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Modern Art 101,
This review is from: Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained (Paperback)
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Coming hot on the heels of Will Gompertz's What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye, Susie Hodge attempts a similar brief: to convince the uninitiated of the value of `Modern Art'.
One suspects that anyone buying these books is ready to be convinced, but the division of this book into themes makes that job much harder. I know curators of modern art exhibitions find chronology boring and obvious, but lack of chronology does present a bar to understanding. A knowledge of how different `schools' of art have developed and reacted makes the underlying motivations and intentions much more explicable. This is something the Gompertz book achieves admirably. Whether it will convince that an inverted urinal represents a revolutionary act, or an attempt to present new clothes to the Emperor, at least you will understand how to make a more informed judgement.
But where this book does score highly is in the number and quality of the illustrations. In contrast to the Gompertz, which lacks reproductions of many of the artworks it discusses, Susie Hodge's book is awash with good quality colour plates. Hodge also has interesting observations to make on why philistinism should be resisted. In that respect, it makes a useful companion to `What Are You Looking At?'.
If you're looking to dip your toe into the sometimes murky waters of modern art, I would suggest buying both: Gompertz for the chronology, Hodge for the visual feast.
Also recommended: Ernst Gombrich: The Story of Art & Art and Illusion: v. 6: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation