Best of the Blog 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve compiled ten blog posts that resonated most with our readers over the past year. Popular blog themes closely mirrored current events, and the state of global political realities — immigration, inequality, fascism, and environmental issues; additionally, readers were taken by posts on critical thinking, “slow” cinema, indigenous and world poetry, and the secrets unearthed from an ancient metropolis.

Have a happy new year, and see you in 2018, the 125th year of UC Press’s founding!

Immigration historians from across the United States launched the website #ImmigrationSyllabus to help the public understand the historical roots of today’s immigration debates, inspiring us to follow suit with a list of UC Press suggestions to provide further context to the ongoing conversation. View the Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition.

Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. In this excerpt, find out how the cheapening of care has made the world safe for capitalism: #7CheapThings: Cheap Care

In Trump’s Transgender Crisis, Jack Halberstam, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability, responds to Donald Trump’s tweeted policy change banning trans soldiers from the military to ask: at a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, why this ban, why now?

In today’s fast-paced political news cycle, terms like “fascism” and “populism” are often used, but not always clearly defined. This excerpt from Federico Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History, explores the origins of these ideologies, their significance, and the important distinctions between them: Fascism or Populism? Playing the “Democratic Game”

One of the earliest, largest, and most important cities in the ancient Americas, Teotihuacan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. Take a Look at Teotihuacan to see some of the rare and awe-inspiring artifacts featured in the exhibition and accompanying catalogue Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire.

 

Fifty years since its original publication, Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred continues to inspire and educate readers with its ability to expand the possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Rothenberg recently visited the UC Press offices to discuss the book’s enduring power and read from the 50th anniversary edition.

 

 

Peter M. Nardi, sociologist and author of Critical Thinking: Tools for Evaluating Research, addressed the importance of looking beyond the “two-sides-of-the-coin” perspective when responding to complex issues in his post False Balance, Binary Discourse, and Critical Thinking.

Releasing in May 2018, Paul Schrader’s seminal text Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer will be reissued with a substantial new introduction representing his experiences and ideas as a filmmaker that have evolved over time, giving the original work both new clarity and a contemporary lens. Hear Schrader discuss some of the techniques and attitudes of slow films in Transcendental Style in Film Revisited.

During the 2017 International Open Access Week, we interviewed Interim Director Erich van Rijn to survey the landscape of OA publishing at UC Press, discussing the progress and future of Luminos (our OA monograph program), and Collabra: Psychology and Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (our two OA journals).

What is a case study, and how can case studies positively impact critical thinking and knowledge acquisition, as well as inform research in academia and training in professional practice? In the post The Case for Case StudiesCase Studies in the Environment Editor-in-Chief Wil Burns explains what case studies are, and how they can provide an important bridge to understanding important environmental issues.


Don’t Miss Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest at the Oakland Museum

If you haven’t made it to the Oakland Museum yet this summer, we highly recommend you time your visit before the special long overdue Roy De Forest retrospective closes on August 20th. (Pro tip: don’t miss the Dorothea Lange exhibit while you’re there).

Designed to simulate an adventurous exploration of the artist’s dream-like and often humorous works, instead of chronological order the show is organized by themes such as ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’, ‘Horse of a Different Color’ and ‘Flashback’.

“Immersing yourself in an artwork by De Forest is like going on a treasure hunt.”

Some of the most fun and inspiring features of the show are the ‘Faithful Companions’ presented through audio listening stations that both charm and inform.

One particularly thought-provoking narrative in front of ‘Hans Bricker in the Tropics’ has Ilán Casián-Issenberg, Actor and Fifth Grader, ask the viewer:

“If you were to talk to the Brick Man which language would you use?”

De Forest was an influential American painter and sculptor who was also involved in the Funk art or Nut art movements, a genre made famous by artists in the 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area, including De Forest, Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, and Clayton Bailey.

The accompanying catalogue is richly illustrated and was written by curator Susan Landauer, whose appreciation for De Forest dates back to her childhood. A fascinating biography, the book reassesses De Forest’s art-historical position, placing him in a national rather than solely West Coast context. To go deeper into both the exhibition and catalogue, see Hyperallergic‘s review.

“It is a major book, a deeply researched biography of De Forest and an analysis of his art and career.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“In this thoroughly professional, immaculately organized, and factually overflowing book, the reader is set to be inspired by the adventure that was Roy De Forest.”—New York Journal of Books

This exhibition is particularly kid-friendly and will delight the young and the young at heart. We think the same holds true for the catalogue.


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.


Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis Opens This Weekend in Philadelphia

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Norman Lewis’ art is simultaneously historical, political, and groundbreaking. As the only African American artist of his generation committed to issues of abstraction over the course of his career, Lewis melded his art with his involvement in both the Harlem Renaissance and the fight for civil rights, paving the way for other artists of color to be recognized in the field. Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis—the first major museum retrospective of his work—begins previews today at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia.

Showcasing numerous works from throughout Lewis’ career, Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis, available now from UC Press, is both a catalogue of this important exhibition and an essential resource for those studying the work of this influential artist.

Check out a selection of the paintings featured in the exhibition below, and learn more about the show here.

  • Baulé Mask, 1935 Pastel on sandpaper, 18 x 12 1/2 in. Private Collection
  • Meeting Place (aka Shopping), 1941 Oil on canvas, 36 x 23 5/8 in. Private Collection, Chicago, Illinois
  • Hep Cats, 1943 Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in. Khephra Burns and Susan L. Taylor
  • Title unknown (Subway), 1945 Oil and sand on canvas, 24 x 36 in. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
  • Title unknown (Jazz Club), 1945 Oil and sand on canvas, 22 7/8 x 34 1/2 in. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
  • Roller Coaster, 1946 Opaque watercolor, ink, and crayon on board, 12 x 16 in. Private Collection; Courtesy of Bill Hodges Gallery
  • Title unknown, 1946 Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in. Private Collection; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
  • Title unknown, 1947 Oil on canvas, 30 x 35 1/2 in. Private Collection; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
  • Changing Moods, 1947 Oil and ink on canvas, 38 x 43 1/2 in. Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, Michigan
  • Cantata, 1948 Oil on canvas, 49 3/4 x 41 1/8 in. The Dayton Art Institute
  • Untitled (Fingerprints), 1949 Ink on paper, 19 x 24 in. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
  • Too Much Aspiration, 1947 Opaque watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper, 16 1/2 x 27 ½ in. L. Ann and Jonathan P. Binstock
  • Title Unknown (Street Scene aka African Dance), 1947 Oil on board, 20 x 30 in. Collection of Raymond J. McGuire, New York
  • Street Music, 1950 Oil on canvas, 25 7/8 x 24 in. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
  • Migrating Birds, 1953 Oil on canvas, 40 x 60 in. Collection of halley k harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld
  • Title unknown (Carnivale aka Tournament), c. 1958 Oil on canvas, 48 1/2 x 61 in. Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Redneck Birth, 1961 Oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 72 in. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
  • Title Unknown (March on Washington), 1965 Oil on fiberboard, 35 1/4 x 47 1/2 in. L. Ann and Jonathan P. Binstock
  • Exodus, 1972 Oil on canvas, 72 1/2 x 87 in. Collection of Billy E. Hodges
  • Sunday Afternoon, 1978 Oil, ink and graphite on paper, 29 1/2 x 41 1/2 in. Private Collection
  • Norman Lewis in the studio Photo: Budd Estate of Norman W. Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
  • Norman Lewis’s studio, c. 1975 Photo: George Stizday Estate of Norman W. Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York