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A Creative Legacy: A History of the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists' Fellowship Program Hardcover – October 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1996, Congress cut funding for the NEA's Visual Artists Fellowships program, which had given grants to individual artists to pursue particular projects. Soon after, Dowley, president of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in Massachusetts and director of museums and visual arts at the NEA from 1994 to 1999, sent out a list of the then 4,500 fellowship recipients (there were eventually more than 5,000) to 14 curators and museum directors, asking them to choose 100 who best represented the program. The result is this book, put together with Princenthal, a curator who has published in Art in America and elsewhere. Much of the work, shown in 293 illustrations (100 in full color) and discussed in essays from the two editors, is terrific: Richard Tuttle's 1998 New Mexico, New York, B, #5, a painting of Native American-like shapes on fir plywood; Bruce Nauman's creepy 1988 Carousel (Stainless Steel Version) animating a hot-cast menagerie; Carrie Mae Weems's 1998 Ritual and Revolution multimedia installation these pieces are joined by work from lesser-known artists like Gillermo Gomez-Pena and Judy Pfaff, as well as the more familiar Alice Neel and Edward Ruscha. Current NEA chair Ivey carefully discusses the program's contributions to the arts and artists' careers, while appendices include a full chronology of recipients and the program's staff, along with its policies. A lot of it is inside baseball, but the stakes remain high enough that many outside the contentious art world are likely to still care. (Dec.) Forecast: Michael Brenson's Visionaries and Outcasts: The NEA, Congress, and the Place of the Artist in America, originally developed as an essay for this volume, was well reviewed when published last year by the New Press. Those who missed it will take this opportunity to review both books from the angles of arts funding politics and "how do we know what's good?" while art world insiders will get it to see who made the cut.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The 30-year history of the National Endowment for the Arts's beleaguered and controversial Visual Artists' Fellowships is documented in this landmark publication, which serves as both a visual record and a reference source. The book is primarily a broad sampling of nearly 300 works (including 100 reproduced in color plates) selected by museum curators, directors, scholars, and critics as representative of NEA-funded art. In total, 6500 fellowships were awarded to 5000 artists, each of whom is listed in an invaluable appendix by date, category (painting, sculpture, crafts, etc.), geographic location at the time of the grant, and award amount. An overview and history of the program by Nancy Princenthal (contributing editor, Art in America) follows an introduction by NEA's present chair, Bill Ivey. Later in the work, Jennifer Dowley (former director of NEA's Museums and Visual Arts) adds a fascinating essay about managing the program and its selection process. All in all, this is a fitting and eloquent document and an important purchase for all libraries. Russell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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There will be many great surveys of art works, and many curatorial devices, in books of this size and heft. But the interesting distinction here, of course, is that the curating that birthed the book is working on a heavily vetted body of work to begin with, entirely dependent on the selection process(es) created by the staff of the Visual Arts Program.
To fully appreciate what this means, we must recognize that those processes were the outcome of three things: extraordinary leadership; fantastic administration; and full-blown process innovation. Not only did the 80's Era selection process fuse audio-visual and information technologies, but the Strategy, Operations, and I.T. components of the selection procedures were all designed by working visual artists who correctly foresaw, scoped, and scaled the massive workload that the national community of open-applications participants would turn out to be in the U.S. Likewise, the ability of that staff to proactively and continually advise and represent artists successfully to juries as trusted agents is in no way measured adequately in the book's otherwise fine essay by Jennifer Dowley. These issues perhaps will be covered in some companion piece yet to be published, which will highlight names not emphasized in this book. Maybe I'll do it myself.
However, the key to the value of this book is, profoundly, Diversity. It's real point is that the intelligence about experience in America is vast, even greater than the time and space that the country occupies. There is a concept of "university" that applies to the collection of ideas gathered in this book -- even more meaningfully than the thrust of the Visual Arts Program's somewhat heroic dedication to the actual social survival of artists.