Art and Architecture

Press Release: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

September 25, 2006
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Press Release: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City is the first book to fully explore Burnham’s Plan, the defining document of American urban planning. As Smith relates, Burnham and his coauthor, Edward Bennett, were careful to leave no part of the city untouched. The Plan of Chicago called for an extensive greenbelt around Lake Michigan, recreational parks throughout the city’s limits, a streamlined transportation system, and cultural amenities like the Field Museum of Natural History. Streets were widened, bridges constructed, and even the Chicago River itself was straightened. Smith takes a closer look at Burnham as well as his contemporaries at the Commercial Club of Chicago, showing how their influence shaped the city itself. The Plan, Smith reveals, embodied their belief in the humanizing—or dehumanizing—effects of one’s environment. And at a time when everything essentially “American” was changing, The Plan suggested that human will could, in fact, change history. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Bruegmann, Sprawl

September 7, 2006
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Review: Bruegmann, Sprawl

A review written for the Times Literary Supplement summarizes Robert Bruegmann’s latest work, Sprawl: A Compact History, as a “polemic issue with one of the great environmental issues of today: how to reconcile the burgeoning demand for detached greenfield settings with the limits on the use of land, energy resources, and the loss of traditional urban cultures and identities.” While the detractors of suburbanization call it sprawl and assert that it is economically inefficient, socially inequitable, environmentally irresponsible, and aesthetically ugly, Bruegmann calls it a logical consequence of economic growth and the democratization of society, with benefits that urban planners have failed to recognize. The TLS review applauds this unique perspective on the suburbs saying: “In the 20th century the suburbs had bad press. Bruegmann compensates with a book that will be uncomfortable to read for many but is elegantly written and fair to nearly all points of view. Anybody interested in the future of planning policy will have to read it.” Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Hyman, The Objective Eye

August 31, 2006
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Review: Hyman, The Objective Eye

The onset of the modernist movement in western art marked the decline of realism from its place of dominance. In sharp contrast to the realist attempt to imitate the natural world, the moderns saw their art, instead, as an extension of it. But while the modernist movement may have dismissed realism as an “illusionistic” or a “mechanical enterprise,” in The Objective Eye author John Hyman takes a radical new approach to the genre that explores these works as subjects of a much deeper aesthetic interest. Edward Skidelsky writes in a recent review for the New Statesman: “The Objective Eye… scrupulously dissects the various myths and confusions surrounding the concept of depiction, with the aim of rehabilitating realism as ‘one kind of excellence in art.'” Skidelsky applauds Hyman’s work for “championing what sees as the natural, and pre-theoretical stance of artists themselves” and reinvigorating interest in the realist genre in the context of twentieth century criticism. Philosophers, art historians, and students of the arts will find The Objective Eye to be a challenging and absorbing read. . . .

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Review: Guthrie, The Nature of Paleolithic Art

August 25, 2006
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Review: Guthrie, The Nature of Paleolithic Art

Who created the cave art of the Paleolithic era? And why? In some academic quarters, those questions are regarded as more or less settled, and so R. Dale Guthrie’s book, The Nature of Paleolithic Art has been received about as warmly as the Ice Age. However, in her review of the book in the August 18 issue of the Times Higher Education Supplement, Nadia Durrani recognizes that the answers to those basic questions “remain unclear.” Durrani found Guthrie’s book a “fascinating and compulsive read” even as she acknowledges that it is “a controversial book.” (Readers of this blog will have noted our previous postings that have excerpted bits of Guthrie’s book to convey some of the fascinating content of the book. Plus we have all of the preface available online.) What is Guthrie’s thesis? The hot button that has drawn attention—and fire— is that much of the surviving Paleolithic art was not created by shamans for religious purposes or done purely for art’s sake, but was done by “testosterone-laden” young boys. Guthrie’s evidence for so radical a theory? Durrani explains: Guthrie’s thesis draws its main impetus … from the surprisingly limited themes dealt with by the art. Although Palaeolithic art . . .

