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Inside the Media’s Myth-Making Machine

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Jan 26, 2016 08:50 PM


Remove the media sanction and the cold light of day floods in.

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Go Down Moses(es)

by James Panero

Posted: Jan 26, 2016 02:55 PM


Reggie Wilson Image 3 Eblast
”Moses(es) Moses(es),“ Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, 

Timed to its annual conference, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters recently came to town and with it a "convergence of a dozen major performing arts industry forums and public festivals," which it called "January In NYC." These showcase performances ran the gamut from opera to chamber music to jazz. For those who follow dance, the Joyce Theater organized the first of what it promised would be an annual "American Dance Platform,” sponsored by the Harkness Foundation for Dance, this year curated by Paul King and Walter Jaffe of Portland's White Bird dance festival.

With eight companies paired up in four programs spread over the week, American Dance Platform matched the Martha Graham Dance Company with the Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group for two performances. The pairing made sense. Both New York-based, the two companies use the modern dance forms of successive generations to explore stories of origins, mass movement, and mythology: Graham as the great innovator of twentieth-century dance, most famously in Appalachian Spring; Wilson as a well-known choreographer now working in the twenty-first.

But differences more than similarities were on view at the Joyce for this double bill, as Wilson benefited from the fresh energy of a company at work with an active founder, while Graham wrestled with the challenges of a company contending with the long shadow of its departed mentor, who died in 1991.

As the leader of his Fist and Heel Performance Group, named after a derisory term for the drum-less dance forms of the African diaspora, Wilson was ever-present. “Moses(es), Moses(es),” a dance that has recently been performed at Jacob’s Pillow and other venues in various forms, filled the program. Wilson began by stepping onto stage, not as a dancer but more as a silent narrator, telling his story through his company’s movements. He distributed candy to a few chairs in the first row and swept a path through a pile of tinsel reminiscent of foamy water at the center of the stage, which his dancers then traversed as they introduced themselves to the audience. For most of the rest of the performance, Wilson sat on folding chairs observing and clapping from a corner of the stage, putting a personal frame around this narrative performance while setting it up as an evolving work in progress.

The opening image of parting waters set the stage, so to speak, for Wilson to merge the story of Moses and the Red Sea with the travails of the Middle Passage, mixing the history of Jewish and Black enslavement in a constant swirl of singing and movement. Drawing a line between ancient and modern forms, at one time Moses(es) might recall Egyptian hieroglyphics, at another the “Soul Train” line dance.

In this historically Afro-Caribbean dance troupe, where some seasoned members have been in company nearly since its founding in 1989, such as Rhetta Aleong ('92), Lawrence Harding ('93), and Paul Hamilton ('99), the relatively recent addition of Anna Schön, a young and dynamic Jewish dancer, spoke to the shared histories of Wilson's diaspora story, and what Wilson calls “the many iterations of Moses in religious texts, and in mythical, canonical and ethnographic imaginations.” Reminiscent of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, Schön herself has had to navigate between the worlds of the orthodox yeshiva and modern dance.

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Martha Graham Dance Company, "Steps in the Street"

After the intermission, Janet Eilber, the longtime Artistic Director of Martha Graham, introduced her program by thanking Wilson for upping “our cool factor." Well intentioned, the comment nevertheless came off as superficial and tone-deaf, eliciting groans from the audience—and foreshadowing the production to follow.

I have commented many times on the substandard quality of recorded music at live performances. A well-known maestro recently told me he walked out of a holiday performance of “Lord of the Dance” on Broadway because of the music’s overamplification, only to find that the ushers had ear plugs at the ready to distribute. (Too bad they didn’t also have eye masks to give out.)

For “Steps in the Street,” an anti-war dance from 1936, Martha Graham animated her company into attacking phalanxes, at times moving in zombie-like lockstep, at times paralyzed by their own spiritless inertia. The brassy score is by Wallingford Reigger, and the recording used at the Joyce sounded as old as the dance itself, with low fidelity that did little to help the true fidelity of this live performance. Both shrill and muffled, the recording washed out the dance’s essential sharp movements. It would be truer to Graham’s vision to employ recordings up to modern standards, even if that means revisiting original scores.

