Art and Architecture

We are here

July 23, 2013
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We are here

Ideas don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does the University of Chicago Press. We share a corner of a immensely beautiful campus where Gothic structures mingle with modernist marvels, and a who’s who of architects give the Loop a run for its money (people aren’t quite lining up to stare down from the top of the Logan Center yet, but just give it time!). Even our heating and chiller plants are stunning, an especially lucky fact since the Press building overlooks the towering South Campus Chiller Plant with its engineering inner workings fully on display. But while they make impressive photo ops and allow for games of spot-the-gargoyle, why the gothic buildings? Why did the forward-thinking university start with an architectural style that was centuries old? The answer lies in the beautifully illustrated new book Building Ideas: An Architectural Guide to the University of Chicago. *** For the physical plan and architectural design, the founding trustees considered six local firms. Chicago’s architectural talent was adept at executing large projects, maintaining budgets, and creating designs that consistently impressed (albeit grudgingly) the critics from the East Coast. Chicago School architects designed for a demanding city: for developers who craved square footage, for . . .

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“One of the Fine Arts” by Roger Grenier

March 29, 2013
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“One of the Fine Arts” by Roger Grenier

“One of the Fine Arts” by Roger Grenier, from A Box of Photographs (2013, translated by Alice Kaplan) After the war, the street photographers came back to the city. On the boulevard Saint-Michel, like just about everywhere in the world, they took pictures of the passers-by and handed them a ticket. If you wanted to, you could return later, show your ticket, and pick up your portrait on the front of a postcard. Every time it happened to me, I thought about Panaït Istrati, the Romanian vagabond whose stories I loved for their savage hymns to freedom. He practiced his art in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais. I had a new camera. To replace the Voigtländer, I bought an old Rolleicord on sale (actually, my mother bought it when someone came into her shop and offered to sell it). So I remained faithful to the model of the poor man’s Rollei. But I’d become a journalist and little did I know that my job would force me to give up photography for years, because of union regulations. Reporters were not allowed to take photos. We used to travel as a team: a reporter, a photographer, and a chauffeur. Thomas . . .

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York

February 25, 2013
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York

In 1979, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio founded their longtime interdisciplinary design studio and collaborative architectural practice, which would eventually become (with the addition of Charles Renfro in 1997) Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Their “project-based” interventions (air quotes to emphasize the unpredictability and aplomb with which they deconstruct, resurrect, and alter the confines of conceptual inquiries into space and place), honored with a MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1999, have included everything from the High Line—an urban redesign of a former elevated railroad spur— and streaming new media to the focused construction of contemporary art museums and a stretched-canopy entranceway to the tents of New York Fashion Week. Edward Dimendberg’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture after Images is the first comprehensive inquiry into their varied cultural works, and it carefully traces their evolving forms alongside their relationship to earlier modernist practitioners. This past week, the book launched in accompaniment with a discussion involving the architects at New York’s Storefront for Art + Architecture. Included here are some candid snapshots that capture the conversation (as well as the packed house). More on the book can be found here. . . .

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2012 PROSE Awards

February 11, 2013
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2012 PROSE Awards

The 2012 PROSE Awards, announced February 7, 2013, “annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories.” Since 1976, the Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have bestowed the awards on deserving recipients—and among them, we’re delighted to see several University of Chicago Press books acknowledged. Congrats to all the winners and honorable mentions! *** The awards for History of Science, Medicine, and Technology featured a clean sweep by Chicago, led by Daniela Bleichmar’s Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment, which traces both the little-known history of scientific expeditions in the Hispanic Enlightenment and the history of visual evidence in both science and administration in the early modern Spanish empire. An Honorable Mention was awarded to Sachiko Kusukawa’s Picturing the Book of Nature: Image, Text, and Argument in Sixteenth-Century Human Anatomy and Medical Botany, a consideration of the works three early modern learned authors who dealt with botany and anatomy—Leonhart Fuchs, Conrad Gessner, and Andreas Vesalius—and how their illustrations were integral to producing a visual argument for the scientific study of nature. A . . .

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2012: A Year in Books

December 21, 2012
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2012: A Year in Books

In wrapping of the year’s best-of-2012 lists, we couldn’t help but single out the University of Chicago Press titles that made the cut as reads worth remembering. With that in mind, here’s a list of our books that earned praise as cream of the crop here and abroad, from scholarly journals, literary blogs, metropolitan newspapers, and the like. If you’re looking, might we (and others) recommend—          A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava made the Philadelphia City Paper’s Best of the Year list named one of the best books of the year by the Houston Chronicle included in Bookriot’s list of the five most overlooked books of 2012 picked as the book of the year by a bookseller at the Oxford Blackwell’s: “ feel so evangelical about I want to run around screaming ‘YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE INCOMPLETE,’ in Billy Graham style.” named one of the ten best fiction books of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal named by Wall Street Journal fiction editor Sam Sacks as one of his own favorite fiction books of 2012 named by Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker as one of his top books of . . .

