Art and Architecture

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, Brown was able to translate his various positions into . . .

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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, failing schools, abject hopelessness. Yet amid the bleak circumstances that envelop so much of the African-American community, a singularly . . .

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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 church. . . . To experience Vergara’s photos is to live, . . .

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Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence

October 4, 2013
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Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence

Deborah Solomon’s American Mirror: The Life and Work of Norman Rockwell takes on the touted icon of American normalcy with a bit of a charge—paralleling the illustrator’s rise at the Saturday Evening Post with the unraveling of his marriages (some occasioned by loss) and his close friendships with other men. By the time the artist was invited to dinner with the Eisenhowers, he was deeply engaged in therapy with Erik Erikson. There are lots more anecdotes from Solomon over at the Smithsonian Magazine, including a bit about Andy Warhol’s fascination with and attendance at Rockwell’s first, late-in-life gallery show. Before there was Solomon’s biography, there was Richard Halpern’s Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence, which argues that that the sense of innocence we locate in Rockwell’s work arises from our reluctance—and also Rockwell’s—to acknowledge its often disturbing dimensions (lust, desire, voyeurism, perversion), even though these acts remain more or less hidden in plain sight. As Halpern notes: “To lay my cards on the table right away: the kinds of material that Rockwell’s work both exposes and disavows are to no small degree sexual in nature. The claim that forms of sexuality, often perverse, find a place in so wholesome and apparently innocent . . .

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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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