One day in the summer of 1896, Maxim Gorky’s mind was blown. Gorky was attending a Russian fair and had gone to visit an exhibit by a couple of Frenchmen known as the Lumiére Brothers. Sitting in a darkened room, Gorky saw what seemed to him a photograph of the streets of Paris projected onto a large screen. It was a nice photograph, but Gorky was not particularly impressed. He’d seen plenty of photographs before. Then the damn thing began to flicker and come to life. This was something new.

Gorky watched what was happening on the screen in deepening amazement. He wrote about the experience a couple of days later:

Carriages coming from somewhere in the perspective of the picture are moving straight at you, into the darkness in which you sit; somewhere from afar people appear and loom larger as they come closer to you; in the foreground… More…

You can smell the photographs of Larry Sultan. My wife noticed this before I did. She is a Western person (she grew up in Las Vegas). That’s to say, she’s a desert person, as am I (Los Angeles). So it makes sense that she could smell Sultan’s pictures. Most of the photographs of Larry Sultan (currently on display at LACMA’s retrospective Larry Sultan: Here and Home) are thick with the San Fernando Valley in North Los Angeles, where Sultan grew up.

Larry Sultan: Here and Home” at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Through March 22.

The San Fernando Valley, otherwise known to Angelinos simply as “The Valley,” is Ground Zero for West Coast suburbia. There are tract homes, model housing developments, vast stretches of concrete highway stretching out into the horizon. But if you look… More…

The people who put together 30,000 Years of Art: The story of human creativity across time and space were no fools. They realized that the preface, introduction, and justification would either have to be infinite or non-existent. They chose the void. Two pages into the book and you’re already looking at art. No discussion about what art is, what characteristics the works share, who chose the works, why they are representative. Nothing. There’s one brief statement running in a narrow column on the first full page. It says: “From the time when human beings can first be called human, they have felt compelled to depict themselves and their world — as gods, mortals, animals or abstractions.” It’s so broad as to say everything and therefore nothing at all.