Books

  • Sanford Friedman’s Conversations with Beethoven

    Conversations with Beethoven, by Sanford Friedman. New York: New York Review Books, 2014. 304 pages.

    THERE'S AN IRONIC MOMENT in J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye when the solipsistic Holden has a scheme for eliminating from his life the bother of people and conversations. It occurs at the end of the novel, just before Holden meets up with his kid sister, Phoebe, to say good-bye. He’s fed up with phonies, and he’s fed up with everyone and everything. So he sits on a park bench and concocts this plan to get away: He’ll go down to the Holland Tunnel and hitchhike far out West where it’s sunny

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  • Michel Houellebecq’s new novel

    MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ has incredible timing. His third novel, Plateforme, which centrally features a devastating Islamicist terror attack, was published a few days before September 11, 2001. Soumission (Submission), his sixth, in which a Muslim is improbably elected president of France, came out on January 7 of this year, the day of the Charlie Hebdo murders, which was also the day Charlie Hebdo itself paid sardonic homage to the author on its cover. And because his new novel is, among other things, a satirical vision of Islam-on-the-Seine, it became an immediate succès de scandale, selling out

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  • Jean-Michel Basquiat

    The Notebooks, by Jean-Michel Basquiat, edited by Larry Warsh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. 306 pages.

    Widow Basquiat: A Love Story, by Jennifer Clement. New York: Broadway Books, 2014. 208 pages.

    THE SHOW OF EARLY NOTEBOOKS and drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat opening this month at the Brooklyn Museum in New York places a focus on the artist’s formative works, which might provide a clearer and more profound understanding of his artistic intentions and methods than do larger exhibitions of later pieces. Eight marble notebooks, with their archetypal sketches and long lists of

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  • Trisha Baga’s The Great Pam

    The Great Pam, by Trisha Baga. Berlin: Edition Société, 2014. 232 pages. Edition of 120.

    TRISHA BAGA IS FLUENT in the emotional manipulation of popular culture. From Madonna to Plymouth Rock to American Beauty, the artist channels and contorts the manufactured affect of mass culture in her immersive videos, installations, and performances. And if her environments are often overwhelming, with maximal arrays of information being emitted by screens and sounds and objects, they nevertheless deploy their cultural clichés with pinpoint accuracy, situating the viewer not only in a specific historical

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  • the writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos

    Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos; edited by Mark Webber. London: The Visible Press, 2014. 560 pages.

    IT IS AN OLD COMMONPLACE of advanced art that the deserving audience will emerge only in a time to come. This emphasis on futurity is built into the very term avant-garde, with its invocation of a movement forward by a select group to which the rest will catch up only later, if ever. American experimental filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos (1928–1992) presents a particularly extreme and fascinating case of this anticipatory wager. After earning recognition as a major

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  • Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft

    Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, by Keller Easterling. London and New York: Verso, 2014. 252 pages.

    KELLER EASTERLING’S Extrastatecraft is the latest installment in her vitally important ongoing analysis of the rapidly changing physical and political landscapes of twenty-first-century capitalism. Over the past decade and a half, the prolific Easterling has undertaken substantive studies of this subject through a rapid-fire set of essays, lectures, and books. Earlier volumes—such as Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades (2005)—mined a

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  • the collected writings of Renée Green

    Other Planes of There. Selected Writings, by Renée Green. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2014. 506 pages.

    “MY WORK has for some time included multiple parts, created to coexist and thus create a density of layers, spatially, geometrically, sonically, visually, and textually.” So declared artist Renée Green in her 2004 essay “Why Systems?,” an incisive articulation of the additive method driving many of her works at that moment. The piece is one of the fifty-odd texts compiled for the first time in Other Planes of There, a five-hundred-plus-page volume of her selected writings

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  • Claudia Rankine’s Citizen

    Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2014. 160 pages.

    THE SPLIT-SCREEN IMAGE from November 24, 2014, already seems iconic. On one side, the president speaks from the White House about law and restraint and progress. On the other, smoke rises from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, as armed police officers face protesters with their hands up. When I saw that image, I turned off the news feed and began to reread Claudia Rankine’s new volume of poetry, Citizen: An American Lyric. I kept reading in the days following, when the failure to indict a police officer

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  • Maeve Connolly’s TV Museum

    “THERE’S SOME KIND OF a haunting here that I’m picking up,” warns Mindy, a late-night psychic on a fake public-access television show in Phil Collins’s latest film, Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, 2014. “Does it make sense to ask yourself: Who have I become? . . . When did touch turn from a skin-to-skin contact into the glow of a missed FaceTime call?” Collins’s restaging of public-access spots is one of a number of artists’ sympathetic explorations of television within artistic work over the past fifteen years. TV has emerged as a subject of not only formal but also social and what might be called

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  • architects’ drawings

    THE WORKING DRAWING: THE ARCHITECT’S TOOL is a beautiful book, and like many beautiful things, it has a touch of melancholy to it. Looking at the examples collected here, even those from recent decades, it’s hard not to feel some sense of loss: Nobody draws like that anymore. Not only has drawing practice been radically transformed by the computer, but the structure of the discipline itself has changed. Architects operate in a global arena today, subject to the ever-tighter time constraints and increasingly uniform standards imposed by clients, the building industry, and regulatory agencies. In

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  • Molly Nesbit’s The Pragmatism in the History of Art

    IN THEIR COMMON SENSE (2000), Molly Nesbit interpreted Cubist lines as “an embrace of the language of industry.” Art was steered into that embrace, she argued, by the French sculptor and arts administrator Eugène Guillaume and minister of fine arts Antonin Proust, who introduced rationalized methods of drawing into the nation’s school curriculum in 1881. Art, when it adopted the technical line, a graphic system “equated with truth” and no longer grounded in ordinary vision, “fell outside itself and produced its own inversion, rupture.” “Art history,” Nesbit continued, “speaks of this rupture as

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  • Walker Evans: The Magazine Work

    THIS BOOK IS ABOUT the overlooked work of Walker Evans. We know the iconic photographs he made in the South in the mid-1930s, we know his subway portraits (shot between 1938 and 1941, though not published until twenty years later), and we know the memorable Polaroids he made at the end of his life. But his early magazine work (his first published folio was in 1930, in the Architectural Record) and his years with Luce publications—briefly at Time and then at Fortune magazine, from 1943 to ’65, as special photographic editor for the last seventeen years—have been either ignored or

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