Art and Architecture

Simple, Open Pleasure in a New Landscape

Simple, Open Pleasure in a New Landscape

The philosophy of David Hockney

In the central gallery housing Hockney’s drawings is a crayon portrait from 1974 of Andy Warhol, looking frail and a little lonely on a stuffed green chair in Paris. A comparison between the two artists, who were friends, is instructive. The parallels are clear: both gay, blond icons of Pop art, both protégés of Henry Geldzahler, both sons of working class parents, both prolific and witty writers. But here the similarities end, and the two artists begin to seem like inversions of each other. After the initial erotic frenzy of his work from the 1960s, the sexuality in Hockney’s art largely retreated behind discreet visual conventions; sex in Warhol was comparatively hardcore, particularly in his films. Likewise, the theme of death is explicit in Warhol and circumspect in Hockney. Warhol’s narrative voice is arch and elusive, willfully blank; Hockney’s direct and incisive, and at times, almost doggedly earnest. But the most striking zone of commonality and difference has to do with the way the two artists treated the issue of mechanical reproduction.

In-Between Locations

In-Between Locations

On the pasts and places of Game of Thrones

What gives Game of Thrones its strange credibility and its seeming complexity, its gravity and its sense of place, its sensation of depicting a lived-in world uncannily like our own, are those cities and buildings. They’re somehow sufficiently unfamiliar-yet-familiar to seem like real old places.

Obscurity of Purpose, Immediacy of Experience

Obscurity of Purpose, Immediacy of Experience

On documenta 14

Obscurity of purpose; immediacy of experience; the foregrounding of a nameless parallel space, shorn of concrete social orientation: these qualities enveloped huge swathes of the exhibition. In a paradoxical turn, the greater the formal emphasis on participation, egalitarian engagement, and the banishment of hierarchy, the less political commitment, or the articulation of a clearly defined viewpoint, appeared possible. It’s a turn that has been noted before, most magisterially by Claire Bishop in Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (2012). One foregrounds a “symmetrical situation of the encounter of equals,” only to wind up with incoherence and a teleology of open-endedness. Social relations were skated over, as projects like Social Dissonance melded more or less anonymous participants into spontaneous collectives. Artists tacked on political motives as loose premises or ex post facto revelations, unintegrated into any aesthetic whole.

An Alternate Future for the Mall

An Alternate Future for the Mall

Why shopping centers are booming in Mexico

While malls in the US have been on a steady decline, as the industry deals with the decline in brick-and-mortar sales that bode the “death of retail,” malls in Latin America continue on the rise. This is partially because online shopping has yet to take hold as it has in the US. According to Euromonitor International, in 2016, online sales made up only 2.6 percent of retail sales in Mexico, compared with 10.5 percent in the US. The death of retail—at least for now—isn’t a reality in Latin America.

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Adrift with Allan Sekula

When Sekula died of cancer in August 2013 at age sixty-two, he left behind a remarkable legacy as a photographer, filmmaker, art historian, activist, and educator, though only a fairly small—albeit distinguished—tribe of artists and academics has taken stock of it. Much of his work is united by a consistent interest: wherever capitalism sought to hawk the fantasy of an immaterial economy, or to hide its stink in refrigerated shipping freight, Sekula made it his artistic practice to visualize and to describe its mechanisms of concealment.

Hear Our Voice

Hear Our Voice

Zadie Smith and the problem of her single story

When black people in America are three times as likely as white people to be killed by police it becomes hard to argue that there is no clear distinction between black and white life. But Zadie Smith suggests otherwise: her ultimate argument rejecting the notion of any one group owning black pain stems from her assertion that Americans are one, that “‘us’ and ‘them’” narratives are “therapeutic,” but ultimately a “cheap gag.” It’s a galling dismissal of the brutal reality of black lives in America, where white mass murderers are apprehended alive while black unarmed citizens are arbitrarily killed. I would imagine that Kalief Browder’s family might think differently, that the black teenagers on Rikers Island, arrested without trial, held in jail and coerced into confessions might think differently. The so-called “super-predators” who became victims of the Clinton “three strikes” bill and now fill America’s prisons might think differently.

Have You Ever Had an Intense Experience of Mystical Communion with the Universe, Life, God, etc?

Louis Kahn’s work is accessible, minimal, simple, solid, systematic, and self-evident. It is also the exact opposite.

Buildings that call attention only to themselves generally fail at everything else. So the sustained direct attention offered by a critic or writer about a building is always already a great distortion.

On John Berger, 1926–2017

On John Berger, 1926–2017

No matter what he was looking at, Berger never stopped asking uncomfortable and therefore stimulating questions.

One way of thinking of the uniqueness of John Berger’s accomplishment is that he wrote almost completely without irony. The particular joy of his work comes directly from this unyielding earnestness, a profoundly difficult thing to pull off.

Primal Forces

Primal Forces

Jane Jacobs cast her campaigns for urban justice as bids to restore an underlying common sense, not as transformations of the social order.

You might call Jacobs a Democratic Schumpeterian. Though she believed in the dynamism of markets and their propensity to push new, innovative work to grow, she wanted to stoke the egalitarian possibilities of this process within a society that favored established interests.

Unsociable and Unsustainable

Unsociable and Unsustainable

Residents in luxury buildings are rarely swayed by the economic calculus of saving energy.

Western architects’ blindness to these problems appears to be inversely related to the number of times they proclaim themselves to be forging a golden age of green architecture, producing one LEED-certified monolith after another