COLUMNS

  • Books

    Inside the White Cube.

    WRITING ABOUT YOUR PAST IS the closest you get to coming back from the dead. You assume a false superiority over your previous self, who did all the work. So looking back at these articles, now revived between their own pasteboard, what do I have to add? A great deal.

    In the past ten years so much has been buried as if it never happened. Art does not progress by having a good memory. And New York is the locus of some radical forgetting. You can reinvent the past, suitably disguised, if no one remembers it. Thus is originality, that patented fetish of the self, defined. What has been buried? One

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  • Slant

    success and Pittsburgh's 1985 Carnegie International.

    PITTSBURGH’S 1985 CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL was a jewel of a show, a ritzy display of contemporary art with all the “quality” that one could hope for. This was the exhibition with which the Museum of Modern Art, New York, should have reopened after its renovation in 1984, rather than the halfhearted grab bag of mixed goods with which it tried to show that, contrary to critical opinion, it really was keeping up with contemporary art. The Carnegie International gave short shrift to distinctions between the provincial and the cosmopolitan, the national and the international. The art had its ups and

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  • Books

    Moholy-Nagy

    Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy trans. from Hungarian by Eva Grusz, Judy Szöllosy, and Laszlo Baránzky Jób, and from the German by Mátyás Esterházy; trans. revised by Kenneth McRobbie and Ilona Jánosi (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1985), 448 pages, 208 black and white and 44 color illustrations.

    Na zdorovye (To your health) to Thames and Hudson for publishing a series of major monographs on early-20th century Eastern European avant-garde artists: El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and now László Moholy-Nagy. At a time when publishing dollars are allotted cautiously,

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  • Books

    Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer

    Yves Abrioux, Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer (Edinburgh: Reaktion Books, 12 Dublin Street, Edinburgh EH1 3PP, 1985), 248 pages, over 370 illustrations, 65 in full color, 19 in two-color.

    Although Ian Hamilton Finlay was 60 last year, his work is only now becoming well-known outside a relatively restricted group of admirers. This book brings together for the first time, in a kind of anthology, a great number of his printed cards and booklets, published over a 25-year period. It also includes photographs, many in color, of his ongoing work, a garden with Garden Temples in Lanarkshire, Scotland

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  • Books

    The Indelible Image: Photographs of War—1846 to the Present

    The Indelible Image: Photographs Of War-1846 To The Present, ed. Frances Fralin, with an essay by Jane Livingston (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., and Washington D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985), 254 pages, 127 black and white photographs, 8 color plates.

    Most photojournalism teeters on an edge between information and voyeurism; war photography, as the extreme case of photojournalism, raises, in the sharpest possible way, basic questions about the nature and purpose of “the news” and news photos: is this picture intended to provide information, to influence my behavior, or merely to titillate

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  • Books

    Tokyo 1970–1985

    Masatoshi Naito, Tokyo 1970–1985 (Tokyo: Meicho Publishing, 1985), 221 pages, 90 black and white photographs.

    The Tokyo described by Masatoshi Naito’s photographs is a land of the dead, guarded by fiends and demons whose outer appearances are those of destitution. These guardians have slipped past the city’s corporate headquarters, department stores, and commuter trains, past the timetables by which its intricate urban machinery is scheduled. Naito is drawn to “black holes,” to the shadowy, subterranean, or nocturnal world where, he believes, the true psyche of Tokyo resides; here he finds links

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  • Books

    The Sense of Sight

    John Berger, The Sense Of Sight, ed. and with a foreword by Lloyd Spencer (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986), 304 pages, 10 black and white illustrations.

    This is a pathetic book, a scarecrow full of stale straw. The measure of John Berger’s desperation is that he reprints his famous essay “The Moment of Cubism” (1969), using it as the centerpole of a sagging circus tent. The book is a collection of Berger trivia, ranging from bad poems to bad populist pieces, which never rise to the dignity of the feuilleton. There is some good work here: the best writing deals with death, especially of friends

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  • Books

    Dada/Dimensions

    Dada/Dimensions, ed. Stephen C. Foster (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1985), 292 pages, 72 black and white illustrations.

    Not long ago most Dada scholarship in English rehashed “the roots of Surrealism,” centered strictly on Paris, showered praise or blame on poet-publicist Tristan Tzara, and that was that. Today an interested reader will quickly discover that Hugo Ball was its founder, Richard Huelsenbeck its tribune, Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Höch its most explosive artists. Zurich, where Dada started, and Berlin, where it ended, have all but squeezed Paris off the map. That one Dada

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  • Books

    Ballet

    George Platt Lynes, Ballet (Pasadena, Calif.: Twelvetrees Press, 1985), 83 sheet-fed gravures.

    At a time when photography and ballet were often both dismissed as minor arts, George Platt Lynes photographed ballet dancers as major gods. To Lynes, the balletomane’s ecstatic cries of “Divine!” were simply the oracular utterance of the truth. The extreme stylization of ballet—from the predilection for mythical subjects to the ritual application of eye shadow—enabled Lynes’ flair for artifice to masquerade as straight reportage, mitigating somewhat the obsessive quality that delights admirers of Lynes’

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  • Books

    Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris

    Thomas E. Crow, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), 292 pages, 150 black and white and 8 color illustrations.

    Art history struggles to ignore all issues but those raised by iconography, form, and artists’ biography The struggle usually succeeds. As practiced in universities and museums, respectable art history still has little to say about the cultural, social, and economic situations for art. Thus Thomas E. Crow’s Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris does not count as a work of art history, for it talks in

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  • Books

    Jim Dine Drawings

    Constance W. Glenn, Jim Dine Drawings (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1985), 223 pages, 110 black and white illustrations, 52 color plates.

    Some artists challenge criticism because they seem so much in need of interpretation; Jim Dine, however, does so because he seems to render interpretation superfluous. It is difficult to see past the facility, permeability to influence, and beauty of Dine’s work. Perhaps that’s why the artist gets luscious reproductions but a lightweight introduction in this book.

    Too bad, because there is an interesting story buried here: that of a successful artist swerving

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  • Books

    Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky: Interviews With George Balanchine

    Solomon Volkov, Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky: Interviews With George Balanchine, trans. Antonina W. Bouis (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), 252 pages, 76 black and white illustrations.

    George Balanchine’s audiences always included many viewers who had no interest in ballet except as Balanchine practiced it. In the ’70s, a portion of this audience consisted of younger viewers for whom the choreographer seemed to hold a special message; the appeal was partly that of the endangered species. As recently as 1982, the last great survivor of the heroic age of Modernism could be seen taking his bows

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