Autumn is here, but the book fair season is in full bloom. It’s impossible to visit all the fairs, so allow us to recommend these 10 art titles for your reading list. The catalogue for Shelley Niro’s survey exhibition sparkles with the artist’s signature wit, while deliciously detailed van Gogh sketches may rekindle your appreciation for drawing. A collection of artist’s books from the late photographer Francesca Woodman offers a new perspective on her process, and an informative tome with a deceptively unattractive book cover shines a light on a historic New York City arts hub during the years after World War II. We hope they’ll introduce you to unexpected ideas, remind you of something you may have forgotten, or something else entirely. —Lakshmi Rivera Amin, Editorial Coordinator

Recently Reviewed

Stitching Love and Loss: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Lisa Gail Collins

After her husband passed away unexpectedly in 1942, Missouri Pettway sewed “Blocks and Strips Work-Clothes Quilt” from his denim, corduroy, and cotton farming clothes. In her new book, scholar Lisa Gail Collins captures a slice of the history of the Gee’s Bend community in Alabama through this singular quilt and the matrilineal Black artistic legacy it became a part of. Through thoughtful prose, she weaves a poignant portrait of the quilt’s spirit and life force in the Pettway family (including accounts from Missouri’s late daughter, Arlonzia, who went on to become a weaver and proudly carried forth her mother’s tradition), the afterlives of slavery and colonization in the region, and stitching as a way of both mourning and healing. It’s a deeply moving story enriched by Collins’s thorough research and slow, deliberate storytelling. Alexandra M. Thomas observes in a Hyperallergic review, “Along with the ‘stitching’ that intertwines the different cloth pieces and serves as a metaphor for intimacy and kinship, other verbs are relevant to the book, such as the labor of ‘gathering, carrying, and forwarding’ undertaken by Arlonzia Pettway.” —LA

Read the Review | Buy on Bookshop | University of Washington Press, June 2023

Contradiction Days: An Artist on the Verge of Motherhood by JoAnna Novak

Life may imitate art, but just as often, artists imitate other artists. Contradiction Days narrates one such case of fascination and embodiment: writer JoAnna Novak’s visit to Taos, New Mexico, to retrace the steps of artist Agnes Martin during her pregnancy.

Throughout the memoir, we’re fully submerged in Novak’s mind, during visits to the doctor, therapy sessions, and several art gallery visits, all recounted in meditative prose that takes a microscope to her thoughts while applying elements of Martin’s life and work to her own. In one passage bringing mental health, pregnancy, and artmaking together, Novak links her experiences with treatment and medication to the condescension that underlies some historical understandings of Martin’s paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis. An Artforum writer even used the term “madness” to describe the artist after meeting with her in the ’70s. Novak puts this too under her microscope and uses it to peel back further layers of her instinctual kinship with Martin. Another scene takes us into Novak’s writing process as she encounters Martin’s works in a gallery, down to the phrases she scribbled in her notebook as she traversed the exhibition. She shies away from very little, making for a rare, honest read. —LA

Read the Review | Buy on Bookshop | Catapult, July 2023

On Our Reading List

The Drawings of Vincent van Gogh by Christopher Lloyd

Vincent van Gogh was my favorite artist from childhood until more recently than I care to admit, and a new book bringing his sketches to the fore reminded me why. With a seemingly ceaseless stream of revelations around and interest in the Post-Impressionist artist, Christopher Lloyd’s dense, informative title serves as a welcome invitation to get back to basics. The art historian pulls from a wealth of previous studies of van Gogh’s drawings to illuminate the pieces that may not immediately recall his now-mainstream works for a refreshing peek into the line work and everyday processes at the foundation of his practice. He preferred to sprinkle milk on his drawings to fix and protect them, and treated preparatory drawings as works of art in themselves. Letters to his brother, Theo, were often adorned with sketches and contained his artistic worries or preoccupations of the moment; he confided in an 1882 letter that “life is the same as drawing: Sometimes one has to act quickly and resolutely, tackle things with willpower, take care that the broad outlines appear with lightning speed. It’s no use hesitating or doubting, and the hand may not tremble and the eye may not wander but must remain fixed on one’s purpose.” It’s rich with references, so best digested in pieces. And while you’re reading, you may feel inspired to pick up your pencil, too. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | Thames & Hudson, October 2023

Modern Art: Selected Essays by Leo Steinberg

This gathering of essays by renowned American art historian Leo Steinberg is a nice collection to acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with his work. A far stronger critic and historian of Modern Art rather than Contemporary Art (in my opinion), his essays on Cézanne, Money, and Ernst feel important and insightful, and this beautiful volume includes many illustrations that help you carefully consider his points. As the introduction mentions, Steinberg once described criticism as “a melancholy profession.” Here we get a taste of his sensibility and influential work at a time when New York City had an oversized presence in the commercial art world and critics and historians here were the center of the global “conversation,” even though it sometimes felt more like a lecture. —Hrag Vartanian

