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.


Celebrating in Song: A Nonstop Metropolis Playlist

In homage to ‘Singing the City: The New York of Dreams’, the first map in Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, we are celebrating the official publication of the book with a playlist curated from iconic songs from New York City’s boroughs.

The sheer range of songs celebrating New York, from Broadway musicals to hip-hop and every possible kind of ballad and rant in between, makes choosing which to feature nearly impossible.* So, we’re making it into a journey.

First stops, The Bronx and Manhattan:

Get a peek at the ‘Singing the City’ map and others in today’s feature on Brainpickings. Just like so many people have been inspired by one of Nonstop Metropolis‘ maps to envision the city’s subway map with stations named for famous women, imagine where your favorite New York song might fall on the map.

Stay tuned for our second Nonstop Metropolis playlist, featuring songs from Brooklyn & Queens.

And, if you’re just joining the party, see our series of posts about the atlas trilogy, as well as this selection of recent stories:

In a special event co-presented by Harper’s Magazine and BookCulture, Rebecca and Josh will be doing a reading and signing on Thursday evening. They will be joined in discussion by Paul La Farge.


*We also had to remaster our playlist of dreams based on what was available on Spotify. Some of those missing tracks might appear in future posts, but meanwhile feel free to tell us on Twitter what you’d add to the mix: @nonstopatlas.


Behind-the-Scenes at UC Press: The Making of Rebecca Solnit’s Atlas Series

By Lia Tjandra, Art Director with Dore Brown, Principal Editor

DBLT_101016
A winning team: Lia Tjandra and Dore Brown

Each title in the atlas series had more moving pieces than any other book we’ve published. Multiple authors and contributors produced different parts that were worked on at different times. In our roles of project editor and art director, Dore Brown and I were the hub of the wheel, receiving and disbursing material from artists, cartographers, photographers, writers, copyeditors, proofreaders, museum partners, in-house staff, and, of course, the volume editors. It was a far cry from our usual linear workflow.

One of the first design decisions we made for the atlas trilogy was the trim size. I proposed that each map be shown on a spread and that the spread dimensions be square-ish, the way San Francisco is square-ish. In 2011, after the initial success of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, I briefly entertained the idea that the atlases for New Orleans and New York should have customized trim sizes that fit their respective map footprints. This was totally impractical, of course, and detrimental to the harmonious series look. But it was fun to imagine for a brief time!

Rebecca Solnit, who’s incredibly well connected to people in the artistic and intellectual community, brought in San Francisco artist Alison Pebworth to conceptualize and put on paper the logos for all three atlases. Each atlas has a unique visual identity, brainchild of Alison and Rebecca’s creative partnership. For the final logos, check out the finished books, but you may find these in-process sketches fascinating.

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Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Infinite City
2 AP_infinite
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Infinite City
3 AP_Unfathomable
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Unfathomable City
4 AP_Unfathomable_
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Unfathomable City
5 AP_Nonstop
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Nonstop Metropolis

For each map, I started work with a base map from the cartographer. The very first map, Monarchs and Queens, had a skeletal, almost wire-frame appearance. We hadn’t developed a look or any map specifications yet, hence what you see here, from Ben Pease, is raw.

1Monarchs_RawMap
Raw map for Monarchs and Queens from Infinite City

Many months later, we had established the general look and feel of the maps, including the color palettes and type specs. Here’s the resulting Monarchs and Queens vector file.

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Vector file for Monarchs and Queens map from Infinite City

After the map had been edited, I sent it to Mona Caron, a local mural artist. She tailored her illustration to the parameters of the map to create a vibrant piece of art that raised the map to a whole new level.

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Final version of Monarchs and Queens map with illustration from Infinite City

The palette is one of the most important elements of each book. For Infinite City, the palette is muted and chalky. For Unfathomable City, we represented New Orleans with a watery and translucent look. For Nonstop Metropolis, we choose deeper and more intense colors to reflect New York’s energy and complexity.

It takes multiple rounds to get it right, and at least once during the production of each atlas we took all of the in-progress maps and spread them out on tables to see how they were gelling. The final decisions were always made by Rebecca and her coeditors.

Wildlife is one example of the creative process. Take a look at this early sketch and see how wildly the background colors and illustrations by Tino Rodríguez differ from the final version.

1 Wildlife_rough
Rough version of Wildlife map from Nonstop Metropolis, illustrations by Tino Rodríguez
2 Wildlife_Final
Final version of Wildlife map from Nonstop Metropolis, illustrations by Tino Rodríguez

From Nonstop metropolis: viewing a city’s crazy, diverse, complex history as an atlas in The Guardian:

“Tennessee Williams said: ‘America has only three cities, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. All the rest are just Cleveland,’” Solnit explains, before admitting there were other reasons she expanded this undertaking, which began as a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to include the Big Apple and the Big Easy.

