Revolution Of The Eye: Museum Show Takes On Art And Early TV

‘LINA BO BARDI’ By Zeuler R.M. de A. Lima (Yale University Press). One problem with being a die-hard starchitecture fan is that you sometimes have to go a distance to see work of a designer you love — all the way to São Paulo, Brazil, in the case of the revolutionary Lina Bo Bardi. But it’s worth every mile to experience her 1950 hilltop Glass House; her Pompeia factory-turned-public leisure center; and her monumental São Paulo Museum of Art with its “crystal easel” installation. Alternatively, you can now stay home and get a wide-angle view of the Bo Bardi herself in a fine 2013 critical biography being released in paperback this winter. She’s a slippery subject; but her impulse to punch holes in confining walls of all kinds was emphatic and deep-seated, and is more than welcome right now.

‘CURATORIAL ACTIVISM: TOWARDS AN ETHICS OF CURATING’ By Maura Reilly (Thames & Hudson). Parlous political times call for out-of-the-box museum thinking, which is what Ms. Reilly both documents and demands in this how-to handbook for lining up art and real life. To this end, Ms. Reilly, founding curator of the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, revisits key exhibitions of contemporary art, from 1976 to the present, that have tackled issues of race, class, sexuality and gender, and plots a path to a future of institutional truth-telling.

‘BRUCE NAUMAN: DISAPPEARING ACTS’ By Kathy Halbreich, et al. (The Museum of Modern Art). One of the year’s outstanding museum shows came with a superb book. The show’s lead curator, Ms. Halbreich, as is her custom, brings an involved, probing, personal tone to the catalog’s anchoring essay. Other contributions by artists (Ralph Lemon, Glenn Ligon, Rachel Harrison) and art historians (Suzanne Hudson, Liz Kotz, Catherine Lord) demonstrate the breadth and depth of Mr. Nauman’s continuing reach, and reveal a moral subtlety and tenderness in his art, that have not always been acknowledged in past assessments. (Read the exhibition review.)

‘DEANA LAWSON: AN APERTURE MONOGRAPH’ With an essay by Zadie Smith (Aperture). The photographer Deana Lawson is one of a growing number of contemporary artists intent on positioning the black body where it has rarely been welcome before, namely in the mainstream of contemporary art. In a visual version of creative nonfiction, she places people she barely knows in domestic settings that she arranged like stage sets. Her sitters seem to be at home, but something’s off. You sense hidden dramas waiting to unfold; tensions ticking away. This brilliant book of 40 photographs is a group portrait of a new version of difference she is discovering and inventing. (Read an article about the artist.)

‘WE SHALL OVERCOME: PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS OF NASHVILLE DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA’ Edited by Kathryn E. Delmez, with a foreword by Representative John Lewis (Frist Art Museum in association with Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville). In the 1960s, Birmingham, Ala., and Memphis became known as landmark sites in the civil rights struggle. Nashville, some 200 miles from both cities and home to the historically black Fisk University, had its struggles too, less widely broadcast but scrupulously recorded by the local press. This book, the catalog of an exhibition at Frist Art Museum in Nashville, captures a decade of everyday bravery and trauma as recorded in photographs, drawn from city archives, by Nashville photojournalists. (Read an Opinion piece about the exhibition.)

‘MURALS OF TIBET’ By Thomas Laird, et al. (Taschen). The big splurge. In the 1970s, while still in his teens, the American photographer and writer Thomas C. Laird first traveled to the Himalayas. He settled in Kathmandu, Nepal, and eventually went on to Tibet, where he made life-size digital photographs of centuries-old mural cycles in Buddhist monasteries. The photographs have been reproduced in a jumbo-size Collector’s Edition of 998 copies, each of which includes six fold-outs of complete murals and comes with a 528-page guide and a bookstand designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban. Price for a total, staggering ensemble: $12,000. I can’t begin to think what the Buddha might say about such extravagance, but His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has given it his blessing, personally signing each copy of the Collector’s Edition.

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