For "Lamentation Variations," Eilber continues her initiative of commissioning contemporary choreographers to create work inspired by "Lamentation," Graham’s 1930 solo work. At the Joyce, we were presented with a recording of Graham explaining “Lamentation” along with an original film of the dance projected onto the stage (again, in desperate need of remastering). The company then performed “variations” by the contemporary choreographers Bulareyaung Pagarlava, Sonya Tayeh, and Larry Keigwin. The Graham history lesson was much appreciated, but whether a comment on the singularly of Graham or the quality of contemporary choreography (or some combination of the two), none of these works came close to the skin-crawling, visceral feel of Graham’s original dance, settling instead for decorousness (Pagarlava), histrionics (Tayeh), and distance (Keigwin). At the Joyce, we were fortunate to see these programs through the showcase of Dance Platform, but one takeaway is that the vitality of Graham needs no variation.

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The Critic's Notebook for January 25, 2016

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Jan 26, 2016 09:46 AM


Ernest Hemingway, Milan, 1918. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

 

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every week—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

 

This week: The Prose Factory, Papa, and Beethoven at the NY Phil.

Fiction“Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars,” at the Morgan Library (Through January 31): Perhaps more than any other writer, Ernest Hemingway stands as the quintessential American scribe. He has all the qualities we like to imagine are particularly American: his stoic disposition, his adventurous spirit, and his large- and hard-living. Much of the popular image of Hemingway was a meticulous act of self-myth-making, owing as much to his novels as it did his safari photo-shoots in Life magazine and elsewhere. Those interested in peering behind Hemingway’s intricately fashioned mask would do well to hop over to the Morgan by Sunday. There, an exhibition featuring numerous artifacts from Hemingway’s fertile interwar years shows the man behind the myth. Seen in tandem with a reading of the recently released volume of Hemingway’s letters (reviewed in our forthcoming February issue by Bruce Bawer), the exhibit will offer a necessary corrective on the man who called himself Papa. —BR

Nonfiction: The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918, by D. J. Taylor (Chatto & Windus): There’s nothing a writer likes more than a bit of literary gossip. But gossiping about one’s contemporaries is a dangerous gambit; better to stick (mostly) to forebears. D. J. Taylor does just that in his forthcoming study of English literary life after the First World War. The Prose Factory proves an illuminating survey of not just literary England in the twentieth century, but also of the (excuse me) prosaic aspects of being a jobbing writer: how exactly one makes a go of it in a notoriously poorly compensated job. Interspersed are the sorts of entertaining anecdotes that could probably fill many more volumes, as long as someone were willing to publish them. Until that day Taylor’s book will serve as a resource well worth consulting. —BR

Art: The Winter Antiques Show, at the Park Avenue Armory (Through January 31): What does it say about the state of antiques now that the Winter Antiques Show features contemporary work? For years, the cutoff date for this esteemed sixty-two-year-old fair has been creeping up, most recently to the Old Master era of 1969. By dropping the requirement that objects have any claim to antiquity whatsoever, the fair looks “less brown,” at least according to The New York Times. But does the shift also speak to uncertainties in the European antiques market and a rising cultural ambivalence, if not contempt, for the symbols of the past? We have until Sunday, January 31, to decide for ourselves at the Park Avenue Armory, where at least this fair’s frozen forecast remains consistent year to year. —JP

Music: Beethoven Violin Concerto & Bruckner, at the New York Philharmonic (January 27–30) and The Orchestre National de France, at Carnegie Hall (January 28): The violin is rarely underrepresented as a solo instrument, but the next few months in particular look to be a banner winter and spring for violinists, including two major concerto appearances this week alone. First up, on Wednesday and continuing through the weekend, James Ehnes joins the New York Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, one of the shining pearls of the repertoire and a notable exemplar of the composer's “middle period.” Balancing the program is Bruckner’s massive Symphony No. 6, under the baton of the BBC Philharmonic’s Juanjo Mena. 
 
