Art and Architecture

Strange Bedfellows: Pope Francis and Leo Steinberg

December 27, 2013
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Strange Bedfellows: Pope Francis and Leo Steinberg

Leo Steinberg (1920–2011) was an art historian whose focus extended from the Renaissance to the modern, and who left a critical legacy on several generations of scholars, critics, and artists. One of his classic works. The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, addressed the as-yet-unsuspected eroticism of the iconographies devoted to Christ and Mary, which generated much controversy throughout Steinberg’s career. In a recent piece for the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Lee Siegel uses Steinberg’s writing as a lens for understanding the correlation between Pope Francis’s embrace of gay Catholics and his devotion to the poor and afflicted. Here, Siegel notes a central tenet of Steinberg’s book, specifically that, “as a result of the rise of the Franciscan order, around 1260, an emphasis on Christ’s nakedness, and, thus, on his humanity, joined compassion to an acceptance of the role of sexuality in human life.” Siegel points out that a Renaissance-era credo of the Franciscan order, from which Pope Francis takes his name, was nudus nudum Christum sequi (“follow naked the naked Christ”). He goes on to account for how Steinberg’s art historical thesis implies a theological premise imperative to positions taken by the current Pope on . . .

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The Studio Reader and the 2014 Whitney Biennial

November 19, 2013
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The Studio Reader and the 2014 Whitney Biennial

In 2010, we published The Studio Reader, an anthology of writings on artists and their spaces—metaphorical and literal, spatial and conceptual—helmed by Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner. We were delighted to learn Grabner had been selected as one of three curators for the 2014 Whitney Biennial (and just as equally pleased to see her here in the company of Anthony Elms, editor of WhiteWalls, a publisher of writings by artists distributed by the University of Chicago Press; we’re certain their companion co-curator Stuart Comer is of sound mind, but we can’t directly link him to our operation with any sort of understated eloquence). Now that the list of Biennial artists has been released, a bit more reason to celebrate the book: contributors Shana Lutker and David Robbins will both be included in the show, which opens on March 1, 2014. In the meantime, The Studio Reader remains a meaningful foray into questions both sobering and dynamic about the role of the studio in the lives and work of contemporary artists:  What does it mean to be in the studio? What is the space of the studio in the artist’s practice? How do studios help artists envision their agency and, beyond that, . . .

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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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