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Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat
by Dieter Burchhart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £35.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basquiat the myth or Basquiat the artist?, 9 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Jean-Michel Basquiat (Hardcover)
This book is the catalog for the current show at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which already appeared at the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland. Basically,it shows every major work the artist painted, with a heavy emphasis on the early years (1981-1982) considered by many pundits (and also by the art market...)to be his most creative.

The text is a compendium of what is already known about Basquiat, with an essay that tries to decipher the artist's personality and another focusing on his role in the NYC art scene of the 1980's. Also, a rather enlightening interview held in 1985 (in which we learn that Basquiat was a Picasso and Warhol collector) gives some insight on what the artist thought of his art. Here is a quotation from that interview: "I think I have to learn more not to work around what's around me and just work with what I think, I guess...".

Now, the most interesting part of the book, in my opinion, is art historian Robert Storr's essay in which he tries to debunk the pervading and invasive myth shrouding the artist since his untimely death at the age of 28. Basquiat suffers of the same problem as the Mona Lisa: how is it possible to look at one of his painting merely as a work of art, forgetting the legend and the tons of ink that have been written about the artist? Storr's essay sheds new light on the work, replacing it in the art history of the 1980's, and this is a laudable endeavour.

As far as the illustrations of the works are concerned, they are good without being exceptional: a demanding reader might bemoan the absence of magnified details, especially when one thinks of Basquiat not only as a colorist, but also as a master of painterliness...


Gauguin: Maker of Myth
Gauguin: Maker of Myth
by Belinda Thomson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.50

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The real Gauguin, 25 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Gauguin: Maker of Myth (Paperback)
This book is the catalogue for the current Tate Modern exhibition that will later go to Washington D.C. In spite of the fact that there has recently been a spate of exhibition (in the U.S., France and even Italy) trying to debunk the myth surrounding the artist (a myth partly originated from his own self-promotional skills), the text is very interesting in that it succeeds in deciphering Gauguin's views of the world he lived in, the effect those views had on his art, his attitude towards other cultures, towards the otherness, whether religious or racial.

There are several essays, tackling such themes as Martinique, the "Primitive", the Exoticism (through Gauguin's missed meeting with French writer and early advocate of cultural diversity Victor Segalen who visited Polynesia in 1903, three months after the painter's death). There is also an interesting article by French critic Philippe Dagen on Gauguin's relationship with politics and the way his political ideas transpire in his art, which, to my knowledge, is the first text that has been written on the subject.

Now the only qualification I would make would be on the quality of the numerous colour illustrations which are sometimes too small or sometimes too dull (not always, though: about a third of the reproductions are of a good quality, strangely enough). Therefore, 4 stars instead of 5...
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 18, 2011 12:51 AM GMT


Picasso: Mediterranean Years (1945-1961)
Picasso: Mediterranean Years (1945-1961)
by John Richardson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £45.50

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sea, sun , love and art, 8 Oct. 2010
This is a wonderful book that documents one of Picasso's most creative periods, the years between 1946 and 1962, when he would move from one residence to another, from Vallauris to Vauvenargues (at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire)and Cannes on the French Riviera which, back in 1923, he had contributed to transform into a fashionable tourist destination along with the American dandy couple Sara and Gerald Murphy (the very same couple who presumably inspired Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night). It is also the catalogue for an exhibition held in the London outpost of the Gagosian Gallery.

The book starts with a biographical essay by John Richardson, a brilliant complement to the already published three volumes of his monumental Picasso biography. Then come the numerous colour plates of the works in the exhibition (paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings), all of which do justice to the incredibly creative outburst experienced by Picasso during that period. A very interesting essay follows that tackles the artist's sculptures and ceramics and the way he revolutionized both arts.

The book ends with an account of the complicated relationship Picasso maintained with the "court-jester" laureate poet Jean Cocteau who, admittedly, was in love with the great master (a feeling obviously not reciprocated by the notoriously womanizing artist). All throughout the book many previously unpublished photographs of Picasso in his various Mediterranean surroundings add to the very high overall quality of this publication.


Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts)
Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts)
by Earl A. Powell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £34.95

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abstract, not blurred., 12 April 2010
This is unquestionably a brilliant book. In six consecutive lectures delivered at the National Gallery in Washington in 2003, the last one three months before his untimely death, Kirk Varnedoe manages to give a clear, erudite and broad view of abstract art over the last fifty years. Rather than dwelling exhaustively on one artist or on one work, he covers the whole range, from Pollock to Taafe, from Stella to Ryman, from Judd to Morris, from Johns to Marden, from Andre to Serra, etc...True, he tends to limit himself to American abstract art, or abstract art insofar as it is linked in some way or other to American art (as when he analyses Richter's abstractions in relation to Stella and Pollock), but the text is so lively and insightful that the reader readily forgives this slightly nationalistic bias.

Varnedoe's core idea is that abstraction, far from representing the end of art, actually is a constant renewal of it, offering endless possibilities of rebirth. It is the permanent creation of something new, that only exists on its own and does not stem from or bases itself upon anything that existed prior to its creation (a good example is illustrated by a huge 1970 untitled Cy Twombly painting).

Varnedoe's gift as a wonderful orator and storyteller, never pedantic, always to the point, transpires in every line of this book and shows us what a great loss his death was to American culture and to the arts in general.

Highly recommended, also for the quality of the many illustrations of almost every single work alluded to in the text.


Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
by Michael Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £45.00

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An imitator who became a painter's painter, 13 Feb. 2010
The catalogue for the current traveling Gorky retrospective, this book, though less than perfect, is probably the best one available on Gorky. If you are into reading the introductory essays, then it is really worth the investment: they study such themes as Gorky and his Armenian and family roots, Gorky and the politics of the 1930's (through the murals he painted under the aegis of the W.P.A.), Gorky and the Surrealist movement, Gorky as an inspiration for younger artists (a "painter's painter" as Robert Storr puts it). For Gorky specialists, it is undoubtedly a break-through publication insofar as it reinterprets his art and sheds new light on its Cezannian and Picassian influences, and on the importance of titles in his works.

Now I am slightly disappointed with the illustrations: with very few magnified details, which makes it difficult to distinguish the texture of the works, they are also too small.

A very complete reference book on the artist, it deserved better-quality reproductions.


Rothko (Taschen Basic Art)
Rothko (Taschen Basic Art)
by Jacob Baal-Teshuva
Edition: Paperback

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction, 27 Oct. 2009
If you do not want to spend a fortune and still read a good introduction to Mark Rothko's work, this is the best choice. It covers the whole career of the artist in a text that is easy to read, with surprisingly good illustrations of famous or rarely-seen works (many in private collections, such as the one that graces the cover). This is what you call good value for your money. Do not expect, however, to find a comprehensive analysis of every single illustrated work; I would call this book "Rothko for beginners", which is, in no way, a negative opinion.


The Man without Qualities
The Man without Qualities
by Robert Musil
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making you feel a little less stupid, 22 Sept. 2009
To delve into this monumental book, you have to do it full of modesty. I myself have trouble believing such a novel (but is it a novel?), devoid of any plot whatsoever and yet so rich, was written by one man only. There is not a single page, a single line, a single word, in which the author's thought does not flow in all its purity and brilliance. Tackling such universal topics as love, death, money, religion, the passing of time, the soul versus reality, what thinking means, what deciding means, what loving means, what writing and reading mean, in short, everything that makes a human being, and doing so in a language marked by elegance and irony, Musil has undoubtedly written one of the few universal masterpieces of Western literature and I feel sorry for those who cannot appreciate such a rewarding experience. There is a life before and a life after Musil's "Man without qualities", and I much prefer the latter.


Cy Twombly: States of Mind
Cy Twombly: States of Mind
by Cy Twombly
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great painter, a great sculptor, a so-so photographer, 21 Sept. 2009
This book is the catalogue for a Twombly retrospective currently held in Vienna which, alongside paintings and sculptures, prominently displays Cy Twombly's photographs, whose main characteristic is the blurring of the image,whether still life, interior scene or landscape.

As far as the book is concerned, it is a high-quality publication, replete with marvelous illustrations, which comes as a good complement to the catalogue for the recent Tate exhibition (which concentrated on Twombly's series, such as the Ferragosto or the so-called Blackboard paintings). There are several insightful essays by Twombly scholars (especially on the importance of history and Myth in his art)and by contemporary artists (Jeff Wall, Tacita Dean, Franz West, the latter drawing an interesting parallel between Twombly's apparently haphazard scribblings and today's electronic ways of writing, especially the SMS and its sometimes unexpected and unintended shuffling of words and even letters).

Now, I am not convinced that focusing on Twombly's photographs, somehow at the expense of his great paintings and sculptures, brings anything of substance to the already extensive literature on the artist. Nobody is perfect, even Cy Twombly, and as great an artist as he certainly is, his photographs are in no way up to the rest of his oeuvre and somehow, fall flat, especially in reproduction.. Therefore, only 4 stars instead of 5, from a long-time Twombly fan.


Vincent Van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven - The Landscapes
Vincent Van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven - The Landscapes
by Kunstmuseum Basel
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Van Gogh's world view through landscape painting., 15 Sept. 2009
This book is the catalogue for a recent exhibition held at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland, until late september 2009 and its main qualities are the introductory essays that dwell on such questions as the way the artist viewed landscape painting and the importance of emotion (in this respect the entire Expresionnist movement owes him an obvious debt)and also on whether he should be considered a Dutch painter, or a French painter in spirit, or, eventually, "a genius who transcends all borders". The book also gives interesting insight on the reception of Van Gogh's paintings in Germany, especially in Nazi Germany (where, for instance, Goering and Von Schirach prominently and surprisingly displayed his works in their own collections, when, at the same time, they were being banned and auctioned off from German museums). The authors stress the interesting fact that most of the 33 paintings held in German museums at the time of Hitler's accession to power were landscapes, which was in no way fortuitous as landscape painting typically catered to German taste.

As far as the illustrations are concerned, they are of a good, though not exceptional, quality and many of the works shown are rarely seen outside their respectful Northern European museums (Swiss, German, Dutch and even Danish), with some additions from Amrican and French museums. However, many illustrations are thumbnail sizes (for the works which are not part of the exhibition) and there is not a single close-up of details, which is a shame considering today's technologies. The reader is there- fore not permitted any glimpse into Van Gogh's brushwork and, in my opinion, this is a serious flaw for any artbook. Only 3 stars then...


Magritte: Attempting the Impossible
Magritte: Attempting the Impossible
by Siegfried Gohr
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing; deserved better reproductions., 13 Sept. 2009
This hefty monograph was written by one of the most brilliant post-war German museum curators and art scholars and its publication coincides with the opening of the Magritte Museum in Brussels. It is an interesting study that follows a strictly chronological pattern with an original angle: each period is tackled through the in-depth examination of one key emblematic work (The Lost Jockey, 1926, The Treachery of Images, 1929, The Red Model, 1935, The Dominion of Light, 1954, etc). This methodological choice makes for good reading and undoubtedly renders the text livelier and easier to grasp.

Now, the color reproductions are numerous and often full-plate, but unfortunately, the quality of the paper is mediocre and the pictures do not allow any insight into Magritte's technique and brushwork. The illustrations consequently turn out dull and flat, which accounts for a three-star rating for this book.


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