This week: Hyman Bloom, Hudson Yards, the Song of Songs & more from the world of culture.
The Song of Songs: A Biography, by Ilana Pardes (Princeton University Press): If, like me, you were sick the day that the Song of Songs was taught in Sunday School, you might take this chance to refamiliarize yourself with one of the great curiosities of biblical exegesis. Ilana Pardes, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, frames the issue thus in the opening pages: “Why was a daringly sensual poem of love with no reference whatsoever to God or national history included in the Bible?” Paying special attention to the relationship between its literal and allegorical interpretations, Pardes sets out to trace the history of the poem’s reception and interpretation, from its compilation in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. to its influence on such notable American authors as Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Toni Morrison. —RE
“Hyman Bloom: American Master,” at Alexandre Gallery (through October 26): As American painting bubbled to the surface of the canvas, Hyman Bloom (1913–2009) mined the depths of abstraction. Bloom’s symbolist work found meaning in the macabre, with an idiosyncratic painterly style that was more than skin deep. With “Hyman Bloom: American Master,” Alexandre Gallery brings a selection of works by this American original to New York at the time of his major retrospective now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (the city where Bloom lived and worked). Readers can expect a review of the Boston retrospective, by Franklin Einspruch, in the forthcoming September issue of The New Criterion. —JP
“Kyoto: Capital of Artistic Imagination,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through January 26, 2020): Last week brought the news that the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya, Japan, would be shut down following anonymous threats of terrorism, likely motivated by the controversial inclusion of a commemorative statue of an ianfu, or “comfort woman.” One of the more internationally important exhibitions held in Japan, the silenced Triennale was, incredibly, devoted to the theme of free expression. (It’s also a reminder that the bubbling heat and consternation surrounding contemporary art is not limited to our own shores.) Less attention will be given to the special exhibition that recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Kyoto: Capital of Artistic Imagination,” which celebrates the decorative and fine arts of that city, a two-hour drive west of Nagoya and from 794 to 1869 the seat of Japan’s imperial court. Comprising more than eighty object works and more than fifty paintings, the exhibition spans much of this period, including Japan’s “Golden Age” (the Momoyama period, 1573–1615), which was marked by an explosion of lavish cultural production and the commencement of trade with European powers. —AS
“Hudson Yards: New York’s Newest Neighborhood,” walking tour presented by the Municipal Art Society (August 15): The Municipal Art Society is billing its tour of Hudson Yards as a spin through “New York’s Newest Neighborhood.” But is this redevelopment of defunct rail lines a neighborhood at all? Or is it more like an international airport’s duty-free shopping section with some offices and glassy apartment buildings clustered around it? Find out for yourself this Thursday night, as Matt Postal leads an evening walking tour. For more on Hudson Yards, see our own James Panero’s May 2019 assessment of the development. —BR
From the archive:
“Dr. Jones’s Hamlet Complex,” by Anthony Daniels (October 2010). Should we psychoanalyze the Bard?
“A summer retreat,” by George Loomis. Young musicians and seasoned soloists shine in Wagner at Tanglewood.