From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America, the first exhibition catalogue to feature the full spectrum of the work of one of the most interesting voices in contemporary photography, features more than 100 of the artist’s photographs and new critical essays.
A celebrated, popular, and influential figure in American art, Chuck Close has focused exclusively, and with great innovation, on the genre of portraiture. This exhibition, co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, explores the artist’s work in self-portraiture over four decades and across a variety of media, including painting, drawing, photography, collage, and printmaking. The first comprehensive museum survey of Close’s self-portraits, the exhibition and its accompanying publication offer a fascinating glimpse of an artist’s self-examination and evolution over time and elucidate his unbounded, process-driven experimentation with media and techniques. Working with the seemingly narrow subject of his own face, Close has produced a richly varied trove that ranges from intimately scaled collage maquettes and fingerprint drawings to monumental gridded canvases; from the sharp definition of certain photographic techniques to the ghostly blurs of daguerreotypes and holograms; from the tactile complexity of paper pulp editions to the smooth, mechanical surfaces of Polaroids and digital ink-jet prints; from the subtle tonalities of gray-scale paintings and drawings to the exuberance of an 111-color screenprint. When Close unleashes his imagination on his own visage, this familiar figure is at his most revealing.
Widely considered to be one of the most engaging and fascinating artists of our time, Kiki Smith has, over the past 25 years, developed into a major figure in the world of 21st-century art. Her subject matter is as wide-ranging as the materials her work has encompassed. In the 1980s, with her earliest figural sculptures in plaster, glass, and wax, Smith developed an elaborate vocabulary around the forms and functions of the body and its metaphorical as well as physical relationship to society. By the early 1990s, she began to engage with themes of a more religious and mythological nature. Her re-imaginings of biblical women as inhabitants of physical bodies–rather than as abstract bearers of doctrine–led her to make series of sculptural works related to the figure of the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Lilith, and others. The artist has more recently considered fairy tales and folk narratives as well as nurturing a growing menagerie of work concerned with animals and the natural world. Smith has now earned a considerable reputation as a virtuoso printmaker and draftsperson, and as a re-inventor of the startling sculptural possibitilies present in materials ranging from paper and resin to bronze and porcelain. Organized by the Walker Art Center with the full collaboration of the artist, the exhibition Kiki Smith represents the artist¹s first full-scale touring museum retrospective in the United States. This accompanying exhibition catalogue is a comprensive volume that includes critical essays, an interview, a generous four-color plate section, a complete exhibition history and bibliography, and the first-ever comprehensive illustrated chronology of Smith¹s life and work. The first Kiki Smith piece that I remember seeing created a visceral shock . . . I still remember the intensity of the feeling, as though the bottom had suddenly dropped out of the sedate world of the gallery and my own place within it; to put it more physically, I felt it in my guts. –Linda Nochlin I think making beautiful things is important. But often what’s first considered ugly is beautiful, too. When I was younger, I was always trying to incorporate the ugliness. Because it’s the same thing. It’s incorporating what is shunned, outside, but incorporating it into a space of possibility, like that of beauty.
Prominent art critic Peter Schjeldahl once wrote that “to know the art of Ed Ruscha, you should know something about Los Angeles, and the reverse: knowing something about Ruscha’s art will help you with Los Angeles.” Today Edward Ruscha is considered a major voice in postwar American painting and one of contemporary art’s most significant graphic artists. Edward Ruscha: Editions 1959-1999 presents the entire oeuvre of this innovative artist, whose subject and sensibility are uniquely American. Ruscha began his career as a commercial artist, and the visual language of advertising and his interest in typography as both word and image have exerted a profound influence on his art over the years. He says, “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again.” His works often depict the interplay between bold letterforms and a more atmospheric background, a visual strategy that has become a Ruscha signature. For example, in Hollywood (1968), Ruscha created a panoramic image of low hills dramatically silhouetted against the blazing heat and hazy sky of a California sunset. The word Hollywood, reminiscent of the famous sign, sits directly on the horizon, angled toward us in capital letters and seemingly emerging from the setting sun itself.
This catalogue raisonné was published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name, originating at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and traveling to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other venues through early 2001. Both the catalogue and the exhibition document 40 years of Ruscha’s innovative work, and they feature 17 artist’s books, such as Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963); a group of photographs taken on the historic Route 66; and some 300 prints, including a fragrant installation made entirely of paper sheets screen-printed with chocolate. Two large, slim, silvery hardback volumes are presented in a handsome black fabric-covered slipcase. Volume 1 illustrates hundreds of prints, books, and other projects with small, numbered images laid out like a series of film cells or words going by on an LED sign. Volume 2 includes entries for each piece and essays about the prints and artist’s books, neither of which have ever been discussed in a publication of this scope. –A.C. Smith
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