''Where is Evelyn Waugh when you need him?'' asks art critic, New Criterion
editor and respected literary critic Roger Kimball. ''I mean, where is the satirist with a boot big and swift and hard enough for the collective backside of today's art world?'' Kimball comes close to being the satirist he pines for. He's not afraid to speak what he feels (yes, and not what he ought
to say) in this collection of reviews and essays spanning the last two decades. Kimball waxes and wanes on art, the artist, art historians, art critics and the general atmosphere of the art world with the regularity of the moon in its phases, offering praise and criticism with a vivifying impartiality. Almost every piece begins with or includes a thoughtful literary allusion, the most notable being a lengthy quote from T.S. Eliot's ''Tradition and the Individual Talent,'' which handily marks good art's continuity with the past. In fact, it's Kimball's knack for identifying and reminding us of the confluence of literature and visual art that makes this volume worth getting. His span includes particular exhibitions and museums, reviews of books on art theory, history and biography, and the works of Paul Klee, Van Gogh, Renoir, Edward Burne-Jones, Mary Cassatt, Paul Gauguin and the contemporary painter William Bailey. Though Kimball's subtitle for the book acts more as underpinning than thesis, his reoccurring discussion of beauty's capacity to inspire and create silence through the representation of ''permanent things'' is a theory worth mulling for one's own art and inspiration.
An Eighth Day View:
Observing our contemporary culture, the distinguished critic Roger Kimball sees that the avant-garde assault on tradition has long since degenerated into a sclerotic orthodoxy. He finds that the "cutting edge," as defined by the established tastemakers, turns out time and again to be a stale remainder of past impotence. And he locates a pretense that the traditional is the enemy rather than a springboard to originality. In Art's Prospect, Mr. Kimball observes that most of the really invigorating action in the art world today is a quiet affair. It takes place not at the Tate Modern in London or at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, not in the Chelsea or TriBeCa galleries but off to one side, out of the limelight. It usually involves not the latest thing but permanent things they can be new or old, but their relevance is measured not by the buzz they create but by silences they inspire. With reviews and essays composed over the last twenty years and revised for this book, Art's Prospect illuminates some of the chief spiritual itineraries of modern art. It provides, in Mr. Kimball's words, "a collage whose elements, when seen from one perspective, add up to a diagnosis of a malady, and, when seen from another perspective, offer hints of where effective remedies can be found."