This week: Reading modern art, remembering Richard Timperio, refreshing Handel & more from the world of culture.
The Art of Looking: How to Read Modern and Contemporary Art, by Lance Esplund (Basic Books): A “how-to” primer for newcomers to modern and contemporary art, Lance Esplund’s conversational new book aims to coach its readers through the slow process and at-times-difficult experience of seeing. Esplund, an art critic for The Wall Street Journal and a frequent lecturer at a number of schools and universities, is the first to admit that much of the art he discusses is resistant and even antagonistic to this sort of basic interaction with its audience, but he nevertheless encourages readers to keep an open mind when encountering the works of artists as disparate as Manet and Marina Abramović, Klee and Robert Gober. You may disagree with some of the judgments the author makes over the course of his book, something that he readily acknowledges is a consequence of this subjective approach. But Esplund is at his best when he is able to reach to the past, and to the timeless traditions and values that all successful art shares in, to inform his own critical approach. —AS
“Richard Timperio: End of the Trail,” at Sideshow Gallery (December 14, 2018 through January 13, 2019): The artist and gallerist Richard Timperio, who died this fall at age seventy-one, gave New York’s alternative art scene its color and light. Since 2000, Sideshow Gallery, the exhibition space he owned and operated in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, exhibited artists across generations at pivotal moments in their careers, uniting the studio cultures of Soho and Tribeca with those of the East Village and the outer boroughs. His annual omnium gatherum surveys, with such names as “At the Alamo” and “Sideshow Nation,” also included just about any artist you cared about packed into every square inch of gallery wall. With each and every show, Timperio broke the rules of gallery composure and betrayed his generous outlaw spirit. Yet the work of one artist was noticeably absent from all of these exhibitions: Timperio’s own luminous abstractions. Opening this Friday at Sideshow and on view through January 13, 2019, “End of the Trail” will bring Timperio home with a retrospective survey of his art curated by Liv Mette Larsen and Gwendolyn Charlene Skaggs. On December 18, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., a memorial for the artist will take place at San Damiano Mission Catholic Church, 85 North Fifteenth Street, Brooklyn, followed by a reception at the gallery. —JP
“Handel and Lang,” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (December 15): It’s easy to get Handel-ed out during the Christmas music season, when it seems like every church and concert venue is performing Messiah, and only Messiah, forever and ever, amen. But having enough “Hallelujah”s doesn’t mean you have to turn off the Handel entirely. Instead, try Dixit Dominus, a setting of Psalm 110, first performed in 1707. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra for this performance of Handel’s earliest surviving work, paired with David Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion (2007), based on Hans Christian Andersen’s melancholy fairy tale about a poor girl’s dreams of holiday cheer on a very cold and dreary New Year’s Eve. Clear your calendars for December 15: tickets for the concert include admission to the Met and a pre-performance reception in the museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. —HN
“Diplomacy and Dining: A Look at Table Architecture and Cuisine in Empire France,” at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (December 11): That the French take dining seriously is a truism. Just how far these Gallic gourmets have gone to lay on sumptuous banquets is evidenced by the lavishness of the surtout de table, an ornamental centerpiece often in precious materials and designed by notable architects. This Tuesday, Sarah Coffin—the recently retired Curator and Head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at Cooper Hewitt—will return to discuss the way the French state used surtouts de table for diplomatic purposes. For more on French culinary traditions, read James F. Penrose on Eugène Briffault’s Paris à Table, from our September issue. —BR
From the archive: “Waiting for the golden pig,” by Eric Ormsby (February 2004). On the Christmas season in the Czech capital.
From the current issue: “Museum work & museum problems,” by Belinda Rathbone. On Paul Sachs’s “Museum Course” at Harvard.