Dead Blogging ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice’

Well the Missus and I trundled up to the Coolidge Corner Theater yesterday to see the documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (through September 26) and say, I get the same chills from her singing as I did 50 years ago when I heard this.

 

 

From the moviehouse’s website:

In Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Ronstadt is our guide through her early years of singing Mexican canciones with her family; her folk days with the Stone Poneys; and her reign as the “rock queen” of the ‘70s and early ’80s. She was a pioneer for women in the male-dominated music industry; a passionate advocate for human rights, and had a high-profile romance with California Governor Jerry Brown. Ultimately, her singing voice was stilled by illness and forced her into retirement but her music and influence remain as timeless as ever. With moving performance footage and appearances by friends and collaborators including Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice celebrates an artist whose desire to share the music she loved made generations of fans fall in love with her — and the sound of her voice.

Trailer:

 

 

And just in case you’ve forgotten how absolutely riveting Linda Ronstadt’s voice was, there’s this.

 

 

And this.

 

 

The documentary also tracks Ronstadt’s foray into the Great American Songbook, her jaw-dropping performance in the Pirates of Penance, and her spirited return to her Mexican roots.

Amazing voice. Remarkable career. Terrific film.

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Ric Ocasek NYT Obit Runs Same Day As Wife’s NYT Ad

Tip o’ the pixel to The Missus

September 15th Jon Pareles New York Times obituary of Cars frontman Ric Ocasek.

A Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, he wrote songs that updated classic sounds and managed to please both punk-rock fans and a broader pop audience.

Ric Ocasek, the songwriter, rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the Cars, was found dead on Sunday afternoon at his townhouse in Manhattan. He was 75.

The New York City medical examiner’s office said the cause was high blood pressure and heart disease. Mr. Ocasek’s wife, the model and actress Paulina Porizkova, said in an Instagram post that he had been recovering from surgery.

Coincidentally (or not): September 15th full-page Bloomingdale’s ad featuring Ocasek’s wife Paulina Porizkova in the Times.

As Ocasek sang in Just What I Needed:

You always knew to wear it well and
You look so fancy I can tell
I don’t mind you hangin’ out
And talkin’ in your sleep

Sleep the big sleep, Ric Ocasek.

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Sharpiegate Rumpus Misses the Real Scandal at NWS

Yes, Donald Trump is an idiot for mobilizing his entire sadministration – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service – to back up his chronic moronic claims that Hurricane Dorian would ravage Alabama, even though the storm came nowhere near the Yellowhammer State.

And yes, Donald Trump is likely a criminal for altering an official graphic of Dorian’s projected path.

From Business Insider:

“Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both,” the relevant part of the US Code reads.

That’s monkey business as usual in Trumpworld.

But the real scandal is Trump’s monetizing the National Weather Service. And it’s revealed in Michael Lewis’s book The Fifth Risk, which details how Trump loyalists are taking over federal agencies.

From Ari Shapiro’s interview with Lewis on NPR’s All Things Considered last October.

Inside the Department of Commerce, there is the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service has, over the past few decades, gotten extraordinarily good at predicting the weather. … And it saves lives — lots of lives — every year with hurricane and tornado forecasts.

Barry Myers of AccuWeather has been nominated to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The person that the Trump administration has appointed to run this operation [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service] is the CEO of AccuWeather — who’s campaigned for the last couple of decades to prevent the National Weather Service from communicating with the American public so that AccuWeather can make more money doing it.

This is a catastrophe for anybody who is in the path of dangerous weather.

As Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik reported this week, it’s just a matter of time before Myers gets the job.

As we reported in May, the Myers appointment raised fears that it would snare NOAA in a massive conflict of interest. The nomination has remained in limbo ever since, though it could be brought to the Senate floor for confirmation at any time by a wave of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hand.

And that’s the projected path of Hurricane Donald.

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Rafa! Rafa! Rafa! Nadal’s Signature Victory at the US Open

Rafael Nadal’s monumental win over Daniil Medvedev in yesterday’s U.S. Open men’s singles final was pure Rafa: Dominance, happenstance, hesitance, dominance.

Highlights:

 

 

The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay – as always – captured it perfectly.

Let’s be candid here: Nobody expected much from Medvedev. I don’t know if even Medvedev did. Nadal in a final—your first final!—is an absurdly hard ask. “[Nadal] plays like he’s broke,” Jimmy Connors told Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim before the match. Nadal may be a man who enjoys wearing a $775,000 Richard Mille watch, but he still scuffles like he’s trying to pay off the bill at the Red Roof Inn.

