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Art & Today

Eleanor Heartney, Author
Eleanor Heartney, Author . Phaidon $90 (440p) ISBN 978-0-7148-4514-2
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The history of contemporary art, writes Heartney (Postmodernism ), a contributing editor to Art in America , offers a “tapestry of stories” in an innovative, intellectually vigorous and superbly illustrated survey. In this era of “anarchic pluralism,” master narratives are inappropriate, and Heartney thus organizes her vividly written study thematically (“Art and Time,” “Art and Narrative”) rather than chronologically, and artists range from Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and other “high kitsch” creators to the “participatory” works of artists such as Nam June Paik and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Heartney’s focus is sharp and selective, and her approach complexly postmodern: the “ever-proliferating universe” of Matthew Ritchie’s installations are discussed in the context of Roland Barthes, Cindy Sherman’s photographs as Bakhtinian carnival. Participatory art, Heartney argues in her last chapter, is “a direct challenge to cherished assumptions about the meaning of art,” whose “democratization” may be the most significant force in art today. This exceptional survey will have wide appeal—from the generalist to the scholar interested in a work that’s both perceptive and energetic. (May)

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