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Posted inBooks

One Bag, One Month, Two Books: Michael Cunningham on Art World Angst & Learning from Las Vegas in Vegas

With a month on a plane, I had boredom on the brain and packed what books I could to feed it. The worst decision I have made to date was to bring Michael Cunningham’s latest novel By Nightfall with me and read it over the first few days of jetting … because the book’s protagonist, Peter Harris, is an art dealer suffering from a crippling bout of nihilism and, when you’re setting out from New York City to look for what’s happening elsewhere in the art world, the least helpful thing to bring along is a book busy interrogating everything that underpins the creation, enjoyment, and dissemination of contemporary art. But I read on, attentive to detail in a fit of masochistic idiocy, and because I had room in my backpack for two books and the other one I brought was Learning from Las Vegas, which I wanted to save, of course, for Las Vegas.

Posted inBooks

A Review of Designing Obama: The Book

By now, we all know that the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign was a great leap forward for the aesthetics of US election campaign, so it should come as no surprise that the director of the Obama campaign, Scott Thomas, decided to publish a book about the innovative Obama design brand and its impact on American pop and design cultures. The resulting book, titled Designing Obama: A Chronicle of Art & Design from the 2008 Presidential Campaign, is an attractive product that includes a short foreward by Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and an introduction by graphic design guru Steven Heller, who cleverly calls the brand “O Design.”

Posted inBooks

Review of Street Art New York, by Rojo and Harrington

Imagine a gallerist bringing new art works into the gallery. She pulls her truck up to the gallery curbside, gets out, and starts taking some paintings out of the truck bed. She takes one out just as she realizes that she hasn’t unlocked the gallery doors. So, she places the artwork on the curb and sets off to unlock the gallery. This person has intentionally placed art in the street. Is it street art? Obviously not. So what makes something street art if not the art’s being intentionally placed in the street? It might even seem that street art needn’t be literally in the street at all, so long as one accepts that Blu’s MUTO and similar works are street art — as a digital video it has no literal or direct connection to the street. Street artistic status must hinge on something else. So what is it?

Posted inBooks

Reading Martha Cooper’s Tag Town & Going Postal

In the world of graffiti, Martha Cooper is a cult figure. She’s an old skool photog who, along with Henry Chalfant, documented the fast-changing world of New York graffiti and unintentionally helped make it sexy and digestible for public consumption. Her book Subway Art, co-authored with Chalfant, kickstarted the graff book genre that has ballooned (for better or worse) into a full-blown field that witnesses hundreds of books published a year.

Since the influence and impact of Subway Art is well-know, I chose to focus this review on two more recent works by the graff photography veteran which were published in that last few years, Tag Town: The Evolution of New York Graffiti Writing and Going Postal.

Posted inBooks

Flipping through MOMO’s “3am-6am”

It’s an epidemic in street art publications, picture books with no little or no text and often no photo credits or explanatory text. The democratization of publishing, accompanied by the popularity of street art, has created a mass delusion that just because anyone could that everyone should publish a street art book. It’s far from the case.

MOMO is one of my favorite New York street artists though I tend to dislike his work outside (or is it inside) of that context. Nowadays, his large abstract paper pieces are plastered on construction sites and sidewalk overhangs throughout downtown Manhattan and northern Brooklyn.

Posted inBooks

DIWhy? A Review of New Asshole, Issue 1.2

The second issue of Manya Scheps’ quarterly critical journal New Asshole launched on the internet recently in .pdf format. The journal, a self-described “DIY critique of DIY,” focuses primarily on goings on among the collective and community-based art scenes in Philadelphia. (Full disclosure–this is a scene I only recently left to pursue a graduate degree, and an article of mine was published in the first issue. It was a piece of writing that the editor copy & pasted off of my blog without my prior knowledge.)

New Asshole succeeds, however, in not limiting its scope to the politics of the art scene and extends its grasp to act as a sounding board for critical inquiry within the community. Put simply, it exists to call artists and collectives to task, creating a forum where “DIY,” “hip,” or “rad” art can be discussed critically and held accountable.