Our Favorite Art Books of 2022

by Glasstire December 27, 2022

At Glasstire, we’re always paying attention to art books from Texas and beyond. We’re also, occasionally, picking up old books that we haven’t quite gotten around to yet. Here’s a short list of publications that stood out to our staff in 2022.

Jessica Fuentes

A photograph of the front cover of the book "Josef Albers in Mexico." The bright pink cover features block lettering that spell out the title.

Josef Albers in Mexico. Published by Guggenheim Museum Publications.

Originally published in 2017, the exhibition catalog Josef Albers in Mexico features black and white photographs taken by the artist alongside artworks inspired by his trips to Mexico and other Latin American countries between 1935 and 1968. As an art educator, I’m quite familiar with Albers’ book Interaction of Color, a staple in understanding the complexities of color and perception. So, when I happened upon this book at The Sentinel, a coffeeshop and store in Marfa, I was immediately curious. The bright pink cover is eye-catching yet simple, with just the book’s title presented in block letters.

A photograph of the book "Josef Albers in Mexico" opened to a page that shows a black and white photograph of a Mesoamerican pyramid and a line drawing by Josef Albers.

The book includes essays by Lauren Hinkson, Associate Curator at the Guggenheim, who organized the exhibition, and Joaquín Barriendos, an author, curator, and professor with expertise in Latin American Studies. Hinkson’s essay, “Ruins in Reverse,” gives a wealth of context on Albers’ travels, and draws directly from the artist’s correspondences. Barriendos’ essay, “Devouring Squares: Josef Albers in the Center of the Pyramids,” speaks to Albers’ 1937 lecture, Truthfulness in Art, which discussed his aesthetic shifts inspired by his travels in Mexico. The essays and images provide a new perspective on Albers’ work and illustrate its connections to Pre-Columbian architecture. The included photographs taken by Albers are particularly interesting, as they give a peek into the structures and scenes that captivated him. 

A photograph of the cover of a new book titled "Impractical Spaces: Houston. An Anthology of artist-run galleries, occupied warehouses, co-operatives, pop-ups & other ad-hoc venues." The cover depicts a group of people gathered around the base of a large-scale sculpture of a bird.

Impractical Spaces: Houston, edited by Pete Gershon. Published by Impractical Spaces.

With my extended family living in Galveston, I had driven through Houston multiple times a year my entire life without really getting to know art spaces beyond the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Menil Collection. Impractical Spaces: Houston, An anthology of artist-run galleries, occupied warehouses, co-operatives, pop-ups, & other ad-hoc venues caught me up on Houston’s past and present art history through its deep dives into the stories of more than 50 uniquely Houston art spaces, some of which are still operating, and others which are long gone. 

A photograph of the book "Impractical Spaces: Houston" opened to a page featuring a black and white photograph of a group of women in front of a brick building.

The book is part of a series of publications by Impractical Spaces, a collaborative national project launched to document artist-run spaces through city-specific books. Beyond photographs of each space, event images and scanned ephemera bring to life the energy of the venues. Many of the book’s narrative texts are written by the founders of the featured organizations. As an outsider, it was fascinating to learn more about the history of the Houston art scene. 

A photograph of the front cover of the book "Speaking with Light: Contemporary Indigenous Photography. The cover features a black and white photograph of an Indigenous woman.

Speaking with Light: Contemporary Indigenous Photography, co-edited by John Rohrbach and Will Wilson. Published by Radius Books/the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

For the exhibition Speaking with Light: Contemporary Indigenous Photography, longtime Amon Carter Museum of American Art photo curator John Rohrbach knew it would be imperative to work with a co-curator of Indigenous descent. Cue Diné photographer, educator, and curator Will Wilson, who collaborated with Rohrbach to select works and organize the show. Similarly, when putting together the exhibition catalog, Rohrbach deferred to the expertise and perspectives of Indigenous art scholars. The result is unlike anything I have seen come out of a museum.

A photograph of the book "Speaking with Light: Contemporary Indigenous Photography" opened to an extended page depiction of 11 photographic works by Wendy Red Star.

Between beautiful reproductions of works from the exhibition’s various sections, the catalog provides necessary cultural context. Contributors represent various Indigenous nations, including Diné (Will Wilson and Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale); Purépecha (Dr. Patricia Marroquin Norby); Skarùᐧręˀ/Tuscarora (Dr. Jolene Rickard); and Comanche (Paul Chaat Smith). For his part, Rohrbach penned a beautiful reflection on his own process of coming to understand the Indigenous history of Fort Worth and the Carter’s responsibility in presenting the photographs in its collection, while acknowledging the various people who were instrumental in bringing the exhibition together. 


William Sarradet

A photo of a gray book cover that reads: "Maya Dunietz: Root of Two."

Maya Dunietz: Root of Two. Published by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and X Artists’ Books.

This publication does an excellent job of expanding upon Dunietz’s interest in theoretical math, and positions Root of Two, her exhibition at the Bemis Center in Omaha, Nebraska, within a helpful canon. In this book, full-color photographs of Dunietz performing with other collaborators show how her experiments have ranged beyond traditional modes. The musical notation seen throughout the catalog brings up interesting questions about how the artist has come to score her work. The interview with Michael Pisaro Liu, in which Dunietz describes a theoretical process for scaling sound work within multiple dimensions, is one of the most fascinating things I read this year.

