COLUMNS

  • Books

    Valentino

    VALENTINO IS NOT AMONG the great innovators in fashion history. He is, however, one of the few designers who still operates in the traditional style of the 20th-century couturier. He can use opulent materials to construct elaborate shapes, like his spiral-cut ruffled gowns in organza or his bubble dresses (recently referred to in Women’s Wear Daily as Christmas-tree ornaments), which are not and could not be produced in quantity because of the amount of skill and labor needed to make each one. He can tailor an impeccable suit by hand, and he can also cover up its beautiful lines with froufrou;

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  • Books

    Killing Time

    HERE IS A LITTLE VOLUME of photographs by Joe Steinmetz of people doing not much in particular very well. A gentle look at so much fun makes one envious for the blissful hours that ticked away on these subjects’ unattended clocks; idle moneyed time slips away into more idle moneyed time. Everyone is smiling here, everyone is consuming things that look handsome or delicious; without exception, these are images of people who have reached a social plateau where the contented eating of hours is an inherent part of the life style.

    Divided into two sections, those photographs in the Northeastern United

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  • Books

    Political Graphics: Art as a Weapon

    HERE IS A $50.00 ITEM on political graphics. Nothing from Africa, the revolutionary struggles in Mozambique, Angola, etc. Four posters on the H-bomb; nothing from Japan. Two or three mild posters from Cuba; four or five items from Mexico, including several José Guadalupe Posada drawings and a ferocious poster on the 1968 student killings. Nothing else from Latin America, nothing from Chile during the Allende period, nothing from Nicaragua, etc., etc., etc. And what about right wing stuff from Latin America, South Africa, the U.S., elsewhere? Four posters from the Vietnam antiwar period, two of

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  • Books

    Russian Avant-Garde Art

    LET US SAY FIRST and quickly that this book is a bargain. With 527 glossy, heavy stock pages displaying almost 1200 reproductions, more than half of them in good color, and dozens of documentary photographs, it retails at only $60.00. In this era of excessive prices for books in general, and especially for art books, Abrams is to be congratulated for making such “elite” material available to the art-loving proletariat. They have proved that it can be done.

    And what do we get for this investment? The most comprehensive and accurate look at early Russian modern painting yet seen anywhere. For the

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  • Passages

    PASSAGES

    Artforum would like to pay remembrance to Seymour Greenbaum, the certified public accountant who was of great help, both personal and professional, to so many artists. Mr. Greenbaum had been a CPA for 30 years. He died in an automobile accident on April 9th, aged 60.

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  • Books

    Real Lush

    THE TERM “ARTISTS’ BOOKS” seems to be applied more and more confusingly to anything in an art context that resembles a book. I would like to attempt to define this and some related terms. On one of the first occasions that the phrase “artists’ books” was used, it was implied that it referred to “books made by artists.”1 I have no quarrel with this definition, but would like to expand it so that artists’ books are defined as those books made or conceived by artists. The reason for this addition is that few so-called artists’ books are actually the result of a single person’s labor, even though

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  • Books

    Camera Lucida

    THROUGH THE VOLUMINOUS body of his critical undertaking, Roland Barthes single-handedly transformed not only the language of Modern criticism, but its method, scope, and application as well. His essays published during the last three decades are now considered classics, and range broadly in style and subject matter from the rigorous structural critique of language in its formal aspect in his semiological writings, to the free-flowing and discursive exploration of its various forms and specific texts. In addition to literature, Barthes’ conception of “language,” and hence his field of inquiry,

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  • Books

    Man as Art

    Man as Art: New Guinea, photographs by Malcolm Kirk, introduction by Andrew Strathern (New York: The Viking Press (A Studio Book), 1981), 143 pages, 92 illustrations, 62 in color.

    SOME YEARS AGO A FRIEND gave me a copy of Self-Decoration in Mount Hagen by Andrew and Marilyn Strathern (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971). This marvelous bit of anthropology changed my thinking about clothing, sculpture, presentation of the individual in society, and ultimately the importance of decoration—not only in New Guinea but in the world at large. My only disappointment with the Stratherns’ book was

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  • Passages

    H.C. Westermann (1922–1981)

    H.C. Westermann had a genius for making his art look like craft. The harmony that he established with his homey materials was capable of transforming the obvious and the sentimental into the sublime. The eloquent economy of his imagery suggested transcendent folk art, but the compact poetry of his vision lifted it much higher. Westermann was an unequivocally American artist who translated the cynical Duchampian monologue into a rueful Appalachian ballad.

    William Copley’s remembrance of Westermann is a bear hug of a painting. There is no “awful rowing toward God” in this memento mori, but rather

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