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

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. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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

ISBN: 978-0-618-72634-9

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

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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