A dense, esoteric tome on a dense, esoteric artist.




Soltes considers the career of visual artist Alex Shalom Kohav in this work of art criticism.

Born in 1948 in “the medieval Carpathian Mountains town” that’s now known as Mukachevo—it was part of the Soviet Union then, though it was historically located in Hungary and is now in Ukraine—Kohav moved to San Francisco in 1976 and quickly joined the city’s art and poetry scene. In his subsequent career as a visual artist he has lived and worked in many places, and his own movement between figurative and abstract painting and installation art has mirrored this migratory tendency. His passions and influences have included New Age spiritualism and the vast scope of Chinese, Egyptian, and Western art. “The combination of his interests and talents suggests that he is a difficult individual to define,” writes Soltes in his introduction, “…yet there is an organic consistency to the phylogeny of his work into which all of the various ontogenic parts can be seen to assume their interconnected places.” In this survey of Kohav’s oeuvre, Soltes analyzes the trends that carried through the different eras of the artist’s work as well as the individual projects that occupied him in particular periods. The text is accompanied by numerous full-color photographs of the relevant pieces and, in the case of installations, diagrams. Soltes, also the author of Then and Now (2019), writes for an academic audience, and his prose reflects the fact: “Moreover, the emphasis on light as an instrument in this process of consciousness-elevation is consistent with the overall phylogeny of his art, from his paintings to his monitors to his observational and participatory installations; and it is consistent with his ever-expanding exploration of mysticism, particularly kabbalah.” Soltes succeeds in elucidating a great many of Kohav’s pieces, and it is sometimes stimulating to be walked through his interpretations of them, particularly the installations. That said, readers’ interest in Soltes’ critiques will likely depend on the extent to which they respond to Kohav’s work, which is often inaccessible and rarely striking at first glance. Kohav is not currently regarded as a major artist, but if that fact changes—perhaps even because of this work—Soltes’ thoughts on it will surely be of value to future art scholars.

A dense, esoteric tome on a dense, esoteric artist.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Canal Street Studios

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2020

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.


A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A sumptuous, nostalgic ode to a disappearing landscape


An oversized album compiled in response to the recent omission by the Oxford Junior Dictionary of many natural-science words, including several common European bird, plant, and animal species, in favor of more current technological terms.

In his introduction, Macfarlane laments this loss, announcing his intention to create “a spellbook for conjuring back these lost words.” Each lost word is afforded three double-page spreads. First, the letters of each lost word are sprinkled randomly among other letters and an impressionistic sketch in a visual puzzle. This is followed by an acrostic poem or riddle describing essential qualities of the object, accompanied by a close-up view. A two-page spread depicting the object in context follows. Morris’ strong, dynamic watercolors are a pleasure to look at, accurate in every detail, vibrant and full of life. The book is beautifully produced and executed, but anyone looking for definitions of the “lost words” will be disappointed. The acrostic poems are subjective, sophisticated impressions of the birds and animals depicted, redolent with alliteration and wordplay, perhaps more appropriate for creative writing prompts than for science exploration. This book is firmly rooted in the English countryside, celebrating such words as “conker,” “bramble,” and “starling” (invasive in North America), but many will cross over for North American readers. A free “Explorer’s Guide” is available online.

A sumptuous, nostalgic ode to a disappearing landscape . (Picture book/poetry. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0538-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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