An iconoclastic and essential voice in American film criticism, Manny Farber (1927-2008) was also a remarkably resourceful painter. This book celebrates Farber's lush visual art, showcasing his table-top still lifes crammed with personal associations, pop artifacts, and scrawled wisecracks—a series of intimate yet indirect self-portraits, spanning decades.
Samples of Farber’s sly, brash art criticism, previously uncollected, are offered alongside film reviews, manuscript pages, school quizzes, and notes.
The book’s editors provide essays and additional commentary; tribute and analysis are supplied by nearly two dozen other contributors, including Richard Armstrong, Olivier Assayas, Bill Berkson, Durga Chew-Bose, Anne Boyer, Moyra Davey, Josephine Halvorson, JP Gorin, Greil Marcus, Carol Mavor, Patricia Patterson, Chris Petit, Amanda Petrusich, Kelly Reichardt, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Luc Sante, Robert Storr, Gina Telaroli, Wim Wenders, Robert Walsh, and Alice Waters.
The book comes on the heels of Helen Molesworth’s exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles: “One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art”—a Farber retrospective and wide-ranging group show in which Molesworth revisited and explored Farber’s seminal 1962 essay “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art.” Molesworth commends Farber for embracing the glories and uncertainties of the everyday, creating work that is continually gnawing away at its own boundaries.
“Farber is this extraordinary case of someone equally fluent in two practices, painting and writing, that inform and modify each other incessantly. It is his existence at the confluence of these two practices that makes his work so layered, contradictory, polyphonic. In short, ALIVE.”
“It’s been said that Manny Farber’s film criticism resembles his painting—or maybe vice-versa—in that both are chiefly concerned with exploding a thing into its constituent bits, and then gently surveying the remnants, figuring out how or if they complement each other.”
“The dizzying appeal of exposing enormity in what’s miniature.”
“Images of no small exuberance, they urge equal recognition of the flip-side of plenitude: There is no stopping things, no end to the immoderate, chattering, centerless prolixity in which the average earthbound soul finds (or loses) itself, immersed.”
Edited and with essays by Michael Almereyda, Jonathan Lethem, and Robert Polito.
Designed by Scott Massey + Sabrina Che