clears his throat convulsively while flashing and crashing
burst as he spoke – an avalanche of stars
tumultuous visions, drowned out by the breathless din
sound bites as we strain to hear his august words:
“abcdefghijklmnopqrstu vwxy z.”
Sometimes art books get really, really big, especially during the holidays. Dimensions, weight, and page count increase precipitously, and all of a sudden you have coffee table books threatening your coffee table. In these volumes, historical scanning is usually the point, with the contest to see how much visual information can be compressed between covers. Quantity rivals quality; reproductions often overwrite the text. Otherwise, why have large pages if not for large images?
Among the gargantuas of this season, three stand out. EXPRESSIONS OF INNOCENCE AND ELOQUENCE: A SELECTION FROM AMERICANA’S JANE KATCHER COLLECTION, VOLUME II (Marquand Books/Yale University Press, $95) maintains the balance between words and images, offering new excursions into an outstanding private collection of American folk art, and following a first volume published in 2006. This one, also overseen by Jane Katcher, the collector, and David A. Schorsch and Ruth Wolfe, two specialists in antiquities and folk art, coincides with an exhibition at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY (through December 31).
The book has contributions from 19 additional scholars, covering a range of familiar objects, including portraits of New England limners, quilts, weathervanes, and painted embroidery and furniture. But the essays take place in close-up, distinguishing individual objects and the people who made or used them, often with a fresh and revealing specificity.
As heavy is THE RONALD S. LAUDER COLLECTION: SELECTION FROM THE THIRD CENTURY BC TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, GERMANY, AUSTRIA AND FRANCE (Prestel, $75), which reveals the riches of another private collection that is a little more eclectic. It belongs to Mr. Lauder, the New York cosmetics magnate and founder of the Neue Galerie, which is exhibiting until April 2 about a third of the 1,200 objects reproduced in the book. After two belt clasps from the 3rd century BC. these objects range from early medieval art to a princely assortment of arms and armor and paintings by old masters to 19th and 20th century modernist and postmodern works of German, Austrian persuasion and French.
Highlights include numerous paintings by Cézanne, a cache of extraordinary drawings by Picasso and works by Sigmar Polke and Joseph Beuys, and early 20th-century Viennese art and design for which Mr. Lauder and his museum are the best known.