A Season to Celebrate Art

Introducing the Fall 2021 Issue

judy chicago, alta cover
Penni Gladstone

The Fall 2021 issue of Alta Journal arrives in subscribers’ mailboxes and on newsstands this week. With a cover package devoted to the arts, the issue also comes with a special keepsake booklet presenting some of Jim Harrison’s final poems.

Describing how Harrison (who died in 2016) worked, Alta’s editor and publisher, Will Hearst, could just as easily be describing any of the artists in this gorgeous issue: “It was something he needed to do. Part occupation, part therapy, partly a way to approach the world—to contemplate and reimagine its sadness, finiteness, and also transcendence.”

In other words, art is life itself.

What follows are some of the highlights of the issue. To experience it in full in print (and get your copy of that Harrison booklet), subscribe to Alta Journal.

This essay was adapted from the Alta newsletter, delivered every Thursday.

Bridget Quinn raises the curtain on feminist icon Judy Chicago’s retrospective show at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. This is a homecoming of sorts, since The Dinner Party, probably Chicago’s most famous work, had its debut in San Francisco in 1979. Plus: a conversation with Chicago and a guide to California art shows.

Art critic Charles Desmarais offers an intimate look at the late “funk” artist William T. Wiley, who died in April. “Skillful in all media, he was a masterful draftsman and watercolorist. Yet it was the stories he told—intricate, frantically embellished yarns spelled out in improbable visual contrivances, rebus puzzlers, groan-inducing verbal puns—that both made him famous and stymied critical acceptance,” Desmarais writes.

Meanwhile, Jim Lewis talks to another impossible-to-pin-down creator, Dave Hickey, whose writing on art, culture, and other topics has earned him a MacArthur “genius” grant and a devoted cult following.

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp checks in on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as the institution undergoes a massive renovation and grapples with questions of representation and inclusion within its galleries.

Alta also asked Ishmael Reed, Hiejin Yoo, Teresa Flores, and others to write about works of art they can’t stop thinking about.

Looking for other great reads? Carla Blank looks back at the late avant-garde dancer Anna Halprin, who showed the world the amazing things a human body can do during her century-long lifetime. Denise Hamilton introduces us to Los Angeles’s “creek freaks,” who seek to map—and protect—the city’s natural waterways.

Sydney Love swirls some natural wines with the women at the front of the tasty trend. Does natural wine pair with barbecue? Gustavo Arellano samples some Texas-style brisket and other smoky delights from Orange County’s Heritage Barbecue, where the wait has been as long as six hours. And Robert Ito tells the story of Riverside’s Sherman Indian High School, “the last off-reservation boarding school built by the federal government” to serve Indigenous students. “Where students were once punished for speaking their own languages, tribal languages and customs are now celebrated,” Ito writes.

In our books section, David L. Ulin reads Larry McMurtry and introduces this season’s California Book Club authors: Maxine Hong Kingston, Tommy Orange, and Héctor Tobar. (Sign up for CBC here.) We’ve also got a guide to the books written by Alta Journal contributors, which is perfect for anyone looking to get a jump on holiday gifts for book lovers.

All of that and so much more in the print edition will keep you enthralled during a season filled with art.

Matt Haber has previously worked as an editor at The Village Voice, The New York Observer, and The Atlantic.
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