Arte Povera for a new recession?
You can't have too many books on Arte Povera. At least that's my personal opinion, which will be put to the test this season when three new publications on the Italian art movement are to be released. One wonders why the historic 1969 publication by Germano Celant -- who coined the term "Arte Povera" two years earlier -- remains conspicuously out-of-print. Since then there has been little published in English, at least not until 1998 when Phaidon Press introduced the first installment of its excellent "Themes and Movements" series.
Now just hitting U.S. shores is Arte Povera: In Collection, from Milan-based publisher Charta. This substantial paperback looks at three key collections: The Museum of Contemporary Art Castello di Rivoli, the Galleria d'arte Moderna in Turin, and recent acquisitions by the Fondazione CRT. All the main protagonists of the movement are represented, with examples of recent works and previously unpublished essays by each, with the exception of Alighiero Boetti, who died in 1994 (New York Boetti fans must not miss the magnificent installation now on view at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea until Mar. 31).
Also notable in this vein is Gian Enzo Sperone-Turin-Rome-New York, just out from Italian publisher Hopeful Monster. This sizable two-volume chronology brings together 35 years of exhibitions at Sperone Gallery, which was founded in Turin in 1963. An early showcase for the Arte Povera movement, the Sperone book also provides a look at the group's progression in the context of other trends such as Minimalism, Conceptual Art and the Transavantgarde.
From low-tech to high-tech
If Arte Povera celebrates the use of simple, elemental materials, is technology-based art the opposite extreme? One aspect of the latter trend is examined in net_condition: art and global media, just out from MIT Press. Copublished by the ZKM/Center for Art and Media, the book is published to accompany an international exhibition that took place simultaneously in Germany, Austria, Spain and Japan. New media authority Timothy Druckrey edited the critical survey, along with Viennese artist Peter Weibel, who conceived the exhibition. Not only is this a comprehensive look at the current state of web art, but also provides an introduction to the radical political, social and economic ramifications of pervasive online communications (like the one you're reading right now).
Another group exhibition with edgy utopian overtones is Strange Paradises from the Casino Luxembourg Forum d'art Contemporain. Thirteen young artists, including Georgina Starr, Jorge Pardo and Haluk Akakçe, were invited to create installations that reflect on the concept of individual and collective happiness. The results are funny and charmingly naive, from Pardo's deadpan baby snapshots to Mark Divo's makeshift cardboard technology. It's an odd and engaging little catalogue, with a die-cut cover and foldout artist's project in the back.
Obligatory YBA section
No up-to-minute book column would be complete with out a glance at the latest publications on those pesky young British artists, especially since it seems that the Tate has ramped up its publishing program. Six new books are scheduled for release this month alone, including monographs on Mona Hatoum, Mark Wallinger and Peter Blake, and a survey called Intelligence: New British Art 2000. Perhaps most notable of the bunch is the extensive Douglas Gordon catalogue, which brings together for the first time all the artist's text works, postcards, tattoos, t-shirts and even short stories. The 400-page softcover is designed by hot graphic designer Bruce Mau, whose own monograph from last fall, Life Style, was impossible for booksellers to keep on the shelf.
I haven't seen the film Cast Away, but apparently reading material can be a problem when you're stranded on a desert island. If I were forced to choose just one art book to take with me to this unlikely hypothetical destination, it would be Janson's History of Art. My timing would be good, too, because Abrams has just released the new expanded Sixth Edition, now extensively revised and updated. Not that the text is all that scintillating, as every art student will attest, but we're talking sheer mass -- 1,000 pages with over 1,300 illustrations. That's a lot of art history to mull over with your volleyball buddy.
Another new release that shows better potential for light seaside reading is The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism by Charles Green. Looking at such lifetime collaborations as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Gilbert & George, and Marina Abramovic & Ulay, the author explores how the idea of individual authorship has changed since the 1960s. Not only has the idea of the "lone artist" become entirely optional, Green suggests, but collaboration per se is now just another step in a continuum toward a complete rethinking of authorial models. Perhaps the Starn Twins should collaborate with the Wilson Sisters?
From kitchen to bathroom
New Yorkers with long memories know that for a brief time in the early 1970s Gordon Matta-Clark ran a restaurant in Soho. Gordon Matta-Clark: Food revisits this prescient conceptual project, which simultaneously provided an environment for artists to meet and exchange ideas, and raised questions about the division between art and life -- all this back when Rirkrit Tiravanija's mom was probably still cooking his meals. The book catalogues the performances, films and sculptures that were presented on site, and is designed in a staple-bound format reminiscent of a menu, with the funky, manual-typewriter look of a publication from the period.
Focusing on the other end of the digestive process, there is the stunning catalogue for Belgian bad boy Wim Delvoye's latest project. After Piero Manzoni, who would think that more could be said by making art out of shit? Wim Delvoye: Cloaca documents Delvoye's combination of engineering and Dada in which the human digestive system was artificially recreated in the gallery. Described by the artist as "a shit machine" [see "The Human Masterpiece" by Els Fiers], the high-tech device is fed twice daily by an outside caterer. Later, the output is collected and sold as a multiple. Word is the New Museum is will host the fragrant installation sometime next year.
Having just seen her works in person at the Drawing Center's newly opened exhibition, I'm still not any better able to say why I find Rosemarie Trockel's quirky drawings so appealing. I feel the same way about Polke and Kippenberger's drawings, so maybe it's a German thing. Luckily there is a catalogue of the exhibition, Rosemarie Trockel: Drawings, that I can keep around for extended contemplation. It's a handsome little book published by the Centre Pompidou, and it's not too expensive, depending on where you buy it. Did I mention that it was available at the artnet.com bookstore?
CHARLES GUTE is director of the Artnet.com bookstore.