The Austin Chronicle

Off the Bookshelf

Reviewed by Ann Guidry, May 12, 2000, Books


by Monika Kiss Horváth

Scalo, 144 pp., $45

Subtly idiosyncratic, evocative, and unassuming, this odd little coffeetable book charms on many levels. Swiss photographer Monika Kiss Horváth has collected her coolly refreshing images of the facades of Italian bars in, well, Bar. Evincing a traveler's hungry eye, Horváth photographed bars in 30 cities between 1987 and 1998. But why bar fronts? The seduction of the word "BAR" signified over and over again, whether glowing in slinky neon or painted dully on a building, intimates itself into the mind of the viewer: The images become assumptions. The photographs hint at activity inside and suggest what we might find if given the opportunity to enter. Take Italian and Dutch deconstructions of the word "bar," an allusion to Burt Lancaster's 1968 film The Swimmer, a few dangling witticisms, translate them into English, and you've got the text of this book. More than a cheap thrill, the combination of Horváth's studies in architecture and cryptic musings such as "people who go to bars are men and women" offer strange delight.

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