The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 13-JAN 14

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DEC 13-JAN 14 Issue
Art Books

The Ten Best Art Books of 2013

1. Wild Art
by David Carrier and Joachim Pissarro
Phaidon Press, $39.95

Unlike the constancy of discourse in the established art world by art historians, museum curators, and other experts to affirm the validity of certain works of art, Wild Art offers a new perspective, redefining what once had been considered “outsider,” “self-taught,” and “naïve” art.

Well structured into varying categories, democratically generous in its global reach, and compellingly illustrated (350 color images), the philosopher/art critic Carrier and the art historian/curator Pissarro have co-authored a thoughtful yet playful book. Alfred H. Barr Jr., who had advocated works by artists such as Joe Milone and Morris Hirshfield, and had included in his famous diagram of modern art other sources derived from non-European cultures—objects that were made by people who did not regard themselves as artists—would have been pleased with this publication.


2. Art Studio America: Contemporary Artist Spaces
Edited by Hossein Amirsadeghi and Maryam Eisler
Thames & Hudson, $95.00

Not since Alexander Liberman’s classic The Artist in His Studio (Viking Press, 1960) and David Seidner’s elegant and intimate Artists at Work (Rizzoli, 1999) has there been a more ambitious undertaking to broaden the scale of this sort of book with revealing studio photographs while also including insightful texts and wonderful interviews.

From dense New York City to light-filled Southern California, the work features well-known figures such as Joan Jonas, Kiki Smith, Francesco Clemente, Chuck Close, Nancy Holt, and Alex Katz as well as exciting younger members, including Dana Schutz, Lucas Blalock, Tauba Auerbach, Keltie Ferris, Rashid Johnson, and Elad Lassry. Art Studio America is a perfect and handsome coffee-table book that is a well-realized continuation of its predecessors.


3. The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power
by Victor S. Navasky
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95

By providing an everyday man’s reading of pungent texts that are as good as the accompanying images, Navasky, the legendary former editor of the New York Times Magazine and longtime editor of the Nation, has once again taken his incisive mind and keen eye for a walk-through history of political cartoons. The Art of Controversy demonstrates the visual continuity, established by Hogarth’s engravings, Goya’s aquatint/etchings, and Daumier’s lithographs, that fed right into Käthe Kollwitz’s woodcuts, and Ralph Steadman’s ink drawings, among other examples.

With 90 illustrations and four pages in full color, this is required reading for every college student and teacher of all fields and disciplines, because it’s witty and sharp.


4. A Troublesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson
by Jonathan Fineberg
University of California Press, $60.00

A long-awaited and in-depth monograph of the life and work of Robert Arneson, an artist who has infused the alchemy of clay with the funk aesthetic of everyday objects and self-portraiture, in ways that elevate their sustaining power through his insightful social and political observations.

With clear prose and thoughtful analysis of Arneson’s work, Fineberg narrates a distinct life that was fed by the complex psyche of American culture in the post-WWII period. This monograph should attract young artists who are interested in how to get beyond the problems of form and content in figuration.


5. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell
by Deborah Solomon
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28.00

It’s difficult to give full credit to Henry Luce’s declaration of the “The American Century” without Norman Rockwell’s illustration in the Saturday Evening Post. This is the first biography of its kind. Solomon provides accessible and well-researched insights about an artist whose works, once were defined as popular illustration, are now considered painted images, at once nostalgic and compelling in this age of digital information and globalism.

It’s equally difficult to imagine the works by contemporary artists like Lisa Yuskavage, John Currin, and others, without the foundation of images laid by Rockwell. A timely read for the holidays, especially after a good family meal.


6. Deborah Kass: Before and Happily Ever After
by Eric Shiner, with contributions by Robert Storr, Griselda Pollock, Lisa Liebman, and Brooks Adams
Catalogue of the artist’s first comprehensive exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(October 27, 2012 – January 6, 2013) Skira Rizzoli
Publications, Inc. $65.00

Deborah Kass loves art history, painting, Broadway, and popular culture, and has combined them with gusto. With illuminating essays offering various readings of Kass’s work from nearly four-decades of her career, the term “appropriation” has found its ideal “appropriator.” The questions of assumptions about male heroes and female heroines, about the issues of identity politics and gender studies, coinciding with deconstructivist views of art history and more, are tackled in Kass’s wide repertoire of silkscreened and painted imagery. Fearlessness has proven to be a necessity.