Thursday night, the Orchestra National de France visits Carnegie Hall with an impressive program of three concert staples. Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth frame the program, and Julian Rachlin joins to perform Shostakovich’s scathing Violin Concerto No. 1, one of the true masterpieces of the twentieth-century concerto repertoire. Daniele Gatti, the fiery music director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducts. If you can't make it to Carnegie Hall that night, watch the concert live on medici.tv—ECS

Other: Wasted Words: The Essential Dave Hickey Online Compilation, by Dave Hickey, edited by Julia Friedman (PCP Press) and Dust Bunnies: Dave Hickey’s Online Aphorisms, by Dave Hickey, edited by Julia Friedman (PCP Press): How should this one be filed? Under art? Books? Internet culture? Let's settle for “other.” Between June 2014 and April 2015, the curmudgeonly libertarian art critic Dave Hickey took to Facebook with a reported 3,000 posts and replies, generating some 700,000 words in response. The exchanges were not always pretty as the vinegary critic dripped and dribbled over the otherwise sweet crude of art-world social media before calling it quits. In the ephemeral online world, we thought that might be it. But edited by the art historian, writer, and curator Julia Friedman, Hickey’s exchanges have now been collected in Wasted Words: The Essential Dave Hickey Online Compilation, a 586-page paperback of "polyphonic digital discourse." Friedman has also created a companion publication, Dust Bunnies: Dave Hickey’s Online Aphorisms, as a 124-page distillation of the full Hickey. —JP

From the archive: Hemingway’s prelude to Paris, by Bruce Bawer: Before seeing the Hemingway show at the Morgan, read Bruce Bawer on the author’s early years.  

From our latest issue: The Obama Library double parks, by John Vinci: On the way plans for the Obama Presidential Library may destroy historic Chicago. 

 

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They Don't Make Liberals Like They Used To, Redux

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Jan 26, 2016 06:24 AM


The Good Side of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

go to PJ Media


Montgolfier Trump

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Jan 25, 2016 07:22 AM


Is it only a matter of time until the bubble bursts and he plummets to earth?

go to PJ Media


A Moment of Sanity at Oberlin

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Jan 24, 2016 10:48 PM


At last, a little leadership from a college president.

go to PJ Media


Outsider art at the Metropolitan Pavilion

by Andrew Shea

Posted: Jan 22, 2016 03:43 PM


Andy Dixon, Sailing, 2015, acrylic, house paint, and oil pastel on canvas, 57 x 70 inches/Photo Courtesy: The Outsider Art Fair

Running from Thursday through Sunday at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street, the 2016 Outsider Art Fair devotes 24,000 square feet of exhibition space to the uneducated, the mentally ill, and the provincial. The Fair’s press release uses Jean Dubuffet, the original champion of art brut, to draw its boundaries“works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part (contrary to the activities of intellectuals).” 

The Outsider Art Fair’s promotion of such art is noble. Further, it is topical, given American society’s current fascination with outsiders in the political arena. To be sure, the large majority of exhibitors at the Outsider Art Fair claim to house only self-taught, developmentally challenged, or mentally ill artists. These galleries thus distance themselves from the established mainstream.

Consider, however, that Christie’s is devoting a sale today to “Outsider and Vernacular Art,” with works expected to sell for upwards of $200,000. Consider also that in 2013 the Venice Biennale devoted its main exhibition to the genre (named “The Encyclopedic Palace” after self-taught artist Marino Auriti’s utopic architectural model for a museum that would “house the entirety of worldly knowledge and human discovery”). Might not the burgeoning existence of an ‘outsider mainstream’ hamper the Fair’s claim to art in which “mimicry plays little or no part”? Further, doesn’t unlimited and immediate Internet access to the world’s greatest works of art make any kind of “artistic vacuum” rather unlikely?

These are all important questions to consider when walking through the Outsider Art Fair, which does hold many examples of original thought and quality art. Beside the countless kitschy oddities that litter the Fair (model UFOs, yarn-woven stuffed animals, and marriage-themed figurines to name a few) sit more conventional works that wouldn’t seem out of place in a more "insider" commercial gallery.

 

Rob Tucker, Pepperoni and pineapple and sandwiches are delightful most days, 2014/Photo Courtesy: Vogue Magazine

The Rebecca Hossack Gallery of London exhibited two noteworthy painters that call into question the Fair’s claim to total unconventionality. New Zealander Rob Tucker’s large, glossy still lifes stood out for a sense of painterly resolution that was absent throughout much of the rest of the Fair. Tucker’s subject matter, as well as his frequent use of cream whites and chromatic grays, call to mind Morandi, placing him within the trajectory of mainstream western painting. Works by Andy Dixon, a self-taught musician and painter from Vancouver, show a keen awareness of the Post-Impressionists and Fauvists as well as more recent painters such as Basquiat and Condo. Unsurprisingly, both of these ‘self-taught’ artists have been wildly successful in their home markets, each with multiple solo-exhibitions to his name.

