By The Art Book Review

Reviews of art books.

Death in Sophie Calle, Edwidge Danticat, Louise Gluck, and Lynne Tillman

M. Whiteford, Managing Editor   It started with Bowie and Prince, then Leonard Cohen after Judgement Day 2016, and then, most recently, Sam Shepherd. Four icons of my childhood, whose faces were plastered on posters above my bed, songs on repeat in my head, whose words shaped me into the confluence of identities that I am, were gone. Poof like that taken from my world and I, and so many others, left abandoned. After Shepherd left, that gaunt face of cornfields and voice of the everyman, it hit me that this was the beginning of a series of losses that…

Tell Them I Said No

Reviewed By Maia Nichols   In order to detonate an artist, one must realize they are more galactic than any attempt to calcify them. On a patch of sunless turf, someone is maneuvering the institution of art, and all that it hinges on. In Martin Herbert’s Tell Them I Said No, gobs-cum-vestigial artworks are flipped upside down, each of them endpoints that annihilate any semblance of obedience.   While the strategy of disappearing is something of arts mainstay, the artists in Herbert’s book strut from the baby blue softcover, trailed by a series of issues tabled in contemporary art. These…

Thinking with the Body

Reviewed by Emily Mast   In the book Thinking With The Body, Simone Forti expresses her affection for the linguistic behavior of small crows called jackdaws. These birds make different sounds for different situations: to signal danger, to announce the presence of food, and to indicate directions. In the evenings, a jackdaw might sit on a branch and string the day’s sounds together, one after the other.   My copy of Thinking With The Body, which documents roughly two-hundred works by the artist, choreographer, and dancer Simone Forti, is egg yolk yellow, slightly dog-eared, and plumped up by a number…

Earth Changes

Reviewed by Tatiana Vahan   On a hike in Zion National Park, I put my hands behind my head, elbows pointed out, and closed my eyes as I walked, recalling an exercise performance artist, Guillermo Gomez Peña taught in a workshop at CalArts. He designated about twenty feet of open space so that each participant could take a turn running across the room with their eyes closed. The exercise was a lesson in Somatics– a study of internal physical perception. The average run was about fifteen feet after which most bodies came to a halt and eyes opened, surprised at…

The Theater Years

An Interview with Richard Maxwell and Tim Reid Theater often gets talked about in terms of the present. Here, in this book, there is that other sense, that other part of theater. That it is over; it has passed; what happened was a moment. In reading The Theater Years, there is a desire to linger, or flip back. It looks like something actually happened. Each image calls to the next image, the next page, the next play, to the end. The plays themselves are moments. Together they constitute a moment which is the company, New York City Players. This book…

Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us: Featuring Bill Burns, Bill Burns

Reviewed by Esmé Hogeveen In his 2016 memoir-cum-art world commentary Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us, Bill Burns leads the reader on an energetic jaunt through vignettes from his childhood in Regina, Saskatchewan and later years working as a professional artist in Canada and further afield. Like any experienced wilderness guide, Burns’ focus is always twofold. He details microcosms—in this case through sharp anecdotal visual and textual accounts of the relationships between the natural world, his art practice, and the purported art world ecosystem—while also compelling the reader to peruse the macrocosm from a position of constant motion. The art world…

HOLY HUNGER: You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends

  Reviewed by Meg Whiteford   Dear A,   Last night I hallucinated a man sitting in a Quaker chair. He was staring at me. I remember him wearing orange. I wasn’t afraid, just confused.   Still constantly imagining bodies floating upward and everyone on the ground pulling them back down again by the legs. Like a floating transcending air ballet.   I want to explore androgyny with you. Shave our heads at the napes and gather the rest in small buns at the crowns. Later we can try on suits and use each other as mirrors.   You are…

Such Mean Estate

  Reviewed by Rachel Lyon   In our world, entertainment about apocalypse has taken the place of religious prophesy. We watch films about the end of the world and, even as we know that ocean levels are rising, species dying, populations booming, and resources dwindling, we enjoy the show.   Ryan Spencer is the street photographer of apocalypse films. He watches on his laptop with a Polaroid camera in hand. Sound off, sometimes he listens simultaneously to a soundtrack of his own design, an unrelated album evocative of a feeling similar to what he wants to tease out. There are…

