The Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi   109

Andy Goldsworthy

A Collaboration with Nature

by Andy Goldsworthy

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990

Like many (most?) contemporary artists, Andy Goldsworthy has a schtick. He goes out into the woods (or the moor or the desert or the pond or the beach) and arranges things he finds there --- leaves, berries, stones, blades of grass, chunks of ice, driftwood --- into patterns which are strikingly or subtly artificial, which he then photographs. Thus one of his works, included here, is entitled
Iris blades pinned together with thorns
filled in five sections with rowan berries
fish attacking from below
difficult to keep all the berries in
nibbled at by ducks
This suggests why there are not many sculptures by Goldsworthy in the world's art collections...

Like I said, it's a schtick. It's not his only one --- he also does earthworks, and stone fences --- but it's his main one. Unlike most artists' schticks, it's good for more than one striking image. Goldsworthy has produced hundreds of striking images of delicate, intricate ephemera. They're still striking years later, even after they've been book-covers. Better yet, many of Goldsworthy's pictures are actually beautiful. The state of the arts being what it is this days, this makes the man a public treasure.

The present volume reproduces dozens of Goldsworthy's pictures from the 1980s, including many of his best works. (There is also a short introduction by the artist.) The production values are superb, and physically it's a sturdy, square thing which can hold its own against petulant eleven year old boys. (Don't ask.) It's the most diverse collection of his work that's at all affordable (and in print), and strongly recommended, even to people who don't normally care for modern art or nature photography.

130 pp., 120 full-color photographs
Currently in print as a hardback, ISBN 0-8109-3351-9, US$55. LoC N6797.G65 A4
12 November 1999