This week: Highland retreats, Parisian aesthetes & more.
Book talk, “Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Reinvented Modernism,” by Charles A. Riley, at Albertine (September 13): “The Lost Generation” of expatriate writers and artists in Paris in the 1920s has long been a subject of popular fascination. American interest in Paris’s Rive Gauche scene has been driven by the enduring appeal of the modernist masterpieces it produced—Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, George Gershwin’s 1928 orchestral piece An American in Paris, etc.—as well as by the generally romantic notions of bohemian adventure that surrounded its principal players. Of course, enchantment often breeds misconception: the period is as written about as it is misunderstood and mythologized. Charles A. Riley, recognized as an authority on the period since his 2004 book, The Jazz Age in France, will lecture this Wednesday at Albertine on his recently published Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Reinvented Modernism. Riley’s most recent book delves into the social connections and artistic collaborations that begot the masterpieces we have with us today, and reaches beyond Paris’s most prominent figures to illuminate the significant contributions of less-well-recognized expats such as the jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet, the painter Archibald Motley, Jr., and the poet Langston Hughes. The lecture is in English and is restricted to members of the Albertine or the Art Deco Society of New York. —AS
Current exhibitions at Paul Kasmin Gallery (through October 28): For proof that the galleries have become the new museums, look to the remarkable museum-quality three-show lineup now on view, through October, at Chelsea’s Paul Kasmin. In “The Enormity of the Possible,” at Kasmin’s 297 Tenth Avenue location, the independent curator Priscilla Vail Caldwell explores the intersections of the first generation of American Modernists with the later Abstract Expressionists, bringing together Milton Avery, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Burchfield, Stuart Davis, John Marin, Elie Nadelman, and Helen Torr, among others, with Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. “Robert Motherwell: Early Paintings,” at 293 Tenth Avenue, examines the lesser-known, experimental abstractions of the artist’s pre-“Elegy” years, while “Caro & Olitski: 1965–1968, Painted Sculptures and the Bennington Sprays,” at 515 West 27th Street, considers the personal friendship and creative dialogue between the British sculptor and the American painter in a perfectly paired exhibition. —JP
Solti Chicago: The Complete Recordings, Decca Classics (released September 15): The 1960s was a decade of titans in American orchestral music: Eugene Ormandy held the baton in Philadelphia, George Szell in Cleveland, and Leonard Bernstein in New York, all conductors whose stamp on their orchestras is still felt today. In Chicago, the 1960s saw the end of the storied tenure of Fritz Reiner, but also the start of another legendary Directorship that ranks among the great musical partnerships of the twentieth century. This week, Decca releases a complete box set of Sir Georg Solti’s recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, an encyclopedic record of 108 CDs that spans the master’s twenty-four-year turn at the helm. Included are complete cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos, Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions, Verdi’s Otello, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and much more. —ECS
Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North, by Mary Miers (Rizzoli): Scottish architecture has historically been understood as emanating out of a larger British tradition. While the currents running through English architecture surely permeated the wild north, recent scholarship has shed light on the ways in which Scottish architecture developed separately, with myriad factors resulting in an architecture not merely downstream from English examples but in fact apart from them. Scotland’s historical associations with France (“the auld alliance”), its different structures of property ownership, and its geographical remoteness all contributed to styles with a keen relation to place. While Mary Miers’s lavishly illustrated book on the great houses of the Highlands, Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North, is not a scholarly tome, it is an effective admixture of well-researched history and stunning photography, courtesy of Paul Barker, Simon Jauncey, and the invaluable archives of Country Life. Miers successfully conveys why the shooting lodges, mock-castles, and picturesque cottages of the Highlands still captivate as unique expressions of Scottish identity today. —BR
In Conversation: Yuri Slezkine and Amor Towles at The Great Hall at Cooper Union (September 12): In Russia in 1927, the decision was made to create an enormous building to house Communist government officials and their families. The location chosen was in Moscow, across the Moskva river from the Kremlin, in an area known, interestingly enough, as “the Swamp.” The House of Government, as Yuri Slezkine describes it in his meticulous new book, sounds more like a modern-day luxury apartment building than anything you’d expect in Revolutionary Russia: “Halfway between bourgeois individual and communist collectivism, it combined 505 fully furnished family apartments with public spaces including a cafeteria, grocery store, walk-in clinic, child-care center, hairdresser’s salon, post office, telegraph, bank, gym, laundry, library, tennis court, and several dozen rooms for various activities (from pool-playing and target shooting to painting and orchestra rehearsals).” But this was still Stalin’s Russia, and the threat of purge always hung heavy over the residents there. Slezkine, in recreating the day-to-day activities of the building’s inhabitants and their families, gives one of the most piercing insights to date into the lives of the Bolshevik elite. Catch him in conversation about his new book with the novelist Amor Towles at The Great Hall at Cooper Union on Tuesday. —RH
From the archive: “From the Tiger’s claw” by Kathleen McCann (October 1992). On the Romantic in painting.
From the current issue: “Yale’s sense of place” by Peter Pennoyer. On the two new residential colleges at Yale.
Broadcast: Risky Arts Business. James Panero discusses “The Culture Crash” on The Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC).