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Bad Aboriginal Art

Tradition, Media, and Technological Horizons

Eric Michaels

Bad Aboriginal Art is the extraordinary account of Eric Michaels’ period of residence and work with the Warlpiri Aborigines of western Central Australia, where he studied the impact of television on remote Aboriginal communities.

Sharp, exact, and unrelentingly honest, Michaels records with an extraordinary combination of distance and immersion the intervention of technology into a remote Aboriginal community and that community’s forays into the technology of broadcasting.  Michaels’s analyses in Bad Aboriginal Art will disrupt and redirect current debates surrounding the theory and practice of anthropology, ethnography, film and video making, communications policy, and media studies - no less than his work has already disrupted and redirected the cultural technologies of both the Warlpiri and Australian technocrats.


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Baja California Missions

In the Footsteps of the Padres

David Burckhalter and Mina Sedgwick

Bathed in desert light and shadow, rising up from the earth in improbable, faraway places, stand eight original Spanish missions on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Built of stone by Roman Catholic priests and indigenous laborers in the eighteenth century, these stunning missions dominate the landscape around them. Baja California Missions: In the Footsteps of the Padres is a beautiful and informative book about the eight monumental Spanish colonial churches, buildings seldom seen by those familiar with the missions of California, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico. 

With gorgeous photographs of the architecture and religious art, and supported by a concise history that outlines the peninsula’s exploration and colonization by Roman Catholic priests, Baja California Missions excels as a book of photography and history. It promises adventure for readers at home, as well as for travelers ready to explore the churches in person. 

The eight Spanish colonial stone churches of Baja California endure as the only intact originals of 34 missions built by the padres during the peninsula’s colonization. Due to structural renovations and restorations of the artwork undertaken over the last 30 years, the renowned mission churches have become sources of pride to the citizens of Baja California. Travelers are invited to visit at any time, especially during patron saint day celebrations. 

As a guide, Baja California Missions is fully up to date, with directions for navigating Baja’s paved highways and desert and mountain roads. The mission sites are pinpointed on a topographic roadmap of the peninsula. A church floor plan is provided to accompany a walk-through tour for each church interior. The lovely eighteenth-century oil paintings and wooden statues that grace the church altars are also identified and described.

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Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement

Suzi Parron

 The story of the American Quilt Trail, featuring the colorful patterns of quilt squares writ large on barns throughout North America, is the story of one of the fastest-growing grassroots public arts movements in the United States and Canada. In Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement Suzi Parron travels through twenty-nine states and two Canadian provinces to visit the people and places that have put this movement on America’s tourist and folk art map.

 Through dozens of interviews with barn artists, committee members, and barn owners Parron documents a journey that began in 2001 with the founder of the movement, Donna Sue Groves. Groves’s desire to honor her mother with a quilt square painted on their barn became a group effort that eventually grew into a county-wide project. Today, registered quilt squares form a long imaginary clothesline, appearing on more than three thousand barns scattered along one hundred driving trails.

 With more than fifty full-color photographs, Parron documents a movement that combines rural economic development with an American folk art phenomenon.

 

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Barns of Connecticut

Markham Starr

Featuring more than 100 stunning full-color photographs along with helpful diagrams and historic photos, Barns of Connecticut captures both the iconic and the unique, including historic and noteworthy barns. The book discusses the importance of barns to Connecticut agriculture across our state and up to the present day. Markham Starr's Barns of Connecticut offers a lovely introduction to the architectural, functional, and agricultural roles these structures played in early Connecticut. Through text and color photographs, it tells a story of change and continuity. From the earliest colonial structures to the low steel buildings of modern dairy farms, barns have adapted to meet the needs of each generation; they've stored wheat, hay, and tobacco, and housed farm animals and dairy cows. These enduring structures display the optimism, ingenuity, hard work, and practicality of the people who tend land and livestock throughout the state.

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Barnstorming the Prairies

How Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest

Jason Weems

To Midwesterners tucked into small towns or farms early in the twentieth century, the landscape of the American heartland reached the horizon—and then imagination had to provide what lay beyond. But when aviation took off and scenes of the Midwest were no longer earthbound, the Midwestern landscape was transformed and with it, Jason Weems suggests in this book, the very idea of the Midwest itself.

Barnstorming the Prairies offers a panoramic vista of the transformative nature and power of the aerial vision that remade the Midwest in the wake of the airplane. This new perspective from above enabled Americans to conceptualize the region as something other than isolated and unchanging, and to see it instead as a dynamic space where people worked to harmonize the core traditions of America’s agrarian character with the more abstract forms of twentieth-century modernity. In the maps and aerial survey photography of the Midwest, as well as the painting, cinema, animation, and suburban landscapes that arose through flight, Weems also finds a different and provocative view of modernity in the making. In representations of the Midwest, from Grant Wood’s iconic images to the Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright to the design of greenbelt suburbs, Weems reveals aerial vision’s fundamental contribution to regional identity—to Midwesternness as we understand it.

Reading comparatively across these images, Weems explores how the cognitive and perceptual practices of aerial vision helped to resymbolize the Midwestern landscape amid the technological change and social uncertainty of the early twentieth century.


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Baroque Horrors

Roots of the Fantastic in the Age of Curiosities

David R. Castillo

David Castillo takes us on a tour of some horrific materials that have rarely been considered together. He sheds a fantastical new light on the baroque. ---Anthony J. Cascardi, University of California Berkeley "Baroque Horrors is a textual archeologist's dream, scavenged from obscure chronicles, manuals, minor histories, and lesser-known works of major artists. Castillo finds tales of mutilation, mutation, monstrosity, murder, and mayhem, and delivers them to us with an inimitable flair for the sensational that nonetheless rejects sensationalism because it remains so grounded in historical fact." ---William Egginton, Johns Hopkins University "Baroque Horrors is a major contribution to baroque ideology, as well as an exploration of the grotesque, the horrible, the fantastic. Castillo organizes his monograph around the motif of curiosity, refuting the belief that Spain is a country incapable of organized scientific inquiry." ---David Foster, Arizona State University Baroque Horrors turns the current cultural and political conversation from the familiar narrative patterns and self-justifying allegories of abjection to a dialogue on the history of our modern fears and their monstrous offspring. When life and death are severed from nature and history, "reality" and "authenticity" may be experienced as spectator sports and staged attractions, as in the "real lives" captured by reality TV and the "authentic cadavers" displayed around the world in the Body Worlds exhibitions. Rather than thinking of virtual reality and staged authenticity as recent developments of the postmodern age, Castillo looks back to the Spanish baroque period in search for the roots of the commodification of nature and the horror vacui that accompanies it. Aimed at specialists, students, and readers of early modern literature and culture in the Spanish and Anglophone traditions as well as anyone interested in horror fantasy, Baroque Horrors offers new ways to rethink broad questions of intellectual and political history and relate them to the modern age. David Castillo is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. Jacket art: Frederick Ruysch's anatomical diorama. Engraving reproduction "drawn from life" by Cornelius Huyberts. Image from the Zymoglyphic Museum.

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Barry Le Va

The Aesthetic Aftermath

Michael Maizels

Of the conceptual artists who began their careers in the 1960s and 1970s—Bruce Nauman, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, and Mel Bochner among them—Barry Le Va may be the most elusive. As this first study of his work reveals, his rigorously planned art was instigated to mask its creator’s intentions and methods, presenting itself as an “aftermath” of modernism’s claim to permanency and civil society’s preferred mode of monumentalism.

For Michael Maizels, Le Va’s work constitutes a particularly productive subject of inquiry because it clearly articulates the interconnection between the avant-garde’s distrust of autonomous art objects, two decades of social unrest, the emergence of information theory, and lingering notions of scientific objectivity. Barry Le Va: The Aesthetic Aftermath explores how Le Va used such materials as shattered glass, spent bullets, sound recordings, scattered flour, and meat cleavers embedded in a floor to challenge the interlocking assumptions behind blind faith in lasting beauty, just government, and perfectible knowledge. Taking inspiration from popular crime novels as well as contemporary art theory, Le Va charged his viewers to attempt, like detectives at a crime scene, to decipher an order underlying the apparent chaos.

Le Va’s installations were designed to erode not simply the presumed autonomy of the art object but also the economic and political authority of the art establishment. In his concluding chapter, Maizels looks at the more fixed work of the past two decades in which Le Va turned to architectural themes and cast concrete to probe the limits of dynamism and the idea of permanence.


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Bauhaus Weaving Theory

From Feminine Craft to Mode of Design

T’ai Smith

The Bauhaus school in Germany has long been understood through the writings of its founding director, Walter Gropius, and well-known artists who taught there such as Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy. Far less recognized are texts by women in the school’s weaving workshop. In Bauhaus Weaving Theory, T’ai Smith uncovers new significance in the work the Bauhaus weavers did as writers.

From colorful, expressionist tapestries to the invention of soundproofing and light-reflective fabric, the workshop’s innovative creations influenced a modernist theory of weaving. In the first careful examination of the writings of Bauhaus weavers, including Anni Albers, Gunta Stözl, and Otti Berger, Smith details how these women challenged assumptions about the feminine nature of their craft. As they harnessed the vocabulary of other disciplines like painting, architecture, and photography, Smith argues, the weavers resisted modernist thinking about distinct media. In parsing texts about tapestries and functional textiles, the vital role these women played in debates about medium in the twentieth century and a nuanced history of the Bauhaus comes to light.

Bauhaus Weaving Theory deftly reframes the Bauhaus weaving workshop as central to theoretical inquiry at the school. Putting questions of how value and legitimacy are established in the art world into dialogue with the limits of modernism, Smith confronts the belief that the crafts are manual and technical but never intellectual arts.

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Beautiful Terrible Ruins

Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline

Dora Apel

Once the manufacturing powerhouse of the nation, Detroit has become emblematic of failing cities everywhere—the paradigmatic city of ruins—and the epicenter of an explosive growth in images of urban decay. In Beautiful Terrible Ruins, art historian Dora Apel explores a wide array of these images, ranging from photography, advertising, and television, to documentaries, video games, and zombie and disaster films.  
 
Apel shows how Detroit has become pivotal to an expanding network of ruin imagery, imagery ultimately driven by a pervasive and growing cultural pessimism, a loss of faith in progress, and a deepening fear that worse times are coming. The images of Detroit’s decay speak to the overarching anxieties of our era: increasing poverty, declining wages and social services, inadequate health care, unemployment, homelessness, and ecological disaster—in short, the failure of capitalism. Apel reveals how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the haunted beauty and fascination of ruin imagery, embodied by Detroit’s abandoned downtown skyscrapers, empty urban spaces, decaying factories, and derelict neighborhoods help us to cope with our fears. But Apel warns that these images, while pleasurable, have little explanatory power, lulling us into seeing Detroit’s deterioration as either inevitable or the city’s own fault, and absolving the real agents of decline—corporate disinvestment and globalization. Beautiful Terrible Ruins helps us understand the ways that the pleasure and the horror of urban decay hold us in thrall. 
 
 

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Beauty and the Beast

Human-Animal Relations as Revealed in Real Photo Postcards, 1905–1935

Arnold Arluke and Robert Bogdan

From fairy tales to photography, nowhere is the complexity of human-animal relationships more apparent than in the creative arts. Art illuminates the nature and significance of animals in modern, Western thought, capturing the complicated union that has long existed between the animal kingdom and us. In Beauty and the Beast, authors Arluke and Bogdan explore this relationship through the unique lens of photo postcards. This visual medium offers an enormous and relatively untapped archive to document their subject compellingly.

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