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Thirteen Ways of Looking at Latino Artby Ilan Stavans
Synopses & Reviews
The essayist and cultural commentator Ilan Stavans and the analytic philosopher Jorge J. E. Gracia share long-standing interests in the intersection of art and ideas. Here they take thirteen pieces of Latino art, each reproduced in color, as occasions for thematic discussions. Whether the work at the center of a particular conversation is a triptych created by the brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre, Andres Serrano's controversial Piss Christ, a mural by the graffiti artist BEAR_TCK, or Above All Things, a photograph by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Stavans and Gracia's exchanges inevitably open out to literature, history, ethics, politics, religion, and visual culture more broadly. Autobiographical details pepper Stavans and Gracia's conversations, as one or the other tells what he finds meaningful in a given work. Sparkling with insight, their exchanges allow the reader to eavesdrop on two celebrated intellectuals—worldly, erudite, and unafraid to disagree—as they reflect on the pleasures of seeing.
"Literary writer Stavans (The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature) and philosopher Gracia (Painting Borges) engage in a series of dialogues on Latino art, moving broadly through the humanities and social sciences while reaching consistent insight. The works of art are, by Stavans's own description, 'excuses' for the dialogue more than sites of focused inquiry. They reflect an appropriately diverse group of artists and styles, including a 1962 Mariana Yampolsky photograph, a crayon and graphite image by outsider artist Martin Ramirez, and one of Jean-Michel Basquiat's recognizable skulls. While there are moments at which the writers arrive at a fresh viewing, they more often use the art as a platform to speak broadly of human life, preferring the wide aperture of much philosophic writing that can lend itself to generalizations. Usefully, the sweeping nature of many statements is offset by the dialogic mode, with both writers as comfortable disagreeing as they are bolstering each other's insights. While there are moments that lag, there are also moments that shine, especially when Stavans and Gracia draw on their own lived experiences, twining narrative with philosophy. Color illus. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Ilan Stavans, public intellectual, National Book Critics Circle Award nominee, recipient of the Latino Literature Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, is Professor of Spanish at Amherst College. Among his works are Growing Up Latino, The Hispanic Condition, The One-Handed Pianist and Other Stories, and A Cartoon History of Latinos in the United States. He is also the editor of The Oxford Book of Latin American Essays and The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories.
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