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New Art City Hardcover – October 4, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Perl, the art critic for the New Republic, celebrates the heterogeneous achievements of the New York art world in this elegant, erudite work that sweeps gracefully from the 1940s, when the city was "the place of dazzling contradictions," to the "jangling urgency" of art in the 1970s. Contending that the personal characteristics of an artist's work are shaped by his relationship to the city, especially to its art scene, Perl finds in postwar New York a "dialectical extravaganza" in which painters and sculptors set about redefining their place in history—aiming not to shatter traditions but to forge new ones. Although giants such as de Kooning and Pollock make significant appearances, this history is equally concerned with "minor characters" who exerted more subtle influences, such as the painter Earl Kerkam, whose approval Pollock dearly valued. Perl's conversational tone is at times so intimate that the effect is more that of a curator offering a private tour of his exhibition than an art historian's lecture. Or, perhaps, a walking tour that takes readers from downtown studios and artists' taverns to the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art and back again, with a guide whose perceptive eye always steers us toward an unnoticed treasure. 328 illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Perl, art critic for the New Republic, has constructed a book large, detailed, and energetic enough to truly encompass the story of art in New York City during the "change-everything years between the late 1940s and the early 1960s." This may seem like well-mapped terrain in little need of yet another cartographer, but Perl puts skepticism to rest with the freshness of his vision, his polychromatic prose, the reach of his analysis, and his reclamation of neglected artists. Perl is especially interested in artists who teach, Hans Hoffman preeminent among them, and critics who became gurus, including Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg. Another guiding light is the photographer Rudy Burckhardt, who brilliantly captured the ambience of Manhattan's art world. Perl begins with in-depth inquiry into two very different artists, Willem de Kooning and Joseph Cornell, and concludes with another intriguing pair, Fairfield Porter and Donald Judd, covering myriad originals in between. And so effective is Perl's thorough explication of how the city, itself a "grand collage," inspired the romanticism of abstract expressionism, the wit of pop art, and the poetic inquiries of the new realists, he has, indeed, created a uniquely enhanced and richly interpretative map of a justifiably fabled "art city." Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400041317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400041312
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on December 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are seriously interested in the cutting edge art scene of New York City between the late 1930s to the early 1970s this is a book to buy and read.

However, I do think many general readers will find the prose of Jed Perl over the top, with his constant use of phrases that sound heavy but are light on meaning, e.g., "contextualized romanticism" and "improvisational conceptualist." I also recognize that "dialectics" was a major catchword of this art era (and of Marx) but its frequent use in this book is taken to an annoying extreme.

Mr. Perl certainly possesses an arsenal of knowledge and strong opinions which he machine guns out in this book on art at mid-century in the Big Apple. Its many forms of art, key artists, and related places--like the Cedar Tavern, Hofmann's school, and Black Mountain College--are all covered.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Barry Moffatt on February 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jed Perl is a is a cultivated guide; no surprise given his critical credentials. Like any good critic Perl is concerned to evaluate his various subjects, and while we may disagree with his opinions, he does not avoid any of the well known, or many of the lesser known figures, in the mid-twentieth century New York art world. Indeed Fairfield Porter, for me at least, a lesser figure, receives as much attention as Warhol, and that much more sympathetic. Perl never loses contact with his context, the city of New York, or with the insitutions and individuals that add to the total of the art scene. So we have the galleries and the museums, and the menand women that ran them, crtical writing by individuals ranging from the poet Frank O'Hara, to the artists themselves, to, of course, Greenberg and Rosenberg, finally shaping the discourse of the times. And grounding much of the discussion are the philosophical positions adopted by critics and artists. All of this is presented in well written, simple language. Perl is to be congratulated on producing a first-class survey of one of the most exciting periods in twentieth century culture.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By JB on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Hard to believe that a book as profoundly well conceived and written as this would get published today. There is none of the usual condescension into lurid gossip or salacious anecdotes to lure sales that you might expect of a book of this type, just the clear articulate expression of one intelligent man's conception of mid-century New York art, expressed for the pleasure of those readers capable of appreciating it. Bravo to both author and publisher.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Written by a critic for critics and readers impressed by glib and empty critic speak. New Art City is a superficial survey of the 50's art world as it played out in New York, with so many statements, observations, & opinions that I cannot imagine any knowledgeable and sensitive painter would agree with. There is a pretension to comprehensiveness by including discussions of obscure, unknown painters - which unfortunately are notable, like all the discussion in this book, by bloated, nonsensical and shallow, at times, ridiculous, critic speak.
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