Everything else you need to know about Rafa you’ll find in his post-match press conference.

 

 

Rafa on how he adapts his game to his age: “I just think about how you can’t predict about life – this world and this life changes and you need to be for accept everything, so today is a day to enjoy.”

Watch the whole press conference. Rafael Nadal is not just an exceptional athlete. He’s just exceptional.

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The Arts Seen in NYC (Pierre Cardin Is Totally Brilliant Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Big Town the other weekend to spend some time a-museuming and say, it was swell.

After navigating the usual midtown Manhattan mishegas to get to our usual hotel, we took the 2 Flatbush train to the always engaging Brooklyn Museum, which offered multiple exhibits of interest.

For starters, we checked out Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper (through October 13), an exhaustive – if slightly exhausting – exhibit of “more than a hundred European drawings and prints from our exceptional collection, many of which are on view for the first time in decades.”

From the remarkably spontaneous etchings of Rembrandt, through the bold graphite lines of Pablo Picasso, the exhibition explores the roles of drawing and printmaking within artists’ practices, encompassing a variety of modes, from studies to finished compositions, and a range of genres, including portraiture, landscape, satire, and abstraction. Working on paper, artists have captured visible and imagined worlds, developed poses and compositions, experimented with materials and techniques, and expressed their personal and political beliefs. Other featured artists include Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Francisco Goya, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Käthe Kollwitz, and Vasily Kandinsky.

Except . . .

There was not a single etching or drypoint by James McNeill Whistler, one of the greatest artists ever to put needle to copper.

What . . . the . . . hell.

Other than that, a terrific exhibit.

Next we took in Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion (through January 5), an absolutely fabulous retrospective of a designer who revolutionized fashion, fabrics, furniture, and functional items like lighting.

Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion is the first New York retrospective in forty years to focus on the legendary couturier. Drawn primarily from Pierre Cardin’s archive, the exhibition traverses the designer’s decades-long career at the forefront of fashion invention. Known today for his bold, futuristic looks of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Cardin extended his design concepts from fashion to furniture, industrial design, and beyond.

The exhibition presents over 170 objects drawn from his atelier and archive, including historical and contemporary haute couture, prêt-à-porter, trademark accessories, “couture” furniture, lighting, fashion sketches, personal photographs, and excerpts from television, documentaries, and feature films. The objects are displayed in an immersive environment inspired by Cardin’s unique atelier designs, showrooms, and homes.

Cardin was an absolute genius, as this exhuberant exhibit duly notes.

 

 

A total knockout.

From there we wandered over to Garry Winogrand: Color (through December 8). Winogrand is mostly known for his black-and-white photography of New York icons

 

 

and New York streets.

 

 

But the Brooklyn Museum exhibit gives us a different look at Winogrand.

Garry Winogrand: Color is the first exhibition dedicated to the nearly forgotten color photographs of Garry Winogrand (1928–1984), one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. While almost exclusively known for his black-and-white images that pioneered a “snapshot aesthetic” in contemporary art, Winogrand produced more than 45,000 color slides between the early 1950s and late 1960s.

There are eight slide shows lining two sides of the exhibition room, and they are totally engrossing.

 

 

An excellent opportunity to spend some quality with Winogrand’s distinctive work.

• • • • • • •

Bright and early the next morning we subwayed out to Corona, Queens to visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which “sustains and promotes the cultural, historical, and humanitarian legacy of Louis Armstrong by preserving and interpreting Armstrong’s house and grounds, collecting and sharing archival materials that document Armstrong’s life and legacy, and presenting public programs such as exhibits, concerts, lectures, and film screenings.”

The Louis Armstrong Collection is Louis and Lucille’s vast personal collection of 1,600 recordings, 650 home recorded reel-to-reel tapes in hand-decorated boxes, 86 scrapbooks, 5,000 photographs, 270 sets of band parts, 12 linear feet of papers, letters and manuscripts, five trumpets, 14 mouthpieces, 120 awards and plaques, and much more.

The digital collection is fun, but the experience of being inside the house is really special. This New York Times piece captures some of it – including clips from those home-recorded tapes – as does this house tour/bio.

 

 

Totally worth the trundle.

