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Robert Arneson & Hung Liu: Two artists who are important and too underknown

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Art isn't easy.
And it's sometimes a bit harder when really good, really, really good, artists aren't recognized and/or respected and/or appreciated by the public.
No more.
University of California Press has two superb volumes that demand attention and ownership. Call it a stroke of genius.
No wonder Danny Kaye once thought "Life is a great big canvas."

He is considered by many to be one of America's most important and underknown artists.
No more.
The first major book to consider the life and work of Robert Arneson, A Troublesome Subject ($60) tells the fascinating story of how a high school art teacher transformed himself into an artist of international stature and ambition. Representing the full scope of Arneson’s career in a rich survey of color reproductions, this book is at once a study of the trajectory of contemporary culture, the work of Arneson and the relationship between the two. It shows how Arneson’s work articulated the crisis of narcissism that has defined American culture since 1970. Jonathan Fineberg develops his ongoing work toward a psycho-social history of art as he proceeds through Arneson’s career—chronicling his early life, the formation of a personal style, and finding a unique subject matter in his famous post-1970 turn to self-portraiture.

Published to accompany the major retrospective exhibition on Hung Liu, Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu ($60) is a comprehensive look at the work of this extraordinary Chinese-American artist. A pioneer in Chinese contemporary art before the Chinese avant-garde came into being, Lui’s life spanned two centuries and bridged two totally different economic situations. The wide-ranging essays in this book, which features 140 color illustrations, reflect on how Hung Liu’s evocative art is inextricably bound to her equally rich and complex life. While considering the artist’s primary work as a painter, the contributors also celebrate her murals, permanent and temporary installations, photography and video.

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