For a museum that bills itself encyclopedic, the Art Institute of Chicago was long lacking a comprehensive contemporary section to complete its smorgasbord of the world’s greatest art. Last April, plastics tycoon Stefan T. Edlis and his wife Gael Neeson changed all that with a gift of forty-four pieces by such recognized names as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and several others. These works are currently on display in the Modern Wing of what TripAdvisor has dubbed “the world’s best museum.” The Institute’s pledge to display the works rather than pack them away was “an offer I could not refuse,” Edlis stated, leaving him and the general public equally happy. Edlis, although still in good health, wanted worthy homes for his extensive collection while still alive. These forty-four works now rest comfortably on the “Big Shoulders” of his adopted hometown.
This was an old-fashioned program — the kind audiences like. Two grand and tuneful symphonic works. A venerated pianist. The debut of a young matinee idol conductor. And last but not least, total absence of any threatening nouvelle cuisine for the ear. So how did it go, this debut?
After a stunning stretch of plays set in the West Country of Ireland, the playwright Martin McDonagh found himself saddled with literary freight. Could he—or did he even want to—extend the legacy of Irish drama into unforeseeable territory? From Yeats onward, the audience for Irish drama had quaffed a brew of poverty and poetry, blarney and eloquence, myth and the kitchen sink. Suddenly, like the young Sam Shepard and his equally meteoric rise, McDonagh found a style no one anticipated, as viscerally violent as Shepard's, as psychologically edgy, and as recklessly antagonistic toward the audience's comfort zone.
Marek Janowski always brings a convincing German something to our orchestra. Polish born, Janowski was raised in Germany and reigns at the Berlin Radio Symphony--indeed is known throughout Europe for his Wagner, Bruckner, Schumann and Beethoven. He's even managed to elicit convincing Bruckner from the Suisse Romande in Geneva--that alone surely worth some nation's Legion of Honor--and every so often does the rounds instructively with us. This time Pfitzner was the centerpiece.
Down in the pit. The misery of being a woman in Nottinghamshire back when coal was king forms the preoccupation of Husbands and Sons, a composite of three one-act plays by D. H. Lawrence. Before they were rediscovered and staged, Lawrence’s dramas were an obscure part of his output, and now they risk being too dated to be vital. Like early Eugene O’Neill, the stage-minded Lawrence of 1911 to 1913, when these plays were written, aimed at naked social realism. The women trapped by brutal husbands working in the colliery stand on the brink of ruination from mining accidents, impending strikes, the cruel work hours that destroyed men’s bodies, and always the shadow of poverty.
True Romance. The essence of Carol, a film much lauded but low grossing (which has become the norm for prestige films at Oscar season) is that it is a lesbian love story as Eric Rohmer might have conceived it and Alfred Hitchcock might have photographed it. The plot is slender. At Christmas around 1950 Carol Aird, an unhappy housewife on the verge of divorce (Cate Blanchett), feels an immediate attraction to Therese Belivet, a much younger sales girl in a New York department store (Rooney Mara). Poised between upper-middle-class privilege of the period, swathed in mink, and her sexual loneliness, Carol initiates a love affair that quickly takes us into literary territory, with the visuals doing much of the poetic writing, in the “camera-pen“ tradition that French critics admired in great American movies.
Auguste Rodin is one of those institutional artists, whose last name has become synonymous with a distinctive kind of art, much the same as Donatello or Rembrandt, but Rodin: The Evolution of a Genius, currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, is as remarkable as it is unexpected. While it covers the salient points in Rodin’s oeuvre, the focus here is neither marble nor bronze, but rather the humbler medium of plaster. The underlying thesis is that Rodin was more of a modeler than a carver, a practice reflecting the nature of the art market in his day as well as the sculptor’s natural inclination. Created jointly by the Musée Rodin in Paris and the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Montreal, the exhibition showcases two hundred works that emphasize Rodin’s pivotal place in the grand tradition of sculpture, between the worlds of Michelangelo and of Brancusi.
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