A look at the best of new art books

Books on non-Western art, women artists, and from the new art history

American publishers are noticeably cutting back on expensive art books with numerous colour illustrations. Those that are now appearing have been in the pipeline for at least two years, having been commissioned before the recession hit the publishing industry. A leader in the erstwhile field of large and beautifully produced publications is Abbeville, which plans to publish Classical Taste in America 1800-1840 by Wendy Cope in June, at the relatively modest price of $55. Also promised from Abbeville are two books on Californian art movements, Art of Light and Space by Jan Butterfield ($65) and Arts and Crafts Movement in California, the latter to accompany a travelling exhibition originating at the Oakland Museum ($55).

There also appears to have been a decline in the output of feminist writings on art, but Abrams will be releasing American Beauties: women in Art and Literature edited by Charles Sullivan (£25, $29.95), which includes paintings, sculptures, drawings and other works of art from the National Museum of American Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

American history, from pre-Columbian times to the present, is told through more than eighty works of art with accompanying texts in English and Spanish by Edith Pavese in United States History in Notable Works of Art, (£25, $29.95). Art of Africa by Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat and Lucien Stephan (£120) embraces the creative work of the entire continent south of the Sahara. With an astonishing 1069 illustrations, this will be a fundamental reference work.

Daumier Drawings by Colta Ives, Margret Stuffmann and Martin Sonnabend (£50, $65) includes the rarer and less known drawings and watercolours, and accompanies an exhibition projected for the Metropolitan Museum of Art from February to May 1993. Freer: a Legacy of Art by Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill (£40, $49.50) tells Freer’s story as a collector and celebrates the reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC on Sunday, 9 May, its seventieth anniversary, after a four and a half year renovation project. Penelope Mason’s The History of Japanese Art (£45, $60) offers a comprehensive survey of the painting, sculpture, architecture and ceramics of Japan from prehistoric times to 1939.

Also planned for the spring are Asian Art in the Art Insitute of Chicago by the curators of the collection (£25, $35), George Caleb Bingham by Michael Edward Shapiro on the increasingly popular Missouri artist (£30, $39.95), and Helen Frankenthaler, Prints by Ruth Fine on the contemporary American printmaker (£35, $25). Just confirmed for publication in May is John Ruskin and the Victorian Eye with essays by Susan Casteras, Susan Phelps Gordon, Anthony Lacy Gully, Robert Hewison, George Landow and Christopher Newall.

Possibly as a direct result of the recession, there appears to be an increase in the reissue of major classics. Alan Wofsy Fine Arts in San Francisco is known for such reprints and is offering an impressive range in 1993. These include the catalogue raisonnés Canaletto’s Etchings by Ruth Bomberg (£90); Honoré Daumier’s Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings by K.E. Maison (£210); Daumier’s lithographs by Loys Delteil (£90) and Daumier: the Complete Engravings by Eugène Bouvy (£105).

From Braziller come two Richard Long volumes. Richard Long: Mountains and Waters which comprises photographs, text works and maps as a record of his “walks” and siteworks from 1974 to 1992 ($35). This follows the success of Richard Long:Walking in Circles, which will be reissued in 1993. A hard-to-define British artist, Long has attracted much attention in America with his use of stones and landscape. Also planned is Asmat Art: Woodcarvings of Southwest New Guinea, edited by Dirk Smidt ($65). This assembles the finest examples of woodcarving by the Asmat, selected from the collections in Leiden’s National Museum of Ethnography and other museums, and emphasising the striking modernity of much of this art. The Mark J. Millard Architectural Collection: The French Books by Dora Wiebenson and Claire Baines ($90) provides a comprehensive history of French architecture from the Renaissance to the present, charted through this highly important collection of illustrated books on Western European architectural design and theory. Reprinted in paperback will be Mayer Schapiro’s Late Antique, Early Christian and Medieval Art: selected papers and Romanesque art: selected papers, both at $19.95.

The J. Paul Getty Museum publishes its own books on the museum’s collections and has four titles coming out next season. Continuing the series of the Catalogue of the Collection in the J. Paul Getty Museum is Hellenistic Metalwork by Michael Pfrommer ($60). The museum’s collection of silver and gold from the Hellenised Near East is one of the largest yet assembled. Pfrommer dates the groups of objects and places them in their cultural and archaeological context. Decorative Arts: an illustrated summary catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum by Charissa Bremer-David and Catherine Hess is a new edition of a previous publication with new sections devoted to maiolica and glass and an added index of accession numbers and updated bibliographies ($45). Also by Catherine Hess (Assistant Curator of Sculpture and Works of Art), this time with David Harris Cohen, is Looking at European Ceramics: a guide to technical terms ($10.95). The book offers definitions of terms related to the techniques, processes and materials used in the making of ceramics in Europe from the Middle Ages until the early twentieth century. This is the fourth in a series of Looking at books co-published with the British Museum Press.

