ARTISTS AND WRITERS by Sanford Schwartz
Kirkus Star

ARTISTS AND WRITERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From a new small press comes this remarkably vigorous and eloquent collection of essays (reprinted from the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, etc.) on international artists and writers: a great pleasure to read, not only for its high-voltage intensity of thought and feeling, but also for its stunning critical style. Whether Schwartz is discussing Alex Katz's drawings, Heinrich von Kleist's letters and plays, or David Hockney's photographs, he seems to move into the bloodstream of his subjects. And his subjects are diverse. What could possibly link up such figures as Watteau John Updike, Caravaggio, Glenn Gould, Edwin Denby, or Andy Warhol? For one thing, dislocation. This young critic seems very much a man of his time, and what draws him to his subjects are the various social, psychological, or aesthetic ways that they, too, are--or were--alienated from their lives and work. Schwartz is a cool detective, sniffing out the weaknesses in the psyche, discovering precisely why, for example, Updike's refining sensibility fails him when he turns from fiction to criticism, or why there is such a sad discrepancy between Warhol's rather pathetic life and his serial pictures that resemble ""magically airy cake."" If Schwartz's overview is notably existential, his style resembles middle-to-late Pauline Kael (to whom he offers thanks for her encouragement in the preface). Like Kael addressing a movie, Schwartz will often carry on simultaneous, chatty conversations with the reader, the object under discussion (often it talks back), and his own sensibility. The verbal inflections of Kael and her protÉgÉ are sometimes amusingly similar. But the stylistic borrowings are enormously effective in Schwartz's hands and, especially when applied to his art criticism, intensify the reader's visual experience. A truly unusual collection--one that, in expertly capturing the texture and quality of its various subjects, is fully the equal of Arthur C. Danto's Encounters and Reflections (p. 319).

Pub Date: May 21st, 1990
Publisher: Yarrow (225 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012)