Artists' book bag: Indian carpets, Wil Barnet, David Bowie tour

Hand-knotted Indian carpets are an adopted craft. Instead of evolving from the demands of culture or climate, they were introduced to India in the 16th century by its Mogul conquerors, whose tastes ran toward everything Persian.

The rugs were splendid in the early days. But with the abduction of the last emperor of the Mogul dynasty by a Persian king two centuries later, the royal stimulus for this kingly craft was gone. Quality gradually declined, hastenedby Western whim and exporters' demands.

Questions of quality have prejudiced many experts against the Indian carpets, and, as a result, little space is devoted to them in most carpet books. But Indian Carpets, text by E. Gans-Ruedin and photos by Leo Hilber (Rizzoli, New York, $85) reverses the bias and treats them with deference. The photographs are large and beautifully reproduced. The writing is simple and general, and it is hard to know whether this should be attributed to the author or the translation. The same translator was used for Gans-Ruedin's ''The Great Book of Oriental Carpets'' (Harper & Row) with similar results.

While it is not a scholarly work and its price is surprisingly high, it fills a void as the only large pictorial record of Indian carpets available in bookshops today.

Wil Barnet, by Robert M. Doty (Harry N. Abrams, New York, 172 pp., $45) is the first major monograph on the artist, and his fans will not be disappointed.

The text, by Robert M. Doty, director of the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, N.H., traces Barnet's life, his 50 years of painting, and important influences on his work..

Growing up in Beverly, Mass., Barnet became exposed to art when he discovered the works of N. C. Wyeth, Daumier, and Rembrandt in a local library.

His 1935 painting ''Idle Hands'' illustrates his social consciousness, while his 1939 woodcut ''Early Morning'' displays his growing mastery of black-and-white depictions.

His abstract work of the the 1960s was praised by Monitor art critic Dorothy Adlow:

''There is a typical core in these seemingly total abstractions that are developed in a painstaking manner . . . a silent grandeur, a hidden magic in these depictions in which color modulations are realized with exceptional sensitiveness.''

Barnet's growing sensitivity directed him away from abstraction and back to the figure in serene, contemplative works. Today, his meditative women and cat pictures are particularly admired.

For the student, there is a bibliography, biographical outline, chronology, index, and lists of works in collections.

The 91 illustrations are mostly full page, and 48 are in full color. Gene Langley

With David Bowie's Serious Moonlight: The World Tour, by Chet Flippo, (Dolphin/Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 256 pp., $35) we at last have a bound portrait of the elusive artist on his recent world tour. ''David Bowie's Serious Moonlight'' is exquisite and refined. Chet Flippo details the verbal canvas, while Denis O'Regan offers the photographic palette. Together they create an intimate portrait of David Bowie's daily regimen. Rich in personal touches such as set lists, dressing-room shots, and ticket stubs, this book proves a refreshing treat to Bowie old-timers and an alluring introduction to the first-timers. Note: the premier attraction is the introduction written by the man himself. Whitney Woodruff

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