BY Sam Gordon in Frieze | 30 APR 21

The Frieze Library: Volume Three

Presented in collaboration with Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Gordon Robichaux, NY

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BY Sam Gordon in Frieze | 30 APR 21

For three years, the Frieze Library has invited every Frieze New York exhibitor to submit one art publication to be gifted to the Thomas J. Watson Library, the main research library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Conceived and organized by the New York gallery Gordon Robichaux, the initiative is, to quote the gallery’s Sam Gordon ‘a curatorial collaboration between a fair, a magazine, a museum and a gallery’. Together, says Gordon, the volumes offer ‘a reflection of the current moment as seen through the eyes of artists and art-world professionals alike’ – forming ‘a kind of microcosm and archive of the fair’.

More than 100 galleries participated in the initiative’s first year, and the number continues to grow. As such, among the donated volumes are monographs, artist books and catalogues, from art publishers, institutions, galleries, small presses, and academic presses, in both physical and, like Kevin Reuning’s artist’s ebook A Few Visuals (2014), purely digital form. With remote access a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, each digital publication is made fully accessible to researchers not only onsite at the Watson Library but through Watsonline, its online service.

Participating galleries are invited to submit a title that both represents their program and speaks to the current moment. While Gordon Robichaux presents work by Otis Houston Jr. – in the fair’s Frame section this year – the gallery’s contribution to the Frieze Library is Temporary Monuments (2018), a survey of work by Rosemary Mayer, in conjunction with their exhibition of the late American feminist artist this summer.

See the full bibliography of The Frieze Library: Volume Three

Here, Gordon selects five titles donated to the Watson across all three years of the Frieze Library, which exemplify some of the project’s most significant ideas and images.

Ming Smith (Aperture, 2020)
Donated by Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York, in Year 3
This essential monograph of Ming Smith’s work is another first for an artist who had many firsts: the first female member of the Harlem-based photography collective Kamoinge Workshop and the first female African-American photographer to enter the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1978. Jenkins Johnson Gallery’s solo presentation of Smith’s work at Frieze New York 2019 received the Frieze Stand Prize. The book’s iridescent cover sets the mood for the lyric, atmospheric images that unfold within on full- bleed spreads. The sheer number of legendary American figures portrayed by Smith, from James Baldwin to Grace Jones to Nina Simone, guarantees this book will be a touchstone for years to come.

Piero Manzoni: Writings on Art (Hauser & Wirth, 2020)
Donated by Hauser & Wirth, New York, in Year 2

The wild, short life of Piero Manzoni (1933–63) reverberates through the history of the avant-garde, predating conceptual art in forms you may recognize (Artist’s Shit, 1961) as well as others you might not (Artist’s Breath, 1960). Manzoni’s provocative work during Italy’s postwar boom called into question the fundamental nature of the art object and anticipated the work of a generation of younger artists. Bound in beautiful faux- leather, this collection of 25 essays and manifestos by the artist, from 1956 to 1963, also contains archival images and a new essay by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh. Providing a way to look back on Manzoni’s creative force, the book also offers a lens on the contemporary.

Thaddeus Mosley (Karma Books, 2020)
Donated by Karma, New York, 
in Year 2
Constantin Brâncuși, Isamu Noguchi and Thaddeus Mosley. This 360-degree showcase in book form explores the 60-year career of Thaddeus Mosley, a Pittsburgh-based postal worker turned sculptor, whose jazz-inspired works created with salvaged wood situate him in a lineage of European, Japanese and pan-African modernist masters. In 2020, he made his first work in cast bronze for Frieze SculptureRhizogenic Rhythms, at Rockefeller Center. An intimate and instigative survey, the tone for this book is set by the opening poem by artist Sam Gilliam, ‘a friend since forever’.

Elisabeth Kley (Pre-Echo Press, 2019)
Donated by Canada, New York, in Year 1

This first monograph dedicated to Elisabeth Kley’s prolific practice opens and closes with dazzling endpapers, bracketing the contents with lush, colorful details of her drawings. Within, images of her ceramics reveal the depth of her oeuvre. Published by painter Matt Connors’s Pre-Echo Press, the book gives the reader an intimate glimpse of the artist’s practice through photographs of her studio, and a generous collection of the varied historical imagery that inspires her work: Ancient Egyptian motifs, Roman wall painting and designs from the Wiener Werkstätte and the Ballets Russes. A great introduction to Kley’s work alongside her first solo institutional exhibition at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, which runs through August this year.

Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply (University of Texas Press, 2018)
Donated by Stephen Daiter, Chicago, in Year 1

This massive tome dedicated to Dawoud Bey’s 40 years of photographic work unfolds chronologically, bearing witness to American history, where the personal and the political converge. From the series ‘Harlem, U.S.A.’ (1975–78) to ‘Harlem Redux’ (2014–17), and his iconic images of artist David Hammons, Bey is an urgent observer of culture. Among the nine texts is ‘The Birmingham Project. A Remembrance of Lives Lost’ by Maurice Berger, whom we lost last year to COVID -19. The recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Bey continues the legacy of photographers such as Roy DeCarava, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks and James Van Der Zee. His work strikes deep.

 

This article appeared in Frieze Week, New York 2021

Main image: Photograph by Norman Wilcox Geissen

Sam Gordon is an artist, curator and co-Founder of Gordon Robichaux, based in New York, USA

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