a creative design agency, we are constantly expanding our collection of books, growing our library of resources and references.

Today we take a peek inside the collection of Funkhaus Design Director Rick Baker’s favorite books on subversive artists. Rick did not intend to thematize his selection of influential books, but the fact that he chose books with a common theme made him realize how inspired he is by the punk rock nature of artists working outside the establishment. Rick’s selection also features books made with an emphasis on quality. As a former zine designer, Rick is obsessed with binding, paper, printing techniques, and the way those details elevate the content.

Check out Rick’s top picks below.

Beastie Boys Book
by Michael Diamond / Adam Horovitz, Penguin Books
Here is a very original book with photos, drawings and stories of NYC, punk rock, rap and every bit of pop culture the Beastie Boys influenced in-between. But more than anything, it’s created and curated by ADROCK and Mike D in a more or less stream of consciousness type feel, and it’s got that ‘zine’ like design that feels a lot like the catalogs you’d see of painted trains and street art. Art books about bands are rarely this good!

Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry
by Julie Lasky, Chronicle Books
With politicians failing us and police getting dumber by the day, it’s therapeutic for me to look and listen to art that takes a stand. I grew up on punk rock and kinda’ missed a lot of the grunge music coming out of the PNW in the 90’s, so discovering Art Chantry’s work for Sub Pop Records and Estrus Records has been a real treat. I was drawn to this book not just for the subversiveness of the art, but also because of how good Chantry is across mediums. The collage work is fantastic, but his straight up graphic design shown in the logo explorations is incredible too.

Basquiat: Boom for Real
by Dieter Buchhart, Prestel
Jean-Michel Basquiat captured 1970’s rap, punk, street art, and early hip-hop music culture and turned that attitude onto the NYC art gallery scene and showed how fucked-up it really was. There are countless books out there featuring his work. This is one of the better ones and came out of the ‘Boom for Real’ exhibit at the Barbican museum in the UK.

Dawoud Bey: Two American Projects
by Corey Keller, Elisabeth Sherman et al., Yale University Press
I’m an Australian living in Los Angeles so I’m constantly learning about the ‘real America’. Dawoud Bey’s large-format street photography strikes a chord with me, but the ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ silver gelatin series on the the last fifty miles before black Americans fleeing slavery reached Canada is hauntingly beautiful work. The team at Pentagram that designed the book did a fantastic job too.

The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism
by Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher and Joseph Becker, Prestel
I’d never heard of ‘The Sea Ranch’ until I went to a talk at LACMA about it and watched an older lady in the crowd get in a one-sided argument with the speaker about which neighbor was ratting on the other. I was hooked! What was this weird hippy commune meets architectural utopia up in the sea-mist covered hills of North California?! If you love mid-century American architecture, environmental design, and thinking about things in a unique way, you’re going to love this book. SFMOMA did a show on this a couple years back and even built one of the homes inside the museum, super-graphics and all!

Voyager – The Grand Tour,
by Martin Eberle, Drittel Books
Nothing punk rock or subversive about this… unless you count radioactive, gold-plated copper records full of instructions on planet earth being shot into deep space in the 1970’s in the hope alien life would find them! I found this superb limited edition slip-case at the LA Art Book Fair a couple years ago. The most incredible, unlikely find. Only 300 copies made, with three separate volumes telling the scientific background of the mission and its extraterrestrial message. It’s an exhaustive compilation of the images present on the disc, and then photographs of Eberle’s journey to the Californian institutes that still supervise the probes on their voyage into the unknown!