Lilliput Under the Sea

Tim Flannery

Susan Middleton’s Spineless reveals a world where hermit crabs resemble wizards carrying their own magic mountains on their backs, and where worms are transformed into exquisite, pearly necklaces. Marine invertebrates—from octopuses to hermit crabs and creatures like the bizarre holothurians—are the focus of this photography book.

Great Aspirations of the Iron Age

James Romm

The cultures that took part in the complex trade network between major civilizations during the Iron Age, and the traces the traders themselves left behind in shipwrecks and foreign settlements, are the focus of the vast and impressive exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.”

David Lynch’s Bad Thoughts

J. Hoberman

Is David Lynch a celebrity painter? Or, put another way: Would the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) be exhibiting four decades of his work, were he not 1) a world-famous movie director and 2) the most famous PAFA alum since Mad magazine cartoonist Don Martin or Thomas Eakins or maybe ever? Impossible to answer and pretty much irrelevant, as Lynch’s paintings and assemblages place his movies in the setting of his art work and not vice versa.

A Beautiful Mosaic of Filth

Michael Greenberg

Steven Hirsch’s photos of the Gowanus Canal are solely concerned with the surface of the water—the gonorrhea, coli, and putida bacteria that cling to one another there in a mosaic of filth. In fact, these images are a microscopic record of an ecological disaster.

The Shadow World of Alfred Kubin

Christopher Benfey

Alfred Kubin, “an artist who has yet to be truly discovered,” according to the catalog of a wide-ranging exhibition at the Shepherd Gallery, will strike some viewers as several different artists. His friend Kafka noted in 1911 that he “looks different in age, size, and strength according to whether he is sitting, standing, wearing just a suit, or an overcoat,” an observation that might be modified to describe Kubin’s varied art as well.