Luc Sante

  • “STONES TO STAINS: THE DRAWINGS OF VICTOR HUGO”

    Not content with being merely a novelist, poet, journalist, and politician, Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was also an accomplished and groundbreaking visual artist, though underrecognized during his lifetime. This fall, the Hammer Museum will show more than seventy-five of the drawings he produced predominantly between 1852 and 1870, during his political exile (by Napoléon III) on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. The pictures are rendered in a range of media—pen, ink wash, graphite, crayon, charcoal, gouache, watercolor, glue, stencil—and

  • Peter Hutton

    PETER HUTTON, who died on June 25 at the age of seventy-one, made motion pictures that are above all extended exercises in the rapture of looking. He specialized in long takes—of landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes—in which the motion is subtle, fleeting, gradual, capillary. His movies, always shot on film and completely silent, invite sustained contemplation as well as spacing out, daydreaming. They lure the viewer into the frame, where the images can be absorbed by the body while the mind goes on a little vacation. They are “austerely romantic,” as J. Hoberman wrote in his New York

  • cigarette packaging

    THE SURGEON GENERAL’S declaration that cigarette smoking was “hazardous” first appeared on the sides of packs in 1966, a year or so before I lit my first coffin nail, circa age thirteen. Did it stop me? Hardly. Four years later, the warning was escalated to “dangerous,” not that many people noticed or cared. In 1985, carton sides began to feature a whole array of cautionary messages: warnings about lung cancer, emphysema, low birth weight, carbon monoxide, and so on. By that time it was getting harder to find movie theaters in which you could smoke, but otherwise the landscape was unaltered.

  • Manny Farber

    MANNY FARBER FIRST CAME TO MY ATTENTION by way of a book generically titled Movies, with a generic cover illustration of Bogie, George Raft, and suchlike tinted with cupcake dyes. Heaven knows why I even bothered to open it, but I immediately found myself reading such violently nongeneric sentences as “The movie’s color is that of caterpillar guts, and its 14-karat image is a duplicate of the retouched studio portraits that could be obtained in Journal Square, Jersey City, in 1945.” Or “Rita Tushingham’s sighting over a gun barrel at an amusement park (standard movie place for displaying types

  • ROBERT SMITHSON: THE MONUMENTS OF PASSAIC, 1967

    One Saturday in September 1967, Robert Smithson, equipped with a Kodak Instamatic and a copy of Brian Aldiss’ science-fiction novel Earthworks, took a No. 30 bus out of Port Authority, bound for Passaic, New Jersey. Passaic is, to put it mildly, an unprepossessing burg, a transit corridor between Smithson’s two childhood homes, Rutherford and Clifton. Famously, Smithson had been assisted into the world by Rutherford’s kindly pediatrician-poet, Dr. William Carlos Williams, author of the epic Paterson, which ponders the Passaic River, its falls, its power, its prehistory and history, and the