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Books 251 Wechsler’s major essay is an extensive and valuable survey of Surrealism in the U.S.A. both by way of adaptation as well as original work. Artists in the U.S.A. have had acertain affinityfor the romantic and the fantastic(in spiteoftheir typical lovefor the material appearance of things, of which Andrew Wyeth is a prominent example) so that the transition to Surrealism was easily made. This style never had sufficientpublic acceptance in the U.S.A. except for the sensational aspects as cultivated by Salvador Dali; in short, many critics and a large section of the public declared Surrealism to be a sick aberration of art but admired its techniques (which is typical of the nation). The European surrealists who came to the U.S.A. during World War I, from Breton to Tanguy, had, of course, an enormous and lasting impact. In view of this, it is strange that, except for Man Ray, who, in spite of his Russian family background and his birth in the U.S.A., became more of a Parisian, there is no typical native surrealist in the U.S.A. of international importance. Wechsler illustrates many of these known and unknown painters who work or have worked in this genre and adds an essay to each with biographical and stylistic information, such as David Hare, Dorothea Tanning, Peter Blume, Joseph Cornell, Arschile Gorky, Morris Graves, Noguchi, Castellon, Barziotes, including many unknown and forgotten painters. He also discusses those of foreign birth the Viennese Frederick Kiesler, the Russians Pave1Tchelitchew and Boris Margo, the Philippine Alfonzo Ossorio, the German Jimmy Ernst (the son of Max) and those who have elected to live and work in the U.S.A., such as Salvador Dali. This exhibition catalog is an important and useful document summing up for the first time practically the entire phase of Surrealism in the U.S.A. with illustrations of most painters who either were surrealists or practised this style at one time or another during their career. The Scene: Reports on Post-Modern Art. Calvin Tomkins. The Viking Press, New York, 1976. 272 pp.. illus. $12.50. Reviewed by Harry Rand * Tomkins contributes regularly to The New Yorker magazine in whose pages most of the essays collected in this book first appeared. The exception is ‘Raggedy Andy’, in some ways the most clearly thought-out genre piece in the collection. For this essay on Andy Warhol is uncontaminated by any evaluation of that artist’s work and represents a kind of easy-goingtale of hard work and whimsy ending in the successof a culture-hero; cause andeffectarenot examined. Otherpiecesdo not fare so well.The oneon Henry Geldzahler doesnot rise above the levelof obvious delight in an effervescentworld in which Tomkins, essentially a gossip monger, must be considered an accessory. The texture of the book is an uncritical repetition of minor points of biography. For New Yorker readers this might be a boon, material to lighten and inform the commuting hour, but such stuff should not have been reprinted without adding depth. The only researched article is a piece on the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s acquisition policy through the years:a very simpleexercisefor Tomkins, for he isthe author of a book on the Museum. The book is not about ‘quality’nor about history in the usual sense,but treats a kind of pale glamour. The language deigns to a sort of spurious hipster guise that might confirm its author is really on the best of terms with his subjects. The goal appears to be an easy and suspect familiarity that would leave readers feeling sated if genuinely ignorant of all but the most superficial coruscations. Yet, while dealing in nothing more than a parade of low-key biographies, Tomkins will inject a phrase or t m that hints he is really grappling with difficult questions. He remarks that an artist’s ‘sanity is preserved‘ in a situation told in terms that do not describewhat might assault these artists’ sensibilities, and he does not hint at what the responsibilities of a Pop artist might be. The most interesting challenge that he depicts is the problem of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
p. 251
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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