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Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

August 15, 2006
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Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

In the August 11 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education columnist Richard Byrne takes note of the recent “flurry of scholarly work” that “has opened up new vistas in the history of Dada.” Byrne reviews several new contributions to the subject including The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. An excerpt from Byrne’s review follows: Expanding Dada’s reach and placing it in a wider context is the aim of another new collection, The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. Edited by Dawn Ades, a professor of art history and theory at the University of Essex, The Dada Reader pulls together the key excerpts from the explosion of Dada journals between 1916 and 1924. Not only does the new anthology present dozens of texts that have never been available in English, but it also brings in journals far from Dada’s traditional loci in Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United States—including ones from the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. The revolutionary Dada movement, though short-lived, produced a vast amount of creative work in both art and literature during the years that followed World War I. Rejecting all social and artistic conventions, Dadaists went to the extremes of provocative behavior, creating anti-art pieces that ridiculed and . . .

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An endangered species of publishing

August 2, 2006
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An endangered species of publishing

An article in the August 4 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Susan Bielstein, our executive editor for art and architecture: “The art monograph is now seriously endangered and could well outpace the silvery minnow in its rush to extinction.” Publishing art monographs is financially challenging, for the author and for the publisher. To obtain an image of a work of art suitable for reproduction, the author usually has to pay a permission fee to the owner of the work—a museum, say—even if the work itself is in the public domain. An author might shell out tens of thousands of dollars for such fees. Costs are high for the publisher as well, what with color illustrations, coated paper stock, and the durable binding needed for a hefty, oversized book. The CHE article discusses the state of art-history publishing at several university presses and a forthcoming Mellon-funded report, “Art History and Its Publications in the Electronic Age.” The article concludes: “All parties agree that it is harder than ever to navigate what Ms. Bielstein calls ‘the ecosystem of rights publishing.’ What’s fair use? Should a museum be able to charge for a reproducible image of an out-of-copyright object in . . .

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Review: Wu Hung, Remaking Beijing

July 27, 2006
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Review: Wu Hung, Remaking Beijing

The July 14 issue of the Times Literary Supplement carried a review by Jonathan Mirsky of four books about Asian cities. Two of the books concerned Beijing and included Wu Hung’s Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space. Wu Hung’s book on Tiananmen Square, wrote Mirsky, “is a well-informed history of the transformation of the rather small, crowded, asymmetrical space, partly flanked by timber houses, in front of the Forbidden City, into a vast 50-acre ‘guangchang,’ a square, the biggest man-made space in the world.” Wu Hung, continues Mirsky, explains “why Tiananmen was the focus of the 1989 demonstration, why it attacted Chinese from all over the country—and why the leadership took the uprising especially seriously, because of where it took place.” . . .

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Press release: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

July 21, 2006
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Press release: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible and the challenge for mapmakers to make visible a place that was geographically inaccessible and yet real, remote in time and yet still the scene of an essential episode of the history of salvation. A history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply reflective thoughts about the ultimate destiny of all human life have been molded—and remolded—generation by generation. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Gilfoyle, Millennium Park

July 17, 2006
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Review: Gilfoyle, Millennium Park

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune carried a review by Lois Wille of Timothy J. Gilfoyle’s Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark. Wille pronounces the book “fascinating and gorgeous,” but also makes clear that the book is more than just pretty pictures. Wille, who has made significant contributions of her own to the history of Chicago’s lakefront, pays particular attention to Gilfoyle’s account of the political and philanthropic machinations necessary to create Millennium Park. Gilfoyle, says Wille, “has wise things to say about Millennium Park’s lessons for the economic health of Chicago and other postindustrial cities with global aspirations.” We have a Millennium Park trivia quiz. . . .

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Press release: Gilfoyle, Millennium Park

July 16, 2006
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Press release: Gilfoyle, Millennium Park

In the extraordinary spirit of vision and ambition that characterized the Columbian Exposition of 1893, where new and exciting innovations in art, architecture, and urban design were so dramatically unveiled on a world stage, Millennium Park opened in downtown Chicago two years ago. Featuring now iconic works by Frank Gehry, Anish Kapoor, Jaume Plensa, and Kathryn Gustafson, the park was promptly hailed in newspapers and magazines across the country as an incomparable global tourist destination and a crowning achievement for the city of Chicago. With more than 500 images (and most in color), this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of how Millennium Park came to be. Read the press release. You may also take our trivia quiz. . . .

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