COLUMNS

  • Books

    The Collected Letters of William Morris

    WILLIAM MORRIS’ WORK IS UNIQUE in never having gone completely out of fashion. His designs have always been available to the public (except during the years of the Second World War): not in the sterile atmosphere of museums but in the more exciting and practical form of purchasable bales of cloth and rolls of wallpaper. But the lasting popularity of his designs is not the only reason for his widespread fame today, which also arises from his anticipation, in his political and ideological writings and by his practical activities, of the preoccupations of our age. Much of our concern for conservation,

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  • Books

    Larva

    IT STARTS WITH THE COVER, a soot-black image by Antonio Saura on which the title, Larva: Babel de una noche de San Juan, is inscribed, a title that cedes its place to a premonitory cyclopic eye dominating the drawn and dribbled face in typical Sauresque dramatic dissolution. Thematically, and physically, this is a complex image, fitting in relation to a complex text, a novel that is itself full of visual as well as verbal surprise and difference. We see Saura’s eye before we see the enigmatic profile that contains it. It peers out at us as we peer into it, sharing the voyeuristic experience it

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  • Books

    Network: Art in the Complex Present, The Critic is Artist: The Intentionality of Art, and Get the Message?

    THREE NEW BOOKS ARE WORTH noticing: three important retrospectives of the discourse on art. They stand out because in various ways and to various degrees they do not merely describe art, but make demands, ask for amends, hold out possibilities; they often describe nonexisting art or art that leaps out from the welter of ordinary art activity. Lawrence Alloway, Donald Kuspit, and Lucy Lippard construct their utopias on different plateaus of expectation.

    Of the three, Alloway is the most generous. A populist-reformist, he wants a fairer hearing for unheard voices—the decentralization of museums,

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  • Books

    How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War

    IT OFTEN SEEMS AS THOUGH art historians want to reduce the practice of art to something like their own business, a business in which a major piece of news is most often a squabble over a minor piece of information. Art historians like to worry about provenance, to argue about priority, about who did what first; they like to organize artists into schools and parties and to demonstrate similarities. They seem especially fond of this last activity, working hard to deny the particularity of artworks, their relations to the conditions that helped create them, presenting instead a rather disinterested

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  • Books

    For Georges Remi/Hergé

    I THOUGHT LONG ON HOW to write about my friend Georges Remi, known everywhere as Hergé, the creator, or—as they called him in the European press the day he died in March, 1983—the father of Tintin.

    I first assumed I would describe his work, analyze its images and themes, but there are already scholars and experts, such as the French cultural philosopher Michel Serres, who thoroughly know the Hergé oeuvre and can elucidate the nuances of the transformations of Tintin from his earliest black and white avatar as boy-reporter in Land of the Soviets (1930) to his final, color-filled incarnation in

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  • Books

    How to Commit Suicide in South Africa

    I remember the faces of Barry White and Charlie Pride when they announced Debbie Boone had won the best-pop-single award (for “You Light Up My Life”) on a music program on TV. She wasn’t there to accept. Someone brought a phone on stage with a direct line to Debbie, on tour in South Africa. The hosts’ congratulations couldn’t have been hollower.

    HOW TO COMMIT SUICIDE IN South Africa is an illustrated overview of the tragic reality of South Africa now. It’s a very difficult book to (re-)view because it makes you feel ashamed of being human. This and the symbiotic relationship of Sue Coe’s

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  • Books

    Art Worlds and Patrons Despite Themselves

    THE INADVERTENT CLEVERNESS OF Howard Becker’s Art Worlds is that it shows us how mundane the art world really is. The inadvertent cleverness of Patrons Despite Themselves is that it shows us how mundane minds, not interested really in art, but in the public welfare, use its banal terms to explain the art system satisfactorily. These are powerfully demythologizing books, showing us that no matter how individualistic the art world thinks it is, it is in fact really nothing but another social system, subject to the same sociological and economic analysis as any other. It is as much bracing as

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  • Books

    An Interview with Eiko Ishioka, by Ingrid Sischy

    EIKO ISHIOKA IS AN ART director; a pioneer traveling in big commerce. Her book Eiko by Eiko, published here last fall by Callaway Editions, Inc., New York, in association with Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co. Ltd., Tokyo, presents a survey of her work through all of mass media. The book includes over 2,000 color illustrations, and introductions by Akira Kurosawa, film director; Hiroyuki Itsuki, novelist; Seiji Tsutsumi, chairman of the Seibu group; Issey Miyake, fashion designer; Kenji Sawada, singer and performer; Takeo Nagasawa, advertising writer; Yoshiaki Tono, art critic; Haruki Kadokawa,

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  • Books

    Jazz and Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait. Maisons

    These two recently published reproductions of illustrated books provide an interesting contrast. Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait. Maisons, a book of poems by Tristan Tzara with woodcuts by Hans Arp, was originally published in 1920, in an edition limited to 150 copies. As illustrated books go, it was a relatively modest but handsome production, with the nicely printed poems and unassuming but lovely black and white illustrations set in gentle counterpoint to each other. A charming and witty book, its reproduction does not involve enormous difficulties and its essential character is quite

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  • Books

    Francis Bacon

    In light of his book Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation, Paris: Editions de la difference, 1981 (published in two volumes, one of text, the other of reproductions), we asked the philosopher Gilles Deleuze to contribute the following related text.

    THIS PAINTING IS OF A very special violence. Bacon, to be sure, often traffics in the violence of a depicted scene: spectacles of horror, crucifixions, prostheses and mutilations, monsters. But these are overly facile detours, detours that the artist himself judges severely and condemns in his work. What directly interests him is a violence that is

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  • Books

    Ranxerox (continued)

    This is the second part of a two-part article.

    WHAT RANX AND LUBNA find instead is the Lower East Side, a version of the squalor they had left behind in their Rome of the 30th level. They share an apartment with a young man, Timothy, and while Ranx is working as a taxi driver, Lubna babysits. The situation is prosaic enough. And so too are the problems of the household. Lubna complains about their lack of money, about her getting older—she’s giving Ranx the best years of her life. And then, too, the dope in New York is a killer, literally. She’d be better off back in Rome! But if he can’t arrange

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  • Books

    Ranxerox

    OPENING NIGHT, 1988. THE BROADWAY theater is packed with the international elite. They’re in ecstasy. The show’s a real hit, gorgeous show girls and a new dancer-singer who’s running through all of Fred Astaire’s routines even more perfectly than the old master-hoofer in his best days. And why not? The star’s been programmed with every Fred Astaire move and inflection: he’s a Roman robot named Ranxerox. To his 12-year-old girlfriend, Lubna, sitting in the loge with the show’s leather-masked producer, Mr. Volare, he’s known as Ranx. And now, just as he is in the middle of a song and the audience

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