Buy on Bookshop | University of Chicago Press, October 2023

Mayan Toledano: No Mames

Photos of queer artists in Mexico City shine in Mayan Toledano’s new monograph, No Mames, a collection of moments that span the intimate, joyous, and serene. Vibrant compositions, quiet images of aplomb, and quotidian contentedness sing throughout the book, from friends applying glittering makeup to light filtering through gossamer curtains during a home haircut to someone squinting in the sun, donning butterfly wing lash extensions and bright pink eyeshadow. They’re bookended by colorful full-bleed drawings created by one of Toledano’s sitters, in addition to brief writings and snippets of conversations that capture the sense of community evident in each scene. Immortalizing queer Mexican artists in places they can fully call their own, Toledano offers a vision of the world through a radical lens of play and unmistakable tenderness that perfectly embodies the book’s title. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | Damiani, October 2023

In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now

Comprising writings from artists and academics alike, including Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero and scholar Laura Wexler, In Our Hands accompanies an eponymous show on view at the Minneapolis Museum of Art until mid-January. Several essays were penned by members of the exhibition’s Curatorial Council and reflect a slice of the breadth of Native photography, which has long been underrecognized by art institutions. Three sections, titled Always Present, Always Leaders, and A World of Relations, organize the contributors’ distinct, personal musings on their interest in photography and culminate in an essay by Kanyen’kehá:ka (Mohawk) artist Shelley Niro — more on her soon. —LA

Buy on Bookshop | Minneapolis Institute of Arts, October 2023

Love and Money, Sex and Death by McKenzie Wark

With Love and Money, Sex and Death: A Memoir by McKenzie Wark, the cultural theorist best known for works such as A Hacker Manifesto takes a surprising turn to the personal. The memoir provides an intimate look into Wark’s past and evolving understanding of herself through letter-writing. Coming out as a trans woman in mid life, the author negotiates her memories and relationships in letters to the young McKenzie, along with her late mother, sister, and past partners, as well as the Cybele, a Phrygian goddess of trans women, and other trans sisters. Wark’s poetic and direct language crafts an unusually moving text that draws on art, popular culture, and mythology. The result is an introspective narrative that both tells an individual’s story and conveys essential insights into gender and queerness, family, friends, and change. —Natalie Haddad

Buy on Bookshop | Verso, September 2023

The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever by Prudence Peiffer

As long as you can get over the ugly cover and the fact that it focuses only on a group of White artists in multicultural New York, this is a worthwhile book that tells the story of one influential locale, Coenties Slip, where post-World War II artists gathered in the Financial District area to make art. Some of the artists involved are significant names, including Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and James Rosenquist, but there are also lesser-known names that are nice to discover, including Delphine Seyrig and Lenore Tawney. The book is filled with useful details and historical facts, and while the writing suffers a little by an author who is trying to say too much in each paragraph, ultimately it’s a nice journey into a time period and place that the corporate art world loooooves to obsess over. —HV

Buy on Bookshop | Harper Collins, August 2023

Francesca Woodman: The Artist’s Books

Francesca Woodman has been the subject of numerous monographs and exhibitions since her untimely death in 1981 at age 22. For fans of her strange, beguiling, Surrealism-inspired works, anything new is worth a look, even if it treads familiar territory. But The Artist’s Books actually offers fresh insight into the mind and creative process of the precocious artist, and into her extensive body of work, as the first publication to collect all eight of her artist’s books, including two that have never been seen. Woodman created the books using antique notebooks from flea markets and bookstores she found while living in Rome. Interspersing photographs and writings, they serve as a time capsule preserving long-gone moments in the life of one of 20th-century photography’s most intuitive talents. —NH

Buy the Book | Mack Books, June 2023

Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch

I frequently meet First Nations and Native American artists who cite Shelley Niro as an influence, and this book, along with the retrospective at the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, demonstrates why. A talented polymath, Niro’s photography and object-making look more contemporary than ever, while her prints and paintings embrace populist and art historical styles and tropes freely, always making the world anew. Known for her “reappropriation” of imagery and strong focus on water rights and issues in her work (among other things), she “sees the world as frames by her Rotinonhsyonni gaze,” as Greg Hill explains in his catalogue essay, one of many that illuminate her art. At the core of Niro’s work is “truth”; each work unravels the complexity of what that means and each essay in this publication reveals one more facet of a larger story. —HV

Buy the Book | The National Museum of the American Indian and the Art Gallery of Hamilton, May 2023

Lakshmi Rivera Amin (she/her) is a writer and artist based in New York City. She currently works as Hyperallergic's editorial coordinator.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

Natalie Haddad is Reviews Editor at Hyperallergic and an art writer. She received her PhD in Art History, Theory and Criticism at the University of California San Diego. Her research focuses on World War...

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