Category Archives: biography

Space Is the Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra

By John F. Szwed (1998)
Sun Ra, a.k.a. Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount (1914–1993), has been hailed as “one of the great big-band leaders, pianists, and surrealists of jazz” (New York Times) and as “the missing link between Duke Ellington and Public Enemy” (Rolling Stone). Composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, Sun Ra led his “Intergalactic Arkestra” of thirty-plus musicians in a career that ranged from boogie-woogie and swing to be-bop, free jazz, fusion, and New Age music. This definitive biography reveals the life, philosophy, and musical growth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest avant-garde musicians.

Posted in art, biography, jazz, music, myth, science

Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century

By Jed Rasula (2015)
In Destruction Was My Beatrice, modernist scholar Jed Rasula presents the first narrative history of Dada, showing how this little-understood artistic phenomenon laid the foundation for culture as we know it today. Although the venue where Dada was born closed after only four months and its acolytes scattered, the idea of Dada quickly spread to New York, where it influenced artists like Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray; to Berlin, where it inspired painters George Grosz and Hannah Höch; and to Paris, where it dethroned previous avant-garde movements like Fauvism and Cubism while inspiring early Surrealists like André Breton, Louis Aragon, and Paul Éluard. The long tail of Dadaism, Rasula shows, can be traced even further, to artists as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Robert Rauschenberg, Marshall McLuhan, the Beatles, Monty Python, David Byrne, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whom—along with untold others—owe a debt to the bizarre wartime escapades of the Dada vanguard.A globe-spanning narrative that resurrects some of the 20th century’s most influential artistic figures, Destruction Was My Beatrice describes how Dada burst upon the world in the midst of total war—and how the effects of this explosion are still reverberating today.

Posted in art, biography, counterculture, culture, history

Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

By Terry Teachout (2013)
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

Posted in biography, jazz, music

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

By Robin Kelley (2010)
Thelonious Monk is the critically acclaimed, gripping saga of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision. It is a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest com­posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.

Posted in biography, jazz, music

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

By Terry Teachout (2010)
Louis Armstrong is widely known as the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century. Offstage he was witty, introspective, and unexpectedly complex, a beloved colleague with an explosive temper whose larger-than-life personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his worshiping fans ever knew. Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous biographers, including hundreds of candid after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography.

Posted in biography, jazz, music

Talking Jazz

Talking JazzBy Ben Sidran (expanded edition, 1995)
Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Hendricks, Max Roach, Betty Carter, Jackie McLean, Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis, and Jack DeJohnette—these are just a few of the jazz musicians whose conversations with Ben Sidran are recorded in this volume. In stimulating, personal, and informative discussions, they not only reveal their personalities, but also detail aspects of the performance, technique, business, history, and emotions of jazz.

Posted in biography, interview, jazz, music

Makers: A History of American Studio Craft

By Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf (2010)
Here is the first comprehensive survey of modern craft in the United States. The book follows the development of studio craft–objects in fiber, clay, glass, wood, and metal–from its roots in 19th-century reform movements to the rich diversity of expression at the end of the 20th century. Keeping as their main focus the objects and the makers, Koplos and Metcalf offer a detailed analysis of seminal works and discussions of education, institutional support, and the philosophical underpinnings of craft.

Posted in art, biography, design, history

Paths to the Press: Printmaking and American Women Artists, 1910-1960

Paths to the Press: Printmaking And American Women Artists 1910û1960Edited by Elizabeth Seaton (2006)
In 1910 Bertha Jaques co-founded the Chicago Society of Etchers and helped launch a revival of American fine art printmaking. In the decades following, women artists produced some of the most compelling images in U.S. printmaking history and helped advance the medium technically and stylistically. Paths to the Press examines American women artists’ contributions to printmaking in the U.S. during the early to mid twentieth century.

Posted in art, biography, exhibition, feminism, history, printmaking

Ray Johnson: Correspondences

Ray Johnson: CorrespondencesBy Donna De Salvo and Catherine Gudis (1999)

In 1995, the resolutely reclusive Ray Johnson reemerged into the spotlight when he died in a mysterious and spectacular way, leading to the discovery of thousands of works of art in his house. Drawing upon this vast trove, Donna De Salvo, the Wexner Center’s Curator at Large, has organized Ray Johnson: Correspondences, the first comprehensive exhibition to be mounted (with the complete cooperation of the artist’s estate).

Like Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, and later Andy Warhol and Jim Rosenquist, Johnson combined the signs and symbols of contemporary culture with the lessons of abstraction to develop a new lexicon of forms. A pioneer in the use of ‘found’ images and techniques of mechanical reproduction, Johnson created in 1955 what may have been the first informal happening.

Johnson first created ‘mail art’ in the fifties. These were part collage, part manifesto, part parody; he often instructed recipients to ‘add to’, ‘return to’, or ‘send to’, spawning an interactive art form, a continuous happening, that pre-figured electronic mail. Johnson was the nerve center of this pre-digital netscape that spread around the nation and, eventually, the world, which continues to flourish today.

By the eighties, Johnson was a legend in the artistic community. Ray Johnson: correspondences, offers the first opportunity for in-depth examination of the work of an artist who reflected and dissected many of the aesthetic, cultural, and theoretical preoccupations of the last forty years; a figure whose impact and influence will finally be made known.

Posted in art, biography, culture, design, exhibition, language, media, semiotics, typography

Modern Threads: Fashion and Art by Mariska Karasz

Modern Threads: Fashion and Art by Mariska KaraszBy Ashley Callahan (2007)
This fully illustrated book on fashion designer and fiber artist Mariska Karasz (1898-1960) accompanies the exhibition of the same name at the Georgia Museum of Art from January 20 to April 15, 2007. It is divided into three major sections, one focusing on her fashion design for women, one on her fashion design for children, and one on her embroidered wall hangings. With many full-color images representing all three of these categories, it is the most comprehensive work published on Karasz.

Posted in art, biography, design, exhibition, history