It's interesting to note that Ashbery's groundbreaking post-modernist poetry was being written at the same time that the Paris Herald Tribune and, later, Newsweek and New York were publishing his weekly journalistic art reviews of the latest Paris and New York exhibits. Collected together in this attractively illustrated volume, these short essays not only grace what he was doing in poetry, but also stand out as informative and sophisticated value judgments on the passing art scene of the last 20 years. Although Ashbery writes on assignment, it soon becomes clear what painters and movements create an affinity. He is drawn to de Chirico, Fairfield Porter, Michaux, and Kitaj because their uses of the imagination embrace the literary. Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism are picked apart for their revolutionary ability to devise a space that has ""the fluidity of dreams,"" and for drawing the viewer into a landscape ""that has never been"" and therefore ""which alone interests us."" One also senses here the lonely search for aesthetic company--the need for models, surely not to paint from, but to use as guides of conduct and inspiration for his own aesthetic endeavors. Ashbery especially singles out Jasper Johns for maintaining an integrity of purpose that never surrenders to the public. Going it alone, the apprentice-artist learns, as did Yves Tanguy, the ""patient, minute, old-master technique"" of re-seeing reality from the transformations of an altered ego, which creates the passionate objectivity of the mature painter and writer. Essentially, it is this coming-of-age motif--this sense of the artist growing and changing--that is the governing spirit of the best of these essays on painters.