Here’s something that is less than ideal about art catalogues—more often than not, they’re either eponymous or they’re titled “Recent Works.” Or maybe “Paintings 1982 – 2012” if it’s a retrospective. Not only is that boring, it also makes it hard to tell the various volumes apart on Amazon. That’s why I always push for a snappy title on the art books I design.
This book came out in the wake of artist William Brice’s death in 2008, and serves as a monument both to his art and his life. It really wouldn’t have done to call it simply “William Brice.” Going through the text of the book I homed in on a quote by the man from his time as an instructor at UCLA. “I am not your teacher. You are your teacher.” I thought “William Brice: I Am Not Your Teacher” would make a wonderful title for this book, and everybody at L.A. Louver agreed. Unfortunately, the content of the book didn’t actually pay off the premise, and we allowed ourselves to be cowed by that fact. Luckily, gallery director Peter Goulds discovered the phrase “Revelatory Nature” in the included essay by Howard Fox. Problem solved. Book titled. (It subsequently became the title of the essay, too.)
The book itself is a tour de force: Over thirty years of paintings and drawings, a very personal introduction by Peter, the aforementioned essay, and a richly illustrated 28-page chronology edited by Lisa Jann in cooperation with the Brice estate. You should check it out in person if you can. William was the son of comedian Fanny Brice, of Funny Girl fame, and gambler/criminal Jules “Nicky” Arnstein. He led a fascinating life, and there are photos here to document all of it— buying his first Picasso at age 13, creating his own grand-scale abstract works, hugely influencing LA artists particularly in the 1950s and 60s, and later consulting to his sister and her husband to collect large scale modern sculptures by artists like Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and Alexander Calder. It’s all evidence of a life well lived.
By the way, the sweater Brice is wearing in the cover photo was pilling. I took care of it in Photoshop. I was told later that the artist, ever the dapper gentleman, would’ve appreciated it.