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The American Art Book
ISBN 0714838454 / 9780714838458 / 0-7148-3845-4
Publisher Phaidon Press
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Accessibility is the code word for Phaidon's new 500-page dictionary of American art. The book values images over words, and its longest text is the introduction, which is printed in large, bold face and hardly fills one page. But it does describe the book's mission well: "Each artist is represented by a full-page color plate of a significant work, accompanied by an informative and engaging text that places the artist in the context of contemporary movements and preceding traditions...."--concise and informative. By arranging the artists alphabetically, the editors set up some odd and amusing juxtapositions. For example, the suited subject of an Alice Neel painting appears to speak and gesticulate excitedly about the overstacked cornucopia of Louise Nevelson's crates found on the opposing page. The caption over each work includes four artists' names in bold print that function as hyperlinks of a sort, allowing readers to skip, for example, from Willem de Kooning's Woman I to Jean Michel Basquiat's Skull to Alfred Maurer's cubist-like painting Woman with Curlers. This way, with each visit to the American Art Book, readers can discover and follow countless narratives throughout the three centuries of American art.
Filled with large, expertly reproduced images, The American Art Book is, like its cousins The Photo Book and The 20th Century Art Book, a high-quality and surprisingly inexpensive volume that would be a worthy addition to any art lover's library. --Loren E. Baldwin [via]