A New York Reading List for the 2017 College Art Association Conference

UC Press is exhibiting at the College Art Association Conference February 15–18 in New York, and we can’t wait to see you there! Be sure to stop by booth #605 for discount details on all UC Press art books and follow @educatedarts, @collegeart, and the hashtag #CAA2017 for meeting news—including an upcoming series of author posts.

As we get ready for the conference, we’ve rounded up some suggested advance reading for art and music aficionados, whether you’re going to the conference or just heading to the Big Apple in spirit. To save 30% now, use discount code 16W6596 for the following titles (enter code at checkout).

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

“The maps themselves are things of beauty.”—New York Times 

Twenty-six gorgeously rendered maps and informative essays chart New York city’s hidden histories in the final volume of Rebecca Solnit’s trilogy of atlases. Bringing together the insights of dozens of experts—from linguists to music historians, ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists—amplified by cartographers, artists, and photographers, the book explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey, celebrating the region’s incubation of the avant-garde and its literary history, while also critiquing its racial and economic inequality, environmental impact, and erasure of its past. Check out our previous blog posts on the atlas and follow @nonstopatlas on Twitter for more peeks inside the book.

Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s by Michael C. Heller

“A vital chapter in downtown history . . . a study long overdue.”—Village Voice

The New York loft jazz scene of the 1970s was a pivotal period for uncompromising, artist-produced work. Faced with a flagging jazz economy, a group of young avant-garde improvisers chose to eschew the commercial sphere and develop alternative venues in the abandoned factories and warehouses of Lower Manhattan. Loft Jazz provides the first book-length study of this period, tracing its history amid a series of overlapping discourses surrounding collectivism, urban renewal, experimentalist aesthetics, underground archives, and the radical politics of self-determination. Learn more about the movement and the book in this Village Voice article.

Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin by Christina Bryan Rosenberger

If your interest was piqued by the recent Agnes Martin exhibition at the Guggenheim, then this revelatory study of the artist’s early works is just what you need. Beginning with Martin’s initiation into artistic language at the University of New Mexico and concluding with the reception of her grid paintings in New York in the early 1960s, author Christina Bryan Rosenberger offers vivid descriptions of the networks of art, artists, and information that moved between New Mexico and the creative centers of New York and California in the postwar period.

Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race by Rebecca Peabody

New York-based artist Kara Walker is well known for her site-specific pieces around the city—”A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” at the former Domino Sugar compound and her mural, “Event Horizon,” at the New School, among others. In this in-depth study, Rebecca Peabody delves deep into Walker’s brilliant and provocative art and her engagement with literary genres such as the romance novel, the neo-slave narrative, and the fairy tale to how Walker uses her tools and strategies to unsettle cultural histories  and examine assumptions about race, gender, power, and desire.


Moment of Creation: Agnes Martin in New York

by Christina Rosenberger, author of Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin


“I had a hundred foot-long-loft,” Agnes Martin recalled, to the envy of more than a few New Yorkers. “It had two skylights and fourteen-foot ceilings with great beams, and at the end of every beam you could see daylight.” Located at 28 South Street, this was the final loft that Martin would inhabit near Coenties Slip before she abruptly gave up painting in 1967. “Windows right across on the river,” Martin continued, noting that the East River was so close that she “could see the expressions on the faces of the sailors.” One wonders what they thought of the artist staring back at them.

Interior page from Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin by Christina Rosenberger (2016)
Water, 1958. Interior page from Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin by Christina Rosenberger (2016, University of California Press)

A highly anticipated retrospective of Martin’s work opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim on today, after earlier presentations at Tate Modern, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This is not the first time that Martin has shown work at the Guggenheim—her art was featured in American Drawings in 1964, and in Lawrence Alloway’s Systematic Painting exhibition two years later. And if a New York venue is a homecoming of sorts for Martin, who lived in the city multiple times from the 1940s through the 1960s, she is still most strongly identified with her time on Coenties Slip.

Indeed, the physical remnants of the Slip are visible in works like The Garden, from 1958, now on view at the Guggenheim. Martin made at least four constructions from found objects in 1958, including Kali, The Garden, The Laws and Water. The constructions incorporate boat spikes, bottle tops, drawer pulls, wires and wooden pegs, and range in size from eleven inches to nearly eight feet high. Seen within the context of a retrospective, they appear anomalous—a momentary investigation of three-dimensional form as Martin refined her aesthetic vision. But like many artists on the Slip, Martin scavenged the docks to find inexpensive materials with which to counter the legacy of Abstract Expressionism. Eschewing large, expensive canvases for materials that were readily available, Martin worked out crucial ideas through the tactile and pictorial qualities of her materials.

