Curated Reading List 002

by Terrence Trouillot

Titles on View in Gallery

December 10, 2022 5p

This list is a modest selection of books (some new and some oldies that I have returned to over the years) that have influenced or informed some of ways I’ve been thinking about art, particularly in last two years. These are titles that I have arrived at either by happenstance or, in most cases, have deliberately sought after. All are books that I’ve come to cherish tremendously during this COVID-19 era – a period in which so much has changed and so much has woefully stayed the same. Perhaps more pointedly, these publications track, for me, a kind of personal timeline (although not entirely linear) of my journey navigating the art world as Black art critic. They loosely draw a map of my own experiences and the ideas that have come to define my practice as an arts writer.

1971: A Year in the Life of Color
by Darby English

In 2015, I became BOMB Magazine’s Oral History fellow. There I was tasked in editing longform interviews with New York-based, African American artists who were otherwise left out of the canon. The first project I worked on was an oral history of the artist and dealer Peter Bradley. Bradley famously curated ‘The De Luxe Show’ in Houston in 1971, touted as the first racially integrated show in the United States. The show exhibited works from artists such as Sam Gilliam, Larry Poons, Al Loving and Larry Poons, among others. Darby’s 1971: A Year in the Life of Color was published the following year, and that moment felt special to me – that academic scholarship was finally being paid to a subject that I was not only completely vested in, but that I hadn’t been considered with such hefty interest before this time.

A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See
by Tina M. Campt

Published in 2021, this book essentially stumbled onto my desk. I was familiar with Campt’s work before this but was immediately pulled into her lucid prose on the Black gaze, non a strict counterpoint to the white gaze, but also distinctive action of how we see and experience Black suffering and joy. In the text, she describes it as “a gaze that is energizing and infusing Black popular culture in striking and unorthodox ways. Neither a depiction of Black folks or Black culture, it is a gaze that forces viewers to engage Blackness from a different and discomforting vantage point.”

Assembling a Black Counter Culture
by DeForrest Brown Jr.’s

A few years ago, I moderated a panel discussion between DeForrest Brown Jr. and my friend James Hoff on their collaborative practice. In that discussion, they spoke about Brown Jr.’s, at that time, forthcoming book on the history Black techno. When I got the advance copy of the book, I couldn’t put it down. Dense and tremendously researched, Assembling a Black Counter Culture is evidence of Brown Jr.’s far-reaching erudition as he builds a narrative that sees techno as at propellor for the Black working class in the US.

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration
by Nicole R. Fleetwood

This book and the eponymous art exhibition presented at MoMA PS1 in 2020–21 are products of years of research by Rutgers University art history professor Nicole R. Fleetwood. In this text, Fleetwood coined the term “carceral aesthetics:, and developed a novel way of understanding the cultural production borne out of those directly and indirectly affected by the realties and conditions of mass incarceration. Her theoretical approach is groundbreaking, putting forth an anesthetic imaginary directly in line with politics of prison abolition.

PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince

One of my fondest memories of the last few years was going to see the exhibition “PÒTOPRENS” at Pioneers works with my folks. Both my parents are from Haiti and the show offered a beautiful survey of contemporary art from the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince. This year Pioneer Works published a lovely catalogue commemorating the exhibition, edited by Leah Gordon and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. The publication offers a wide selection of texts including interviews with artists and essays situating the work within larger and globalized context Caribbean and Black art.

The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

I’m not sure why I chose to add this book to this list or how exactly it has informed my thinking around art for the past few years, but it is a title that I find myself constantly returning to. Perhaps to be inspired or just to have a good laugh. Maybe because it’s just so fucking good. (I honestly can’t think of a better piece of literature that has come out since its publication date in 2015.) I first read The Sellout as part of a book club when the hardcover was first released. I remember it being one of the few books from our selection that I read in its entirety. (We ambitiously met once a week.) Beatty’s Dickensian novel follows the narrator ‘Bonbon’ (a Black man) who tries to reinstate slavery and segregation in his hometown lest it be unincorporated and forever erased from the map. The book is devilishly satirical and punches you in the face with piercing irony and wit. The Sellout, coincidentally, came out just shortly after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson – a moment that had a significant impact on the way I started thinking and writing about art, specifically works that with abject imagery of Black death. Beatty’s book, at the time, was welcomed read – the perfect balance of dark humor and trenchant commentary that I desperately needed to cope with the ugliness.

Exhibition Views

The Open Reading Room is a dedicated space focused on artist books & ephemera, art books, and other cultural media that is accessible and free to the public during Gallery open hours. Critics, Writers & Artists contribute Curated Reading Lists to the Open Reading Room by invitiation.

Terence Trouillot is a writer and editor based in New York City. He is the senior editor at FRIEZE and a contributing editor at BOMB.

Curated Reading List organized by Diana Mangaser.
Exhibition Support by Iliana Arocho and Yoshihiro Sergel.