Need a second opinion on the arts? These titles consider subjects ranging from architecture to film.
Peruse these five books of criticism written by contributors to Alta Journal. This category, which appears in a special guide of 83 titles, includes works by Carla Blank and Ishmael Reed, Joseph Giovannini, and David Thomson.
Writer, director, and dramaturge Carla Blank and her husband, Ishmael Reed, collected some of the most celebrated contemporary writers—Tommy Curry, Jack Foley, Emil Guillermo, Claire J. Harris, Yuri Kageyama, and many more—to discuss the rampant racism, biases, and prejudice in theater. Analyzing tensions caused by lack of diverse representation, Bigotry on Broadway details the consequences of inaccessibility, exclusivity, and the lack of theater critics who are people of color. Baraka Books, September 2021, 218 pages, $24.95 paperback
In Architecture Unbound, Joseph Giovannini examines 20th-century trends decade by decade and analyzes the work of Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Herzog and de Meuron, and other leading architects to argue that progressive European art movements around World War I led to the styles of today’s buildings. Giovannini’s critical eye also considers the 21st-century digital revolution in architectural form-making in this expansive book. Rizzoli, October 2021, 876 pages, $50 hardcover
In a reissue of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s landmark essay “Nature,” art historian Tyler Green juxtaposes multiple art pieces and historic photos with Emerson’s words, attempting to bring them into conversation. Green shows how artists influence one another’s work, regardless of the medium, revealing Emerson’s impact on U.S. art and culture. Emerson’s Nature and the Artists meditates on Emerson’s legacy and suggests that encountering his work could lead to a deeper appreciation of the U.S. landscape. Prestel Publishing, September 2021, 144 pages, $25 hardcover
In this installment of the 33 1/3 series, Santi Elijah Holley dives into the stories and mysteries that inspired the critically acclaimed 1996 album Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Combining his own examination of each song on the album with numerous previous interpretations, Holley offers a detailed history of folk ballads and unpacks the morbid fascination America has with sinister stories in this extensive analysis. Bloomsbury Academic, November 2020, 144 pages, $14.95 paperback
David Thomson presents an extensive analysis of directors ranging from Orson Welles to Spike Lee and their contributions to filmmaking. Examining the influence of directors on movies that define the industry, A Light in the Dark doesn’t shy away from the tarnished legacies of some of these creators. Thomson considers the lack of attention to female directors in Hollywood and predicts how increased diversity will change the moviemaking business. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, March 2021, 304 pages, $28 hardcover