This week: Zoo Nebraska, André Watts, the Frick Library & more from the world of culture.
Zoo Nebraska, by Carson Vaughan (Little A): For decades, Royal seemed like any other drive-by town in northeast Nebraska—until you discovered its zoo. Dick Haskin brought Reuben the chimpanzee home to Royal in 1986, after leaving his job at the Children’s Zoo in Lincoln. Although Haskin dreamed of turning what he called the Midwest Primate Center into a serious research institution, he bought other exotic animals to attract tourists, and soon the most eclectic farmyard in America became “Zoo Nebraska.” But nearly twenty years later, all hell—meaning four chimpanzees—broke loose. The Nebraska journalist Carson Vaughan’s first book is more than a colorful piece of Americana. Zoo Nebraska reveals the struggle for survival—economic, political, even physical—that goes on behind the stoic faces of many small Midwestern towns. The story is familiar: poverty, population drain, the takeover of big agriculture, and hotly contested attempts to jumpstart tourism and other small industries in its wake. But the forms it takes are as unlikely and varied as the residents of Zoo Nebraska. —HN
“Paul Resika: Through the Trees,” at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects (through April 28): The magic and mystery of the nonagenarian artist Paul Resika are on full display at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects. A dozen black-and-white and color etchings that Resika made with the printer Marjorie Van Dyke in 1997 and 1998, along with a suite of paintings from 1993, have been brought together around the theme of “through the trees.” The blues and greens of sky and surf as seen from his home on Cape Cod emerge from a thick abstraction of leaves and branches. Exquisite small works by Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, and Louis Michel Eilshemius, among others, are paired with the exhibition in the back-room gallery. —JP
“Only at Merkin with Terrance McKnight: André Watts, Piano,” at Merkin Hall (April 6): André Watts’s mother used to cajole him into practicing piano by telling stories about Franz Liszt: even that flamboyant performer put in his time playing scales. It worked. Watts made his New York Philharmonic debut at the age of sixteen—filling in for Glenn Gould. Watts, who has adopted elements of Liszt’s theatrical style, will perform three works by that composer: En Rêve; Schlaflos, Frage und Antwort; and Concert Étude No. 3, Un Sospiro, on Saturday at Merkin Hall. The program also includes Scarlatti, Haydn, and Chopin, as well as a conversation with the WQXR host Terrance McKnight. For more on Watts, read Jay Nordlinger’s review of the veteran musician’s performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat, K. 271. —HN
“Provenance: Can You Bank on It?,” at the Frick Collection (April 2): The Frick Art Reference Library, which hides in plain sight right behind the museum, its entrance on East Seventy-first Street, is an unsung resource for those interested in art historical research. While the Met’s Watson Library beats all comers for its comprehensiveness, the Frick’s library mirrors the museum itself—intimate and exquisite. This Tuesday the Library will host a lecture by Lynn Rother, a Senior Provenance Specialist at MOMA, on “the biggest art deal of the Nazi era,” wherein the Prussian Finance Minister paid the Dresdner Bank 7.5 million Deutschmarks for over four thousand works of art to be displayed in the Berlin museums. Her talk will explore issues surrounding Nazi-era provenance. The lecture will be held in the museum’s Music Room, but make sure to pop around the corner to see the Library, too. —BR
From the archive: “The long, shining table,” by Hortense Calisher (January 1983). On writers in Eastern Europe.
From the Editors: “ ‘Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice’ Review: A Master’s Arrival,” by James Panero (The Wall Street Journal). The big, energetic, unwieldy paintings of Tintoretto come to Washington, spectacularly.
From the Editors: “A First Step Toward Restoring Free Speech on Campus,” by Roger Kimball (The Wall Street Journal). The President’s executive order highlights the routine attempts to intimidate and silence conservatives.
From the current issue: “Back to beginnings,” by Kyle Smith. On Merrily We Roll Along at the Laura Pels Theatre, Shadow of a Gunman at the Irish Rep, and Fiddler on the Roof at Stage 42.