edited by Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper, and Emma Drew. Duke University Press, January 2020. 284 p. ill. ISBN 9781733099301 (pbk.), $25.00.
Reviewed May 2020
Kai Alexis Smith, Architecture and Urban Planning Librarian, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), firstname.lastname@example.org
Traditionally, the upper crust of the art world has never fully embraced the growing socially engaged art movement. It has been labeled as not “high art” enough, possibly because this art spotlights the marginalized artists and communities the art world excludes. More Art in the Public Eye, edited by curator, artist, and More Art founder Micaela Martegani, carves out its own space for socially conscious public art, detailing the history of the organization in the backdrop of key moments in New York City’s history. The introduction covers the organization’s background; a history of socially engaged public art written by academic and curator Dr. Michael Birchall; and an essay by Lambert Foundation executive director, Michelle Coffey, detailing how arts funders eventually follow the lead of social justice philanthropies. The chapters are themed, and each chapter features three artists’ works as case studies. There is a chronology of public projects that provides a little more information on projects not featured in the chapters, but it leaves more to be desired.
A balance of critical historical analysis and in-depth exploration of socially conscious art in public spaces, the book invites both art historical scholars and casual readers who simply find the topic interesting. Since the focus is community-led, publicly accessible art, the text of the manuscript follows suit and is written in plain language. Throughout the book are over 100 colorful photographs, illustrations, and film stills providing visual companions to the artists’ interviews. At the beginning of every chapter are details of maps of the city with a layer of weighted tracing paper that outlines where the featured art was on the map. This pleasing visual element cements the very physical nature of art in public spaces and locations in the urban environment.
More Art in the Public Eye centers art and artists in marginalized communities in the urban landscape of New York City and highlights the work that puts a spotlight on issues and problems relevant to the communities that should be of greater concern to all. Valuable not only for the addition of diverse artists in collections but also for the addition of different perspectives on art outside the gallery space and at the intersection of architecture and urban planning, More Art in the Public Eye should be included in every academic art and design library collection.