Art & Place: Site-specific Art of the Americas
Photo: Courtesy of Phaidon (2013)
After securing widespread praise for its 2011 book, The Art Museum—a collection of some 2,500 works of art from 650 institutions around the world—Phaidon has followed up that success with Art & Place: Site-specific Art of the Americas.
Like The Art Museum, Art & Place is an anthology of sorts. Rather than collecting art from the world’s great art museums and placing it within its historical context, Phaidon offers readers a journey to some of the most remote, most populated, and sometimes most famous places in the Americas. The anthology features everything from the Nasca Lines in Peru to the totem poles of the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, to Roy Lichtenstein’s Times Square Mural in New York’s Times Square subway station.
The most compelling part of this book is its ability to reveal places, such as the American desert landscape, as not simply a wasteland of sand and rock, but as a canvas for artists, whether the work is thousands of years old, or still under construction. In Horseshoe Canyon, Utah, for example, the rock drawings of the Great Gallery date back some 7,000 years. But flip a few pages over, and the New Mexico desert reveals Charles Ross’ strangely intriguing, yet unfinished, naked eye observatory: a series of buildings and chambers affording peculiar lookouts to the stars. The juxtaposition of these two works in one book may prompt the reader to consider: What might humans think of Charles Ross’ collection of buildings in another 7,000 years’ time.
Such postulations aside, some of the selections may leave readers asking if they would have been better understood within the context of an anthropological journal or history textbook. Other selections seem more obviously out of place. Take the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. for example. Is it art? Is it a monument? Is it both? The reader must decide, and along the way the journey is a rewarding one.
Art & Place uses some 800 large-format colour photographs to shine a light on 170 works of art from Rio de Janeiro, to Easter Island, to New York City. And, whether the images prompt readers to wonder where in Chicago they can see a 15-metre-tall steel Picasso sculpture [Richard J. Daley Centre Plaza]; or which high-rise lobby in New York City boasts a 20- by 10-metre Roy Lichtenstein piece [the AXA Equitable Building ]—or whether this book simply serves as a reminder of places already seen, or a guide to places yet to see—Art & Place has a place.
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