A banality, stroked long enough, turns into an epigram, just as a critical commonplace, uttered with ex cathedra majesty, intimidates a great many readers. Nicholas Calas is a master at this sort of thing. He can be witty: (""Is a ruined Greek temple a historical monument or a TWA ad?"") or aphoristic: (""Magic is shrouded in mystery; like virility, it can be lost"") or dazzling; (""The virtuoso is a castrated seducer. Unable to tempt, he fascinates by his ability to avoid mistakes""). These quotations, taken from Art in the Age of Risk, a collection of articles and essays, most of which were previously published in Art News and Art and Literature, have a distinctly European coloration, and Calas, though long a, member of the New York art scene, still has the sensibility and mode of expression of the European born and educated art historian, thus separating him from the less elegant American styles of his colleagues Harold Rosenberg or Clement Greenberg or Hilton Kramer (Calas' bete noire). Calas' primary interest is with Surrealism (""Surrealist Intentions"" and ""Surrealist Perspective"" are the best pieces in the book), and everything else he considers, even Pop Art (which he rightly links to Dada), are more or less embraced or disowned or elucidated from the perspective of the theories and works of the French poets and painters of the Twenties and Thirties who gave us our great Surrealist heritage. Calas is basically an aesthetician, generally viewing the most formal properties of art as preludes to elaborate discussions of philosophical motifs or what is and what is not the correct critical approach. The polemicist and the savant are often in unique (if unsteady) collaboration in these challenging pages.