In the thirty years that John Ashbery has been writing his acclaimed poetry, he has also been one of America's most important art critics--first for the "Paris Herald Tribune," then as executive editor of "ARTnews," next as critic for "New York," and later for "Newsweek." "Reported Sightings" is a generously illustrated selection of his best writings on art. This rich volume covers the wide range of Ashbery's interests--including Surrealism, nineteenth-century French art, Abstract Expressionism, architecture, and design.
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John Ashbery has published more than twenty books of poetry, including Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror and Flow Chart, and is the winner of every major American poetry prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Poetry Society of America’s Robert Frost Medal.Review:
Ashbery has humor, discrimination, lucidity, an inner compass: all the attributes necessary to bring to life a whole gallery of artists...This voice--clear, self-assured, amused but never taken in--can bring people and places to life with magical ease. (Jed Perl New Republic)
[Ashbery's] art criticism strives for accessibility. It's a mixture of gossip, reportage, artists' shoptalk, and barstool philosophizing, and at times it has a you-were-there vividness. (Deborah Solomon New Criterion)
Ashbery describes beautifully, but his description also functions as inquiry or retelling: In describing an image, he recounts the process of its making and the concerns that guided its maker...Certainly, Ashbery offers new insights into well-known artists. But he also argues persuasively for our appreciation of a number of lesser-known figures. We come away with much to look at anew. (Jeremy Strick Newsday)
Ultimately what the reader is treated to is the polished humanism of one who was not only emotionally and intellectually impressed, but also creatively inspired by much of what he critically reviewed. Ashbery used the critical occasion not only for the purpose of informing his reader, but also as the impetus for creating his own literary art. The artist Ashbery tells us as much about himself as he tells us through poesis about his isolated encounters with aesthetic phenomena...Ashbery convincingly demonstrates that ultimately the most important thing each of us brings to the art encounter as viewers is ourselves and that the critical occasion itself can also be a creative occasion, when sensitive and intelligent awareness is present. (Miles Edward Friend Journal of Aesthetic Education)
A major achievement of Ashbery's is the way he suffuses his essays, even the most journeyman of them, with his own aesthetic. But this aesthetic is not easy to formulate, if only for the reason that, as any reader of Ashbery's most famous poem, 'Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror' will know, for him the essence of art lies in the dialectic between the work of art as it objectively is and the spectator. (Richard Wollheim Times Literary Supplement)
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