Icepick: Too Cold

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In Icepick (Gingko Press; hardcover, $29.95), Icelandic graphic designer Thordis Claessen surveys her homeland's vibrant street art and finds it invigorating and inspiring. Covering a wide range of themes and subject matters–from Icelandic icons to shagging sheep, from Sigur Rós' stencilism to trumpet-playing tortoises, from blunt demands for world peace to wishes for a dramatic death (rather than a slow, painful one from tuberculosis)–Icepick is at its most powerful and compelling when transcending graffiti's overt New York influence and finding currency in a particularly Scandinavian brand of freakish folk art. (Check Surkula's simultaneously ugly/beautiful swan-armed goblins and skeletal dark-eyed women with fish bones in their bellies for starters.) But for Claessen, a well-placed sticker or a simple chalk-drawn slogan (such as "It's cold and hard to live in the Icelandic nature alone") is equally worthy of documenting as a painstakingly rendered piece. Look at the streets in a different way, urges the designer. "Graffiti and street art is an uncensored art form that hits you on the street corner and generally has a short lifespan," says Claessen. "Sometimes it really speaks to us. Sometimes it even gives us a great laugh."