And the water—always so important to Martin—became a recurring theme in Martin’s work as well. Night Harbor, a hauntingly beautiful oil painting from 1960, offers eighteen blue-green circles set in a grid against a blue ground, bordered by two brown bands. The circles are ringed with graphite, which catches the light—much as the waves of the ocean do, when hit by the light of a beacon. Describing her own loft on South Street, the fiber artist Lenore Tawney recalled, “At night the boats were like Venetian glass, you know they’d be all lighted up and going along on this water…So there I was right on the river, looking at the river and the boats and the lights of Brooklyn… It was as if New York was at my back.”

Pages from 9780520288249_PRINT-4
Interior page from Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin by Christina Rosenberger (2016)

Martin, famously, painted with her back to the world—a claim that many will interrogate as they view her paintings in the Guggenheim’s rotunda. But what if one left the museum behind, in search of the moment of creation? Take the subway to Broad Street and walk south, to the river.


Don’t miss Christina’s previous post on Agnes Martin. To get a copy of Drawing the Line, visit your local bookstore and select museum stores, or purchase online at IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (to save 30% on ucpress.edu, enter discount code 16M4197 at checkout).


Christina Bryan Rosenberger is an art historian living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a contributor to Tate Modern’s 2015 exhibition catalogue Agnes Martin and recently wrote on Martin’s 1978 film Gabriel for Artforum. She has taught modern art at the University of New Mexico and has served as Research Coordinator for the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard Art Museums.


Uncovering Agnes Martin

For years, seeing Agnes Martin’s celebrated paintings required a pilgrimage. In the mid-1970s, a visit to Martin’s home and studio on a remote mesa in Cuba, New Mexico was not for the faint of heart: Martin could often be seen barreling across arroyos in her pick-up, rescuing lost visitors. Over time, the difficulty of seeing Martin and her paintings became part of the appeal of her work. Martin’s drawings, paintings and prints could increasingly be seen in museums in the United States and Europe, but she remained an “artist’s artist” and her critical reputation eclipsed her popular renown. For many fans of Martin’s work, including Terry Castle, who wrote of her own pilgrimage to see Martin’s paintings in Taos, Martin’s “semi-obscurity [wa]s sort of the point.”

No longer. Thanks to a recent spate of books, exhibitions, and magazine articles, Martin is finally having her moment. A long-overdue retrospective of Martin’s work, co-curated by Frances Morris and Tiffany Bell, closes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on September 11th and opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on October 7th. The first traveling retrospective of Martin’s work since 1992/1993, the exhibition is part of a critical re-evaluation of Martin’s work and her legacy within the history of art. Indeed, three museums currently have entire rooms devoted to Martin’s paintings—the Harwood Museum; DIA:Beacon; and, most recently, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

For those of us who have studied Martin’s work for years, all the fuss is a welcome change. I first encountered Martin’s work in a museum’s storage room, and was struck by the care with which Martin marshaled her artistic materials to create a drawing of uncommon power and sensitivity. Who was this artist? Why wasn’t she a household name? Why was her work in storage? It certainly wasn’t a question of quality. Martin was notoriously ambivalent with regard to her views on gender and sexuality, though there is no doubt that both worked against her in the art market. And while Martin often resisted large-scale exhibitions—for years, she declined to have an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art because she did not want a scholarly catalog produced—she was surprisingly savvy in the promotion of her art. To attract the notice of the New York dealer Betty Parsons in the late 1950s, for example, Martin rented an abandoned storefront outside of Taos and put up an exhibition of her own work—a solo show to compete with the best of them.

Rosenberger cover

Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin uncovers the ambition, determination and grit that characterized Martin’s rapid creative evolution, arguing that the germs of Martin’s artistic success can be found in her early work. It’s essential reading for anyone who visits the retrospective, and proves a useful companion for visitors who spend time with her paintings in museums across the globe. If seeing Martin’s art no longer requires a four-wheel drive vehicle, the rewards are no less spectacular.


Christina Bryan Rosenberger is an art historian living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a contributor to Tate Modern’s 2015 exhibition catalogue Agnes Martin and recently wrote on Martin’s 1978 film Gabriel for Artforum. She has taught modern art at the University of New Mexico and has served as Research Coordinator for the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard Art Museums.


Enter to win one of two copies of Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin in our Goodreads.com giveaway through August 20th.