Recent links of note:

“What the Old Masters can teach us about contemporary life”
William Newton, Spectator World

Regarding the role of suffering in art, the late Roger Scruton explained: “Sadness is what was promised; it’s part of the deal.” This unadorned declaration, at once blunt and mysterious, captures a truth about the arts from which the arts themselves have been running for some time. The flight from sadness is prevalent at every level of the creative world: consider the dominance of what is supposed to be high art by the likes of Koons and KAWS, producers in whose work no genuine note of heartache can be discerned. Or, lower on the traditional totem pole, note the movie theater pestilence of Marvel flicks, films in which beloved main characters—even the supposedly tragic ones—are only killed off so that they can be resurrected three sequels later. William Newton also espies this unhealthy aversion to agony and proposes a simple fix: renewed attention paid to the Old Masters.

“The Sweet Pain of Saint Francis”
Michael Glover, Hyperallergic

Many reviews have covered the newly opened “Saint Francis of Assisi” exhibition at London’s National Gallery. None is as strange as this one. While most correspondents have been enthralled by the show’s star-studded lineup featuring Caravaggio, Murillo, and Botticelli, the critic Michael Glover has other interests. Like the show itself, Glover is interested in tracing the nearly millenium-long arc of St. Francis’s image from the twelfth century to today, but in this arc he finds more contradictions than he does crowning moments. Finally, Glover seems to imply that the West—in a misguided imitation of Christ—has somewhat neurotically projected onto the wounds of St. Francis its own rampant insecurities. The show, then, is as much about the West’s character as it is about il Poverello’s. 

“‘Like Water for Chocolate’ Review: An Overstuffed Ballet”
Robert Greskovic, The Wall Street Journal

You may have noticed in the first two entries from this week a unifying theme of pain and the arts. American Ballet Theatre’s Like Water for Chocolate is one of the more painful experiences I’ve had with the arts in recent memory. The work has a promising central concept, which is to deliver to the Metropolitan Opera House a ballet infused with all the flavor and excitement one finds in Mexican culture. Unfortunately, all that seems to mean in execution is the addition of a maraca-shake every few measures. To the apposite review by Robert Greskovic in The Wall Street Journal, I would just add this: Like Water for Chocolate is a ballet that doesn’t want you to know it’s a ballet—it would prefer you think you’re watching a movie. Effect-heavy, plotty, and inauspiciously reliant on video projected onto the stage, this production makes ABT feel more like AMC.

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