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Umbrella Online - Current Issue

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ISSN 0160-0699

Volume 30, No. 1, Mar 2007

Book Reviews

Reference

Ann Hamilton: An Inventory of Objects by Joan Simon (New York, Gregory R. Miller, 2007, $60.00, dist. by d.a.p.) Is a major new publication of the work of one of today’s most important and influential artists. This is a comprehensive catalog of Hamilton’s object-based work from 1984 to 2006, including 130 color plates which document photographs, sculpture, video, audio and language pieces (both unique and editioned), as well as multiples and prints. Known for her large-scale installations, this labor-intensive work is known throughout the world.

In a beautifully designed volume with leather spine, cloth covers with an inset image designed by Hans Cogne, Swedish designer in conversation with the artist the sections of the book are divided by black embossed title sheets, and the book includes chronology, bibliography and index. Each item in the inventory is accompanied by a text by Joan Simon, who also has contributed a significant new essay setting Hamilton’s objects in critical context. This complete inventory of Hamilton’s objects made over the past 10-plus years is reproduced in this essential survey of Hamilton’s oeuvre.

The book, so essential in much of Hamilton’s early work, certainly is reflected in this beautiful object which surveys her work. One can reminisce at all the book-oriented work Hamilton did at the outset, including the two library commissions she did, one with Ann Chamberlain at the San Francisco Public Library, using some of the 50,000 library self-list cards hand-annotated by individual readers and the other one at the Seattle Central Library where she did wooden floors with relief reverse letter forms of “first lines” of selected books from the Literacy, English as a Second Language and World Languages Collection at the Central Library in Seattle. This serves as a reminiscence and an attempt to place Ann Hamilton in the ranks of the quietly influential artists of our time.

300 ans de manuels scolaires au Québec (300 Years of schoolbooks in Quebec), ed. By Paul Aubin (Montreal, Library and the National Archives of Quebec and the University Laval Press, 2006, $34.95 Canadian) is a catalog of an exhibition of reading tools for schools in Quebec with gorgeous color illustrations, discussions of these very rare but accessible collections at the Université Laval, the many forms of school manuals, 180 years of readers in Quebec and so much more. The influence of the Catholic Church is also an issue. If you are interested in reading, pedagogy, the formation of young minds for future growth, the different cultures living in Quebec, different presentations depending upon the diversity in this part of Canada, foreign influences, the evolution of reading tools for schools and the exploitation of various technologies such as films, transparencies, compact discs, etc. Schoolbooks and the whole exhibition are listed and so well illustrated. Text is in French.

José Guadalupe Posada and the Mexican Broadside by Diane Miliotes, with a technical note by Rachel Freeman (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2006, $9.95 paper)shows how Posasa influenced the generation who lived through and pictured the Mexican Revolution. Focusing on the Art Institute of Chicago’s impressive and previously unpublished collection of prints by Posada, the largest collection of his works outside of Mexico, this handsome, bilingual (English/Spanish) book examines his work and places it int he larger context of Mexican printmaking int he late 19th and early 20th centuries. Famous for his powerful and visually arresting newspaper illustrations and woodcut broadsides covering everything from news to religion, Posada’s place in the panoply of great masters is strengthened by this wonderful publication. 15 black and white and 25 color illustrations.

Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art: Experimentations in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan 1950-1970, edited by Charles Merewether with Rika Iezumi Hiro (Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, 2007, $39.95 hardcover)) documents the collaborative, ephemeral, self-reflective, multidisciplinary work of postwar Japanese artists, generated by the rapid series of experimental artistic movements that energized the public sphere at that time in spite of the enduring engagement of Japanese artists with Western modernism. For two short decades, a small but progressive group of visual artits, musicians, dancers, theater performers, and writers variously confronted the fraught legacy of World War II in Japan, which included occupation by a foreign power, growing economic inequality, and the clash between repressive social mores and an increasingly industrialized, urban, and consumer-oriented culture. Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art offers an introduction to this highly charged and innovative era in Japanese artistic practice.

Published in conjunction with the exhibition on view through 3 June 2007, this catalog features objects, books, periodicals, photographs, and other ephemera crated by artists associated with Experimental Workshop, Gutai, High Red Centre, Neo Dada, Provoke, Tokyo Fluxus, and VIVO, among others. There are 57 items made by artists in the exhibition showing the significant exchanges and collaborations that occurred between Japan, Europe, and North America during a time when Japan was rapidly transforming itself after World War II.

