Art and Architecture

Review: Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl

March 21, 2006
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Review: Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl

The Weekly Standard recently praised Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History. From the review by Vincent J. Cannato: "his book is a refreshing antidote to the avalanche of pessimism emanating from the so-called sprawl debate. As Bruegmann writes in his introduction, it seemed as if "so many ‘right-minded’ people were so vociferous on the subject that I began to suspect that there must be something suspicious about the argument itself." He approaches the topic with some much-needed skepticism toward these ‘right-minded’ critics and adds a healthy dose of nondogmatic libertarianism to the mix. The result is an eminently readable and rational book." In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, . . .

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Virginia Festival of the Book 2006

March 21, 2006
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Virginia Festival of the Book 2006

This week (March 22-26), Charlottesville hosts the Twelfth Annual Virginia Festival of the Book. This free event features readings, panels, and discussions with authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals. Four of our authors will participate: Joel Agee, translator of Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943 will appear on an "Individual Voices" panel on March 24, noon, at UVa Wilson Hall Auditorium, Room 402, (UVa Central Grounds) Johanna Drucker, author of Sweet Dreams will explore how artists draw inspiration and materials from popular culture on March 22, 2 p.m., at the UVa Art Museum, Pine Room (UVa Central Grounds) Louise W. Knight, author of Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy will appear on the "19th Century Women: Biography" panel on March 25, noon, at New Dominion (404 E. Main Street) Lawrence Weschler, author of A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces will interview comic artist Art Spiegelman on March 25, 8 p.m., at the Culbreth Theatre (UVa Central Grounds). Weschler will make a second appearance, lecturing on modern art on March 26, 1:30 p.m., at the Culbreth Theatre (UVa Central Grounds) Read an excerpt from The End. Read an excerpt from Sweet Dreams. Read an excerpt from . . .

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Guthrie in the New Mexican

March 20, 2006
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Guthrie in the New Mexican

Last week, the New Mexican featured an article about R. Dale Guthrie’s new book, The Nature of Paleolithic Art. Guthrie’s book has been eliciting media attention because of his theory that many Paleolithic era cave paintings were done by "testosterone-laden" young boys. From the Associated Press article by Dan Joling: Most books on Pleistocene art focus on the best of the era, images produced by highly skilled hands. The Mammoth Steppe, the portion of the northern hemisphere that stayed ice-free while much of the Earth was covered by Ice Age glaciation, was rich in deposits of earth pigments, such as red, orange and yellow iron oxides. Paleolithic artists sometimes applied them by brush, sometimes by chewing and spitting in a fine, dry spray, producing a stipple. "Most prehistorians think of adults doing all these things," Guthrie said. Many scholars also contend that most of the art was done by shamans for religious purposes—pictures to please the gods, or bless a hunt or dramatize a shaman’s vision. Overlooked, Guthrie said, are thousands of less sophisticated drawings that he believes have a more mundane origin. More than half the population was teenage or younger. With artists tools available, Guthrie said, it’s highly . . .

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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

March 2, 2006
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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is a short excerpt from the book: The Identity of the People Who Made the Handprints: Statistical Results “First, the statistical analyses tell us that the majority of the Paleolithic artists who left these handprint stencils in caves were young people. But they also show a great diversity of ages. As noted by other researchers, some prints were made by very young children (younger even than those in my baseline sample). Two hand images are so small that the toddler/baby had to have been carried back into the cave. These occur in Gargas Cave in southern France, which is unusual in having passageways that are easy to traverse and an easy entrance which remained open during much of the past. That is shown by the protohistoric, Gallo-Roman, and medieval graffiti carved in the cave wall. But this is not typical for Paleolithic caves; there are few deep caves one would try to visit with a . . .

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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

March 1, 2006
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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men. History’s fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn’t always been like this, and isn’t likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness. Ang Lee’s magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as . . .

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Paleolithic handprints

February 27, 2006
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Paleolithic handprints

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is an illustration and short excerpt from the book: Missing Fingers in Art: Ritual, Disease, Frostbite, or Kids Playing? “Many hand images in the French Gargas-Tibran cave complex and Cosquer and in Maltravieso Cave in Spain appear to have missing fingers or other malformations. These “disfigured” hands have fueled discussions for the last 100 years. Groenen (1987) has provided a review of this debate. The central issue, of course, is that virtually all apparent mutilations are also replicable by simply contorting fingers in the stenciled hand (as one does in shadow art). But many people still insist that these represent real ritual amputations. “More recent speculation on possible causes of these disfigured hands has focused on Raynaud’s disease, in which capillaries fail to respond normally by flushing with warm blood when hands or feet get cold. I find this explanation unconvincing, because Raynaud’s disease is seldom expressed in young men (Larson 1996), and the hands . . .

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Ancient Graffiti

February 15, 2006
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Ancient Graffiti

Contrary to popular belief, not all ancient cave art was created by senior male shamans. R. Dale Guthrie, author of The Nature of Paleolithic Art, reveals that many graphic scenes of sex and hunting were drawn by teenage male "graffiti artists." In an interview with LiveScience, Guthrie said, "Lots of the wild animals in the caves have spears in them and blood coming out of their mouths and everything that a hunter would be familiar with. These were the Ferraris and football games of their time. They painted what was on their minds." The LiveScience feature on Guthrie, which is accompanied by four cave images, can be read . . .

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Be my surreal valentine

February 13, 2006
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Be my surreal valentine

If you believe that love is better described as “the drunken kisses of cyclones” than the predictable cheesiness found in a Hallmark card, then you’ll be cheered by the paperback release of Surrealist Love Poems, edited by Mary Ann Caws. This collection from such luminaries as André Breton, Robert Desnos, and Paul Eluard celebrates the irrational, obsessive, impassioned, and erotic states of love, demonstrating throughout the truth of Breton’s words, that “the embrace of poetry like that of the flesh / As long as it lasts / Shuts out all the woes of the world.” The book also includes fourteen alluring photographs from the likes of Man Ray, Lee Miller, and Claude Cahun. Read three poems from the book. . . .

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Review: Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence

February 7, 2006
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Review: Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence

Aruna D’Souza reviewed four new books on Cézanne in the new issue of Bookforum, including Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture: "Cézanne and Provence manages definitively to rewrite this canonical artistic biography, in part through Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s close interrogation of the particular valence of Cézanne’s embrace of a Provençal regionalism in the last decades of his life, and through her examination of his ties to the culture of his birth throughout his career. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s thesis is simple and elegant: that Cézanne, far from being disengaged from the world in a hermitlike search for optical truth, was part of a group of intellectuals that included his closest childhood friends (such as, most familiarly, the poet and nationalist Joachim Gasquet) and whose Provençal patriotism was not at all out of step with a general regionalist impulse that took hold outside Paris in the mid-1880s. Thus, this group’s desire to preserve traditional Provençal culture, language, customs, and artifacts—all of which were being threatened by the homogenizing forces of modernization, industrialization, political centralization, and urban mass culture—was not part of a reactionary conservatism, argues Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, but (at least in those early years, before 1900) was perfectly in concert with leftist . . .

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“Much of what we think we know about sprawl is wrong”

January 30, 2006
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“Much of what we think we know about sprawl is wrong”

The Guardian featured an essay by Robert Bruegmann in their Saturday edition. “Just as Britain led the world in producing sprawl, so it also has led the world in trying to combat it,” writes Bruegmann. Sprawl has been a feature of London (and cities in general) for centuries, Bruegmann argues, and the conventional wisdom about the pernicious effects of sprawl is often wrong. See also our excerpt from the book. Bruegmann was also interviewed today in U.S. News and World Report. . . .

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