7. Amy Sillman: one lump or two
by Helen Molesworth, with contributions by Jill Medvedow, Thomas Eggerer, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, and Daniel Marcus. Catalogue of the artist’s traveling retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (October 3, 2013 – January 5, 2014), Aspen Arts Museum (February 14 – May 18, 2014), and the Hessel Museum at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (June 28 – September 21, 2014). Prestel, $49.95

This handsome volume contains wonderful texts by Medvedow, Molesworth, Eggerer, Lajer-Burcharth, and Marcus that explore different aspects of Sillman’s development as an artist from the mid-1990s to the present, and also includes a facsimile insert of one of the artist’s ‘zines.’

Along with well-selected illustrations of works in different media, the catalogue traces Sillman’s early exploration of cartoon imagery and the associative use of colors, her struggle for the unity of the physical legitimacy of the objects and the human body, her equally shared interest in figuration and abstraction, her attempts to reduce images that evoke the ambiguity of singular gestures in flux that are emphatically stable, and her ‘zines’ and recent forays into drawings made with an iPhone. Sillman continues to make painting alive, now as ever.


8. Mike Kelley
Edited by Ann Goldstein, Eva Meyer-Hermann and Lisa Gabrielle Mark
Catalogue of the artist’s traveling retrospective at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (December 15, 2012 – April 1, 2013), Centre Pompidou, Paris (May 2 – August 5, 2013), MoMA PS1, New York (October 13, 2013 – February 2, 2014), The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (March 30 – July 28, 2014).
Prestel, $85.00

This companion volume to the artist’s largest exhibition to date is a feast taken from countless visual documents of Kelley’s early formation, such as his involvement with the experimental band Destroy All Monsters (DAM), which also featured Jim Shaw, Cary Loren, and Niagara (born Lynn Rovner) in 1973 while Kelly and Shaw were students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; early performative sculptures and objects; drawings; paintings; handmade dolls and stuffed animal sculptures; photography; videos; and endless inventive installations in various forms and shapes that explore and deal with the themes of self-destruction, repression, class relations, sexuality, religion, politics, and whatever else lies between the grotesque and the sublime, the sacred and the profane.

Ultimately, every art student could definitely consider this particular publication an indispensible key to thinking.


9. Marcel Dzama: Sower of Discord
Essays by Bradley Bailey, short stories by Dave Eggers, interview by Spike Jonze, and a foreword by Raymond Pettibon.
Abrams, $65.00

This is the first monograph of Marcel Dzama, an artist who is known for his strangely surreal figures, hooded men and women with guns, dismembered cowboys, anthropomorphic trees, real and unreal animals, and flag­-bearers, among other inexplicable images and narratives. Lavishly illustrated, it provides a comprehensive study of the artist’s formative years as a co-founder and member of the artist collective, The Royal Art Lodge, and an overview the mature drawings, collages, and the recent dioramas, sculptures, and films.

However overt or subtle the pervasive themes of sex and violence, the relationship between power and submission, or male and female, in Dzama’s theater of absurdity everything is accounted for in the continuity of potential rebirth that lies between the real and the dreamed world, life and death. Included is also a large poster reproduction of the painting “Grand presentiments of what must come” (2012). As much as the presence of Dante, William Blake, and Marcel Duchamp are visible, what is strikingly remarkable is Dzama’s power of synthesis that resists any legible reading.


10. The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium
by Eleanor Heartney, Helaine Posner, Nancy Princenthal, and Sue Scott
Prestel, $29.14

In following the combined force of the four authors’ previous publication After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art, which featured 12 key women artists along with thoughtful revaluations of their contributions to contemporary art from the 1960s through the 2000s, this second volume is due.

By focusing on the accomplishments of 24 international artists born in the years following 1960 (Ghada Amer, Cecily Brown, Tracy Emin, Katarzyna Kozyra, Wangechi Mutu, Mika Rottenberg, Janine Antoni, Cao Fei, Nathalie Djurberg, Pipilotti Rist, Jane and Louise Wilson, Lisa Yuskavage, Kate Gilmore, Justine Kurland, Klara Lidén, Liza Lou, Catherine Opie, Andrea Zittel, Yael Bartana, Tania Bruguera, Sharon Hayes, Teresa Margolles, Julie Mehretu, and Kara Walker), this book is an indispensible study of important art in today’s visual culture, especially in a global context, and necessarily made more visible.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 13-JAN 14

All Issues