Best Art Books of 2021 – The New York Times

December 12, 2021 by No Comments

In a lockdown year, with travel reduced, there was no movable feast quite like an art book. Art is made by all sorts of people, everywhere, all the time, along many different paths, some of which are illuminated by these intriguing publications chosen by our critics.

The maverick American artist Ray Johnson (1927-1995), who managed to be nowhere and everywhere in the art world through his invention of Mail Art, was lucky in his longtime friend William S. Wilson, to whom, over 60 years, he gave thousands of letters, collages, drawings and clippings. Wilson saved every last scrap, and a jampacked sampling of them makes up this gold mine of a book, edited and curated by Caitlin Haskell with Jordan Carter. Funny, biting, morbid, it’s a page-turner for sure, and accompanies a show at the Art Institute of Chicago through March 22). (Art Institute of Chicago, distributed by Yale University Press)

Edited by the curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, this catalog for one of the outstanding exhibitions of the season — originating at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, it’s now in Houston — proposes that the culture of the African American South, as defined by music and vernacular art, is the bedrock of American culture itself, with a strong influence on new art today. The book vividly illustrates and deepens the show’s powerful argument. (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, distributed by Duke University Press)

This book lovingly excavates the career of a Greek modernist painter who designed sets for Maria Callas and kept a Greek Classical figurative tradition alive in paintings of homoerotic nudes. Tsarouchis (1910-1989) was both too radical and too conservative for the art world of his time and fell into oblivion outside of Greece. Edited by Niki Gripari and Adam Szymczyk (and including a selection of the artist’s writings, this tender tribute brings him back. (Sternberg Press)

The London exhibition by this name reunited six major mythological paintings that Titian produced for the Spanish court. One …….



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