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On the Animated GIF and the V-P Debate

October 12, 2012
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On the Animated GIF and the V-P Debate

In On the Animation of the Inorganic: Art, Architecture, and the Extensions of Life, Sypros Papapetros argues for an abridged history of animated life, locating the “peripheral” and “eccentric” animated objects at the margins of modernism someplace between Freud’s overdetermined elements and diagrammatic, simulating metaphors of life and movement. He willingly takes on the complimentarity between subject and object that animation infers (at one point citing the response of a young victim to a kind of Pokémon hysteria induced by the rapid flashes and hypercolor intensity of the Japanese cartoon as a seizure both “spatiotemporal and epistemological”). Positing the animation of inanimate objects as part of a deeper project of how twentieth-century modernist culture repressed empathy, Papapetros suggests that the animation of the image comes at the expense of its human subject—which got us to thinking. Watching the commentary—literally watching, since so much is the product of YouTube clips and re-Tumbled images—following last night’s vice-presidential debate has been a stupefying morning experience. My brain has long since been trained to ride the contours of Papapetros’s epistemological shockwaves—more often saturated than not by animated-GIF culture and the new media aesthetic, I’m more profoundly taken aback when my generation’s response to realtime . . .

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Laura Letinsky: Venus Inferred

October 11, 2012
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Laura Letinsky: Venus Inferred

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #54, 2002. © Laura Letinsky “People want perfection, even if it’s a falsehood,” is the observation proffered by photographer Laura Letinsky in a recent New York Times overview of her work, establishing the stakes her images subtlely, and often intimately overturn. The article goes on to consider Letinsky’s assignments for a variety of glossy magazines—Bon Appétit, Brides, and Martha Stewart Living, among them—that would seemingly eschew her favored aesthetic: the banal objects of our everyday (foods, bodies) in states of disarray, consuming and consumptive, half-eaten, leg-locked, caught mid-meal or in flagrante delicto. But instead of rejecting Letinsky’s painstakingly detailed dis-compositions, these otherwise static, commodity-infused, well-coiffed periodicals have embraced the “tiny details” of her “chaos.” If there is room in late-capitalist culture for a movement like slow food, with its preservation of traditional cuisines and pursuit of sustainability, it might be worth asking if Letinsky’s work responds to a virtual slow cultural hegemony—here the dominant worldview, with its norms that sustain our existence (how we view the rules of eating, sleeping, sexing) still impinges its implications upon us, but our resistance is to strip them bare and backward. Letinsky’s photographs show the world as it is—contextualization isn’t lost, but . . .

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John Heartfield: Agitated Images

October 3, 2012
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John Heartfield: Agitated Images

John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld, 1891–1968)—montagist, rotugravurer, shock animator, and inspiration for the song “Mittageisen” by Siouxsie and the Banshees—literally changed the face of political art in the twentieth century. For Heartfield, the montage form he famously adapted not only allowed him to maintain control of legibility—by jarring expectations of genre and content in order to solicit the gaze—but to expose fascism by harnessing images as weapons capable of disseminating information in discursive ways, on as broad a scale as possible. In John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage, Andrés Mario Zervigón charts the evolution of Heartfield’s photomontage from an act of antiwar resistance into one of the most important combinations of avant-garde art and politics in the twentieth century. What follows below is a short excerpt from the book, which traces then-Herzfeld’s opposition to the war to new acts of performative resistance, found in both new forms and new stakes w/r/t personal identity. *** John Heartfield, The Performance Perhaps not coincidentally, near this moment in June 1917, Helmut Herzfeld informally Anglicized his name as a brazen protest against the war. The first extant mention of this new moniker is in a letter from . . .

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Frank Oppenheimer: Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens

September 27, 2012
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Frank Oppenheimer: Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens

From Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and His Astonishing Exploratorium by K. C. Cole CODA: LIVING A FRUITFUL LIFE Speech to the 1960 graduating class of Pagosa Springs High School by Frank Oppenheimer I am grateful for the life I have lived. It has certainly not been as full as the lives of some people, and yet it has probably been richer in experience and in a sense of accomplishment than the lives of many. I think that part of the sense of having lived a full and a rich life comes from an inability to continually take things seriously—but not too personally. Of a willingness, even a determination, to become deeply involved in what you are doing, but not obsessed by it. What have you taken seriously? What has involved a lot of your attention, your time and worry: I can mention a tremendous variety of things: your school work, ball games, county fairs, science fairs, plays, concerts, talent shows, to name some of the obvious ones. But also some of you have been involved with a job or with the putting up of hay or doctoring sick animals. you have been concerned with events in your family, . . .

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Disneyland Dream and utopian home movies

July 19, 2012
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Disneyland Dream and utopian home movies

“Put another way, tradition and community are not mere inheritances passively received form the past and certainly not merely fetters on human freedom. Tradition, to early nineteenth-century workers, included both their craft skills and the rights they claimed for this “human capital” against the incursions of inhuman capital. Tradition is in part the process by which successful claims to rights are reproduced in each generation. Some of these rights may be encoded in formal law; all are underpinned by transmissions of culture and understanding. Not only does the reproduction of tradition require action (and therefore always involves the production of new culture at the same time). It may also require struggle, when the claims posed within tradition—to justice, for example, or fairness or food when hungry—are attacked by other ideas—say of efficiency or one-sided revisions of property rights. Likewise, community is both an achievement and a capacity. It constitutes a field of action within which people can pursue the objects of their lives. It may be more or less egalitarian but usually empowers some more than others. It constrains more than enables. But is also incorporates investments made—sometimes over generations—in building it. It is not only a ground for individual . . .

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