Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert

Helen Thompson, photos by Casey Dunn. Monacelli, $50 (240p) ISBN 978-1-58093-473-2
This book of modern interiors captures both the unique sense of place and the vibrant artistic community of Marfa, Tex., a mecca for art pilgrims, design aficionados, and international hipsters. Artist Donald Judd (1928–1994) first moved there in 1971 and eventually set up set up the Chinati Foundation, attracting other artists and art fans to the area. Some of the homes are recent additions, while others predate Judd’s arrival, drawing upon the “autonomous kind of modernism” of a remote location with a simple set of local materials. Renovation for modern use typically involved stripping these structures— a former dance hall, a former jail, a former Texaco with car battery acid stains retained on the floor—down to their basic elements. The materials range from age-old compounds of mud to very modern aerated concrete. The desert landscape is a both a boon and a challenge. Several of the buildings find unique ways to showcase the landscape without becoming swallowed up by it. Courtyards and unconventional windows blur, blunt, and dramatize the scenery, shielding interiors at points while opening them blissfully at others. The idea, in the words of Thompson (former Texas city editor of Metropolitan Home), of “a place where the demand to live for art is so compelling as to be unavoidable” might sound hyperbolic, but when readers see how these residents live, they’ll understand. Color photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2016
Release date: 10/18/2016
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