Architecture, Art, Book April 4, 2011 By Nalina Moses

filler29 Julius Shulman Los Angelesjs title Julius Shulman Los Angeles
Julius Shulman is famous for supremely elegant architectural photographs of California houses by modern masters like John Lautner, Oskar Schindler, and Charles and Rae Eames. But a new book, “Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis,” which showcases his personal and editorial work from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, features shots of less exalted buildings, as well as panoramas taken in and around LA. Another side of the photographer emerges, one that’s interested in the texture of the evolving city. His landscape photos are especially revealing, showing a metropolis emerging bit-by-bit as outlying farmlands and fields are given over to new school campuses, industrial complexes, and residential subdivisions.
     Whatever he’s photographing– a high school gymnasium, an assembly line, or a farm– Shulman composes the frame with the same forceful diagonal sight lines he uses in his architectural photos, lines that pull a viewer right in. That he’s able to structure views of everyday buildings like gas stations, car dealerships and diners in this manner is skillful. That he’s able to structure streetscapes and landscapes this way is remarkable. His forceful perspectives give even the broadest, most diffuse views a pointed, cinematic allure, one that’s entirely fitting given the business of the city.

Art, Book March 7, 2011 By Sarah Coleman

ny title1 New York A Photographers City
New York has always been a photographer’s city. The dynamic skyscrapers, the green spaces, the vibrant hustle of immigrant communities thrown together, has inspired a wide variety of photographers over the centuries. Some have been interested in the city as a focal point for social unease (Jacob Riis, Eugene Richards); others have been more concerned with capturing its beauty (Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott).
     Visit any bookstore in the city, and you’re likely to find more than a few photography books on New York. There are books on specific subcultures, like Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography, and beautiful historical survey photography books, like Reuel Golden’s New York: Portrait of a City. Until now, though, there hasn’t been a significant anthology of contemporary art photographers’ views of the city. That omission is addressed in New York A Photographer’s City (Rizzoli), a hefty coffee table book that features work by over 100 photographers.

Art, Book January 26, 2011 By Rachel A Maggart

title37 Doppelgänger
Splice, cut, burn, sharpen, dismember, Doppelgänger: Images of the Human Being, a new book from Gestalten, asks the question: just how do we mask or reveal our inner selves? Exploring current trends in physical abstraction, each of its seven chapters — Embody, Dissolve, Appeal, Reshape, Perform, Deform, and Escape — signifies a different approach to the technical manipulation we exact on our corporeal façades. Invoking Dada, Surrealism, high fashion, and industrial design aesthetics, Doppelgänger taps into our creative potential and art’s transformative agency (certainly apropos classical conventions). A host of contemporary artists show how digital media has shattered allegiances to da Vinci’s ideal proportions and equipped us with truly radical modes of expression, erasing or positing archetypes we never imagined.
     Highly stylized, Doppelgänger: Images of the Human Being is nevertheless earnest in conveying ironies inextricable to the human experience. We are chameleon creatures, ever morphing and reaching deep into ancient folklore to find our “true” identities. As Phyllis Galembo depicts natives in ritual (Ngar Ball Traditional Masquerade Dance, Cross River, Nigeria, 2004), other artists frame humans in the phantasmagorical and slightly grotesque (e.g. Madame Peripeti’s Pughatory series).

Architecture, Art, Book January 13, 2011 By Nalina Moses

BB title Building Brasilia
The fiftieth anniversary celebrations for the capital city of Brasilia in 2010 were an occasion for many to comment on its operational and design deficiencies, as well as those of the Brazilian government itself. In an earlier piece about the anniversary we noted how demographic shifts have challenged the city’s original master plan. These sorts of discussions, while necessary, tend to obscure the city’s ambitious, Utopian origins. Brasilia’s designers, urban planner Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, had shaped it to embody the most progressive political, social, and aesthetic concepts. A new book of photographs by Marcel Gautherot, “Building Brasilia,” that documents the city’s construction and early years, evokes these ideals with great power.
     Gautherot was a Paris-born photographer who trained as an architect and worked as an ethnographic photographer in the 1930’s, traveling within Mexico and Brazil to document traditional cultures. After serving in the French army in Senegal during World War II, he returned to Brazil and began a photography practice. There he crossed paths with Niemeyer, who would begin working with Costa on plans for the new city in 1956. At Niemeyer’s encouraging, Gautherot visited Brasilia repeatedly as it was under construction from 1957 to 1960, and then again several times in the 1970’s. While the bulk of his photographic oeuvre is comprised of ethnographic work, Gautherot’s photographs of Brasilia offer a thorough, cohesive portrait of the new city.

