‣ Reviewing a current show at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight illuminates what the works of 18th-century painter Giacomo Ceruti can teach us about wealth gaps and economic inequality today:
His paintings are in museums and churches, but a revival of interest didn’t begin until the late 1920s, when a surprising group of pictures turned up in a rural castle 20 miles south of Brescia. Notably, Italy was then hurtling toward fascist ruin amid economic chaos, with post-World War I poverty on the rise. Twelve of those 13 paintings are at the center of the Getty show, and their distinctive subject matter, size and style of representation has been a puzzlement ever since. Who originally commissioned them, and why?
Getty curator Davide Gasparotto, who organized the exhibition, is careful to note that Ceruti’s paintings are a marked departure from most genre paintings focused on the poor, in that they represent neither comic condescension nor moralizing screed directed at the subjects’ plight. The gravity of social marginalization meets a dignity inherent in the human condition, achieved through portrait-like rendering.
‣ Bryan Martin has published an essay on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website about the crucial role disability played in Horace Pippin’s art:
In 1919, after the war concluded, Pippin came home with a steel plate connecting his crippled right arm to his shoulder. He was given a disability pension of $22.50 per month, which would be approximately $400 today. Soldiers with disabilities were encouraged to become “successful cripples” through rehabilitation and reintegration into society, improving the treatment of physically impaired veterans in America. African Americans with wartime disabilities, however, encountered worse social and employment barriers. Despite marrying and becoming part of his community—achieving, in many ways, a heteronormative model of success while living with a disability—Pippin likely still faced discrimination. Racism and ableism have been deeply intertwined in America at least since the nineteenth century, when disability in African Americans was used to justify slavery and white supremacy. Furthermore, Black veterans returning from the war still faced acts of violence and prejudice despite their contributions to the war effort.
‣ Janet Manley investigates why the world of children’s literature, from plot to language to cover art, mistakenly shies away from heavy topics for LitHub:
“People in publishing often talk about ‘child-friendly’ books, which suggests something consoling, sweet and kind of nostalgic. But that’s a smokescreen, because those qualities attract parents and teachers more than children,” says Natalia O’Hara, author of Hortense and the Shadow and other books with her sister, illustrator Lauren O’Hara (of the forthcoming Madame Badobedah and the Old Bones). “Children like sweet and safe stories but they also like dark, bleak, unsettling or horrible stories. Children are like everyone else, they want stories that reflect the whole contradictory tangle of their lives.”
For children I know, that truth encompasses sometimes wishing your sibling didn’t exist, and seeing the world in happy stripes of orange in the morning and daggers of blue at night when it’s late and there has been too much day.
These uncategorized feelings animate many of Klassen’s characters, several of whom eat or murder other characters; plot points that did not preclude a Caldecott Medal. Klassen is by no means the only inventive children’s book author or illustrator out there now (I love books from Mac Barnett, Oge Mora, Dan Santat, Adam Rubin, the Fan Brothers, Carson Ellis, Molly Idle, Julia Donaldson, and Sophie Blackall, to name just a few), but he’s a useful shorthand for what children’s books can be, at a time when derivative and sanitized books keep peeling off the production line.
‣ For Documented, Shone Satheesh reports on the Queens intersection that was just named after influential Dalit thinker Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a reflection of his legacy and the South Asian diaspora’s growing support of caste abolition:
During the co-naming ceremony, hundreds of people from different Dalit communities in New York gathered at the intersection to cheer the unveiling of the street sign. It was the culmination of a four-year-long effort by the Shri Guru Ravidass Temple across the street. Members of the temple follow a sect within Sikhism called Ravidassia and belong to castes classified as Dalit.
Ashok Kumar Mahi, the president of the temple, told Documented it was a historic moment and a tribute to the unacknowledged founding figure of modern India.
“People typecast Ambedkar as a Dalit leader, but he worked to secure the rights of all citizens of India. Today he is a global figure,” he said.
‣ Writing for the 19th, Jennifer Young writes about new research that suggests young Americans who identify with gun culture are more likely to believe in male supremacy:
“In places of economic instability, men are shifting from this attitude of man as provider to man as protector,” he said. “You may not be able to, as a man, be the primary breadwinner, but you can — through acquiring guns and the willingness to use guns for violence — reclaim your masculinity as a protector.”
Even in young people, this sentiment was notable and behind many of the things that participants expressed to the researchers during interviews. Dashtgard said this speaks to a larger cultural dynamic at play currently, where many White men are feeling unsure of how to articulate themselves as men in current society. As a result, many young men are turning to guns as an “unimpeachable access to masculinity.”
‣ This excellent podcast by the BBC explains how the signs of a hardline Russia had already been manifest in its science fiction literary culture during the last few decades.
‣ For an author, one mention or review of their work on TikTok can make the difference between obsolescence and widespread recognition. Writer Tajja Isen reports for the Walrus on the platform’s strong influence over the publishing industry:
The publishing industry is speckled with efforts to bottle TikTok’s lightning: walk into a big-box bookstore and you’ll probably see a shelf of volumes—maybe even an entire table—displayed because they’re trending. Ditto these stores’ e-commerce. In a different crossover, some BookTokers take on paid partnerships to promote titles to their audiences, and publishers themselves even joined the platform to market their books, though BookTok users are known to be adept at sniffing out (and duly dismissing) anything that scans as corporate or inauthentic. The methods can feel clunky, but in various ways, TikTok has been at least partially digested by the book world.
‣ There are increasing signs of xenophobia towards Arabic-speaking populations (mostly Syrian refugees) in Turkey:
‣ This Western Tiktoker’s channel provides a cute/funny look into working in Japan:
‣ Monica Poli went viral on social media for her warning cry to tourists visiting Italy: “attenzione pickpocket!” However, as TikToker @florida.florian explains, she’s also part of a far-right group that propagates homophobia and anti-Roma racism in the country:
‣ Martin Scorcese’s daughter made a trailer for him as a person, confirming he is a “certified silly goose” (celebrities are just like us!):
‣ Everyone’s favorite grandma finally hopped on the “rate my exes” bandwagon and gifted us this gem:
‣ It’s the “external skin” for me — but we love architecture friends who keep us on our toes:
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.