The New Face of Russian Resistance

Masha Gessen

Protestors during a demonstration in downtown Moscow, June 12, 2017

As long as some Russians, including some very young ones, are willing—as they were on Monday—to brave streets filled with riot police, they keep an unreasonable hope alive, and they increase the chances that opposition activist Alexei Navalny will survive and stay out of prison. That’s not nothing.

Words Still Matter

Francine Prose

James Comey’s June 8 hearing proved that it is still possible for politicians to speak in complete sentences, to display a familiarity with history, to strive for linguistic and moral clarity: to make sense. But we are still waiting to hear from the senators and representatives with the fortitude to say lie as often as Trump’s supporters repeat not under investigation.

Lygia Pape’s Radical Banquet

Esther Allen

Lygia Pape: Livro do tempo (Book of Time), 1961-1963

By the time she made it, Brazilian artist Lygia Pape’s career had evolved through two schools of geometric abstraction—Concretism and its less rigid Rio de Janeiro counterpart Neo-Concretism. She had made paintings, sculpture, artists’ books, films, installations, and performance art. A retrospective of Pape’s work currently at the Met Breuer—her first solo exhibit in the United States—is highly conceptual, drawing on semiotics, architectural theory, and anthropology, but never losing a deep connection with the visceral realities of daily life.

Britain: The End of a Fantasy

Fintan O’Toole

British Prime Minister Theresa May on her way to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen's permission to form a minority government, London, June 9, 2017

Brexit is an elite project dressed up in rough attire. Because Theresa May doesn’t actually believe in Brexit, she’s improvising a way forward very roughly sketched out by other people. In Britain’s recent election, May’s phony populism came up against the Labour party’s more genuine brand of anti-establishment radicalism that convinced the young and the marginalized that they had something to come out and vote for.

Brakhage: When Light Meets Life

Max Nelson

To describe the thinking behind his films, Stan Brakhage often quoted a saying attributed to the ninth-century Irish theologian John Scotus Erigena: “All things that are, are light.” This is not a sensibility that would seem to lend itself to making home movies, and there is a disquieting tension in many of the films Brakhage made about his family during his first marriage.

Times Square Reborn

Martin Filler

In today’s America of drastically reduced civic expectations, Snøhetta’s quietly brilliant reconfiguration of Times Square is an exemplar of how much can be achieved in city planning without the gigantic financial outlays and dire social displacements that typified American postwar urban renewal projects. An evident understanding of how people interact in public spaces—above all their desire to be seen as much as to see—made Snøhetta an obvious choice.

A Darkness Lit with Sheets of Fire

Jenny Uglow

“Earthquake and Eruption of the Mountain of Asayama” in Japan in 1783, from an account by Isaac Titsingh, 1822

No wonder volcanoes, like sea-monsters, are the stuff of legends. The curators at the Bodleian have brought out its treasures and raided the archives of Oxford colleges for Volcanoes: Encounters through the Ages. The eyewitness accounts evoked in the Bodleian run from the famous letters of Pliny the Younger, about the eruption of Vesuvius in Naples in 79 BC—well known in the classical world—to the vulcanologists of today.

The Demolition of American Education

Diane Ravitch

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the White House, April 26, 2017

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget for the US Department of Education is a boon for privatization and a disaster for public schools and low-income college students. They want to cut federal spending on education by 13.6 percent. Some programs would be eliminated completely; others would face deep reductions. They want to cut $10.6 billion from existing programs and divert $1.4 billion to charter schools and to vouchers for private and religious schools. This budget reflects Trump and DeVos’s deep hostility to public education and their desire to shrink the Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it entirely.

The Paris Catastrophe

Tim Flannery

New Orleans, 2005

If the Paris agreement falters and we are forced to wait another decade for a new one, we would have no way of avoiding a dangerous and increasingly unstable future. Far from damaging the US economy as President Trump argues, the Paris agreement offered it a lifeline. Sadly, it’s a lifeline that Trump has just thrown away.

Pettibon’s World

Robert Storr

Raymond Pettibon: No Title (Ripped and wrinkled), 2008

If genius means anything anymore—for me it is the union of inexplicably keen insight with an uncanny capacity to say or show what others fail to articulate but everybody knows—then the artist Raymond Pettibon is one, the man of the hour at minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. Fittingly, two exhibitions this spring show an artist obsessed with the larger, grittier, and often hallucinatory contradictions of “this American life.”