Matthew John Winters is an artist and designer living and working in Austin, Texas. Winters is well known for his ubiquitous peppermints, humorous light boxes and killer valentines. We also highly recommend you join him on his Instagram journey at @everysecondoftitanic.
I have a pretty sizable art book collection. It helps having worked in museums and galleries for over ten years. Some of the books are souvenirs from great museum shows, others are catalogues raisonnés of my favorite artists, and a few are just weird books I picked up at used bookstores and can’t bring myself to get rid of. Here is a list of some of my favorites.
Painting at the Edge of the World by Douglas Fogle, Walker Art Center
I never had the chance to see this show in person, but the catalogue was unbelievably influential to me while I was in art school. This book is jam-packed with heavy hitters like Julie Mehretu, Jim Lambie, Martin Kippenberger, John Currin, Rudolf Stingel, and Takashi Murakami. And at a time when the idea of “painting is dead” loomed in every overlong critique, this book was a breath of fresh air. I still look through it and am floored by the collection of talent and execution.
Art in Chicago, 1945–1955, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
I found a used copy of this at BookWorks when I lived in Chicago. I was already a huge fan of the Chicago Imagists such as Roger Brown, Jim Nutt, and Ed Paschke, but this book expanded my knowledge of the city’s artistic history. I was also convinced that Chicago’s main contribution to the arts was its architecture, so Art in Chicago helped me reconsider the city I was living in.
Eberhard Havekost: Harmonie: Paintings 1998–2005 by Thomas Köhler, Susanne Köhler, and Annelie Lütgens
I don’t remember where I saw Eberhard Havekost’s paintings for the first time, but they definitely stuck in my brain. There is something about the way he combines photorealism with the analog inconsistency of digital media. It’s like someone took a magnet to a television set. His subject matter fascinates me, as well. His work is a carefully cropped and edited collection of masculine identifiers that have been overdubbed with static. He’s like a cyborg Gerhard Richter.
Masters of American Comics edited by John Carlin, et al.
When I was a kid I read the newspaper comics every day. And going to an art museum and seeing the same comics elevated to fine art made me ecstatic. It felt like “Fuck you, Pissarro, it’s Snoopy’s time to shine!” All joking aside, this show was excellent, and the catalogue is brilliant. It stands as a collection of the medium’s finest early artists paired with essays by amazing contributors (like that guy who invented Homer Simpson). And if you have never seen the comic Little Nemo in Slumberland, do yourself a favor and check it out right now.
Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is by Lisa Wagner, Trinie Dalton, and Eli Horowitz
When Trinie Dalton was working as a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles school system, she would often confiscate student doodles and passed notes. This book is a catalogue of those notes mixed with doodles and sketches from some of L.A.’s best emerging artists. It is a crack-up. I loved to doodle and pass notes when I was in middle and high school (I even made a few bucks being commissioned to make lewd drawings of teachers).
I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World by Trevor Paglen
My dad was in the Navy, and I have two uncles who were in the Air Force, so my brothers and I were always getting hats and patches as souvenirs when we were kids. I was especially into the insignia designs on the patches. They were emblazoned with skulls, knives, dragons, wildcats, and witches. Like every fighter pilot is also really into Dio. Trevor Paglen’s book takes it one step further and unearths the secret patches of the black ops divisions. It amazes me that it is someone’s job to sew a green-faced alien on a patch for a secret government program. PS: If you ever are in Pensacola, Florida, go to the Cubi Bar Café at the National Naval Aviation Museum: The walls are covered with thousands of patches, plaques, and shields.
This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s by Helen Molesworth
I grew up mostly in the ’90s, but I have a brother and sister who are ten and twelve years older than I am. Their influence makes me identify with the 1980s (next time we are at karaoke I will wow you with my version of “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael). The show This Will Have Been explored the motivations of the artists caught up in what can only be described as a really weird decade. The catalogue of the show is beautiful as well, with careful consideration not to present itself as a neon eyesore. And there’s no Keith Haring.
Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! by Art Spiegelman
Between 2007 and 2012 the only books I read were comics. I was working at the University of Texas, and I discovered a large graphic novel section in the Perry-Castañeda Library. I read a lot of junk, but I also stumbled across some gems like Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes. In 2008 Art Spiegelman released an anthology of his work, and I was quick to get it. It’s an odd-shaped book and always sticks out on any shelf I put it on. But inside you will find early foundations for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus and his fantastic piece about September 11. Don’t worry, there’s fun stuff in there, too, although no references to the Garbage Pail Kids. I bought a signed copy of this book without knowing, and it’s one of my most prized possessions.
Remote Viewing: Invented Worlds in Recent Painting and Drawing by Elisabeth Sussman, Whitney Museum of American Art
I went to this show back in 2005, and it was like eating a tab of acid. The show was borderline sensory overload, but I loved it. It was also the first time I got to see the actual works of two of my favorite artists, Julie Mehretu and Franz Ackermann. Looking through the catalogue is like having a flashback.
Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America’s Forbidden Funnies, 1930s–1950s by Bob Adelman
I got this book for a birthday present. Tijuana Bibles were these risqué comics that spoofed popular characters and public figures back in the day. So if you ever wanted to see Donald Duck get it on with Minnie Mouse, pick this collection up. These types of comics paved the way for Mad magazine and created pathways for civil disobedience through art. I like to imagine my grandparents reading a few of these while enjoying a nice glass of ice cold 2% milk.