As a nun who embraced both pop culture and contemporary art, Corita Kent refracted the messages of religion through the populist medium of printmaking, leaving a legacy of vibrant art that is just now being fully explored. A new book from Prestel, Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, published in conjunction with a museum survey of the same name, delves into the three decades of work created by the activist artist.
Culled from old medical illustrations and National Geographic, pornographic, motorcycle, and fashion magazine clippings, Wangechi Mutu’s writhing female figures have a dangerous beauty to them, one that’s grotesque and alluring all at once. A traveling exhibition — recently closed at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art and opening in October at the Brooklyn Museum — surveys her experimentation with history, gender, and race since the mid-1990s.
In Nancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary (Prestel, 2012), performer Elizabeth Streb relays an anecdote about artist Nancy Grossman startling her by wearing a monkey fur jacket. It’s one of those images that has an unsettling, visceral nature to it, like striding through life in a skin ripped from another person, the carnal texture of some sliced up simian.
Graffiti and tattoos seem like total opposities. One is ephemeral, lasting only until it’s painted over by the city or other writers, the other is forever, or at least unless you decide to rip the ink back out of your skin. Yet there’s been abundant crossover in the aesthetic style, but what’s more interesting is graffiti writers who have moved to tattooing as their main focus.
Who cares about bad graffiti or street art? The spray paint scrawls of ill-chosen tag names (“Piggy Nasty,” “Pony Tail,” “Tricky Trout, Jr.”), reckless vulgarity (penises and boobs drawn on absolutely everything), and sad drawings that barely shape into the animal, face, or whatever they’re trying to be, who cares about all that? Usually these aerosol-on-concrete creations just fade into our visual background without a second glance, but artist Scott Hocking has recognized them for the masterpieces of mediocrity that they are in a photography book appropriately called Bad Graffiti, released in December 2012 by Black Dog Publishing.
You’ve probably seen Irving Harper’s work even if you don’t know his name. His “Ball Clock” made for the Howard Miller Clock Company is an icon of mid-century Atomic Age design; his Marshmallow Sofa, created in the 1950s/60s for Herman Miller, is a continuously popular and curious piece of furniture with its connected circular cushions. He is one of many designers whose name was buried by their branded studio, in his case George Nelson Associates where he worked from 1947 to 1963. Yet his work in another medium, paper, has been even more overlooked, largely because it’s rarely been exhibited outside his home in Rye, New York.
Jai Arun Ravine’s The Spiderboi Files: Volume 1 is a careful, intentional work of book art with themes that reverberate delicately through the book’s physical structure. Its content rattles a cage of constructs: commercialism, California and gender identity.