on March 25, 2002
If you are a person who cares about places, an artist who is looking for ideas on how to incorporate a place-based ethic in your work, a nomad who longs for a greater sense of rootedness, or an environmentalist who wants to explore new ways to communicate, this is the book for you. The depth and breadth of Lucy Lippard's experience of America is impressive. She has lived in Maine, New York City, and New Mexico, and has collected stories of artists who are reflecting on their relationship to the place they live from around the country. The book is incredibly diverse, looking at the issues of homelessness, the changing face of the American West, the unique personalities of suburbs, rural areas, and big cities (to name just a few topics) through the lens of geography and art.
The book is well written, although it might seem challenging to some. Expect a left-of-center view from a respected and extremely knowledgeable critic and observer of American life.
I picked this bad boy up at the museumstore at SF Moma. It is a handsome, weighty book, with a beautiful, interesting cover. The book made a good impression on me.
My wife and I decided to buy this book because we have been interested in the theme of "landscape as witness". This is a concept we read about in Nancy Spector's accompanying essay in the Cremaster Cycle Guggeinheim museum catalog. Basically, the idea as it is expressed in Barney interpreted by Spector is that the landscape is a character in the narrative created by art.
As a brief survey of Amazon.com will reveal, Lippard is a well regarded writer on art. Honestly, I'd never heard of her before. This could have something to do with me not being intimately familiar with the New York City art scene or otherwise involved with the art world except as an occasional museum goer. Art is sort of at the periphery of my set of interests.
None the less, I found this a comprehensive, at times brilliant, survey of both artistic theories about the concept of place as well as a thorough documentation of the specific expressions of these theories in art work. Lippard's scope of reading and breadth of knowledge about art all over the United States (this book is entirely about the U.S.) is nothing short of stunning.
The actual form of the book is a little difficult to explain, The book has a five part structure, each part with a title: Around Here, Manipulating Memory, Down to Earth: Land Use, The Last Frontiers: City and Suburbs and Looking Around. Each of these parts contains sub-chapters that are titled with various aspects of the five parts. Lippard's style is basically to situate each chapter with a brief survey of what other writers have said about the "subject", followed by a description of different acts of arts intermingled with commentary. Each of the pages also contains images with substantive critical passages. Along the top of each page, there is a running essay about the author's experiences growing up in Maine.
I found her work to be fairly comprehensive: Although she has end notes and a thorough bibliography, I found myself doubting that any of them so totally nailed the relationship between art and the concept of place.
If the author or her representatives are reading this, I would recommend updating this book in another couple of years.
Lippard is a self-declared liberal. Although I did not always agree with her analysis, I admired the manner in which she was able to outline her bias in a non-intrusive way. She could be more forceful with her arguments. I don't think anybody could begrudge her opinions.
on November 27, 1997
My Childhood home in Georgetown Maine is in this book. I have had many dreams at night of this beautiful place. My Maine roots go back to the 1600s. I am looking forward to owning this book, to pass down to my childrens children. I live in Oklahoma. I will always prefer Lighthouses over oil wells, lobster boats over bass boats,etc.