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F E AT U R E Autophotography exposed to Modernism, whether the work had a guest lectures by Albert Einstein, Clement Greenberg, connection to New Mexico or not. Although only twenty and William Carlos Williams. Musician John Cage, dancer artists are represented in this beautifully designed book, Merce Cunningham, and artist Robert Rauschenberg some of them are extensively covered, like Hartley and collaborated, while the last was a student there, on Davis; it would be a work by the latter, acquired in Santa what many call the first “happening.” Poets abounded, Fe, which would constitute the beginning of the Vilcek’s husbands and wives fought, and Buckminster Fuller commitment to American Modernism. The book also created the first geodesic dome at Black Mountain. includes a brilliant in-depth essay by William Agee, Tracing its inception as a very liberal arts college to “Perspectives on Modern Art in America,” that provides its closure—due to debt—Black Mountain College: a thoughtful analysis of the evolution of Modernism and Experiment in Art (MIT Press, $40) contains essays by its impact on twentieth-century art. —D.A. Martin Brody, Robert Creeley, Vincent Katz, and Kevin Power, and ends, fittingly, with three poems about the college’s demise. Here is the last line of Creeley’s ode: “And what the hell else to say but run.” —K.M.D. Axle Contemporary Kodak stopped production of Kodachrome—considered to be the best color slide film ever made—in 2009. Since the fifteenth century, artists from painters to sculptors When making photographs with the film, there was one to photographers have modeled for themselves in their exact exposure—all others made the slides too light or own works of art. Whatever the reason, nearly every too dark. As the story goes, Kodachrome was the film artist in every medium has attempted this explanation of choice of National Geographic photographers, who of self. Since 2010, Axle Contemporary—a moveable exposed for the highlights, while shooting at a third of a art gallery in a retrofitted 1970 step van—has exhibited stop down in order to achieve greater saturation, giving drawings, paintings, installations, and photography. their photographs added presence. Enter Nathan Benn. This year Axle invited more than eighty photographers working in New Mexico to submit self-portraits for an exhibition. The resulting book Autophotography (Axle Contemporary, $25) is designed with photographs on the right-hand pages and the photographer’s name on the facing page. Many of New Mexico’s best-known photographers are included: William Clift, Gay Block, Willis Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at Black Mountain F. Lee, Nic Nicosia, Baron Wolman, Zoe Zimmerman, Will College in its heyday! A Bauhausian effort with a Wilson, Janet Russek, Herb Lotz, Anne Staveley, Meridel distinctly American rowdiness, the college was located Rubenstein, and David Michael Kennedy. The stimulating in the mountains of North Carolina, east of Asheville. images showcase the many possibilities of self-portraiture. During its twenty-three years of existence, from Some photographers posed in costume, some in the 1933 to 1956, it served as a magnet for an incredible nude, some against unusual backgrounds, and some in community of artists. Teachers included Josef Albers, other imaginative ways. Self-portraiture does come with Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning. There were a thorny set of questions. Who will see the photograph? Why does that matter? And what does the photographer hope to get out of the process? In fifty or a hundred years, the visual journey in Autophotography will be seen as a time capsule of this specific time in New Mexico.—G.C. The heart of this splendid book Masterpieces of American While on the job for National Geographic for twenty years, Modernism From the Vilcek Collection (Merrell, $85) is Benn made many personal photographs of America in embedded in the art done in America in the first four the 1970s and ’80s. In Kodachrome Memory: American decades of the twentieth century. There is some later Pictures 1972-1990 (Powerhouse Books, $50) each and work represented in the Vilcek Collection but the sum every photograph tells a story, while showcasing Benn’s and substance of it was culled from the first waves of visual intelligence. Benn’s choice of subject matter, paired modern art done by iconic practitioners such as Stuart with his exquisite sense of composition, is a treat for the Davis, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and Georgia eyes. Add an astute forward by Richard Buckley, an essay O’Keeffe. A fascinating aspect of the art that Jan and by Paul M. Farber—a scholar of American and Urban Marcia Vilcek acquired is that they were inspired to begin Studies—who discusses Benn’s life and photographs collecting by repeated visits to Santa Fe and becoming DECEMBER/JANUARY 2013/14 continued on page 42 THE magazine |41

THE magazine Dec 2013 - Jan 2014

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