“To publish in print is old fashioned,” Lucy Ives observes in these pages, in a sustained look at contemporary artists who act as publishers. These artists, she continues, “imagine a reader who is sensuously aware, rather than paranoid or anxious.” It is a wonderful argument for the power of the printed page—I think of Honoré Daumier’s images of readers, with their sense of total absorption—including the pages in the magazine you hold in your hands right now.
For this edition of our annual Summer Reading issue, we present you with a feast of approaches to the written word, from books by artists to artist biographies, from the book as a museum to reading performed in a museum. Jackson Arn takes stock of artist biographers, from Renaissance mythologizer Giorgio Vasari to Picasso chronicler John Richardson. The best of them wrestle with the tantalizing, ever-mysterious relationship between artworks and life stories. Photographer Dayanita Singh’s books take many forms. Her latest effort, she tells Tausif Noor in a lively “In the Studio” interview, includes DIY instructions for how to turn her books into exhibitions, and even turn yourself into the venue: “[B]uy a long jacket and cut pockets of a certain size, so that you can wear nine museums. You can walk into a room with them and invite everyone to a Dayanita Singh opening then and there. Pull out one of the books and hold it up: just like that, you’ve become the museum.”
There has been much talk over the past year of the prospect of a new sort of Roaring Twenties. In anticipation of our emergence from the pandemic, we were supposed to rush into a new golden age, comparable to that of the previous century, fueled by pent-up demand for sociability. Instead, we find ourselves in a world shadowed by war, fear, and recurring lockdowns, a stew of circumstances not dissimilar from those that led to Dada. And, as though on cue, we have our very own Dadaist in Nora Turato, whose performances, as writer Jameson Fitzpatrick puts it in a profile of the artist, “captur [e] the feeling of navigating the chaotic, confusing nonsense of the information age.” There is nothing passive about reading. —Sarah Douglas, Editor in Chief
LaKela Brown’s “archaeological” relief plaques reference jewelry and small objects linked to Black heritage.
The Work of Worms by Alice Channer with Amy Stewart
An artist and a horticultural writer discuss the ecological contributions of earthworms.
by Chen & Lampert
Artist-curators Howie Chen and Andrew Lampert offer tongue-in-cheek takes on art world dilemmas.
House of Xtravaganza by Maria H. Loh
Since the Renaissance, masculinity has often been expressed through surprisingly florid attire.
Value and Its Sources by Caitlin Meehye Beach
A review of Henry Sayre’s Value in Art: Manet and the Slave Trade and Anna Arabindan-Kesson’s Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton, and Commerce in the Atlantic World.
Q&A with Daniel Tobin, cofounder and creative director of UAP (Urban Art Projects).
FROM GOD TO 10,000 HOURS
by Jackson Arn
Whether it’s Vasari’s Lives or the latest tome on Warhol, artist biographies survey stories behind works we revere.
by Hannah Stamler
Children once inspired modernist artists—and now they’re a prime demographic for aspirational art books.
by Jameson Fitzpatrick
Nora Turato’s spoken-word performance work and publishing projects meld the bardic tradition with contemporary sales patter. A pull-out print by the artist accompanies the article.
IN THE STUDIO: DAYANITA SINGH
with Tausif Noor
The veteran Delhi-based artist explains why her wildly inventive photobooks are vital to the future of the medium.
by Lucy Ives
Independent presses and self-publishing have liberated artists to experiment freely with images and texts.
by Nicole Kaack
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City
Paula Cooper, New York
Kasmin, New York
Ortuzar Projects, New York
AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE
Iceberg Projects, Chicago
RYAN PATRICK KRUEGER
MONACO, St. Louis
François Ghebaly, Los Angeles
Shoshana Wayne, Los Angeles
Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah