Albert Mobilio

  • THADDEUS MOSLEY

    The titles of Thaddeus Mosley’s recent wood sculptures are often plainly descriptive: There’s a curve in Curved Closure, branches in Branched Form, and an oval in Oval Continuity. This straightforward denotation of the works’ spatial and geometric character indicates Mosley’s matter-of-fact approach. At ninety-four, the self-taught artist isn’t inclined toward mystification or obscurity. In an essay by curator Brett Littman, included in this volume, Mosley recounts how in the 1950s he saw “decorative furniture with details like small birds and fish made out of wood” in a Pittsburgh department

  • Naked Brunch

    The next time I’m about to dine on a goat-cheese omelet I will pause to reflect on that first forkful. Images of hens in cramped cages stacked on top of each other, the rain of dung that pours down from the highest to lowest, and the thousands of sun-bright bulbs that accelerate their egg-laying cycles will come between that tasty morsel and my prospective enjoyment. A decision to eschew the omelet and order a salad instead would be a testament to the efficacy of Deb Olin Unferth’s unnervingly vivid descriptions of industrial egg production in Barn 8. Animal rights and the dire environmental

  • Proving Ground

    Throughout 2015 and 2016, the US Army set off multiple clouds of deadly chlorine gas, not in some secret location in the Middle East or Afghanistan, but about an hour’s drive south of Salt Lake City. The Dugway Proving Ground, established during World War II, occupies a swath of desert larger than Rhode Island. During the war, the military built villages that resembled German and Japanese towns in order to try out weapons, including poison gas. This activity continues to the present day. In Proving Ground, David Maisel’s aerial and ground-level photos of Dugway—he reports that gaining access

  • Helen Frankenthaler: Sea Change: A Decade of Paintings, 1974-1983

    Across several decades of her career, Helen Frankenthaler painted an intimate, interior sense of landscape. She achieved this, in part, with a technique called “soak stain,” which she invented while creating her earliest masterwork, Mountains and Sea, 1952. Frankenthaler would pour paint diluted with turpentine onto unprimed canvas, creating watercolor-like effects. The softened hues and diffuse shapes captured the subjective experience of the natural world. While watercolors are typically small, Frankenthaler preferred large canvases, sometimes as wide as twelve feet. The scale and the method

  • Hildegard von Bingen: A Journey into the Images

    IN THE PAST FEW DECADES, the accomplishments of medieval polymath and visionary Hildegard von Bingen have gained widespread recognition. The Benedictine abbess was born in 1098 and, over the course of her long life, excelled as an artist, composer, and author. She extended the melodic range of sacred music, wrote sizable tomes that combined her deep studies of botany and medicine, and even found time to invent an alphabet. She also wrote and illustrated three works devoted to the apparitions she regularly beheld beginning at the age of five. The manuscript of Scivias (a contraction of the phrase

  • A Boy’s Own Story

    Even when a photograph of a wounded or suffering child becomes familiar, it retains the power to unsettle. The smudged face of a sharecropper’s daughter, children arrayed behind barbed wire at Auschwitz, a starving Biafran child, a nine-year-old girl seared by napalm in Vietnam—these images still disturb viewers and prompt strong responses. Yet, as Susan Sontag argued in On Photography, it’s difficult to measure their ultimate utility: “The knowledge gained through still photographs,” she wrote, “will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist.” That propensity for

  • Richard Diebenkorn: A Retrospective

    WITH ITS SOFT YET VIBRANT YELLOWS AND REDS in a floral-patterned wallpaper set against an array of angular blues, Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad, a 1965 painting by Richard Diebenkorn, evidences the profound influence of Matisse. Diebenkorn saw works by that artist in 1964 at the State Hermitage Museum and would come to share his strong geographic identification with a sunny locale, replacing the French Riviera with the state of California, his home for most of his creative life. Titled after the Santa Monica neighborhood where he kept a studio beginning in 1967, his widely acclaimed “

  • Some Trick

    The gold- and silver-colored crucifix that hung opposite my childhood bed was only one of many that adorned the walls of my home, my school, and, of course, the church I attended. On early-summer mornings the bright, filigreed metal caught the rays that leaked around a too-narrow window shade and the dying Christ glowed as if electrified. At age eight I understood the principle of reflected light but didn’t yet grasp the concept of an afterimage—the result of photoreceptors retaining an impression after the eye is closed or upon looking away from the object. After waking one morning, I allowed

  • Growth and Decay: Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

    Novels and films tend to portray postapocalyptic cities as either devastated or abandoned. While the former might take inspiration from photos of Hiroshima or Dresden, places long emptied of people can be somewhat harder to imagine. What would Poughkeepsie or Staten Island look like years after a plague swept the planet? Some hint can be found in David McMillan’s photographs of the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, and the environs around the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In late April 1986, a reactor there suffered a catastrophic failure that spread radioactive material for thousands of miles

  • Jason Moran

    The roster of musicians—Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, and many others—who played the Three Deuces nightclub on Manhattan’s 52nd Street from the 1940s through the ’50s nearly encompasses the whole of modern jazz history. Yet any trace of that iconic locale, as well as all the other jazz venues that once lined the block, has long been obliterated by office towers. Some redress for this cultural disregard can be found in Jason Moran’s installation STAGED: Three Deuces, which was featured at the 2015 Venice Biennale. A pianist, composer, and visual artist, Moran demonstrates

