EMBATTLED CRITIC: Views on Modern Art by John Canaday

EMBATTLED CRITIC: Views on Modern Art

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John Canaday is a candid and compelling critic often given to controversial comments; in fact, quite early in this collection culled from 3 years New York Times columns- Mr. Canaday diagnoses flatly the current stage of modern art as suffering from delusions of persecution and/or omnipotence, along with narcissistic ambivalence-in a phrase, the syndrome's one of pictorial schizophrenia. And right after that blast he goes on to further battle, with the enemy lying dissected on almost every page: there's Tinguely's self-destroying contraptionist oeuvre which saws, beats and con-flagrates symbolically into ashes, the neo-Dadist paste-up group (busted zippers, shattered umbrellas, horse feathers), Martha Jackson's New Media exhibit emitting ""little shrieks of perverse delight"", Junk sculptors and the fascination of defunct gadgets, Dali's surrealist careerism onwards to the ""nuclear religious"" chic, James Kearns' lumpy-headed, lumpy humanity, Philip Evergood's no-good Blakean primitivism, and, of course, the new establishment,- the abstract expressionist school around which congregate freaks, charlatans, incompetents, status seekers and the lure of the fast, fat buck. Accordingly, Mr. Canaday has become the bete noir of America's thriving avant garde, in particular publications like Art News fellow critics such as Harold Rosenberg and a slew of New York dealers. Mr. Canaday remains unruffled, and lest one think he has no modern day pets, he plumps for contemplative realist Andrew Wyeth, resurrects Burchfield's non-doctrinaire Americana, praises Miro's ""ingenious contrivances"", Klee's ""4th dimensional innocence"" and signals Magritte as the leading fantasist painter. He's an enlightening, engaging fellow, this John Canaday, and if he lacks profound scholarship, which he seems to, he makes up for it with a provocative, quip-happy style all his own. His book and his views may well be the forerunners of a new outlook on the part of sophisticates to the fashion-riddled world of contemporary art.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1962
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy