This week: Ulysses, figurative art, the Temple of Hera at Olympa & more.

Lee Sievan, Orchard & Rivington Streets—Pushcarts, 1946. © Estate of Lee Sievan.


Berenice Abbot, James Joyce, 1928, Gelatin silver print, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

“Domesticating Ulysses: The Novel’s Surprising Economy,” with Robert Seidman, at McNally Jackson, Prince Street (February 2): Despite its reputation for prolixity, James Joyce’s Ulysses is at its core an exercise in compression: the expansive scope of Homer’s Odyssey packed into a day in the life of the singularly mediocre Leopold Bloom. The implication seems to be that, so examined, the life of any man, whether a lavish prince or a bum on the street, is apt to disclose near-transcendent significance. And so it is that stray lines and odd snippets from Ulysses very often attest to a sermonic, even Emersonian ambition: piercing, like a shaft of light, through the mist and illuminating the heart of Joyce’s vision. This Groundhog Day—the author’s birthday, mind you—join the novelist and Joyce scholar Robert Seidman at McNally Jackson’s Prince Street location to appraise and discuss a handful of these resonant passages. —RE


Nell Blaine, Three Friends at a Table, 1968, Oil on canvas, Center for Figurative Painting

“Masterworks of American Figurative Painting,” at the Center for Figurative Painting (February 3–June 4): The Center for Figurative Painting was a welcome addition to the New York art scene when it opened in 2001. Hilton Kramer reviewed its first exhibition, which featured work by Lennart Anderson, Leland Bell, Nell Blaine, Louisa Matthiasdottir, Paul Resika, Albert Kresch, and Paul Georges, and noted how such figurative work arises from a shared “resistance to the temptations of facile vanguardism and its reverence for painting itself as a medium of high art.” Built around the collection of the New York real estate developer Henry Justin, the center regrettably went off-center soon after its opening. Next Monday, this gallery finally returns to Midtown West with a public exhibition of its masterworks—featuring many of the same artists from 2001, along with paintings by Simon Dinnerstein, Graham Nickson, Philip Pearlstein, and others—that well reveals how Abstract Expressionism was never the only pupil in the New York School. —JP


Weegee ( Ascher Fellig), Max Delivering the Morning’s Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue, New York, ca. 1940. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

The International Center for Photography, reopening and “The Lower East Side: Selections from the ICP Collection” (through May 18): Much like the medium it was founded in 1974 to celebrate, the International Center for Photography has experienced a somewhat itinerant history. Originally occupying the Willard D. Straight House on Fifth Avenue and Ninety-fourth Street, the ICP has moved periodically to various sites around Manhattan. This weekend, it re-opened in its fourth and newest location, a purpose-built four-story structure on Essex Street on the Lower East Side. The Gensler-designed building, which also houses classrooms, darkrooms, event space, and a library, includes significantly more gallery space than any of the ICP’s previous locations. Celebrating their new home and neighborhood is, among other exhibitions, a display of more than forty mid-twentieth-century photographs of the then-immigrant-heavy Lower East Side. —AS


3-D reconstruction of the Temple to Hera at Olympia showing both the texture and mesh.

“Digital Autopsy and the Temple of Hera at Olympia: Rethinking the Beginnings of Greek Monumental Architecture,” with Philip Sapirstein, at the Institute of Fine Arts (February 4): Arriving at a fuller understanding of the past is a multistep process. Scholars must patch together documentary evidence with the archaeological, and, given the usual paucity of sources, engage in some speculative reconstruction. This is especially true for the ever-fascinating ancient past, which, though looming culturally large, is difficult to recreate. On February 4, Philip Sapirstein, a professor of art history, will discuss the challenges in studying the earliest examples of monumental Greek architecture in a presentation on the Temple of Hera at Olympia. Archaeological evidence, combined with advanced 3-D modeling, has revised our understanding of this Archaic, ca. 590 B.C. structure, and it now appears that the stone colonnade is original to the site, not a replacement for a lost wooden one—fascinating stuff. —BR


“Angelo M. Codevilla on collective & individual liberty.” Exclusive audio from The New Criterion’s “Sovereignty or Submission” conference in Washington, D.C.

From the archives:

“The proletariat’s favorite son,” by David Gurevich (November 1989). A review of Gorky by Henri Troyat.


“Clive alive,” by Sunil Iyengar. On the prodigious critic and poet Clive James.

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