  • Henry Taylor: The Only Portrait I Ever Painted of My Momma Was Stolen

    Henry Taylor painted an impressive range of subjects that included close friends and total strangers, the famous and the unknown. It’s a gallery that includes Miles Davis and Eldridge Cleaver; the children of fellow artists; and anonymous figures (a panhandler, a child modeling a new dress) caught in scenes of daily life. He ranges through African American achievements and grievous injustices to depict, for instance, Alice Coachman (above), the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, as well as a lifeless Philando Castile in a 2017 work, The Times Thay Aint A Changing, Fast Enough! Like

  • Touch Wood

    In 1969 the painter Jack Whitten arrived in the town of Agia Galini, on the Greek island of Crete. Shortly before leaving New York he’d had a dream in which he was commanded to find a tree and carve it. From the bus window he spied the tree from his dream. He approached the owner, but because Whitten couldn’t speak Greek, the man thought he was saying he wanted to cut it down. Whitten came up with a plan to communicate his aim: “I went into the surrounding hills, found some wood and set up shop on the harbor beneath some trees.” The owner understood immediately and even lent Whitten his tools.

  • William L. Hawkins: An Imaginative Geography

    William L. Hawkins painted a near-encyclopedic array of subjects: animals both familiar and exotic, the Last Supper, cityscapes, stadiums, winter landscapes, Old West scenes, a bullfight, a jukebox, Jerusalem, the Statue of Liberty, the Nativity, the moon landing, and the rock of Gibraltar. Hawkins was a longtime resident of Columbus, Ohio, but his vision extends to distant locales, taking in everything from Bible history to Mr. T. On almost every one of his paintings you will find his date and place of birth (“William L. Hawkins Born KY July 27, 1895” or some variant thereof) prominently marked

  • Night and the City

    The tabloid photographer Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, produced many iconic New York City images, but one in particular, taken in December 1940 in the East Village, captures the quintessence of his life and career. The photo presents a slain gangster, one Lewis Sandano, facedown on the pavement, partially covered by what appears to be a crumpled and bloodied sheet of butcher paper; a policeman stands beside the corpse and takes notes with businesslike aplomb. But this otherwise ordinary crime-scene image offers a wry comedic twist—dominating the foreground of the frame, hovering over

  • Thomas Struth

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN looking and seeing—between mere perception of surfaces and an understanding of their meanings—is a division that photographic art is especially disposed to explore. Photographers have long pressed against their art’s presumed documentary function, creating a subjective sense of the seen by applying the tools of their craft. This persona-driven approach was challenged by Bernd and Hilla Becher, founders of the Düsseldorf School of Photography, whose students included Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Struth. Known for their typological studies of

  • Ballenesque: Roger Ballen; A Retrospective

    AMONG THE EARLIEST IMAGES displayed in this sizable account of Roger Ballen’s nearly fifty-year career is Dead Cat, New York, 1970. In the foreground of the photo, a feline—mouth agape, teeth bared, its body stretched as if scampering toward the viewer—lies on the side of a country road. The blur of a car racing away in the upper-left corner of the frame provides a witty counterpoint to the animal’s eternally stalled dash. Thus, at the outset of his career, Ballen was already compelled by the motifs that would energize his work for several decades to come: animals, lurid corporeality, and

  • California Infernal: Anton LaVey & Jayne Mansfield as Portrayed by Walter Fischer

    THE BIBLE-THUMPING condemnations of pre-Code Hollywood declared its racy films to be wicked enticements cast before innocent eyes. The overheated rhetoric was of a piece with the films themselves: Sin as a showstopper has always proved to be profitable for preachers as well as moviemakers. A preacher of a different sort, Anton LaVey, took cues from both the moguls and the ministers to found the Church of Satan and author The Satanic Bible. From Hollywood, he borrowed the splashy opening—for instance, by ordaining the beginning of the “Age of Satan” on Walpurgisnacht in 1966. With his shaved

  • Weird Séance

    They saw dead people. They heard them too. When summoned, dead people rang bells, wrote on slates, levitated tables. Sometimes their faces hovered in the air. The dead made this commotion for their parents, children, siblings, and friends at the behest of gifted individuals capable of readily communing with the world beyond. If the movement associated with this phenomenon, known as spiritualism—which was popular to varying degrees from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century—now appears a quaint relic of a benighted past, we should consider the vigorous currency of aura reading,

  • Rauschenberg / Dante: Drawing a Modern Inferno

    THE VIVID DESCRIPTIONS of human suffering in Dante’s Inferno have long attracted visual artists. It’s no surprise that Sandro Botticelli, Gustave Doré, William Blake, Auguste Rodin, and Salvador Dalí all tried their hand at depicting the Italian poet’s demonic landscape. That dark world is rich in dramatic occasion (“an old man, his hair white with age, cried out: / ‘Woe unto you, you wicked souls’”) and irresistibly pictorial (“These wretches . . . / naked and beset / by stinging flies and wasps / that made their faces stream with blood, / which, mingled with their tears, / was gathered at

  • Unpopular Mechanics

    Children's picture books are often our first acquaintance with storytelling. In a board book devoted, say, to trucks, what appears to an adult to be a series of discrete images will, for a preverbal child, provide a narrative: Embedded in the facing images of a pickup and a monster truck is likely a tale of growth and diminishment, or maybe simplification and elaboration. Of course, this is a rough surmise; we can't be sure exactly what's going on inside the kid's head. But we can assume a basic human impulse to look for order and imbue it with meaning. In 1977, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel,