Nov 30, 2011

REVIEW | On Modern American Art | Robert Rosenblum | Harry N. Abrams | 1999

Robert Rosenblum, Harry N. Abrams, 1999

Where we have been, where we are, and where we are going is the idea behind the construction of On Modern American Art.  It is notable as a book that in its construction points out the relationship between current artists and their predecessors. This book is a selection of essays by Robert Rosenblum which was put together by Editors James Leggio and Barbra Burn, Designer Maria Miller, and photo Editor Jennifer Bright.

This book is a collection of writings by a man who influenced the flow and reception of art in his time. To grasp the relevance of this book you must first know who Robert Rosenblum was. He was born July 24 1927 and died December 6 2006. He earned a Masters degree in art history from Yale University in 1950 and a PH.D. in art history from NYU. During his carrier he accepted teaching positions at the University of Michigan, Princeton, and a professor of fine art’s position at NYU. In 1996 he was appointed Curator of 20th-century art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Rosenblum also acted as a contributing Editor to Artforum. This impressive career should prove beyond doubt that he was in fact imbedded into the art world up to his death in 2006 being able to give great insight into the art trends and styles that preceded what is happening today.
Robert Rosenblum

Knowing how important the writer was allows you to appreciate how the book itself was designed. This book was assembled by grouping writings about specific artists together so that you the reader may experience the change or progression of thought through the years about certain artists. Rosenblum practically spells it out for you in his Preface “I now see, a recurrent theme in my work, enabling me and, I hope, the reader to recognize that art keeps living in both past and present tense.” Or “ Contemporary art back then was a battlefield of pro-or-con passions that continually erupted in combative reactions to everything from the seeming chaos of Abstract Expressionism to the ostensible impudence of early Pop and Minimalism.”  Rosenblum is pointing out that art of the past is not dead and like a parent influencing their kid or their grandparents before with their children the art of today has direct ties to the art of yesterday. This being the point Rosenblum, an author who has observed and shaped art that now contributes to the discussion of more contemporary works, is the perfect choice. The book in effort to show a collection of works that represent the best of Rosenblum addresses a wide range of artists. Some of these past their prime while others like Jeff Koons are still contributing directly to the art world today. This mixture adds to the overall message because it really allows a wide range of refection to be made over the progression and influence of art today.

As many good things I can find about this book I can still find at least one bad thing. The largest flaw in my opinion is the lack of color. The book itself is constructed with high quality gloss paper which would have been great for picture quality. However the book is printed in black and white. In my opinion any book addressing art suffers without the use of color.

In conclusion On Modern American Art is a great read skillfully constructed that will help people of today be better informed of the past that helped us arrive where we are today. Like it’s said that we study history so we are not doomed to relive our same mistakes we should be aware of where art has progressed from so that we understand why and how it has come this.

-Nathaniel Record


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