by James Elkins ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 15, 2002
An intriguing series of thought experiments that begin to wear a little thin.
An investigation into the way art history is shaped by the culture compiling it.
Elkins (Art History/School of the Art Institute of Chicago) focuses on the various ways the history of art can be presented, each with its strong points and failings. He begins with what is considered by many to be the canon of art history texts, E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, a hefty tome first published in 1950 and continually updated with ever more full-color plates. Using sketches of his own and those of his students to illustrate alternatives to the standard chronology of the historical time line, Elkins proposes a number of thought-provoking ways to organize the stories of art that are not based on a strict adherence to dates, many of which can only be surmised. This approach seems at times merely a deft preemption of a summons from the PC police to whom the only proper story of art is one that literally includes all art. While such a volume would sidestep the pitfalls of the male Christian Eurocentrism that has purportedly subjugated art history since its inception during the Renaissance, the author points out that not only would no bookshelf be able to support “the weight of pedagogy” of an absolute multiculturalism, but without some organizing principle, no one would be able to distinguish among the “cacophony of isms” that would result. Among the viable models Elkins covers: oscillating history of alternating classical and baroque periods, the customary outline style, and an organic approach, proposing that a culture’s art history emulates the stages of human life: infantia, adulescentia, maturitas, and senectus. Yet despite our “continuous reshaping of the past” through psychoanalytical approaches, deconstructionism, semiotics, historiography, and “even more abstruse doctrines,” Elkins admits “how deeply Western the discipline of art history still remains.” One wonders, ultimately, whether the debate may not be rendered entirely moot by the current globalization of the art scene.An intriguing series of thought experiments that begin to wear a little thin.
Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002
Page Count: 160
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002
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by Sherill Tippins ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 3, 2013
A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.
A revealing biography of the fabled Manhattan hotel, in which generations of artists and writers found a haven.
Turn-of-the century New York did not lack either hotels or apartment buildings, writes Tippins (February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America, 2005). But the Chelsea Hotel, from its very inception, was different. Architect Philip Hubert intended the elegantly designed Chelsea Association Building to reflect the utopian ideals of Charles Fourier, offering every amenity conducive to cooperative living: public spaces and gardens, a dining room, artists’ studios, and 80 apartments suitable for an economically diverse population of single workers, young couples, small families and wealthy residents who otherwise might choose to live in a private brownstone. Hubert especially wanted to attract creative types and made sure the building’s walls were extra thick so that each apartment was quiet enough for concentration. William Dean Howells, Edgar Lee Masters and artist John Sloan were early residents. Their friends (Mark Twain, for one) greeted one another in eight-foot-wide hallways intended for conversations. In its early years, the Chelsea quickly became legendary. By the 1930s, though, financial straits resulted in a “down-at-heel, bohemian atmosphere.” Later, with hard-drinking residents like Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, the ambience could be raucous. Arthur Miller scorned his free-wheeling, drug-taking, boozy neighbors, admitting, though, that the “great advantage” to living there “was that no one gave a damn what anyone else chose to do sexually.” No one passed judgment on creativity, either. But the art was not what made the Chelsea famous; its residents did. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, Phil Ochs and Sid Vicious are only a few of the figures populating this entertaining book.A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.
Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2013
Page Count: 448
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013
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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
Page Count: 432
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015
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