"THE ART OF CELEBRATION: Twentieth-Century Painting Literature, Sculpture, Photography and Jazz" by

"THE ART OF CELEBRATION: Twentieth-Century Painting Literature, Sculpture, Photography and Jazz"

Email this review


In an appreciative romp through the arts--the painting, sculpture, photography, film, posters, literature, music, and even dance--from about 1906-1945, Appel (The Annotated Lolita, 1970) refutes the idea that modernism is obscure, abstract, and depressing. Through a series of vignettes--a suggestive collection of associative images rather than a sustained argument--Appel offers an eclectic group of visual and literary references to dispel the ""god bank""--the alienating, negative, mystifying aesthetic that, he says, academics have generated around the experimental art of the 20th century. In its place, he offers a ""celebratory shelf""--a more inclusive, diverse concept of art that in various ways is life-affirming and that is apotheosized in Molly Bloom's soliloquy at the conclusion of Ulysses. Recurrent themes include light; diversity; vitality; sensuality; pantheistic relationships with nature; anthropomorphic and biomorphic rendering of machines; classical purity; vernacular art; and the color yellow--on which Appel offers extended commentary. His approach is metaphoric, finding unity in differences: He relates a Laurel and Hardy film, Matisse, Yeats, and Icarus to a Lewis Hine photograph of a laborer on the Empire State Building in which Appel sees ""the Michelangelo of Manhattan."" Personable, enlightened, the author is the ideal guide, sharing, for example, his private euphoria on a Monday morning during a blizzard in the Matisse room at the Museum of Modern Art. Although he recognizes the painful background out of which much of modern art grew--the sickness, poverty, political oppression; ""the wolves within and without,"" as he calls them--Appel sees in modern art the triumph of the creative spirit. And while identifying the art of celebration, he engages in it, finding the art of life through his highly refined and imaginative art of seeing.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf