Claes Oldenburg (October Files)

The preface of Claes Oldenburg, published by the editors of the October journal, reads less like an introduction and more like a warning label, an Intellectually Explicit Advisory: prepare yourself, reader, for “a critical literature that is serious, sophisticated, and sustained.” It comes as no surprise that the essays at hand require a seriously sophisticated, sustained effort to read. They were not compiled for the casual fan or the easily concussed. Rather, they are “intended as primers in signal practices of art and criticism alike, and they are offered in resistance to the amnesiac and antitheoretical tendencies of our time.” While the intellectual intentions are clear, the subject, Claes Oldenburg, remains elusive. As Donald Judd admitted in a review in 1964, “I think Oldenburg’s work is profound. I think it’s very hard to explain how.” Without sacrificing the difficulty, Claes Oldenburg at least tries.

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Touch Me: The Mystery of the Surface

“A study of the architectural Benutzeroberfläche is an examination of people’s needs, of traditions and rituals, of the definition of spatial content, of the dimensions of space, and of those spatial elements most proximate to our bodies. It is an examination of the perception of materials, atmosphere, the visible and invisible parts of architecture; of materials, surfaces, textures, and ornament; of the light, the smell, the sound, the body of space, and its users.”

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Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass

Hailing from Louisiana and now a resident New Yorker, Margaret Evangeline isn’t afraid to tackle an array of difficult subjects using “aesthetically resistant” materials. Her first monograph, Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass, demonstrates the breadth of her work and the various influences that inspired it. To create Gunshot Landscape, perhaps her most talked about work, she shot stainless steel panels with a rifle in New Mexico and then hung them in the forest in upstate New York (she also set them afloat in the River Thames and inside galleries and homes). She believes that the stainless steel surfaces “resemble extensive space (as opposed to deep space)” and that “the bullet hole opens on to deep space.” Indeed, the effect is startling: the forest is reflected, obscured, and somehow amplified by the punctured mirror. Evangeline saw Gunshot Landscape as cathartic art at a time when she most needed it—at an artist-in-residency program that housed New York artists after 9/11. Such expository details make Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass an insightful look into her life and work.

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Ron Mueck

Edited by David Hurlston and published by Yale University Press, Ron Mueck offers the first exhaustive look into the life and work of the Australian artist who shocked the contemporary art world in 1997 with his all too real sculpture Dead Dad—a frail, shrunken, ghastly portrayal of his father lying supine and naked on the floor. Dead Dad, although just a small, solitary figure, evokes large, universal concerns; he looks like what someone (your father, his father, you) would look like naked and dead without the dramatics of splayed blood or the euphemism of funeral dress. He appears discarded and forgotten, his death banal. Remaining in his presence quickly becomes uncomfortable.

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Jac Leirner in Conversation with/en Conversación con Adele Nelson

 

Jac Leirner in Conversation with Adele Nelson marks the third installment of a series of bilingual conversations (Spanish/English) with prominent Latin American artists published by the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC). The series aims to enhance appreciation of the exciting, albeit often over-looked, world of contemporary Latin American art through first-hand accounts of an artist’s life and work. Jac Leirner, who grew up in São Paulo, feels like a natural choice for this series, and the riveting conversation that ensues between her and art historian Adele Nelson does not disappoint.

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