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Beyond Piety: 
Critical Essays 
on the Visual 
Arts, 1966-1993  
by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe


Clicking In
edited by
Lynn Hershman Leeson


Sigmar Polke 
When Pictures 
edited by 
Paul Schimmel

La Jetee, 
by Chris Marker

beyond piety: 
critical essays 
on the visual 
arts, 1966-1993 
by jeremy 

by Gloria Sutton

An assortment of essays bound only by an 

irreverent title, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe's new 

book speculates on the art world's 

sanctimonious vernacular while employing the 

tangency of an experienced orator writing 

outside the language of piety or possession. 

Several of the essays have been previously 

published or presented as lectures, but this 

inventive collection serves the researcher 

well by gathering them into one auspicious 


Throughout Beyond Piety, Gilbert-Rolfe 

converses on a variety of ideologies and 

artists while he engages the reader on 

almost intimate terms. In his essay "Van 

Gogh, Schapiro, Heidegger and Derrida," 

Gilbert-Rolfe facilitates a chat-room of 

sorts by creating succinct dialogue between 

Heidegger's essay "The Origin of the Work of 

Art" and Meyer Schapiro's attack on it while 

inducing Derrida's parody of Schapiro's 

sense of certainty. He asks for the reader's 

patience and states, "I speak, here, at 

something of a disadvantage, in that I'm not 

an art historian...nor, let me hasten to 

add, am I a philosopher." Gilbert-Rolfe is, 

of course, a painter and writer on art who 

published in Artforum in the `70s and was 

(briefly) a founder of October. More 

recently, Gilbert-Rolfe has published Beauty 

and the Contemporary Sublime (Merve Verlag, 

1996) while contributing to the forthcoming 

Stephen Melville book, Seams, Art as 

Philosophical Context (Newark, N.J., Gordon 

and Breach, 1996).

Those who have been seeking to understand 

the ways that continental philosophy might 

apply to contemporary art will find solace 

in Gilbert-Rolfe's clear articulation of 

Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard and 

Heidegger. But just as Gilbert-Rolfe is 

concerned with theory in the praxis of the 

visual arts, he finds interest in a 

theoretical approach to fashion and all 

things fashionable, namely beauty and 

pleasure. This concern becomes the subject 

of essays like "Fashion's Revenge," in which 

Gilbert-Rolfe touts the cyclical existence 

of fashion as a minute-to-minute defense 

against reason and the most severe and 

radical adversary of fascism. He offers the 

analogy of the cocktail dress: "overwhelming 

duty with the possibility of its opposite, 

the cocktail dress is the symbolic form 

which unites humanity as it unites night and 

day, restoring reality to its proper 

irrelevance by permitting the body to 

express live irresponsibility as opposed to 

dead duty."

In the essay, "Beach Party and the Parties 

of Power (Summer's Content, Winter's 

Discontent)," Gilbert-Rolfe elucidates the 

upward mobility of clothing. "Clothing 

conceals and transforms one's appearance, in 

fact improves it, by identifying the wearer 

with some possibilities as a character. A 

character, in the capitalism of the late 

20th century, who is able to maintain an 

ambiguous relationship between work and 

play, where neither ever really stops--a 

figure...for whom to be dressed is to be 

ready for anything in a world (that of the 

multinational) of blurred boundaries and 

imperceptible elisions." But perhaps the 

best fashion tip Gilbert-Rolfe leaves the 

reader with is the simple fact that beauty, 

like capital, never goes out of style.

Beyond Piety: Critical Essays on the Visual 

Arts, 1966-1993  by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, 

Cambridge University Press, $80 hardback, 

$29.95 paper.


Clicking In: Hot Links to a Digital Culture, 

edited by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Bay Press, 

1996, 380 pp., $24.95. Packaged with the 

ubiquitous neon sticker espousing "Free CD-

ROM,"Clicking In explores the interactions 

between art, technology and culture. Billed 

as a primer for the "developing digital 

movement," the book includes essays by 

leading theorists, authors, artists, 

curators and policy-makers examining the 

effects of the digital age on such topics as 

privacy, identity, sexuality and medicine.

Illuminations: Women's Writings on 

Photography from the 1850s to the Present, 

Liz Heron and Val Williams, eds., Duke, 

1996, 516 pp., $24.95.

An anthology of historical and contemporary 

essays,Illuminations aims to chronicle the 

role of women in photography as critics, 

historians and practitioners. Among the 

offerings in this volume are pieces on 

photographers Julia Margaret Cameron, Diane 

Arbus and Cindy Sherman as well as 

theoretical essays by Lucy Lippard, Susan 

Sontag, Coco Fusco and Laura Mulvey.

Sigmar Polke Photoworks: When Pictures 

Vanish, edited by Paul Schimmel, Scalo, 

1996, 256 pp., BP 65.

Produced in association with the Los Angeles 

Museum of Contemporary Art, this 

authoritative account of Polke's work ranges 

from the 1960s to the `90s, and includes 

unpublished prints made last winter. The 

survey includes critical essays, a 

chronological record of Polke exhibitions 

and a bibliography, and will undoubtedly 

become an indispensable reference for one of 

Germany's most famous artists.

La Jetee, Cine-Roman, by Chris Marker, 1996, 

Zone Books and MIT Press, 256 pp., $26.50.

The film-inspired reissue of books is not 

outside the realm of Zone Books. This 

legendary science-fiction film about time 

and memory after a nuclear apocalypse was 

released in 1964 and is considered by many 

to be among the greatest experimental films 

ever made--or at least the most lyrical. 

This Zone edition reproduces the film's 

black-and-white stills along with the script 

in both English and French. A reissue of 

Marker's original cine-roman of 1993 (now 

out of print), it follows the success of 

Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, which was 

loosely based on Marker's text.

Gloria Sutton lives and works in New York.