Art, Book, Greenspace November 11, 2010 By Sarah Coleman

Mine spoil piles and intersected water table, 1984 (Click to enlarge)

Mine spoil piles and intersected water table, 1984 (Click to enlarge)

head Colstrip, Montana
Last April, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy showed us how crude oil can devastate an environment. But it’s not just explosions or spills that have hazardous effects on our fragile ecosystem. Sometimes, damage can be continuous and insidious—like it is at Colstrip, an enormous coal mine in southeastern Montana. Colstrip has the distinction of being one of the nation’s dirtiest, most polluting plants: each hour, it belches more than 400 pounds of sulfuric acid into the air, and its waste also filters down to the local water table, spreading toxins far and wide.
    How do you convey this kind of unremitting, non-sensational damage? David T. Hanson took up the challenge, spending three years documenting the Colstrip plant and its surrounding town. His beautiful, melancholy images, which are now published in Colstrip, Montana (D.A.P.), were actually shot in the 1980s, but given our growing concerns about skyrocketing energy costs, peak oil, and environmental decay, they seem even more timely now.
    The images are unsettling for several reasons. Hanson has a keen eye for color and composition, and there’s a classical beauty to most of the photographs. Shot from above, even deep gashes in the landscape and irridescent green waste ponds can look attractive, like a Rothko or Diebenkorn canvas. Even in devastation, there is beauty: anyone who doubts that need only look at Joel Meyerowitz’s photographs of Ground Zero or Robert Polidori’s studies of empty rooms after Katrina.

Architecture, Book November 8, 2010 By Nalina Moses

Chapel, Valleaceron, Spain, 2001.  By Sancho Madridejos Architecture Office, from Closer to God, Copyright Gestalten 2010. (Click image to enlarge.)

Chapel, Valleaceron, Spain, 2001. By Sancho Madridejos Architecture Office, from Closer to God, Copyright Gestalten 2010. (Click image to enlarge.)

Title New Religious Architecture
The controversy over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero is surprising when one remembers that New York City is already rich with churches, temples, mosques, and storefronts selling supplies for vodun and santeria rites. It’s hard to remember when another building has caused such a fuss. What is it about this structure, which isn’t even a proper mosque, that stirs up such strong emotions? At a time when our culture seems to have become largely secular, how can a religious building still be regarded with talismanic powers?
    A new book that looks at contemporary houses of worship, “Closer to God: Religious Architecture and Sacred Spaces,” takes up that very question. The structures pictured are eclectic in style, scale, materials, and in the different religions they shelter. There’s a one-person meditation hut in rural New England, an intimate Buddhist shrine in Kyoto, and an auditorium-sized cathedral in Rome. There are churches poured in rough concrete, others built with engineered glass curtain walls, and one clad in battered zinc panels.
    If there’s anything these buildings have in common it’s the way that they employ pure geometries and natural light to evoke a spiritual dimension. In this sense, contemporary architects are following in the footsteps of their ancient counterparts. The use of idealized geometries like squares and circles, and the dramatic manipulation of daylight, are practices characteristic of traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic architecture.