Back in Manhattan we swung by the Guggenheim Museum to take in Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection (through January 12).

The first-ever artist-curated exhibition mounted at the Guggenheim celebrates the museum’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. Curated by Cai Guo-Qiang, Paul Chan, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Richard Prince, and Carrie Mae Weems—artists who each have had influential solo shows at the museum—Artistic License brings together both well-known and rarely seen works from the turn of the century to 1980.

Each artist was invited to make selections to shape a discrete presentation, one on each of the six levels of the rotunda. With the museum’s curators and conservators, they searched through the collection in storage, encountering renowned masterpieces while also finding singular contributions by less-prominent figures. The resulting exhibition presents nearly 300 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and installations, some never before shown, that engage with the cultural discourses of their time—from the utopian aspirations of early modernism to the formal explorations of mid-century abstraction and the sociopolitical debates of the 1960s and ’70s.

Here’s an overview.

 

 

We especially liked Cai Guo-Qiang’s Non-Brand, the big wall on the first level that featured “figurative works [that] lack the ‘brand, or the sought-after, recognizable style associated with a famous artist,” such as Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Joseph Beuys, Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.

Then again here’s what Peter Plagens had to say in the Wall Street Journal.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Non-Brand” gathering is a mess. Its arcane-within-arcane concept throws up on the walls of one of the Guggenheim’s big galleries a plethora of small works by artists famously known for a different style. The salon-style hanging is cute but, barring available stepladders, visually counterproductive. Worse, the nominal curator includes several of his own really bad paintings.

Shows what we know.

(P.S. Roberta Smith was much more kind in the New York Times.)

Also at the Guggenheim is Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story (through November 6) but the waiting line was a half hour long so we about-faced and strolled up 5th Ave to the Cooper Hewitt.

Full disclosure: As I’ve mentioned more than once, the Missus and I have long longed for the days of mustard tin and pop-up book exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt, but those days are decidedly gone, as witness Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (through January 20).

Designers are forging meaningful connections with nature, inspired by its properties and resources. Their collaborative processes—working with nature and in teams across multiple disciplines—are optimistic responses at this moment when humans contend with the complexities and conditions of our planet. Compelled by a sense of urgency, designers look to nature as a guide and partner.

With projects ranging from experimental prototypes to consumer products, immersive installations, and architectural constructions, Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, co-organized with Cube design museum, presents the work of sixty-two international design teams. Collaborations involve scientists, engineers, advocates for social and environmental justice, artists, and philosophers. They are engaging with nature in innovative and ground-breaking ways, driven by a profound awareness of climate change and ecological crises as much as advances in science and technology.

We like the building, though – Andrew Carnegie’s old 64-room crib.

To clear our heads, we slipped back down 5th to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to admire Jewelry for America (through April 5).

Spanning three hundred years, Jewelry for America explores the evolution of jewelry in this country, from the early eighteenth century to the present day. Its five chronological sections reveal changes in styles, materials, and techniques, all woven into a sociohistorical narrative. Some one hundred examples from The Met collection—including recently acquired and rarely exhibited objects—are displayed.

Best for last: Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance (through February 28, 2021).

Bringing together sixty-two masterpieces of sixteenth-century northern European art from The Met collection and one important loan, this exhibition revolves around questions of historical worth, exploring relative value systems in the Renaissance era. Organized in six sections—raw materials, virtuosity, technological advances, fame, market, and paragone—tapestry, stained and vessel glass, sculpture, paintings, precious metal-work, and enamels are juxtaposed with pricing data from sixteenth-century documents. What did a tapestry cost in the sixteenth century? Goldsmiths’ work? Stained glass? How did variables like raw materials, work hours, levels of expertise and artistry, geography, and rarity, affect this?

The exhibit is a total gas: It basically tells you how many cows it would take to buy each item (one cow = 175 grams of silver or 5,350 loaves of rye bread in Brussels).

Representative samples:

Kudos to Elizabeth Cleland, Associate Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

• • • • • • •

On the way back to Boston we swung by the Wadsworth Atheneum, which New Yorkers would describe as “a nice little museum.” And it very much is, with plenty to see.

Start with the ongoing exhibition From Expressionism to Surrealism: Highlights of Modern Art from the Collection.

A special installation of treasures from the Wadsworth’s collection including works by Ernst, Munch, Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau. This intimate presentation of works of art made between 1900 and 1950 illustrates expressionist and surrealist approaches to painting.

