Books by Lucy R. Lippard

Released: April 15, 2014

"Centrifugal and sometimes hard to follow but always interesting, tracing the intersection of art, the environment, geography and politics."
Art historian and social critic Lippard (On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place, 1999, etc.) turns in another trademark work of inductive cultural tourism. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1999

A lively essay in cultural geography that delves into the question of how tourist attractions are invented and sold. There's something about the phenomenon of "rubbernecking," scorned by literary travel writers, that appeals to art critic Lippard (The Lure of the Local, 1997); rubbernecking, the evil opposite of sophisticated travel, "implies a willingness or desire on the part of the tourist to stretch, literally, past her own experience, to lean forward in anticipation, engagement, amazement, or horror." Amazement and horror are key words, for, Lippard continues, domestic tourists like nothing quite so much as to visit the sites of massacres or bloody battles, to say nothing of strip mines, Wild West cemeteries, alligator farms, and other monuments to violence and mayhem. They come to the west, Lippard writes with inspired overstatement, "looking for places destroyed by shifting economies: Indian ruins, ghost towns, abandoned farms, deserted mines, and nineteenth-century spaces frozen in the governmentally managed wildernesses"; they go (or went, before the cleanup) to New York to gawk at the city's bad seed in Times Square; they go to popular museums across the land to take in weird dioramas and improbable interpretations of history. Lippard gets a little scattershot at times, spending much of her narrative on performance and plastic art that few domestic tourists would ever care to see; but she has a fine, irreverent style and an eye for the bizarre, complemented by dozens of well-chosen photographs to back her points. Above all, she has fun with her subject, as when she writes of an Armageddon theme park now under construction outside Tel Aviv and slated to be finished in 2000. The park, she says, "is aimed at fundamentalist Christians who believe Christ will arrive for his second coming in the year 2007—a lot of work for a park that will last only seven years." Lippard's leisurely stroll through some of the wackier venues of our day makes for enjoyable reading. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

A discursive look at the ongoing transformation of the American landscape. Art critic Lippard (Mixed Blessings, not reviewed, etc.) posits that Americans are rapidly losing their sense of place and their local loyalties as a result of the country's fin-de-siäcle homogenization, courtesy of look-alike Walmarts and McDonald's, strip malls and housing developments, and thanks as well to hybrid cultural styles that see a new Trump luxury hotel in downtown New York augured in by practitioners of the Chinese art of feng shui, or geomancy. Lippard writes with undisguised nostalgia for a different, more historically aware America; at the top of each text page runs a journal of her life in the little town of Georgetown, Me., where such virtues presumably still obtain. Recognizing that regionalism is a cultural invention and as such somewhat artificial, she explores the possibilities for place-based public art that ``has both roots and reach'' and that honors local history and mores. She also looks into the prospects for preserving that older, idiomatic, vernacular America while allowing that, given their druthers, most people would often rather build for the future than maintain the past. (Only lack of money keeps them from doing so, she writes, quoting a colleague who observes that ``poverty is a wonderful preservative of the past.'') Some of her themes—for instance, ``alienated displacement'' and ``the possibility of a multicentered society,'' whatever that is—grow a little wearisome as they are repeated throughout the text. But on the whole Lippard's narrative is interesting and thoughtful, and her critiques are often delightfully acidic, especially when she deals with enervating planned suburbs and gated communities and the monstrosities that pass for public art today. The more than 150 illustrations in color and black-and-white complement and extend her discussion very nicely. A solid contribution to popular geography. Read full book review >