This week: Greek history, Helen Frankenthaler, architectural reclamation & more.
Sparta’s First Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 478–446 B.C., by Paul A. Rahe (Yale University Press): Historians have been studying the Persian War and its aftermath for, well, about as long as historians have been studying at all. Thucydides examined its consequences in his treatment of the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta (431–404 B.C.). The work of Herodotus, his predecessor and the “father of history” (a phrase from Cicero), roughly concludes with the defeat of Persia in 478 B.C.—but it should be noted that Herodotus himself was only born in 484 B.C. and, having lived through a good deal of the Attic–Spartan conflict, actually foreshadows that tension in his portrayal of the Persian and Greek sides. Where Paul A. Rahe positions himself, between the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, is therefore in the borderlands between the two great thinkers, temporally as well as geographically: Thucydides lived in Athens and Herodotus in Halicarnassus (under Persian control at his birth), but Rahe has centered his account on the city of Sparta. Acclaimed as “a serious scholarly endeavor” and as “break[ing] important new ground,” his volume should prove more than useful to those looking to round out their understanding of one of the most consequential centuries in human history. —RE
“Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown,” at the Parrish Art Museum (through October 27): In the Critic’s Notebook of a few weeks ago, I flagged an exhibition at Kasmin Gallery that celebrates those midcentury painters who spent time living and working on the South Fork of Long Island. One of the artists in that show, Helen Frankenthaler, had a formative experience visiting Jackson Pollock’s East Hampton studio, which helped spur her own practice of pouring thinned-out paint onto unprimed canvas. But many of Frankenthaler’s greatest achievements as a painter were conducted in another northeast coastal town known for its rich history of artist colonies: Provincetown, Massachusetts. Frankenthaler first studied in Provincetown at Hans Hofmann’s fabled summer school in 1950, where she developed her sense of color as the driving force of a painting’s perceptual impact. But it wasn’t until 1958, when she married Robert Motherwell, that Frankenthaler began regularly visiting the light-bathed Cape Cod escape. “Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown,” an exhibition originally organized in 2018 at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, is now on view at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mills, New York—connecting these two institutions and locales in congenial collaboration. —AS
“Pasíon: A concert of Spanish and South American Music,” by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra featuring J. P. Jofre (August 6): To hear an instrument for the first time—or for the first time in concert with an entire orchestra—can be an experience equally jarring and revelatory. (A fine example is the rattling, ghostly flexatone’s appearance three minutes into Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto in D-flat major, Op. 38, second movement.) The last of five performances in the free Naumburg Orchestral Concert series takes place at Temple Emanu-El Tuesday evening: the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, accompanied by the bandoneon player J. P. Jofre, will present an evening of Spanish and Latin American music, mostly from the twentieth century. The bandoneon, for those wondering, is a younger sibling to the concertina (itself a cousin of the accordion) that never quite took off in Europe, but found impressive popularity in South America in the late nineteenth century within the burgeoning genre of tango music. Jofre, an Argentinian, will employ the instrument in one of his own compositions as well as in “Adiós Nonino” by Astor Piazzola; the rest of the program will be filled out by larger works from Latin-American standbys such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, among others. Admission is free, but tickets must be acquired in advance. —RE
“Ruin and Redemption in Architecture”: Dan Barasch and Michelle Young in conversation at the New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan Branch (August 7): Reclamation might seem all the rage in architecture today (consider two of the most prominent New York projects of the past few years: the High Line and Hudson Yards, both of which repurposed disused rail lines), but it’s hardly a new concept. Rome is built on spolia, recycled stone and sculpture from the ruins of antiquity and the middle ages, while in London abandoned fire stations have been turned into everything from Buddhist centers to supermarkets to apartments. Dan Barasch, the author of a new book on what contemporary critics call “adaptive reuse,” will discuss the topic Wednesday at the New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan Branch with Michelle Young, a professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. —BR
From the archive:“Nabokov in America,” by Donald Lyons (December 1997). On the three-volume Vladimir Nabokov collection published by the Library of America.
From the current issue: “Corruptor of the youth,” by Khalil M. Habib. A review of Glaucon’s Fate: History, Myth, and Character in Plato’s Republic by Jacob Howland.