At the booth of The Pardee Collection (Iowa City, IA), mixed-media color drawings by artist Jim Work typified one of the central charms of the Fair; that is, its lack of conscious pretension. Work’s architectural focus is reminiscent of Charles Demuth, and his employment of economy in depicting his rural landmarks is laudable. The frontality of Work’s drawings calls to mind the American mid-century. His use of modest materials to depict modest subject matters, however, lightens the heavy philosophical undertakings of those painters.

 

Jim Work, Untitled/Photo Courtesy: The Pardee Collection

Also of note is the work of Willie Young at the Tanner Hill Gallery booth. Young's work, which consists of spindly geometric drawings on brown paper, resists easy labels. The forms are reminiscent of Bosch's fantastical creatures but the medium tethers them to the observable world—no surprise as Young claims to have worked from "small life details."


A work by Willie Young, via

The Outsider Art Fair of 2016 presents many works and objects that are interesting because of their creators’ biographical backgrounds. It also holds work that stands up to more traditional formalist evaluation. But these latter works also challenge the Fair’s bold assertion of unfettered originality and creative isolation. Perhaps what the 2016 Outsider Art Fair demonstrates is an undersupply of new “outsider art” in the idealized sense that Dubuffet imagined it. Perhaps, too, we are seeing a gradual commodification of the term itself, a regrettably unsurprising possibility.

The Outsider Art Fair opened at the Metropolitan Pavilion, New York, on January 21 and remains on view through January 24, 2016.

 

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Week in review

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Jan 22, 2016 01:18 PM


João Glama Ströberle, Allegory of the 1755 Earthquake, 18th Century, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

Recent links of note:

The Enigma of Germany
Victor Davis Hanson, National Review
There is something darkly comical about the fact that Germany is now the European country most welcoming of those who are said to not share its values. As Victor Davis Hanson tells it, Germany now finds itself acting as “the most recklessly postmodern of all Western nations in order to reassure the world, 77 years after the outbreak of World War II, that [it is] no longer the most recklessly nationalistic.” Alas, there’s nothing funny about the chaos that has emerged as a consequence of Chancellor Merkel’s ecumenical fixations. Germany has asserted its will on the European continent again, this time by coercing its neighbors to open their borders; the truth is, of course, often stranger than fiction.

Larry Summers: “Creeping Totalitarianism” on College Campus
Daniel Halper, The Weekly Standard
This week, The Weekly Standard has a revelatory interview with Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard and director of the National Economic Council. While Summers’s views may not always align with ours, he can’t be accused of holding his tongue. Who can forget his hysterical departure from Harvard? In the conversation with Bill Kristol, Summers laments the tenor of debate on college campuses, saying “whether it is attacks on very reasonable free speech having to do with adults’ right to choose their own Halloween costumes at Yale . . . there is a great deal of absurd political correctness . . . it seems that there is a kind of creeping totalitarianism in terms of what kind of ideas are acceptable and debateable on college campuses. . . . I think the answer to bad speech is different speech. The answer to bad speech is not shutting down speech.” Well said.

Rauner to the Rescue
Steven Malanga, City Journal
Illinois politics have long been a mess. Corruption pervades every level of government. The old joke goes that the state prison has a governor’s wing. And no town is messier than Chicago. Think back to 2012, when Rahm Emanuel, the newly elected mayor “asked the teachers’ union for concessions to help bolster the budget and improve students’ academic performance. Instead, teachers went on strike for seven days.” So let us be thankful that an adult has now entered the room. Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois, has proposed the state assume control of the continually failing Chicago public schools. The Democratic legislature, protecting the Chicago Teachers Union, will undoubtedly block the attempt. But at the very least Rauner may have spurred a debate that has taken far too long to arise.

George Weidenfeld, R.I.P.
David Pryce-Jones, National Review
Over at National Review David Pryce-Jones remembers his publisher George Weidenfeld, who died this week at the age of ninety-six. Weidenfeld was a legendary figure in the world of English publishing, a man whose “combination of flair, curiosity, and courage turned him from a teenage refugee escaping Hitler’s Vienna into a successful promoter of everything humane.” Rest in Peace.

From our pages:

Lisbon's narrow fate
Henrik Bering
On the great earthquake of 1755.

