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  • 900 Camp Street
  • New Orleans, LA, 70130
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Collected Stacks is a monthly book selection presented at The Stacks Bookstore during Second Thursday evening at the CAC.

Each month a New Orleans based artist is invited to open up their library. This month, artist Peter Hoffman shares selections from his book collection:

1. Amy Sillman: One Lump or Two, Prestel, 2013
“What I really love about Amy Sillman’s work is that there is a lot of humor to it, like for instance the cartoons she does of people having a terrible time at a dinner party, sitting alone with their neurosis! I also enjoy how she tackles the machismo very much present in Abstract Expressionism. I feel that she takes that on in her work and chips away at this high and mighty idea of Abstractionism as being a super serious practice that should be approached through life and death terms.”

2. Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, MoMA, 2016.
“What really drew me to Picabia’s work were the late paintings he did, these total cheese cake paintings. This was after being at the forefront of the Avant Garde, after going through kind of every single movement that was occuring back then. Then, during WWII, he starts doing these super cheesy, romantic, soft core-ish paintings. Critics say that he was pandering to the acceptable forms that the nazis wanted to see. They saw it as a sort of dopey returns to some kind of sentimental painting, but I think these were way more complicated than that. I think these painting were definitely a tongue-in-cheek critic of this fascist return to figurative art.”

3. What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present, D.A.P., 2014.
“I’ve been doing more work on paper lately, I’m actually storyboarding for a comic idea that I’ve had on the back burner for 2 or 3 years, so I’m going back to the work of people like The Hairy Who, highly influenced by comics. I actually had some of these guys as instructors in Chicago. These artists don’t really fit the historical narrative, and they were actually kind of overlooked by history, even if they are getting their dues now. There’s a lot of humor in the work, but there’s also a lot of psychological questionings: what is it to be human, to represent human beings, how do we represent feelings, it’s just a little bit weirder than the big narrative where we are all marching towards pure abstraction.” 

4. Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art, Wendy Steiner, University of Chicago Press, 2002.
“This was an important book for me when I was in undergrad at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute has an incredible collection of modernism and I loved modernist paintings so much, I still do! So this book is really about what happened to figurative painting during the early 1900s in Modernism. Leaps and bounds in paintings had to do with destroying the figure, so the figure becomes a subject of abstraction, and that is something that I am very interested in, the figure as a site for these different artistic experiments.” 

5. Chromophobia, David Batchelor, Reaktion Books, 2000.
“That book also comes out of my time at the SAIC. At the Art Institute of Chicago, I felt like you had to justify a lot why you were painting. And back then I was always trying to find ways to justify to myself why I was painting. This book talks about the fear and the love of color, these two extremes. This book really helped me affirm my love and use of color. There will always pointedly be color in my work, it’s not just a background for a drawing or a subject. The color in my work is an element that is as important as anything else.” 

6. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger, Twelve, 2016.
“I’ve got a special relationship with this book since Sebastien Junger is my girlfriend’s uncle. I met him just about 2 years ago, and dived into his work and totally fell in love with his ideas. He is a journalist who covers combat zones, and the insights about what combat does to people, how during these terrible circumstances the people you are with become this very tight family. Part of this book is about having this experience of closeness and trust through a really cohesive tribe, and then coming back to the States where there isn’t that system and where our lives are very isolated. So this books deals with the idea that part of the trauma of coming back is having that system taken away from you and living in a society that doesn’t really understand what you’ve been through.” 

7. Batman, The Long Halloween, DC Comics, 2011.
“His character is exceptional right? He’s a billionaire with endless resources, he’s also in perfect physical condition, he’s basically an Olympian and he’s also a genius. He doesn’t have super powers but he’s definitely a pinnacle of humanity! But what I really love about Batman and what writers are doing with him more and more, is that they’re showing that he’s just as nuts as all the bad guys! This guy is insane! He has this double life and is absolutely driven by this insane need to avenge his parents. He dedicates his life to it, I mean there’s something not right! So I love that writers are latching on to this idea that even if he is the good guy, he’s also deeply flawed. There’s something very disturbing driving him.” 

8. Black Spring, Henry Miller, Grove Press, 1994.
“I discovered Henry Miller in undergrad, and latched on to his work. There’s something so wonderfully idealistic about the way that he writes and thinks about life. I choose this book because it’s a couple of short stories, but it feels like you are going along on this long wild daydream with him. I think of him as walking down the street and looking in a shop window, and that somehow fuels these fantastic thoughts about life and what an artist should be in the world. The imagery is also so vivid and unexpected, he’ll bring you from a volcano to let’s say the trail of a snail!” 

Extract from a conversation with Peter Hoffman about his book selection for Collected Stacks #01.