COLUMNS

  • Molly Nesbit’s The Pragmatism in the History of Art

    IN THEIR COMMON SENSE (2000), Molly Nesbit interpreted Cubist lines as “an embrace of the language of industry.” Art was steered into that embrace, she argued, by the French sculptor and arts administrator Eugène Guillaume and minister of fine arts Antonin Proust, who introduced rationalized methods of drawing into the nation’s school curriculum in 1881. Art, when it adopted the technical line, a graphic system “equated with truth” and no longer grounded in ordinary vision, “fell outside itself and produced its own inversion, rupture.” “Art history,” Nesbit continued, “speaks of this rupture as

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  • Walker Evans: The Magazine Work

    THIS BOOK IS ABOUT the overlooked work of Walker Evans. We know the iconic photographs he made in the South in the mid-1930s, we know his subway portraits (shot between 1938 and 1941, though not published until twenty years later), and we know the memorable Polaroids he made at the end of his life. But his early magazine work (his first published folio was in 1930, in the Architectural Record) and his years with Luce publications—briefly at Time and then at Fortune magazine, from 1943 to ’65, as special photographic editor for the last seventeen years—have been either ignored or

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  • The Letters of Paul Cézanne

    CÉZANNE WOULD HAVE HATED THIS BOOK—and Artforum, and me, for reporting its existence.

    Writing in April 1896, angry at “scoundrels who, for a fifty-franc article, have drawn the attention of the public to me,” Cézanne complained, “All my life, I have worked to be able to earn my living, but I thought that one could paint well without attracting attention to one’s private life. Certainly an artist wishes to improve himself intellectually as much as possible, but the man should remain obscure.”

    Cézanne was then fifty-seven, and the reverberations of his first solo exhibition were continuing

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  • The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni

    THIS BOOK WAS ASSEMBLED by two determined amateurs, who rescued the dusty archives of Omni magazine from abandoned storage facilities. Brian Aldiss used to say that the core moral tale of science fiction is “Hubris clobbered by Nemesis.” At a cynical glance, that would be much the story told here.

    Omni was a science-fiction magazine from 1978 to 1998, and the glossiest, best-selling one, for a while. Therefore, The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni is very much a science-fiction art book. However, it’s science-fiction art as redefined by the capricious mind and capacious pocketbook of Bob Guccione,

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  • Laurie Simmons

    From my first viewing of Étant donnés as a young art student in Philadelphia, Marcel Duchamp has been The Man. I’ve rarely met an artist who didn’t obsess at some point about Duchamp’s work, personal life, or enigmatic style. So I’m sure I’m not the only one eager to jump into the Museum of Modern Art’s revised edition of Calvin Tomkins’s Duchamp: A Biography, which originally appeared in 1996. This updated version will reveal significant new material, including details about Maria Martins, the great love of Duchamp’s life, and more on the making of the artist’s endlessly generative final work.

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  • Chris Stein

    I am about halfway through Jeff Vander-Meer’s novel Annihilation (FSG Originals), which is the first of a fantasy trilogy; the second book, Authority, came out in May. VanderMeer takes risks with his form and strange context. An adventurous mash-up of sci-fi, poetry, and psychology couched in lush imagery, very circular and dreamlike. I’ll definitely stick it out through the series.

    Chris Stein is a musician and the author of Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk (Rizzoli, September 2014).

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  • Simon Denny

    Edward Snowden’s ongoing revelations have unveiled not just information but a total feast of complex visual and stylistic material, and the sprawling range of leaked interior documents—from the naff to the authoritative (and arriving in as many formats)—is proving to be among the richest cultural content released within the past year.

    In this unparalleled news experience, Snowden’s authorial equal might be Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose comprehensive No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Metropolitan) will likely stand as

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  • Svetlana Alpers

    Instead of waiting for the summer, I read That Which Is Not Drawn right off—another brilliant design from Seagull Books, presenting the artist William Kentridge in conversation once again. This time, he is in Kolkata with the anthropologist Rosalind C. Morris. The topic is the spoken and the hidden, or, what Kentridge has not yet drawn. At the heart of the matter are the distinctions that make his timely art what it is: moving images rather than still; metamorphoses instead of individuals; continuity, not loss. The “virtues of bastardy” is the provocative phrase Kentridge uses to sum it

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  • Darby English

    Summer is the season for foreground music, when our desire for melodic accompaniment is on spectacular display. It cradles the widely held conviction, astutely explored by Barry Shank in The Political Force of Musical Beauty (Duke University Press), that the word song does rotten justice to certain units of musical experience. As, for instance, when some tune, in the process of unfolding itself, appears at once to exist for us alone and to matter beyond measure. It can happen in a club or a car or a chair. Such an experience’s apparent privacy can make its “political force”—Shank’s apposite

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  • Mark Flood

    I can’t wait to own The Complete Eightball 1–18 (Fantagraphics), the forthcoming collection of Daniel Clowes’s legendary ’90s series—which includes, among many amazing things, the original “Art School Confidential” comic (1991). The reissue looks like it will be delightfully lavish!

    And I will certainly read filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Where the Bird Sings Best (Restless Books) whenever it finally emerges. The memoir is being billed as a “psychomagical” autobiographical narrative.

    Mark Flood is an artist based in Houston.

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  • D. Fox Harrell’s Phantasmal Media

    THE MYSTERIOUS GRAY AREA between cognitive science and computer science has long held broad allure, seducing thinkers at least since the time of Norbert Wiener and the theorization of cybernetics at midcentury. In the ensuing decades, what began as the technical field of artificial intelligence has increasingly captured the imagination of an emerging generation of prolific scholar-artists who are mining AI for new forms of expression and reception. Working primarily in institutional contexts characterized by descriptors such as new, integrated, and digital media, they are pursuing intensive

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  • Masha Gessen’s Words Will Break Cement

    IN THE MONTHS since journalist Masha Gessen wrote the postscript to her riveting history of Pussy Riot, a lot’s happened. Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, two of the women imprisoned for their guerrilla performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in early 2012, were released in advance of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s grudging, Christmastime concession to world opinion. In February, after Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina spoke at an Amnesty International concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, an open letter from Pussy Riot appeared

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