Picks and Pans Review: Ancient and Modern

updated 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Photographs by William Eggleston

Snapping the last piece into a jigsaw puzzle gives you a little thrill: Nothing missing, nothing left over, it's perfect and complete. An Eggleston photograph delivers a similar frisson. Each one is a puzzle—provocative, mysterious, yet fully resolved. An aristocratic Southerner of independent means and elliptically eloquent manner, Eggleston, 53, for the last couple decades has been radiating outward, with camera in hand, from Memphis and Mississippi to the rest of the U.S., England, Berlin, Egypt and South Africa.

Color is his language—an ineffable palette of meanings grounded in the sensuous and specific jigsaw jumble of the everyday world. Eggleston legitimized color photography in the art world with his one-man show at the Museum of Modem Art in New York City in 1976. Since then he has created hundreds of thousands of images, most of them unseen. This is only his third book. Summarizing his career, it makes a good introduction to his subtle harmonies and absorbing conundrums. For those who have long marveled at Eggleston's work, Ancient and Modern offers the greatest gift: new images, each an unerring, uncanny poem-puzzle. (Random House, $55)

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