weekend links: Mickalene mimicry, R.O. Kwon, Civilizations

Mickalene Thomas,  A Little Taste Outside of Love  (2007). Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin gallery /Frieze Magazine .

Mickalene Thomas, A Little Taste Outside of Love (2007). Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin gallery/Frieze Magazine.

Juergen Teller, in his photoshoot for Vogue’s December/January issue, depicted Rihanna against colorful, collaged backgrounds, making use of prints and natural scenes. Now, critics are pointing out that the images feel more than reminiscent of the work of Mickalene Thomas, the contemporary artist known for depicting black women in similarly bright, collaged settings. The scandal heightens—both artists are represented by the same gallery. Rihanna continues to work the cover. [Frieze]

“I don’t believe that there is any greater blessing than that of being pierced through & through by the splendour or sweetness of words, & no one who is not transfixed by ‘Die Sonne tönt nach alter Weise,’ or ‘thick as Autumnal leaves that strew the brooks,’ has known half the joy of living. Don’t you agree with me?—I wouldn’t take a kingdom for it,” Edith Wharton wrote in a letter in 1889. This line is one of R. O. Kwon’s favorites, something she returned to while writing her first novel The Incendiaries, which took her ten years to complete. Here is an interview with the writer whose sense of sound in the written word is piercingly harmonic. “The sound of words often hits faster than sense,” she says, “it’s the feeling of words in my mouth. Words are sound after all.” [The Atlantic]

Civilization—what is it? The nine-part PBS series Civilizations, a remake of the 1969 BBC show Civilisation, has just finished airing, offering a supposedly new look at the global history of art. Has the show advanced from the 1960s take on art history? Is a series such as this capable of moving away from a Western Imperialist and Eurocentric take on the history of art? What, exactly, does the title mean? [Hyperallergic]

Art history is awash in baths. Why are so many depicted undergoing this cleansing ritual? Dip your toes in; take a dunk! [Artsy]

Last year, we learned that Estonia has one of the most technologically advanced government bureaucracies in the world, allowing for user-friendly interactions with everyone from your doctor to your DMV. It turns out the country’s not just technologically savvy, but is proving a model for arts support as well, with generous public cultural funding that can serve as a template for others. Could Estonia be Europe’s next big arts center? [artnet]

For the fifth time, academics, fans, and critics have gathered to discuss David Foster Wallace—the widely worshipped author of Infinite Jest, the abusive boyfriend of Mary Karr, the polarizing figure whose struggles with mental health contributed to an early death. The 5th annual DFW conference was, surprisingly, not populated by DFW Bros, but mostly by academics. They gathered to discuss the ongoing question of the value in reading an author whose life and writing was rife with misogynies, racist practices, and other acts of violence toward marginalized communities. This conference can be seen as yet another instance of interrogating the ongoing question: “Can we as readers justify time spent on the creative output of artists whose ethical actions we find lacking?” But more importantly, the conference brushed past the “can we,” and dug into, instead, the matter of “how?” [The Outline]

Jonathan Gold’s death this Saturday hit hard for food writers and eaters and makers and fans everywhere. The late food critic, the only food writer to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, championed the food of Los Angeles’s immigrant communities, using language that refused to Other the cuisine described--a groundbreaking practice for its time. Gold once told a reporter, “It’s something about the sort of physical description I do that seems to work well with food. I could also be a pornographer, but that’s kinda not my kick.” [The New Yorker]

Barry Maxwell was once known as number 113119 at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, otherwise known as ARCH. After a year in rehab, he pursued his GED and discovered his love of writing. Following studies at ACC and UT Austin, he returned to ARCH to teach a writing workshop, helping expose others less fortunate to the power of writing. Now Maxwell is pursuing his MFA at the University of Montana, where he is working with the homeless in Missoula in the same capacity. [Missoula Independent]

HOPE or no HOPE? Austin’s communal paint park, HOPE outdoor gallery, is breaking down its graffiti-laden walls and starting fresh in a new location. The new location will have benefits—bathrooms, fewer tourists, less risk for ticketing of artists—but many mourn the original space, a loss to gentrification. Austin citizens and artists are left to wait and see whether this will truly be the dawn of a new HOPE. [Atlas Obscura]


Juliet Gelfman-Randazzo