So many fine-art books are designed in such a staid, expected way that a book like One Thousand Drawings comes as a treat: Tracey Emin and Rizzoli could so easily have just thrown a bunch of her drawings on heavy, high-gloss stock, slapped one of her more risqué images on the cover, charged $100, and sold plenty of copies. Instead, they made a thick block of a book whose chunkiness contrasts delightfully with the fragile onionskin paper inside.
Oh, and Emin’s drawings are nice, too. Wait, I take that back. Emin’s work is never nice. Not being nice is her hallmark. But it still feels a little sneaky to look at one of her scratched birds, nudes, or fragmented words and think, “That’s pretty!”
La La La La La, 1997
The reader doesn’t get to sneak for long, though. Plenty of rough stuff sits amid the spot-on design and safer sketches: Nudes crouch under furniture, jerk off, sprawl on examining tables. Ultimately, Emin won’t be taken for granted. A blue drawing of a bird head comes with the scrawled caption, “Nothings [sic] that cute.” But some things, like this book’s perfect blend of vulnerability and tactile pleasure, are that tender.
Bath White III, 2005