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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Artist Biographies

Ida Kohlmeyer by Michael Plante (Hudson Hills Press)  104 color plates plus 22 halftones Ida Kohlmeyer's unique talent evolved from her student years under Hans Hoffmann in the 50's abstract expressionist movement to the cluster series in the 1970s. This beautifully illustrated monograph is the first collection of her paintings and sculpture since her death in 1997.

Rooted in the groundbreaking culture of American art in the 1950s and 1960s, and continuing through the late 1990s, Ida Kohlmeyer's long career reveals the con­tinually evolving work of a prolific artist committed to the new principles of modernism and abstract expressionism, as well as the thoughtful assimilation into her own work of minimalism and other later influences and styles.

A lifelong resident of New Orleans who took up paint­ing only at the age of thirty-five, Kohlmeyer achieved national prominence as a teacher, painter, and sculptor. Her work, influenced by mentors such as Hans Hofman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, and inspired by artists as varied as George Rickey, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, and Joan Miro, was widely exhibited and reviewed.

In this beautifully illustrated volume, Tulane University art historian Michael Plante thoroughly explores Kohlmeyer's life and art. More than 100 large color illustrations doc­ument the development of her career. A full chronology, bibliography, and listing of exhibitions, collections, and commissions complete this long overdue treatment of an important second-generation abstract expressionist and one of the first of a generation of influential women artists to emerge on the American scene in the second half of the 20th century. 

Michael Plante is an Associate Professor at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, where he holds the Jessie J. Poesch Professorship in Art at the Newcomb Art Department. In addition to his vast curatorial experi­ence, he is also the author of the forthcoming book The Judgment of Paris: Abstract Expressionism in France, 1945—1958 (Cambridge University Press) as well as a contributing author and editor of many books, exhibition catalogs, periodicals, reviews, and scholarly papers. 

April Gornik Essay by Donald Kuspit, Conversation with the artist by Dede Young (Hudson Hills Press) is the first comprehensive overview of renowned artist April Gornik's paintings and drawings. This handsomely produced and richly illustrated volume presents a visual history of her work and tracks the development of her signature style.

For more than 20 years, April Gornik's ethereal landscapes have combined a devotion to light with the intellectual curiosity to explore and the skill to portray it. Influenced by predecessors both in America and abroad, from the Luminists to Vermeer, Gornik's canvases—panoramic, majestic, richly colored—convey what critic Donald Kuspit calls "an original, fresh experience of nature," and what Gornik herself calls "an aesthetic fiction:" a constructed view of nature addressing the philosophical and aesthetic needs of our time.

Haunted by images drawn from dreams and travel, the artist works to assemble compositions surreal in their presence, yet strangely moving in their exceptional spirituality. Using painting to reach what she finds spiritually and psychologically compelling, Gornik works to create an art not only of visual appeal, but one which, as she recounts in the volume's interview with curator Dede Young, engages the mind as well.

This monograph is published in conjunction with the exhibition at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, where Dede Young is the curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Donald Kuspit is one of America's most distinguished art critics, and the author of several books including Steve Tobin's Natural History.

Goya by Robert Hughes (Knopf) Robert Hughes, who has stunned us with comprehensive works on subjects as sweeping and complex as the history of Australia (The Fatal Shore), the modern art movement (The Shock of the New), the nature of American art (American Visions), and the nature of America itself as seen through its art (The Culture of Complaint), now turns his renowned critical eye to one of art history’s most compelling, enigmatic, and important figures, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. With characteristic critical fervor and sure-eyed insight, Hughes brings us the story of an artist whose life and work bridged the transition from the eighteenth-century reign of the old masters to the early days of the nineteenth-century moderns.

With his salient passion for the artist and the art, Hughes brings Goya vividly to life through dazzling analysis of a vast breadth of his work. Building upon the historical evidence that exists, Hughes tracks Goya’s development, as man and artist, without missing a beat, from the early works commissioned by the Church, through his long, productive, and tempestuous career at court, to the darkly sinister and cryptic work he did at the end of his life.
In a work that is at once interpretive biography and cultural epic, Hughes grounds Goya firmly in the context of his time, taking us on a wild romp through Spanish history; from the brutality and easy violence of street life to the fiery terrors of the Holy Inquisition to the grave realities of war, Hughes shows us in vibrant detail the cultural forces that shaped Goya’s work.

Underlying the exhaustive, critical analysis and the rich historical background is Hughes’s own intimately personal relationship to his subject. This is a book informed not only by lifelong love and study, but by his own recent experiences of mortality and death. As such this is a uniquely moving and human book; with the same relentless and fearless intelligence he has brought to every subject he has ever tackled, Hughes here transcends biography to bring us a rich and fiercely brave book about art and life, love and rage, impotence and death. This is one genius writing at full capacity about another—and the result is truly spectacular.

Demons and Angels: A Life of Jacob Epstein by June Rose  (Carroll & Graf) “I feel that I can do the best, most profound things and life is short. How I wish I was living in an age when man wanted to raise temples to man or God or the Devil.” Jacob Epstein was thirty when he wrote these impassioned words. Now recognized as a seminal figure in the history of twentieth-century art, his powerful and often explicit sculptures, monumental in scale, were hailed as the work of a genius by a few contemporary figures such as Ezra Pound and Augustus John, but produced hostility and censoriousness from the art establishment. His is a true rags-to-riches story. Epstein was born in 1880 in the Jewish Ghetto of New York but emigrated to Europe to live a bohemian life, with a wife and several mistresses in a domestic ménage. By the time of his death in 1959 he had met almost everybody of importance in the art world and many in political and other spheres. He endured public scandals caused by the nudity of his so-called Strand Statues (1907-1908; destroyed 1937) and the debauched-looking angel on his 1912 memorial for Oscar Wilde, but in 1946 he modeled the portrait of Sir Winston Churchill and was himself knighted in 1954. It is a comment on changing tastes that Epstein’s magnificent carving in alabaster, “Jacob and the Angel,” once refused by the Tate Gallery, now stands in the Central Sculpture Hall of Tate Britain. His sculpture, drawing, and other work are to be found in museums and art galleries all over the world. Demons and Angels, the first biography in fifty years of this controversial sculptor, features black-and-white photographs throughout.

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