Friday, June 23, 2017

"Rexroth's Strawberries" and the Beauty of IOWA

In the early 1970s, Nancy Rexroth began photographing the rural landscapes, children, white frame houses, and domestic interiors of southeastern Ohio with a plastic toy camera called the Diana. Having discovered the Diana camera while in graduate school in Ohio, Rexroth began experimenting with the looseness and spontaneity of the camera and the images it produced.
Plastic cameras are a simple and loving tonic for those who are frustrated and needing joy in their art work. How can you be at all serious, while using a camera that makes the sound of a wind-up toy every time you advance the film?—Nancy Rexroth, Q&A with Blake Andrews
Working with the camera’s properties of soft focus and vignetting, and further manipulating the photographs by deliberately blurring or sometimes overlaying them, Rexroth created dreamlike, poetic images of “my own private landscape, a state of mind.” She called this state IOWA. Rexroth self-published her evocative images in 1977 in the book IOWA, and the photographic community responded immediately and strongly to the work. Aperture published a portfolio of IOWA images in a special issue, The Snapshot, alongside the work of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Emmet Gowin. The International Center for Photography, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution included IOWA images in group exhibitions.

Forty years after its original publication, IOWA has become a classic of fine art photography, a renowned demonstration of Rexroth’s ability to fashion a world of surprising aesthetic possibilities using a simple, low-tech dollar camera. Long out of print and highly prized by photographers and photobook collectors, IOWA will be republished with twenty-two previously unpublished images, a new foreword by Magnum photographer and book maker Alec Soth, an essay by internationally acclaimed curator Anne Wilkes Tucker, and postscripts by Nancy Rexroth and Mark L. Power, who wrote the essay in the first edition.


   
Alec Soth, who wrote the foreword, "Wild Strawberries," for the reissued book, said of Rexroth's work: "[Her] images seem not to set the hard facts of place but instead to evoke the world of dreams." He compares her photography to a character in Ingmar Bergman's film, Wild Strawberries, writing: 
"It occurs to me that her delicate and informal way of photographing might be compared to picking wild strawberries. As in Bergman’s film, small delicacies carry larger symbolic meaning. . . . Rexroth’s pictures, her vibration, her wild strawberries: they are a kind of longing. Their inability to be located, the softness of the tones, their simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of time: these combine to create a sort of betweenness, like the sensation of moving toward a goal, like the feeling of seeking."
IOWA—the first photography book to showcase the artistry and beauty of photos taken on the Diana—remains a seminal volume and point of inspiration for contemporary photographers. As renowned photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker writes in her essay for the reissue, "[Rexroth] preserves moments and scenes others might never notice or reject as unworthy of record: the look of a freshly made bed and of one unmade, the low perspective of blades of grass, and thin shadows of winter limbs snaking across the side of a home. She uses graphic forms with the intelligence of a fine poet. This is a feminine eye and a brave one. She takes a crosscurrent rather than follow the prevailing winds and brings us with her."

IOWA is currently available for pre-order, and will be available from your favorite bookseller in August.


IOWA Nancy Rexroth

Monday, June 19, 2017

Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Militarization in the Age of Trump


By Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera


The rapid growth of organized crime in Mexico and the government’s response to it have driven an unprecedented rise in violence and impelled major structural economic changes, including the recent passage of energy reform. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera’s new book, Los Zetas Inc.
Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico, asserts that these phenomena are a direct and intended result of the emergence 
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of the brutal Zetas criminal organization and the corporate business model they have advanced in Mexico. Since the Zetas share some characteristics with legal transnational businesses that operate in the energy and private security industries, she also compares this criminal corporation with ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and Blackwater (renamed "Academi," and now a Constellis company).

Combining vivid interview commentary with in-depth analysis of organized crime as a transnational and corporate phenomenon, this book proposes a new theoretical framework for understanding the emerging face, new structure, and economic implications of organized crime in Mexico. Arguing that the armed conflict between criminal corporations (like the Zetas) and the Mexican state resembles a civil war, Correa-Cabrera identifies key beneficiaries of this war, including arms-producing companies, the international banking system, the US border economy, the US border security/military-industrial complex, and corporate capital, especially international oil and gas companies.

Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (Brownsville campus) and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. We asked her to comment on the effects of President Trump’s border policy on what she identifies as the beneficiaries of organized crime in Mexico, mainly the US border security/military-industrial complex and corporations.

Criminal Corporations, Militarization, and Energy in the Age of Trump


Mexico’s so-called drug war can be characterized, in some way, as a modern war relating to the control of energy production. In the present context, it is possible to identify groups that seem to have benefited the most from a novel criminal scheme (directly or indirectly) introduced by the Zetas organization, the Mexican government’s reaction to it, and the resulting brutality. The primary (or potential) winners of this armed conflict appear to be “corporate actors in the energy sector, transnational financial companies, private security firms (including private prison companies), and the US border-security/military-industrial complex.”[1]

Moreover, Mexico’s violent spiral coincides with strengthened US border security and has had positive effects on the US border economy. Official numbers at the national level show that crime rates in US border counties are relatively low and have decreased in the past few years due to enhanced border enforcement. Similarly, forced displacements in Mexico have modified migration patterns from this country to the United States. Irregular migration flows from Mexico have declined and “a greater number of relatively more skilled and wealthier Mexicans have been legally emigrating from afflicted border areas in Mexico to the United States. Overall, the effects of the war on Mexico-US migration dynamics seem to be positive for the US economy.”

The main losers of Mexico’s new criminal model and severe armed conflict essentially seem to be the country’s most vulnerable people—those who did not have the resources to flee or defend themselves against extortion, kidnappings, and other forms of brutality carried out by criminal groups, paramilitaries, and government forces—and the national oil industry, represented by the once oil monopoly PetrĂ³leos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Their spaces are being (or will be) occupied by private companies, many of them transnational and often very powerful. In the recent years, “[f]orced displacements, massive disappearances, and militarization in key parts of the country have emptied strategic lands and left them available for future investments, mainly in the energy sector.”[2]

It is worth noting that disappearances, forced displacements, and depreciation of land values in key areas of Mexico have not halted investment in energy and commercial infrastructure. Energy contractors have not curbed their activities; “the expansion of large investment projects continues despite the high risk posed by organized crime and the large number of disappearances. It is also interesting to observe that while Los Zetas and groups following the same criminal paramilitary model have affected small and medium entrepreneurs [related to] the hydrocarbon industry as well as Pemex, they have hardly touched transnational interests.”


President Donald Trump being sworn in on January 20, 2017 at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. 
In January of the present year, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. His electoral campaign was unique in the sense that it put Mexico, for the first time in history, at the center of the US electoral discourse and foreign policy agenda. Trump asserted that Mexican immigrants in the United States are, “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” Therefore, he proposed to build a “big, beautiful, impenetrable” wall, bolster border enforcement significantly, and arrest and deport vast numbers of undocumented immigrants. Trump has pledged to get Mexico to pay for this wall—potentially, he has said, through tariffs. Indeed, the White House communicated that a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico was being considered as a form of payment for the construction of the proposed southern border wall.

Imposing those border taxes would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as it is known today. It is also worth mentioning that Trump “ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA.” In his quest to “Make America Great Again” and for putting “America First,” Trump pledged in a statement to negotiate "tough and fair" trade agreements with the aim of further generating jobs for the American people. Under this new context, as soon as Trump assumed his role as President of the United States, he signed an order abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the largest regional trade accord in history that once involved the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations and represented roughly forty percent of the world’s economic output. Following this same logic, the new US President has set his sights on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Adapting Cormac McCarthy: Tracking Blood from Page to Screen

Stacey Peebles' new book, Cormac McCarthy and Performance, is the first comprehensive overview of the renowned author's writings for film, theater, and the film adaptations of his novels. Uncovering these oft-overlooked works by drawing on primary sources from McCarthy's recently opened archive and interviews with several collaborators, this book examines titles such as the 1977 televised film The Gardener's Son, McCarthy's unpublished screenplays from the 1980s that became the foundation for his Border Trilogy novels and No Country for Old Men; various productions of two of his plays; and seven film adaptations.
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The vice president of the Cormac McCarthy Society, an associate professor of English and the director of film studies at Centre College, Peebles focuses on the emergent theme of tragedy within McCarthy's work, relaying the difficulties of translating his vivid depictions of violence and suffering into the medium of film by giving us a brief look into the unending and often upended saga of adapting 1985's Blood Meridian to the silver screen.

