CONTEMPORARY ART MOVEMENTS

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David Zwirner Books/Victoria Miro

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Hardcover, 8.5 x 10.5 in. / 144 pgs / 57 color.

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Catalog: FALL 2017 p. 14   

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ISBN 9781941701607 TRADE
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Pulitzer prize winner Hilton Als on Alice Neel's portraits of her Harlem neighbors
  • Writer Hilton Als brings together Alice Neel's paintings of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and other people of color
  • Alice Neel (1900-1984) is widely regarded as one of the foremost American figurative painters of the twentieth century. Based in New York, Neel chose her subjects from her family, friends, and a broad variety of locals: writers, poets, artists, students, and bohemians.
  • She lived uptown in Spanish Harlem and her work often touched on political and social issues, including gender rights, racial inequality, and labor struggles.
  • Neel's portraits are accompanied by short essays by Als.
  • Hilton Als is an American author and theater critic who writes for The New Yorker. In 2017, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He is the author of White Girls (2013).
  • This is as much a HILTON ALS book as an ALICE NEEL book: a perfect marriage of insightful writing and intimate painting

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DAVID ZWIRNER BOOKS/VICTORIA MIRO

Alice Neel: Uptown

By Hilton Als. Foreword by Jeremy Lewison.

"Two Girls in Spanish Harlem (Carmen and Hilda)," 1941, is reproduced from 'Alice Neel: Uptown.'

Pulitzer Prize winner Hilton Als on Alice Neel’s quietly political portraits of her uptown New York neighbors

Known for her portraits of family, friends, writers, poets, artists, students, singers, salesmen, activists and more, Alice Neel (1900–84) created forthright, intimate and, at times, humorous paintings that quietly engaged with political and social issues. In Alice Neel, Uptown, writer and curator Hilton Als brings together a body of paintings and works on paper of African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other people of color for the first time. Highlighting the innate diversity of Neel’s approach, the selection looks at those often left out of the art-historical canon and how this extraordinary painter captured them; “what fascinated her was the breadth of humanity that she encountered,” Als writes.

The publication explores Neel’s interest in the diversity of uptown New York and the variety of people among whom she lived. This group of portraits includes well-known figures such as playwright, actress and author Alice Childress, the sociologist Horace R. Cayton, Jr., the community activist Mercedes Arroyo; and the widely published academic Harold Cruse, alongside more anonymous individuals of a nurse, a ballet dancer, a taxi driver, a businessman and a local boy who ran errands for Neel.

In short and illuminating texts on specific works written in his characteristic narrative style, Als writes about the history of each sitter and offers insights into Neel and her work, while adding his own perspective. A contemporary and personal approach to the artist’s oeuvre, Als’ project is “an attempt to honor not only what Neel saw, but the generosity of her seeing.”

"Two Girls in Spanish Harlem (Carmen and Hilda)," 1941, is reproduced from 'Alice Neel: Uptown.'

PRAISE AND REVIEWS

Time Out

Eddy Frankel

When you look at one of [Neel’s] canvases, you’re not just seeing that one person – you’re seeing a whole world, condensed down to lines and colour. Her paintings are portraits of a city, portraits of life, portraits of time; they’re full landscapes, visual essays.

The New York Times

Jason Farago

"Alice Neel, Uptown,” [is] an affectionate, rooted, and at times achingly nostalgic exhibition at David Zwirner gallery that concentrates on her relationships with fellow Harlemites, most of them black, Latin American or Asian.

The New York Times

Jason Farago

Her increasingly free-form style did not entail an escape from the people she lived among. Her portraits of black, Latino or Asian New Yorkers, quite unlike those of other midcentury leftist painters, were never exercises in social realism. They were something else: efforts to afford the same status and consideration to her neighbors that earlier portraitists reserved for popes and princes.

Vogue Online

Hilton Als

Neel’s intellectual and emotional life was mostly with people of color. It would be like looking at Picassos and realizing no one had ever done [a show about] the Blue Period.

Artnet News

Christian Viveros-Faune

An exhibition and an upcoming book...that brings together Neel’s portraits of people of color for the first time, Als’ choices and commentary celebrate both Neel’s paintings and what the author calls “the generosity behind her seeing.”

Artnet News

Christian Viveros-Faune

On the evidence of this unmissable exhibition and compelling book, it’s clear that few American artists answered the call to celebrate difference as early or as uncompromisingly as Alice Neel.

ArtnetNews

Christian Viveros-Faune

These pictures and others are not only unmarred by agendas of any kind, they appear instead to have been created out of a profound need to understand what lies beyond their sitters’ social standing and self-presentations. This, among other leaps of sympathetic intelligence, makes Neel’s portraits resemble collaborations—they render difference recognizable and uniqueness special.

Artsy

Tess Thackara

This is an exhibition rich in character, even literary, and all the more so for Als’s close attention to Neel’s life and work and his accompanying writing, for which he has gone in pursuit of the human stories embedded within Neel’s canvases. Als, like Neel, is interested in the textures of personalities, the language of one’s body and sexuality, the quality of a person’s voice.

Artsy

Tess Thackara

The works [Als] selected represent the great diversity of individuals Neel captured with her careful, inquisitive eye and fluid hand...the presence of Neel’s figures is so strong that the space around them seems almost to dissolve, the live energy of the artist’s brushwork inflected with her subjects’ psychology.

W Magazine

Stephanie Eckardt

Their stories...are showcased alongside their portraits in vitrines containing family photos and other artifacts, and further expanded upon in Alice Neel, Uptown, Als’s forthcoming book. It’s the portraits, after all, that Als has always found the most touching...Neel was simply painting the people she cared about, without fuss.

The New Republic

Josephine Livingstone And Lovia Gyarkye

She too is a kind of essayist, a figure of inclusion. To Als, Neel and her portraits of her East Harlem neighbors are a prime example of the “unsentimental wonder” with which the artist must meet the world.

The Village Voice

Mary Wang

The work in "Alice Neel, Uptown" exists in twofold: There is the exhibition of Neel's paintings, and then there is the accompanying publication in which her portraits are presented alongside Als's essays — writings that bring Als, Neel, and her sitters on the same page.

The Village Voice

Mary Wang

What distinguishes the current [Alice Neel] show are the eyes through which we see Neel's work. The exhibition is curated by Hilton Als, himself an artist of color whose writings earned him acclaim at a much earlier age than Neel.Though Als's stature adds an element of star power to the show, the experience is more of a dialogue than a monograph — one in which Neel is as much Als's subject as Neel's sitters were hers.

Interview

Antwaun Sargent

It's a fully human depiction, and it doesn't use the black or brown body to advance what Als calls an "ideological cause." Benjamin as rendered by Neel is simply a black child, being. How powerful is that? Like Als on the page today, Neel's paintings then captured all that she loved about the city, which is to say she imaged figures she knew had to be seen to be remembered.

Frieze

Andrianna Campbell

With their distinctive painterly style, Neel’s portraits explore personalities, rather than physical types; they also memorialize figures historically excluded from the art world, which has long devalued depictions of people of colour, advancing a more capacious vision of community.

The Atlantic

Lola Adesioya

A fascinating exploration of the painter’s symbiotic relationship with Harlem. The potent yet personable paintings, mostly done in oil, are enduring proof of Neel’s curious, compassionate eye, on and off the canvas.

Two Coats of Paint

[An] impressive view of Al Taylor’s earliest visual ideas, and hints at how he began to transition to some of his later work, illuminating a compelling segment of a searching, innovative artist’s progress.

The Guardian

Tim Adams

Above all, though, what emerges is Neel’s connection and love for her subjects. For her, Harlem was never defined by poverty, it seems, but by life. “The fact that it was filled with people,” Als says, “meant it was always filled with hope.

Crave

Miss Rosen

Neel casts her subjects as great icons of art history be it the reclining nude or the Madonna and child—always taking care to present them with honor and dignity.

Vulture

Jerry Saltz

Alice Neel’s recent two-gallery David Zwirner exhibition showed her painting the faces of her neighbors in Harlem as insightfully as anyone ever rendered the royal kings and queens of yore.

i-D

Felix Petty

They are paintings you can't help but love, paintings that capture a strange beauty, a feral honesty, they have a rugged simplicity, an enveloping humanity.

Tank Magazine

Hilton Als

Neel has the power to make us all feel less lonely in whatever roles – male and female, black and white, the powerful and the afflicted – nature and society have given us (or have tried to, at least).

Alice Neel: Uptown

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FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/2/2017

Alice Neel, essayist of the canvas

Alice Neel, essayist of the canvas

"The truth of the matter is that many—most—contemporary artists of non-color are interested in reflecting themselves, their creamy whiteness and hair untroubled by thought. On the flip side, many artists of color who make a buck nowadays do it by equating blackness with oppression and selling the result to white people without feeling a thing for their subjects' lives. Neel's work smashes both of those categories, showing us the humanness embedded in subjects that people might classify as 'different.'" Hiton Als, Alice Neel, Uptown. Featured image is "Ballet Dancer" (1950). continue to blog


FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/1/2017

Unsentimental Wonder: Hilton Als on Alice Neel

Unsentimental Wonder: Hilton Als on Alice Neel

If you were in New York or had access to pretty much any art magazine or reviewing newspaper between February 23 and April 22, 2017, then you know that not-yet-Pulitzer-Prize-winning critic Hilton Als curated an extraordinary exhibition of Alice Neel's Spanish Harlem portraits at David Zwirner. Als also authored the accompanying publication, which has at last arrived in our warehouse and released this week. "Alice Neel believed the world existed on its own terms," Als writes, "and it was our duty—as citizens, as artists—to know as much about it as possible, in order to better live in it and navigate it; to exist among all the broken glass and bottle caps and boys on the street, in a kind of unsentimental wonder." Featured image is "Benjamin," 1976. continue to blog


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