cover image 25 Women: Essays on Their Art

25 Women: Essays on Their Art

Dave Hickey. Univ. of Chicago, $29 (192p) ISBN 978-0-226-33315-1

Throughout these trenchant essays on female artists, Hickey (Air Guitar) is characteristically incisive, challenging, and weird; he’s just as likely to cite a Rolling Stones concert or Lou Reed lyric as the theory of Gilles Deleuze or Jacques Derrida. Hickey turns his incisive lens to the careers of various female visual and performing artists in this bustling essay collection. The range of names represented here is considerable (including some the reader may never have heard of, such as painters Sharon Ellis and Michelle Fierro), and regardless of reputation, Hickey always deploys the same lively rigor. He describes the late Elizabeth Murray as “the absolute mistress of high physical comedy... like Keith Haring with a domestic life and a Ph.D.” On Bridget Riley, he explains how her “fatally misconstrued” works of op art (using optical illusions) “compromise our current penchant for reading art rather than experiencing it.” There are other taut, complex essays on Vija Celmins, Roni Horn, Anne Hamilton, and Joan Mitchell (“In the last ten years, nothing has gotten better but mobile phones and Joan Mitchell’s paintings”). The introduction, titled “A Ladies’ Man”, in which Hickey explains how ”most of my favorite people are women,” emerges as a surprisingly powerful piece of memoir. (Dec.)