Art and Architecture

Terror and Wonder: our free ebook for September

September 2, 2014
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Terror and Wonder: our free ebook for September

For more than twenty years now, Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune has explored how architecture captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Kamin treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Terror and Wonder gathers the best of Kamin’s writings from the past decade along with new reflections on an era framed by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the opening of the world’s tallest skyscraper.

Assessing ordinary commercial structures as well as head-turning designs by some of the world’s leading architects, Kamin paints a sweeping but finely textured portrait of a tumultuous age torn between the conflicting mandates of architectural spectacle and sustainability. For Kamin, the story of our built environment over the past ten years is, in tangible ways, the story of the decade itself. Terror and Wonder considers how architecture has been central to the main events and crosscurrents in American life since 2001: the devastating and debilitating consequences of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; the real estate boom and bust; the use of over-the-top cultural designs as engines of civic renewal; new challenges . . .

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“Never have empty bedrooms looked so full.”

July 3, 2014
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gilbertson_bedrooms cover

The Fourth of July will be marked tomorrow, as usual, with barbecues and fireworks and displays of patriotic fervor.

This year, it will also be marked by the publication of a book that honors patriotism–and counts its costs–in a more somber way: Ashley Gilbertson’s Bedrooms of the Fallen. The book presents photographs of the bedrooms of forty soldiers–the number in a platoon–who died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The bedrooms, preserved by the families as memorials in honor of their lost loved ones, are a stark, heartbreaking reminder of the real pain and loss that war brings. As NPR’s The Two-Way put it, “Never have empty bedrooms looked so full.”

 

{Marine Corporal Christopher G. Scherer, 21, was killed by a sniper on July 21, 2007, in Karmah, Iraq. He was from East Northport, New York. His bedroom was photographed in February 2009.}

A moving essay by Gilbertson tells the story of his work on the project, of how he came to it after photographing the Iraq War, and about the experience of working with grieving families, gaining their trust and working to honor it. As Philip Gourevitch writes in his foreword, “The need to see America’s twenty-first-century war dead, . . .

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Nancy Holt (1938–2014)

February 12, 2014
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Nancy Holt (1938–2014)

From Spiral Jetta: A Road Trip through the Land Art of the American West by Erin Hogan:

The morning after my Spiral Jetty foray, I was ecstatic. So far I was doing exactly what I had set out to do. I had left Chicago with some trepidation, but I had pushed through 1,664 miles and hit my first landmark. Flush with success, I spontaneously decided to try and find Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1976). Holt was Smithson’s wife, an artist in her own right, who shared his drive to marry the natural world with the personal artistic statement. The Sun Tunnels are four giant concrete tubes (eighteen feet long and about nine feet in diameter) in the middle of nowhere, positioned such that at dawn and sunset on the summer and winter solstices, the sun rises and sets in alignment with the tubes; they perfectly frame the sun. At other times, holes in the sides of the tubes form constellations in their interior when the sun shines through them.

I liked the idea of this temporal precision—and the uncertain nature of the work’s existence for the thousands of minutes every year that it . . .

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Excerpt: Robert B. Pippin’s After the Beautiful

January 23, 2014
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Excerpt: Robert B. Pippin’s After the Beautiful

Excerpt from After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism by Robert B. Pippin

There are many reasons to be skeptical that anything of value can result from trying to project Hegel into the future like this. After all, anyone who has heard anything about Hegel has probably heard that he said two things: that philosophy was its own time understood in thought, and some summary of the following remarks.

In all these respects art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. What is now aroused in us by works of art is not just immediate enjoyment but our judgment also, since we subject to our intellectual consideration (i) the content of art, and (ii) the work of art’s means of presentation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of both to one another. The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it . . .

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Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto

January 15, 2014
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Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto

To see more images from former MacArthur Fellow and photographer Camilo José Vergara’s Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto, visit this spread at the Daily Mail.

. . .

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Strange Bedfellows: Pope Francis and Leo Steinberg

December 27, 2013
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Strange Bedfellows: Pope Francis and Leo Steinberg

Leo Steinberg (1920–2011) was an art historian whose focus extended from the Renaissance to the modern, and who left a critical legacy on several generations of scholars, critics, and artists. One of his classic works. The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, addressed the as-yet-unsuspected eroticism of the iconographies devoted to Christ and Mary, which generated much controversy throughout Steinberg’s career.

In a recent piece for the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Lee Siegel uses Steinberg’s writing as a lens for understanding the correlation between Pope Francis’s embrace of gay Catholics and his devotion to the poor and afflicted. Here, Siegel notes a central tenet of Steinberg’s book, specifically that, “as a result of the rise of the Franciscan order, around 1260, an emphasis on Christ’s nakedness, and, thus, on his humanity, joined compassion to an acceptance of the role of sexuality in human life.”

Siegel points out that a Renaissance-era credo of the Franciscan order, from which Pope Francis takes his name, was nudus nudum Christum sequi (“follow naked the naked Christ”). He goes on to account for how Steinberg’s art historical thesis implies a theological premise . . .

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The Studio Reader and the 2014 Whitney Biennial

November 19, 2013
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The Studio Reader and the 2014 Whitney Biennial

In 2010, we published The Studio Reader, an anthology of writings on artists and their spaces—metaphorical and literal, spatial and conceptual—helmed by Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner. We were delighted to learn Grabner had been selected as one of three curators for the 2014 Whitney Biennial (and just as equally pleased to see her here in the company of Anthony Elms, editor of WhiteWalls, a publisher of writings by artists distributed by the University of Chicago Press; we’re certain their companion co-curator Stuart Comer is of sound mind, but we can’t directly link him to our operation with any sort of understated eloquence). Now that the list of Biennial artists has been released, a bit more reason to celebrate the book: contributors Shana Lutker and David Robbins will both be included in the show, which opens on March 1, 2014.

In the meantime, The Studio Reader remains a meaningful foray into questions both sobering and dynamic about the role of the studio in the lives and work of contemporary artists:  What does it mean to be in the studio? What is the space of the studio in the . . .

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J. Carter Brown and Capital Culture

November 18, 2013
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J. Carter Brown and Capital Culture

Neil Harris’s Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience tells the story of J. Carter Brown, an aesthetic impresario whose tenure as director of the National Gallery of Art from 1969 to 1992 transformed twentieth-century museum culture and left a legacy of flashy showmanship, global clout, and unprecedented growth. Below follows an excerpt from the book, taken from the chapter “Minister of Culture: Shaping Washington,” which finds Brown positioning his roles at the National Gallery and the Commission of Fine Arts into something akin to an unofficial minster of culture.

***

Writing to Carter Brown in 1960, in response to the news of his planned move to Washington, his friend Tony Athos ventured a prediction. The presidential campaign was still going on, but Athos prophesied that when “we get a President who can provide moral, intellectual as well as economic leadership, I have no doubt that you will be the youngest cabinet member in history & the first for culture.” Despite John F. Kennedy’s election, the United States would not create a cabinet position for culture. But beginning in the 1970s, . . .

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Huey Copeland’s Bound to Appear

October 31, 2013
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Huey Copeland’s Bound to Appear

Partial excerpt: “Introduction: The Blackness of Things,”

 from Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America

by Huey Copeland

***

In Bound to Appear, I explore the significance of transatlantic slavery within critical aesthetic practice at the close of the twentieth century, when, for the first time in history, an appreciable number of artists of non-European ancestry figured prominently in the mainstream United States art world. What emerges from this study is a detailed picture of a how a generation of African American practitioners in the late 1980s and early ’90s negotiated both racialized discourses and art-historical antecedents in framing their work, recasting the appearance of blackness, and making common cause with marked subjects the world over.

While few scholars have tried their hands at charting this terrain, the aesthetic and political contradictions that black artists and their audiences confronted did not go unnoticed at the time; indeed, they were heralded and discussed at length in the pages of Time magazine:

So often, the news from black America seems to be all bad: crime, broken families, . . .

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Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto

October 18, 2013
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Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto

Camilo José Vergara is the kind of person of whom it might be said, “the epithet ‘polymath’ wouldn’t be cliché.” His photographic work, which often applies a time-lapsed and documentary style to the de-urbanization of American cityscapes, is both complicated and mirrored by his interests as a sociologist and ethnographer, themselves often focused on fracture, erosion, decline, and transformation. In 2002, he won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” which cemented his reputation as one of our foremost chroniclers of the “urban.” His most recent book Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto, sees him returning to many of the same locations over the course of decades (beginning in 1970) in order to document a community that is constantly changing, demographically and architecturally.

From a recent Publishers Weekly starred review of the book:

MacArthur Fellowship recipient Vergara’s archival stills are full of movement; the historic Baby Grand becomes King Party Center, a gift store, and then a Radio Shack. An ordinary address, 65 East 125th Street, first photographed in 1977, is transformed over the course of 13 photographs, becoming the Grocery Candy Smoke Shop, then a Sleepy’s, and finally, in 2011, a . . .

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