July book bag: from a major Piet Mondrian biography to the Bechers’ pioneering industrial photographs

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Piet Mondrian: A Life, Hans Janssen, Ridinghouse and Kunstmuseum Den Haag, 424pp, €40 (pb)

The first major biography in English of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1872- 1944), a leading member of the De Stijl movement, is by the late scholar Hans Janssen. The former curator at Kunstmuseum Den Haag debunks the myth that Mondrian was a “lonely, isolated artist”, according to the publisher, and “approaches this extraordinary painter from the perspective of his work, rather than any complex theory”. Ulf Küster, the curator of Mondrian Evolution at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler (until 9 October), says that “Janssen uses Mondrian’s paintings, photographs, letters, extracts from journals and conversations to reconstruct key moments in the life and work of the artist who changed the arts forever”.

Picasso: Selected Essays, Leo Steinberg, University of Chicago Press, 384pp, $65 (hb)

The fourth volume in the series Essays by Leo Steinberg shines a light on Pablo Picasso, covering everything from his childhood drawings to his last self-portrait. This volume brings together published texts such as The Philosophical Brothel, along with Steinberg’s unpublished lectures including The Intelligence of Picasso. Other essays include Resisting Cézanne: Picasso’s Three Women and Picasso’s Endgame. In an introductory essay, the art historian Richard Shiff discusses Steinberg’s analyses, saying: “In The Intelligence of Picasso, Steinberg considers the artist’s apparent boast that he never drew in a childlike manner… in fact, as Steinberg demonstrates, Picasso […] expresses regret for having been introduced to adult methods at too early an age, [and was] denied the obliviousness of naive drawing.”

Bernd & Hilla Becher, Jeff L. Rosenheim et al., Metropolitan Museum of Art, 282pp, £50 (hb)

The first posthumous monograph dedicated to the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher accompanies a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (15 July-6 November), which is “organised with full access to the artists’ personal collection of working materials and their comprehensive archive”, say the curators. The Bechers are known for their black-and-white photographs of industrial architecture, presenting pictures in groups according to themes—water towers, gas tanks, grain elevators—so as to emphasise formal similarities and differences. Authors such as Virginia Heckert and Lucy Sante offer new insights into the “development of the artists’ process, their work’s conceptual underpinnings, the photographers’ relationship to deindustrialisation, and the artists’ legacy”, according to the publisher.

Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat by Michael Borremans and Katya Tylevich Photo by Kyle Knodell. Courtesy David Zwirner Books

Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, Michael Borremans and Katya Tylevich, David Zwirner Books, 64pp, $20 (pb)

This pocket-sized book includes 15 recent works by the Belgian artist Michaël Borremans. “Uncanny scenes of figures looking at blurred acrobatic displays, hooded subjects rendered in Rembrandt-esque lighting, or solemn portraits demonstrate Borremans’s unique vision,” according to the publisher. The fiction writer Katya Tylevich has contributed an essay giving her take on Borremans’ place in art history. In an interview with arterritory, Borremans describes his technique, saying: “Painting is very physical. Even when painting on a small scale, I paint with my whole body. I really do. I move around even when I work at a table. It’s a kind of energy, and the energy goes into the painting.”

Ramesh, Jaklyn Babington (ed), Thames & Hudson, 368pp, A$100 (hb)

The Sydney-based sculptor and ceramicist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran is known for his outlandish creations, which incorporate unconventional materials such as concrete, bronze, fibreglass and LEDs. This monograph includes more than 500 pieces reflecting his “signature neo-expressionist style”, according to the publisher, featuring totemic idols with a twist, sporting body piercings and stretched earlobes. According to his website: “Nithiyendran has specific interests in South Asian forms and imagery as well as politics relating to idolatry, the monument, gender, race and religiosity”. The artist tells Vogue India: “I sometimes look at what I make and feel like it is about everything. Sentiments, emojis, histories, monsters, emotions, memories, media, zoology, smells, textures, intuition—all of these factor into the beings I create.”

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