 

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"Painting Tranquility," at Scandinavia House

by Franklin Einspruch

Posted: Jan 21, 2016 11:14 AM


Vilhelm Hammershøi, Amalienborg Palace Square, Copenhagen1896, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark

Artists betray their amateurishness with promiscuous use of color more than any other lapse of taste. The reasoning goes: I love color, I shall use all available in great intensities. In practice it ends in disaster. One might as well express one’s love of sex by trying to have it with everybody.

In contrast, good colorists understand how to employ neutrals. Black mixed with white and not much else sometimes reads as blue in a Rubens. The most important hue on Matisse’s palette was gray. Morandi could make a painting with tones of mud, masking tape, and dryer lint and somehow put together a still life that holds up well next to a Renoir. Writing for The New York Times in 2001, Michael Francis Gibson called Morandi’s works “a curious litmus test.” He hinted that to fail to appreciate their visual humility was to fail at seeing art in general. Now that more people know and revere Morandi than used to, we could use a confirmation challenge. The works of the even-less-known Vilhelm Hammershøi will do. A choice exhibition thereof at New York’s Scandinavia House, consisting of pieces from the collection of The National Gallery of Denmark, provides it.

Esteem for the artist has largely been confined to Scandinavia despite his early works bemusing fellow Copenhageners. The catalogue recounts that his teacher Peder Severin Krøyer scolded young Hammershøi for painting figures as if they were “fat lit by the moon.” Nevertheless Krøyer had the wisdom to stay out of his way. “I have a pupil who paints most oddly,” he recorded. “I do not understand him, but believe he is going to be important and do not try to influence him.”

 

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Woman Seen from the Back, 1888, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark

Thus unencumbered, Hammershøi began painting unqualified masterpieces while still in his mid-twenties. It’s not excessive to say that Woman Seen from the Back (1888) recalls Vermeer’s treatment of women in the midst of domesticity. But it’s Vermeer with Scandinavian austerity measures. The subject’s back faces the viewer and the table is bereft of clues that would set the scene. Is she reading a note? It’s none of our business. Her posture, matronly proportions, black dress, and white apron convey her whole personality. The gradation of light on the unadorned taupe wall speaks of the reserved tenor of life in this house. The picture necessitated four tubes of oils. As much as its reductive modernism resembles Whistler’s, the artist appears to have arrived at it mostly on his own.

 

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with the Artist's Easel, 1910, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark

Reduction marked his whole oeuvre. Hammershøi hit upon an artistic idea that only seems obvious in retrospect—to shoo all the people and housepets out of the Dutch interior genre and send half the furnishings with them. He deservedly became known for his paintings of gently lit, nigh-empty rooms, most of which hailed from around his house. “Painting Tranquility” has the premiere example, Interior with the Artist’s Easel (1910). Like the aforementioned figure, the back of the painting on the easel faces the viewer. Nothing can be known of its surface, but the light gracing the wall behind it hints at its luminosity. Hammershøi renders an open door using two gray stripes laid down with perfect economy. Through the doorway a white bowl on a sideboard appears, as if an angel. Just as Morandi could infuse dusty bottles with Himalayan grandeur, Hammershøi could make a dining room feel like the inside of a cathedral.

 

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Near Fortunen, Jægersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen1901, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark

This approach, to find his subjects nearby and denude them of extraneities, served him equally well in the landscape. The title of Near Fortunen, Jægersborg Deer Park, North of Copenhagen (1901) indicates a typical choice. These are hardly deep woods. But the weakening sunlight streaming through the copse lends them a different kind of depth. The little triangle of grass behind reads as if it were the size of an ocean. His distinctive cityscapes, unpopulated and sunk into weather as gray as cement, establish an atmosphere of evocative urban bleakness that art didn’t see again until Edward Hopper. This exhibition also includes The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, seen from St. Annæ Street, Copenhagen (1902), in which the central figure is a subtly differentiated bank of fog in which one can barely make out the masts of ships. The symmetrical architecture containing it is painted with unstinting care, suggesting that the apparent blank warrants the same scrutiny, which of course it does.

 

Vilhelm Hammershøi, The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, seen from St. Annæ Street, Copenhagen1902, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark

Scandinavia House could continue for decades bringing worthy Nordic early modernists to renewed attention in solo exhibitions and not run out of excellent material: Harald Slott-Møller, Prince Eugen, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Laurits Andersen Ring, Hammershøi’s old teacher Krøyer and his wife Marie Triepcke, Enjar Nielsen, on and on. But mounting the first Hammershøi exhibition in New York in fifteen years is a superlative way to establish that project. François Jullien, elucidating a treatise by eighteenth-century painter Fang Xun, writes that “only when both technique and originality are equally ‘forgotten,’ when their mutual opposition is transcended, can the ‘bland and natural’ (pingdan tianran) emerge.” Hammershøi’s exquisite reticence is both Danish and cosmic.

"Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi," opened at Scandinavia House, New York on October 17, 2015 and remains on view through February 27, 2016.

 

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The Critic's Notebook for January 19, 2016

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Jan 20, 2016 10:03 AM


Thornton Willis, The Congregation, 2012, Oil on canvas, 70 x 50 inches

 

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every week—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

 

This week: Hunters, Haggis, and Hitler’s Chief Architect

FictionHunters in the Dark, by Lawrence Osborne (Hogarth): Over six months ago I noted the strange and enduring practice of publishers releasing the same book at different times in the United States and United Kingdom. The book in question was Lawrence Osborne’s Hunters in the Dark, a dark tale of a Westerner starting over in the Orient and the consequences of attempting fully to leave one’s life behind. Reviewers often compare Osborne to Graham Greene for his subject matter, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. Gone is the religiosity and promise of salvation; in its place we are left merely with doubt. —BR

Nonfiction: Speer: Hitler's Architect, by Martin Kitchen (Yale University Press): At Nuremberg, Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and Minister of Armaments, argued that he was not only uninvolved in the atrocities of the Holocaust, but that he was also unaware that these crimes were being committed. The defense was convincing enough to spare his life; he received a mere twenty-year jail sentence. But in Speer, Martin Kitchen argues that this image of one of Hitler's closest friends is completely false. Look for Michael J. Lewis’s review of Kitchen’s book in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion. —RH

Poetry: "Address to a Haggis," by Robert Burns: We are in striking distance of one of my favorite holidays: Burns Nicht. Celebrated in Scotland and by Scotophiles the world over, the yearly celebration, scheduled to coincide with the birthday of the Ploughman Poet, consists of the things many traditionalist Scots love best: whisky, haggis, and toast-making. Though there is no canonical program for Burns suppers, one constant feature is a reading of Burns’s “Address to a Haggis,” an ode to that most Scottish of victuals. We present the final stanza here: “Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,/ And dish them out their bill o’ fare,/ Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware/ That jaups in luggies;/ But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer/ Gie her a haggis!” —BR

Art: "The Onward of Art," at the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery (through March 25) and “Visible Histories” at Abrons Arts Center and Morris-Warren Gallery (January 27–Feburary 21): The American Abstract Artists group was founded in New York way back in 1936. Today it remains a vibrant non-profit organization dedicated to the exhibition and understanding of abstract art. Starting this week, a series of exhibitions has been planned to mark its eightieth anniversary. At the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery, formerly known as the UBS Gallery, our own Karen Wilkin has curated “The Onward of Art,” featuring new and historical work from seventy-five AAA artists, many of whom regularly appear in our pages. Opening on January 27, the double-venue exhibition “Visible Histories,” curated by Max Weintraub, will explore "what it means for artists working in the 21st century to engage with the artistic strategies, techniques and forms of the past," with shows on the Lower East Side at Abrons Arts Center and Morris-Warren Gallery. —JP

Music: Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, at the Metropolitan Opera (January 21) and Tosca, at the Rose Theater (January 20–24): At the Met this week, we have an exciting performance with a major qualifier: the Pagliacci of the Met's new "Cav & Pag" duo is a truly brilliant staging, and Roberto Alagna could very well be exceptional when he takes on the touchstone role of Canio in this season's revival beginning Thursday. The Cavalleria Rusticana, alas, is memorably dull, worth enduring only because the Pagliacci promises to be so superb. Meanwhile, the New York City Opera will rise again this week with four performances of Tosca, presented by "NYCO Renaissance" at the Rose Theater, using costume and set designs from the original 1900 production. Pacien Mazzagatti conducts.

For more highlights and discussion, check out my recent podcast with New Criterion music critic Jay Nordlinger, in which we preview New York's spring music calendar. —ECS

From the archive: Graham Greene: the politics, by Bruce Bawer: On Graham Greene’s political novels.  

From our latest issue: Gallery chronicle, by James Panero: On the Joan of Arc Memorial in Riverside Park.

 

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In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.

 

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March 29, 2016

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