COLUMNS

  • Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste

    Herbert Gans, Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste (New York, Basic Books, 1975), 179 pages.

    SOCIAL SCIENTISTS, SINCE THEY CAN’T handle all the variables of the real world, often employ all-encompassing theories of the world. To test out their theories they send out intelligence agents with their sampling techniques and questionnaires which contain the answers in the questions, and readjust their theories . . . minimally. On the one hand, cultural sociologists question the artist to find out how he or she does it; on the other hand they question the consumers of

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  • Jacqueline

    Ron Galella, Jacqueline (New York, Sheed And Ward, 1974), 200 pages, 290 black-and-white photographs.

    For the most part, the photojournalist is an anonymous function, a mere agent in a corporate representational enterprise. Our conviction that the news is fact depends on the seamless and transparent character of the medium, on the illusion that we are contemplating the product of an unbiased and uniform professionalism. Recently, however, a space has been cleared in the information industry for a kind of ritual celebration of the “creativity” of the photojournalist. Just as the television newscaster

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  • Discovering the Present: Three Decades in Art, Culture, and Politics

    Discovering the Present: Three Decades in Art, Culture, And Politics, Harold Rosenberg, edited by Michael Denneny. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1974, 335 pages.

    Rosenberg’s book consists of 35 articles which originally appeared elsewhere: in Art News, Art News Annual, Commentary, Dissent, Esquire, Jewish Frontier, Midstream, Nation, New Yorker, Partisan Review, Twentieth Century, View, Vogue, as well as in other collections, and, in one instance, an exhibition catalogue. The earliest appeared in 1943, the latest in 1972, with the majority published in the 1960s. The one previously

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  • The Roots of Man

    Alexander Marshak, The Roots of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972).

    FROM A STRICTLY CHRISTIAN point of view the meaning of history is prefigured by the antediluvian era. Noah’s ark symbolizes the Church that, at the end of temporal time, will save the faithful from the flood of infidelity. With unrivaled grandeur, Michelangelo illustrates this theme in terms of a tradition that permits him to blend Biblical history with Vergilian Sibyllae who prophesized the coming of Christ. Michelangelo’s Christ descending from the heavens in his second coming is a God of Apollonian beauty and wisdom.

    It was only

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  • 13 Paintings, 13 Books

    John Gage, Turner: Rain, Steam and Speed, Art in Context Series, ed. John Fleming and Hugh Honour (New York, The Viking Press, 1972), 99 pages, 51 black-and-white illustrations.

    Joel Isaacson, Monet: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1972), 124 pages, 45 illustrations.

    Marilyn Aron-berg Lavin, Piero della Francesca: The Flagellation (1972), 109 pages, 57 illustrations.

    Roy Strong, Van Dyck: Charles I on Horseback (1972), 112 pages, 49 illustrations.

    Elisabeth Dhanens, Van Eyck: The Ghent Altarpiece (1973), 154 pages, 77 illustrations.

    John Golding, Marcel Duchamp: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,

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  • 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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