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The Extreme of the Middle: Writings of Jack Tworkov [Paperback]

Jack Tworkov , Mira Schor
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 28, 2009 0300141025 978-0300141023

Jack Tworkov (1900–1982) was a significant figure of the Abstract Expressionist period. A noted painter, he was one of the first group of artists who defined the ideals of the New York School, along with Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Franz Kline, among others. This book, the first collection of Tworkov’s writings, sheds new light on the lives and studio practices of Tworkov and his colleagues as well as on Tworkov’s artistic theories and values.


These enlightening and intimate writings—personal journals and letters, teaching notebooks, correspondence with other artists, previously unpublished essays, and published articles—are introduced and annotated by Mira Schor, who provides an informed account of an important artist and thinker. The book is enriched by photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Arnold Newman, and Robert Rauschenberg; family photographs with Hans Hofmann, John Cage, Kline, and others; and reproductions of some of Tworkov’s finest work.

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Editorial Reviews


"In the course of his long life as a painter, Jack Tworkov became an important figure in the maturation of abstract art in America."—Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum
(Richard Armstrong)

"Jack Tworkov was a free thinker in an ideological time. This collection is an indispensable addition to the story of American art."—Mark Stevens, co author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography de Kooning: An American Master
(Mark Stevens)

“[The] definitive collection of Tworkov’s writing . . . most notably it unearths extensive selections from Tworkov’s diaries.”—New Criterion
(New Criterion 2009-09-15)

"Tworkov, one of the original Abstract Expressionists whose mark on the history of painting is inexpugnable, accomplished a great deal in a long and rich life, not only as an artist but as a teacher and a mensch. And his writings are a considerable contribution to the art history of his time. Their subject is not so much aesthetics or form as the ethics of art."—Barry Schwabsky, The Nation

(Barry Schwabsky Nation 2009-10-12)

"Mira Schor, who knew Tworkov from her childhood, has done a scrupulous job in editing his journals, letters, notebooks, and essays. . . . It's a big book with informative footnotes, interesting photographs, and a sampling of Tworkov's paintings reproduced in color."—William Corbett, Art in New England
(William Corbett Art in New England)

About the Author

Mira Schor is a painter and author who also teaches at Parsons The New School for Design.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (July 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300141025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300141023
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And Also A Wonderful Human Document August 25, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Yes, it is absolutely must reading for any person in, or hoping to enter into, the world of art. The editor of the collection, Mira Schor, has done an excellent job of editing the almost endless notebooks of every size and shape, hand written, as well as fugitive writings and occasional formal essays, to create a comprehensive picture of the subjective world of a distinguished artist, writer, speaker, and administrator of artists. Beyond that, however, there are the reflections on self, art and world of a man well versed in literature and philosophy and sensitive to the enormous changes in the conditions of life in the first 82 years of the 20th century. This book should, at least in parts, also be read by those interested in the lives of immigrant artists, particular in his age cohort, since he was born in Poland and did not come to the United States until just before the start of World War One. Particularly, his reflections on his anxieties as a man not born to the American way, should cast some light on his friends, like Rothko and Gorky (both suicides), and the many others to be found in New York City at that time with similar background (Ben Shahn, Raphael and Moses Soyer, Chaim Gross, David Burliuk, Joseph Stella, the list is almost endless).
It should be noted that, except for the brief, useful introduction by the editor, this is only the view of Jack Tworkov, as seen and written by Jack Tworkov. Even as bright and sensitive a guy as Tworkov can never convey what he was to other people, how they saw him, his interactions with them, his artistic orientations, his art, itself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Extreme of the Middle:Writings of Jack Twoekov August 10, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic collection for anyone interested in the workings of a creative artist. Life, thoughts, struggles, passions, ideas, all interesting and beautifully expressed. The powerful introduction by the editor, Mira Schor, is worth reading on its own. IT is a terrific historical summary of 20th century art in New York, as filtered through the life of one central figure. This is a must read for any working artist, for any worker in a creative field, for any teacher of art,for anyone interested in the real drama of living the artist's life!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars writings of jack tworkov October 17, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this book is a wonderful testament to th memory of JACK TWORKOV ---- not only does it exist in the notorious gap between life and art , but it serves to identify the precise nature of the relationship between the two ----- th lives of JACK TWORKOV and that of his sister , Janice, are amazing stories of two Poland to America immigrant children who both morphed into persons of high artistic achievement --- the book allowed this reader to vicariously accompany th artist/ diarist on his life's journey --- th book records the artist's personal vulnerability as well as his high intelligence -- no doubt Mr TWORKOV had a fabulous pair of antennae , and one is led into th fray of intellectual and artistic life as it was in New York and Provincetown at mid-century ---- in a way this book would be counterpart ,on a more personal level , of the overview of that same period provided by Jed Perl's NEW ART CITY
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destined to be a classic August 4, 2009
Artist, professor, and art writer and blogger [Two Coats of Paint] Sharon Butler wrote on Art21 Guest Blog, July 9, 2009, "Another Artist Worth Reading":
"Owing to its timeless insights about artmaking and life, art teachers traditionally assign Ashcan School painter Robert Henri's 1923 collection of writing, The Art Spirit, to beginning painters. The newly-released collection, The Extreme of the Middle: Writings of Jack Tworkov, seems destined to be another such classic. Edited and annotated by painter Mira Schor, the 500-page book includes letters, lectures, journal entries, and published essays from the 1930s to the 1980s in which Tworkov intersperses unpretentious philosophical inquiry with progress reports from the studio. One of the primary players among the New York School painters in the 1950s, Tworkov recognized that his ideas were often at odds with prevailing theories. Nevertheless, he was committed to teasing out not what he ought to believe, but what he actually believed. The book is rooted in Tworkov's era, which spanned the rise and decline of American painting, and manages to entertain readers with amusing anecdotes about his famous cohort while also imparting wisdom gained from a lifetime spent in the studio."
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