After that we checked out another ongoing exhibition, The Bauhaus Spirit at the Wadsworth Atheneum, which “is expressed throughout the Wadsworth’s collection in art, furniture, and architectural design.”

Representative samples:

Nice.

Yet another ongoing exhibition is Sport and Leisure: Sailing on the Sound, which is very, well, sporty. The marquee exhibit right now, through September 15, is Be Seen: Portrait Photography Since Stonewall, which “explores how artists have used portrait photography to challenge, subvert, and play with societal norms of gender and sexuality.”

After our nice visit to Wadsworth Atheneum, it was home again home again jiggedy jig.

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Campaign Outsider Book Club™: Anna Burns’s Novel ‘Milkman’

I could not recommend this book more highly.

But don’t take my word for it – Milkman won the prestigious Man Booker Prize last year and the Orwell Prize for political fiction this year.

Patrick Radden Keefe, whose best seller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (which I also could not recommend more highly) won this year’s Orwell Prize for political writing, praised Anna Burns’s experimental novel as “[a] trancelike evocation of tension and predation during the Troubles.”

Burns presents 1970s Northern Ireland as if viewed through gauze, a world of vagaries bordering on the opaque.

Exhibit A: People and places don’t have proper names, they have descriptors.

In the former instance, the eighteen-year-old narrator herself has no name (she’s middle sister), but she does have a car-parts-hoarding maybe-boyfriend and three wee sisters – to balance out her three older ones – and a lecherous first brother-in-law and a running-obsessed third brother-in-law and a longest friend who informs middle sister of her status as a local beyond-the-pale, mostly – but not entirely – because middle sister has a habit of reading-while-walking, which strikes the local populace as, well, beyond the pale.

Joining her in that category are nuclear boy, who suicides over his dread of Cold War mutually assured destruction, and tablets girl, who randomly and routinely poisons various locals, including middle sister.

Places, on the other hand, are largely defined by the ever-present ‘political problems.’ In the big picture there’s ‘over the water’ and ‘over the border’ – presumably England vs. the Republic of Ireland. Locally the divide is ‘this side of the road’ and ‘that side of the road’ – presumably Catholics vs. Protestants.

And through it all runs a narrative voice that curls and corkscrews and ultimately collapses in on itself.

[In] a district that thrived on suspicion, supposition and imprecision, where everything was so back-to-front it was impossible to tell a story properly, or not tell it but just remain quiet, nothing could be said here or not said but it was turned into gospel.

The prose Burns crafts is as complex, convoluted, and claustrophobic as the environment her characters inhabit.

And then there are the paramilitaries who dominate that environment: on one side the defenders-of-the-state, on the other the renouncers-of-the-state.

(Oh yeah – almost forgot: There’s also ‘the usual place,’ where dead renouncers are laid to rest.)

And then there’s Milkman, a presumed high-octane paramilitary renouncer who’s stalking/courting middle sister who resists/shuts down emotionally even as her lecherous first brother-in-law launches rumors of an affair between Milkman and middle sister which doesn’t exist but regardless blooms into gossip that circulates and recirculates and eventually resolves into the aforementioned gospel.

In the end I will 1) leave you to discover the rest, and 2) leave you with this: Milkman is the most stunning piece of fiction I’ve read in many a year.

And middle sister – funny, ironic, self-aware, self-disparaging, self-despairing, self-defeating – is a narrator altogether strange and haunting, sort of a Belfast Ishmael.

You really should read this book.

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Dead Blogging ‘Harlem: In Situ’ at Andover’s Addison Gallery

Well the Missus and I trundled up to Andover the other day to catch the current exhibitions at the Addison Gallery of American Art and, say, they were uniformly swell.

Don’t let the “gallery” designation fool you – the Addison mounts impressive exhibits that can hold their own with almost any of the Boston-area museums.

Take, for starters, Harlem: In Situ, a sprawling exhibition that “explores the depth and complexity of this renowned neighborhood, highlighting the work of some of the most important visual artists working from the late 1920s through today.”

Its compelling photographic chronicle of Harlem’s streetscape includes 1920s–1950s (Harlem) by Lucien Aigner, Harlem Document (1935) by Aaron Siskind, Harlem Heroes (1930–1960) by Carl van Vechten, and The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1984) by Roy DeCarava.

Representative sample:

Lucien Aigner, Harlem grocery stand, c. 1936

Especially engaging are the 27 portraits from van Vechten’s portfolio of Harlem luminaries    ranging from artist Jacob Lawrence

to activist W.E.B. Du Bois

to actor Paul Robeson.

(More on Harlem Heroes from a 2017 Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit – with video of a lecture by noted collector Dr. Walter O. Evans – here.)

Harlem: In Situ also highlights the work of some of the neighborhood’s landmark artists, from Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, Kibitzers, 1948

to Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden, Jazz II Deluxe, 1980

and beyond.

All in all, a fascinating trip through a legendary piece of New York real estate and New York history.

Also currently at the Addison is In and Out of Place.

Drawn from the Addison’s rich holdings of American art from the colonial era to the present, this exhibition endeavors to investigate the nuanced and varied physical and human characteristics that set place apart from mere location. Divided into three salient categories: nature, home, and city, the works on view demonstrate the ways in which our individual, subjective notions of place are fundamentally shaped by visual imagery.

The variety of works is totally captivating, as these two examples suggest.

Winslow Homer, Kissing the Moon, 1904

 

Beaumont Newhall, Chase National Bank, New York, 1928

 

Those two exhibits occupy the Addison’s second floor. The ground floor features John Goodman: not recent color and 4 x 4, the latter of which is ending an almost year-long run.

The Goodman exhibit is a vivid walk down Boston’s Memory Lane.

Comprised of brilliant color photographs, the majority of which have never before been exhibited, John Goodman: not recent color examines the American cultural landscape through the coming of age of a young artist in the 1970s and 1980s.

Made from recently rediscovered Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides, these photographs transport viewers to another time with their richly saturated colors and cinematic views. Piercing yet tender images shot in diners, bowling alleys, and darkened theaters, outside phone booths and gas stations, and on city streets and sidewalks conjure moments in individual lives and social interactions that together tell a story about the slowly changing social fabric of Goodman’s studio neighborhood in Boston––and the country at large.

In 4 x 4, “four curators have explored a theme, style, or artistic idiom represented in depth across the many media in the collection. This selection of works examines the representation of women, the investigation of abstraction at its introduction and, later, at mid-century, and the use of technology.”

A couple of favorites:

Elie Nadelman, Seated Woman, c. 1919-25

 

László Moholy-Nagy, Twisted Planes, 1946

 

All the exhibits are up through July 31. And all are well worth a trundle.

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Donald Trump Asked Campaign Outsider What He Should Do!

From our Whiskey Tango Foxtrot desk

Here at the Global Worldwide Headquarters, the hardworking staff has gotten used to receiving missives from the ATM wing of the Republican Party, having once subscribed to the late, lamented Weekly Standard, which clearly peddled its readers’ data like artisanal cheese in Park Slope.

Even so, we were slightly taken aback when we received a four-page letter from Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna (Don’t Call Me Romney) McDaniel that began thusly.

Blah blah blah . . .

Sure enough, this was attached.

The instructions were very clear.

The questions were also very clear – ly rigged. First the Trump Agenda Survey asked us to rate how important a number of issues – which ranged from building a border wall to fixing our broken health care system to cutting job-killing regulations to confirming more original-intent confirming federal judges – should be to the Cheeto in Chief.

The only scale provided was “with 1 being most important.”

The best questions, however, the Trump Agenda Survey saved for last.

Fomenting political violence? Undermining the foundations of our society and democracy?

Isn’t that the average Trump rally?

Hey – they asked.

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Campaign Outsider Presidential Bakeoff 2020™ (Part 3)

Latest in our ongoing series

Itemizing this one deduction as NBC gets ready for the first Democratic debates on June 26-27 by assigning one moderator for every two candidates (that would be five – count ’em, five – moderators if you’re keeping score at home).

The lineups, via Politico.

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Item: Donald Trump represents the What of It wing of the Republican Party

Over the past few years we’ve grown accustomed to the knee-jerk GOP whataboutism (but Hilary’s emails!) from Donald Trump and the Trumpiacs. But now we seem to be moving into a new phase in which the Cheeto in Chief’s default response to criticism has morphed from I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I? to nonchalant whatofitism.

Exhibit A: Trump’s Kellyanne-urism regarding her numerous Hatch Act violations.

From Politico:

Trump says he won’t fire Kellyanne Conway

President Donald Trump said on Friday that he has no plans to fire top aide Kellyanne Conway after an independent federal agency recommended that she be removed from her job after she repeatedly used her office for political purposes . . .

On Friday, Trump fiercely defended Conway and criticized the Hatch Act, saying it unfairly muzzles officials.

“It really sounds to me like a free-speech thing. It doesn’t sound fair,” Trump said during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”

“No, I’m not going to fire her. I think she’s a tremendous person, tremendous spokesperson,” Trump added. “They have tried to take away her speech and I think you’re entitled to free speech in the country.”

Trumplation (pat. pending): Conway violated federal law? What of it.

Back on planet earth, as Friday’s Politico Playbook PM noted:

REMEMBER: THE SUPREME COURT ruled that the Hatch Act does not violate free speech. (If you care, see United Public Workers v. Mitchell and United States Civil Service Commission v. National Association of Letter Carriers.)

(Just for the record, Donald Trump does not care.)

Nor does he care about the constitutional oversight role of the U.S. Congress (what of it); or anything that former White House counsel Don McGahn told the Mueller investigation about Trump’s attempts at obstruction of justice (“It doesn’t matter,” he told George Stephanopoulos in an ABC News interview); or his blatant, unlawful willingness to accept re-election help from foreign governments – again (what of it); or the 10,796 false or misleading claims he’s made over 869 days (“I like the truth,” he told Stephanopoulos. “I’m actually a very honest guy”).

That’s how the president of the United States conducts himself?

What of it.

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The Arts Seen in NYC (‘Summer with the Averys’ Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Big Town last weekend to check out this that and the other thing and, say, it was swell.

After the usual funhouse ride through Six Flags Over Midtown Manhattan, we headed down to The Museum at FIT to catch Minimalism/Maximalism (through November 16), which in fairness should really be called Artful/Awful.

An example of the former:

Narciso Rodriguez, evening dress, spring 2011, USA.

An example of the latter:

Comme des Garçons, bodysuit, Multidimensional Graffiti collection, Spring 2018, Japan.

‘Nuf ced.

From there we drifted up Sixth Ave to Bryant Park to soak in la comedie humaine – and how lucky were we to catch this year’s inaugural Yoga Night! Slogan:”Perfect your downward dog at our outdoor yoga classes.”

Representative sample:

 

 

When the Yoga Mistress started taking about centeredness and mindfulness, though, we took ourselves elsewhere.

After a nice dinner at The Red Flame (which blessedly is now rid of the scaffolding that has obscured the diner for umpteen years), we wandered over to the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre for the Almeida Theatre production of Ink. (That’s a lot of -re theaters, eh?)

It’s 1969 London. The brash young Rupert Murdoch (Tony winner Bertie Carvel) purchases a struggling paper, The Sun, and sets out to make it a must-read smash which will destroy – and ultimately horrify – the competition. He brings on rogue editor Larry Lamb (Olivier winner Jonny Lee Miller) who in turn recruits an unlikely team of underdog reporters. Together, they will go to any lengths for success and the race for the most ink is on! Inspired by real events . . .

Larry Lamb is tasked by Rupert Murdoch with overtaking – in one year – The Mirror, which has the largest circulation in the U.K. (four million daily), while The Sun is among the smallest.

No spoilers here. But I will say that the production is loud, manic, and fabulously staged. And the actors are terrific.

Here’s a clip about the Theme Weeks that The Sun incessantly ran.

 

 

(More clips here.)

The play is not just smart – it’s prescient. The Sun was determined to be a disruptor, giving voice to the people and relying on them for content.

One last note: An Australian woman was sitting behind us, decrying how Rupert Murdoch has been so destructive to democracy the world over. But she failed to recognize the creative Murdoch – the one who has seen the gaps in the media world that he could fill with The Sun, the Fox Broadcast Network, the Fox News Channel.

The mistake people make is in thinking Rupert Murdoch has bedrock conservative principles. Not even close. He’s only interested in principal – how much money he can make exploiting the public’s basest instincts.

And that’s what Ink so deftly illustrates.

* * * * * * *

Bright and early next morning it was off to the Museum of Modern Art – which will close this weekend to undertake a four-month $450 million expansion – to check out Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern, which we missed last time we were in the Big Town.

“I have a live eye,” proclaimed Lincoln Kirstein, signaling his wide-ranging vision. Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern explores this polymath’s sweeping contributions to American cultural life in the 1930s and ’40s. Best known for cofounding New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet with George Balanchine, Kirstein (1907–1996), a writer, critic, curator, impresario, and tastemaker, was also a key figure in MoMA’s early history. With his prescient belief in the role of dance within the museum, his championing of figuration in the face of prevailing abstraction, and his position at the center of a New York network of queer artists, intimates, and collaborators, Kirstein’s impact remains profoundly resonant today.

Oh, yes – and major enabler of Nazi-sympathizing starchitect Philip Johnson. But we’ll pass over that in silence, as Cicero used to say.

Here’s MoMA’s video if you’re interested. And here are the images. For us, the best parts of the exhibit were the artworks Kirstein himself collected, such as this one.

 

 

Overall, an admirable presentation about a not-so-admirable guy.

Our farewell tour continued at The Frick Collection, which is planning a renovation of its own, as The Art Newspaper reported last fall.

Met plans to leave Breuer building, making way for the Frick

The Brutalist structure will house Frick’s historic collection during expansion of its 70th Street home

Brace yourself, traditionalists: Henry Clay Frick’s venerable Old Master paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and porcelain seem destined for a change of scene.

In an unusual game of musical chairs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Frick Collection announced today (21 September) that the Met will vacate the Brutalist Breuer building on Madison Avenue in 2020. Its departure will make way for the Frick to move in late that year while its mansion undergoes a renovation and expansion five blocks away.

In addition to the sheer pleasure of wandering through Frick’s old pad, there was Whistler as Printmaker: Highlights from the Gertrude Kosovsky Collection (through September 1).

The Frick Collection is pleased to announce a promised gift of forty-two works on paper by James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), from the collection of Gertrude Kosovsky. An exhibition highlighting fifteen prints and one pastel from the gift is now on view in the Cabinet Gallery. The collection was formed over five decades by Mrs. Kosovsky, with the support of her husband, Dr. Harry Kosovsky, and includes twenty-seven etchings, fourteen lithographs, and one pastel, which range from Whistler’s early etchings dating from the late 1850s to lithographs of the late 1890s.

As per usual with Whistler’s etchings, they were a joy to look at – especially with the aid of the magnifying glasses the Frick kindly provided.

Also on display was Elective Affinities: Edmund de Waal at The Frick Collection (through November 17) – “a temporary installation of sculptures by acclaimed author and ceramist Edmund de Waal. Site-specific works made of porcelain, steel, gold, marble, and glass are displayed in the museum’s main galleries alongside works from the permanent collection.”

Representative sample:

 

 

Here’s a video that features the artist discussing his technique and the concepts behind the installation. It’s definitely worth the ten minutes.

 

 

From the Frick we moseyed up Fifth Ave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the main attraction right now is Camp: Notes on Fashion (through September 8).

Through more than 250 objects dating from the seventeenth century to the present, The Costume Institute’s spring 2019 exhibition explores the origins of camp’s exuberant aesthetic. Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp'” provides the framework for the exhibition, which examines how the elements of irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration are expressed in fashion.

Here’s Sontag’s essay and here’s a guided tour of the exhibit.

 

 

Sontag says that “the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” The Met exhibit says that Camp is whatever the curator wants it to be. So the whole thing – audio, video, clothing, accessories, etc. – is a hot mess. Add to that the swarms of people taking selfies and barely looking at any one thing for more than ten seconds and the whole thing teeters into the realm of the ludicrous.

But if Camp is a hot mess, Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll (through October 1) is just hot.

The exhibition is co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and [presents] approximately 130 instruments alongside posters and costumes. Many of rock’s most celebrated and recognized instruments are featured, representing artists across generations and subgenres. In addition to institutional and private collectors, many musicians are lending their performance and recording instruments.

You can see the instruments here, from the Beatles drum kit to Jimmy Page’s guitar that was stolen from a Minneapolis airport in 1970 and – amazingly – returned to him (the exhibit doesn’t say how) in 2015. A Whitman’s Sampler of videos can be found here.

Last stop at The Met was the roof to take in Alicja Kwade: ParaPivot (through October 27).

Berlin-based artist Alicja Kwade’s (born 1979, Poland) work is elegant, rigorous, and highly experiential. Using a wide range of media, Kwade creates sculptures and installations that reflect on time, perception, and scientific inquiry. With equal parts poetry and critical acumen, she calls into question the systems designed to banish doubt from the world and make sense of an otherwise unfathomable universe. Ultimately, Kwade seeks to heighten both the mystery and the absurdity of the human condition in order to enhance our powers of self-reflection.

For The Met, Kwade has created two sculptures using steel and stone to evoke a miniature solar system . . .

Here’s video of the artist talking about her work. It’s really quite smart.

 

 

From there we wandered down Madison to Gagosian Gallery to see Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline (through June 29).

I am perhaps a painter without style. 
—Pablo Picasso

Gagosian, in partnership with members of the Picasso family, is pleased to present Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures that attests to the central role and influence of the many women in Picasso’s life. It has been organized in honor of the gallery’s late friend and colleague, Sir John Richardson.

In the early 1960s, Richardson was planning to write a study of Picasso’s portraits and spent hours with the artist, poring over reproductions of his works. As Picasso spoke about the complexities of his pictorial thinking—pointing out, for example, that a portrait of Dora Maar might also contain elements referring to her romantic predecessor Marie-Thérèse Walter, and her successor Françoise Gilot—Richardson began to believe that a detailed biographical treatment of Picasso’s portraiture would close a notable gap in Picasso scholarship. Decades later he would sit down to write what would become the monumental multivolume biography, A Life of Picasso.

Thumbnail summary: Picasso unequivocally loved Marie-Thérèse Walter.

 

 

Dora Marr?

 

 

A bit more conflicted.

Then we swung by The Met Breuer (probably not part of our farewell tour since we’ll be back in the Big Town a couple of times before it closes) to catch Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee (through September 29).

Phenomenal Nature marks the first retrospective of the artist in the United States. The exhibition brings together fifty-seven works by Mukherjee and explores the artist’s longstanding engagement with fiber, along with her significant forays into ceramic and bronze towards the middle and latter half of her career.

A committed sculptor who worked intuitively, Mukherjee explored the divide between figuration and abstraction. Nature was her primary inspiration, and she was further informed by her enthusiasm for Indian historic sculpture, modern design, and local crafts and textile traditions. Phenomenal Nature highlights the radical intervention Mukherjee made in her adaptation of crafting techniques with a modernist formalism.

Representative samples:

 

 

 

We didn’t know what to expect from the exhibit, but it’s a knockout.

To finish things off, we caught the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Donald Margulies’ Long Lost (through June 30).

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such works as Time Stands Still and Dinner with Friends returns to MTC with a funny, unsettling, ultimately moving play about the limits of compassion and filial obligation. When troubled Billy appears out-of-the-blue in his estranged brother David’s Wall Street office, he soon tries to re-insert himself into the comfortable life David has built with his philanthropist wife and college-age son. What does Billy really want? Can he be trusted? And how much can family bonds smooth over past rifts?

The real question – and problem with the play – is this: Could Billy be any more unlikable and unsympathetic? The actors are fine, but the play itself is weak.

Representative samples:

 

 

Then again, as my late, great father-in-law Marvin used to say, a bad play is better than a good movie.

* * * * * * *

On the way home we swung by the Bruce Museum in Greenwich to see Summer with the Averys [Milton | Sally | March] (through September 1).

On May 11, 2019, the Bruce Museum [opened] Summer with the Averys [Milton | Sally | March]. Featuring landscapes, seascapes, beach scenes, and figural compositions—as well as rarely seen travel sketchbooks­—the exhibition takes an innovative approach to the superb work produced by the Avery family. Along with canonical paintings by Milton Avery, the show offers a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the remarkable art created by Avery’s wife Sally and their daughter March.

Milton Avery, his wife Sally Michel, and their daughter March were inveterate summer travelers, with destinations including Mexico; Laguna Beach, California; Canada’s Gaspé Peninsula;  Provincetown, Massachusetts; Woodstock, New York; the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire; Yaddo in upstate New York; and Europe.

What the exhibit vividly displays is not just the closeness of the family, but the familial resemblance of the art they produced.

Milton Avery (American, 1885-1965). Thoughtful Swimmer, 1943.

 

 

Sally Michel (American, 1902-2003). Swimming Lesson, 1987.

 

 

March Avery (American, b. 1932). The Dead Sea, 2009.

 

 

Just a terrific exhibit.

Before we left the museum we looked in on Sharks! Myths and Realities and learned this fun fact: More Americans are killed every year by ballpoint pens and vending machines than by sharks.  You should look it up.

Then it was home again, home again jiggedy-jig.

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