Eric Banks

  • Callas: Images of a Legend

    To jaded Us Weekly readers of the early twenty-first century, it’s still a shock to the system to look back on what a walking, talking, singing scandal Maria Callas was, and how this Greek dramatic soprano raised in Queens fed the paparazzi machine of the 1950s and ’60s. But tabloids and newsmagazines alike fawned over Callas’s mythic allure and stoked the rivalry between the diva and her lyric-soprano competitor Renata Tebaldi in a manner guaranteed to roil their vocal partisans. It is still debated whether Callas’s brief career—her voice was basically shot by the late ’50s, and her career

  • Evolution

    Have a relative who still, in this post-Hitchens, post-Dawkins age, intends to vote Huckabee in the primaries to protest the newfangled idea that Homo sapiens are descended from monkeys? Here’s a seasonal suggestion for a nice present: Evolution, a handsome square-formatted volume that commingles Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu’s text with Patrick Gries’s noirish photos of dearly departed members of the family tree—some close, some not so—provides a stylish retort to the ostriches of the world and their sand-sticking ways. M. de Panifieu’s sharp commentary (he is an acclaimed professor of natural

  • Analogue

    “Home is where one starts from. As we grow older / The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated / Of dead and living.” Zoe Leonard appends Analogue, which draws together selected photographs from her 1998–2007 series documenting storefronts on the lower rungs of New York’s socio-economic ladder (think Domsey’s) and the rag trade in markets in Uganda, Poland, and elsewhere, with a cut-and-paste collection of quotes, like the one above from T. S. Eliot’s “East Coker.” This writerly assemblage is more revealing of Leonard’s work than is the usual catalogue essay (the photos were included

  • Isa Genzken: German Pavilion, Venice 2007

    It’s difficult to describe the complexity of Isa Genzken’s installation, titled Oil, created for the German pavilion at this summer’s Venice Biennale. The work is a jangle of mixed sculptures—and mixed messages—inside the long-freighted structure with its overdetermined history. Genzken even framed the pavilion itself in the work, placing an ersatz della Robbia on its facade and veiling the building with orange construction-site material. Inside, the artist’s sculptures—from an arrangement of suitcases with images of dogs slapped onto them to the uncanny “Young Astronauts” lying on the

  • NOBODY’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

    In her 1988 essay “(Im)Personating Gertrude Stein,” Marjorie Perloff takes a sharp knife to Marty Martin’s Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein, the sort of one-character Hal Holbrooke–ish stage production popular in the 1970s and ’80s, and its presentation, as the publisher of the play had declared, of “true Stein style.” The crux of the matter is pretty simple: “On the one hand, there is the public persona, the legendary Gertrude of ‘A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’ and the Picasso portrait. On the other, there are the non-representational, hermetic works such as Tender Buttons

  • Deed of Light

    In the family tree of photography, Edward S. Curtis is close to the trunk of the documentary tradition, even if he eschewed the hard facts of his subjects in order to gussy up the picture. Guilty as he was of erasing all traces of modern life—the automobiles and European dress and twentieth-century settings of his Native American subjects—in order to portray an ersatz tribal authenticity, he was no less beholden to an instrumentalized notion of what the camera could do as a recording device than were the photojournalists and ethnographic filmmakers and street photographers who came after him.

  • Auf Readersehen

    It may be an odd thing to do, but whenever I’m in another country, I always go to as many bookstores as I can, even when the language is Greek to me. I love seeing the differences in how books are made and promoted, the variations in cover designs and trim sizes and colors. Although I realize I’m looking through rose-colored glasses, there seems inevitably to be a cheeriness in window displays and a pleasant languor in browsing that, at least on the surface, are lacking at home. In the process of visiting sundry foreign bookstores, some places have become like old friends to drop in on when

  • Dynamic Splendor: The Wall Mosaics in the Cathedral of Eufrasius at Porec

    “Any mosaic that has survived from the sixth century is treasured,” the authors of Dynamic Splendor aver, in great understatement. What the marvelous two-volume monograph plunders is more than treasure, of course—for it tells in remarkable detail the story of the mosaics in the basilica of Eufrasius at Porecˇ, in the former Yugoslavia. Only Ravenna rivals Porecˇ as an extant example of early–Middle Ages church architecture, and the first volume of Dynamic Splendor wastes no space in describing everything about this two-thousand-year-old Croatian site, from its geographic setting and ecclesiastical

  • Day is Done

    Like a guidance counselor who got his teaching certificate in Bayreuth, Mike Kelley has for years labored at his own Ring cycle of sorts—Educational Complex—but with vampiric thespians and peppy spirit leaders as ersatz Wotans and Frickas. In 2005, New York’s Gagosian Gallery mounted the fun-house installation of Day Is Done. The creepy anthropological tour of the perversejust- under-the-surface cultures of donkey-basketball competitions and Youth for Christ nativity plays was ecstatically brought to life in a Gesamtkunstwerk of photography, sculpture, costume, sound, and video based on the