Art and Architecture

Pictures at a Restoration

Pictures at a Restoration

On Pete Souza’s Obama

Once safely out of office, he acknowledged that “millions of Americans” had been “spooked by a black man in the White House.” An undeniable truth, but one that was miles away from the embrocations he had offered the country when he launched his national career by declaring that “there is not a black America and a white America.” That kind of thing sounds like denialism to some, a postracial utopia to others, and then, in certain places, like a threat.

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

Big Jill, Little Jimmy, Little Rosalynn, Big Joe

The dream of strength and youth

One way to think about the viral explainers of the viral photo is that their function was almost pharmacological. A rapidly disseminated image that leads to spinning heads requires a dose of fast-acting cultural Dramamine. Speed is key. With the internet producing the weird stories, and grabbing all the ads that go with them, traditional media has been forced to move to the higher ground of analysis, but that was never journalism’s forte. So, somewhere between newsfeed dazzle and the insight that comes later (if at all), explanation became a familiar part of the information age news cycle. Sometimes, it’s enough.

Eclipse, 2021

Eclipse, 2021

For the first time in its life, the building exists as a piece of architecture

We’d both separately become fascinated with what we called “ephemeral views,” the opening one gets when a building has been demolished, usually preparatory to the erection of something larger and more looming. These rents in the grid exposed wonders: the back gardens and solaria of brownstone residences ordinarily shielded from street view, the rear buttresses and stained-glass nave of a midtown cathedral, old advertisements painted onto brick walls, a pyramidal shadow cast on a windowless blank wall, a sudden deepening of perspective.

Boy Trouble

Boy Trouble

On Sophie Calle

In France, Sophie Calle—at least in bourgeois-intellectual, Paris-centric circles—is more or less a household name. Yet, as is the fate of most blockbuster artists, her oeuvre is often flattened into the exaggerated silhouettes of a cartoon.

Scary Sites

Scary Sites

So are you saying, common victimhood? Is that what it is?

— You know Cody is pretending to be an outsider artist.
— I know! Anyway, this guy, Phoebe’s husband, was like, how did you get this, and I was like, I used to hang out with these people, and he was like, oh yeah I knew them, or this circle of people, and then it came out that the person he knew best was Cody. And he just said it like that, “Cody Garrison.” And I think I had given some generic version of the story in which I said I used to be married to someone who was close to Oren Droste. And after the guy said Cody Garrison, I was like, yes, that’s the person I used to be married to. And the guy was like, oh. He sort of didn’t know what to say.

All Eyes, No Skin

All Eyes, No Skin

On virtual Archtober

When I get tired I stop at an awning above a tall sidewalk table and an unopened Corona, thinking I’m at a bar. It turns out to be a barber shop, but the man inside insists I sit down as long as I like, and even lets me drink his Corona. The sidewalk is uneven, and this particular stretch of Flatbush is dusty and empty. The awning is not a particularly attractive color, nor does it really sit in my memory. But it was not created to be looked at; it was created to be used, and it was.