In February 2013, the Museum of the City of New York sent out a broad invitation, to both amateurs and professionals, to submit images of Hurricane Sandy—photographs snapped on cell phones, film, digital cameras or whatever else happened to be at hand. Culled from these submissions is the exhibition ”Rising Waters,” and it confirms an impression I had in the days and weeks after the storm: that still photographs and written language, both imbibed in silence, convey the spirit of the catastrophe more truthfully than moving images.
“Measuring and Mapping Space,” at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World through January, aims to explain how Greeks and Romans thought of the world around them, and how these beliefs were in turn represented in maps, globes, and even coins and pottery. Unfortunately, though a number of ancient geographical treatises still exist today, almost no actual maps have survived. But the show’s curator, Roberta Casagrande-Kim, has dealt with this brilliantly. By displaying, among much else, a striking collection of illustrated Renaissance manuscripts on geography and cosmology—themselves reconstructions of the work of classical geographers like Ptolemy—the exhibition manages at once to suggest not just what ancient maps may have looked like, but how ancient geography influenced modern notions of topography and geography.
The warring life of the Northern Plains tribes that resisted white invasion in the 1860s is the subject of A Lakota War Book from the Little Bighorn: The Pictographic “Autobiography of Half Moon.” The book is a collection of seventy-seven Lakota and Cheyenne drawings, accompanied by extensive analysis and commentary by the social anthropologist Castle McLaughlin. It will be published next year by Harvard’s Houghton Library, where the drawings were stored but little noticed for eighty years. What sets these drawings apart from others of their kind is the persuasive argument made by McLaughlin that most of the drawings, and the book as a whole, represent an Indian account of episodes during the conflict known as “Red Cloud’s War” (1866–1868), and that it may be possible to identify three of the artists.
It’s not hard to see why Mikhail Bulgakov’s books are so often dramatized. He was himself a dramatist, and adapted his own novel The White Guard (1925) for the stage. His prose is highly visual, full of humorous incidents, theatrical in atmosphere, and frequently surreal—all qualities that lend it to the stage and screen. But not all his books were written in that vein. A new television series starring Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe shows that Bulgakov is becoming better known, but not necessarily through his own words.
“Titian was a painter of astonishing versatility, a master of landscape, of portraiture, of sacred painting, historical painting, mythology, a magician who could turn a dab of pigment into a flame, a pleat, a thunderbolt, a twinkle in the eye, a Cupid’s wing,” Ingrid Rowland writes in the November 7, 2013 issue of The New York Review. Here she presents a selection of Titian’s paintings with commentary.
It is now just a year since the death of the composer Elliott Carter and his absence still seems a little unreal. He lived a very long life—he died thirty-six days before his one hundred and fourth birthday—and he remained active up to the end, creating some of the warmest, most direct and intimate music of his career in his final years. Such longevity in itself is astounding: think of long-lived composers like Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Strauss, and Jean Sibelius, and then consider that all of them were either dead or retired at the point when Carter was embarking on his first and only opera, What’s Next?, at the age of eighty-eight, with another fifteen years of work yet ahead of him.
Director Charlotte Moore’s new production of Juno and the Paycock in the snug Irish Repertory Theatre negotiates the play’s difficult balance between farce and pathos with mixed success. The men are a motley assortment of loudmouths and knaves. Ciaran O’Reilly plays Boyle as a garrulous mixture of Falstaff and Ralph Kramden, while John Keating vividly brings out Joxer’s rodentine hypocrisy. Ed Malone is the pitiable son, Johnny, who lost an arm in the war for independence and mutters hollow bromides about principle, and James Russell is the foppish theosophist Charlie Bentham.
That the New York City Opera had kept going for seventy years was more than a little amazing. It had been a star-crossed organization for years, beset by strikes, warehouse fires, financial woes and the devastation of the early years of AIDS. Fortunately, throughout the years, there were always enough extraordinary young artists for the Opera to champion—Beverly Sills, Samuel Ramey, Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Carol Vaness, Sherrill Milnes, Frederica von Stade and David Daniels, to mention only some of the most famous. But it is the “habit” of the New York City Opera that I will miss the most. By that I mean its sheer presence in town, night after night, as it was from the 1940s through the 1990s and afterward.
Guantanamo tribunals differed from the other court drawings I’ve done. For instance, there were faces I was not allowed to draw, and each drawing could not leave the courtroom until a Pentagon official reviewed it. He would examine the art, occasionally have me erase some of the details, then sign and stamp the art once approved. Then I carried the sketches back, uploaded them to the media pool with descriptions, grabbed lunch, and got back for the afternoon session, going through three levels of security every time we entered or left the court area, always with an escort. Time is precious.
The prospect of getting to know Sun Ra’s massive, erratically organized oeuvre may seem discouraging. But giving up on the ability to know everything doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to total ignorance, either. That realization is a part of what is so welcome about Jazz at Lincoln Center’s embrace of the Sun Ra Arkestra this month.