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An International Legacy:   Selections from Carnegie Museum of Art
By Sheryl Conkelton and Elizabeth Thomas
Illustrated. 166 pp.
American Federation of Arts . US$35.00
ISBN-10: 1885444273 / ISBN-13: 9781885444271

For those who have not had the pleasure of attending the annual Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh, PA, this selection of works from that and other exhibitions will give the contemporary art lover an opportunity to see important representatives of international movements in art for the last 110 years.

Since 1896, the Carnegie International exhibition has been the cultural event in Pittsburgh. When museum founder Andrew Carnegie created the Carnegie Museum of Art, he exhorted the museum's trustees to find "the old masters of tomorrow" for the collection. These words, plus the museum's unusual approach to amassing its collection, have yielded a legacy of eclectic and visually stunning pieces, each of which is significant for its portrayal of a moment of modern time.

One hundred and ten annual Carnegie International exhibits have left the museum with a impressive array of pieces from around the world. In this volume dedicated to Andrew Carnegie's vision, Sigmar Polke's Hochsitz II (Watchtower II) shares space with Andy Warhol's 1986 haunting self-portrait. Gerhard Richter's vivid colors practically leap off the page, providing stark contrast to the eerie, chilly grays of Hiroshi Sugimoto's "Aegean Sea" and "Artic Ocean" works. Meanwhile, the starry, black canvas of Vija Celmins' "Night Sky" is deeply and endlessly fascinating.

Modern art can be counted on for social commentary and wit. Louise Lawler's installation piece entitled "Having Attained Visibility as Well as Managing to Catch the Eye of the Spectator" is an almost humorous, sardonic portrayal of modern life, art, and communication. Georg Baselitz, a German artist working in the post-World War II Germany, visually conveyed his hostility toward representational painting and its association with Nazism by increasingly deconstructing the human figure until he had completely disassociated the body from its place in space by depicting it upside-down. "Die Verspottung" (The Mocking) is a 1984 example of this dislocation. This particular work has a religious theme. It portrays the few minutes before Jesus' crucifixion, when a raucous crowd mocked him.

The essays that accompany each piece in "An International Legacy" give the reader an appreciation of the personal motives and concerns of each artist, as well as where each fits in development of contemporary art movements. From the essay about John Baldessari, ever striving through his work to answer the question, "What makes art art?" to the one on Robert Gober, whose focus is the personal and specific in art, these thought-provoking and informative essays are a pleasurable accompaniment to this broad yet perfectly cohesive collection. Like the old masters of tomorrow that Carnegie wanted his curators to find, this book is in itself a masterpiece of modern art and art history.

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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