Books

  • L’Année 1913 and Modern Art Exhibitions 1900–1916

    L’Année 1913: les formes esthétiques de l’oeuvre d’art à la veille de la première guerre mondiale, L. Brion-Guerry, editor. Paris, Editions Klincksieck, 1971, 1973, vols. I and II: studies and chronologies, vol. Ill: manifestoes and documents, 1903 pages, 121 illustrations, indices and chronological tables.

    Modern Art Exhibitions 1900–1916; Selected Catalogue Documentation, Donald E. Gordon. Munich, Prestel-Verlag, 1974, 2 vols., 1268 pages, 1905 illustrations.

    These two monumental works are the most important publications yet to appear in early twentieth-century art history; they are surely

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  • Contemporary Art and the Plight of the Public: a View from the New York Hilton

    Hilton Kramer, The Age of the Avant-Garde, An Art Chronicle of 1956–1972 (New York: Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 1973), 565 Pages.

    A DECADE AND A LITTLE more have passed since Leo Steinberg composed, for an audience at The Museum of Modern Art, the popular lecture which characterized the situation of the public for contemporary art as a “plight.”1 Postulating an immediately functional idea of a public as grounded in the most generally shared experience of attentive beholders, Steinberg restored the artist and the critic to their places within that very large community. Their “plight” he then

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  • Erotic Art of the West

    Robert Melville, Erotic Art of the West (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973), 318 pages, 30 colorplates, over 200 black-and-white illustrations.

    ROBERT MELVILLE HAS BEEN WORKING on this study intermittently for many years. The guiding motto of his text is provided by certain lines from Baudelaire’s Salons in which the poet adumbrates an imaginary Museum of Love. Here

    there would be a place for everything, from S. Theresa’s undirected affections down to the serious debaucheries of the ages of ennui. No doubt an immense distance separates Le Depart pour l’île de Cythère from the miserable daubs

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  • Documentary Expression and Thirties America

    William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 361 pages, 64 black-and-white illustrations.

    William Stott’s new study is a strong and welcome antidote to the partial oblivion that still besets our consciousness of the thirties. Although not primarily concerned with the visual arts as such, the author’s analysis of the documentary mentality that affected a host of activities during the period—sociological studies of class and caste, radio news, “on the road”-style fiction or autobiography—will provide art historians with a “feel” of the times

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  • Paul Jenkins

    Albert Elsen, Paul Jenkins (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1973), 284 pages, 56 colorplates, 115 black-and-white illustrations.

    This monograph opens, after a few grainy Avalanche-type photographs of the artist at work, with a sententious note by the author, Albert Elsen. “In writing about a living artist, the historian must remind himself that he should ask questions such as those we would like to have had answered by artists of the past, before the recording of art history.” This laudable intention of satisfying the curiosity of future generations is taken by Elsen as art occasion for boldly

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  • The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning

    Dore Ashton, The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning (New York: The Viking Press, 1972).

    DORE ASHTON HAS WRITTEN a book about the collective life and concerns of the Abstract Expressionist painters in New York. The New York School: a Cultural Reckoning gets off to a discouraging start, but picks up gradually, involving us more and more in some of the main preoccupations of the New York art world from the Depression to the 1950s.

    What we get is straight reportage, which benefits from intramural knowledge, but we sometimes wish Ashton had used her control of inside dope to speculate on implications.

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  • Wittgenstein’s Vienna

    Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 314 pages, 17 black-and-white illustrations.

    “Mahler’s Vienna” would be a quite thinkable title for a book. “Freud’s Vienna” makes an even more plausible one. Both would deal with famous, heroic, struggling innovators, effecting culture through the gradual conversion of their professions and audiences. And in the controversies they generated, what worshipful opportunities there are for piquant biographical, social, and intellectual reportage. But how is one to greet Wittgenstein’s Vienna, published earlier

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  • Image of the People: Gustav Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851

    Image of the People: Gustav Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851, T. J. Clark. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society Ltd., 1973, 208 pages, seven colorplates, 43 black-and-white illustrations, bibliography, hardbound.

    It is T. J. Clark’s intention, in Image of the People, to write a genuine social history of art. He rejects a prevailing tendency of art-historical monographs, in which, typically, an introductory chapter lays in the historical background with a broad brush, against which the author proceeds to delineate particular works as demonstrations of an artist’s

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  • On Quality in Art

    Jacob Rosenberg, On Quality in Art (Princeton, N.J.: Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1967).

    —————————

    The problem is that I am, in a sense, speaking to Jacob Rosenberg, but if he is speaking to me, he doesn’t know it, or he didn’t know it until now. And of course there is a certain unfairness to this sort of dialogue, all of it in my favor; for in a sense, I choose what he says, though my choice of what I may have him say is restricted to the 232 pages of his text (plus his introduction).

    1. “Artistic value” or “quality” in a work of art

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  • Design, Nature, and Revolution: Toward a Critical Ecology

    Tomas Maldonado, Design, Nature, and Revolution: Toward a Critical Ecology, trans. Mario Domandi (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1972) 139 pages, hardbound.

    Design, Nature, and Revolution is a brilliant example of how to handle large-scale ideas in compact arguments. In form it consists of a text, pages 1–77, followed by 55 pages of (easily legible) footnotes. The first half of the book has an admirable momentum; the second half is a dilating compendium of reflections and references. The book is important for its examination of the scope of design, in the sense of “an art at the service of

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  • Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972

    Lucy Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (New York: Praeger), 272 pages, 128 black-and-white illustrations.

    A point has been reached, with the publication of Lucy Lippard’s book The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, where certain propositions can no longer go unquestioned. The understanding of the importance of these propositions will come only from an investigation of the internal contradictions of the book itself which, in turn, will reveal its hidden theoretical and ethical implications. As is often the case, the covert meaning of

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  • Realism

    Linda Nochlin, Realism (London: Pelican Books, 1971), 283 pages, 134 black-and-white illustrations.

    "ALL THAT WAS SOLID and established crumbles away, all that was holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to look with open eyes upon his conditions of life and true social relations,” wrote Marx in the Communist Manifesto.1 How this new consciousness, a product of the revolution of 1848, became a substantive part of artistic self-expression is the subject of Linda Nochlin’s Realism. Like Nochlin’s other writings, but unlike most art-historical studies, Realism is distinguished by the author’s

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