Elisa Wouk Almino at Hyperallergic:
As early as the mid-1950s, the art critic John Berger complained about the ways in which art was shown, taught, and written about. The art world — a term he deplored — was too insular, and the art historians and critics did very little to mitigate this. Perhaps most crucially, they failed to share art’s profound connections to human experience. It was no wonder that people expressed little interest in artworks, Berger said in a 1956 article for the New Statesman, because they’ve been led to believe “that such works as do exist have nothing to say to them.” Today, Berger’s demands appear more urgent and his criticisms only truer.
A new biography on Berger — the first published since his death in January of 2017 — reveals a writer who to this day speaks most eloquently and passionately to our frustrations, fears, hopes, and desires. The book, authored by Joshua Sperling and published by Verso, is titled A Writer of Our Time: The Life and Work of John Berger. At Sperling’s Los Angeles book launch, where I led a conversation with him, he explained that the title is a riff on Berger’s first novel, A Painter of Our Time. But the label of “a writer of our time” is also earned.