From Library Journal
Fineberg (art history, Univ. of Illinois) asserts that the "implicit underlying subject matter of modern art is always the personality of the artist in its encounter with the world." Such explicit, forceful expressions seldom find their way into major survey texts, which more often try to balance points of view and hedge bets. Yet Fineberg has not let any theory of contemporary art constrain the organization of his book. In a system that at first seems chaotic, he lets what is most important filter up, whether it be an individual artist, a movement, a critic's theory, a style, or a medium. The result is a rich mixture of essentially separate essays that allows the reader to choose how to use the book. Unfortunately, for all his innovations, Fineberg repeats some of the common mistakes of this type of book: Barely ten percent of the artists on the contents pages are women; photography is given scant attention; and architecture, that bastion of the the individual artist, is divorced from the "fine arts." Still, Fineberg should be lauded for his provocative and inspiring assessments (whether or not one agrees with his thesis), and his eminently readable and engaging text should become a new standard of the form. For all art collections.?Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
For Fineberg, the story of art since 1940 is the story of exceptional individuals profoundly engaged in interpreting existence. Art is a "mode of thought," the result of creative personalities formulating visual metaphors. Not to say that there hasn't been an evolution of aesthetics, styles, and philosophies over the past 55 years--surely few eras in art history have been more frenetically self-transforming--but even as he describes movements and schools, Fineberg links them firmly to specific artists. His book, then, is a series of astute biographical profiles linked by illuminating discussions of such inspirations as myths and existential introspection on the one hand, and social commentary and irony on the other. Not only does Fineberg analyze artists such as Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, David Smith, James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Romare Bearden, Christo, Martin Puryear, Alice Aycock, and Elizabeth Murray, but he also responds to their art from the heart, thus imbuing this survey with a distinctive intensity. Donna Seaman