Art, Book, Greenspace May 26, 2010 By Nalina Moses

filler71 newton creek

Photography courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

Photography by Anthony Hamboussi. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

filler71 newton creeknewtowntitle title newton creekAs we grow more and more distressed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s a good time to remember Newtown Creek, a similarly devastated body of water that runs right through Brooklyn and Queens. Once teeming with plant and animal life, the creek was polluted by decades of industrial dumping, and by the gradual leakage of 17 million gallons of oil from underground storage tanks. More than ninety-five acres of water and land were spoiled. Although a clean-up was undertaken in the 1990’s, the area remains too toxic for conventional development and was recently added to the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List.
     Brooklyn-based photographer Anthony Hamboussi traveled the length of the creek from 2001 to 2006 to compile Newtown Creek: A Photographic Survey of New York’s Industrial Waterway. His images poignantly capture the remains of what was once a thriving industrial culture. Waterfront plots are built up with factories, warehouses, silos,  smokestacks, and shipping piers, many abandoned and in disrepair. The creek itself is visible only in low, dark stretches, frozen in the winter and fetid in the summer. It looks more like a sewer than a natural body of water. Some factories along the shores remain active, but the only signs of natural life are weeds sprouting up through the paving.

Book May 13, 2010 By Nika Knight

Edible Estate Regional Prototype Garden #5: Austin, Texas, 2008. Commissioned by Arthouse for the exhibit Fritz Haeg: Attack on the Front Lawn. Photography by Fritz Haeg. All images are courtesy of Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.

Portrait of Fritz Haeg by Oto Gillen. All images are courtesy of Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.

edibleestates title2 Edible EstatesFormerly a fringe movement, the concept of edible gardening might now officially be called a nationwide trend (after all, even Michelle Obama is doing it). The premise? To rid our suburbs of resource-draining expanses of green lawns and replace them with sustaining — and sustainable — vegetable gardens. Since the first edition of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, by author and activist Fritz Haeg, was published in 2008, the edible landscaping movement has only gained followers.
     Last month saw the release by Metropolis Books of the greatly expanded second edition of Edible Estates, which documents the eight regional prototype food gardens that Haeg designed and planted in California, Kansas, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and England. Alongside countrywide reports from individuals who have planted their own edible gardens, the book features essays by edible-landscaping pioneer Rosalind Creasy, artist and writer Lesley Stern, and bestselling author Michael Pollan. Other highlights include Haeg’s thoughts on Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden on the White House lawn and the never-before-published Declaration of the Good Food Revolution by MacArthur Fellow and urban farmer Will Allen.
     As Eva Hagberg of Architectural Record writes, this book “is not an attack on the front lawn. It is an attack on our sanctificiation of the idea of sameness.” A chimeric mash-up between how-to book, garden showcase, and landscaping manifesto, the second edition of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn teaches and inspires readers to see their urban landscape with new eyes, and to understand the ways in which private property can become a public model for social change.

Book April 2, 2010 By Eugene Rabkin

Courtesy of Rizzoli New York

Courtesy of Rizzoli New York

fellini title Federico Fellini: The Films
Robert Hughes, the famous art critic, once said that an artist’s charge is to produce art that has something to say about our world. Federico Fellini, the celebrated Italian film director, was acutely aware of this task. In 8 ½, arguably his most renowned film, the protagonist, a director caught in the midst of creative stupor, reflects, “I thought I had something so simple to say. Something useful to everybody. A film that could help bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves.”
    The new book, Federico Fellini: The Films (Rizolli, $75), carefully explores Fellini’s oeuvre. The 317-page tome is beautifully laid out, full of behind-the-scene images and biographical photos, many published for the first time. Some of the photos printed in the book are iconic, like the image of Anita Ekberg splashing in Fontana de Trevi from La Dolce Vita. Other visuals, like Fellini’s drawings are extremely rare.
    Yet, this is not merely a coffee table book. The volume successfully combines lush imagery with a meticulous study of each of the twenty-five pictures that Fellini directed. These summaries are written by Tullio Kezich, the director’s faithful biographer, and contain comprehensive background information, from ideas born in Felinni’s head to their final manifestation as films. Each chapter starts with a quote by the director that relays an anecdote, inviting us into the filmmaker’s world, depicting his struggles and anxieties. Fellini was dubbed the Maestro, but the book depicts a man who doubted, questioned, and painstakingly toiled in order to achieve the mastery of cinematic form while maintaining a singular voice.