The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick

Girl Interrupted at her Music​, c1658-59, by Johannes Vermeer
Girl Interrupted at her Music​, c1658-59, by Johannes Vermeer © The Frick Collection, photo: Michael Bodycomb

“The sleeve should be illegal,” says novelist Jonathan Lethem, referring to Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Sir Thomas More, which shows the Renaissance humanist sporting gigantic fur-trimmed velvet sleeves. Lethem’s wry take forms part of a new publication of reflections by contemporary cultural figures on their favourite paintings from New York’s Frick Collection. For writer and actress Lena Dunham, the best is Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s milky-toned portrait of Madame Baptiste aîné, who is dressed, she observes, like “an Olsen twin at a Hamptons christening”. (The Frick Collection/DelMonico Books DAP, £27)

Rita Ackermann: Mama

Mama 5, 2019, by Rita Ackermann
Mama 5, 2019, by Rita Ackermann © Rita Ackermann, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Thomas Barratt
Rita Ackermann: Mama

The title painting in Hungarian-American artist Rita Ackermann’s new book, Mama, was never intended to be a work of art. This vividly coloured, brush-marked painting was inspired by her daily conversations with her mother (who lives in her native Hungary) and was created when Ackermann decided to use a canvas of sketches as a mixing palette for another artwork. It was “a product of sheer chance”, writes the curator Gianni Jetzer in his introductory essay to the book. The spontaneity of Mama inspired a whole body of work that was later shown at Zurich gallery Hauser & Wirth and is now gathered together in a publication for the first time. For these paintings, Ackermann allowed her subconscious to guide her mark-making as she layered pastels, paint, china marker and oils, which were then scraped away to reveal the drawings below. The paintings “combine the elements of line and gesture, leading the conversation into the unknown”. (Hauser & Wirth Publishers, £40)

Luchita Hurtado

Luchita Hurtado

It was in 2019, at the age of 98, that Venezuelan-American painter, photographer and poet Luchita Hurtado had her first solo show, after a career spanning over 70 years. She died in 2020. This new title – a “pictorial biography” – honours and celebrates Hurtado’s long life, which saw her create work about the female body, the natural world, mysticism and transcendentalism. The book gathers together self-portraits, drawings and photographs and a conversation with Hurtado and Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director at the Serpentine, which hosted the 2019 exhibition. (Hauser & Wirth Publishers, £45) 

Vitamin D3: Today’s Best in Contemporary Drawing

A work by Masanori Handa
A work by Masanori Handa

Who are the most exciting artists working in the medium of drawing today? That’s the question that Phaidon’s Vitamin D series has sought to answer since its first publication in 2005. This new edition presents the work of 118 artists who have risen to prominence since 2013 (when D2 was released). Standout works include Toyin Ojih Odutola’s narrative portraits, Masanori Handa’s vivid garden-scapes and Christina Quarles’ elegant black-and-white line drawings. (Phaidon, £49.95) 

Artists in Residence

Artists in Residence

The space in which an artist chooses to live and work has long been a source of fascination, from Georgia O’Keeffe’s desert retreat to Donald Judd’s industrial Manhattan complex and Hassan Hajjaj’s blend of private home, tea room and art gallery in Marrakech. This new title profiles 17 major artists’s homes, considering what we can learn from their interiors. Playful illustrations come from artist Kate Lewis and writing from New York novelist Melissa Wyse. (Chronicle Books, £17.99) 

The Hikers

Untitled Escape Collage, 2019, by Rashid Johnson
Untitled Escape Collage, 2019, by Rashid Johnson © Rashid Johnson, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Martin Parsekian
© Rashid Johnson

American artist Rashid Johnson’s mosaic-inspired collages draw viewers into a dreamlike space where escapism leads to a new way of engaging with issues such as racial inequality and mental health. “They ask not only where you are right now, but also where you would like to be and how you would get there,” says Heidi Zuckerman, former director of the Aspen Art Museum, where Johnson was artist-in-residence and which awarded him the Aspen Award for Art in 2018. It was while hiking Aspen’s mountain trails that Johnson found the new sense of “peace and calm” that inspired this body of work, which also spans collaged paintings, sculpture, ceramic mosaics and a film, The Hikers, featuring two black dancers in African masks who meet on a hill. Many of the works featured in an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in 2019, and they are now collected in this book, also called The Hikers, alongside essays by curators Zuckerman and Manuela Moscoso and an interview with Johnson by Claudia Schreier. (Hauser & Wirth Publishers, £70) Tara Tabbara

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