The Spanish Civil War was the iconic international struggle of the thirties. Franco and "los cuatro generales" were the villains. And the Spanish people were the victims. Their songs were our songs, Pete Seeger our medium. We did not travel to Spain; we boycotted Spain. We paid homage to Guernica by visiting Picasso's gruesome mural of that name at MoMA (and hanging posters of the painting in our dorm rooms.) We choked up whenever we saw Robert Capa's famous photograph "Falling Soldier." This was the first war against fascism, and democracy was defeated.
"Falling Soldier": A Different Kind Of Truth?
August 19, 2009
Yesterday The New York Times reported the latest in the ongoing debate over Robert Capa's "Falling Soldier," a war photo that has been accused of fabrication almost as much as it has been celebrated. David Thomson weighed in on the controversy in 2003, in a TNR piece called "I Leica Danger": It is possible that, having seen many people shot down and killed, Capa felt an intense urge to "get" such a moment. But then he realized the astonishing luck that this required--unless, truly, he was a camera that could take a picture as he saw a thing.
August 15, 2009
Picasso: Mosqueteros--Gagosian Gallery Younger Than Jesus--New Museum The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984--Metropolitan Museum of Art Compass in Hand--Museum of Modern Art The exhibition of Picasso's late work at the Gagosian Gallery this spring was a phenomenon. Day after day, Gagosian's huge space on West 21st Street attracted a remarkably heterogeneous public, a mix of artists, art students, Brooklyn hipsters, well-heeled professionals, and European and Asian tourists, gathered together in a way I do not recall seeing before, certainly not in Chelsea. People did not just come and look.
August 12, 2009
PICASSO: MOSQUETEROS GAGOSIAN GALLERY YOUNGER THAN JESUS NEW MUSEUM THE PICTURES GENERATION, 1974-1984 METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART COMPASS IN HAND MUSEUM OF MODERN ART The exhibition of Picasso's late work at the Gagosian Gallery this spring was a phenomenon. Day after day, Gagosian's huge space on West 21st Street attracted a remarkably heterogeneous public, a mix of artists, art students, Brooklyn hipsters, well-heeled professionals, and European and Asian tourists, gathered together in a way I do not recall seeing before, certainly not in Chelsea.
The Spiritual In Art
February 18, 2009
Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater Jewish Museum Mystic Masque: Semblance and Reality In Georges Rouault McMullen Museum I. THE WHEEL OF fashion, which turned Marc Chagall and Georges Rouault into has-beens a few decades ago, is turning again. These two misunderstood moderns are being taken seriously. The rise of identity politics in the intellectual world has certainly played a part.
Men at Arms
November 13, 2006
These are the first minutes of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, Clint Eastwood's new film about the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. When word came of an Eastwood film on this subject, the blood didn't exactly freeze, but it did become tepid. Did the twenty-first century really need another gung-ho tale of World War II? Eastwood's reply is no. His film is crammed with physical horror and courage in crisis, but the intent is not mere replication of battle.
The Varieties of Artistic Experience
October 30, 2006
The Language of Forms: Lectures on Insular Manuscript Art By Meyer Schapiro (Pierpont Morgan Library) Romanesque Architectural Sculpture By Meyer Schapiro (University of Chicago Press) I. When Meyer Schapiro died ten years ago, at the age of ninety-one, he had a place in American intellectual life that was extraordinarily large and also rather mysterious. Quite a few of the people who mentioned his name with a quickening excitement, a catch in their voices, had probably not read a single one of the exacting essays about medieval art on which his scholarly reputation rested.
December 20, 2004
Twenty-five hundred years ago, in Agamemnon, a Greek soldier just returned from the Trojan War described what it was like to be in that siege: We had to camp Close by the enemy's wall, in the wet river-meadows, Soaked with the dew and the mist, ill from the damp clothes, our hair Matted like savages. Aeschylus might have been writing about the trench warfare of World War I. His lines depict the plight of the French troops in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, except that Aeschylus had not encountered artillery and machine guns.
The Rebirth of Political Theater
December 20, 2004
It is a truth universally acknowledged that as a nation's politics grow more regressive, its arts tend to become more rambunctious. This is especially true in the theater. At the same time that the newly re-elected Bush administration is eliminating all traces of opposition from its Cabinet and its agencies, the volume of dissent is being turned up again on the American stage. Let us savor this precious privilege. An administration so eager for conformity in its inner circles will eventually try to impose it on the culture and the citizenry at large.
May 05, 2003
Èdouard Vuillard: Post-Impressionist Master (National Gallery of Art; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) Symbolism, an apotheosis of personal expression that swept through all the arts at the end of the nineteenth century, marked Europe’s final break with the classical humanism of the Renaissance. The struggles for romantic independence that had animated artists, writers, and musicians in France, Germany, and England for more than a hundred years emboldened the Symbolists to follow their sensations wherever they might lead.