Much of the human world, both inner and outer, is explored through art. Werner Herzog's recent documentary about cave art in France made the case beautifully. And any preview of a season's art book offerings—either books of art or about artists—does as well. This particular season is full of big books on big artists, as well as probing titles about artists who themselves probed the interiors of themselves or others.
A new study of the enigmatic Diane Arbus—who continues to fascinate—is coming from Will Todd Schultz. Although the title is still tentative, according to the publisher, An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus explores the mysteries of this revered photographer, informed in part by the recent release of some of Arbus's writing as well as by interviews with her psychotherapist. The work of another photographer, and, like Arbus, a suicide, is amply on display in Francesca Woodman, a "definitive monograph" from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The book contains 110 pages of plates surrounded by essays on of Woodman's work and continuing influence.
Perhaps there is no more iconic artist than Vincent Van Gogh, whose brilliant paintings and tormented life have come to define the tortured artist. Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, whose biography of another brilliant icon, Jackson Pollock, was a bestseller and prize winner, take the measure of the great Dutch post-impressionist in Van Gogh: A Life.
The career of Willem de Kooning, the great Dutch-American abstract expressionist, is surveyed in the handsome De Kooning: A Retrospective, coming from the Museum of Modern Art, with an essay by the distinguished John Elderfield.
The man considered perhaps the world's most important painter, Gerhard Richter, whose work has taken many different turns, is looked at in full in Gerhard Richter: Panorama, in a Tate effort led by Tate director Nicholas Serota.
Of course, the creation of artistic reputation is not the work of the artist alone. In The Art Prophets, Richard Polsky recognizes the most influential "tastemakers"—artists, of course, but also their dealers, who changed the course of art.
There are no longer critics who are tastemakers in quite the sense that Clement Greenberg once was. But with the recent death of Leo Steinberg, perhaps the most influential living critic is Rosalind Krauss. In Under Blue Cup, Krauss explores memory and art making, her own memory having been challenged by a recent aneurysm.
Since the field is wide open for tastemakers these days—hello, Mr. Saatchi—why not bad boy novelist Will Self and the good Dave Eggers, who praise the work of David Shrigley, a British graphic artist. What the Hell Are You Doing?: The Essential David Shrigley should expand his reputation in the States.
Speaking of the States and things iconic, consider Nevada. Neon Nevada is, according to the publisher Globe Pequot, "a stirring ode to a fading tradition and a celebration of a unique modern art."
Lastly, all the above and more may be contained in some fashion in Phaidon's ambitious The Art Museum, a virtual museum of world art contained in a book. Many are likely to visit this one, a bargain at $200.
PW's Top 10 Art & Architecture
An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus
William Todd Schultz. Bloomsbury, Aug.
Corey Keller, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Jennifer Blessing. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nov.
Van Gogh: The Life
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. Random House, Oct.
De Kooning: A Retrospective
Jim Coddington et al., intro. essay by John Elderfield. Museum of Modern Art, Sept.
Gerhard Richter: Panorama
Nicholas Serota et al. Tate, Oct.
The Art Prophets: The Artists, Dealers, and Tastemakers Who Shook the Art World
Richard Polsky. Other Press, Oct.
Under Blue Cup
Rosalind E. Krauss. MIT Press, Nov.
What the Hell Are You Doing?: The Essential David Shrigley
David Shrigley. Norton, Oct.
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan. Globe Pequot, Oct.
The Art Museum
Phaidon Press editors. Phaidon, Sept.