COLUMNS

  • Books

    Raymond Carney’s study of John Cassavetes, American Dreamer—asleep on the job.

    American Dreaming: The Films of John Cassavetes and the American Experience, by Raymond Carney. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1985, 335 pp, 19 black and white photographs.

    THE TEMPTATION IN WRITING a book on John Cassavetes, of course, is to improvise an imitative monologue punctuated with drum rat-tat-tattoos and a bassman’s staccato riff to evoke the jazzy, dangling-conversation movies of this writer/director, more popularly famous as an actor and (coincidentally? ironically?) once star of the short-lived TV series Johnny Staccato. Raymond Carney’s scholarly

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  • Books

    Wiping up after Bataille. The perils of intellectual sanitation.

    WITH THE PUBLICATION OF Visions of Excess Georges Bataille at last appears in English in all his complex richness. Even before his death, in 1962, his thought was exploited by intellectuals who had no messing with the dirty imagery in which it grew and which is its real flower. Nor did they share his sense of mission: to restore the sacred, “a privileged moment of communal unity, a moment of the convulsive communication of what is ordinarily stifled” This is made clear in his critique of Surrealism, which, he said, invests “low values (the unconscious, sexuality, filthy language, etc.) . . .

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  • Slant

    Art jockeying in the Sistine Discos.

    WHEN STEVE RUBELL, NIGHTCLUB IMPRESARIO and excon, speaks, The New York Times listens. “Artists are becoming the stars of the 1980’s, like the rock stars of the 1960’s or the fashion designers of the 1970’s. People who used to go to singles bars on First Avenue now go to art openings on Avenue A. I don’t create things,” said one of the men who made Studio 54 and now the Palladium, “I jump on them.”

    Now that Steve Rubell has jumped on art—has it been mugged? Can art, fine art, big art, become the centerpiece, the core, of the big discos and still be big and fine? Can you make Peter Max career-choices

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  • Books

    Julian Barnes' Flaubert’s Parrot. Feathers fly.

    I LOOKED FORWARD TO reading Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot. It had landed here from England with a snappy whiff of intellectual brine and had won In this country several literary endorsements from writers I respect, and some of my artist friends had it about—usually a good omen. Also, the title drew me in, auspiciously rhyming with books I have long admired—Bernard Malamud’s Rembrandt’s Hat, André Malraux’s Picasso’s Mask, Roger Shattuck’s _Proust’s Binoculars—and thus, by fortuitous association, promising a personable breed of intelligence. I entertained, a priori, the hope of avoiding the

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  • Books

    Welliver

    Welliver.

    By Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., introduction by John Ashbery, New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1985, 165 pp., 9 black and white illustrations, 60 color plates.

    Sixty tipped-in plates, an oversized format, and fine color reproduction on beautiful paper make this volume on Neil Welliver’s work a satisfying retrospective compendium to look at. The texts, as is the case with most monographs, are advocacy writing, encouraging the aggrandizement of the artist’s reputation by attempting to place him within the American tradition of landscape painting while claiming his essential

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  • Books

    The Work of Atget

    The Work of Atget.

    By John Szarkowski and Maria Morris Hambourg, New York: the Museum of Modern Art, 1981–85 (distributed by the New York Graphic Society). Volume 1, Old France: 204 black and white photographs, 180 pp.; Volume 2, The Art of Old Paris: 212 black and white photographs, 192 pp.; Volume 3, The Ancien Regime: 167 black and white photographs, 185 pp.; Volume 4, Modern Times: 205 black and white photographs, 186 pages.

    Paralleling and complementing the Museum of Modern Art’s four-exhibition survey of the work of Eugène Atget, shown over the past three years, has been one of the most

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  • Books

    The Pluralist Era: American Art, 1968–1981

    The Pluralist Era: American Art, 1968–1981.

    By Corinne Robins, New York: Harper & Row, 1984, 246 pp., 88 black and white photographs, 8 color plates.

    In the first chapter of her earnest march through 14 recent years of American art production, Corinne Robins quotes Kim Levin in 1979: “The 1970s has not been just another decade. Something did happen, something so momentous that it was ignored in disbelief: modernity had gone out of style.” The mechanics of the death of Modernism are indeed an interesting topic, and a rigorous, insightful discussion that explored the idea in relationship to the

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  • Books

    Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Photographer’s Scrapbook

    Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Photographer’s Scrapbook.

    By Louise Dahl-Wolfe, NewYork: St.Martin’s Press, 1984, 145 pages, over 200 black and white illustrations.

    If you love the fashion work of Louise Dahl-Wolfe, her own A Photographer’s Scrapbook is not the best place to find it. The book intends primarily to present a fuller view of her interests in life and in photography. For this it is a good resource, but the best part is her wry look at the behind-the-scenes of the great, glamorous world of fashion. Dahl-Wolfe is discreet, generous, and concise in her text. She lets the photographs do most of the

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  • Books

    Women Shaping Art: Profiles Of Power

    Women Shaping Art: Profiles Of Power.

    By Judy K. Collischan van Wagner, New York: Praeger, 1984, 300 pp., 19 black and white illustrations.

    Women Shaping Art devotes a chapter to each of 19 women in American Modern and contemporary art. Focusing on art writers and dealers, the selection presents such strong figures and unlike minds as Betty Parsons, Katherine Kuh, Ileana Sonnabend, Paula Cooper, Rosalind Krauss, and Holly Solomon, to name a few, and includes a lineage of issues and ideas related to art, art business, art history, and feminism. The book serves as both a history and a collective

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  • Books

    Art and Photography: Forerunners And Influences

    Art and Photography: Forerunners And Influences.

    By Heinrich Schwarz, edited by William E. Parker, Rochester, N.Y., and Layton, Utah: Visual Studies Workshop and Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1985, 158 pp., 64 black and white photographs.

    Heinrich Schwarz’s pioneering research into the prehistory of photography has long had almost legendary status among photography historians— in part due to its prescience and in part to its physical inaccessibility. As his thoughts were presented for the most part in papers prepared for symposia or in articles for small scholarly journals, which have long since fallen

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  • Books

    The Carving Of Mount Rushmore

    The Carving Of Mount Rushmore.

    By Rex Alan Smith, New York: Abbeville Press, 1985, 415 pp., 66 black and white illustrations.

    American history; art in public places; the artist in American society; history, theory, and technique of monumental sculpture: if any of these topics interests you, read Rex Alan Smith’s The Carving of Mount Rushmore. It is a wonderful, detailed account of one of the biggest outdoor sculpture projects we have. With a keen eye to the questions and problems involved in such a feat, Smith’s book offers so much good factual information about the financing, politics, and

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  • Books

    A Man With A Camera

    A Man With A Camera.

    By Nestor Almendros, trans. Rachel Phillips Belash, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984, 306 pp., 37 black and white photographs.

    In this engrossing memoir Nestor Almendros, a cinematographer renowned for his work with movie directors ranging from Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer to Terrence Malick, Robert Benton, and Alan J. Pakula, reveals his job to be as much one of creative visual problem-solving as of working out lighting schemes and knowing which lenses and film stocks to use. Here, for example, is part of his description of how a scene in Malick’s Days of Heaven

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