A vibrant trove of exuberant art for art’s sake.

ALBERT KOTIN

ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST OF THE 1950S

A debut coffee-table tome displays the work of a major high-modernist painter.

Albert Kotin was a fixture of the New York school of abstract expressionist painters—Jackson Pollock was the scene’s leader—that gelled after World War II in defiance of the notion that a painting should look like anything in particular. Editor Herskovic supplies only the barest biographical information, parceled out in a few paragraphs along with reprints of exhibition posters and stray newspaper clippings. Most of the book is just a lush photographic catalog of paintings, starting with Kotin’s early representational work that included Works Progress Administration–sponsored post office murals of blacksmiths and barn dances along with a late-1930s Cubist phase featuring blocky, depthless women in distorted perspective whose bodies don’t fit together correctly. In 1947, representation wanes and abstraction sets in with paintings that are salads of many-colored shapes—wedges, panes, blobs—set against background washes. His mature style continues to evolve: Pollock-ian drips emerge around 1950 and recede a few years later, shapes becomes less distinct and raggedly interpenetrating. In later years, as if in frustration at the limits of abstract expressionism, Kotin turns to verbal expression by painting words onto canvases; “I am inconsolable searching by sight and science I find my way blocked by id, ego + a doubting mind,” reads 1964’s I Am Inconsolable. Herskovic also reprints some of Kotin’s poems, which aren’t half bad: “The temple of the Muse / Is a small hole / In the dark earth of an untrod path / Which may / Suddenly / Trap an unwary / Naked / Toe,” reads “Parnassus.” The book’s gorgeous reproductions reveal Kotin as a great colorist, with a palette of blazing yellows and glowing reds, delicate pastels, funereal blues, and pitch blacks; his colors are always complex, even when monochrome, with endless microscopic nuances of saturation and abrading. He’s also a wonderfully tactile artist who crafts textures as silky as mist or as rough as wool and bark. His paintings can be enjoyed as dazzling, purely visual evocations of mood, but his penchant for sneaking the figurative back into abstraction—a nude emerging evanescently from swirling clouds, a face surfacing amid gloopy paint melts—adds piquancy to many images. This book shows his work at its colorful, atmospheric, indecipherable best.

A vibrant trove of exuberant art for art’s sake.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9677994-3-8

Page Count: 356

Publisher: New York School Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2017

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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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