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among artists in this country. Indeed, Baigell and Williams comment that the Congress papers “are an important document in the political history of American art to which additional chapters have been added in the 1970s and 1980s concerning feminism, street art, racism, and criticism of United States policies concerning nuclear weapons and third-world countries” (p. xii). At least one contemporary art critic, however, has questioned the importance of these papers and the historical events they record. Hilton Kramer, in an essay for the New York Times Book Review, dismisses the Congress as a mere puppet organization of Moscow and the CPUSA, one that failed, even in its limited endeavours, to produce anything aesthetically or politically worthwhile. Ultimately it dissolved “in dishonor and disarray” in 1942. “It is an odd sort of mentality,” he states, “that, from the comfortable purlieus of academic life, beckons us now to admire this sorry chapter in American cultural historyand , indeed, to echo its spirit of ‘activism’ in 1986” [11. There are, admittedly, certain problems with espousing the American Artists’ Congress as an organizational prototype for contemporary artists interested in political activism. Baigell and Williams, themselves, point out that “the congress, in the cause of unity against fascism, contributed to the eclipse of Social Realism in painting in the late 1930s, making radical political art a victim of a left-wing artists’ group”. They also point out that, “ironically, for an artists’ congress, its words, not its images, are of interest today” (p. 39). The words are important, however, for they reveal the efforts of a group of artists both to comprehend and to redefine their position in society through an understanding of the economic basis and political implications of art making. It is this method of investigation, the kinds of questions asked, that is of such significance for artists today. That the Congress failed to weather the political storms of the late thirties and early forties or to solve the financial problems of American artists does not render the words or actions of its members historically or politically irrelevant . It would be a sad day, indeed, for American history and art history if, as Kramer seems to desire, only ‘happy’ chapters in American cultural history received our scholarly attention. REFERENCE 1. Hilton Kramer, “The Big Red Paintpot”, New York Times Book Review, 27 April 1986, p. 19. MEDIEVAL RELIGION AND TECHNOLOGY by Lynn White, Jr. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1986.360 pp., illus. Paperback. ISBN: 0-52005896 -8. Reviewed by Vladimir Tamari, 4-2-8-C26 Komazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan 154. A thousand years of the ‘dark ages’ in Europe is a long time, and we should be grateful for the light this book sheds on various aspects of life in that period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the first stirrings of the Renaissance. Armed with impeccable scholarship and with an inventiveand witty approach,the author of these 19 essays illuminates chosen topics ranging from the invention of the parachute and the pointed arch to the relationship between culture and technology. The effect of technology on methods of warfare can be seen in the momentous effects that the introduction of the stirrup had on Medieval history. This very simple device hung from the saddle allowed the rider to support himself on the horse with both knees, freeing the arms to hold the lance firmly. This made possible the effective use of the cavalry charge, with devastating effect during the Crusades. Similarly the invention of the cannon made the ancient methods of fortification useless and led to the invention of the bastion. The sense of panic among the leaders of those days is made almost palpable: the English feared a French invasion by way of Scotland, and the town of Berwick had to be fortified. Queen Elizabeth appointed an AngloItalian commission to draw up the plans for the expensive new defences. White wryly comments that “it is doubtful whether the ‘Cartesian’ mentality, which assumed that mathematics is the key to reality, would have become dominant if Europe had not been assiduously bankrupting itself by building new military defenses in which assurance of safety was achieved less by tangible masses...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 100-101
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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