The day my mother touched Robert Ryman

Reviewed by Weronika Trojanska   I am trying to remind myself if I have ever seen any of Robert Ryman’s famous white paintings “live”. Some of them are apparently in the collection of Museum of Modern Art in New York. I remember perfectly that I was there, but I am not able now to call up his paintings. I don’t remember whether I saw them or not. Maybe because their surface is white and it just simply merged with the wall, becoming invisible. While on the same trip to United States, I missed visiting the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon…

Charles Atlas

Reviewed by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal   “It was never intended to be documentation. They were collaborations,” Charles Atlas tells Stuart Comer in an interview for this full-color monographic, 13”x 10” book representing fifty years of the artist’s work in 300+ pages. Atlas is speaking about his films and videos produced in conjunction with choreographers. As he reminds us, these works do not “document” dance. They are not “about” dance. Atlas’s best works are better described as dances themselves, managing to subject a stationary audience to movement’s swells and sways.   How to document these non-documents? Of course, Charles Atlas deserves…

Fuck Seth Price

Reviewed by Benjamin Lord   The Careerist without Qualities   Seth Price’s new book, Fuck Seth Price is a searingly pungent, often comic rumination on art world economies, myths, and power structures, presented in the form of an early 20th century novel of ideas. The artist-protagonist, an unnamed third person “he,” drifts through a mid-career haze in which every ladder has been successfully climbed, and all moral and aesthetic compass has been lost. Deep in an interiorized world of cultural-theory speculation, his will and his actions become dissociated. Decision-making becomes impossible, and there’s nothing left to do but disappear.  …

Notes Reach Towards: A Review of Show Bible

Reviewed by Allison Noelle Conner For the past month I have been puzzling joyously over Martine Syms’ Show Bible. Throughout my reading experience I kept stopping to ask myself: what is this? How to describe its slippery forms? Is it a notebook? Sketches for a film piece? Production collage? Stills from an experimental video? A documentary? Research for a pilot? *** How to convey to you the shock of the fuchsia text? The unexpectedness? The color immediately defamiliarizes your positioning as a reader, stranding you in a late night TV scramble rather than the pages of a book. It seems…

Marcel Broodthaers Works and Collected Writings

Reviewed by Zac Dempster     RONALD REAGAN: Marcel nothing is free you know. MARCEL BROODTHAERS: I am always in support of the act of writing. No matter how banal.   We’re accustomed to dining on egg shells, thigh bones and casseroles of shellacked mussels—signs of poverty and irony idealizing the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers’s daily bread. His was a two-sided discovery: in a world where writer and audience were finding themselves increasingly out of sync, no one writes to be read, but on the contrary, ersatz imitations sell. His scruples dashed, Broodthaers made sculptures late in life that could…

Sphinx

Reviewed by Leah Dieterich     The first thing you do when you read Sphinx is drop it face down in a puddle.   The puddle is poolside at a faux-Moroccan villa in the desert and is probably runoff from someone’s bathing suit crotch. Luckily, you grab it quickly enough that nothing is ruined. It is nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit and anything wet, dries.   You and your lover retreat to your room, deciding it is too hot for reading. The air conditioning is already running and you pull down the shades and lay on your stomach on the rug,…

Kodachrome

Reviewed by Erica Vincenzi     In 1978, Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri published the book Kodachrome, featuring a series of his photographs taken with the title’s namesake, the now-discontinued Kodachrome film. The second edition was recently printed in 2013 by MACK. According to the publisher, all aspects of the new edition – design, size, sequence of photographs, etc. – remain true to the 1978 version, except the prints themselves. MACK used current technology to reproduce the prints directly from Ghirri’s negatives, allowing for a rendering of the artist’s images that is more true to the soft, yet striking, colors characteristic…