Search View Archive

Art Books

20 Best Art Books of 2021

This month, our editors and writers have selected their favorite art books of 2021, featuring interviews, anthologies, photography, critical writings, and more, from authors and artists such as Gillian Laub, Robert Storr, Sky Hopinka, and Édouard Glissant, among others.

On Edward Hicks

Our beloved Edward Hicks (1780-1849), painter of 62 Peaceable Kingdoms, was, we learn, maybe not so easily loveable. He was trouble, to put it lightly. And an early master of appropriation, pastiche and transhuman identity—he needed all that and more, to stand his ground and say his say.

Bruce Nauman’s Spatial Encounters

A work of art is what it is, obviously, but it is also what it could be. In other words, it is more than itself, but how much more? And through what means does an audience recognize the multifariousness of its being? This is the question that gives gravity to the astute essays of Constance M. Lewallen, Dore Bowen, and Ted Mann in the remarkable book Bruce Nauman: Spatial Encounters.

Dara Birnbaum’s Note(s): Work(ing) Process(es) Re: Concerns (That Take On/Deal With)

Materially detached from Birnbaum’s finished products, her working documents chart the theoretical motivations behind each piece, along with the novel technical solutions she devised to translate thorny concepts into external space. While this is not a publication for the casual reader, its complexity and resolute physical presence dovetail with the concerns of Birnbaum’s body of work, linking means and ends.

Richard Kraft’s It Is What It Is: All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump, January 2017 - January 2021

This five-volume set is a real-time diary that’s a dazzling testament to its subject’s basic incomprehensibility. Kraft made a daily practice of reckoning with the unfolding, unnatural disaster, answering the relentless chaos of the Trump years with a methodical, conceptual program.

Pope.L, My Kingdom for a Title

Equal parts a peek at the artist’s sketchbook and a career retrospective through Pope.L’s iterative textual analysis, this book enlivens the artist’s fascination with language as a core mode of inquiry.

Paolo Javier’s O.B.B. a.k.a. The Original Brown Boy

A poetry comic that requires (and rewards) constant re-reading, like learning a new language. A chaotic mix of black-and-white photocopy-style images and texts that is an ode to the anti-storytelling potential of poetry.

Gregg Bordowitz’s Some Styles of Masculinity

A complex arrangement of memories, intellect, postulations, jokes, and insights that attempt to capture a performance, on- and off-stage. It is a combination of many similar yet not exact performances; improvisation and chance are ever-present, it is not a record of anything that actually happened, but rather a presentation of what the artist and publishers want you to have.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 21-JAN 22

All Issues