Among the most sensible, intelligent, logical, and accessible art criticism of the last five years.

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UNNATURAL WONDERS

ESSAYS FROM THE GAP BETWEEN ART AND LIFE

A collection of pieces written since “the end of art”—not to be confused with the death of art.

Borrowing his concept from Hegel, respected critic Danto observes that unlike the centuries of art made for spiritual needs, the art of our time has generally lost the power to communicate on its own and must be explained, because we have only an external relationship with it. Plato argued that pictures are the same as dreams, shadows, reflections or illusions, but now that contemporary artists use any or all materials, we often view the actual object as art. Paradoxically, now that it no longer offers the illusion or reflection of reality, art is no longer understood as an essential part of life and has to be interpreted in a museum. What is the difference, asks Danto (Philosophy/Columbia Univ.; Madonna of the Future, 2000, etc.), between Warhol’s Brillo Box and a cardboard case of Brillo Pads? He illustrates these introductory thoughts with more than two dozen columns from the Nation (required reading for those who pay attention to contemporary art since it began publishing Danto in 1984), ranging from the 2000 Whitney Biennial through the artistic reaction to September 11 and the nation’s culture wars while dealing with major artists and exhibitions of the recent past. Danto sympathetically assesses Damien Hirst (sliced-up sharks suspended in formaldehyde) and eloquently explains why some initially impenetrable art might have compelling statements to make, but he doesn’t spare artists he feels are not pulling their weight, lamenting the hot Paul McCarthy’s juvenile art of “disgust” and tackling the very uneven quality of the talented (and even hotter) Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. Also included are a handful of essays written for exhibition catalogues, transcripts of lectures, and reviews of important exhibitions of such pre-end artists as Leonardo, Gentileschi, and Chardin.

Among the most sensible, intelligent, logical, and accessible art criticism of the last five years.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-28118-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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