Art in America's critics write their way through the best of 2011. We've asked leaders in the fine arts to highlight the top works in their areas of special focus. Stephen Maine is a Brooklyn-based painter, critic, curator and teacher, and a frequent contributor to this magazine.
Due from JRP/Ringier at the end of October, My Mirage collects in book form all but a score of the 170 works—in drawing, silkscreen, photography, painting, sculpture and film, dating from 1986 to 1991—by which artist Jim Shaw has illuminated the gradual transformation of a fictional middle-American kid named Billy from anxiety-ridden schoolboy to steely-eyed televangelist. Set in the 1960s and '70s, the project is both a painful coming-of-age story and an astounding catalogue of literary and artistic genres high and low.
For several months in 1980, photographer Bruce Davidson turned his lens on "a great social equalizer," the New York City subway system. The project led to a critically lauded exhibition two years later at the International Center for Photography and, in 1986, an Aperture monograph. The latter, Subway, recently reissued by Steidl in collaboration with Aperture, remains a fascinating study thanks to Davidson's streetwise humanism, familiar from his other anthropological New York books, Brooklyn Gang and East 100th Street. The power of these exposures is undiminished by time.
Collage and acrylic on paper, thread, string, plastic lid
48 x 30 ¼ in.