COLUMNS

  • Books

    Jack Earl: The Genesis and Triumphant Survival of an Underground Ohio Artist.

    By Lee Nordness, Chicago: Perimeter Press Ltd., 1985, 227 pp., 50 black and white and 51 color illustrations

    THE ENIGMATIC JACK EARL has been portrayed as a humorist, corn pone surrealist, and naive provincial by both the ceramic and fine art communities. Earl, the self-indulgent, apathetic, inimical, “underground” artist, remains content in the friendly confines of intellectual and cultural isolation of his home town—Uniopolis, Ohio, muck capital of the world and locus of Lee Nordness’ biographical archaeology.

    Earl’s Luca della Robbia-like painted ceramic bas-reliefs and Meissen–like figurines

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  • Books

    Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–80: An Illustrated History.

    By Thomas Albright, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985, 349 pp., 118 black and white and 115 color illustrations.

    THOMAS ALBRIGHT CAME to his role of documenting the postwar history of Bay Area art with all the advantages and impediments of a man writing a biography of his own family: he was intimately informed as well as profoundly opinionated. This history evokes Albright’s personal relationship to local art from the period a few years prior to his graduation from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1956 (with a Phi Beta Kappa in journalism and art history)

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  • Books

    Starlust: The Secret Life of Fans.

    By Fred and Judy Vermorel, London: Comet/W.H. Allen (44 Hill Street, London W1X 8LB), 253 pp.

    THIS BOOK IS “at first glance full of the fantasies of maniacs,” Pete Townshend says in his introduction to Starlust, an enthralling, sometimes sickening compendium of interviews, diaries, and fan letters to pop stars—at last glance, too. Anyone who has ever been a true fan of any pop figure will find a queasy self-recognition here. Starlust is about commonplace responses to singers, but it can speak for the sphere of film stars or even authors. The book never loses its maniacal tinge. After a hundred

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  • Books

    Mies van der Rohe and Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography.

    Mies van der Rohe

    By David Spaeth, wth preface by Kenneth Frampton, New York: Rizzoli, 204 pp. 235 black and white illustrations.

    Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography

    By Franz Schulze (in association with the Mies van der Rohe Archive of the Museum of Modern Art), Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 384 pp., 219 black and white illustrations..

    CRISP, CONCISE, AND professionally thorough, David Spaeth’s illustrated survey goes over the contours of Mies van der Rohe’s career like a valet brushing off a man in a pinstripe suit; the effect is fresh, even though the ideas have worn

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  • Books

    Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings.

    By Diane Upright, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1985, 264 pp., 25 black and white and 741 color illustrations.

    THE NEW YORK formalist critics active in the ’60s got their name because they focused on matters of form: look at pictorial form the right way, they argued, and you can determine whether or not it possesses “quality,” a trait that Clement Greenberg, Michael Fried, and the other formalists treated like a substance—elusive, of course, but aren’t most precious substances elusive?

    When accused of carrying on like laboratory detectives, the formalists would always hedge: to see quality,

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  • Books

    James Rosenquist and Giacometti: A Biography.

    Giacometti: A Biography

    By James Lord, New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1985, 575 pp., 28 black and white illustrations.

    GIACOMETTI IS A MUCH considered study of the artist by an author who is both earnestly reverential and well-informed. The stance taken is that of a knowing bystander, one who feels free to add his asides but who never formally enters the action. James Lord knew the artist, and in his earlier book A Giacometti Portrait, published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965, he shared his experience of posing in the studio on the rue Hippolyte Maindron. Based on notes taken

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  • 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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