A.i.A.’s five most-anticipated art books coming out in May, from an experimental Fassbinder biography to a history of how Danish chairs took over American homes.
Surrealists in New York: Atelier 17 and the Birth of Abstract Expressionism by Charles Darwent, Thames and Hudson, May 2
If the story of the art world’s postwar sphere of influence passing from the Parisian Surrealists to the Abstract Expressionists in New York is by now familiar, British critic Charles Darwent’s study focuses on the little-known institution where these connections were first forged: the print workshop Atelier 17, which was founded in Paris in 1926 by English artist Stanley William Hayter before relocating to New York during World War II. As Darwent writes, “It would be easier to list the avant-garde sculptors and painters who did not pass through the atelier’s doors between 1927 and 1947 than those, from Picasso to Pollock, who did.”
Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors by Ian Penman, Semiotext(e), May 2
“I have no desire to be some kind of amiable, reasonable, encyclopaedic curator of the archives,” music journalist Ian Penman writes early on in Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors, his elliptical quasi-biography of the German cult filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who died at age 37 in 1982. Unfolding as a sequence of 450 numbered fragments, the book intersperses insightful observations about Fassbinder’s life and work with Penman’s own first-person reflections on art, autobiography, and the culture of the 1970s.
The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel, WW Norton, May 2
Podcaster and Guardian columnist Katy Hessel’s The Story of Art Without Men is intended as a retort to art historian EH Gombrich’s canonical 1950 survey, The Story of Art, a staple of undergraduate syllabi that omits women artists entirely. A bestseller when published in Britain last year, Hessel’s book is a breezy take on 500 or so years of art history told entirely through the work of women.
The Chieftain and the Chair: The Rise of Danish Design in Postwar America by Maggie Taft, University of Chicago Press, May 15
Chicago-based art historian Maggie Taft tells the history of how Danish design became synonymous with good taste in midcentury America via case studies of two iconic “status chairs”: Finn Juhl’s “Chieftain” and Hans Wegner’s “Round Chair.” Taft describes how Danish designers and manufacturers adjusted their products and processes to meet the demands of the American market, arguing that the development of “Danish design” owes as much to the United States as it does to Denmark.
Writing After Art: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Artists by Richard Shiff, David Zwirner Books, May 16
Though ostensibly a specialist on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, the eminent art historian and critic Richard Shiff, director of the Center for the Study of Modernism at the University of Texas at Austin, has published on an intimidatingly wide range of artists from the 19th century to the present. This doorstop-sized anthology collects Shiff’s essays on some two dozen artists, including Pablo Picasso, Barnett Newman, Richard Serra, Julie Mehretu, and Zeng Fanzhi.