The author’s intimacy with his subject affords him a privileged, and fascinating, angle of vision.




A son examines his father’s enigmatic art.

Psychologist Rothko, son of Mark Rothko (1903-1970) and chair of the board of directors of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, illuminates the artist’s often misunderstood works in this unusually personal and insightful melding of memoir and art criticism. His father, writes the author, aimed “to speak as directly as possible to our inner selves…to communicate with our most core human elements,” and “to connect with the human spirit.” While the author acknowledges that this goal is both romantic and naïve, he argues that only by being open to the emotion and the drama in the works can a viewer fully appreciate their effects. “What is occurring in Rothko’s work is a type of chemistry between artist and viewer—a primal, preverbal communication—mediated by the painting,” the author writes. Each viewer, therefore, will experience the work differently. Rothko thoughtfully analyzes the artist’s early figurative paintings, transition to surrealism, “sensuous and extroverted works of the 1950s,” massive murals for the iconic Seagram Building, and the designing of the Rothko Chapel in the 1960s. By 1949, Rothko abandoned figurative work, aiming to create an experience “freed from the residue of the everyday” and disassociated from “the figure, from myth, from story and anecdote.” His son cautions against seeking biographical explanations for his father’s art. Although Rothko was born in Latvia, for example, his son does not believe that Latvian landscape or memories served as “the wellspring of his pictorial imagination.” Instead, he draws upon The Artist’s Reality, his father’s unfinished manuscript, to probe the philosophical underpinnings and cultural zeitgeist that informed his work. Included in that zeitgeist was the scientific search for nature’s most basic elements. Like a scientist, Rothko was engaged in a project of stripping away to discover the essential.

The author’s intimacy with his subject affords him a privileged, and fascinating, angle of vision.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-20472-8

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet