Fertile, probing responses to the transformative power of art.



An eminent scholar and critic collects her essays from 30 years of writing about art.

President of the Royal Society of Literature and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, Warner (Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction, 2018, etc.) brings her capacious knowledge of myth, fairy tale, aesthetics, religion, and literature to these erudite and luminous essays on art and artists. Previously published between the 1980s and 2017, the essays fall into four sections: “Playing in the Dark,” which examines connections to child’s play in the works of artists such as Paula Rego and Kiki Smith; “Bodies of Sense,” focused on how bodies become “theme and instrument” for five artists who investigate their own “teeth, hair, feet, skin, blood, semen, sweat” as “the principal arena of debate and the chief subject of representation”; “Spectral Technologies,” which considers artists’ “desire to capture mental images beyond empirical experience”; and “Iconclashes,” which examines artists as diverse as Hieronymus Bosch and Damien Hirst, whose work speaks to the “struggle over images today: over what they mean, how we interact with them and why they matter so much.” Warner sees art criticism as an aesthetic project in its own right, not merely “an accompaniment, as a pianist plays for a singer.” When writing about artists, “I try to unite my imagination with theirs, in an act of absorption that corresponds to the pleasure of looking at art.” She succeeds impressively. In a sensitive appraisal of Felicity Powell, whose art includes iconoclastic medallions, Warner describes Powell as “elegant, thoughtful, fascinating,” with “an unusual and poetic imagination and great curiosity about lesser-known corners of mythology and art.” That description could apply to Warner’s writing, whether she’s discussing Louise Bourgeois’ decapitated nudes and aggressively maternal spiders; Smith’s astonishing “inverse paradise” and “creaturely empathy”; Sigmar Polke’s interest in materials’ “capacity for transformation, their powers to poison and heal”; or her disappointment in Hirst’s art, which has “too many comprehensible metaphors with no outer rings of mystery and resonance.”

Fertile, probing responses to the transformative power of art.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-02146-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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. 19, 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 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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