- 15 May 2005
- No. 5,596 (cartoon)
- Youre afraid of love.
I am not; I fought it and won.
- 16 May 2005
- Masticating and Mensurating
- I dropped by Jeanies architectural studio this afternoon with a couple of burritos for our lunch. It turned out that Jeanie wasnt hungry, so I ate a burrito while she was busy finishing off a project for a client.
We talked about this, that, and the other thing, but not in any detail since she was occupied with completing a drawing. And then she said something in passing that left me thoroughly flummoxed.
This is fun, Jeannie said, I like to watch you masticate while I mensurate.
I knew all about masticating; I do it several times a day. Jeannie had to explain that mensuration is the act of measuring; I never knew that.
- 17 May 2005
- Speed Bump on the Road to Enlightenment
- Alex is having something of a crisis after years of pursuing spiritual growth.
If there is no self, Alex asked, whose hemorrhoid is this?
I have no idea, I replied, I prefer avenues other than the road to enlightenment.
Alex winced; I didnt ask if it was because of what I said or because of biological considerations.
- 18 May 2005
- Project Management Considerations
- When Chloé asked about my project to scan all of my old negatives, I told her I hadnt done anything in months. She seemed surprised, but thats just because she doesnt understand how to manage large projects. If she had the kind of experience I have, then shed know that falling behind schedule immediately provides much more time to catch up later.
- 19 May 2005
- Kisses Like Pork and Beans
- I listened to a radio program profiling a musical ensemble, Nick Armstrong and the Thieves. I was really impressed when I heard the lyrics, Every time I kiss you it tastes like pork and beans.
Thats art! Thats love! Who says no ones writing good songs any more?
Well, after a little search I discovered that Nick Armstrong, et al, didnt pen those words, Jerry Leiber and Artie Butler did quite some time ago.
I know that people are still composing wonderful songs for this reason: Im writing them.
- 20 May 2005
- John Szarkowski: Photographer
- I write for European Photography magazine, one of those those little projects I do to take a break from more self-indulgent pursuits. And, since the periodical only comes out twice a year, the work isnt particularly onerous.
And so it is that today I shall write a review of a book instead of telling some half-baked lie about something that never happened. And so, its time to write about ...
John Szarkowski: Photographer
John Szarkowski makes very good photographs. They almost have to be good, by definition, for they look extraordinarily similar toif not derivative ofthe fine work of photographers he chose to exhibit and promote during his almost thirty-year reign as kingmaker at the Museum of Modern Art.
In John Szarkowski: Photographer, he presents seventy-five beautifully-reproduced photographs, made over almost sixty years, demonstrating that hes a consummate technician with a good eye. The books design also deserves praise; it breaks the traditional monograph formula of an introduction followed by images and footnotes. Instead, Szarkowskis photographs are interspersed with snippets of correspondence, with an essay by Sandra S. Phillips, the curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Artalong with a chronology, footnotes and acknowledgmentsrelegated to the final pages of the volume. This variation on the formulaic approach to monographs makes the publication all the more interesting and enjoyable.
Phillipss essay provides a welcome perspective on Szarkowskis life before his famous stint at the Museum of Modern Art. Szarkowski was an accomplished artist well before his rise to international prominence as a curator, and Phillips suggests intriguing possibilities about who influenced Szarkowski, and vice versa. For example:
Szarkowski has said that his Screen Door was possible after [Edward] Westons Church Door.
He [Szarkowski] has been looking at [Charles] Sheeler and [Walker] Evans, and Evans was particularly useful. ... This is a piece of archeological preservation worthy of [Eugene] Atget.
The effulgent decorative column on the Prudential bisects a hurrying pedestrian and an uncertain collage of shampoo advertising that anticipates Lee Friedlanders work some years later.
Surely he recognized in Robert Adamss pictures of disfigured Colorado trailheads a fellow transcendentalist.
- This volume raises more questions than it answers, which may or may or may not be a good thing. In the inevitably incestuous world of contemporary art, how much does it matter who conceived and who inherited an idea? Thats an intriguing question, and one that remains unanswered here.
As for Szarkowskis time at the Museum of Modern Art, Phillips notes that Szarkowski stopped making his own photographs during that period, for reasons of of energy and time and potential conflict. The ideas that he had developed as a photographer, however, certainly informed the shape and content of books and exhibitions he made in his role as a curator.
Given Szarkowskis legacy from his decades at the Museum of Modern Art, his personal work of very good but mostly unexceptional photographs will almost certainly be a footnote to his superior curatorial and editorial work in such publications as The Photographers Eye, Mirrors and Windows, and Looking at Photographs, as well as in the monographs of photographers he championed.
Szarkowskis influence and reputation is certainly assured. Its like Winston Churchill said, History will bear me out, particularly as I shall write that history myself. Szarkowski is a prominent coauthor of the history of photography, andwith a bit of help from his fellow curator Phillipshis place in it is all but guaranteed.
Szarkowskis position in the photographic pantheon, however, is a tangential consideration to the book in question, and perhaps even to the photographs themselves. As Szarkowski observed in a letter, Even when the public thinks they are appreciating an artist, they almost always get it all wrong ... I do not mean to blame the public; why should they know what it is that you are, or I am, trying to do? Especially since neither of us is sure, the uncertainty being part of the fun, when there is any fun.
John Szarkowski: Photographs is a lovely volume, and a nice addition to anyones library.
last weak |
©2005 David Glenn Rinehart