Art and Architecture

When Buildings Speak

January 18, 2007
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When Buildings Speak

Yet another title in our art and architecture catalog has received some favorable press, this time in the Nota Bene section of the January 12 Chronicle of Higher Education. In Richard Byrnes’ piece on Anthony Alofsin’s recent book, When Buildings Speak: Architecture as Language in the Hapsburg Empire and Its Aftermath, he notes that the Hapsburg Empire “spoke… in many diverse languages in a highly politicized context…” but that—as Alofsin’s book demonstrates—this struggle for cultural authority was also “fought in bricks and blueprints.” Byrnes article quotes Alofsin as he explains: “A rich architectural polyglotism in Austria-Hungary paralleled the varied languages of its people… not only were many architectural languages expressed simultaneously, but they reflected various and even opposing issues of ethnic and national identity, as well as conservative or liberal ideologies.” Thus, in When Buildings Speak readers can see how the multiplicity of cultures living under Hapsburg rule sought to express their autonomy by tapping into the limitless possibilities of art and architectural styles. Lavishly illustrated with newly commissioned color photographs, When Buildings Speak is essential reading not only for students of architecture but for anyone wanting to better understand the complex history and politics of the Austro-Hungarian region under . . .

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Review: Moser, Wondrous Curiosities

January 16, 2007
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Review: Moser, Wondrous Curiosities

In a review written for the January 9th edition of The Independent Nicola Smyth praises Stephanie Moser’s new book, Wondrous Curiosities: Ancient Egypt at the British Museum, for its revealing look at the powerful role of museums in shaping our understanding of science, culture, and history. According to Smyth, Moser’s book is a fascinating study of the ways the British Museum has extended the domain of western culture by appropriating not only the physical objects in its collection—but their cultural significance as well. Citing artifacts gained through looting or as trophies of war, to the considerations of pattern and juxtaposition meant to manipulate viewer’s perspectives of the objects on display, Smyth writes: Moser makes a compelling case that, throughout its early history, the British Museum’s attitude to its ancient Egyptian artifacts reinforced one basic message: that the story of the ancient world was one of a rise from primitive beginnings to the classical perfection of ancient Greece. The story, in other words, of the triumph of western art.&hellip Moser presents a picture of an institution in which—in the early years at least—the Egyptian antiquities were badly presented in ill-lit and overcrowded chambers, uncontextualized, and contrasted unfavorably with the classical Greek . . .

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W.J.T. Mitchell: Chicagoan of the Year

January 10, 2007
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W.J.T. Mitchell: Chicagoan of the Year

Cultural critic Julia Keller named U of C professor W.J.T. Mitchell one of 2006’s Chicagoans of the Year. In a piece published December 31, 2006 for the Chicago Tribune, Keller gives a brief synopsis of why she thinks Mitchell stands out, calling him “Chicago’s renaissance man,” and a “restless and vivid thinker who goes where his passionate interests lead him.” Topping her list of his accomplishments is his book What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images. Keller writes: This year brought fresh distinction to Mitchell’s scholarly expeditions. His latest book, What Do Pictures Want?… recently received the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association, the group’s annual award for best book. The citation lauded his “provocative and remarkably accessible collection of essays,” essays that consider aspects of the visual world such as monuments and paintings, advertising images and Dolly, the cloned sheep. Mitchell also reflects on the iconography of the World Trade Center and the meanings of 9/11. Mitchell’s new book is a wonderful addition to the large corpus of work he has already brought to the Press. Follow the links to find out more about some of our recent releases and web features from . . .

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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

December 21, 2006
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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

A recent review penned by the distinguished historian and scholar Anthony Grafton has much to say about Alessandro Scafi’s new book Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth. Writing for The New Republic Grafton praises the book’s detailed historical account of the various attempts—made throughout the Middle Ages to the Renaissance—to chart the geographical location of paradise. Grafton writes: becomes a sort of erudite Virgil, leading the reader on an extraordinary journey through thousands of texts and maps—a journey that ends up teaching many lessons not only about the visions of the world but about tradition and how it operates.… Scafi’s patient and scrupulous exegeses tease out the meanings of icons and symbols, and record the immensely varied visual and verbal conventions that the mapmakers devised, and make clear the extraordinary conceptual richness and density of the maps of paradise. Mapping Paradise is itself a masterly map of concepts and images whose logic has been lost with time.… Mapping Paradise does honor to its author and his teachers, as well as to the generations of scribes and miniaturists, exegetes and theologians, whose colorful world it charts with lucidity and insight. . . .

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Book of the Year: Zamora, The Inordinate Eye

December 5, 2006
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Book of the Year: Zamora, The Inordinate Eye

Towards the end of each year the Times Literary Supplement solicits the opinions of some of their favorite authors and critics to recommend their personal picks for the Books of the Year. This year we are pleased to note that Marina Warner—a prolific novelist, historian, and critic—has chosen Lois Parkinson Zamora’s The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction as one of her picks. Warner says: It has been a lift to read Lois Parkinson Zamora’s The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction, beautifully produced by the University of Chicago Press. She argues exhilaratingly that an aesthetic of fusion, adornment and exuberance rose phoenix-like in the aftermath of the conquest, shaping an influential mode of fantasy, as in the art and architecture of Mexico and the marvelous fictions of Borges. The first study of its kind in scope and ambition, The Inordinate Eye is an extraordinary critique of the arts in Latin America. . . .

