THE SCENE: Reports on Post-Modern Art by Calvin Tomkins

THE SCENE: Reports on Post-Modern Art

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

On the premise that the art of the Sixties and early Seventies was as much a public spectacle as an aesthetic fact, Calvin Tomkins--a practiced observer but no specialist--offers these eight pieces (all but one from The New Yorker) as a record of the passing Scene. Leading off is a tarantara to the Metropolitan Museum's buoyant, much-buffeted impresario of Pop, Henry Geldzahler; but the stellar attraction is Andy Warhol. Raggedy Andy, New York's highest-paid commercial artist, who ""could kid the product so subtly he made the client feel witty""; Andy the Pop aspirant in search of a subject (for a fee, a friend tipped him off to ""Money"" and added--gratis--the ubiquitous Campbell's soup can); Andy the celebrity mass-producing lurid portraits, boxes, flowers, switching to light shows and films, showing up everywhere, impassive, to cheers. . . ""a speechless and rather terrifying oracle [who] made visible something that was happening beneath the surface of American life."" There follows an account of Tatyana Grosman and the revival of fine-art lithography in a garage in West Islip, Long Island; a long, rather tedious report on EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology) and the debacle of the Pepsi pavilion at Expo '70, in Osaka; another on certain celebrated earthworks that Tomkins either failed to locate or found in ruins. But people, not objects; are his rightful subject, and he is entertaining and informative on both Jonas Mekas and the underground cinema and Nam June Paik and video art. Finally we have Robert Wilson and a rare performance of his twelve-hour, seven-act play The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin, during which we come to know--among other members of the company--Wilson's 87-year-old grandmother from Waco, Texas, who's amazed to be screaming onstage: ""Who'd have thought my voice could Fill a theater?"" Some flotsam, some thoughts to linger over.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1976
Publisher: Viking