December 2013


An Urgent Letter to Readers
If you don't attend exhibitions of what is known as "contemporary art" these days, I can hardly blame you. I'd rather not do so myself! Nonetheless, in the past year I've often trekked across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take the pulse of what now passes for art at this once-hallowed institution.

The Met is America's premier museum of art. Its founding members and early trustees included the Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church, the sculptor Daniel Chester French [Lincoln Memorial], and the industrialist-collector Henry Clay Frick--whose Fifth Avenue mansion (not far from the Met) and the Old Master paintings it housed would eventually become the renowned Frick Collection.

Departing from that auspicious legacy, the Met's current director, Thomas P. Campbell, has been engaged in a concerted effort to transform the museum into a major player on the international "contemporary art" scene in the years since he assumed his position in 2008. Just what that entails is revealed by numerous exhibitions that have been mounted under his watch. [Read more]

Our Pithy Posts on Facebook
Don't belong to Facebook? Have never wanted to? Read on and you might consider changing your mind. On an almost daily basis, we post links to works of art, music videos, articles, and much else. It's rich and varied fare--like this little-known painting by Rembrandt of his mother reading, or this video of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach--vastly extends our coverage of the arts and helps to fill the hiatus between issues of Aristos. (See other examples below.)

Becoming a member of Facebook while maintaining your privacy is easy. The only information required is your name, birth date, and gender. Nor do you need to list any Facebook "friends" or be anyone else's "friend." The best news is that as a member, you can access the Aristos Facebook page, as well as those of museums, organizations, people, and places that most interest you. Or none of these at all--just us if you wish!

A few seconds is all it takes. Go to Facebook and fill out the simple form. That's it! When you visit us, don't forget to cast your vote and "Like" us--if you do, that is! That way our posts will be more apt to appear in your "News Feed." And be sure to subscribe to our free update list (see below).

Some Recent Aristos Facebook Posts
For your reading, viewing, and listening pleasure:

* "National Gallery Acquires The Concert by Dutch Golden Age Painter Honthorst," Washington Post. Our Facebook comment: "The joys of music making (and listening). We didn't know of this painting or the painter. Congratulations to the National Gallery! Video: 'Music and Painting in the Dutch Golden Age'" [4:49]

* Boston Women's Memorial. In response to "What's the Best Public Sculpture I Know? Easy" by Judith H. Dobrzynski in Real Clear Arts, Louis Torres comments: "What is the best 21st-century public sculpture in U.S. so far? See a discussion [at Real Clear Arts], which nominates a 46-foot-tall reflective object in Seattle and cites as exemplary other avant-garde work. I suggest Meredith Bergmann's Boston Women's Memorial [enlarged image] as an alternate possibility. Here is her speech at the dedication ceremony in 2003."

* "Alicia Ponzio: Psychology in Form." On the sculptor Alicia Ponzio [her website and Facebook page]. Our brief comment: "A sculptor to watch." See her bio from the Florence Academy of Art (one of our "Likes"), where Ponzio studied and now teaches--and this interview with her.

EXHIBITION: Madness at the Met
Signaling the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "strong commitment to the art of today"--to quote Thomas P. Campbell, Met director, chief executive officer, and barker-in-chief--the museum has acquired (jointly with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) The Refusal of Time--a "multimedia installation" by William Kentridge (of South Africa), seen in this minute-long video excerpt [and here--8:05]. At the Met through May 11, 2014. Campbell refers to the installation as "fun," adding: "It's loud and clangy and boomy" (quoted in the New York Times, "One Met Isn't Enough," October 16).

Loud, clangy, and boomy it is. But fun? We don't think so. Like so many other avant-garde installations and videos (bogus art all), it suggested to us a madhouse, where chaos rules and nothing makes sense. To each his own, we suppose. Judge for yourself. To best simulate being there, view the video excerpts (see above) in full screen and turn up the volume to the max.

