University of California Press, 224 pp., $29.95 (paper)
They should have called it Behind the Art: The Making of the Whitney Museum. Frames of Reference is divided into three sections: a charming biography of Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney; a collection of 26 double-paged spreads that give the once-over-lightly to 26 Whitney works; and the final section, which covers 10 other significant Whitney works in satisfying college-art-history-seminar detail. That section, American Icons Interpreted, is the sort of thing that leads people to stay in college forever. Each of the 10 paintings has three thoughtful short essays explaining and clarifying works like William J. Glacken's Hammerstein's Roof Garden, Alexander Calder's Circus, and Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning. Like high-quality college lectures or a good documentary, these essays take you deeply into the paintings. While not a book for the art professional, Frames does do a nice job of covering the Whitney collection.
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