10 New Art Books to Read, Pride Month 2024

Happy Pride Month! As we mark the 54th annual celebration, which began after the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York, our editors and contributors are digging into new books about the queer and trans artists who have shaped, disrupted, and wholly reimagined a range of creative traditions. Many of these titles flip art history on its head, investigating the LGBTQ+ art that is often excluded from the narrative while honoring generational storytelling. Daniel Larkin, for one, was drawn to a study of nudity as a feminist political act in performance, while Editor-in-Chief Hrag Vartanian takes a closer look at the way a recent catalog gathers the work of artists who are rarely considered together. Meanwhile, News Editor Valentina Di Liscia recommends critic Simon Wu’s first essay collection and Reviews Editor Natalie Haddad explores a tome on queer SWANA artists. Just a drop in the bucket of the prismatic range of queer and trans art history — and history in the making — we hope this reading list is a fruitful place to start. —Lakshmi Rivera Amin, Associate Editor

About Face: Stonewall, Revolt, and New Queer Art, edited by Jonathan D. Katz

about face book cover

The exhibition of the same name that is the basis of this book took place in Chicago in 2019, and the resulting tome is a rich look at queer artists from mostly North America. One of the coolest components is the photographs by Harvey Milk, the photographer (he owned a photo shop in San Francisco’s Castro District) and LGBTQ+ political icon, which illuminate an aspect of his life that I’ve rarely heard discussed. One peculiar thing about the book is the focus on representation art, as if we’re still stuck in the 1990s when we needed to see a body to denote its queerness. But that being said, I’d never underestimate the value of a volume like this — particularly by someone like Jonathan Katz, who has tirelessly worked on queerness (thank you for all your work!) — that brings together figures who are, for the most part, not exhibited or considered together. Pride comes in different forms; more of this, please. —Hrag Vartanian

Buy on Bookshop | Monacelli Press and the Alphawood Foundation, 2024

Dancing on My Own: Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy by Simon Wu

Simon Wu book cover 1

A few pages into Dancing On My Own, I was already pleasantly refreshed by the way in which author Simon Wu speaks to the reader, resisting the assumption that the person holding his 205-page debut will be an art-world native: “A gallery called David Zwirner,” Wu writes, instead of “the David Zwirner gallery,” a subtle but fundamental choice of syntax. Indeed, addressing the “every person” while simultaneously questioning the very possibility of this concept is one of the thoroughlines of Wu’s devourable collection of essays. In it, the curator-slash-writer flits from dissecting the class quandaries of the Telfar bag to deciphering artist Ching Ho Cheng’s psychedelic paintings to recounting the time he saw a Félix González-Torres work that reminded him of his mom’s beaded kitchen curtains. In “Without Roots But Flowers,” he reflects on the “tension between the institutional work that paid my rent and the anti-institutional activity that fed my soul,” remembering a day when he spent the afternoon sifting through mail at the Museum of Modern Art, only to get home and find out that there had been a protest at the museum earlier (he read about it in Hyperallergic). Wu’s myriad observations on art, queerness, identity, and the trap of capitalism are narrated with a similar unfussy self-awareness, brimming with humor and depth. —Valentina Di Liscia

Buy on Bookshop | Harper, June 2024

Queer World Making: Contemporary Middle Eastern Diasporic Art by Andrew Gayed

Andrew Gayed book cover

In this thoughtful study, Andrew Gayed seeks to debunk the mythologies that many White Western scholars have created around queer sexuality in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Queer World Making centers a handful of queer SWANA artists working in the diaspora whose practices bring into focus the historical complexity of gender and sexuality in Arab and Muslim countries and present a narrative of queer SWANA identity that challenges Western tropes of repression. As other diasporic identities have gained some nuance in the contemporary Euro-American imagination, SWANA identities remain othered, if not erased. By foregrounding individual artists who explore sexuality and gender, and tracing the impact of colonialism on SWANA cultures, Gayed’s book is a much-needed step toward visibility and contribution to art history. —Natalie Haddad

Buy on Bookshop | University of Washington Press, March 2024

Miss Chief volume 1 cover

The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: A True and Exact Accounting of the History of Turtle Island by Kent Monkman and Gisèle Gordon

Cree two-spirit artist Kent Monkman’s assiduous oil paintings are much like the rest of his layered practice, which encompasses performance, photography, and film: Spellbinding and imaginative, they confront and transcend Western art history through queer, Native lenses. Translated into writing with his collaborator Gisèle Gordon, this vision is charged with a new kind of energy.

