Saturday, October 22, 2005

New Art City by Jed Perl: book review

New Art City by Jed Perl: book review
This book, along with de Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, covers the well-worn territory of the “heroic” period of American Art and the importance of New York City as the locus that made the new art possible. Indeed in Mr. Perl’s book, subtitled Manhattan at Mid-Century, the City itself is the main character whereas in the de Kooning book, the city is the backdrop and catalyst for the remarkable career of one painter.
The history of this period has become myth, legend, caricature and satire for generations yet both books offer fresh insight and perspective from a vantage point that is several steps removed from the gallery propaganda and art world hype inimical to books about this period. To speak of the “triumph of American painting” was to glorify and obfuscate an historical shift of power from the Old World to the New, from the old guard to the avant-garde.
I have been immensely pleased with the writing in both of these books: the story is told in a straight forward jargon-free and direct style that is appealing and fresh as the art that is described. I haven’t yet finished New Art City but I am confident that it will sustain the sense of drama, destiny and desire for the new art in the new city for many readers as the Stevens/Swan book has done for de Kooning.


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