This week: The story of horses, California forces & more.
Farewell to the Horse: A Cultural History, by Ulrich Raulff (Liveright): Few animals can claim (that is, if any could “claim” at all) so central a role in the course of mankind as the horse. Taming these equine beasts has aided man, since ancient times, in his quest to transcend his own natural limitations and build a civilization to heights otherwise unthinkable. First domesticated ca. 3500 BC in the Eurasian Steppes, horses have played a supporting but ubiquitous role in the greatest dramas of our history. Charting these dramas with his eye on the horse itself is the task that Ulrich Raulff takes up in his new book, Farewell to the Horse: A Cultural History. Though it touches on the horse’s vital role in the economic systems of mankind, a central concern of the book is the way that horses have been portrayed throughout time in our art, literature, and music. That the volume is supplemented by images of paintings, photographs, and other such visual media that draw out man’s ever-changing relationship with the horse only enriches the already deep and erudite, but also lyrical, study that Raulff has given us. —AS
“California Landscapes: Richard Diebenkorn | Wayne Thiebaud,” at Acquavella Galleries (through March 16, 2018): Two years ago, an exhibition pairing the paintings of Richard Diebenkorn and Henri Matisse, on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art, became the must-see show of the season. I hopped the last train to Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station on its final weekend and was not disappointed: Diebenkorn masterfully inhabited the lines and colors of Matisse’s Parisian visions to create his California abstractions. Now at New York’s Acquavella Galleries, and again in its final days, Diebenkorn is paired with another master: the nonagenarian Wayne Thiebaud. Perhaps best known for his ice-creamy still-lifes, Thiebaud has long applied his sweetened palette to his landscapes of California. On view at Acquavella, these confections are now paired with the famous Berkeley and Ocean Park series of Diebenkorn, Thiebaud’s friend and influence, who died in 1993, and once again the exhibition is a must-see. —JP
Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Metropolitan Opera (March 15–April 19): This week, the Metropolitan Opera brings together a promising cast for a new production of Così fan tutte, the last of Mozart’s three masterful collaborations with his finest librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte. Amanda Majeski and Serena Malfi star as the fickle Fiordiligi and Dorabella, opposite Ben Bliss and Adam Plachetka as Ferrando and Guglielmo, their jealous beaux who try to entrap them. Christopher Maltman leads the scheme as Don Alfonso, and David Robertson conducts. I’m particularly intrigued by the appearance of Kelli O’Hara in the comic role of Despina. O’Hara, a classically trained singer who became a Broadway superstar, was impressive in her operatic debut several years ago, in the Met’s latest production of The Merry Widow; it will be interesting to see her take on a work with a little more substance. As for director Phelim McDermott’s Coney Island conceit . . . well, we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve seen it on stage. —ECS
“Planning the Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930,” at the Center for Architecture (March 19): While Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris of the South” for its gracious nineteenth-century architecture, grand boulevards, and sidewalk cafés, it’s not the only city in Latin America to boast a well-preserved, architecturally attractive city center. A new exhibition at the Americas Society details, with maps, paintings, prints, and photographs, how the hundred years from 1830–1930 were transformative for six Latin American capitals—BA, Havana, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago—which went from “colonial cities to monumental republican metropolises.” Next Monday the Center for Architecture will host a panel discussion to mark the opening of the exhibition, featuring five experts in the field of Latin American history, architecture, and urban planning. —BR
From the archive: “The conservative queen,” by Andrew Roberts (February 2013): On the conservative ways of the Queen Mother.
From the current issue: “Talmudic titan” by Daniel Asia: A review of Rabbi Akiva: Sage of the Talmud by Barry W. Holtz.