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Review: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

November 28, 2006
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Review: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

In 1909 Daniel Burnham authored The Plan of Chicago—a work that would prove to be one of the most important and influential documents in the history of urban planning. A lavish tome that re-imagined not only Chicago but urban space generally, it included proposals for many of Chicago’s lakefront parks and roadways, the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and other distinctive features of the city. But what lead up to its creation, and what were the factors influencing Burnham’s revolutionary ideas? Enter Carl Smith’s new book The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. As noted by a recent review in the November 24 New York Sun Carl Smith’s new book is “a concise, splendidly accessible, and beautifully constructed introduction to seminal work of American urban planning and its enduring influence on Chicago and other American cities.” Praising Smith’s incisive take on Burnham’s work the review continues: “ writes particularly well, without padding or academic jargon, and admirable self-restraint: He tells us just enough about the men and the times that created The Plan of Chicago to make us want to learn more on our own. One can offer no higher praise for a writer.” . . .

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Press Release: Bogart, The Politics of Urban Beauty

November 27, 2006
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Press Release: Bogart, The Politics of Urban Beauty

What do public sculptures and murals have in common with sidewalks and trash cans? In New York, none of them can occupy city property without the approval of a single municipal agency. This colorful history of that agency, the Art Commission of the City of New York, tells the century-long story—involving artists, architects, business leaders, activists, and politicians—of how it shaped the way the entire city looks today. A former vice president of the ACNY, Michele Bogart narrates its history from an insider’s perspective, tracing the commission’s activities from its 1898 founding as an outgrowth of progressive reform to its role in New York’s reconstruction after 9/11. Drawing readers into the center of an art world that paralleled—and sometimes unpredictably intersected with—the more familiar realm of prominent architects, painters, galleries, and museums, The Politics of Urban Beauty tells a quintessentially New York tale that’s of utmost relevance to cities everywhere. Read the press release. . . .

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Rembrandt, Judaism, and the Dutch Golden Age

November 24, 2006
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Rembrandt, Judaism, and the Dutch Golden Age

As part of their 400th anniversary celebration of the birth of Rembrandt, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam will host “The Jewish Rembrandt“—a collection of the Dutch artist’s works that deal with Jewish themes. Rembrandt is popularly thought of as having a special affinity for Judaism, but this exhibition promises a more critical and in depth look at the impact of Jewish religion and culture on his work than ever before. The exhibit runs until February 4, 2007. But even if you can’t make it to Amsterdam, Steven Nadler’s new book Rembrandt’s Jews is a revealing exploration of Rembrandt’s work along similar lines. In his elegantly written and engrossing tour of Jewish Amsterdam, Steven Nadler tells us the stories of the artist’s portraits of Jewish sitters, of his mundane and often contentious dealings with his neighbors in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, and of the tolerant setting that city provided for Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews fleeing persecution in other parts of Europe. Through his detailed analysis of the Rembrant’s work, as well as that of several other prominant Dutch painters, Nadler is able to build a deep and complex account of the remarkable relationship between Dutch and Jewish cultures in . . .

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Press Release: Schapiro, Romanesque Architectural Sculpture

November 24, 2006
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Press Release: Schapiro, Romanesque Architectural Sculpture

A towering figure in twentieth-century intellectual life art historian Meyer Schapiro (1904-96) profoundly influenced the study of everything from twelfth-century sculpture to modern painting. He made his name as a young scholar, though, by helping to define and elevate the singular style of art known as Romanesque, and it was to the Romanesque that he returned when he was invited to deliver the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1967. In a labor of love, Linda Seidel—who attended Schapiro’s Norton lectures and came to know him through her own work—spent years transcribing and editing the originals to produce this long-awaited, handsomely illustrated volume. Combined with Seidel’s illuminating introduction placing these works in context and telling the story of their long journey to publication, Meyer Schapiro’s Norton lectures provide exciting new paths toward comprehending the depth and breadth of the master scholar’s original vision. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Alofsin, When Buildings Speak

November 24, 2006
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Press Release: Alofsin, When Buildings Speak

How can a building speak? Look, through Anthony Alofsin’s eyes at Budapest’s Royal Postal Savings Bank: its technologically advanced construction says modern no less clearly than the spoken word, while its references to Hungarian folk culture proclaim its historical roots. Revealing how such visual languages can express the conflicted identities of entire nations, in When Buildings Speak Alofsin leads readers on a lavishly illustrated tour of overlooked architectural brilliance. Featuring more than 150 color photographs specially commissioned to highlight the neglected yet rich architecture of Central Europe—from national theaters and crematoria to apartment buildings and warehouses—this study offers a new understanding of how people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its successor states expressed their cultural and political autonomy by tapping into the limitless possibilities of art and architectural styles. Read the press release. . . .

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