A photo of a book cover, featuring a photograph of a desert-cliff-like landscape. The cover reads "Ribbons of Time: The Dalquest Research Site, by Douglas Preston, Photography by Walter W. Nelson."

Ribbons of Time: The Dalquest Research Site, featuring text by Douglas Preston and photography by Walter W. Nelson. Published by Midwestern State University Press.

The photographs in this 2006 tome are astounding. The story is even more interesting: the images document the Dalquest Research Site, a parcel of the Chihuahuan desert that Midwestern State University (MSU) researcher Walter W. Dalquest gifted to the university in 1996. The land is used by MSU biologists and geologists today. These photographs elevate the subject of science into art.


Brandon Zech

Photo of a book of drawings. The cover of the book reads: DRAWINGS by Tony Feher." Below the text is a crudely drawn image of glass bottles.

Tony Feher: Drawings. Published by Gregory R. Miller & Co.

A longtime project of Houston gallerist Josh Pazda, this gem of a book is a revelatory insight into the practice of an artist you thought you knew. Houston’s love for Tony Feher is clear — his major survey reopened the renovated Blaffer Art Museum in 2012, and DiverseWorks presented his memorable installation Free Fall in 2013. While the city and many of the artist’s fans knew of his hanging, water-filled plastic bottles and his sculptures composed from overlooked and discarded objects, his drawings went largely unseen.

A photo of a book spread. On the left page is a drawing of bottles hanging from a tree. On the right are three drawings — one of a bottle hanging from a piece of string, and two of bottles hanging from trees.

This book contextualizes Feher’s drawing practice by presenting a selection of works spanning about 30 years. Some drawings are simple — words repeated on a sheet of notebook paper; others are more complex — including installation ideas for what could be full shows of sculptures. All share Feher’s purest pursuit: a play with the complexity of line. An essay by Pazda recaps the artist’s career, explaining how these drawings fold into his larger work throughout the years, and a conversation between Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Zoe Leonard, and Carrie Yamaoka punctuates the book with personal anecdotes, humor, and a nod to the sagacity of Feher’s art.

A book cover featuring a painting of a brightly colored landscape, overlaid with the text: Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances.

Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances, edited by Vivian Li. Published by the Dallas Museum of Art.

Although the texts in Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances (the catalog for the late artist’s first museum presentation) are wonderful, and include an essay by the show’s curator, Vivian Li, among other writings and conversations about the artist’s life, technique, and ideas, the true star of this book are the plates. If you have a chance to see the show at the Dallas Museum of Art, do — the paintings, especially Wong’s late works, are wonderfully knock-you-in-the-gut powerful, full of longing, desire, and magic.

Inevitably, artwork that’s striking in person loses some zeal when posted on social media or seen 1/10th-scale in a book. Here, however, little power is lost. Wong’s paintings reproduce remarkably well, and, when appropriate, brushstrokes and impasto clearly come through. At this scale, the artworks could easily be children’s book illustrations, portals to other worlds saturated in bright, unfamiliar colors. Sometimes, having top-quality pictures of top-quality art is enough to put a book at the top of your list.

Exhibition catalogs by various publishers, from various years. 

My art book journey this year feels somewhat macabre. It has been propagated, at least in part, by the death of major artists and critics, including Claes Oldenburg, Lee Bontecou, Dan Graham, John Wesley, Peter Schjeldahl, and Frances Colpitt. When an artist dies, prices of their monographs sometimes skyrocket — supply and demand, a sort of rubbernecking realization that we want something of theirs to hold on to. We need their essence around, since their presence has left.

I saw this happen real-time with three wonderful catalogs, one of which I was able to snap up before inflation hit (Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective from 2003), and two of which remain out of my reach — both about the voluminous but flat paintings of Wesley — one from his 2001 MoMA PS1 show, and another, a 555-page tome, documenting his 2009 exhibition at Fondazione Prada. The price of the latter was around $450 right before his death in February, and now sits at a cool $1,978 on Amazon. This, for a copy in only “good” condition.

Exhibition catalogs are the last accessible remnants of an artist’s life. They’re better than the internet — they collect the artist’s works in one place, complete with tombstone details. And they often pair those images with writing to help deconstruct the work — or its mythos — so a reader can figure out what’s going on. Their physicality is a strength, since they bundle everything — criticism and photos — into one portable, tangible, giftable package.

Perhaps the book I read this year that best exemplifies these top qualities of catalog-ness is Chris Burden: Extreme Measures, the New Museum’s 2013 document about the artist’s work. A somewhat mystical figure, Burden made art that needs to be more experienced than viewed, which the catalog addresses through a compacted exhibition checklist with writings (descriptions) by the artist about his work. Each paragraph is short, sweet, and to the point, maintaining Burden’s frankness about what he’s trying to get across. (This catalog was either not victim to death-related inflation, or the panic has died down. It is available online, used, for $30.)

I’m a fan of how exhibition catalogs bring you back to a particular time and place — many are very much of their moment, but by being so contemporary (then, quickly, outdated), they show us where we’ve been and help us realize where we’re going. Once an artist dies, this is reversed — the books may be outdated, but now they’re documents, a culmination of life and work; historical. They form the main elements of our collective memory. I am all for remembering, and have had a fantastic year reliving shows in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, and beyond. If there’s an artist you like, get yourself a catalog of a show of theirs you didn’t see — you just might learn something.

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