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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read this book!, 4 Feb. 2007
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Mr. R. Bates "rab181" (nottingham, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) (Hardcover)
I went into this book vaguely curious; I came out of it enthralled, impassioned, inspired. Varnedoe's exposition is brilliant: he really brings out the developments in philosophy and technique of abstraction from Pollock onwards, and makes a compelling case for linking it to the best features of our society, namely democracy, humility, freedom. He steers a careful and respectful course through the disputes, shock-tactics and grandiosities of some practitioners, always bringing it back to what is beautiful, awe-inspiring, seminal. By reading this book you will discover lots of names and images that will stay with you, and acquire a truly meaningful understanding of the ideas and feelings behind the most vital art of the past 50 years.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abstract, not blurred., 12 April 2010
This review is from: Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) (Hardcover)
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly insightful..., 2 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) (Hardcover)
A fantastic collection of lectures about the development of Abstract Art since the 1960s. This book gives a well thought-out discussion into the changing and developing approaches to art-making including a great chapter about Abstract Art itself and moves on to talk about Minimalism and the way such approaches have changed the face of Contemporary Art.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tour de force, 30 Aug. 2012
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D. Evershed (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts) (Hardcover)
A wonderful, personal reflection on abstract art and much more over the past 50+ years. Goes beyond Danto and Gombrich. A fascinating read.
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