Miss chief vol 2 book cover

The two-volume memoirs of his longtime alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, narrate a transformative history of Turtle Island that simultaneously mourns the horrors of colonialism and points us toward a better future. Scholar Joseph M. Pierce writes in his review on Hyperallergic: “Miss Chief is more than the voice of a personage or the residue of art history. She represents the interstices of Indigenous life, that shapeshifting, time-scale-slipping force that reminds us of our enduring strength in the face of such overwhelming violence. The recounting of the swindling politicians, drunk Indian agents, abusive clergymen, and unscrupulous land speculators; the memory of matriarchs whose care sustained generations; the land and its ebbing transformations. Miss Chief is all of that and more. Her voice echoes across time: I see you. I remember you.” —LA

Read the Review by Joseph M. Pierce | Buy Volume 1 and Volume 2 on Bookshop | McClelland & Stewart, November 2023

PENTE, A Book of Woe by John Wieners

Pente john wieners book

John Wieners, who attended Black Mountain College to study with Charles Olson and Robert Duncan from 1955 to ’56, is an orphic, cultish presence in Postwar American poetry. Although associated with the Beat poets, New York School, and Black Mountain, by dint of his having been in these scenes, he inhabits a haunted domain all his own. Poet Denise Levertov once wrote: “I am brought to remember Orpheus, who did not sing about hell: He was in hell, and sang there, leading the way out.” In his illuminating afterword to PENTE, A Book of Woe, Jeremy Reed writes that “John Wieners was so much a poet that his life was inseparable from his work.” Reed goes on to point out that “Wieners was an explicitly gay poet who uninhibitedly wrote from his same-sex orientation. For other poets, such as Robert Duncan who was teaching at Black Mountain College, and Jack Spicer as part of the Bay Poets, homosexuality, while implicit, was never the dominant in a poetry that argued language before its subject.”

Wieners’s uninhibitedness did him in; he was confined to mental institutions four times, periodically unhoused, and addicted to Benzedrine and heroin. He was our Antonin Artaud. PENTE, A Book of Woe is based on the poet’s copy of his Ace of Pentacles (1964) with handwritten amendments. The title comes from William Blake’s 1789 poem “The Chimney Sweeper,” which ends with the words, “woe, woe.” It is both a complete book and a record of Wieners’s changes, notes, and re-envisioning, and includes the most complete bibliography to date and other supplementary material. It ends with this poem with Wieners’s later addition: 

Two Years Later

The hollow eyes of shock remain
Electric sockets burnt out in the 

The beauty of men never disappears
But drives a blue car through the

And wonders wherever you go.

John Yau

Buy the Book | Artery Editions, October 2023

God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin, edited by Hilton Als

God made my face baldwin book cover

God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin helps render a clearer picture of one of history’s greatest writers. Edited by Hilton Als, the book considers Baldwin’s lasting influence on contemporary literature and art, interspersing artworks amidst essays by his peers and proteges. A standout is Alvin Baltrop’s series of silver gelatin photographs, The Piers (1975–86), which offer a glimpse into New York City’s gay cruising scene just before the AIDS epidemic. Als, academic Stephen Best, and novelist Darryl Pinckney explain how his work continues to offer a roadmap for young, queer readers to become writers in adulthood. The book also reveals tales about Baldwin’s romances and profound collaborations with other queer men. The interrogative relationship of queer Black men with religion and its echoes within their work is also rippled throughout God Made My Face. This “collective portrait” might help us understand the ways that the artists we admire shape our cultural landscape and our personhood across generations. —Jasmine Weber

Buy on Bookshop | Dancing Foxes Press and the Brooklyn Museum, March 2024

Erotic Resistance: The Struggle for the Soul of San Francisco by Gigi Otalvaro-Hormillosa

