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Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends.

Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends Introduction by Betsy James Wyeth Mississippi Museum of Art University of Washington Press, 2001 ISBN 0-295-98039-7

Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends, a catalog accompanying the touring exhibition of the same name, is a publication of paintings, drawings, notes, and photographs showcasing the painter's representation of African Americans in his community. Published by the Mississippi Museum of Art, in association with the University of Washington Press, it presents many unseen images from the Wyeth's personal collection, as well as those of various museums, galleries and individuals.

If you are a Wyeth fan, this catalog explores terrain previously ignored by art historians and curators, providing a new perspective on his community, his personal life and his work. If you are not familiar with this artist, the text is a good introduction to this watercolorist's varying painting and drafting styles. The reproductions are of good quality, and the realist painting style is accessible to everyone.

While I do like Close Friends, I couldn't help but wonder why quite a few of the quality works presented in this publication have been excluded from many of his exhibitions and catalogs? They are as good, if not better than some paintings I've seen featured in his previous shows.

The true question is how serious are art historians about engaging these paintings of marginal people in a genuine artistic and historical dialogue, without discounting them in some way? Close Friends, (the title for me is a little suspect) unfortunately segregates Wyeth's paintings of African American subjects from those more commonly shown, and in critical conversations about his work in general. In the foreward, R. Andrew Maass' states, "These works are, perhaps, among the artist's purest paintings, ones that are virtually devoid of metaphor and symbolism. The subjects are real. To Wyeth, they are the earth; they are nature itself, not metaphors for something else." How can these paintings be devoid of symbolism, if these real, living, everyday people become the earth, and nature itself? This is a clear example of metaphor.

In spite of it all, Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends is a great book to own if you are interested in Wyeth's work, or in exploring the various methods in watercolor painting and drawing. It also provides an interesting record of African Americans living in rural Pennsylvania from the 1940s through the year 2000.

Jonell Jaime is a writer and art historian riving in New York City. She is currently working on a MFA at Brooklyn College.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Jaime, Jonell
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Words:413
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