Matteo Pericoli, whose illustration “A view from 62 White Street” is our summer issue’s cover, has worked as an architect, illustrator, author, journalist, and teacher. He is the author, most recently, of The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York. I caught up with him at last week’s launch party to ask him a few questions about the cover.
Can you describe your approach to work?
I like to think that lines and words have much more in common than one would instinctively think. So in the drawings that I do, I try to choose the best possible lines, the most efficient, the most essential. Not just my drawings but line drawings in general are ways to tell stories, not just visual representations.
Tell me about this drawing.
One thing of course is that it’s Lorin [Stein]’s view; one is that it has shutters, which are not very common in the city. What’s interesting is point of view: It’s only here. It’s nowhere else, and there’s nowhere else like it. I don’t look for any aesthetically interesting composition. I don’t see beauty, I see narrative.
You have drawn a great deal in New York, which seems like a place full of narrative, but not one that necessarily gives of itself easily.
First and foremost, there is always what people perceive of a place. And once there is a shared agreement about a place, a city gives itself easily, as you say. It takes a long time to get to the innermost reaches of a place. When I started drawing in 1998, the first drawings I made were all about the island and the outermost viewpoints. I would ride the Circle Line. I was an alien. I got to know the exterior before I began to draw the innermost.
And in 2001, when Manhattan Unfurled came out, right after 9/11, I was thinking about skylines, cities.
You’ve focused on both the large and small scale in your views of the city, but both feel intimate.
What visitors, aliens, see when they come to New York is very visible, very surface. But at the same time it’s nice when cities dress up and want to be liked. It’s a healthy sign of self-assurance. Turin, where I live now, is a very handsome, physical place. It’s learning how to be beautiful, to have an ease with being good-looking.
Below, the view from our window, as well as the windows of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jorge Luis Borges—two windows that Pericoli has featured on The New York Times’s Op-Ed page:
Subscribe today and get the summer issue with a Paris Review beach towel.