Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Marisol, Lygia Clark, and Lee Bontecou are among the subjects of major books this season
Given Doug Aitken’s distaste for linear storytelling (his video works often play continuously, undermining the notion of a beginning or an end), it’s fitting that this book is organized the way it is. Essays are interspersed with long stretches of uncaptioned images, and, every so often, interviews with ubiquitous curator Hans Ulrich Obrist appear printed on unnumbered pages of a different color, texture, and width. It can be a confusing reading experience, but as one settles into the book’s particular reality and grasps its logic, the sensation is not unlike that of getting lost in one of Aitken’s disorienting videos of strange odysseys through deserted airports and hotel rooms filled with wild animals.
Marisol, the Pop artist whose use of wood, bronze, plaster casts, and readymades allies her with her better-known contemporary Jasper Johns, has long been neglected by the art establishment. The lush images of her riffs on Leonardo da Vinci, Venezuelan masks, U.S. politics and pop culture, and Native American headdresses in this book make an eloquent case for the artist. The catalogue accompanies Marisol’s first retrospective in more than 10 years, which began its tour at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, where it was organized by curator Marina Pacini. The show will travel to El Museo del Barrio in New York in October.
Lee Bontecou is known primarily for her steel sculptures—bold wall pieces that evoke tree rings and camera lenses, eclipses and war machines—but her drawings are just as commanding, as evinced in this new monograph devoted to her works on paper. Using graphite, charcoal, colored pencil, soot, pastel, and other media, Bontecou creates ferocious environments caught between the natural and the manmade. The book, written primarily by Menil Collection curator Michelle White, presents sketchbook pages and several previously unseen works, notably a ledger Bontecou salvaged from the streets of New York and filled with shapes suggesting spider webs, eyeballs, boxes, and bullet holes.
Amid the rotting werewolf heads, waxy stalactites, pineapples with teeth, tumorous masses of fake hair, and glittery gore presented on sterile glass shelves, wandering through one of David Altmejd’s room-size sculptures can feel like taking a wrong turn in a dream. In this comprehensive new monograph, Trinie Dalton writes that even Altmejd’s enormous environments are “antimonumental despite their ambition.” This is an apt way to describe the work, as the over-the-top assemblages of sometimes gruesome imagery can leave viewers unsure whether to laugh or to bolt. The book traces 20 years of Altmejd’s art, with sumptuous reproductions and insightful essays that parse his project’s virtues.
Basquiat’s works command staggering sums these days (a record-setting painting fetched $48.8 million last year), but two of his most devoted collectors have never sold a single piece. Lenore and Herbert Schorr met Basquiat in 1981 and bought his work until he died, seven years later. Now, Acquavella Galleries in New York is showing drawings from the Schorr Collection, and this book expertly explains their importance. Fred Hoffman, a former dealer who met Basquiat through Larry Gagosian in 1982 and co-curated the artist’s 2005 Brooklyn Museum retrospective, takes the reader through recurring themes in Basquiat’s oeuvre (boxers and Charlie Parker, among others), tackling the artist’s various styles and subject matter with direct and lucid prose.
Before the truly elegant essays in this book begin, the reader is presented with more than 200 pages of images that testify to the intensity and variety of Carl Andre’s prolific output. A titan of Minimalist sculpture, Andre also produced poems, and we see these along with photographs of his imposing installations involving wooden blocks, granite, steel rods, and other construction materials, as well as documentation of his many exhibitions. Shy of visiting Dia:Beacon, where dozens of sculptures, an ephemeral earthwork, and more than 160 works on paper are on view through next February in a retrospective curated by Yasmil Raymond and Philippe Vergne, this tome is the most comprehensive look at Andre’s work available.
Floating cities, “photon kites,” and structures on stilts: these are just a few of Lebbeus Woods’s imagined projects. In the tradition of such theoretical architects as Étienne-Louis Boullée, who defied the limits of 18th-century engineering with proposals for impossible-to-build monuments, Woods practiced architecture for decades without creating permanent structures (until 2012, the year of his death). Now, the Drawing Center in New York has published the diagrams, drawings, and plans comprising a traveling exhibition organized by Joseph Becker and Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Seen together, Woods’s work suggests a hybrid of Escher, Leonardo, and Piranesi, one that is irresistibly fanciful but underpinned by rigorous ethical and ideological convictions.
Looking at the drawings and notes that make up this reissued artist book, one yearns to claim Ray Johnson, the founder of the mail art movement, as a correspondent in this e-mail–benighted age. The project consists of the letters Johnson, who died in 1995, sent to his friend, the poet and Fluxus artist Dick Higgins, and is part of his movement, in which small works are sent through the post, creating a system of sharing work outside museums and galleries. By turns humorous, clever, and paranoid (“Dorothy Podber is going to put 183 agents in your apartment,” reads one scrap), the book grants readers highly personal access to Johnson’s unique mind.
Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988
Edited by Cornelia Butler and Luis Pérez-Oramas; Contributions by Sergio Bessa, Eleonora Fabião, Briony Fer, Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães, André Lepecki, Zeuler Lima, Christine Macel, and Frederico de Oliveira Coelho
The Museum of Modern Art
AMAZON POWELLS INDIEBOUND
Few artists have moved with such fluidity between movements and materials as the late Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, who died in 1988. This new monograph, published in tandem with her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (through August 24), curated by Luis Pérez-Oramas and Connie Butler, complements Clark’s protean practice with ten insightful essays exploring her influences and interest in architecture, among other themes. The book also includes examples of Clark’s own self-reflective writing. In a letter to her friend (and rival), the artist Hélio Oiticica, she wrote, “I am constantly changing, questioning myself in wonderment.” As it charts the evolution of her work from realist painting to geometric abstraction to ephemeral works involving the body, the book makes Clark’s relentless curiosity and experimentation abundantly clear.
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
By Scott Rothkopf; Contributions by Antonio Damasio, Jeffrey Deitch, Isabelle Graw, Achim Hochdörfer, Michelle Kuo, Rachel Kushner, Pamela M. Lee, and Alexander Nagel
Whitney Museum of American Art; Yale University Press
AMAZON POWELLS INDIEBOUND
Despite his titanic art world status, Jeff Koons has never been the subject of a retrospective, nor of a book this comprehensive. Charting every significant series of works, from basketballs and vacuum cleaners to paintings and pornography to blown-up tchotchkes and balloon animals, along with a wealth of ephemera, the catalogue delivers. Eight pithy texts from a diverse array of academics, writers, scientists, and museum folk (the contributions from novelist Rachel Kushner and Renaissance scholar Alexander Nagel particularly shine) augment Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf’s essay.