Surprisingly, this is a great source of cultural literacy. These Books of Stuff can be lazily cobbled together from whatever is lying around, but this one is well worth reading. The contextualising commentary accompanying each photograph is very helpful and almost every image in this book is captivating and challenging in some way. Dig in & stimulate your critical consciousness.
You may not know this, but I'm a HUGE history geek, and I love nature - so the pages that really resonated with me, and the made me end up really enjoying this book, had to do with those two things.
Art & Place is a book that gathers together a lot of the environmental, landscape, and place art in the Americas - from Canada, to the US, to Rio de Janerio. Full pages of pictures, with a few paragraphs explaining the provenance of the work - the history of the artist, and sometimes an explanation of what the artist was trying to capture or show.
"I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.
I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero. [ …]
I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself
I am for the art that grows in a pot, that comes down out of the skies at night, like lightning, that hides in the clouds and growls. I am for art that is flipped on and off like a switch [ …] I am for the art of scratchings in the asphalt, daubing at the walls. I am for the art of bending down and kicking metal and breaking glass, and pulling at things to make them fall down [ …]"
Claes Oldenburg, ‘I Am for an Art…’, December, 1961
The journey starts in Canada with the 10 totem poles at SG _ang Gwaay Llnagaay that have managed to survive the weather from the nineteenth century to now. The age shows clearly in the pictures, as does the artistry - details are still incredibly vivid if you look. I'd love to see them in person.
There's a lot of a more 'modern' - for lack of a better word - that simply doesn't capture my interest, but that's entirely personal. Like I said above, I'm a history and outdoors person. That's what I love and where my interests lie.
That being said there was plenty of art in nature, and historical art - such as petroglyphs all over the country. I've added many of these places to my personal travel list so I can hike to see the history for myself. The Lightning Field in the desert plains of New Mexico is another place I'd like to see, especially in the middle of a storm...from a distance of course. Simply gorgeous. The section on South America though is simply a treasure trove of beautiful locations and art. I will definitely be looking into many of these places more deeply. One such place is Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, which is a three level building with open balconies facing a courtyard - arches cover the space and you can see the art on the interior walls peeking out between each archway - Gorgeous.
Though a good portion of the book isn't to my personal taste this book does contain a very good selection of place art in the Americas. Brief descriptions let you know what you're looking at, but mostly the pictures just speak for themselves. And like all art, that's the way it should be.