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25 Women

Essays on Their Art

Newsweek calls him “exhilarating and deeply engaging.” Time Out New York calls him “smart, provocative, and a great writer.” Critic Peter Schjeldahl, meanwhile, simply calls him “My hero.” There’s no one in the art world quite like Dave Hickey—and a new book of his writing is an event.
25 Women will not disappoint. The book collects Hickey’s best and most important writing about female artists from the past twenty years. But this is far more than a compilation: Hickey has revised each essay, bringing them up to date and drawing out common themes. Written in Hickey’s trademark style—accessible, witty, and powerfully illuminating—25 Women analyzes the work of Joan Mitchell, Bridget Riley, Fiona Rae, Lynda Benglis, Karen Carson, and many others. Hickey discusses their work as work, bringing politics and gender into the discussion only where it seems warranted by the art itself. The resulting book is not only a deep engagement with some of the most influential and innovative contemporary artists, but also a reflection on the life and role of the critic: the decisions, judgments, politics, and ethics that critics negotiate throughout their careers in the art world.
Always engaging, often controversial, and never dull, Dave Hickey is a writer who gets people excited—and talking—about art. 25 Women will thrill his many fans, and make him plenty of new ones.

192 pages | 26 color plates, 1 halftone | 7 1/4 x 8 3/4 | © 2015

Art: American Art, Art Criticism, Art--General Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Women's Studies


"He holds the distinction of being a public intellectual, one of a handful of art critics known and read by a wider audience. . . . Hickey is neither art criticism’s reactionary philosopher king nor its populist Robin Hood, but a sensualist with an acquired taste for art that is resistant to interpretation and unapologetically elitist, a term he halfheartedly redeems as a positive value. He’s a colorful essayist and a perceptive critic."

New York Times Book Review

"Throughout these trenchant essays on female artists, Hickey is characteristically incisive, challenging, and weird. . . . Regardless of reputation, Hickey always deploys the same lively rigor. The introduction, titled 'A Ladies' Man,' in which Hickey explains how 'most of my favorite people are women,' emerges as a surprisingly powerful piece of memoir."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"If you're an artist or an art lover, this needs to be on the top of your reading list."


"Hickey has sizzle. He rattles cages and yanks chains as an art writer of voracious attentiveness, free-spirited intelligence, invigorating wit, vinegary candor, and a gift for literary constructions of provoking finesse. . . . He balances incisive, funny, idiosyncratic biographical observations with all-senses-firing immersions in the art under discussion, racing off on tangents and nailing down arresting perceptions about what we expect from art and what we receive. . . . The artists are significant and intriguing, Hickey's criticism exceptionally dynamic and enlightening."

Booklist, starred review

"Less a book of criticism than an engaging treatment of some of the most fascinating contemporary artists. Highly recommended."


"Idiosyncratic assessments of contemporary women painters, sculptors, and installation and performance artists by an enfant terrible of art criticism. Hickey has been a thorn in the side of art criticism for years. . . . Admirable. . . . Hickey's writing is clever, straightforward, and honest. . . . Hickey has piquant, insightful things to say about all of these artists."

Kirkus Reviews

"It will raise a hackle or two,  not least among hacks."

Jeremy Gilbert Rolph

“Dave Hickey is not lacking in chutzpah; he has, after all, on occasion been referred to as the ‘bad boy’ of art criticism.”
25 Women resembles an unfettered, if highly enriching, dump of Hickey's free-associative musings…. The text zooms from anecdotes about Hickey's youth in the cattle yards of Texas, to his time spent hobnobbing with the likes of Andy Warhol in New York, to a meta description of the home office in which he is writing. We get a similarly panoptic run at the various female subjects, including personal biography, cultural context, and fictitious narratives meant to elucidate deeper truths about their art.”
“For Hickey, art is not a dead object to be seen and dryly interpreted; rather the act of viewing art creates its own meaning. Again and again, he describes the process of confronting a piece of art that resists him and then feeling a blurring of boundaries between himself and the work, something akin to a momentary out-of-body experience.”

Caitlin Smith Rimschnick | Bookslut

Table of Contents

A Ladies’ Man Introduction
Alexis Smith My Pal Alex
Joan Mitchell Epigramata
Lynda Benglis Fire on the Water
Vija Celmins The Path Itself
Pia Fries The Remains of Today
Fiona Banner The Beauty of Our Weapons
Sarah Charlesworth Embracing the Beast
Mary Heilman Surfing on Acid
Jennifer Steinkamp Breathing in the World
Michelle Fierro Beauty Marks
Bridget Riley Not Knowing
Bridget Riley II For Americans
Elizabeth Murray Dancing in the Dark
Karen Carson Sophisticate
Ann Hamilton Thinking Things Through
Vanessa Beecroft Painted Ladies
Roni Horn She Resembles Herself
Fiona Rae Good after the Good Is Gone
Barbara Bloom Barbara Blooms
Sharon Ellis Modest Ecstasy
Hung Liu The Polity of Immigrants
Teresita Fernández Tropical Scholarship
Nancy Rubins The Rapture and the Tsunami
Elizabeth Peyton At the Prince’s Chateau

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