Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) was an American abstract painter well-known for his monochrome canvases, especially his black “ultimate paintings.” He was also an accomplished cartoonist/illustrator and his, often tongue in cheek, meditations on the foibles of the then contemporary art world have recently been assembled in book form.
The collection, “How to Look: Ad Reinhardt’s Art Comics” (David Zwirner Gallery/Hatje Cantz), is introduced by an essay by well-known art critic Robert Storr who refers to Reinhardt as “the Diogenes of the funny pages.”
The drawings were originally published in some of the mass-media periodicals of the day including “ArtNews,” “Harper’s Weekly,” and many others. Simultaneously a send-up of the public dismay with the art of the period and instruction manual, the drawings are hilariously on target.
A few of the titles give an idea of Reinhardt’s reach—“How to Look at a Cubist Painting,” “A Portend of the Artist as Yhung Mandala,” “How to Look at High (Abstract) Art,” and “How to Look At Modern Art in America,” which gives us a family tree of the Modernist movement. As Storr notes in his essay, Reinhardt was fully aware of that “in jokes begin responsibilities.”
A compendium of a different sort can be found in “Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorite Movies” (Taschen). Tracing this iconic film genre from its earliest beginnings and influences—early French and German silent films—through the classics of the genre, it is a highly recommended voyage through one of the most important film movements of the 20th century.
Posters, stills, profiles on both directors (Hitchcock, Mann, Scorsese, Wilder) and stars (Mitchum, Bogart, Bacall, Hayworth) abound and the entries are arranged chronologically from 1920 through 2011 making it an essential compendium for the medium.
“The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today” (Knopf) by Ted Conover explores both how roads bind our world together, and how they keep things separate, by examining six key routes.
He travels over the Andes with a load of mahogany bound for export; he visits truckers in east Africa whose journeys have been linked to the spread of AIDs; he crosses checkpoints between Israeli and Palestinian territories; travels down a frozen road in the Himalaya with escaping teenagers; surveys the impact of a dramatically surging car culture in China; and travels inside an ambulance through the apocalyptic nightmare of Lagos, Nigeria.
In tracing what roads have become—from opening up limitless possibilities to paths for seeking territory and wealth—the costs and benefits of both sides of the coin, Connover sheds light on who both we, and the paths we travel, have evolved.
Kirk Robertson writes about the local arts scene. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.