An Artistic “Focus” | July 2013

The first six books in the “Phaidon Focus” series are excellent introductions to some of the most influential artists of the mid-20th century.

Biro, Matthew. Anselm Kiefer. Phaidon. (Focus). 2013. 146p. illus. ISBN 9780714861432. $22.95. FINE ARTS

Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945) is one of the most influential German artists to emerge from the second half of the 20th century. Imbued with personal narrative and politics, Kiefer’s work has taken many forms, from painting and sculpture to book arts and installation. After publishing his well-researched Anselm Kiefer and the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger, Biro (chair, art history, Univ. of Michigan) is well suited to write this introductory book on the artist. He examines Kiefer’s art in relation to the work of other artists and to the political and cultural events of the time.

Costello, Eileen. Brice Marden. Phaidon. (Focus). 2013. 146p. illus. ISBN 9780714861449. $22.95. FINE ARTS

Brice Marden’s (b. 1938) paintings of a single color, a simple geometric grid, or a group of bright organic lines demonstrate his lifelong commitment to abstract expressionism. Marden’s contemporaries, such as Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns, were some of his strongest influences. Scholar Costello (project director,Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings of Jasper Johns Project, Houston) has frequently visited Marden’s studio and worked on the catalogue raisonné of his paintings and drawings. Here, she articulates Marden’s artistic growth in relation to his varied interests such as travel, numerology, and calligraphy.

Craft, Catherine. Robert Rauschenberg. Phaidon. (Focus). 2013. 146p. illus. ISBN 9780714861517. $22.95. FINE ARTS

American artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), a graduate of Black Mountain College, NC, created monumental works by embracing the potential in everyday objects. His style is often described as Neo-Dada. Craft’s (assistant curator, Nasher Sculpture Ctr., Houston) 2012 book, An Audience of Artists: Dada, Neo-Dada, and the Emergence of Abstract Expressionism , examines Rauschenberg as a Neo-Dada artist, part of a group that moved away from abstract expressionism and toward pop art. In this text, Craft explores the artist’s practices in collage, printmaking, silkscreen, painting, and photography.

Hammer, MartinFrancis Bacon. Phaidon. (Focus). 2013. 146p. illus. ISBN 9780714861333. $22.95. FINE ARTS

Francis Bacon’s (1909–92) work is largely figurative, though dark and often violent. Strongly influenced by photography, existentialism, and historical events such as World War II, the British-born artist’s paintings feel autobiographical yet impersonal and allusive. Hammer (art history & philosophy, Univ. of Kent; Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda ) has written a comprehensive overview of the artist’s turbulent life and paintings.

Ketner, Joseph D., II. Andy Warhol. Phaidon. (Focus). 2013. 146p. illus. ISBN 9780714861586. $22.95. FINE ARTS

Trained in graphic design and illustration, Andy Warhol (1928–87) is known for his critiques of mass media and marketing. Warhol’s use of well-recognized subjects makes his work approachable to a wide audience. Ketner (curator-in-residence, Emerson Coll.; coeditor, Image Machine: Andy Warhol and Photography ) has curated a number of exhibitions on the artist. Because Warhol was as much a pop art icon as the art he produced, Ketner provides an analytical history of both the artist and his work.

Pachner, JoanDavid Smith. Phaidon. (Focus). 2013. 146p. illus. ISBN 9780714861562. $22.95. FINE ARTS

David Smith’s (1906–65) minimalist metal sculptures are abstract yet figurative and almost whimsical. Influenced by abstract expressionism, Smith explored various subjects, scale, and eventually color in his welded pieces. Pachner (educator, Museum of Modern Art) has contributed to numerous publications on the artist. Here, she examines Smith’s artistic development not only in sculpture but also in drawing, writing, and photography.

All of these titles are similarly structured. The life and career of each artist are covered chronologically and interspersed with one-page “Focus” essays that carefully examine specific bodies of work. At under 150 pages, each book provides a comprehensive survey without becoming exhaustive. Quality images, most in color, are directly referenced in the text. The books end with a further reading section, making them ideal for introductory research. VERDICT This series provides a critical analysis of the artists and their work through language and ideas accessible to undergraduate students and a general audience. —Shannon Marie Robinson, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH



  1. Poppy Johnson says:

    I have no doubt that these are excellent books BUT, need I point out that they are all about men. When will a publishing company decide that when it is doing a series about artists that it will include women artists?