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This is a review of a really interesting book I picked up. Published in 2010 the book is titled Street Knowledge by King Adz and includes a foreword by Irvine Welsh. Basically it's a slightly alternative coffee table art book but it features street art including graffiti, template and unusual sticker art.
The book has a great front cover, its main feature being the title which is cut out of the hard back cover like a template (which is a popular form of graffiti). You can see the inside cover through the gaps of the letters. Above the title which is in a blue cloud is a manga character peeking over the title at you and below is a mismatch of graffiti which blends down to the edge of the page. The book also acts as a sort of travel guide, pointing out places of interest amongst the art coverage.
Inside the book, after the foreword, the pages are split into an A-Z of street knowledge visiting all corners of the world. Over the past 25 years, writer and filmmaker King Adz has been getting to know old school graffiti legends, avant garde street artists, DJs, writers, poets, designers and musicians to produce the insider's guide to street culture.
A random pull
To give an example of this book's content I am going to randomly pick from the 322 pages to give a flavour of the contents.
- P142 falls on an account about The KLF, a top selling pop group in 1991. The text talks of their influences ("acid house with a twist") and the people in the group. The opposite page has a picture of the album artwork. Remember their hit "Justified and Ancient?"
- P88 all about Kate Gibb, an artist who uses silk screen printing. An interview and pictures of her work feature.
- P78 under Film, Adz mentions his favourite film and TV and the opposite page features an amazing photograph of the entrance to an underground cinema. A tiled archway features graffiti, sticker art, stacked beer barrels, a hanging strange artwork of a man biting a dog's leg. The cinema is captioned "Mental cinema deep inside Forte Prenestino".
- P277 - Vinyl toys and character art - "has blown up since 1997" (haha). Pictures on the page opposite feature a demonic looking Jack Black clutching a guitar and a polar bear licking its bum.
- P290 - a page of pictures featuring web links titled: "Wicked Stuff to Check" and some interesting logos, photos, artwork, posters and craft work.
- Many of the pages feature montages of interesting graffiti including the famous Banksy's work.
For me, street art is something I don't normally notice an awful lot unless I am on holiday and being observant. In this book, the artwork is interesting, in some cases outstanding and really draws you in. The photography is excellent and has been well displayed on the page. It's one of those books that you don't read in one sitting but have a look at every now and again. I actually picked up the book for the amazing artwork planning to use it in some sort of origami project but the book is so lovely I can't bring myself to do that to it!
Price and availability
On Amazon this book retails for £14.99 or Kindle version for £6.99 but I think this is a better book to hold and see physically due to the quality of the illustration. Now for the annoying bit: I picked up my copy in The Works bookshop for just 99p. That is unbelievable value for a book of this quality.
As this is something I stumbled upon, I am aware that this review probably doesn't do this book the justice it deserves. I have merely enjoyed it as an outsider who can appreciate good photography and artwork. I did find the text a little hard to follow and not all the photos seem to be referenced as to location, and I suppose they don't always know who the artist is.
I've had this book for a few months now and it is one that I keep picking up and looking at. It really does draw you in and appreciate the talents of a lot of artists out there who just share their art for the love of it. I appreciate that graffiti and tagging can look ugly and unskilled for example on the railway lines, when it is just symbols but this book shows that it can be beautiful too. Parts of the book are not for me and I will just skip these pages, looking for something that interests me. The cover definitely drew me to this book and it is one I will continue to enjoy over the coming months.