cover image High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture

High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture

Kirk Varnedoe. ABRAMS, $60 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-6002-2

Narrower in scope than its title suggests, this sprawling, visually riveting catalogue of a traveling exhibition traces the ``dialogue'' between ``high'' art (Picasso, Miro, Seurat, etc.) and the streetwise or commercial ``low'' media of graffiti, caricature, comics and advertising. Picasso transformed sly notebook caricatures into the ``high'' paintings of his primitive/archaic phase. Claes Oldenburg turned a lipstick tube into a colossal, totemic monument. From cubist newspaper collages to Jenny Holzer's electric-message installations, popular culture has served such modern artists as Jeff Koons, Joseph Cornell and Cy Twombly as a means of recovery of certain high-art traditions. Although the text may be swollen with hype, artspeak and farfetched comparisons, this tome entertains as it informs. Varnedoe is director of paintings and sculpture at New York's Museum of Modern Art; Gopnik is a New Yorker staff writer. (Dec.)