PositiveHyperallergicFor me, reading Knausgaard always feels Proustian (a voluminous, self-referential writer to whom he has often been compared, and who he writes about here) — if Proust had been 16 in southern Norway in the mid-80s ... Whatever its source, Knausgaard’s writing is fueled by a creative nerve, a willingness to go there, which is everywhere, and a willingness to sound simple-minded, or simply annoying. Sometimes outrageous ... Knausgaard’s willingness to grapple with art, especially visual art, can prove refreshing in its honesty. His encounters eschew theory for radical subjectivity ... I appreciate Knausgaard revealing his unflattering first impression, then interrogating it, his willingness to go further, to look again, and to show how his mind moves, then changes ... I want to see what Knausgaard sees, even when I’m overwhelmed by it or disagree. His willingness to bore, both in the sense of risking boredom in his reader and of boring down into any moment, thought, or artwork, offers its own thrilling spectacle. You don’t want to look away.
PositiveHyperallergicAs much academic as artist, Bloch has written a memoir that reflects both his life on the streets and as a scholar ... Going All City is that rarest text, both a gripping memoir of life on the street, as well as an academic treatise, complete with scholarly endnotes. There’s no sleight of hand — the first endnote occurs on page one — and the casual reader and academic alike should enjoy the ride, and will likely learn a lot. Bloch’s story is personal, but also a primer on graffiti’s history and technique, as well as its artistic and social import. His descriptions of deploying spray paint are particularly poetic.
Jean Frémon, Trans. by Cole Swensen
MixedHyperallergic... isn’t so much \'about\' French-American artist Louise Bourgeois — her life or her work — as an attempt to channel the artist on the page ... [Frémon\'s] performance of Bourgeois’s voice is sometimes uncomfortable ... a lively English translation by Cole Swensen is fun, compulsive reading. A novel with no plot and little story, it feels part of a French experimental tradition, though that makes it sound too airless and intellectual for what is a strange, exuberant tale told via stream of consciousness ... as a character, Bourgeois remains more a device than an inhabited woman who was earthy, psychologically shattered in some ways, but a shattering artistic powerhouse. This Bourgeois lacks depth, will, flesh, and even desire. She’s the author’s puppet and even when charming, it’s off-putting ... Frémon’s book is a charming frolic. But for Bourgeois and her formidable voice, look to her art.
Karl Ove Knausgaard
PositiveHyperallergic... in no sense a biography of Munch. We’re more than halfway through before getting details about the artist’s childhood, upbringing, and family tragedies. Instead, the book is a quest after what art is, what it’s for, and what artists are. Like most of Knausgaard’s work, it’s about him as much as his subject. That sounds self-indulgent, but Knausgaard possesses an uncanny magic for rendering mundane personal observations compelling. So did Munch ... Given such outsized success, Knausgaard presumably writes for a global audience, but this book is insistently Norwegian, offering few crutches for anyone unfamiliar with that country’s history and culture ... Knausgaard offers a glimpse into this influential and sometimes obscure history, though it’s mostly a male one ... The translation by Ingvild Burkey is mostly excellent, though can sometimes be confusing.
PositiveHyperallergic\"As neither critic nor art historian, Rivkin is a refreshing \'innocent eye\' uninterested in theory or formalism, while still a savvy reader of art that is, to quote the poet Louise Glück, \'utterly clear and deeply mysterious\' ... Concerned that Rivkin was seeking gossip over formal penetration, Del Roscio withheld access to much of Twombly’s life and, most punitive, withheld reproduction rights. But it hardly matters. For images, there’s always Google. For all the rest there’s a story well told, of art and the man. It’s more than enough.\
Nell Irvin Painter
PositiveSan Francisco ChronicleLike much of the book, this response is unexpected and refreshing ... Painter handles her narrative with the sureness of a seasoned writer, offering telling personal anecdotes alongside art world critiques. She’s that rarest intellectual who can write for popular audiences ... In addition to tracking one woman’s experience, Painter does for art what Scott Turow’s One L did for law school, simultaneously demystifying the process while inspiring awe.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleVia painstaking thoroughness with primary and secondary sources, consulting experts in myriad fields, and firsthand accounts of visiting paintings, churches and towns, Isaacson deftly reveals an intimate Leonardo well beyond the tired trope of the Great Man of some remote golden age who shall ne’er come our way again. Isaacson does present a Leonardo who is the very prototype of the Renaissance man excelling in the arts of painting, architecture and sculpture, as well as anatomy, geology, weapon design, hydrology and much more. But he is a man who also feels very much of our time: a gay, left-handed, vegetarian, dandy bastard. We get Leonardo, and it’s lovely ... One of the marvels of Isaacson’s expansive tale is that it feels compact. Even at just under 600 pages, it’s a masterpiece of concision considering the far-flung terrain he travels.