In a challenge to the perceived order of things MIT Press is bringing out a book that turns the accepted view of Modernism on its head. In The Optical Unconscious Rosalind Krauss explores the interactions between the world of the art critic and that of the artist through imaginary encounters between such figures as Clement Greenberg, Marcel Duchamp, John Ruskin and Jacques Lacan (£22.50). Eighteen essays by contemporary artist Dan Graham have been collected together by Brian Wallis and are published under the title Rock My Religion: Writings and Projects 1965-1990 (£26.95). Together with descriptions of Graham’s own works and installations are his thoughts on Minimalism, architecture and urban space, punk rock and popular culture. The Vienna art historian Alois Riegl had a profound influence on, among others, Walter Benjamin, who in turn influenced the contemporary textual artists. Margaret Iversen’s Alois Riegl: Art History and Theory promises to be the first general introduction to Riegl’s approach to art history, the context of his work and its relevance to contemporary critical thinking (£22.50). On a more practical level Structure in Sculpture by Daniel Schodek covers the technical aspects of structure in sculpture, illustrating balance and geometry and the structural characteristics of different materials with works by Rodin, Calder, Serra and Christo. How the materials of buildings change is examined in On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time by Mohsen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow with examples drawn from Alberti to Le Corbusier (£26.95).

Princeton University Press is offering Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States by Stephen Daniels (£32.25, $45), in which the author explores the ways in which artists from the later eighteenth century to the present day have used landscape as a way of embodying their national feelings, and how painters like Turner and Constable contributed to a “myth” of national identity. Also from Princeton comes Inventing Bergson: Cultural Politics and the Parisian Avant-Garde by Mark Antliff (£27.50, $50) which explores the highly influential philosophies of Henri Bergson in early twentieth-century France, and his influence on Futurism, Cubism and Fauvism. Morgantina Studies, Volume IV: The Protohistoric Settlement on the Cittadella by Robert Leighton (£50, $90) is the fullest study to date of this protohistoric settlement in Sicily, prior to the creation of the Greek town above it. It includes an illustrated catalogue of more than 700 mainly unpublished artifacts from the site.

The emphasis of Rizzoli’s spring list is definitely on contemporary art. Louise Bourgeois, now in her eighties and one of America’s most important women artists, was interviewed by Paul Gardner for his book Louise Bourgeois (£9.95). Kate Linker’s Vito Acconci is the first full-scale study of this contemporary artist (£45), while in association with the Gagosian Gallery in New York come Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Paintings by Jack Flam (£16.95), Ed Ruscha: The Word Paintings by Yves-Alain Bois (£18.95) and Francesco Clemente: Evening Raga and Paradiso (£19.95) with an introduction by Francesco Clemente, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. A catalogue raisonné of 300 prints by James Rosenquist, one of Pop Art’s major artists, has been compiled by Constance Glenn and will appear as James Rosenquist—Time Dust: Complete Graphics 1962-1992 (£35). In what promises to be a fascinating collection of thirty-four essays, American and German scholars chart the emergence of New York and Berlin as parallel centres of artistic and technological innovation at the end of the nineteenth century in Berlin—New York: Unlike and Unlike: Essays on Art and Architecture from 1870 to the Present edited by Josef Paul Kelihues (£60). In sharp contrast, Art of the Persian Courts: Selections from the Art and History Trust Collection by Abodala Soudavar gives a survey of Iranian and Persian manuscript painting, calligraphy and drawing from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries (£55).

The University of Chicago Press has a long list of titles for the coming spring season, in contrast with last year’s more restricted offering. Albert Boime’s The Art of the Macchia and the Risorgimento: Representing Culture and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Italy is the first extended study of the Macchiaioli in English (£43.95, $55). Boime investigates the group’s writings, sources and patronage in relation to the Risorgimento—a useful accompaniment to the exhibition “Ottocento: Romanticism and Revolution in nineteenth-century Italian paintings” currently at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. The role of colour and form in visual perception is explored by the painter August Gareau in another work translated from French, titled Color Harmonies (£35.95, $45). Two volumes of collected essays by Clement Greenberg document the critic’s emergence as the most influential champion of modernism during its American ascendence after World War II: volume 3 of The Collected Essays and Criticism is titled Affirmations and Refusals, 1950-56, volume 4 Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969 (each £23.95, $29.95).

Also from Chicago is promised High Renaissance Art in St Peter’s and the Vatican: an interpretive guide by George Hersey in which the papal commissions from such artists as Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante are placed in their historical context (£45.50, $57). A new book from Joseph Leo Koerner, winner of this year’s Mitchell Prize, is The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (£49.50, $59.95). Koerner examines how artists such as Dürer and Baldung Grien registered in their paintings changing attitudes to self in sixteenth-century Germany. For next season’s publications from Yale University Press see the section on the U.K. (pp.17-18), where the vast majority of their books on art are commissioned.Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Homage to Political Correctness'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 23 December 1992