Please Wait by the Coat Room:

Reconsidering Race and Identity in American Art

Far-ranging and thought-provoking essays on the relation of art and ethnic identity.

This first collection by award-winning author John Yau, drawn from decades of work, includes essays about Black, Asian, Latinx, and Native American artists: sculptors Luis Jimenez and Ruth Asawa; “second generation Abstract Expressionists” such as the Black painter Ed Clark and the Japanese American painter Matsumi Kanemitsu; the performance artists James Luna and Patty Chang; the photographers Laurel Nakadate and Teju Cole; and a generation of Asian American artists that has emerged during the last decade.

While identity is at the fore in this collection, Yau’s essays also propose the need for an expansive view of identity, as in the essay “On Reconsidering Identity,” which explores the writings of Lydia Cabrera and Edouard Glissant, and the possibilities of creolisation versus the reductiveness of Aime Cesaire’s Negritude.

Please Wait by the Coat Room is for serious readers interested in the art and artists of color that many mainstream institutions and critics misrepresented or overlooked. It presents a view guided by the artists’ desire for autonomy and freedom in a culture that has deemed them undesirable or invisible.

John Yau is an award-winning poet and fiction writer who has been publishing art criticism since 1978. He is a professor of critical studies at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He served as the arts editor of The Brooklyn Rail from 2006 – 2011, and then began writing for Hyperallergic Weekend. In 2021, Yau was awarded the Rabkin Prize for excellence in visual arts journalism.

His books of art criticism include In the Realm of Appearances: The Art of Andy Warhol and A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns, as well as monographs on Wifredo Lam, Thomas Nozkowski, Joe Brainard, Catherine Murphy, Richard Artschwager, Liu Xiaodong, and Kim Tschang-yeul.

Yau’s previous book from Black Sparrow Press include Edificio Sayonara, Hawaiian Cowboys, Forbidden Entries, My Symptoms, and My Heart is that Eternal Rose Tattoo.