Anyone who has ever studied art in a western educational institution has no doubt been assigned the late John Berger’s Ways of Seeing as required reading. Edited by author and curator Tom Overton, Landscapes: John Berger on Art (Verso, 2016) presents a much more expansive view of Berger’s world than in Ways of Seeing, through a selection of essays, poems, and literary excerpts from 1953 through 2015.
Anyone who has visited the National Gallery of Canada will be familiar with the monumental Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) sculpture Maman on the plaza outside the Gallery’s front entrance. The sculpture has become so emblematic of the NGC that it is hard now to think of one without the other. But there was far more to the artist than works such as Maman. In the recent monograph, Intimate Geometries: The Art and Life of Louise Bourgeois, the life and career of one of the world’s most original artists is covered in exceptional depth.
Famous Canadians from the late 1940s through the 1980s are featured prominently in the new photography book The Canadians, but so too are everyday citizens. From suit-wearing men doing their laundry at a coin-op, to women playing bingo at the Canadian National Exhibition, to members of a motorcycle gang reacting to a police rebuke for “giggling,” this attractive volume captures moments in time from the photo archives of the Globe and Mail.
In the recent e-book General Idea: Life and Work by Sarah E.K. Smith, published by the Art Canada Institute, General Idea’s work, and the lives of its core artists, are explored in impressive depth. “General Idea made enormous contributions to the contemporary art world with their conceptual projects across a range of media,” said Smith in an interview with NGC Magazine. “What stands out for me is their exploration of themes and topics in new and innovative ways.”
In the new book, simply titled Ai Weiwei (Taschen, 2016), essays explore Ai Weiwei's artistic legacy to date, alongside the political activism that continues to inform his art. Lavishly illustrated, the book includes images of Ai’s work, both finished and in progress, as well as an extensive selection of personal photographs of the artist and his circle.
At first it may seem like an odd pairing: one of the world’s best-known literary novelists discussing art and artists. Why should we care what a novelist thinks about art? Who does he think he is? Turns out that Barnes — the British author of such renowned works as Flaubert’s Parrot and the Booker-Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending — has a finely tuned artistic sensibility, an encyclopedic knowledge of the artists who take his fancy, and some very pithy things to say.
In 2015, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, mounted an exhibition on Barnett Newman’s final five years, a period that includes Voice of Fire. The exhibition catalogue, Barnett Newman: The Late Work, 1965–1970 — featuring paintings and sculpture from several institutions, including three works from the National Gallery of Canada — is a spare and elegant tribute to one of the most important American artists of the mid-twentieth century.
For seasoned art historian David Silcox, there are two key factors that explain why Canadians remain fascinated with Tom Thomson close to a hundred years after his death.The first and most obvious is the appeal of the work itself. Then there is the painter’s life story, which continues to feed the Thomson mystique and public perception of the artist as a doomed genius. Both of these elements are explored in a lively and accessible fashion in Silcox’s new e-book, Tom Thomson: Life and Work, published by the Art Canada Institute.
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