A tilt toward protectionism under the Trump administration would mean that the most important field of US-Chinese cooperation—trade and investment—would turn into an area of rivalry. With both strategic and economic competition mounting, the United States and China would be locked into an increasingly overt struggle for power in the Pacific. If Taiwan becomes the trigger for a sharp downturn in US-Chinese relations, it will in many ways be an avoidable crisis. By contrast, a crisis over North Korea during Trump’s presidency may be unavoidable.
The dream fueling the Russia frenzy is that it will eventually create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him. More likely, the Russia allegations will not bring down Trump. Meanwhile, while Russia continues to dominate the front pages, Trump will continue waging war on immigrants, cutting funding for everything that’s not the military, assembling his cabinet of deplorables.
The photographs in Berenice Abbott’s Paris Portraits 1925-1930 document how international the community of modernists was between the wars, and are evidence of Abbott’s first experiments with lighting, angles, and equipment. The portraits’ sparseness only amplifies the ambition they contain—of both subjects and photographer. One of the pleasures of a great portrait is the unending present exposure it offers us, as if the sitter is just about to reveal something. Abbott’s client list is dizzying.
An air of unreality hangs over the astonishing exhibition of seventeenth-century Dutch etcher and painter Hercules Segers. One is grateful for the careful documentation in this cautiously staged exhibition, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of Segers’s working methods. Examples of needles, metal punches, copper plates, and the rest of the etcher’s difficult trade are on view, along with explanations of the steps required to produce an individual image. Now we have a clearer idea of how Segers cropped and recycled his imagery, and how the accidents sometimes produced by his exacting methods were seemingly welcomed.
Wallace Shawn’s new play, Evening at the Talk House, brings us into an all-too-plausible near future in which vicious beatings (occasionally administered by one’s friends) have become commonplace, a world in which it is understood that committing political murders and selecting targets for long-distance killing are socially useful and practical part-time jobs: relatively effortless and even necessary ways to supplement one’s income.
Trump’s recent efforts to use blunt executive power to close our borders and prepare the way for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants are confronting far-reaching problems. Not only is there opposition from federal judges, the business sector, civil liberties groups, and others; there is also a major roadblock from another quarter: our already broken system of immigration laws and immigration courts.
What’s inarguable is that our country is now led by a man who received millions fewer votes than his opponent, but won the presidency thanks to an institution—the Electoral College—that was set up to protect the interests and ideas of slave-owning states like John Calhoun’s. We are, in 2017, still waging the battles of the nineteenth century.
The aspiring tyrants of today have learned the lesson of the Reichstag fire of 1933: that acts of terror—real or fake, provoked or accidental—can provide the occasion to deal a death blow to democracy. The most consequential example is Russia, so admired by Donald Trump, but the use of terrorist threats to create or consolidate authoritarian regimes has become increasingly frequent worldwide.
Guge was once home to a major inner-Asian dynasty whose artists and craftsmen produced a plethora of masterpieces over some five centuries—including some large-scale murals and exquisitely carved and painted sculptures depicting Buddhist visions of the cosmos and its deities. Little known in the West largely because of Guge’s inaccessible location, the works have now been richly and systematically documented in the photographer and art historian Peter van Ham’s astonishing new book, Guge: Ages of Gold.
The fascinating exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, “Making Nature,” investigates our long history of trying to comprehend the wealth of the animal world, while also making us dizzily aware that we are, after all, animals ourselves. One of the joys of these darkened rooms is the way that works of art share space with the scientific exhibits, often making the latter themselves seem fantastical.