CULTURE GULCH by John Canaday


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Column by column, Mr. Canaday has pelted the smug facade of New York's arti-factory. Still the Embattled Critic (his first collection from the New York Times), he's not, however, numbly negative. Typically, he takes off from Kenneth Noland--""an art of color decision""--to consider the abnegation of abstraction generally--but ""better one of Mr. Noland's perfectly baked fractional loaves of plastic bread than the depressing, soggy mass of dough offered us by most painters who try to deal with life."" Of the reviews included, only a few depend on familiarity with the works of unfamiliar figures; others are reassessments of recent reputations (e.g. Pascin, Beckmann, Leger) or applicable to many current ones. Peripheral to art per se are sensitive portraits of ""Four Personalities,"" among whom Fiske Kimball, undiminished by madness, and Gertrude Belmont, modeling with fierce pride at seventy, stand out and stick. Then there's Canaday the contumacious as per cautionary prototypes Mr. Baddleigh Taken (by an auction house) and artist Gordon Gullible, victim of a vanity gallery. Probably the biggest furor was occasioned by his acid appraisal of community art centers; the longest and most reverberant section here; better a panoply of good reproductions, he avers, than a lone, unrelated original, better a record of local culture than servitude to New York. (A final look sees some relief for Fun City.) It's a snappy, scrappy book with much more reach than the usual critical rurun.

Pub Date: May 6th, 1969
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux