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NYT, The Best of 2017

Updated: Sep 26, 2018

By Roberta Smith, The New York Times

Art critics with the New York Times select their favorite art books of 2017.

NOT FOR NOTHING ARE BOOKSELLERS also called bookhandlers. All books are objects, intimate ones in fact, made to be held and loved. Exhibition catalogs and art books can really bring on the love. They have more room for the imagination and more images (hugely important) and they also invite greater expectations. They rise or fall on cover design and material; proportions and heft; paper stock and fonts; the way images and text combine on the pages — all of which we start to comprehend the moment we take hold of an art book. We expect whole worlds; many deliver. Below, in no particular order, are some art books that I love as objects, and as worlds.

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Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush, edited by Marshall N. Price (Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University). Although captions are poorly placed, this is otherwise an exemplary catalog from a small museum. Its plentiful reproductions vividly trace the headlong first decade of the work of Nina Chanel Abney, a promising painter whose bright, stenciled surfaces draw equally from dire current events and modernist art. (Her shows are on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, through Dec. 20, and Mary Boone Gallery, through Dec. 22.) Mr. Price dissects the works’ iconography; the curator Jamillah James interviews the artist; and “Social Insurrection and Racial Justice in the Twilight of the Obama Years,” an essay by the accomplished journalist Natalie Y. Moore, adds painful context, ending with James Baldwin’s exhortation that artists should disturb the peace. (Read the full review.)

Ariel view of winning book covers. Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush (designed by Renee Cagnina Haynes) is in the upper right-hand corner.
Credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times


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