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Charles Sheeler:   Across Media
By Charles Brock
Illustrated. 240 pp.
Publisher. US$45.00
ISBN-10: 0520248724 / ISBN-13: 9780520248724

Exceptionally gifted photographer and modern American artist Charles Sheeler's works have been collected in the outstanding catalog, Charles Sheeler: Across Media. Although this book was designed as an accompaniment to a traveling exhibit of Sheeler's work, it stands alone as both a tribute to the artist and an excellent and informative commentary on his work. The organization of the book facilitates textual and visual study by subdividing the works into media type. This allows the reader to revisit common themes in each section and to analyze both the changes and similarities of the artist's aesthetics, style, and technique.

Charles Sheeler: Across Media addresses the controversy that has raged amongst critics of his work. Some, especially earlier critics, felt that his techniques of removing any evidence of the working process from his pieces left the works lifeless and lacking in emotion. Later critics often felt the same techniques provide a subtle view into the emotionalism of Sheeler's work. Charles Sheeler: Across Media helps the reader advance into the later, immensely more satisfying view that shows the complexity of feeling and even the psychological traits of the artist.

The book provides a rich retrospective on Charles Sheeler. The author, Charles Brock, has included essays that avoid the density of academic language common in some artists' catalogs, yet that are truly informative and appreciative of his subject. Numerous examples of Sheeler's paintings, photographs, and films are included and discussed.

The style of Sheeler's work is known as precisionism, an art form that he is often credited with inventing. Although he was not the sole progenitor of precisionism, he was one of its most exemplary practitioners. Precisionism is the artwork of the industrial landscape. Influenced by cubism and futurism, it in turn influenced the later pop art and magical realism movements. It was an important transitional phase in the history of both American art and life, as the American landscape rapidly changed from agriculture to industry. Whether or not one chooses to read social criticism into his work, Sheeler's pieces depict a tense, urgent portrayal of the changing landscape that is at once sad and beautiful.

This book is an excellent introduction into his work. The comprehensive bibliography will serve as a helpful point of departure for those who wish to study further the oeuvre of this intriguing artist.

The book is a production of the National Gallery of Art and meets that institution's always high standards for its art books. Charles Brock curates American and British paintings for the National Gallery, and the knowledge and sensitivity with which he treats his subject will be appreciated by the reader.

Sylvia Breau , for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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