Tracking Blood from Page to Screen

Stacey Peebles


American cinema—and cinema generally—is no stranger to violence. In 1903, one of the first one-reelers, Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery, showcased a group of outlaws who didn’t hesitate to shoot innocent bystanders or beat a man’s face in with a rock before tossing the body off the moving train. Later years would pass milestone after violent milestone: Bonnie and Clyde meeting their gruesome and excessively brutal end in Arthur Penn’s 1967 film (a level of graphic realism that audiences were already seeing every night on the evening news about the Vietnam War, Penn implied); Michael Corleone ordering hits on all his rivals to take place simultaneously with his niece’s baptism in Coppola’s The Godfather (1977); Quentin Tarantino blasting his way into the national consciousness with an unsettling mix of violence and comedy in Pulp Fiction (1994); and the development of the 1970s slasher film into the post-9/11 “torture porn” of Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005). Even now, when a glut of superhero films present violence as fantastical or metaphoric, audiences seem ever willing to consider, even test themselves against, spectacular violence in cinema.
From The Great Train Robbery

The Western, the genre which The Great Train Robbery inaugurated into film, may not be as ubiquitous as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, but it remains alive, resurrected from claims of its obsolescence by films like True Grit (2012), The Revenant (2016), and Hell or High Water (2017). Violence is arguably the genre’s fundamental element, and some films take that bloodiness to an extreme, like The Wild Bunch (1969) or The Hateful Eight (2015). And so an acclaimed Western novel from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author like Cormac McCarthy, whose No Country for Old Men was masterfully (and very lucratively) adapted for the screen by the Coen brothers, would seem like a sure bet, brimming with cinematic potential. (And who remembered the fiasco that was All the Pretty Horses, anyway? 2000 was ancient Hollywood history, and blame it all on Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein if you need to point the finger somewhere.)

McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian is epic in scope, style, and import. It has a narrative focus and sweep that is, as Steven Frye and others have argued, likely influenced by Western films from directors like Peckinpah. The novel’s language is ineffably literary and, at the same time, richly imagistic. After all, this is no Remembrance of Things Past, a deeply internal exploration of memory and the streams of consciousness. Blood Meridian is a story in which action and landscape speak loudest, and though it may be philosophical, political, historical, and theological, it is perhaps most primarily a vivid, disturbing, haunting spectacle. And spectacle is the very language of film. Despite those attractions and advantages, however, the novel has thus far eluded attempts to bring it to the screen—perhaps indicating that, at least as far as violence is concerned, there are still some places that lie off the cinematic map.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Recommendations for Father's Day


We have gift recommendations for books that make great Father's Day gifts, including books for guitar gear heads, taco lovers, shutterbugs, architects, swimming hole aficionados, and more. Shop at your local independent bookstore!



* Top Pick for Father's Day *


This Land by Jack Spencer




"'Bang!' went my heart when I opened the photographer Jack Spencer’s powerful
This Land: An American Portrait."


Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review






This Land
An American Portrait
Photographs by Jack Spencer; foreword by Jon Meacham
Created across thirteen years, forty-eight states, and eighty thousand miles, this startlingly fresh photographic portrait of the American landscape shares artistic affinities with the works of such American masters as Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Mark Rothko, and Albert Bierstadt.
Hardcover, $45.00
284 pages | 13 x 11 | 142 color photos | ISBN: 978-1-4773-1189-9

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A Perfectly Good Guitar
By Chuck Holley
Musicians including Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, JD Souther, Jorma Kaukonen, Bill Frisell, and Kelly Willis pose with and tell stories about the classic Gibsons, Fenders, Martins, and other guitars that have become their most prized instruments.
Hardcover, $34.95

208 pages | 7 x 9 | 91 color photos, 4 b&w photos | ISBN: 978-1-4773-1257-5


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Rosanne Cash, JD Souther, and Sonny Landreth's Prized Guitars

Rosanne Cash, JD Souther, and Sonny Landreth's Prized Guitars






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One More Warbler
One More Warbler
A Life with Birds

By Victor Emanuel, with S. Kirk Walsh
With stories of sighting rare birds ranging from an Eskimo Curlew to the cranes of Asia, one of America’s foremost birders recalls a lifetime of birding adventures, including friendships with luminaries Roger Tory Peterson, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton.
Hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1238-4






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The Texanist
The Texanist
By David Courtney and Jack Unruh

The first collection of acclaimed illustrator Jack Unruh’s work, this book gathers the best of the illustrations he created for The Texanist, Texas Monthly’s back-page column, along with the serious and not-so-serious questions that inspired them.

Hardcover, $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1297-1






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Rewrite Man
Rewrite Man
The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren


By Alison Macor

This lively biography of the screenwriter of 1980s hit movies Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beetlejuice, and Batman illuminates issues of film authorship that have become even more contested in the era of blockbuster filmmaking. 
Hardcover, $35.00
ISBN: 978-0-292-75945-9






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T Bone Burnett
T Bone Burnett
A Life in Pursuit

By Lloyd Sachs
This first critical appreciation of T Bone Burnett reveals how the proponent of Americana music and producer of artists ranging from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss to B. B. King and Elvis Costello has profoundly influenced American music and culture.
Hardcover, $26.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-0377-1






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The American Idea of Home
The American Idea of HomeConversations about Architecture and Design
By Bernard Friedman; foreword by Meghan Daum
Wide-ranging interviews with leading architectural thinkers, including Thom Mayne, Richard Meier, Robert Venturi, Paul Goldberger, Robert Ivy, Denise Scott Brown, Kenneth Frampton, and Robert A. M. Stern, spotlight some of the most significant issues in architecture today.
Hardcover, $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1286-5 






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The Tacos of Texas
By Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece

With authentic recipes, behind-the-scenes stories, and recommendations of where the locals eat, this is the indispensable guide to Texas’s appetizingly diverse tacos and taco culture by the authors of Austin Breakfast Tacos.

Paperback, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1043-4







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Armadillo World Headquarters
Armadillo World Headquarters
A Memoir
By Eddie Wilson, with Jesse Sublett, Foreword by Dave Marsh

The founder of Armadillo World Headquarters recalls the lively history of this legendary music venue and its role in launching cosmic cowboy/redneck rock and making Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world.
Hardcover, $34.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1382-4






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Project 258Making Dinner at Fish & Game
By Zakary Pelaccio and Peter Barrett

"Project 258 is a thoughtful celebration of the evolution of ingredients that will make you feel hungry and fulfilled at the same time. It’s more about living as a cook than a mere series of collectible recipes. It’s a way of shopping, cooking, and thriving in joy, love, and life! It is inspiring the way reading Thoreau is inspiring."

—Mario Batali, Chef, author, entrepreneur

Hardcover,  $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1225-4







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They Came from the Sky
They Came from the Sky
The Spanish Arrive in Texas

By Stephen Harrigan
This signed edition presents a spellbinding preview of the inaugural volume of the Texas Bookshelf—a major new history of Texas by the New York Times best-selling author Stephen Harrigan.
Paperback, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1294-0






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The Devil's Sinkhole
The Devil's Sinkhole
Two Centuries of American Quilts from the Briscoe Center

By Bill Wittliff; illustrated by Joe Ciardiello
In this engrossing sequel to The Devil’s Backbone, the young man Papa and his cowboy amigo Calley Pearsall confront a legendary killer with a thirst for revenge and a psychopathic boy as the two friends search for the beautiful captive Pela Rosa.

Hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-0974-2







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The Republic of Football
The Republic of Football
Legends of the Texas High School Game

By Chad S. Conine
With interviews and stories of celebrated players, including past and present NFL stars, as well as legendary coaches and dynastic teams from across Texas, The Republic of Football captures the standout moments in Friday night lights.
Hardcover, $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-0371-9






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Eddie Adams
Eddie Adams
Bigger than the Frame

By Eddie Adams; foreword by Don Carleton; preface by Alyssa Adams; essay by Anne Wilkes Tucker
This career-spanning collection of both iconic and rarely seen images celebrates the work of Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Eddie Adams, whose potent visual storytelling ran the gamut from the horrors of war to the lives of the famous and powerful.
Hardcover, $60.00
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1185-1







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The Swimming Holes of Texas
The Swimming Holes of Texas
By Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy
Photography by Carolyn Tracy

Full of practical information to help plan your visits and enticing color photos of one hundred freshwater swimming holes, here is the first-ever guide to the best places to swim in Texas.
Paperback, $21.95
ISBN: 978-1-4773-1297-1 







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A Pure Solar World
A Pure Solar World
Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism

By Paul Youngquist
Surveying the range of Sun Ra’s extraordinary creativity, this book explores how the father of Afrofuturism brought “space music” to a planet in need of transformation, supporting the aspirations of black people in an inhospitable white world.

Hardcover, $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-292-72636-9






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Two Prospectors
Two Prospectors
The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark
By Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark
Edited by Chad Hammett
A compelling portrait of a complex, decades-long friendship, these deeply honest letters and candid family photographs offer the most intimate glimpse we may ever get into the life, personal philosophy, and creative process of America’s leading dramatist.
Paberback, $19.95
ISBN: 978-0-292-76196-4






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