This week: Diderot, Duran, a literary St. Patrick’s Day & more from the world of culture.
Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, by Andrew S. Curran (Other Press): Like many of his fellow philosophes, Denis Diderot was both a broadly talented thinker and a prolific writer. Over the course of his intellectual life, he produced important bodies of art criticism, philosophical essays, scientific studies, plays, and novels. He’s best known, of course, as the co-founder and chief editor of the Encyclopédie (published 1751–72), the Enlightenment’s essential tome. Andrew S. Curran’s critical biography, Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, untangles many of the historical intricacies surrounding the publication of this text, and it grapples dexterously with the ramifications of Diderot’s more original philosophy, such as that expressed in Rameau’s Nephew, perhaps his most important independent project. —AS
“Robert Duran: 1968–1970,” at Karma Gallery, New York (through March 31): When the artist Robert Duran came to New York from San Francisco in the 1960s, he landed square in the downtown painting scene, but never stopped looking east. Travel through India, Nepal, and Tibet influenced his abstract vocabulary, in which glyphs and other squiggly forms speak their own esoteric language. Yet while Duran exhibited in six shows at the famous Bykert Gallery, his work hasn’t been seen in New York since 1977. Now in its first showing of the Duran estate, Karma Gallery presents the artist’s earliest paintings in a dazzling exhibition that is long overdue. With colorful plays of figure and ground, these fresh compositions could have been made today. —JP
“Winter Festival: Russian Panorama,” at Alice Tully Hall (March 15, 19, and 24): The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is putting on a Russian music extravaganza. The week-long Winter Festival kicked off last week, but there’s still time to catch three more programs traversing the history of Russia’s chamber music. Friday’s program includes works by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and more; next Tuesday will feature Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich & co.; and next Sunday, the Borodin Quartet will add in works by their namesake and Myaskovsky. If you can’t make it to Alice Tully Hall, check out this Spotify playlist of works from all four Festival programs. —HN
“Ninth Annual Irish Arts Center Book Day” (March 15): While some view St. Patrick’s Day merely as a chance to get outside of a barrelful of Guinness, the Irish Arts Center takes a different view, using the holiday as an opportunity to distribute books by Irish and Irish-American authors for free in New York. With ten pop-up book distribution stations across the five boroughs, the IAC program ensures St. Patrick’s Day access to that other famous Hibernian export, literature. The stalls open at 8:00 a.m., so get there early for the first choice of titles. —BR
From the archive: “The irrepressible Pepys,” by Brooke Allen (January 2003). Considering Pepys, upon the publication of Claire Tomalin’s new book Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.
From the current issue: “Strange pairings,” by Kyle Smith. On The Dance of Death at the Lynn F. Angelson Theater, True West at the American Airlines Theatre, and Nassim on Stage II at New York City Center.