Erotic Resistance cover

Confrontational nudity plays an outsized role in today’s performance art and as well as arts activism. From Crackhead Barney’s antics to a topless protest a few years ago at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, many women activists reveal their nude bodies as a feminist intervention. What has been missing for a long time is a solid book on the history of feminist nudity in performance. In this new book, scholar and artist Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa digs up roots in the San Franciso of yesteryear, before the tech bros destroyed the soul of the city. After interviewing three generations of strippers from San Francisco, performing from the 1960s to the 2010s, and culling from the archives, she lays out an engrossing story of women rejecting the Playboy Bunny and embracing nudity as an expression of their agency. Many of these strippers performed in strip clubs that were dismissed as “low-brow,” while also engaging in activism on the streets and performance art in alternative spaces considered to be “high-brow.” The book deconstructs that false binary, centering on the stories of the women who pushed the art world beyond the Yves Klein semiotics of naked women frolicking in blue paint solely for the pleasure of the male gaze. Many of these women were non-White, queer, and trans, so their ongoing influence on contemporary performance has predictably gone unsung and undertheorized. As women today continue to use their nude bodies to challenge, to provoke, and to radicalize, Erotic Resistance reveals how that playbook was first written in San Francisco. —Daniel Larkin

Buy on Bookshop | University of California Press, February 2024

Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar by Cynthia Carr

Candy Darling book cover

Candy Darling was a classic Hollywood beauty, with her long, fawn-like limbs, her high cheekbones and heavy-lidded gaze, and her famously red lips. Modeling herself on cinematic glamor queens like Marlene Dietrich and Kim Novak, she stood out in the 1960s and ’70s, an era defined by its break with the past. But Darling was a revolution all her own: one of very few trans women to step consistently onto the national stage at the time, in the films of Andy Warhol, the photos of Richard Avedon, the plays of Tennessee Williams, and the pages of numerous magazines. She influenced countless artists during her life and beyond, from Lou Reed to Greer Lankton to Anohni, among so many others. And yet, up until this point, there wasn’t a biography recording her short whirlwind of a life. Enter the great chronicler of downtown New York, Cynthia Carr, who brings vast knowledge, deep care, and steady determination to render Darling’s life in its full complexity, giving a taste of the celluloid dream the starlet wanted to present, but also showing the reality of what it meant to pursue an existence that others weren’t ready for. —Alexis Clements

Buy on Bookshop | Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2024

We Make Each Other Beautiful: Art, Activism, and the Law by Yxta Maya Murray

Yxta Maya Murray book cover

Yxta Maya Murray is a Los Angeles-based law professor, novelist, and art critic whose new book We Make Each Other Beautiful: Art, Activism, and the Law narrates the various points of contact between contemporary feminist and queer artists, their works, and their modes of engagement with “the missions and tactics of social movements that moved the legal needle.” While this is Murray’s first nonfiction work in a literary career spanning over 25 years, she has long drawn on activist histories to fuel her narratives of outsiders ambivalently navigating the art market or environmental catastrophes, as demonstrated in her recent novels Art Is Everything (2021) and God Went Like That (2023). We Make Each Other Beautiful swan dives into the activist projects of US-based and diasporic artists as wide-ranging as Carrie Mae Weems, Young Joon Kwak, Tanya Aguiñiga, and Imani Jacqueline Brown that trace the emergence and cultural trajectories of these artivists’ networks of radical affinities and models of care. —Raquel Gutiérrez

Buy on Bookshop | Cornell University Press, June 2024

Queer Art: From Canvas to Club, and the Spaces Between by Gemma Rolls-Bentley

queer art book

Gemma Rolls-Bentley’s Queer Art: From Canvas to Club, and the Spaces Between takes the 1960s as a loose starting point to outline a history of art made by the LGBTQIA+ community. The volume is organized into thematic chapters, each summarized by a key word: spaces, bodies, and power. But Queer Art is best enjoyed by browsing its pages, making connections between works, and discovering new artists. After all, those themes are just three delineations of the multifaceted nature of queerness. The book merges living legends with emerging talents, painters and digital artists, collectives, and activists, including Catherine Opie, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, General Idea, Salman Toor, Juliana Huxtable, Michaela Yearwood-Dan, and Sin Wai Kin. Rolls-Bentley writes in the introduction, “During [my] two art history degrees there wasn’t a single mention of queer art. I feel confident that if I’d seen a book like this one, I’d have had an easier time understanding who I was.” This experience remains far too common and is one that books like Queer Art aim to challenge, one page at a time. —Francesco Dama

Buy on Bookshop | Francis Lincoln, June 2024

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top