COLUMNS

  • What is Cinema?

    André Bazin, What is Cinema?, ed. Hugh Gray, (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1967.

    There things are . . . Why manipulate them?

    —Roberto Rossellini

    Cinema is a manipulation of reality through image and sound.

    —Alain Resnais

    OF ALL THE BOOKS on film which have been issued these past two years, in desperate anarchy from the major publishing houses, the selection of essays assembled by Mr. Hugh Gray from the critical writings of André Bazin is, as might have been expected, incomparably the best. It is, in fact, the only book with any claim at all to intellectual distinction, as it alone

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  • Michael Fried’s 3 American Painters

    Michael Fried, 3 American Painters (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University), 1965. 80 pages. Illustrated.

    THE ORIGINAL SELECTIONS for the exhibition of works by Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski and Frank Stella for which this is the catalog, were made by Michael Fried for the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. When the exhibition opened at Pasadena, however, only the works by Olitski were the same as those shown at Harvard (presumably because there were no Olitskis on the West Coast); for the rest, works by Noland and Stella from local galleries and collections replaced the original selections. The strangeness

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  • Michael Kirby’s Happenings: An Illustrated Anthology

    Michael Kirby, Happenings: An Illustrated Anthology (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.),1965.

    SOME PORTION OF THE HAPPENINGS, which flourished as a vital movement in New York between 1959 and 1962, has been preserved in a documentary book by Michael Kirby. The major part of the book is devoted to statements, scripts and descriptions of the productions by the five artists represented: Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Whitman. Altogether, thirteen Happenings are described in detail and amply illustrated with photographs. Kirby wrote all the descriptions after what

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  • David Smith by David Smith

    David Smith by David Smith, ed. Cleve Cray (Holt, Rinehart, N.Y., 1968), 176 pages, illustrated.

    As a compilation of statements by the artist, accompanied by many color photographs of Smith and his work, David Smith by David Smith cannot easily be categorized. There is not enough information to consider the book either biography or documentary, nor is is sufficiently systematic to be considered scholarly. Another approach might have been philosophical—an attempt to establish the artists as a speculative or analytical thinker after the fashion of Kandinsky or Sir Joshua Reynolds—but here the book

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  • History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture

    History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. by H. H. Arnason, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1968

    H. H. Arnason’s History of Modern Art is guaranteed to become a bestselling textbook. In terms of the college market, the book has all of the “proper” ingredients: it is generously illustrated with black and white reproductions and colorplates of the highest quality; it contains more information on more painters, sculptors and architects from more countries than any other single volume published to date; it pursues its subject from the beginning of the 19th century to the late 1960s; finally,

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  • “Taxes and Art” and Richard H. Rush's “Art as an Investment”

    Taxes and Art (French & Co., Inc., Prentice-Hall, Inc.), 1961.

    Richard H. Rush, Art as an Investment  (Prentice-Hall, Inc.), 1961, 418 pp.

    OF THESE TWO BOOKS, Rush’s “Art as an Investment” must be considered the more vile, because it costs ten dollars and has 418 pages, while the French & Co. booklet can be had for the asking and is blessed with only 20 pages. By all other standards, they are at a dead heat.

    Shortly after the appearance of the French & Co. booklet, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued a statement declaring that his office would examine with a wiser, if sadder eye, tax returns

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  • Collage

    Collage by Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh. Chilton Co., Philadelphia, 1962. 302 pp., illus.

    Pity the student, the collector, the ob­server, the artist, trying with pitiful sincerity to find his way in the mad­house of contemporary art history. No sooner does William Seitz clear a cor­ridor with his “assemblage ideas,” than along come Mrs. Janis and Mr. Blesh with their “collage idea,” illustrating their propositions with the same artists and, indeed, the same works. Be­cause the authors of “Collage” are en­thusiasts rather than thinkers, “fans” rather than historians, Seitz is perhaps more convincing,

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  • Germain Bazin’s The Loom of Art

    The Loom Of Art: By Germain Bazin. Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1962. 328 Pp., Illus.

    The large, expensive art books are, for the most part, like nothing so much as our big, beautiful, blonde leading ladies of the screen. Dressed up in breathtaking technicolor, worked over from head to toe by hairdressers, cosmeticians, and other assorted perfection-makers, they are given a jumble of meaningless lines to recite, and presented to the world. At first sight, they are dazzling; later, they pall.

    This one is different. The usual perfection of layout, designed to increase our appreciation of expensiveness,

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  • Dore Ashton’s The Unknown Shore

    Dore Ashton, The Unknown Shore (Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1962), 265 pages, Illus.

    ALTHOUGH DORE ASHTON HAS BEEN closely involved with avant-garde American painting for many years—particularly as a critic for the New York Times—it should be borne in mind that this book comes late. Almost two decades have passed since the emergence of the great painters of the New York School, and a good deal of critical analysis has seen its way to print. Still another analysis, coming this late, would be expected to be less breathless, less sketchy, would have to justify its existence, would have,

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  • Art: USA: now

    Art: USA: now, edited by Lee Nord­ness, text by Allen S. Weller (New York: Viking), 1963.

    2 volumes, 475 pages, illustrated.

    “THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED to

    Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Johnson,

    who, had they been asked,

    would have insisted it be dedicated

    instead to the American artist.”

    Probably not. A much more likely sug­gestion might have been:

    For Fibber McGee and Molly

    Who Made All This Possible

    For Mr. H. F. Johnson, of course, is the Chairman of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc., better known to radio and TV listeners as “The Johnson’s Wax Company,” who one day invited Mr. Nordness “for a luncheon in which the

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  • Alfred Werner’s Modigliani the Sculptor

    Alfred Werner, Modigliani the Sculptor (New York: Arts, Inc.), 1962. 120 pages, illus.

    ART HISTORY IS ONE of the few fields re­maining in which everything is yet to be done. It is therefore no surprise that this book, published in 1962, should be the first book ever published on Modig­liani’s sculpture.

    The artist who is both painter and sculptor is rapidly disappearing—there seems to be a persistent feeling that an artist who is good at the one cannot possibly be very good at the other. Those painters who have produced sculpture in recent times, have done so clearly as a secondary activity. Not

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