It's been nearly a century since Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal and called it art. Since then painting has been declared dead several times over, and contemporary art has now expanded to include just about any object, action, or event: dance routines, slideshows, functional hair salons, seemingly random accretions of waste. In the meantime being an artist has gone from a join-the-circus fantasy to a plausible vocation for scores of young people in America. But why - and how and by whom - does all this art get made? How is it evaluated? And for what, if anything, will today's artists be remembered?
In The Contemporaries, Roger White, himself a young painter, serves as our spirited, skeptical guide through this diffuse, creative world. White takes us into the halls of the RISD graduate program, where students learn critical lessons that go far beyond how to apply paint to canvases. In New York we meet the neophytes who assist established artists - and who walk the fine line between "assistance" and "making the art". In Milwaukee White trails a group of friends trying to create a viable scene where rent is cheap but where the spotlight rarely shines. And he gives us an intimate perspective on three wildly different careers: that of Dana Schutz, an emerging star who is revitalizing painting; that of Mary Walling Blackburn, whose challenging art defies market forces; and that of Stephen Kaltenbach, a '70s wunderkind who is back on the critical radar, perhaps in spite of his own willful obscurity.
From young artists trying to elbow their way in to those working hard at dropping out, White's essential audiobook offers a once-in-a-generation glimpse of the inner workings of the American art world at a moment of unparalleled ambition, uncertainty, and creative exuberance.
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Mispronunciations Spoil This Reading!
Sorry to say, no. The narrator is fine but mispronounces names that are common in the art world. Audio books need editors and the equivalent of proofreaders, and this book is a case in point. Audible, wake up! Mispronunciations in an audio book are the equivalent of sloppy typos in an otherwise fine book. They break the mood, they bring you back to the reality that the narrator is not actually the author and is not actually an authority on anything. In an audio book, that is really, really bad.
Some examples: An entire chapter is set at RISD for an exploration of the MFA program. Rather than pronounce the art school's name "Riz-dee" as everyone does if they have ever heard of it before, the narrator pronounces each letter separately: "R I S D". William de Kooning is pronounced with a long O.
I gave the book one star to note how important the mispronunciations are. But it's not the narrator's fault. It's the producers' fault. Someone must be listening and advising and providing feedback to any performer for the production to be as good as it should be.
Publishers, you should do oversight of the audio version to ensure this kind of absurdity doesn't happen. You spend so much time and money on publishing a book. Why let these silly errors undermine those efforts? Audio books play a huge part in generating interest and buzz in all forms of a book. But how can I recommend this audio book to my friends? They would laugh at the absurdity of not knowing how RISD is pronounced in a book purportedly expert in the current art world.
- Jenny Jenkins
Read anything else
- Marie Hardin-McGregor