What Art Is Sparks Scholarly Interest
In 2001, a year after our book What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand was published, cultural historian Jacques Barzun (1907-2012) wrote us that ours was "the kind of work that makes its way slowly but lasts long, both because its subject is perennial and because of the breadth and depth of [our] treatment."

A brief citation of What Art Is in Carlin Romano's America the Philosophical [more] (first published in 2012, and earlier this year in a Vintage paperback edition) is perhaps one small confirmation of Barzun's estimate. Romano, a noted literary critic and professor of philosophy, notes that since the publication in 1995 of Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, scholarly interest in Rand "has significantly spiked, if not boomed, fanned [in part] by . . . What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand [2000] by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi." Ours is the only book so cited.

Chapter from What Art Is in Reference Volume
We only recently learned that a chapter from What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand was reprinted in Volume 261 of Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, published by Gale in 2012. This respected series of reference works presents criticism of the works of novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers, and other creative writers who lived between 1900 and 1999. According to the American Reference Books Annual, it offers a "well-chosen array of diverse opinions." Rand is one of three authors dealt with in Volume 261. The excerpt reprinted from What Art Is is Chapter 1 in its entirety, dealing with Rand's essay "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art."

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EXHIBITION: A Painting by Piero
If you are anywhere near Boston, be sure to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, where a rare painting by Piero della Francesca is briefly holding court, through January 6, 2014. Piero della Francesca's Senigallia Madonna: An Italian Treasure, Stolen and Recovered [more] is part of the museum's Visiting Masterpieces series. (See also "Peerless Piero,"Aristos, March 2013--Michelle Kamhi's appreciation of works by the fifteenth-century Renaissance master exhibited earlier this year at the Frick Collection in New York.)

Enduring Appeal of Etchings
By Rembrandt. By contemporary masters. At the Met: The Printed Image in the West: Etching.

Scintillating Theater Lives On at the Pearl
I'm delighted to report that the Pearl Theatre Company--the outstanding reportory group that we have long praised in these pages--survived a fiscally rocky first year in its new home at 555 West 42nd Street in Manhattan, and has begun its 30th anniversary season in fine form. The 2013-2014 season began with an exhilarating romp through the chaotic turns of events in Shaw's You Never Can Tell (see "First Nighter: David Staller Tells Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell Rather Well"), and continued with the world premiere of And Away We Go--a comic valentine to theater folk written expressly for the company by Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally.

Notwithstanding financial pressures, the Pearl ended last season with a pitch-perfect production of two one-act plays by J. M. Barrie (1860-1937), of Peter Pan fame. Three of the Pearl's multi-talented resident actors--Rachel Botchan, Sean McNall, and Brad Cover--outshone themselves in these delightfully wise little comedies. (See "Peter Pan Creator's Feminist Vision," New York Times, May 13, 2013.) The entertainment, aptly entitled This Side of Neverland--under the able direction of the Pearl's then Artistic Director, J. R. Sullivan--surely indicates that Barrie's work beyond Peter Pan deserves to be better known.

Sadly, Sullivan has left the Pearl to return to his hometown of Chicago, but we are confident that the Pearl will find a suitable successor. Meanwhile the company flourishes under the temporary stewardship of its superb dramaturge, Kate Farrington.

If you love good theater and live in the vicinity of New York, you could do no better than to frequent the Pearl (too late to subscribe for this season, but consider it for next year). Planning a visit to the Big Apple from out of town? By all means, put the Pearl on your list of things to see. -- M.M.K.

See remarks by Aristos Co-Editor Louis Torres in the comments section following each of these articles:

*Wall Street Journal, "An Early Leader in Postwar Abstraction," Karen Wilkin, October 15. (This article is especially worth perusing before reading comment.)
*Wall Street Journal, "'Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE,' at the Whitney Museum," Peter Plagens, October 2. (See esp. last paragraph of article, and comment on the "sculpture" LOVE.)
*Prospect, "Commerce, Fantasy, Fetishism," Francine Prose, September 18. "Should we care about fashion?" (See esp. last paragraph of article before comments.)

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Letters to the Editors
We invite you to comment on items published in this or past issues. See Letters.