Herbert Muschamp

  • Ballet

    George Platt Lynes, Ballet (Pasadena, Calif.: Twelvetrees Press, 1985), 83 sheet-fed gravures.

    At a time when photography and ballet were often both dismissed as minor arts, George Platt Lynes photographed ballet dancers as major gods. To Lynes, the balletomane’s ecstatic cries of “Divine!” were simply the oracular utterance of the truth. The extreme stylization of ballet—from the predilection for mythical subjects to the ritual application of eye shadow—enabled Lynes’ flair for artifice to masquerade as straight reportage, mitigating somewhat the obsessive quality that delights admirers of Lynes’

  • Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky: Interviews With George Balanchine

    Solomon Volkov, Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky: Interviews With George Balanchine, trans. Antonina W. Bouis (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), 252 pages, 76 black and white illustrations.

    George Balanchine’s audiences always included many viewers who had no interest in ballet except as Balanchine practiced it. In the ’70s, a portion of this audience consisted of younger viewers for whom the choreographer seemed to hold a special message; the appeal was partly that of the endangered species. As recently as 1982, the last great survivor of the heroic age of Modernism could be seen taking his bows

  • time-sharing.

    ARCHITECTURE IS OFTEN viewed as an art of space, but for two centuries architects have also been practicing an art of time, clothing their structures in the costumes of an epic architectural Dance of the Hours. The performance thus far has transpired in three scenes; a program note might read:

    Modern Times. Synopsis. I. Mid 18th to late 19th centuries. Architecture dons period attire to reenact the architectural pageantry of ancient Greece, medieval Christendom, and other ceremonies of a symbolic past. II. Early to mid 20th century. Architecture blasts out of the past to dwell in a fictive future

  • Mies van der Rohe and Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography.

    Mies van der Rohe

    By David Spaeth, wth preface by Kenneth Frampton, New York: Rizzoli, 204 pp. 235 black and white illustrations.

    Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography

    By Franz Schulze (in association with the Mies van der Rohe Archive of the Museum of Modern Art), Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 384 pp., 219 black and white illustrations..

    CRISP, CONCISE, AND professionally thorough, David Spaeth’s illustrated survey goes over the contours of Mies van der Rohe’s career like a valet brushing off a man in a pinstripe suit; the effect is fresh, even though the ideas have worn

  • SCIENCE FICTION, WESTERNS, ODYSSEYS, ROMANCE, HEADLINES, OBITS. Narrative architects design the city as it lives.

    “A CITY CANNOT BE a work of art”: Jane Jacobs insisted in her influential 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. At a time when “art” was nearly synonymous with formal abstraction, this was the sharpest possible put-down of the Modern architect’s efforts to impose diagrammatic unity upon urban diversity. “Radiant Garden City Beautiful” was Jacobs’ contemptuous term for these efforts, which she considered even more instrumental than the automobile in hastening the central city’s decline.

    To the architect, the importance of Jacob’s message lay in the radical idea that the city

  • Richard Haas

    To a summit high in the Rockies they ascend with halting gait each summer solstice, the veteran druids of the International Design Conference in Aspen, rallying once again to release the stale verities of Good Design into the pure Colorado air. The choice of Richard Haas as token artist to illustrate the theme of this year’s conference—“Illusion is Truth: Perception as the Basis for Design”—appeared a typically literal-minded instance of Aspen’s traditional policy not to overtax the mental stamina of the senior conferees. However, this small exhibition of Haas’ work (models, maquettes, and

  • Architects take leave of their senses; Arata Isozaki takes his along.

    FORTY YEARS AGO, as the vigor of early Modern architecture was subsiding into the anemia of the International Style, the historian John Summerson offered a diagnosis and a prescription still useful today. The Modern architect, Summerson wrote, has

    taken a look at the scene around him and then become obsessed with the importance not of architecture, but of the relation of architecture to other things. . . . He has walked out of himself, rather like a second personality is seen to walk out of the first in a psychological film. He has . . . left the first personality at the drawing board and taken

  • Architecture without architecture critics: ideal for the architects.

    IT IS RARE TO HEAR complaints about the press from those whom the press treats nicely. and tempting to attribute self-serving motives to those who do make a fuss. But not all the complaints now widely voiced about the state of architectural criticism arise from the frustrated vanity of architects who receive less extensive or less sympathetic coverage than they feel their work deserves. Indeed, one of the major complaints heard today arises from the recognition of the dangers implicit in the willingness of the architectural press to conduct itself as a form of vanity publishing. This complaint