Weekend

Required Reading

This week, a history of Porgy and Bess, talking to Simone Leigh, Amy Sherald, and Lorna Simpson, history of the Art Institute of Chicago’s lions, otters chasing a butterfly, and more.

A proposed 135-metre-high (~443 foot) skyscraper on the outskirts of Prague has been dubbed the “shipwreck tower.” It’s designed by Black n’ Arch and sculptor David Černý for developer Trigema and promises to be the highest building in the Czech Republic. See more images at Dezeen. (via Dezeen)

Probably the most cited (and most subtle) critique was that of James Baldwin in a 1959 essay in Commentary. Baldwin liked both the novella and the opera. “DuBose Heyward loved the people he was writing about,” Baldwin opined. And Porgy and Bess—“until Mr. Preminger got his hands on it”—was “an extraordinarily vivid, good-natured, and sometimes moving show.” Baldwin’s complaint about the characters (shared by Lorraine Hansberry) was that they embody “a white man’s vision of Negro life,” that they “veer off into the melodramatic and the exotic,” that—a form of envy more germane to Heyward’s psyche than to Gershwin’s—they seem to speak “of a better life—better in the sense of being more honest, more open, and more free: in a word more sexual.” That is why “Americans are so proud of the opera—it assuages their guilt about Negroes and attacks none of their fantasies.”

Amy Sherald: I think that’s essentially what my paintings are about. A reflection of something other than what’s projected out in the world. I’m focused on the way that we experience ourselves, our interiority. It’s that private journey, the interior space, and stepping away from the public journey of blackness, and how people consume who we are, what we make, food, culture and all of that.

By the late 1800s, Kemeys was the country’s premier “animalier” – a fancy French word that just means sculptor of animals.

Like many American artists of the time, Kemeys was drawn to scenes of raw and unfiltered nature. The Art Institute actually hosted an exhibition of his work in 1885 at its previous location, a few blocks south at Michigan and Van Buren in what is now the Chicago Club.

Kemeys ended up contributing a dozen sculptures to the World’s Fair in 1893 – more than any other American. Like much of the exposition’s “White City,” they were made of plaster, not made to last. That included two lions, as well as two other sculptures Chicagoans may recognize: the two bison which today stand in Humboldt Park, just north of Division Street.

Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Ed Ruscha said the collaboration with a Saudi Arabian government initiative led him to resign from Desert X’s board, given the country’s human rights record and reported involvement in the killing of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ruscha said accepting funds to bring Desert X to northwest Saudi Arabia risks sending the wrong message and is “like inviting Hitler to a tea party.”

“I think Desert X just dropped something really foul in its own punch bowl. With recent events, Saudi Arabia is in urgent need of legitimacy and we couldn’t have picked a more toxic partner,” Ruscha said in an interview with The Desert Sun. “I just felt like this is too toxic of an issue and it’s just the wrong time to do it. Our desert’s just as hot and dry as theirs, so why do we need them?”

  • Ellen DeGeneres thinks everyone should be friends with people who lie to the US public to launch illegal wars that kill hundreds of thousands of people, Lucy Diavolo disagrees:

In an era of a reality TV president, our pop culture is our politics. DeGeneres has had to live with that fact for years as a gay woman with such a large public platform. While she’s not part of the state itself the way Bush, Trump, Clinton, and Obama are, the deep links between Hollywood and U.S. politics makes her part of a ruling class of “fancy” friends who get to hang out in the owners box at Cowboys games.

When DeGeneres said that people are asking why a “gay Hollywood liberal” is sitting next to “a conservative Republican president,” she seemed to miss that many people felt they already know why: Because powerful liberals have an interest in rehabilitating the image of a former American president, no matter how grim his record may be, for the sake of preserving faith in the version of America where rich people on the right and left can have a pleasant Sunday afternoon together. That DeGeneres is now stumping for her friendship with Bush is a rich person’s problem.

Mussolini’s success in Italy normalized Hitler’s success in the eyes of the American press who, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, routinely called him “the German Mussolini.” Given Mussolini’s positive press reception in that period, it was a good place from which to start. Hitler also had the advantage that his Nazi party enjoyed stunning leaps at the polls from the mid ’20’s to early ’30’s, going from a fringe party to winning a dominant share of parliamentary seats in free elections in 1932.

But the main way that the press defanged Hitler was by portraying him as something of a joke. He was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance, according to Newsweek, “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” His “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” stated Cosmopolitan.

I shouldn’t have to tell a news outlet to not give a man who has been notoriously associated with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, antisemitism, transphobia, and homophobia a platform, much less humanize their advocates and depict them as social ‘pariahs.’ Yet alone, try to charm us with the tired ‘sensitive bad boy’ bullshit.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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