Art Speak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 to the Present

Robert Atkins, Author
Robert Atkins. Abbeville, $34.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7892-1150-7
Reviewed on: 11/11/2013
Release date: 11/01/2013
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-1-55859-010-6
Hardcover - 176 pages - 978-1-55859-127-1
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-1-55859-389-3
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-1-55859-388-6
Ebook - 592 pages - 978-0-7892-6036-9
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-7892-1151-4
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A revised and expanded edition of the popular field guide, Atkins's text manages an accomplished duality of concision and comprehensiveness as it tours through contemporary art. Even for dedicated fans, the contemporary art world can be a daunting place, driven by seemingly abstruse styles, movements, and theoretical preoccupations. As a veteran traveler in this world, Atkins gracefully distills many of these major forces into succinct entries, listing the most influential artists alongside his brief explanation of driving concerns and modes. By necessity, the lexicon is less about producing startling insights and more about providing some basic framing for those entering a museum or gallery, and its consistent pointing toward other artists and overlapping -isms generate plenty of opportunities for further research. At the same time, Atkins includes a number of basic terms (from "biennial" to "zeitgeist") that help provide a useful outline of contemporary art on whole, amorphous as it is. The new edition includes both very recent vocabulary, such as 2012's coining of "abject expressionism," as well as a more developed mapping of contemporary Chinese art. While the guide could certainly be broadened in countless ways, for those encountering the market-driven world primarily centered in the West, Atkins provides a practical text, somehow able to navigate its inscrutable subject and arrive at an engaging, readable survey. Color illus. (Nov.)
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