The Word Is Art

Thames & Hudson. 2018. 288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500239667. $60. FINE ARTS
Artist, author (Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still-Life Tradition) and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) London Petry details the importance of writing and text to today's artists. Words are at the core of experiencing all the artworks featured, often presenting meanings different from those of the images and conveying the symbolism hidden within. While Petry's concentration is primarily on 21st-century art, he includes historical background in the introduction. For example, he cites Duchamp's Fountain, with its signature "R. Mutt," which, when read aloud, sounds like Armut, the German word for poverty or "Mott," a manufacturer of sanitary ware. More than 200 artists or artist groups are pictured, each with full-color illustration and a paragraph of bibliographic information. Among these are German artist Tom Fecht's installation with cobblestones carved with the names of people who died from AIDS, located outside the Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, reminiscent of stumbling blocks commemorating Holocaust victims in Rome's Ghetto.
VERDICT Blending compelling narrative and gorgeous illustrations, this work will appeal to curators, studio art and art history practitioners, students, and interested general readers.

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