THE FATE OF A GESTURE

JACKSON POLLOCK AND POSTWAR AMERICAN ART

A rather bland history of modern American painting, using the career of Jackson Pollock as its focus. Pollock was already a hard-drinking, macho brute when he washed up in New York from Cody, Wyo., in 1930, at the age of 18. Under the tutelage of the painter Thomas Hart Benton he learned to bash the Europeans and embrace his American heritage (expressed in the tenets of self-will and the quest for purity), but it was the artist Lee Krasner, sacrificing herself to take on Pollock as a husband and a cause, who declared that to be great he would have to take on and best Picasso ``to show that modernist progress had led to the New World.'' By the late 1940s Pollock's work was arousing fervent applause and heated controversy in equal measure. Upon seeing one of his paintings, the heiress and art patron Peggy Guggenheim denounced it to her escort, Piet Mondrian, hoping to win his approval, but Mondrian proclaimed it the most exciting thing he'd seen in awhile. Guggenheim promptly ``dedicated'' herself to Pollock and provided a stipend so that Krasner could shuttle him out to the Hamptons, where, it was hoped, the fresh air would sober him up. Pollock did his best work there; it was also the site of his fatal 1956 car crash. Art critic Ratcliff (Andy Warhol, not reviewed, etc.) sets Pollock's career within the larger context of the lives and works of other artists (de Kooning, Rauschenberg, et al.), and surveys the artist's influence, which ranges from color- field painting to minimalism and extends to Brice Marden as a present-day heir. In tracing the lineage, Ratcliff argues persuasively that Pollock is the figure looming largest over postwar American art, but his writing has a bell-jar effect on it explosive center, dissipating it into the muted sounds of a drab lecture in the gray halls of the Whitney. A decent but unsurprising overview of modern art history, ideal for those more comfortable with facts than critical opinions.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-15381-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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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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