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Stories by W.S. Di Piero

Grounded in Charles White

The African-American artist Kerry James Marshall, whose retrospective in Los Angeles I reviewed here in 2017, says that his mission and aspiration is to create “a grand, epic narrative with black figures in it.” The ...

April 25, 2019
Sally Mann wanted imagery that looked bruised by history

The history of photography tracks the cultural history of childhood and the innocence we like to think abides there. When the inventor of photography, Henry Fox Talbot, made images of his family in the 1840s, ...

January 16, 2019
A certain kind of God

A certain kind of God

September 5, 2018
Burgled secrecies

The first photograph I saw by Brassaï, many years ago, was a 1948 portrait of Jean Genet. Hands in pockets, slight of form, his face an ambiguous index of skittishness and cunning, Genet offers and ...

July 25, 2018
Beauty built on blood

In 2003, an archaeologist digging near the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, one of the grand structures at the ancient city of Teotihuacan in Central Mexico, felt a soft spot in the earth that turned out to ...

March 28, 2018
Familiar muralists, but a lot unfamiliar

One pleasure of anthology exhibitions is discovering pictures by unfamiliar artists. The English-born artist Leonora Carrington was new to me when I saw a small picture by her in Modern Masters from Latin America, currently ...

January 3, 2018
Deep, unusual Mexico in photos

Modern Masters from Latin America reminds us, if we need to be reminded, that Modernism knew no borders. Point/Counterpoint, a compelling selection of 19 contemporary Mexican photographers currently at the Museum of Photographic Arts, has ...

January 3, 2018
Twelve Bellini holy pictures at the Getty

Pictures sometimes become devotional objects or pilgrimage destinations. Their contents have the feeling of secular-sacred spaces. The room called the Living Hall in New York’s Frick Collection houses several robust portraits, Titian’s force-of-nature Pietro Aretino ...

November 29, 2017
Kerry James Marshall addresses the absence of blackness

Slinky, unfurling forms run around and through many of Kerry James Marshall’s paintings. They frame individual pictures’ contents and rope together serial canvasses into a narrative of styles and scenes. In his 1993 De Style, ...

May 31, 2017
Artifacts of the cult

Tension between Death and the woman is as wiry and volatile as the religious tension of the times.

January 11, 2017
Life as meat

In the years following World War II, the biggest art conversation was about abstraction and what to do with it. The critical center was New York and the artists in question were Pollock, Rothko, de ...

September 14, 2016
Beautiful disgusts after some masterpieces

Many of us seek and cherish essences when traveling to foreign places: a food, a shop, a fall of light, an open-air market, the peculiar curve or steep of street or hillside, the play of ...

June 22, 2016
Bawdy shots

I was 11 or 12 when I befriended an older neighborhood boy who was a fanatical bodybuilder. Johnny pumped iron in the basement and would interrupt any conversation to do handstand pushups against a wall. ...

May 18, 2016
German art right before Hitler

In many of these photos, things have an existential aura of their own and seem to be observing us.

November 11, 2015
Passionate energy just this side of anarchy at San Diego Museum of Art

Coney Island: Visions of the American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is a game, splashy exhibition.

September 23, 2015
Sparky, hectic, unmediated inventiveness on display

The Self-Taught Genius exhibit at the Mingei, artifacts from their conversation with the world

July 15, 2015
Stunning but remote physicality in Essaydi’s women

Essaydi’s women don’t “present” to the viewer: each has an inner life made visible but unavailable to us.

July 8, 2015
Turner set free

JMW Turner: Painting Set Free at the Getty through May 24.

April 8, 2015
Koudelka was into enormity

An enormous crowd pushes against an advancing tank, as if to deny its force.

January 14, 2015
March of time

“I have always liked hot music. There’s something wrong with an American who doesn’t.”

November 19, 2014
Picture of crude force

Rilke announced in a poem the arrival of the great war god who would renew humanity.

September 17, 2014
With cruel glee

The Scandalous Art of James Ensor explores the art of the Great Distruber.

July 30, 2014
Fevered, emotionally reportorial realism

“The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it.” Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain, on view at the San Diego Museum of Art until September 9.

May 14, 2014
The Queen and her subjects

I haven’t owned a camera for 30 years and don’t yet have a smartphone. I’ve been writing about photography for 30 years, and when I was very young it shaped my sensibility in ways I’m ...

March 19, 2014
Portable Paintings

One of the great movie gangsters was also a smart, discriminating art collector. As Rico Bandello in Little Caesar (“Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?”), Edward G. Robinson, born Emmanuel Goldenberg in ...

February 12, 2014
Street jam

Balboa Park’s got Women, War, and Industry and Staking Claim: A California Invitational.

December 18, 2013
In a dark room

Abelardo Morell has used his house as his camera.

October 30, 2013
In from the cold

Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years 1953–1956, on view at the de Young Museum until September 29, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco. 415-750-3600; deyoung.famsf.org Beyond Belief: 100 years of the Spiritual in Modern Art, ...

September 18, 2013
The image-maker

Arnold Newman: Masterclass, on view at the San Diego Museum of Art until September 8. 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park. 619-232-7931; sdmart.org Mirrors were scarce in most mid-19th-century houses. Even by the 1840s, when a ...

August 14, 2013
The Graces

W.S. Di Piero proves photography is authentic fine art.

July 17, 2013
Mute testimony

Pictures of the Year International, on view at the Museum of Photographic Arts until September 22. 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-238-7559; mopa.org In Kinsasha, a troubled, impoverished city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ...

June 19, 2013
Piranesi’s hoard of haunted spaces

The Arts of Piranesi, on view at the San Diego Museum of Art until July 7. 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-232-7931; sdmart.org You can’t always get what you want, and you can’t always determine ...

May 15, 2013
Strike-meister Bill Traylor

Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, on view at the Mingei International Museum until May 12. 1439 El Prado, Balboa Park. 619-239-0003; ...

April 24, 2013
Thing itself

Jessica Lange: unseen, is on view at the Museum of Photographic Arts until May 19, 1649 El Prado, San Diego, 619-238-7559; mopa.org Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges have two things in common, photography and King ...

March 13, 2013
The Caravaggio effect

Caravaggio and His Legacy, on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until February 10. 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. 323-857-6000; lacma.org In his 20s, in Rome, in the first decade of the ...

January 9, 2013
Mildly Hallucinated

Disturbing strangeness at the Museum of Photographic Arts.

November 14, 2012
Eavesdropper

I’ve been listening to the jazz pianist Dave McKenna, who died in 2008. He was a lyrical swing artist with some of Bill Evans’s melancholy, though he wasn’t as inventive as Evans and didn’t have ...

September 19, 2012
The Racial Memory of John Valadez

When I saw Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus, I was reminded that our best filmmakers are now nearly sole proprietors of the visionary mood. Scott’s movie, with its spectral holographic conjurings of mythic ancestors spiraling through ...

August 15, 2012
Pictorial Juice

While leafing through my latest issue of Vanity Fair, I sometimes think that for fashion models and celebrities the body is something they wear, as most of us wear a cocktail dress or tux. Their ...

July 11, 2012
Remnants of the Sun and Moon

D.H. Lawrence believed that the earth and sky gods are still with us, active in what he called our “blood consciousness,” but have been repressed by Christian “education.” In his novel The Plumed Serpent, two ...

June 13, 2012
Marfa Moments

Author W.S. Di Piero stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Randy Quaid when the actor was on the lam. This was in Marfa, TX, where Di Piero stuck around to check out the work of Donald Judd.

May 16, 2012
Buddhas in Caves

Sweet, unbroken rhythm at the San Diego Museum of Art.

April 18, 2012
More Photographs Than Bricks

Next time you see a Ken Burns documentary, think of Lou Stoumen. It was Stoumen who invented a track that allowed a camera to slowly pan up and down while zooming in and out of ...

March 7, 2012
Cuddly Carrion

Art exhibitions serve an especially useful purpose if they revise our assumptions and rewrite established narratives, correcting for new information, shifting valuations, fresh polemical agendas, and the mysteries of shared taste. Without a foundational intellectual ...

February 15, 2012
Illuminations

While sampling one of the “immersive environments” in Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, currently at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, I suffered a mild panic attack, but don’t let that keep you away. ...

January 25, 2012
Big Black Sun

I know people who say they’re from the ’60s as some people say they’re from Paris or New York. It’s not descriptive, it’s declarative, proudly (or smugly) so, and vaguely definitive of their politics. I ...

December 14, 2011
I Gotta Use Words When I Talk to You

Born in 1960, the African-American artist Glenn Ligon grew up in housing projects in the Bronx but attended the privileged, mostly white Walden School in Manhattan, a one-hour commute each way. Later, after majoring in ...

November 16, 2011
The Visceral Surge of Spanish Art

The plummy walls of the San Diego Museum of Art give the exhibition they surround, From El Greco to Dalí, a velvet jewel-case warmth. If the rooms were full of Goya’s ferocious Caprichos or Disasters ...

October 12, 2011
Human Passing

We’re cognizant of but normally don’t heed the fact that we’re hostages of fortune. I sometimes think photography was invented as a memory aid to press upon us that unhappy fact. The first batch of ...

September 14, 2011
Home Is Where the Art Is

When the American furniture manufacturer Gustav Stickley returned from a trip to England in 1897, he brought back an idea promulgated by John Ruskin (social reformer, connoisseur, premier art critic of his day) and William ...

August 17, 2011

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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