Fetishism, which accompanies an exhibition touring England, is a sloppy attempt to link the West African tradition of “power object” fetishism with 20th-century surrealism and Western sexual fetishes. The book’s four dense essays perfectly reflect the overwrought quality of the artwork in the show. The best part of the book is a brief history of African power figure sculpture accompanied by a section of fine colorplates displaying these eerie aboriginal works. Other essays, covering surrealist fetishism and evidence of the broader acceptance of alternative sexuality in contemporary art, fall flat with excessive intellectualizing and overreliance on Freudian theory. These selections of artwork lack focus, and the reader is left unconvinced that any continuum exists between the anonymous carvers of West Africa and today’s sexually frank culture.

The act of drawing has long been considered the foundation of an artistic education, and the life class essential to the formation of an artist’s style and technique. Yet in the contemporary art world drawing is increasingly regarded as a medium in its own right, and the figure as a subject for ongoing exploration well beyond the sketchbook. Drawing People is a thoughtful and beautifully illustrated survey of the most compelling and inventive drawings of the human form being produced today by 70 contemporary artists from around the world. An introduction places the medium of drawing in its historical context, discussing its intersection with photography, painting, collage and illustration, as well as its ability to intimately express thought, personality and emotion. Five chapters-Body, Self, Personal Lives, Social Reality and Fictions-include short introductions outlining each theme, followed by generously illustrated profiles on individual artists exploring their style, approach to the medium and the ideas, narratives and inspirations that lie behind their mark-making. A selection of finely reproduced images highlights the latest work by each artist. Drawing People features an international roster of artists working with pencil, ink, watercolor, charcoal and crayon, including Francis Alÿs, Charles Avery, Louise Bourgeois, Francesco Clemente, Adam Dant, Marlene Dumas, Dr. Lakra, Paul McCarthy, Nalini Malani, Wangechi Mutu, Raymond Pettibon, Rosemarie Trockel, Tal R, Marcel Dzama, Barry McGee, Amy Sillman and Kara Walker. Together, their drawings and sketches, illustrations and animations bring to life one of the most creatively rich and emotionally powerful forms of art being made today.