Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grimberg, Salomon. Frida Kahlo: the Still Lifes.

Merrell. 2008. 175p. illus. photogs. bibliog.. index. ISBN 978-1-8589-4437-1. $45.

In this book, which has been described in the publisher’s marketing material as “groundbreaking” and “indispensable,” child psychiatrist and psychoanalytical art historian Grimberg, who has written extensively on the popular Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) [Frida Kahlo (1988); Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself (2008); I Will Never Forget You: Frida Kahlo and Nickolas Muray (2006))], publishes the first detailed examination of the artist’s still lifes. Having completed about 200 paintings during her short lifetime, 80 or so of which were known to be self-portraits, Kahlo also painted a significant number of still lifes, about 40 of which are documented. Here Grimberg closely scrutinizes and interprets Kahlo’s still lifes, some of which only recently have come to light, in terms of her emotional states and relates them to her private feelings or “musings,” positing that the artist oftentimes projected her thoughts onto the objects she was painting. Grimberg maintains that unlike her self-portraits which served as means for representing how Kahlo wanted to be seen and remembered, Kahlo’s still lifes are “hermetic” and “harder to read.” According to the author, Kahlo’s still lifes functioned as “visual representations” of the artist’s “struggle to master the fear of loneliness and of confronting death.” Grimberg concludes that throughout her life, Kahlo suffered from “separation anxiety” and that this disorder is reflected in her life and works. While Grimberg’s interpretations of Kahlo’s still lifes oftentimes are arresting and convincing, his predominantly psychoanalytical viewpoint subverts other methodologies that could have been used to further decode Kahlo’s complex masterpieces. Chronologically organized and written as a scholarly essay rather than a monograph, this well-documented publication with end notes and a bibliography lacks chapter and topic headings that would have aided readers. Also, Grimberg’s psychoanalytical jargon oftentimes remains to be explained. Otherwise beautifully illustrated, presented, and conceived, this expert study provides a strong foundation for futher study and research. Not the last word on its subject, it nevertheless will prove to be significant, useful, and popular. Highly recommended for academic and large public library book collections as well as for students, scholars, museum professional, and other interested readers. Personal copy. Availability:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Scalera, Michelle A.. Cà d’Zan: the Restoration of the Ringling Mansion.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. 2006. c.66p. Ed. by Deborah W. Walk. illus. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 978-0-916758-53-0. $14.95.

In this concise, nicely-illustrated book, Scalera (Chief Conservator, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art) tells the story of the six year, three-phased, $15 million restoration of John and Mable Ringling’s winter dream home in Sarasota, Florida. Known as the Cà d’Zan, the “House of John” in Venetian dialect or the “House of Zany,” the mansion, which today is a museum owned by the state of Florida and administered by Florida State University, was commissioned by John Ringling (1866-1936) and his wife Mable (1875-1929) during the 1920s. Built for $1.5 million, it was designed by the architect Dwight James Baum in an eclectic style and was completed in 1926 with 41 rooms, 15 baths, four stories, and an 8,000 square foot front terrace and dock overlooking Sarasota Bay. It fell into gradual disrepair after the death of John Ringling, when the fate of the Ringling estate continued to be litigated and ownership passed to the state of Florida. In six chapters, three of which provide historical background and three of which describe the conservation efforts in considerable detail, Scalera takes readers on a stage-by-stage, room-by-room tour of the mansion and its restoration projects. While the sections of the book detailing the three phases of the restoration, which started in 1996 and were completed in 2002, are quite technical, the author manages to describe them in attractive and appealing ways. The before and after pictures by Giovanni Lunardi Photography of Sarasota as well as archival photographs further make the text understandable and interesting to general readers captivated by the magnificent story of the restoration of an architectural masterpiece and historic landmark. Including appendices consisting of a floor plan, project donors, restoration facts, a list of companies and professionals involved, as well as a selected bibliography, this publication is highly recommended for academic, special, and large public libraries with research collections in art and architecture. General readers and museum visitors who merely are interested in a room-by-room tour of the mansion may prefer to consult the Cà d’Zan: Inside the Ringling Mansion by Aaron H. De Groft and David C. Weeks (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. 2004. ISBN 978-0-916758-47-9. $14.95). Personal copy. Availability: www.ringling.org