The Easel

Archives: Los Angeles Review of Books

7th June 2015

Around the World (or Part of It) with Sarah Thornton: 33 Artists in 3 Acts

Sarah Thornton interviews dozens of artists in her engaging new book that probes the question ‘what is an artist’.This is territory made complex by cultural biases. Nevertheless, the reviewer muses that an overriding commonality for most artists is the deep personal drive needed to overcome adversity. “Maybe the elusive answer to the question, “What is an artist?” lies in the act of continuing to be one against all odds.”

6th June 2015

Descartes, Dick, and the Dog: Pierre Huyghe at LACMA

French / American artists Pierre Huyghe was this week awarded the Kurt Schwitter Award, the latest in a string of awards over a decade or more. As it happens, a retrospective of his work is on in Los Angeles. Although popular in Paris its opening in LA attracted the ire of at least one critic. Besides disapproving of his inclusion of a dog with a painted foreleg she argues a more general case: “Huyghe’s trite, simple-minded installations do not inspire, they do not resonate, they do not evoke much beyond a yawn”

Strange Bedfellows: The Modernists and the Nazi’s

Utilizing newly available information, this book describes 10 case studies of artists who wanted to find an accommodation with the Nazi’s. Many Modernists were optimistic of doing this early in the Nazi reign, but by 1937 they were deemed to be ‘Degenerates’. Others faced worse. Besides adding to the cultural history of that era, these (mostly non-judgmental) stories illustrate the sometimes unhealthy alliance between artists and power. This is a story that, at a general level, still has relevance today.