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The Painted Word Paperback – Oct 14 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (Oct. 14 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312427581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312427580
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14 x 0.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #139,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F. Lennox Campello on May 2 2003
Format: Paperback
Can I start by saying that this book "saved my art life"? Let me explain. In 1977 I started art school as a not so impressionable 21 year-old with a few years as a US Navy sailor under my belt. But in the world of art, there's a lot of moulding and impressions being made by a very galvanized world. And although I was a few years older than most in my class... I was probably as ready as any to swallow the whole line and sinker that the "modern art world" floats out there.
Then I read this book - it was given to me by Jacob Lawrence, a great painter and a great teacher --- although I didn't get along with him too well at the time. I read it (almost by accident and against my will --- it was a get-a-way "love weekend" with my then-girlfriend - it went sour. And this book OPENED my EYES!!! It was as if all of a sudden a "fog" had been listed about all the manure and fog that covers the whole art world.
I used it as a weapon.
I used it to defend how I wanted to paint and feel and write. And it allowed me to survive art school.
And then in 1991 - as I prepared to look around to start my own gallery - I found it again, in a gallery (of all places) in Alexandria, VA. I read it again, and to my surprise Wolfe was as topical and effervescent and eye-opening as ever!
Wolfe has a lot of bones to pick with the art world -- 25 years ago!!! He destroys the proliferation of art theory, and puts "art gods" like Harold Rosenberg, Clement Greenberg, and Leo Steinberg (who have ruined art criticism for all ages - by making critics think that they "lead" the arts rather than "follow the artists") into their proper place and perspective. He has a lot of fun, especially with Greenberg and the Washington Color School and their common stupidity about the flatness of the picture plane.
Here's my recommendation: If you are a young art student or a practicing artist: SAVE YOUR LIFE! Read this book!
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By R. BULL on Feb. 22 2004
Format: Paperback
I was talking to an artist friend of mine about selling art versus creating art and she let me know about this little gem of a book. Tom Wolfe is a master at puncturing the pretentions of society and he clearly enjoyed himself immensely here. Given my lack of art background, I also learned something about the small community of artists and critics that dominate the fine arts sceen. Art of the expression of theory was a new idea to me. If you've ever seen a modern work and thought to yourself, "Huh!" this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback
I like to think of myself as an intelligent, discriminating person with independent views. But I have gone along with style and said things like "Cubism is clearly in a progression from Impressionism and they from the great ones of the Rennaissance and beyond. You have to understand Rembrandt before you can understand Jasper Johns".
What a lot of nonsense.
It still ought to be possible to like Jackson Pollack and hold your head up, but please dispense with the balloney.
Art History is both difficult and subtle; but it's also right in front of your face. Why do we need Tom Wolfe to explain to us what we ought to know already? (And how does he reatain any of his friends?)
I don't know, but it's been true ever since The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and it's true here.
It won't take much of your time to read this book, but it will help to make you a better - or at least a more sensible - person.
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Format: Paperback
The Painted Word is part of a pleasant little triptych of social commentary produced by Tom Wolfe in the 70s (more or less) of which Radical Chic and From Bauhaus to Our House make up the other titles. Even with lots of pictures, whitespace and margin, Painted Word only runs to 99 pages. I bought all three and read them over the course of a weekend, what with travel time and all.
Tom Wolfe very devastatingly takes a prominent Modern Art critic's unwittingly accurate sentence and elaborates it into a social, cultural and intellectual critique of the prentensions and foibles of this tiny self-referntial world.
This is a send-up, a satire, and a de-bunking. And a field for which such a come-uppance, if not long overdue, was at the least fully due for just this particular sort of biting insightful up-comeance.
Wolfe takes us through the motives and psychological drama of the three actors in this story - the Artist, the Patron, and the Critic.
The Artist has undergone a change as his role evolved from the glorification of the royals in the Old World to the affliction of the middle class in the New:
"The modern picture of The Artist began to form: the poor but free spirit, plebian but aspiring only to be classless, to cut himself forever free from the bonds of the greedy and hypocritical bourgeoisie, to be whatever the fat burghers feared most, to cross the line wherever they drew it, to look at the world in a way they couldn't see, to be high, live low, stay young forever - in short, to be the bohemian."
It is ultimately up to Warhol, of course, to perfect this stance Warholicly:
"Warhol learned fast, however, and he soon knew how to take whatever he wanted. The bohemian, by definition, was one who did things the bourgeois didn't dare do.
Read more ›
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By A Customer on Dec 3 2002
Format: Paperback
Yes, I ma an artist ...(sorrY) who cannot think ... or write. All I can do is ... paint pictures like Norman Rockwell. Tha's art right there. No thought required, no deeper meanings...
On a more erudite note, Mr. Wolfe makes some notable errors:
1. He indicts not just contemporary art, but all art that is not realistic or pictorial alone. This includes the great populist movements of Impressionism (based on optical color theory), and Surrealism (based on psychoanalytic theory). Wolfe's desire for strict realism dates back to the era of Gustave Courbet, who created starkly realistic work to the disgust of the general public and critics, who were used to the idyllic romanticizing in the art of that time. Before you judge Mr. Wolfe's argument, check your own tastes and see if they fit his narrow criteria. Van Gogh--there's emotional representation informing his colors and brushwork. Too theoretical!
2. Mr. Wolfe conveniently forgets that art in the 1960's became theoretical in an effort to eradicate the artist's dependence on a gallery system that rejected content in favor of decoration(the type of work that sells the best). Installations, performances, conceptualism were started by the artists themselves, not by critics or tastemakers, as a reaction to art strictly as a decorative commodity. When no one would or could show this type of work, they exhibited/performed in their own studios, far from the eyes of critics and curators.

3. Mr. Wolfe assumes that no part of the public is interested in non-realistic art. How many people visit the Maya Lin Vietnam memorial versus the Frederick Hart Vietnam memorial (created because the former was too theoretical?) As with much art, what initially seems challenging and controversial (remember how many paintings Van Gogh sold in his lifetime) becomes accepted, even loved, over time...
Ultimately, this is an intellectually lazy book destined to preach to the (un)converted.
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