AMERICAN IMPRESSIONS: Prints Since Pollock by Riva Castleman
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Castleman is just what the American art world needs right now--a sharp-minded, sharp-eyed and, when the occasion demands, sharp-tongued commentator and critic, free of cant, hype and strained analogies. In American Impressions--Prints Since Pollock, Castleman, director of the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books at New York's Museum of Modern Art, has constructed a tightly organized, highly readable Baedeker to printmaking in America during the past 40 years. Her insights into what the more than 100 artists she discusses--and showcases--were attempting, the problems they faced, what and who influenced them, what they accomplished (or failed to accomplish) and where the present post-modernist generation is heading, are sure and convincing. The first of her five chapters traces the situation that faced American artist/printmakers at the end of WW II and their first tentative steps toward reawakening a dormant printmaking tradition under the aegis of refugee European artists. Abstract Expressionism and its flowering in the late 1950's and early 60's in the works of Pollock, de Keening, Motherwell, Kline and Rothko are explored next, followed by the advent of Rauschenberg and Johns (Castleman is particularly impressive in her analyses of their work). The ""pre-digested"" imagery of Pop Art draws a few barbed comments from the author: (Robert Indiana's once-ubiquitous silkscreen ""LOVE"" is described as ""the hula hoop of art."") Castleman links the impact of TV on the visual perceptions of both artists and viewers to Op and Color Field art. TV is, in fact, a recurrent theme throughout the book. Minimalism, Conceptualism, Luminism and Photorealism all receive the author's thoughtful attention. Finally, Castleman points out that American art in the 1980's is once again being transformed by such European ‚migr‚ artists as Julian Schnabel and Francesco Clemente--a repetition of the events of 40 years ago. American Impressions contains 151 prints by 116 artists; 78 are in full corer and of the 73 black-and-white plates, only a handful were not originally created in black-and-white. They are skillfully reproduced and arranged with a care that makes referral to them from the text easy. It is in such attention to detail that American Impressions distinguishes itself from the mass of art books being produced today. In sum, a well-thought-out, refreshingly written and splendidly produced work.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1985
Publisher: Knopf