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This week: Chromatic abstraction & charity in action
Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities, by Gary Saul Morson & Morton Schapiro (Princeton University Press): The term “the dismal science,” coined by Thomas Carlyle as a derogatory name for economics, was not—though it is often misconstrued today—a reference to the flawed predictive powers of economic models. As impaired as economists may be, the “dismal” characteristic of their field to which Carlyle referred was rather the anti-humanism of it: the assumption that men’s appetites and not their character shape the order of the world. In Cents and Sensibility, a new book co-authored by the frequent New Criterion contributor Gary Saul Morson and the Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro, the pair of authors argue that, although the cynicism that Carlyle detected has come to characterize the field at large, Adam Smith and the other pioneers of liberal economics saw their work as deeply human. With an eye toward Smith, Morson and Schapiro hope that the economists of today can rediscover a sense of the individual moral—not merely practical—encounters that make up our system of free exchange. —MU
“Fred Gutzeit: Sig-Nature–Past Present Future” at Van Der Plas Gallery (through June 18): A landmark of the Lower East Side painting scene, Fred Gutzeit pushes abstraction to its taffy-twisting limit. Gutzeit has lately been painting portraits of a sort, and now incorporates calligraphic signatures of his artist friends into wild patterns that draw on everything from textiles to tattoos, from the Levant on down to the Bowery. Now extended through the week at Van Der Plas Gallery, “Sig-Nature—Past Present Future” brings together several of Gutzeit’s large knockout paintings with a salon hang of his smaller “signature” works referencing such art-world figures as Klaus Kertess, Loren Munk, and Austin Thomas—an arts community transposed into color and line. —JP
“Cello Quintet & Unfinished Works” at the Morgan Library & Museum (June 16): Last week, we highlighted the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble’s presentation of an unusual and imaginative selection of works by Schubert. They continue their celebration of the Viennese master at the Morgan Library this Friday with a program that is more conventional but no less rewarding. The “Quartettsatz” in C minor is a classic pairing for the monumental C-major string quintet, the first movement of a quartet that was never completed, functioning in this arrangement as a sort of concert overture. The quintet itself, of course, is one of the greatest achievements of the entire chamber repertoire, a piece worth hearing wherever and whenever it is presented. I can think of no composition that better captures the essential Schubertian spirit, a potent mixture of nostalgia, joy, bliss, and deepest melancholy. —ECS
“The Future of Philanthropy: Why We Give” at the 92nd Street Y (June 14): At least two acclaimed books that were released in the past year—David Callahan’s The Givers and Karl Zinmeister’s What Comes Next?—have addressed the rising status of philanthropy in the public eye. (Even hardened critics of “income inequality” begrudgingly note the contributions to medicine and the arts that come from the same wealthy donors whose political activity they despise.) This Wednesday at the 92nd Street Y, Callahan will be joined by the titanic giver David Rubenstein and other figures in the world of charitable giving to discuss the impact that well-apportioned gifts can have on American public life. —MU
From the archive: “The treason of the intellectuals & ‘The Undoing of Thought’ ” by Roger Kimball: On the work of Julien Benda and Alain Finkielkraut, and the role of critical thought in preserving society.
From the current issue: “Knocking up, geopolitics & Brexit” by Jeremy Black: On the state of British politics as experienced through canvassing.
Broadcast: Andrew Roberts on Masters and Commanders: The British historian discusses his book on how Roosevelt, Churchill, George Marshall, and Alanbrooke won the war in the West.