Nicole Rudick

  • Line Dancing

    Saul Steinberg couldn’t fully enumerate the contents of The Labyrinth in words. For a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1978, he composed a list of the subjects explored in the book of drawings, originally published in 1960 and recently reissued by New York Review Comics. It begins with “illusion, talks, women, cats, dogs, birds, the cube” before trailing off, a dozen items later, with “geometry, heroes, harpies, etc.”

    The title, too, gave Steinberg some trouble. He took several trips by car and bus throughout the United States between 1954 and 1960, during which the book’s

  • Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master

    The Bauhaus is coming to New York. A retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art later this fall will be accompanied by an immense catalogue, detailing a dazzling array of the school’s ideas and objects. But before the onslaught of Gropius, Klee, Kandinsky, Albers, Breuer, Moholy-Nagy, Itten, and Schlemmer, one ought to peruse this intimate volume of work and writings by Gunta Stölzl, the school’s only female master. Coeditor Monika Stadler (both editors are the artist’s daughters), in a nostalgic glance back at her childhood, calls the interwoven text and images a “picture book,” and

  • Black Light

    In 2006, Kehinde Wiley painted Le Roi à la Chasse, in which a T-shirted young black man imitates the pose assumed by Charles I in Anthony van Dyck’s 1635 canvas of the same name. Though Wiley’s model introduces a casualness into the king’s formal comportment by tossing back his head as if to saunter forward, it is the version of van Dyck’s pastoral portrait in Black Light—Wiley’s first foray into photography—that provides a strikingly contemporary interpretation. Here, the model gazes unswervingly out from the picture, catching us with his look and, through photography’s immediacy, holding us

  • Kandinsky

    As a retrospective of the work of Wassily Kandinsky makes its way from Munich to Paris to New York over the course of this year—roughly tracing the artist’s own westward path during his lifetime—fortunate viewers will experience one of the greatest concentrations of his art. Much as previous shows have presented piecemeal considerations of his body of work, so have publications tended toward examinations limited to certain media or particular periods. But to see the evolution of his painting is to witness the birth of a modernist master: early figurative canvases mixing French Impressionism

  • Beasts!

    “O LORD, WHAT A VARIETY OF THINGS YOU HAVE MADE! In wisdom you have made them all.” We know He made the lamb and the tiger, but what about the yeti, the kraken, and the manticore? Not to mention the Invunche, a “twisted, deformed, pathetic creature” that started out as “an innocent Chilean boy who is sold to a warlock.” Then there’s the flesh-eating Burmese Khimakha, an ogre so hideous that he’s ugly “even by ogre standards.” Oh, and Mothman: It looks like a human, except that it has “massive wings, no head, and a set of large, reflective eyes embedded in its chest.” (I think we can blame that

  • Daniel Johnston

    In a drawing of Texas in which the state is superimposed on a cross, Austin is designated by a pentagram sunk into a vortex. A dog’s head severed from a monstrous humanoid form inaccurately observes, “CROSS ON TEXAS,” and a trepanned human head with sunken eyes interjects, “DEATH TO SUICIDE.” Such is the landscape of Daniel Johnston’s drawings—cartoonish collisions of perspective whose Magic Marker palette extends from bright to brighter. But the more than eighty works that make up this monograph, the most comprehensive of his artwork to date, retain too much emotional presence to be mistaken

  • The Dawn of the Color Photograph: Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet

    In historical photographs, events from long ago are easy to distinguish from more recent ones: The distant past is always in black-and-white. Even though experiments in color photography began in the mid-nineteenth century, color wouldn’t be widely used until the mid-1930s, and even then mainly for documentary and commercial purposes. But in 1909, two years after the Lumière brothers invented the Autochrome process, French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn initiated a twenty-two-year project (brought to an end by his ruin in the Great Depression) to photograph the world in color. Known as

  • No Heaven on Earth

    In Maria Sibylla Merian’s first caterpillar book, printed in 1679, a garden tiger moth lives parallel lives. On one side of a stalk of blue flowers is the expected metamorphosis: a heap of pearly eggs, a tiny caterpillar, a swirled pupa, and a black and tangerine moth. On the other, a fat caterpillar crawls under a blackened pupa, open and empty. A larva of a different species has sucked the life out of the would-be moth and produced its own minute black fly. The split image arrests time: Emergence, transformation, and decay transpire on a single page.

