StinkyLulu's Book Review: 'The University of New Mexico'

With this “photographic portrait of the University of New Mexico,” the folks at UNM Press bring together three of the university’s most devoted chroniclers to capture the complexity of the campus’s architectural landscape. Author V.B. Price’s exultant introduction offers an idiosyncratic yet informative summary history of the university itself, and former university architect Van Dorn Hooker lends his authoritative imprimatur as the book’s credited “producer.” But, without question, the nearly one hundred images from the lens of acclaimed Albuquerque-based photographer Robert Reck provide the real reason to pick up this book. (A widely published and internationally recognized Architectural and Interior Design photographer, Reck is a contributing photographer to Architectural Digest and served as the lead photographer for the now notorious 1987 book, Santa Fe Style, which UNM Professor Marta Weigle claimed “canonized and popularized” the contemporary notion of Southwestern décor for a global market.)

In The University of New Mexico, Robert Reck’s images amplify the dimensions of UNM’s architectural landscapes in uncommon, captivating ways. Reck's photography discerns the distinctive beauty of his architectural subjects at both the most grand and intimate of scale. On the one hand, Reck ably highlights the simple, holistic beauty of two of UNM’s newest, most visible and most commented-upon buildings (the UNM Hospital and the new George Pearl Hall). On the other, Reck’s camera deftly captures some of the most emblematic architectural “experiences” offered by UNM’s campus – what it’s like to walk through “The Center of the Universe,” or sit by the duck pond, or be on the inside of the College of Education’s multicolored glass wall – while also suggesting new ones. (My own casual stroll down the staircase at the center of the SUB has likely been forever transformed by Robert Reck’s breathtaking photograph from its top landing.) To be sure, Reck’s photographs are perhaps most luminous when unpeopled, but every image collected in this volume confirms Reck’s reputation as a master of composition and light.

Perhaps inevitably, though, any book proclaiming itself a “photographic portrait” of a place, space, and institution central – at least briefly – within the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans opens itself to easy critiques of what’s not included in its pages. And as one of those New Mexicans, I was struck by some of the omissions. As I turned the pages, I wanted to see what Reck’s camera might show me about the notorious “skirt” of Ortega Hall. Or the angular tumble that is the Humanities building. Or fraternity row’s architectural hodge-podge. And while the numerous images of the newer medical buildings along the northerly stretch of University Boulevard are interesting, the relative absence of – say – the Center for the Arts, Johnson Center, or Centennial Library from this “portrait” is conspicuous (especially when a full page is devoted to a pretty picture of a trumpet blossom). The lack of a discernible organizing principle helps little to rationalize such editorial decisions, and the absence of archival details (like dates of construction or the architect’s name) limit this volume’s utility as a reference text.

Yet The University of New Mexico remains a beautiful book, replete with extraordinary images from one of the Duke City’s most noted photographers. Leafing through it will almost certainly inspire anyone who knows UNM to reflect upon their own favorite campus spaces and places – and possibly give inspiration to pick up a camera and compose their own “photographic portrait of the University of New Mexico.”


The University of New Mexico
By Robert Reck (Photographer), V.B. Price (Author) and Van Dorn Hooker (Producer).
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010.
128 pages, 94 color photographs. $34.95 hardcover.
UNM PressAmazonBookworks


* * * * * * * *
Brian Eugenio Herrera (aka StinkyLulu) is a writer, teacher and scholar who spends a lot of time in the basement of UNM’s College of Fine Arts. See more about him at http://www.brianherrera.org/.

Views: 44

Comment by Barelas Babe on March 22, 2010 at 11:05pm
I can't wait to check this out!
Comment by StinkyLulu on March 23, 2010 at 10:34am
Thanks for the opportunity. (And I'd love to review another book, if'n the opportunity presents itself and DCFers think it's a good idea.)
Comment by JJinNM on March 24, 2010 at 1:24pm
Just bought this for my Uncle (a UNM grad). Only 1 left on Amazon!

Comment

You need to be a member of Duke City Fix to add comments!

Join Duke City Fix

Connect with Us!

Community Forum

The May Cafe lumberjack 1 Reply

Started by Skip in General Discussion. Last reply by Adelita 18 hours ago.

Where to Vote: 2016 Primary Early Voting

Started by Maurreen Skowran in General Discussion on Sunday.

What is up with dogs in stores? 14 Replies

Started by Maurreen Skowran in General Discussion. Last reply by hettie on Friday.

Where to have lunch in Albuquerque 10 Replies

Started by Gretchen Winchester in Food & Drink. Last reply by Gretchen Winchester May 17.

Hot Green Chile? 5 Replies

Started by Ron Da Bomb in Food & Drink. Last reply by Sophie May 16.

Latest Activity

Profile IconDuke City Fix via Facebook
Thumbnail

Were you there? How'd it all go down?

Protest Outside Trump Rally in New Mexico Turns Violent

gawker.com

The scene outside a…

See More
Facebook3 hours ago · Reply
Lady Day liked Tanesia Hale-Jones's blog post The Uncomfortable Road Ahead: A Farewell Interview with Carlos Garcia
5 hours ago
Adelita liked Tanesia Hale-Jones's blog post The Uncomfortable Road Ahead: A Farewell Interview with Carlos Garcia
5 hours ago
Profile IconDuke City Fix via Facebook
Thumbnail

A sad farewell to one of our favorite local bands, Youngsville. Great interview! And please make sure to say goodbye to them on Friday!…

See More
Facebook5 hours ago · Reply

Regular Features

Anyone can blog on the Duke City Fix, but here are the folks who blog most often:

© 2016   Created by Duke City Fix.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service