cover image Before Pictures

Before Pictures

Douglas Crimp. Univ. of Chicago, $39 (288p) ISBN 978-0-226-42345-6

In this latest memoir from celebrated art and cultural critic Crimp (Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics), the personal informs the critical and the critical informs the personal: intimate confessions exist comfortably beside insights about the work and lives of 20th-century creative luminaries. In 1977, he curated Pictures, the influential exhibit that serves as a reference point for this meditation on the art world and queerness. Crimp moves seamlessly from America’s conservative heartland in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to Tulane University and New Orleans of the early 1960s, and finally to neighborhoods of New York City that played host to his development as a gay man and as a major figure in the art world. Throughout his story peppered with famous people from poet John Ashbery and artist Pat Steir to intellectual Guy Hocquenghem and even Arnold Schwarzenegger, Crimp reminds us that queerness informs how he sees, processes, and experiences the world: “I would have to learn how and where to be queer all over again, since being queer is a matter of a world you can inhabit, not something you simply are.” This account is not a complete picture of a life in art: it is slant, oblique, and—yes—queer. Like the art Crimp investigates in portions of the book, his work leaves readers with questions; he leaves readers wanting more. B&w photos. (Oct.)