“They’re cultural capitals, three port cities on the three coasts of the US,” she says. “New York has been hovering in the wings for a long time. When this book comes out in October, I will be done making atlases for the foreseeable future.”

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Rebecca SnedekerJoshua Jelly-Schapiro, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

To get a copy of Nonstop Metropolis, visit your local bookstore, or purchase online at IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (to save 30% on ucpress.edu, enter discount code16M4197 at checkout).

This post is part of a series on the atlas trilogy.


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.”

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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.


Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3: The Story Behind the Cover

Choosing a book’s cover image is always an exciting process, but it can also prove difficult, particularly when you have such a treasure trove of images to choose from, as we do for Mark Twain.

When the image for the cover of Volume 3 of the Autobiography was settled upon, the editors of the Mark Twain Project also provided the backstory.

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Samuel L. Clemens, aged 74, photographed on arrival in New York after a visit to Bermuda, 20 December 1909.
Photograph by the Bain News Service. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The photograph of Clemens was taken by a photographer from the Bain News Service on December 20, 1909, when Clemens’s ship arrived in New York after a visit to Bermuda, where he stayed with the Allen family. He was traveling with his friend and future biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine.

Below is a letter of thanks Clemens wrote on shipboard to Marion Schuyler Allen, his hostess in Bermuda, in which he refers to Paine’s seasickness and his own angina pains:

To Marion Schuyler Allen
19 December 1909 • R.M.S. Bermudian en route from Hamilton, Bermuda, to New York, N.Y.
(MS: BmuHA, UCCL 11779)

                                                                                                                                                                                         On board, Sunday noon.
Dear Mrs. Allen:
I don’t know how to thank you & Mr. Allen enough for the perfectly charming time you have given me. I have never had a lovelier time, & I can’t get over being sorry that it had to come to an end.

This is not a comfortable voyage. We plunged into heavy seas before the waving handkerchiefs & the flag were were an hour out of sight, & nine-tenths of the passengers were abed before dinner time. Paine succumbed early, & got extravagantly seasick, & that other pain (the one in my breast) kept me entertained until 3 this morning. There is still enough sea to make writing difficult.

Jean has been having an adventure, & I send you her letter. You needn’t return it. Think of that excited & innocent Frenchman ordering that well-trained & obedient dog to lie down & keep still when he particularly wanted him to get up & ’tend to business! A very good dog. As soon as Jean said “Los!” (Go! fly! rush!) he reinstated his injured reputation.

I wish I was back in that hospitable Bay House. What a contrast its comfort is to the dismal ship!

With love to you all,
Affectionately yours
SL. Clemens

_______________________________________________________
Mrs. Wm. Allen | Bay House | Hamilton | Bermuda [postmarked:] ɴᴇᴡ ʏᴏʀᴋ ɴ.ʏ. sᴛᴀ.ᴅ ᴅᴇᴄ 20 9 – ᴘᴍ 1909

Clemens was looking forward to his Christmas at home with his daughter Jean, who loved the holiday and apparently was already at work buying presents and making preparations. Jean died (of heart failure during an epileptic seizure) on Christmas eve, December 24, 1909, before her decorated tree could be discovered, the holiday celebrated, and the presents distributed. Clemens’s despair at her death brought an end to the autobiography, with “Closing Words of My Autobiography,” which begins: “Jean is dead! And so this Autobiography closes here. . . .”

After another trip to Bermuda, and worsening angina, Clemens died at home in Redding, Connecticut, on April 21, 1910, just four months after this photograph was taken.

This image is essentially an early paparazzi shot—press were waiting for him as he disembarked from the ship—and while he complied with the journalist’s request to take a photo, the pain and exhaustion from the journey is etched into his face and visible in his eyes. From this point on, his health would quickly worsen, so it is one of the last images we have.

Stay tuned for the stories behind the covers of Volume 1 and Volume 2.


An Unconventional Book Launch for Earth Sound Earth Signal

New Yorkers: Join Eyebeam Storefront and ((audience)) on Thursday, October 17 for a unique book launch, performance and discussion celebrating the publication of Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts by Douglas Kahn. The book explores aelectrosonic and natural electromagnetic sounds from the nineteenth century to the present, centered around the work of composer Alvin Lucier. Kahn is the author of Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts and editor of Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966–1973

A panel of artists and scientists including Brian Dewan, David First, Annea LockwoodPaul D. Miller, and others will respond to the book and pose questions to Kahn. The panel will be introduced by Galen Joseph-Hunter, Executive Director of Wave Farm.

Following the discussion, Eyebeam alumnus Daniel Neumann  (CT-SWaM) will present a multi-channel audio performance “Tectonics of Absence” by Suzanne Thorpe and Tristan Shepard.

This event will be recorded for a future broadcast on Wave Farm’s WGXC 90.7-FM, a creative community radio station based in New York’s Hudson Valley.