On Solzhenitsyn’s Vermont, Judd’s furniture, forgotten folk music from Ukraine & more.
Recent links of note:
“A Tiny Village in Vermont Was the Perfect Spot to Hide Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn”
Ted Lawrence, Humanities
The town of Cavendish, Vermont, boasts a population of 1,200, miles upon miles of woodland, and one famous Russian expat: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. From 1976 to 1994, Solzhenitsyn lived there with his family after their 1974 expulsion from the USSR. As a new exhibition at the Vermont History Museum shows, his wife and children got involved in the local schools and attended Boston Celtics basketball games, while Aleksandr wrote The Red Wheel, his massive novel about the Russian Revolution. Learning about Solzhenitsyn’s time under the cover of rural Vermont makes his much-discussed Harvard commencement address in 1978 all the more fascinating: was the West in decline even in Cavendish, where neighbors misdirected nosy fans searching for his home? Solzhenitsyn reflected on the speech in his memoir Between Two Millstones, which will be published for the first time in English this October. Read an excerpt and look for another in The New Criterion’s September issue.
“ ‘Donald Judd: Specific Furniture’ Review: Designs With Purpose”
Eric Gibson, The Wall Street Journal
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art may finally break Donald Judd out of his box. Although Judd is best known for his ladder-like box installations, the artist was also interested in what went on between the walls—in furniture. An ongoing exhibition of Judd’s furniture explores the most practical of his “specific objects” (his term for artworks that eschew artifice to express the “essence” of a piece). Judd’s chairs, desks, and tables portray the characteristic simplicity—an austerity that, at times, seems almost obstinate—that shaped the minimalist response to Abstract Expressionism in the 1960s. If his art sometimes seemed too spare and philosophical for comfort, that was fine with Judd; his chairs have no frills, but they leave viewers pondering their intelligence and functionality, both as aesthetic objects and as alternatives for a loveseats. For more on Judd and his contemporaries, read Gibson’s 1987 New Criterion essay “Was Minimalist art a political movement?”
“In the Vernadsky Library: Newly digitized recordings offer an unprecedented glimpse of the Ukrainian-Jewish past”
Jake Marmer, Tablet
This year marks the centennial of the Vernadsky Library, a Jewish archive in Kiev that houses a treasure trove of early-twentieth-century audio recordings preserved from Soviet destruction during the Russian Revolution. Many of the acquisitions were originally konfiskat (possessions of the wealthy confiscated by the Soviets and later rescued by Jews who remained in the country), and many more were abandoned as Jews fled Ukraine, leaving their libraries behind. After the Vernadsky opened, its filing system was destroyed by the KGB, so the scholars who study there never know what they will find among the recordings and liner notes of forgotten music. But the library has begun the arduous process of digitizing the archive; to date, nine volumes (including virtually unknown folk songs from agricultural colonies in Southern Ukraine and Palestine) have been released on CD. Jake Marmer provides a fascinating tour of a music collection that is still very much a mystery.
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