Recent links of note:
“Martin Puryear to represent US at Venice Biennale”
Jillian Steinhauer, The Art Newspaper
For the sculptor Martin Puryear, creating the U.S. exhibition for the 2019 Venice Biennale will be a walk in the park: he has spent much of his career crafting public artworks in New York, his native Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The seventy-seven-year-old artist is often compared to Brancusi for sculptures that barely evade figuration, evoking ancient folk art, high modernism, and everything in between. Works like the wavy Ladder for Booker T. Washington (1996) and the Trojan-horse-like (or is it?) Big Bling (2016, on public display in Madison Square Park that year) are thought-provoking, historically rooted, and aesthetically arresting. The Madison Square Park Conservancy will host the exhibition—the first time a public art body has organized the United States’s contribution to “the art world’s Olympics.” For more on Puryear, read Karen Wilkin’s review of a 2008 MOMA retrospective (in which she admires his “intensely serious whimsy”) and Mario Naves’s note on an exhibition at New York’s David McKee Gallery.
“V. S. Naipaul, Poet of the Displaced”
Ian Buruma, The New York Review of Books
Although the protagonist in V. S. Naipaul’s most famous novel, A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), was inspired by his father, the struggles with home, ethnicity, and selfhood depicted in the book seem to stem from the life of the author himself. The Nobel Prize–winning writer, who died last week at age eighty-five, was a world traveler who wrote brilliantly everywhere, but felt at home nowhere. Born in Trinidad, he returned for a time later in life, but eventually moved to London in the 1950s and traveled extensively to places like America, the Caribbean, and India, producing novels and travel writing about his experiences. Much of his writing wrestles with this sense of displacement, which was, he thought, ever more prevalent in an increasingly globalized world. Ian Buruma claims Naipaul’s great desire was for the “wholeness of civilization”; Joseph Epstein writes in The New Criterion that Naipaul wrote out of the longing for a place for himself, his family, and especially his father. Perhaps those are two ways of saying the same thing: that one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century spent his life writing about, or toward, home.
“What does it mean for art to be ‘relevant’?”
Brian Wolly & Jay Nordlinger, Smithsonian Second Opinion
In a culture of feminist, pluralist, globalist, and various other proliferating “-ist” views on art, Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor for National Review and music critic for The New Criterion, says appreciating art is still pretty simple. In an interview with Brian Wolly, Nordlinger explains that art doesn’t have to be “relevant”; if it’s great, it will transcend political and artistic “movements” and touch people throughout time. And it doesn’t have to be popular, either; high art, being explicitly a matter of “taste” (in the old, aesthetically rigorous sense), appeals only to a few, and even on those few, it makes serious demands in exchange for its rewards. This humble approach, Nordlinger says, allows art to be itself, released from the lesser concerns to which we would enslave it—and free to uplift us, as well.
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