Joseph Masheck

  • The Decorated Letter, Manuscript Painting at the Court of France: The Fourteenth Century (1310–1380), and The Icon

    HIGH HONORS GO TO an ongoing series of picture books dealing with medieval manuscript painting that Braziller has been publishing since last year. The project involves, in each case, the selection of some 48 full-page color plates, each with identification and commentary on the facing page, and a substantial introduction by some recognized scholar in the field, with the introduction itself fitted out with many black-and-white comparative illustrations. Each volume comes in both cloth and paper formats, the paperbacks costing in the neighborhood of $10 to $12.

    It happens that I have not seen

  • La Belle Epoque: Fifteen Euphoric Years of European History

    LA BELLE EPOQUE: FIFTEEN Euphoric Years of European History (Morrow) is a different matter entirely, although it covers a lot of the same territory, concerned as it is with European society and culture between 1900 and 1914. This is a rather more old-fashioned sort of book, for artistic purposes at least, than Jean Clay’s, in that art becomes a kind of mood music for the telling of a story that amounts essentially to social history. Things can get too anecdotal as well, in a way that is distracting rather than mnemonically useful. But there is a lot of interesting art here, and the historical

  • Islamic Architecture and Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning

    TWO ARCHITECTURAL BOOKS OF general interest are John D. Hoag, Islamic Architecture, in Pier Luigi Nervi’s big “History of World Architecture” series (Abrams), which appeared last summer, and Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning (Morrow), edited by George Michell and just out. Here it’s tough to pick one over the other, since there is not as great a polarization between connoisseurship and iconography as the two titles might suggest; Hoag also remains aware, along the way, of historical context. As far as I can tell, he does tend to be more “objective,” in the sense

  • Minor White: Rites & Passages; His Photographs Accompanied by Excerpts from his Diaries and Letters

    IN THE PAST YEAR the crushing torrent of books on photography, including tiresomely redundant surveys, historical potboilers and full-scale monographs purveying the most inconsequential reputations, has not let up. We do, however, come across something quite extraordinary in the form of the 80th number of Aperture, that justly famous periodical series of photographic books. The 80th number is Minor White: Rites & Passages; His Photographs Accompanied by Excerpts from his Diaries and Letters, edited by James Hall Baker and Michael E. Hoffman (Aperture). Frankly, I don’t readily take to driftwood

  • Saul Steinberg’s “Written” Pictures

    For D.L. G.

    SAUL STEINBERG’S WORK HAS remained for a long time on the periphery of the world of art, although just inside its frontier. His is the kind of work that artists would know about and admire, but that would be thought too idiosyncratic to have much pertinence as art. Then, too, the literary people would know about it, but they would tend to treat it as a species of narration in which literary irony is a principal technique, in which the “image” only incidentally takes real visual form, and in which line streams out of the pen hardly differently from a flow of words.

    Steinberg really is,

  • Ann Norton

    Ann Norton’s recent show consisted of six large vertical wood sculptures, 41 watercolor drawings and some documentary photographs of this sculptor’s major efforts—a cluster of big brick abstract “monuments” erected in her backyard in West Palm Beach. Norton showed and was known in New York forty years ago, and to a certain extent some of the interest in this show was in wondering what she is up to now. But if this is the work of a practically unknown older artist, and one working in a definitively provincial situation, it is nevertheless of considerable interest.

    It testifies, for one thing, to

  • Hard-Core Painting

    For G.J.M.

    We explained how one property of a surface is bound up with the outline. We must now speak of the other property of a surface, which, if I might put it this way, is like a skin stretched over the whole extent of the surface.

    —Alberti, De Pictura, I.4.

    Paintings involved with cruciformality can raise, and then transcend, the question of their being sculptural.1 Ultimately they affirm their affinities with painting by being shaped, space-displacing objects only to the same extent that other paintings are. (Today it is amazing how even Stella’s most outrageously exploded reliefs remain

  • Cruciformality

    THE STRETCHED CANVAS SUPPORTED BY a rectangular wooden armature is only one of the conventional formats of Western painting. Pottery, plaster walls, the leaves of books, panes of glass set in real windows, and “panels”—those portable solid chunks of woodwork plastered over (like little slices of wall)—all presented themselves to painting long before the light, resilient, easily transportable (and saleable) canvas as we know it settled in. Indeed, the stretched canvas coexisted for a long time with the panel before emerging as the preeminent modern Western format in the later 16th century.1

  • A Note on Surrealism and the Beats

    THE BEAT WRITERS WERE NOT out of touch with modernity in painting. Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote art criticism, as the San Francisco correspondent for Arts Digest (now Arts Magazine) from 1953 to 1955. Allen Ginsberg studied art history with Meyer Schapiro, wrote an early poem (“Cézanne’s Ports”) about the great Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L’Estaque (c. 1883–85) in the Metropolitan, and considered his own writing to be influenced by Cézanne. He eventually drank and fraternized with “the Club” of the Abstract Expressionists in New York. Furthermore, only after the first reading of his recently

  • Andra Samelson

    In Andra Samelson’s recent paintings on linoleum a little artfulness goes a long way, but certainly not in the sense that less is more. Hers is not an art about smallness of scale, extreme structural delicacy, or even severe formal reserve. The sense of economy originates, instead, in an almost ostentatious crudity of material that plays wittily against the sophistications of painting as tradition and frontier. This is the first funky painting I have seen that is really an articulate part of the give-and-take of fine art and isn’t just heckling.

    By crudity of material I do not mean to suggest

  • James Dearing

    James Dearing, in his new paintings, is found tampering with the categorical incompatibility of line and color, despite an otherwise orthodox-looking commitment to the traditional format, means, and scope of painting. Here line and color invade and undermine one another as sedate planes of color are traversed by deep-colored horizontal lines. Dearing deals with rectilinear form and with pleasurable expanses of rather creamy color, but the way his large rectangles of color seem to have palpable edges instead of purely graphic limits, or the way areas are flat yet somehow pliably resilient—such

  • Stanley Boxer

    The painting of Stanley Boxer is in a much hotter and more worked-up state than the last time I took a considered look at this artist’s work (Artforum, April 1973). Before, any tendency Boxer may have had toward painterliness was controlled by a slack flatness of area, with reverberating, tapelike bands along the edges to cushion the picture against the bald concreteness of the edge. Now, although the strokes are still laid on side-by-side, they are thicker, heavier and much more urgent. They plaster over the canvas in a dense stucco of pigment, no longer leaving bare natural linen as a breathing