COLUMNS

  • Books

    How to Commit Suicide in South Africa

    I remember the faces of Barry White and Charlie Pride when they announced Debbie Boone had won the best-pop-single award (for “You Light Up My Life”) on a music program on TV. She wasn’t there to accept. Someone brought a phone on stage with a direct line to Debbie, on tour in South Africa. The hosts’ congratulations couldn’t have been hollower.

    HOW TO COMMIT SUICIDE IN South Africa is an illustrated overview of the tragic reality of South Africa now. It’s a very difficult book to (re-)view because it makes you feel ashamed of being human. This and the symbiotic relationship of Sue Coe’s

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  • Books

    Art Worlds and Patrons Despite Themselves

    THE INADVERTENT CLEVERNESS OF Howard Becker’s Art Worlds is that it shows us how mundane the art world really is. The inadvertent cleverness of Patrons Despite Themselves is that it shows us how mundane minds, not interested really in art, but in the public welfare, use its banal terms to explain the art system satisfactorily. These are powerfully demythologizing books, showing us that no matter how individualistic the art world thinks it is, it is in fact really nothing but another social system, subject to the same sociological and economic analysis as any other. It is as much bracing as

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  • Books

    An Interview with Eiko Ishioka, by Ingrid Sischy

    EIKO ISHIOKA IS AN ART director; a pioneer traveling in big commerce. Her book Eiko by Eiko, published here last fall by Callaway Editions, Inc., New York, in association with Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co. Ltd., Tokyo, presents a survey of her work through all of mass media. The book includes over 2,000 color illustrations, and introductions by Akira Kurosawa, film director; Hiroyuki Itsuki, novelist; Seiji Tsutsumi, chairman of the Seibu group; Issey Miyake, fashion designer; Kenji Sawada, singer and performer; Takeo Nagasawa, advertising writer; Yoshiaki Tono, art critic; Haruki Kadokawa,

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  • Books

    Jazz and Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait. Maisons

    These two recently published reproductions of illustrated books provide an interesting contrast. Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait. Maisons, a book of poems by Tristan Tzara with woodcuts by Hans Arp, was originally published in 1920, in an edition limited to 150 copies. As illustrated books go, it was a relatively modest but handsome production, with the nicely printed poems and unassuming but lovely black and white illustrations set in gentle counterpoint to each other. A charming and witty book, its reproduction does not involve enormous difficulties and its essential character is quite

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  • Books

    Francis Bacon

    In light of his book Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation, Paris: Editions de la difference, 1981 (published in two volumes, one of text, the other of reproductions), we asked the philosopher Gilles Deleuze to contribute the following related text.

    THIS PAINTING IS OF A very special violence. Bacon, to be sure, often traffics in the violence of a depicted scene: spectacles of horror, crucifixions, prostheses and mutilations, monsters. But these are overly facile detours, detours that the artist himself judges severely and condemns in his work. What directly interests him is a violence that is

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  • Books

    Ranxerox (continued)

    This is the second part of a two-part article.

    WHAT RANX AND LUBNA find instead is the Lower East Side, a version of the squalor they had left behind in their Rome of the 30th level. They share an apartment with a young man, Timothy, and while Ranx is working as a taxi driver, Lubna babysits. The situation is prosaic enough. And so too are the problems of the household. Lubna complains about their lack of money, about her getting older—she’s giving Ranx the best years of her life. And then, too, the dope in New York is a killer, literally. She’d be better off back in Rome! But if he can’t arrange

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  • Books

    Ranxerox

    OPENING NIGHT, 1988. THE BROADWAY theater is packed with the international elite. They’re in ecstasy. The show’s a real hit, gorgeous show girls and a new dancer-singer who’s running through all of Fred Astaire’s routines even more perfectly than the old master-hoofer in his best days. And why not? The star’s been programmed with every Fred Astaire move and inflection: he’s a Roman robot named Ranxerox. To his 12-year-old girlfriend, Lubna, sitting in the loge with the show’s leather-masked producer, Mr. Volare, he’s known as Ranx. And now, just as he is in the middle of a song and the audience

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  • Books

    This is Not a Pipe

    When a philosopher, scientist, or poet turns his or her attention to an artwork, the results should be of interest to artists and critics alike. For if artworks truly are to live cultural lives broader than the purview of art specialists, it is precisely here that they may express that life through other voices and eyes and minds. Works such as Aristotle’s Poetics, Wallace Stevens’ Man with the Blue Guitar, and Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach have enriched the stream of artistic relevance and attached a fragrance of deeply layered consciousness to the visual image. Michel Foucault’s

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  • Books

    Overlay

    CITYBOUND DURING THIS SULTRY JULY, I read Overlay anticipating a travel surrogate: a vicarious vacation to the cairns and henges of Wiltshire, England; a hike across the New Mexico butte to see the kivas and petroglyphs. But who would guess that I would really be transported? Though the book is billed as a collage of contemporary art and the art of prehistory, that’s too modest a description of an ambitious, speculative account of the links between contemporary earthworks and site sculpture and those primal ruins that dot unlikely mesas and moors all over the globe. Utterly unlike any art

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  • Passages

    Lisette Model

    Lisette Model, 1906–83

    It is unfashionable to acknowledge the existence of artistic temperament; the idea of equality implies, superficially, that everyone is as good as another, and that to be equal is to be alike. Lisette Model had a full share of this unpopular temperament, first as a promising musician, later as a photographer. Photography is apparently the most democratic of the arts; anyone may try it—wonderful pictures are sometimes the result of an accident. What makes a great print? Not, above all, the mechanical ability (which any child could command) to print maximum black, white,

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  • Books

    Photography: A Concise History

    BEFORE 1949 HISTORIES OF PHOTOGRAPHY had been essentially, often exclusively, chronicles of inventions and technical improvements, although a few also had treated photography as an aspect of social history. Beaumont Newhall’s History of Photography (1949), which grew out of his historical exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1937, was the first to concern itself primarily with the pictures themselves, rather than with the means by which they were made or their worldly content.

    Newhall treated technical inventions not as neutral events in a continuous chain of progress but as

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