KATHE KOLLWITZ: Graphics Posters, Drawings, foreword by Lucy Lippard; introduction by Renate Hinz (Pantheon, $23.50; paperback, $12.95). Like great gnarled oaks, the figures who people Kathe Kollwitz' art are firmly earth-anchored. Beaten down by life, they are often pictured in rage, supplication or hope, their arms uplifted like weather-worn tree limbs. Kollwitz drew and sculpted with an Old Testament sense of outrage against the injustice and inhumanity of capitalism. Her subject was the working people of Germany; her art mirrored her political concerns from 1867 to 1945_the rise of socialism and communism, the Depression and two world wars. Her early work was inspired by the ravages inflicted on Silesian weavers by the advance of the textile industry. The mothers and children of her later years, like the figures in a sorrowful pieta, portray the tender love of motherhood: they cry out against the war and poverty that deprive mothers of their children, children of their childhoods. This collection is a powerful introduction to the world of an artist who proudly said: "It's all right with me that my work serves a purpose. I want to have an effect on my time."
IMAGES OF LABOR, introduction by Irving Howe; preface by Joan Mondale (Pilgrim Press, $29.95). Images of Labor catalogues "The Working American," an exhibition organized in 1979 by the Bread and Roses Project of the Hospital and Health Care Union. Irving Howe's text, an energetic defense of trade unionism, accompanies 32 paintings, drawings and sculptures; included are Robert Arneson's ceramic bust of the square- jawed Samuel Gompers, Edward Sorel's poignant drawing of boys picking slate deep within a Pennsylvania coal mine, and Judy Chicago's homage to the 146 women who died in the 1911 Triangle Factory fire. Here is an appropriate gift for any of the over 250,000 participants in last September's Solidarity Day.
FOLK ART OF THE AMERICAS, edited by August Panyella; photographed by Francesc Catala Roca (Abrams, $40). From the Arctic to Antarctic it's all here: The beadwork, wooden totems and intricate embroidery of Canadian Indians and Inuit artisans; the stark simplicity of Shaker furniture and whimsical romantic figures of the Bird-of-Paradise quilt; the curlicues and fluorescent pinks of the Mexican Tree of Life; the ubiquitous Central and South American masks, some ferocious and others hilarious. Folk Art of the Americas catalogues the crafts of Indian, Mestizo, black and white peoples of this hemisphere. Roca's thousand color photographs aren't of the carefully lighted, velveteen- backgrounded museum variety: They show artisans working in their homes, at markets, in the fields, and are meant to convey a sense of how crafts come into being. Panyella's text explains the why and whence of American folk art with emphasis on the most characteristic crafts of each country. Each nation's section includes maps showing the location of various schools of artisanry and ends with a catalogue of the pieces described.