My Avant-Garde Education: A Memoir

Bernard Cooper. Norton, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-24071-9
In this lively memoir, art critic and writer Cooper (The Bill from My Father), winner of the PEN/Hemingway award, retraces his youth, up to and including the period of his intellectual awakening during the heyday of conceptual art, and vividly recalls his experiences as a son, brother, student, and closeted young gay man. Alternately funny and touching, the book chronicles Cooper’s adolescence in 1960s Los Angeles, including the moment he fell in love with pop art in his middle school library, and his young adulthood in New York, where he studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, as well as the years he spent studying under the likes of Allan Kaprow and the poet and visual artist Emmett Williams at CalArts. Throughout, Cooper draws interesting connections between his suppressed sexuality and the period’s radical reexamination of the art object, observing, “The stronger and more tangible my longing for men, the more adamantly I crusaded for art’s dematerialization.” Offbeat characters and comic incidents richly animate Cooper’s narrative, as do his recollections of compelling seminars and performance pieces at CalArts. Toward the end of the memoir, short chapters offer a glimpse into his career as an art critic and writer, as well as the losses he suffered during the AIDS epidemic. Readers interested in conceptualism will especially value these personal reflections during such a critical moment in the recent history of art. Agent: Steven Barclay, Steven Barclay Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/13/2014
Release date: 02/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-393-24650-6
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