January 8, 2008

Abstraction and the Holocaust

"Abstraction and the Holocaust," by Mark Godfrey. Yale University Press, 2007.

Mark Godfrey examines how American abstract artists reacted to the Holocaust. Reviewed by Ross Wilson in Frieze Magazine. "If Godfrey’s book is a history, it is an importantly revisionist one, extending and modifying the understanding of ‘abstraction’ with which it works. Historical argument and reinterpretation are backed up here by many hours of research. Godfrey tracks down esoteric sources for artists’ work, is skilled at imagining his way into the often dully pragmatic process of the commissioning of art works and usefully deploys interviews with, for example, Peter Eisenman, the architect behind the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe , which opened to the public in 2005 in Berlin. This wealth of information is not simply amassed; it is scrupulously attended to. In particular, the main strengths of this book are Godfrey’s powers of attention and, in places, of imagination or even speculation. Not only does he carefully deploy the historical, institutional and biographical context of the works that he considers, but he is also an accomplished commentator on the works themselves." Read more.

In BookForum, Katy Siegel reviews. "The chapters on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Eisenman memorial—subjects outside the usual modernist canon—are the strongest. Here Godfrey seems to feel the freest, embracing many voices and more social history and developing a full, conflicted picture of the issues at stake. His accounts are gripping, seamlessly combining the debates and desires of the fractured Jewish and artistic communities with the complex phenomenologies of the museum and the memorial themselves." Read more.

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