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art criticism

The Graphics of Solidarity

The Solidarity logo was designed by J. and K. Janiszewski, two marginally employed graphic artists living in Gdansk, during the second week of the August 1980 strike at their hometown’s mammoth Lenin Shipyards. Within a month it had become the ubiquitous emblem of a national worker’s movement. In this particular case we do have some knowledge of the graphic’s origins. With many of Solidarity’s posters, no such documentation exists. Some of Solidarity’s most powerful images, for that matter, are no longer available in any form. In the heat of confrontation, Solidarity didn’t have much time or interest in archival documentation. Paper and ink were scarce: what little could be foraged was quickly used and the resultant posters immediately slapped onto public walls, where they belonged. Weather, and in some cases official sabotage, took their toll before anybody realized that no record had been kept. The next day’s crisis—the next day’s occasion—was in any case already at hand.


Unfinished: On Vincent Desiderio’s Sleep

The painting—a stunningly ambitious tableau, eight feet high, fully twenty-four feet long, and portraying twelve mostly naked figures, as visioned from above, arrayed, recumbent, one beside the next, knotted up in sheets and tossed by sleep (or maybe unconscious, or maybe even dead, it was hard to tell)—had been one of the stand-out triumphs of Vincent Desiderio’s singularly impressive show at Manhattan’s Marlborough Gallery in January 2004. Despite its forbiddingly unwieldy dimensions, the piece had sold off the floor, to a private museum in Connecticut, on condition, however, that Desiderio would first be allowed to take the canvas back with him to his Ossining studio. For all its highly burnished finish, the work had been listed as still “in progress” in the exhibition’s catalog. And now, over a year later, with its new owners clamoring for the painting’s already frequently postponed final delivery, it was still very much a work in progress, changing dramatically from day to day. Dramatically, and yet hardly at all: for Desiderio had achieved one of those images of such layered complexity and tautly interwoven cross-reference that the slightest tweak—here, say, the new way light was being made to fall across this woman’s shoulder, or there, the manner in which that man’s arm had been stretched ever so slightly higher—reverberated across the entire panel, as if across a tightly stretched drum skin.


Project for a Memorial

Introduced by Lawrence Weschler During the months of its initial upsurge, Polish theorists used to characterize Solidarity as an expression of the subjectivity of the Polish nation, by which they meant its capacity at long last to start acting once [...]

A Pleasure Grove of Italian Renaissance Art

Readers will not be disappointed with the wealth of material covered. Entries on individual artists are logically arranged to include information on his or her life and works; working methods and techniques, writings (if any), character and personality, and critical reception and posthumous reception. An extensive bibliography on each artist follows; in the case of major figures such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, or Titian, helpful subject headings (i.e. Documentary and Bibliographical Sources; General; Specialist Studies; Monographs; and Catalogues; Drawings) within the bibliographies direct readers to areas of related scholarship. Cross-references within the entries direct readers to other relevant entries.


Postcard Picasso

I used to have a reproduction of John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo hanging on my wall. Its colors weren't as vivid as those of the original. The dramatic lighting effects created on the canvas by Sargent were largely absent from the repro. And, of course, the size was considerably smaller: the real one is eight feet high by 11 feet wide; mine fit on the wall above my dining room hutch. Still, I could always depend on it to deliver a blast from the open door of its furnace that was more than sufficient for viewing at an ordinary mealtime.