Required Reading

Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will soon be the tallest building in the world at 3,280 feet (~1,000 meters). As a point of comparison, New York's Empire State Building is 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) high. It is designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects. (via Mashable)
Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will  be the tallest building in the world in 2019 at a height of 3,280 feet (~1,000 meters). As a point of comparison, New York’s Empire State Building is 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) high. And just in case you weren’t sure what this tower “means,” architect Adrian Smith of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects explains: “Our vision for Kingdom Tower is one that represents the new spirit of Saudi Arabia … This tower symbolizes the Kingdom as an important global business and cultural leader, and demonstrates the strength and creative vision of its people.” (via Mashable)

This week, photography’s bias towards dark skin, the world’s tallest building rises, the earliest emoticon, Zorthian Ranch, Noah‘s lack of black people, a novella based on Edward Hopper, the paintings of Bob Ross by the stats, and more.

 Does photography have an inherited bias towards dark skin? Syreeta McFadden considers the question at Buzzfeed:

Photography is balancing an equation between light and documentary. Beauty and storytelling. Honesty and fantasy. The frame says how the photographer sees you. I couldn’t help but feel that what that photographer saw was so wildly different from how I saw myself.

By the 1990s, when I began taking pictures, I hated shooting brown skin on color film. The printed results failed to accurately represent my subjects, their shades obscured, their smiles blown out. I understood that some of this had to do with harmonizing the basic components of great image-making from the gear: film speed, aperture, and the ghost we all chase, light.

The inconsistencies were so glaring that for a while, I thought it was impossible to get a decent picture of me that captured my likeness. I began to retreat from situations involving group photos. And sure, many of us are fickle about what makes a good portrait. But it seemed the technology was stacked against me. I only knew, though I didn’t understand why, that the lighter you were, the more likely it was that the camera — the film — got your likeness right.

 And if you thought public art did not have symbolic power, there’s this unfortunate incident this week at the University of Mississippi:

A fraternity chapter at the University of Mississippi has been shut down after three members hung a noose around the neck of a statue of James Meredith, the university’s first-ever black student.

A pre-2003 Georgia state flag, featuring the Confederate battle emblem, was also draped over the statue’s face.

 This is debatably the earliest known emoticon. Published in 1628, this poem by Robert Herrick uses punctuation in a way that is familiar to us, though some academics don’t agree that this was in fact an intentional smile rather than a produce of the era’s unsettled punctuation rules, but still, it does make the line more contemporary:


 Do you know about the strangely wonderful Zorthian Ranch in Southern California?

Nestled in the foothills of Fair Oaks Avenue up a windy dirt road, lies the infamous 48-acre art junkyard Zorthian Ranch where resident artists milk goats and make cheese, and hundreds of notable people (including Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Charlie Parker, Segovia, Richard Feynman, and many more) have gathered to exchange ideas and celebrate life and times with its erstwhile proprietor, Jirayr Zorthian.

 This is nothing to celebrate (h/t @jmcolberg):

“A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy”

Depiction of the Biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale on the South Wall medieval Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island. (via reorientmag.com)
Depiction of the Biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale on the South Wall medieval Armenian Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island. (via reorientmag.com)

 Turkish photographer of Armenian descent, Ara Güler, has an exhibition at the Smithsonian in DC and it focuses on his haunting images of Anatolia:

… goal of the exhibition is to complicate Güler’s belief in a dichotomy between art and observation … Güler’s eye for light, and for capturing the juxtapositions between the historical and the modern enable him to explore issues of identity and memory in a country where the past is constantly being reinterpreted … Güler’s photographs, however, predate this new narrative, and his focus on Armenian and Seljuk monuments complicates it by revealing past perceptions of Turkish history – a history now dominant yet formerly marginalised.

 Aaron Betsky, writing for Architect Magazine, thinks the new Whitney Museum building is big, boxy, bad,boring:

I know I shouldn’t write about buildings that are still under construction. But the new Whitney Museum of American Art is already a presence that is so heavy, so clumsy, that I can’t imagine any work improving it from the inside out.

 Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical film Noah is very controversy for its exclusion of black people. Considering even Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments has black people in it, the decision is a peculiar one. And if you listen to the screenwriter’s (Ari Handel) explanation as to why, you will probably agree that there is cause for concern:

“From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.”

… “You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.”

 I love this idea. The Coffee House Press and the Walker Art Center commissioned Kate Bernheimer and Laird Hunt to write a novella based on Edward Hopper’s “Office at Night” (1940) painting. The literary work is available on the museum’s website, and will soon be available as an ebook. Here are the first few lines:

He has suddenly realized the window is open. He can feel it. But how far open? And who opened it? Chelikowsky. His grandfather owned a brewery. Came to the new country with a handful of hops in his pocket. Died of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 49. Left his son, Chelikowsky’s father, on the Lower East Side with a cart and donkey and 200 pounds of plums he couldn’t unload. Debts. So he went north and west, all the way to Hell’s Kitchen, did the father, who died even younger, with even less, and now Chelikowsky, failed painter, failing businessman, with his own office, who is hoping to make it to fifty, and maybe celebrate a little, only someone has opened the window and he doesn’t know who. The new girl? Couldn’t be.

 Ugh, censorship:

Egypt has suspended screenings of Lebanese film and pop star Haifa Wehbe’s latest movie after criticism over scenes deemed sexually provocative.

 As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks, and 4,871,270 blocks were reported to have no population. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47% of the USA remains unoccupied:


 New York Times Magazine asked design great Milton Glaser to critique contemporary beer design and his thoughts are great (here’s a sample):

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 And this is hilarious or sad, maybe both:

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 Finally, FiveThirtyEight is doing the statical analysis we’ve all been waiting for. A look at Bob Ross paintings in all 381 episodes of his vintage TV show, and let’s just say there are a LOT of trees, and a great many clouds, mountains, lakes, and, of course, grass. Bridges, cliffs, flowers, palm trees, and nightime scenes are rather rare:


Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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