This week: Paul Resika, Nairn’s Paris, Rewriting painting & more.
Mapping Shakespeare: An exploration of Shakespeare’s world through maps, by Jeremy Black (Conway): In both time and space, William Shakespeare’s England was located at the heart of the Age of Exploration. News of the latest discoveries was sent back to England and Europe by way of travel journals and published maps, which mixed factual insight with subjective narratives aimed at sparking imaginative interest in the exploration project. As such, careful attention was paid to the creation of these maps, and we may appreciate them as much for their historical data as for their aesthetic and cultural value. The prolific New Criterion contributor Jeremy Black’s new book Mapping Shakespeare is a delightful exploration of the trends in mapmaking and their contribution to Shakespeare’s plays, which, geographically, reached far indeed from Stratford-upon-Avon. Containing nearly two hundred full-color, high-resolution images of maps—from the early medieval age to the Bard’s own time, from London’s streets to the “celestial sphere” and the moon—Mapping Shakespeare is a visual treat as well as a handy historical reference. —AS
“Paul Resika: Geometry and the Sea” at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York (April 18–May 20) and at Bookstein Projects (April 19–May 26): Now entering his ninetieth year, the latitudinal painter Paul Resika has sailed the seven seas of artistic influence, embarking from the New York School and his apprenticeship with Hans Hofmann for a rendez-vous with the Old Masters, on to the distant shores of de Chirico, Carrà, Sironi, and points unknown. With openings in two locations this week—at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, on the Lower East Side, and Bookstein Projects, now on East 66th Street—Resika brings home his many far-flung discoveries in angular, poetic compositions of the “Geometry of the Sea,” where paint serves as both water and light. Opening receptions are from 6–8 PM on Wednesday, April 18 (Harvey) and Thursday, April 19 (Bookstein). —JP
Puccini’s Tosca (through May 12) and Massenet’s Cendrillon (through May 11) at the Metropolitan Opera: This weekend the Metropolitan Opera will see a role debut that has been floating around in the daydreams of opera fans for years: Anna Netrebko, leading real-life diva, will take on the title role of Tosca, greatest fictional diva. With her outsize dramatic presence and powerful lyric soprano, Netrebko seems an ideal fit for the part, and her celebrity status makes this one of the most sought-after items of the season: Saturday’s performance has been sold out for more than a month, but tickets can still be had later in the run. If there were any justice at the box office, another run at the Met would already be packed, as well: the company’s first ever production of Massenet’s Cendrillon is the most enjoyable comedy I have seen at the house in years. (Read my thoughts at length at New York Classical Review.) Featuring one of Massenet’s most enchanting scores, this deeply human take on the classic fairy tale is hilarious and touching in equal measure. Laurent Pelly’s whimsically farcical staging, fusing Belle-Époque glamor with cartoonish overstatement, is a comedic triumph. —ECS
Nairn’s Paris, by Ian Nairn (Notting Hill Editions): “This book is simply a record of what I enjoyed in Paris and the countryside around.” So begins Ian Nairn’s Paris, echoing his London, published two years earlier as “a record of what has moved me between Uxbridge and Dagenham.” To modern eyes the humility might read false, but Nairn surely meant it—his major criticism was that modern architects were too insistent on telling people how to live; why then, would he be able to tell them how to look at buildings? Out of print since the year of its publication—fifty years ago, the same year as les événements—Nairn’s Paris retains the same charm as his London, displaying a winning combination of subjective appreciation and entertaining architectural anecdotes. Notting Hill Editions has remedied the scarcity of the original Penguin edition with a new one of their own, a linenbound hardback of NHE’s typical style, including the author’s own photographs. Nairn enthusiasts and those who wish to view Paris with fresh eyes will delight in this fiftieth-anniversary edition. —BR
“Rewriting painting,” a roundtable discussion with Barry Schwabsky, Lois Dodd, Thomas Nozkowski, Philip Taaffe, Faye Hirsch, and John Yau at The Cooper Union (April 19): The painters Lois Dodd ’48, Thomas Nozkowski ’67, and Philip Taaffe ’77 represent three generations of graduates of The Cooper Union, the great and (soon again) free institution “for the advancement of science and art” founded by Peter Cooper in New York in 1859. The three artists are also among the first subjects for an excellent series of monographs on contemporary painters published by Lund Humphries. On Thursday, April 19 at 6:30 PM, these affinities all come together back at The Cooper Union with a book launch and panel discussion featuring the artists alongside the writers Barry Schwabsky, Faye Hirsch, and John Yau, who have each edited editions in the series. —JP
From the archive: “Truth vs. equality” by Christie Davies (January 2009). On the relativist threat to science (from “The Dictatorship of Relativism”).
From the current issue: “Zurbarán at the Frick” by Karen Wilkin. On “Zurbarán: Jacob and His Twelve Sons, Paintings from Auckland Castle” at the Frick Collection.