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The Map as Art

by Brian Fichtner in Culture on 01 October 2009

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"The Map as Art," a new book edited by Katharine Harmon from Princeton Architectural Press, richly surveys today's artistic landscape and its relation to the map. Perhaps it's no surprise that the map has inspired artists throughout history. Today though, in spite of an interdepent globalized economy and hyperconnectivity brought about by the internet, cartographic identity runs strong.

For anyone who's ever gotten lost in the pages of a AAA road map or daydreamed of faraway places while spinning a globe, "The Map as Art" offers ample opportunity for fascination. Divided into a series of thematic chapters—Conflict and Sorrow, Global Reckoning, Personal Terrain, Inner Visions, etc.—the book charts the myriad ways artists use the map as a tool for investigating notions of identity, political allegiance, economy, the environment and more. Several essays by Gayle Clemans expound upon these themes through a deeper critique of work by artists Joyce Kozloff, Ingrid Calame, Guillermo Kuitca and Maya Lin.

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Avoiding the pitfalls of generic and ultimately forgettable thematic overviews, "The Map as Art" begins with a subject fundamental to our human nature. Over 250 pages of visually engaging, thought-provoking works are rife with relevance. As Harmon writes in her introduction: "Is there any motif so malleable, so ripe for appropriation, as maps? They can act as shorthand for ready metaphors: seeking location and experiencing dislocation, bringing order to chaos, exploring ratios of scale, charting new terrains."

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Purchase "The Map as Art" from Amazon.

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