Albert Mobilio

  • The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid

    In 1847, Oliver Byrne, a little-known mathematician, published an illustrated volume of some of Euclid’s theorems (largely those dealing with plane geometry and the theory of proportion). No one had previously hit on Byrne’s idea to visually depict mathematical ideation, and he was derided by purists to whom the bold pages seemed unserious. But Byrne was hardly inclined to frivolity: “We do not introduce colours for the purpose of entertainment,” he wrote in the volume’s introduction, “or to amuse by certain combinations of tint and form, but to assist the mind in its reaches after truth.” The

  • Beckett: Photographs by François-Marie Banier

    Molloy, the hermetic, dyspeptic narrator of Samuel Beckett’s eponymous novel, sits alone in a bare room, apparently imprisoned, filling pages for the “man who comes every week.” The grim scene is as familiar to anyone who knows the Irishman’s world of barren fields and bleak cells as the below photograph of the poet of nothingness, ambling the streets of a beach town wearing short shorts, sandals, and shades, is unsettling. Perhaps photographer François-Marie Banier was also a bit shocked when he recognized and began stalking the vacationing author on the streets of Tangier in 1978. Eventually,

  • Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline

    You may not be able to save time in a bottle, but surely it can be laid on the line. Beginning with fourth-century Christian theologian Eusebius’s Chronicle, the timeline has been a mainstay for historians eager to visualize the temporal. In Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton’s scholarly yet spirited account, we can see the church father’s “image of history” recast with increasing intricacy and decorative flourishes. If some intriguing examples require viewers to decipher minuscule type and thread through labyrinthine structures, the best are often the clearest—those comprehended almost

  • Enumeration Sensation

    Middle of the night and your head teems with half-formed thoughts: Did I pay the car insurance? Where did I park the car? Is my best dress shirt at the dry cleaners? What time’s the wedding on Saturday? Need a map of Vermont to get there. I should frame my vintage maps one of these days. Maybe start with that bird’s-eye view of New Amsterdam, or the blue-tinted mariner’s chart . . .

    How stop this ceaseless ticker tape? The mind’s associative reflex is as rapid as it is circuitous, myriad things and things-to-do always unspooling in the brainpan. If you get out of bed, though, and grab a pen,

  • Lake Antiquity: Poems 1996-2008

    Drawing on the tradition of fanciful collage practiced by such poets as John Ashbery, David Shapiro, and Joe Brainard, Brandon Downing wields his own scissors to cut a distinctive patch within this New York School specialty. Other influences—Charles Henri Ford and Tom Phillips—may also be in evidence, but Downing’s assuredly contemporary sensibility marks both his choice of images and his orchestration of texts. Familiar visuals like those lifted from ’50s- and ’60s-era postcards, magazine ads, and grade school textbooks mix provocatively with rarer fare—a World War II plane-spotting guide, a

  • What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect

    Inspired by a low-key dadaism, California artist William T. Wiley has been making densely allusive, humorously inflected paintings, sculptures, and films for fifty years. The vividly cartoonish, Rube Goldberg–like imagery in Wiley’s creations serves a very literary sensibility—his paintings, prints, and watercolors tell stories and employ wordplay. A series of drawings and watercolors from the early ’80s addresses environmental topics like acid rain and Three Mile Island, as well as overtly political themes such as nuclear proliferation, apartheid, and capital punishment. The tension between

  • Woman Twirling

    Many of the figures in Jo Ann Callis’s photographs are blurred—they’ve been caught in the middle of something: A woman does the twist, skirt flying; a bare-chested fellow clutches his forehead. In these photos (like the one above, in which a young man wails or laughs—hard to say—as he thrashes backward in his chair), a piece of domestic hardware (a plant, a lamp, an electric fan) occupies the foreground like a sentinel insuring a semblance of normality in an otherwise unhinged scene. While Callis surely has a disquieting touch, one evocative of David Lynch’s stagy dreamscapes, her high-contrast

  • Lance Letscher: Collage

    If the Book is doomed, it could have no better funeral director than Austin-based artist Lance Letscher. He may be inclined to dismember the deceased, but he’ll leave behind a beautiful corpse. The raw materials for his intricate and startlingly colorful collages are mined, by and large, from his favorite Dumpster out back of a local used-book and -record store, where he collects discarded volumes—he’s especially fond of shiny-covered college tomes and beat-up high school books—for his studio-cum–chop shop. The resulting mosaiclike collages call to mind the work of Martín Ramírez and Adolf

  • Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting

    One day each week in grade school, I took pen in hand to practice penmanship. I painstakingly traced letters of the alphabet and made long strings of o’s that looked like Slinkys when completed. My teacher would rap my arm, insisting I conform to the prescribed Palmer Method position. Those circles—and the exhortation “Wider, wider, wider, rounder, rounder, rounder”—are inscribed in my hand even today. Kitty Burns Florey also turns to childhood memories to enliven Script and Scribble, her pithy account of the history of handwriting. It makes sense: We never forget our earliest experiences making

  • William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961–2008

    In the mid-’60s, William Eggleston, influenced by Robert Frank’s depiction of a drama-charged everyday, began producing color prints of commonplace scenes, sites, and objects, primarily in the American South. At the time, color photography was associated with decidedly commercial venues and applications—Look magazine, billboards, and Kodachrome snapshots, for instance. But Eggleston exaggerated the true-to-life feel that color processing lent; by employing the ink-heavy dye-transfer method of printing, he deepened the hues till they appeared luxuriant, lurid, even unreal—thus undoing the very

  • The Circus, 1870–1950

    Media circus, family circus, circus catch, political circus, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and the Circus Circus casino in Vegas—yet nowhere among these usages is there to be found an actual sawdust and elephant-scat circus. Before its devolution into mere metaphor (when did you last sit ringside?), the circus was indeed the greatest show on an unwired earth. In their glory days from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the last, Barnum & Bailey, Ringling Brothers, and lesser outfits crisscrossed America bringing spectacle to the masses. This suitcase-size compendium, The Circus,

  • NATO: The Military Codification System for the Ordering of Everything in the World by Suzanne Treister

    The borders of NATO member nations were once hair triggers for nuclear war with the Soviets. But in the post-cold-war era, NATO appears more like a geopolitical relic than a key piece in the apocalyptic endgame between superpowers. Still, the alliance remains a vast and powerful one, and as is always the case with things military, there exists a heroically proportioned bureaucracy. Artist Suzanne Treister makes canny use of one of its elements, the classification system of NATO’s Maintenance and Supply Agency, for her watercolors. The agency has a designated code for an entire world of military

  • It’s Beautiful Here, Isn’t It . . .

    In one of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri’s better-known photos, a woman stands on a tile map of southern Italy, her sandal-clad feet atop Capri and the Bay of Naples. Of this gentle Colossus bestriding sea and craggy coast, we see only green shoes, bare ankles, and the hem of a dress. Picture taking may be a bit of magic, but geography is also just another trick of the eye: The actual world’s always bigger than we can physically embrace but not bigger than we can show. Subverting traditional landscape photography’s heroic impulse, Ghirri prized representational antics over the mere grandeur

  • The Nancy Book

    The sly comedian of the New York School, artist and author Joe Brainard managed in his trademark “I Remember” poems to transform autobiography’s obscure intimacies into near-epic epiphanies—“I remember the only time I saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.” The legerdemain was accomplished through deftly discordant juxtaposition, and the same handiwork is hilariously evident in his many collages, especially the more than one hundred devoted to the comic-strip icon Nancy. This volume collects over fifty of these works, including image-text collaborations with Robert Creeley, Frank O’Hara,

  • The Great Bear pamphlet collection

    POET AND COMPOSER DICK HIGGINS founded Something Else Press in 1963 to publish the experimental writing and manifestos of the artists, authors, and musicians he knew in connection with the New School in New York City. In 1966–67, he issued a batch of pamphlets, most only sixteen pages in length, that featured concrete poems, undoable acts, unactable plays, collages, and diaristic edicts by the likes of John Cage, Claes Oldenburg, Jackson Mac Low, Jerome Rothenberg, Dieter Roth, David Antin, and George Brecht. Many of these slender publications proved to be seminal statements of the avant-garde,

  • Transit Maps of the World

    “Poor Charlie,” the Kingston Trio sang, “may ride forever ’neath the streets of Boston,” his trip on the MTA subway having gone awry because of a nickel increase. But fare change or no, navigating any big-city transit system is a task that would daunt even Theseus. The world’s largest—those in Paris, New York, London, Tokyo, Moscow, and Berlin—each boast hundreds of miles of track and at least several dozen stations. Routes snake through these cities, crisscrossing, connecting, and reconnecting; to get around, you need a plan. For casual collectors whose suitcase pockets bulge with maps from

  • Quarries

    Dig it. That’s what they do, the folks who work in marble and granite quarries. And they dig it deep—creating pits that descend vertiginously like inverted cathedrals. Words such as pit and hole hardly suggest the architectural grandeur—shaped by decades of canny engineering—that characterizes the quarries Canadian landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky presents in this marble slab of a tome. Known for ranging around the globe in search of dramatic interactions with the environment (ship breaking on Bangladeshi beaches, dam building in China’s Three Gorges), Burtynsky visited quarries in

  • Moondog, the Viking of 6th Avenue

    If you found yourself on the corner of Fifty-fourth Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan sometime in the ’60s, you would have come upon a towering figure clad like a Viking (flowing robe, leather cowl adorned with horns, spear) whose closed eyes and biblical beard bespoke a prophetic, otherworldly presence. With his alms cup and strange musical instruments at hand, Moondog held forth at this location for many of the years he busked on the sidewalks of New York City. Born Louis Hardin, the future street musician grew up in various towns around the West and Midwest. As Robert Scotto reports in

  • The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers

    “ALL MY LIFE,” D. H. LAWRENCE ONCE said, “I have from time to time gone back to paint because it gave me a form of delight that words can never give.” The possibility that Lawrence’s urge to make art might be widely shared among his fellow wordsmiths receives ample affirmation in Donald Friedman’s The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers (Minneapolis: Mid-List Press, $40), as well as in a corresponding show recently held at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York City. Among the nearly two hundred writers on display are likely suspects (Henri Michaux, Beatrix Potter,