Artists associated with these groups are Yoko Ono, Kosugi Takehisa, Tanaka Atsuko, and Matsuzawa Yutaka, as well as Ay-O, Shigeko Kubota, Takako Saito, Shiomi Mieko, Hosoe Eikoh, Yokoo and Yokoo Tadanori, among so many others. Shozo Shimamoto is also in this exhibition.

Drawn exclusively from the Getty Research Institute’s expansive collection of non-Western works, this is the first exhibition in Los Angeles to focus on Japanese art made during the postwar period, 1950-1970.

Photography

Walker Evans: Lyric Documentary with essays by Heinz Liesbrock and Allan Trachtenberg, ed. By John T. Hill (Gottingen & London, Steidl, 2006, $60.00 hardcover, dist. by d.a.p.) covers only two years in the professional career of over 46, but 1935-36 are the crucial years that produced a singular body of work that came to define this amazing icon of the FSA (Farm Security Administration) where artists were asked to document the Great Depression. Evans combined not only documentation but sly personal commentary. He loved to travel through America incognito as an artless photojournalist, but what he relished was the independence to satisfy his own aesthetic pursuits.

This reviewer had the great pleasure of working with these original photographs at the Library of Congress for two years, and my appreciation for Walker Evans grew by giant steps. But what a privilege to work with all these photos by so many great photographers. Here for the first time the presentation is of a cohesive body of work in chronological order. In about 14 months, Walker Evans clinched his contribution to photographic history, showing us that the ordinary can become extraordinary (as Ozenfant stated). Evans took the bull by the horns and rode with it to glory. With a stipend, per diem, cameras, film, and the best of course, provided with a car, He then went at it with personal verve, keeping handwritten notes, sometimes even writing his own assignments. He created iconic images of our mythic recent past in the 1930s, which became a kind of bible for painters and sculptors who wanted to embrace photography as a medium of choice.

The book is handsomely printed, as only Steidl can do, the essays are revelatory, and the images of essential America will impress any viewer as some of the most significant images to affect not only photography but also modern literature, film and the traditional visual arts. 200 tritones, bibliography.

JERRY SPAGNOLI: DAGUERREOTYPES (Gottingen and London, Steidl, dist. by d.a.p., 2006, $40.00 paper) is an exquisitely printed book with 112 color plates of contemporary daguerreotypes by the world’s foremost practitioner of the medium. Included is the last decade’s work including selections for his Western Landscape and Anatomical Studies series, and a comprehensive presenttion of his documentary series “The Last Great Daguerreian Survey of the Twentieth Century.” The sequencing leads the viewer on a journey through a world distilled through the very particular perspective of the daguerreotype, a world which is both familiar and a bit unsettling. From the outset, daguerreotypes have been noted for their accuracy and veracity. With Spagnoli’s techniques, the medium with its long exposures, odd tonalities, shallow focus and the necessity of large cumbersome cameras are explored to produce images which are once completely objective yet intensely personal, even intimate. The irony is that the artist has explained to anyone who hasn’t even touched a “real” daguerreotype that no printed reproduction of one is sufficient to understand the technique and the quality of its veracity. In fact, if you hold a daguerreotype in your hand, it is as if you holding the most ephemeral moment and giving it temporality, giving it memory, giving it comprehension, empathy and a reliquary of an instant.

The texts are poetic, lyrical, even personal as well a allowing the viewer an understanding of the beauty of this medium.

Family Shops by Paolo Pellizzari and Michel Jedwab (Milan, Five Continents, 2006, $40.00 hardback) is a journey throughout the world by this Belgium-based Italian photographer who has used a panoramic camera to document the “family shops” around the world which can teach notions of closeness, service, sociability, life, motivation, fair trade, sustainable development and humanity. His source of inspiration was a fishing tackle store on the island of Simi in Greece. He certainly shows us that we are what can buy. Consumerism depends upon your definitionof course, the U.S. is number one. But go around the world with this wonderful photographer and you learn a great deal. You learn that “fair trade” is communication between human beings, the pleasure of exchange and the weaving of social relationships. This glorious book of panoramic color photographs teaches us a lesson in buying and selling, in the differences and the similarities of us from Havan to Addis Ababa and how we can all get along.

P is for Peanut: a photographic abc by Lisa Gelber and Jody Roberts (Los Angeles, Getty Museum, 2007, $9.95 hardcover) with 26 duotone illustrations of photographs in the Getty Museum’s collections. With two-page spreads for each letter, it is a glorious exploration of what photography can say, tell and predict. The vignettes of each photograph explain the background of the original images. “B is for Buzz”, “K is for Kooky,” and “Y is for Yikes” makes this extraordinary, teaching children to look at, and wonder about, works of art with photographs by such masters as Walker Evans, Julia Cameron, Weegee, Dorothea Lange, and Henri Cartier -Bresson, among others.

So the Story Goes: Photographs by Tina Barney, Phlip-Lorca diCorcia, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, and Larry Sultan by Katherine A. Bussard (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2006, $24.95) explores the complex and varied ways that these five contemporary photographers use their own daily experiences as inspiration for their art.

The range goes from Tina Barney’s orchestrated depictions of her friends and family in affluent New England settings to Nan Goldin’s unabashed portrayal of intimate, and often brutally honest, moments. Sally Mann turns to her children, Larry Sultan to his parents, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia offers up his “storybook life” in photographs that span nearly 20 years. 10 black and white and 106 color photographs (about 20 for each artist) with an introductory essays that examines the development of personal narrative in photography, as well as insightful entries one each artist.

General

Light Art, Artificial Light: Light as a medium in the Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries, edited by Peter Weibel and Gregor Jansen with essays by Andreas Beitin, Dietmar Elger, FriedrichKittler, Gunter Leising, Frank Popper, Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Sara Selwood, Peter Sloterdijk, Stephan von Wiese, Yvonne Ziegler and Daniela Zyman (Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2006, $65.00 hardback) celebrates an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Karlsruhe in November 2005 - August 2006). This exhibition celebrated the centennial of Einstein’s discovery of the elemental mystery of the nature of the light: it is both an electronmagnetic wave and a stream of particles. It is a form of energy which moves at a speed of 299.792.458 m/s. It is a medium like no other, and nothing has revolutionized and democratized our worl in the way that the control of electric light has.

The design of the book has a light-catching cover which changes with the intensity or diminution of light, including refraction. The list of artists is totally amazing with contributions by Vito Acconci, Olafur Eliasson, Trcey Emin, Dan Flavin, Zaha Hadid, Jenny Holzer, mike Kelley, Julio Le Parc, Mario Merz, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bruce Nauman, Jorge Pardo, Tobias Rehberg, Anselm Reyle, Jason Rhoades, Keith Sonnier, Yves Tinguely, James Turrell and chen Zhen included. But the introductory essay and it illustrations includes everyone from Agam to Man Ray to Malevich, from Paul Thek to Dufy, from Picabia to Woody Vasulka and hundreds more. This 713-page full size volume is heavy, heavy with history, heavy with paper. The wide range of light bulbs, fluorescent and neon, spotlights or LEDS shows the growth from the pioneers in the 1920s to the immersive, interactive environments of ZERO, GRAV, Gruppo T, and Grupo N. A catalog of the exhibition as well as bibliography are included English/Germany with 980 illu7strations of which 750 are in color!

Also see Hilarie M. Sheet’s article, “Waves of Light” in the March 2007 issue of ARTnews.

Doug Aitken: Sleepwalkers with essays by Klaus Biesenbach and Peter Eleey includes conversations between Doug Aitken and Glenn D. Lowory, Anne Pasternak, Vito Acconci, Marshall Berman, Ryan Donowho, William Forsythe, Sir Norman Foster, Elizabeth LeCompte, Max Page, and Melissa Plaut. (New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2007, dist. by d.a.p., $39.95) explores and expands on Aitken’s groundbreaking new work, projected on the outer walls of The Museum of Modern Art this winter.

From 16 January to 12 February 1007, the Los Angeles-based video artist Doug Aitken projected a new work, commissioned by MOMA and Creative Time, onto seven facades on and around MoMA’s West 53rd street building in Manhattan. “Sleepwalkers” is both inspired by, and offered in opposition to, the densely built midtown manmade environment; it integrated itself on the surfaces on which it was projected, and challenged viewers’ perceptions of architecture and public space. The piece, which followed the trajectories of five characters as they made their way through nocturnal New York, explored Aitken’s key recurring themes: broken and recombined narratives, the rhythm and flow of information and images, and the relationship of individuals to their environments. The viewer as pedestrian, a participant and a vital component of New York’s energetic system, became part of the work, and of the interactive personal landscape that Aitken crated in and among the hard-edged concrete and glass language of Manhattan’s architecture.

Certainly, the media in the U.S. captured the moment during the projections. Now we have an overview of the artist’s work especially since 2001 to date, conversations the artist had with a variety of architects, artists, writers and performers about city life, while the experience of seeing the projection could not be reproduced in anyway, the feeling for it can with this volume. It also (like dvds) includes information not immediately available to the pedestrians and onlookers, art afficionados and other occasional passers-by. With 280 illustrations, 275 in color this is a volume that explains the piece in retrospect, explaining the process of creating the piece as well.

Exhibition Catalogs

Migrations: New Directions in Native American Art, edited by Marjorie Devon (Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2006, $24.95 paper) shows the collaboration between the UNM Art Msueum and Tamarind Institute to preserve lithography in the United States, including Native American artists; broadening the understanding of contemporary Native American art, and encouraging serious discourse on Native American artists. This book represents an exhibition which includes mediums of wood, photography, collage, oil, crayon, and textiles.

With essays by Jo Oretel, Lucy Lippad, Kathleen Howe, and Gerald McMaster who explore the evolution of the field, they also talk about what it means to be an “Indian artist,” and relay the history of American Indian arts training at institutions like Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts in Pendleton, Oregon, the Tamarind Institute, and the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. This is a traveling show of six Native American artists, selected because they engage in contemporary art and they represent a wide spectrum of Native American cultures and experiences. Each artist has a chronology, artist statement and several color illustrations. Includes 49 color photos and 11 halftones. The exhibition will open in September 2007 at the University of New Mexico Art Museum.

Mexican Masters: Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, Selections from the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, edited by Hardy S. George (Oklahoma City Museum of Art, dist. by Univ. of Washington Press, 2006, $35.00 paper)pays homage to these icons of Mexican painting. Known as the three leading Mexican muralists, these artists also produced relatively small scale works inwhich the harsh life of the Mexican peasant and the brutality of civil war is portrayed with a directness and honesty not always seen in the murals. Essays by Gunther Gerzso and Luis Nishizawa show how these artists express the hopes, desires, idealism, and culture of early 20th-century Mexico through its artists. Includes quotes by the artists, exhibition checklist and bibliography.

Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai, edited by Robert S. Nelson and Kristen M. Collins, with contributions by Thomas F. Mathews, Davi Jacoby, and Father Justin Sinaites is a sumptuous exhibition catalog of a show that has just closed at the Getty Museum in its only venue in the United States (Los Angeles, Getty Museum, 2006, $50.00 paper). This amazing exhibition installed as if you were at the Monastery of St. Catherine’s gave you a feeling of “being there” with a hefty 320 pages (9 x 12”), 168 color and 47 black and white illustrations, 2 maps, and one of the greatest experiences of experiencing this isolated but remarkable collection of icons used in the daily and festival rituals of the monastery (not stored as museum pieces) and the remarkable books which have remained intact and in fact preserved by being in this isolated desert climate. Father Justin is an El Paso-born but now completely Greek Orthodox monk who has become the librarian of this more than 3000 manuscript collection in 13 languages and he writes glowingly about the Sinai Codex Theoosianus; Robert Nelson speaks about the monastery where “God Walked and Monks Pray”; Thomas F Mathews writes about the early icons of the Holy Monastery; David Jacoby talks about Christian Pilgrimage to Sinai, and Kristen M. Collins writes about Visual Piety and Institutional Identity at Sinai.

There is a glossary, bibliography, index of names, works, and much more.

Metalogos is a small catalog from The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington in Canada where from 10 September - 8 October 2006, the participants were: Christian Bok, Paul Dutton, Nobuo Kubota, Beth Learn, Steve McCaffery,Sylvia Ptak, W. Mark Sutherland, Francesca Vivenza and Darren Wershler-Henry, engaging in “after words” or “bey0nd words”, intermedia and language-based contemporary art which blurs the borders of poetry, music and visual art. Each artist is represented by a work illustrated full-page and a description of that work.

Reprints

Historic Avant-Gardes, Neo-Avant-Gardes, and Post-Avant-Gardes in Yugoslavia, 1918-1991, edited by Dubravka Djuric and Misko Suvakovic (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2006, $44.95 paperback reprint) with 520 pages, 214 illustrations, 53 in color. This is an essential guide to areas less travelled and explored, showing the extensive contributions of the former Yugoslavia to avant-garde and neo-avantgarde art, architecture, music, dance and performance!