    An avid naturalist, Merian hatched hundreds


    Dubravka Ugresic is Walter Benjamin’s Baudelaire, the poetic sojourner who finds himself at the whim of the crowd. She is the flaneur cast into the streets, nowhere at home. And like Baudelaire, Ugresic is a writer in full view of and at odds with the forces of commodity culture, a writer whose mission is to give form to modernity. But if Baudelaire’s poetry is permeated by melancholic doom, Ugresic’s diagnosis of life’s illusory qualities is delightfully judgmental and cheerily pessimistic. Or as she tartly concludes in Nobody’s Home, her new collection of essays, “this book breaks the rules

  • Gary Panter

    Gary Panter is a difficult artist to pin down. He’s a cartoonist, best known for his buzz-cut everyman, Jimbo. He performs light shows, makes puppets, constructs tiny cardboard architectural models, and writes and draws an animated Internet show. He’s done illustration work and album art. He’s even been a production designer, creating much of the surreal set for Pee-wee’s Playhouse (the job earned him three Emmy Awards), and an interior designer, for a children’s playroom in Philippe Starck’s Paramount Hotel in New York. But this two-volume monograph makes the case for his paintings.


  • The Americans

    Though the cultural history of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century is in large part a tale of immigrants, Robert Frank’s rise to prominence as a quintessentially Ameri­can photographer and his creation of one of the best-known photographic accounts of American life is in many ways a story unto itself. Following in the tradition of Walker Evans and the FSA photojournalists, this Swiss native journeyed throughout the country with his Leica camera in 1955 and 1956. The resulting portfolio of eighty-three photographs presents far more than a sociological portrait of the

  • Chemises

    Are the changing fortunes of a nation always visible on the faces of its citizens? The first set of photographs of young Malians in Malick Sidibé’s Chemises dates from March 1962, less than two years after Mali gained its independence. The new president, Modibo Keita, pursued a socialist policy, aligning the country with the Communist bloc. Midway through the book, we find pictures taken on November 2, 1968, days before a bloodless military coup. Some of the book’s last images date from 1976, two years after the end of a devastating drought and shortly before the start of student protests

  • Comics Relief

    It is a shopworn stereotype that comics shops are dank holes of nerddom, in which flabby, ponytailed men argue the finer points of Spider-Man’s relationship with Mary Jane over a game of Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering. More recently, though, there’s a new breed of shop on the scene, one that offers a selection of indie comics and graphic novels—books that have been appearing with increasing regularity in literary-minded publications.

    The established fact of this transition in comics retailing is best illustrated by its appearance on television (for when, in recent memory, has a


    In her splendid debut novel, Blood Kin, Ceridwen Dovey offers a tale about the revolutionary overthrow of a dictatorship in an unnamed country. The exchange of power she describes isn’t specific to the totalitarian governments of, say, Latin America or Africa, nor is it a critique of the sad play of current US international affairs. The novel isn’t, in fact, a commentary on our times, despite its setting in the present or the recent past. Instead, Dovey’s concern is more elemental: Blood Kin is a story about power, political and personal, and its dangerous ineffability.

    The narration is

  • Death pervades the ten stories in Benjamin Percy’s second collection, Refresh, Refresh. These are gory, bloody, violent tales, yet they are narrated with such tenderness that they hang heavy with sadness. Percy sketches the lives of his protagonists, who live in Oregon’s rural high desert, in muted tones. Tumalo, Bend, La Pine, Redmond: The towns are as indistinguishable and unremarkable as their inhabitants—a melancholy region peopled with weary, mournful men who must cope with loss and loneliness.

    The compelling title story, winner of the Plimpton and Pushcart prizes, is the acme of Percy’s