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Diana Nawi is an independent curator based in Los Angeles. She previously served as associate curator at Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) for five years, where she curated exhibitions including “John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night,” “Adler Guerrier: Formulating a Plot,” “Iman Issa: Heritage Studies” and “Nari Ward: Sun Splashed,” a mid-career survey of the artist’s work. She has organized newly commissioned projects with Yael Bartana, Nicole Cherubini, Bouchra Khalili, LOS JAICHACKERS (Julio César Morales and Eamon Ore-Giron), Shana Lutker and Haroon Mirza, among other artists. Prior to joining PAMM, Nawi worked as an assistant curator on the Abu Dhabi Project of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and served as a fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Eric Avila. Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

This book is a brilliantly researched meditation on the ways in which popular culture is shaped by and reflects our ideologies and anxieties, which in turn shape our built environments. Avila’s work, including his more recent publication about freeways, offers illuminating means to understand urban space and the deeply politicized and racialized ways it is imagined and comes into being, something so many artists I’ve gone on to work with engage in their work. I read this as an undergraduate with particular relationship to Chicana/o studies, but it remains critical to me for offering a meaningful way to understand the inextricably related nature of cultural production, power and context, something so often elided when we begin to stratify high art and popular culture.

Eungie Joo, Jenny Ham-Roberts and Joseph Keehn. Rethinking Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education. New York: New Museum and Routledge, 2010.

I struggled to choose which example of writing or publishing by Joo to offer here; her work both on particular artists and in thinking about shifting moments of art and reception, as well as her open and connective curatorial practice, have been a touchstone for me. This book forefronts art’s capacity as a vehicle to think and rethink our world, and like much of Joo’s work, it accounts for the specificities of the U.S. context, with particular attention to questions of identity, while placing it within a broader global context. It offers new models, or significantly updates and evolves older models, without discounting the work of the preceding decades. Like so many of her projects, this book brings together a breadth of thinkers and artists to debate, negotiate and picture what’s possible in the arts as we engage them in the lived world.

Rebecca Solnit. River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. New York: Penguin Group, 2003.

Solnit weaves art history, technology, economy and geography together in a beautifully novelistic way. Muybridge’s life and work becomes a metaphor for the forces that shaped the West in the late 1800s. He and his project are situated at the edge of modernization and industrialization, and Solnit’s analysis of the promise and degradation of this period of economic and technological growth are devastating, but made human and palpable through the backstory of Muybridge’s iconic photographs. Solnit’s expansive and interdisciplinary approach to unpacking these works is a lesson in the contingencies of art history, and her book offers some truly revelatory moments about time, photography and seeing.