If you think high art is too high for D.I.Y., think again. In 1971, the American artist Jasper Johns transformed his exhibition catalogue for MoMA into a conceptual do-it-yourself art project, write Sharon Coplan Hurowitz and Amanda Benchley in their introduction to Open Studio, out today from Phaidon. The new book invites readers into the studios of Marina Abramović, Julie Mehretu, Maya Lin, Rashid Johnson, and others.
Alongside photographs of the artists in their workspaces, there are step-by-step shots of them carrying out accessible art projects. From within Sarah Sze’s colorful studio, readers learn how to make a hanging mobile depicting night and day. Thomas Demand teaches readers how to decorate organic brown eggs with a black sharpie and colored pencils. Mickalene Thomas, the queen of collage, shares her tricks of the trade, her latest large-scale works acting as background inspiration. Mehretu offers an introduction to printmaking that deploys potatoes and sweet potatoes. William Wegman guides readers through a pet-friendly watercolor session. Abramović describes a favorite practice called Counting the Rice, a daytime-meditative answer to counting sheep. Fittingly, Lin’s project relies on Google Maps’s satellite view, while Will Cotton’s features a shiny candy crown (rock-candy sticks and lollipops suggested).
Finally, a painting by Johnson involves materials that bring us back to the present and what this book is all about: pantry staples such as dry legumes and grains, and face masks. The current spike in the coronavirus doesn’t bode well for art galleries and museums. In the meantime, some of our best contemporary artists are visiting readers straight in their homes. It helps that this is one of those rare things both adults and children will enjoy. —Julia Vitale