I typically begin looking for books that will inform,enhance, or elevate our understanding of an exhibition at least one year ahead of its scheduled opening. I consider themes, styles, movements, and artists in a particular exhibition, as well as social, political, and historical context. In the case of State of the Art, however, this was particularly challenging for several reasons.
Art studio America: contemporary artist spaces. Hossein Amirsadeghi, Maryam Homayoun Eisler, Andrea P. A. Belloli, Benjamin Genocchio, Mark Godfrey, Robert Storr, and Robin Friend, 2013. N6512.7 .
First and foremost, few staff knew which artists were being selected or what their art was about. We knew the exhibition would be a groundbreaking one and reflect contemporary art in America. We knew the curators, Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi and Curator Chad Alligood, were on this exciting year-long venture to discover American artists reflecting issues of concern today. We were even presented with great little updates from them at staff meetings. But truly, I can say that writing this blog on July 18, 2014, I’m as excited as the rest of the country to see how the exhibition will come together! What messages will we take away, what art will we fall in love with, what will we make of this grand effort to help make contemporary art more accessible, more meaningful to the average viewer?
And so I pondered my collection development strategy: should I concentrate on the art historiography and cultural perspectives that might rearticulate all possible connections between past art and contemporary art? But should I bother going back to select books by Winckelmann (way to far back) or the American author William Dunlap, or critics like Meyer Schapiro, , Lawrence Alloway, Clement Greenberg, or Harold Rosenberg? Or what about the female contributions: Barbara Rose, Lucy Lippard, Paula Hays Harper, Rosalind Krauss and so many other women in the arts?
I understand this exhibition to be, at least in part, about art that breaks down some of the old stereotypes about contemporary art: that it’s hard to understand, academic, closed. This exhibition is to feature American art people can identify with, that has a message to which we can relate. I understand it to be art within our grasp, art that makes us think about issues in a different way, that expands our horizons or may even remind us of our mistakes and challenges; art that might be beautiful, or fascinating, or curious, but nevertheless, art that reflects a myriad cultural aspects facing our society at this time in America.
Show time: the 50 most influential exhibitions of contemporary art. Jens Hoffmann, 2014
So why look to the art historians and critics to tell us what we should see or feel or think? It reminds me of a typical question often raised about art: do you have to have an art appreciation education to get it? I don’t believe that at all! But I do believe in learning more when questions arise for the viewer, and that’s what library resources offer.
So, like with any of our exhibitions, I place books related to the exhibition on the library end panels and I make available a list of recommended titles. The State of the Art selections range from books written by art historians and critics to broad overviews, children’s books, and even exhibition catalogs of several State of the Art artists. They offer a little background on many of the artists, and a deeper look into contemporary art: its development, themes, materials, and issues. You are welcome to come up to the Library, browse the selection, and choose which books might illuminate your appreciation of the art. You can begin here by taking a look at selected books for State of the Art.