This week: the Wassaic Project, armies of one, a hidden Manhattan gem & more.
The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, by Kevin D. Williamson (Gateway Editions): “Procedural democracy is a convenience,” writes Kevin D. Williamson in his new book, The Smallest Minority: “It pacifies the chimps in the electorate and gives us an alternative to ritual combat for the chimps in office.” To say that Williamson has little faith in the American political system, however, would be a mischaracterization. His real gripe is with the distortion and inversion that occurs when the ethos of “majority rule”—which, he argues, should be confined to our governing institutions—instead determines society’s beliefs and morality at large. Witness the sociopolitical climate, current year. To please the masses has always been to wield power, but instead of the panem et circenses of Roman times, the mob now clamors for a new sort of alimentation: outrage. Shallow pretenses of classical liberalism soon give way to outright barbarism and enforced ideological conformity. The end result: “ochlocracy,” or mob rule, a phenomenon that Williamson teases out in its many social, psychological, and ethical dimensions. Williamson is blistering and irreverent, stepping without doubt on more than a few toes—but, then again, that’s kind of the point. —RE
The Wassaic Project 2019 Summer Festival (August 3): For over a decade, The Wassaic Project has channeled a remarkable confluence of contemporary art and artists into a repurposed mill at the northern terminus of Metro-North’s Harlem Line. In addition to exhibiting artists in residence, each summer the colony also hosts a festival day of music, dance, film, talks, and performances. This Saturday, the Project’s eleventh summer festival returns with free programming throughout the afternoon and evening to accompany its summer exhibition titled “Ad Astra Per Aspera.”—JP
“Summer Evenings in the Garden,” at the Merchant’s House Museum (August 1): Tucked around the corner from the Cooper Union on East Fourth Street stands one of New York’s most unheralded museums. The Merchant’s House Museum recreates the life of the Tredwells, a wealthy nineteenth-century family, by displaying their original possessions—including a set of twelve chairs by Duncan Phyfe, the closest America ever had to a Thomas Chippendale. This Thursday, a guided house tour will be available at 6:30 p.m., after which visitors can proceed to the “secret” back garden for some cool summer breezes. —BR
Juried exhibitions at Bowery Gallery and Blue Mountain Gallery (July 31–August 17): Bowery Gallery and Blue Mountain Gallery are two cooperative nonprofits across the hall from one another in Chelsea. Since their founding in 1969 and 1980, respectively, each gallery has provided a vital alternative space for serious artists to exhibit their work outside the demands of an increasingly narrow commercial gallery system. Usually open only to artist members, the galleries fill their walls with outside artists during their juried summer shows. With concurrent opening receptions this Thursday evening, this year the jurors Ro Lohin at Bowery and Eric Aho and Rachel Portesi at Blue Mountain have invited 105 artists to exhibit across the two spaces—with paintings by Andrew Shea, the Assistant Editor of The New Criterion, on view at both venues. —JP
From the archive: “Two cheers for democracy,” by James Piereson (September 2016). A review of Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought by James T. Kloppenberg and Democracy: A Life by Paul Cartledge.
From the current issue:“The opioid crises,” by Daniel M. Bring. A review of Milk of Paradise: A History of Opium by Lucy Inglis.