Although some of the more mannered pieces don't work as well as others, it's always Berger's unique, captivating mind on...

PORTRAITS

JOHN BERGER ON ARTISTS

A Berger sampler: the esteemed art critic offers up personal portraits of a wide array of well-known and lesser-known artists and art works.

The prolific Berger (Understanding a Photograph, 2013, etc.) has written books in many genres (including his Booker-winning novel G.), but he's best known as a discerning art critic, and this collection of 74 essays, some only a couple pages long, will enhance that reputation. Editor Overton, who sees Berger as a storyteller critic, has gathered them together with Berger's blessing. The pieces are arranged chronologically, from the ancient paintings on France's Chauvet Cave and the Egyptian Fayum Portraits found in necropolises to contemporary artists like the Palestinian sculptor Randa Mdah, whose installation piece, Puppet Theater, Berger writes, possesses "a power…such as I have seen in no other [work]." His comments and insights constantly surprise. For Berger, Michelangelo's subject was always the human body, and its "sublimity lay revealed in the male organ." Fellow Brit J.M.W. Turner "represents most fully the character of the British nineteenth century." Mark Rothko's greatest canvasses are "very close to blindness." They "take off the blindfolds of colour." Francis Bacon painted "human flesh as if it were a rasher of bacon." Cy Twombly is the "painterly master of verbal silence!" As a Marxist, Berger's inquiries are often situated in a distinctly political or social context, and they vary greatly in their modes of telling. His piece on Goya, the "first artist to paint the nude as a stranger," is partly written in the form of a play. His piece on Titian consists of letters written between him and his daughter. His favorite? Caravaggio, whose chiaroscuro could "banish daylight."

Although some of the more mannered pieces don't work as well as others, it's always Berger's unique, captivating mind on display in these unabashedly personal essays—and that never disappoints.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78478-176-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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 fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

WARHOL

An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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