Pat Lipsky, Chrysanthemum, 1971, Acrylic on canvas, Eric Firestone Gallery, New York.

Art:

“Pat Lipsky: Color World,” at Eric Firestone Gallery, New York (through December 22): This is the final week to visit “Pat Lipsky: Color World,” an exhibition at Eric Firestone Gallery of Lipsky’s new work shown together with canvases rediscovered from fifty years ago. With acrylic abstractions from the 1970s paired beside compositions from 2023, the exhibition presents a consummate abstractionist in conversation across half a century. As Lipsky asks of her past self in a new video profile produced by the Arts Students League, “Can I count on that person? What was I thinking when I rolled them up?” The answer remains on view through December 22. For more from Lipsky, read “Alone in a room” in the current issue of The New Criterion. —JP

Art:

Anonymous, Textile Fragment with Artemis and Actaeon, Fifth–seventh century, Linen & wool, The British Museum, London. Photo: © The Trustees of the British Museum. On view in “Africa & Byzantium” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

“Africa & Byzantium,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (through March 3): “What did Constantine see,” Joseph Brodsky asked, “as he looked at the map of Byzantium? He saw, to put it mildly, a tabula rasa.” Over the next thousand years, that tabula rasa was filled in with contributions from Christianity, Judaism and Islam against a background of paganism. In Africa especially, where the empire’s grasp was far-reaching but tenuous, the sway of these persuasions was constantly transforming the region’s art: images of the Egyptian goddess Isis morphed into images of the Virgin Mary and back again as Christianity’s influence waxed and waned; Jewish symbology worked its way into Christian pottery; and Islamic geometric abstraction began to perfuse nearly everything. Artifacts from the time and region are thus kaleidoscopic and exceptional. The Met has gathered a remarkable set of such pieces in “Africa & Byzantium,” an exciting and surprising show including dozens of works rarely seen outside of Africa—a treasure trove both thought-provoking and delightful. Look forward to a full review soon from Thomas F. Madden. —LL

Music:

Cover to Harry Smith’s “Anthology of American Folk Music,” 1952. Photo: The Whitney Museum.

“Fragments of a Faith Forgotten: The Art of Harry Smith,” at the Whitney Museum, New York (through January 28): Shellac is a natural resin, the secretion of the female lac bug native to South Asia. From the 1880s to the early 1950s, the vast majority of commercial recordings were engraved on shellac discs—vinyl records only caught on around 1950. Shellac can also be used in the production of munitions; thus, with Japanese fleets prowling the Pacific during World War II, Americans were encouraged to donate hundreds of millions of old discs to be melted down for the war effort. Much was lost forever; thankfully, one man, Harry Smith, wandered the scrapyards and junk sales of wartime America to assemble what would become the Anthology of American Folk Music (1952), a remarkable ark of American cultural patrimony annotated with painstaking research notes (and touches of esoteric and occult symbolism). Smith, a classic Greenwich Village oddball, fixture of the Chelsea Hotel, and mentor to many, receives a thorough retrospective at the Whitney Museum through the end of January, complete with his experiments in animation, film, and painting. Take time to sit in the room dedicated to the Anthology, where you can listen to the entire six-LP set with a view of the Hudson River before you and a copy of Smith’s booklet in hand. —IS

Architecture:

Country Life: 125 Years of Countryside Living in Great Britain from the Archives of “Country Life,by John Goodall & Kate Green (Rizzoli): The poet William Cowper (1731–1800) maintained that “God made the country, and man made the town.” A certain segment of the British population, those that weekly receive Country Life for instance, would agree. Much lore surrounds the so-called bible of the British aristocracy, which turned a hundred and twenty-five last year, but perhaps the funniest story (possibly apocryphal; too good to check) involves Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900–2002), who, drawing up a guest list, rejected the Country Life architectural historian John Cornforth, saying “Oh no . . . Corners is far too grand for us.” Devoted readers of the magazine know its grandness is more myth than reality, and one is just as likely to find practical tips for growing wisteria as aristo-arcana in its pages. A gorgeous anniversary volume published by Rizzoli, with great houses and gardens galore, is out now and will make for enlivening Christmas browsing. —BR

Lecture:

Jill Nathanson, Fluid Bridge, 2022, Acrylic & polymers on panel, Berry Campbell Gallery, New York. Photo: Michael Chisolm.

“Painters Talking: What We Talk About When We Talk About Abstraction,” moderated by Mario Naves, presented by the Art Students League of New York (December 19): Hilton Kramer once observed that, in the United States at least, “you have to go back to the 1950s and 1960s to recall a time when new developments in abstract art . . . transform[ed] our thinking about art itself.” He was referring to the startling achievements of abstraction’s half-century heyday, starting with Kandinsky and Mondrian and running through the New York School on down to Stella, Judd, and a handful of other 1960s Minimalists. Yet by 1995, owing to the “fateful shift in priorities” from aesthetics to a “political, sexual, and sociological interest in art-making activities,” Kramer could fairly surmise that abstraction was taken “for granted as part of the familiar scenery of modern cultural life.” And what is it now, a quarter century on? This Tuesday, December 19, a panel of artists and instructors will take up the question at “Painters Talking,” moderated by Mario Naves and hosted by the Art Students League of New York. Tickets are scarce, but a recording of the event will be made available on the league’s YouTube page in the coming weeks. —RE

From the Archives:

“Elena Tsezarevna Chukovskaya,” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (November 1995). On the courageous “chief-of-staff” of Solzhenitsyn’s samzidat network.

Dispatch:

“War of the worlds,” by Julia Friedman. On the recent spat between the critic Jerry Saltz & the artist Refik Anadol.

“Collective madness,” by Timothy Jacobson. On American country clubs & their transformation.

A Message from the Editors

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