BANKS | To Whom I Owe My Artistic Wanderlust

No one other than James Baldwin could have ever hoped to deliver a proper eulogy to James Baldwin, but I find it incredibly ironic that my namesake ended up accepting the mantle. Amiri Baraka was an embattled and deeply flawed artist, and in reading his work, I have often found myself rapidly vacillating between vehement disapproval and mesmerized admiration. What he had to say about the man I aspire to be like, though, elicited neither of these responses. “Jimmy Baldwin created [contemporary American speech] so we could speak to each other at unimaginable intensities of feeling, so we could make sense to each other at higher and higher tempos,” wrote Baraka. For most anyone else, words like these would serve as poetic and profound excerpts from a worthy homage.

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Bassists McBride and Meyer Bring the Love to Bailey Hall

The double bass is a perennial fixture of many jazz combos. And yet, how rare to hear it on its own terms. Rarer still in duet with a like partner. The Cornell Concert Series kicked off its spring season by proving that a duo of basses could be more than meets the ear. As twin ramparts of their generation, Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer are as masterful as they come. Where one cut his teeth on the jagged edges of jazz, the other was baptized in classical waters.

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Hidden Figures: A Triumphant Look Back into NASA and Civil Rights History

I am by no means a space history buff. That said, I believe I know some very basic stuff: Alan Shepard was the first American into space, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men on the moon. Importantly, I know that none of those men died on their respective missions. Very basic stuff.  So the fact that Hidden Figures had me on the edge of my seat wondering if John Glenn would survive re-entry into the atmosphere is a real testament to the film.

President Donald Trump Signs Executive Orders

MEISEL | Art and the Post-Trump Problem

Since Trump was elected, I am bothered every day by a certain set of questions and anxieties. Whenever I go on a news site or look at a paper, our current president apparently fits the bill of tyranny wearing a fresh set of big boy underpants. He has begun an enormous upheaval of all values we carried closely to our hearts. Truth, facts, common decency—these diamond American ideals have gone out the window. Meanwhile, the media stands by professionally wide-mouthed.

LEUNG | To See or Not to See

“‘Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision.’” Although this observation comes from a fictional character in Don Delillo’s novel White Noise on how people react to a famous tourist attraction, it also supports my recent — and admittedly strange — obsession with how life may be a series of illusions created by society that hinders our ability to see things for what they really are.

LEUNG | The Mergence

When I first caught sight of the Biosphère in Montreal, Quebec, I remember telling my parents that I had to see it up close. I was struck by the design of the exterior of the sphere, a fantastic webbing of steel and acrylic cells. It was a structure that I could see looming over Parc Jean-Drapeau from my spot in downtown Montreal, a lace orb that stood out among the dense trees of the island and contrasted with the uniformity of the city’s buildings. Upon arriving on the island, I realized that the Biosphère holds an interactive environment museum that showcases exhibitions on major environmental issues as well as activities that allow the public to learn about water, climate change, air and sustainable development. I paid a fee I thought to be too expensive for the “knowledge” I would gain from the museum.

A 19th Century Japanese flat tray from the Korin school. Gift of Mrs. Howard S. Liddell.

Timeless Conquerers: American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art

History continuously shows that Western influences have played a dominant role in the shaping of many regions of the world. From hemisphere to hemisphere, nation to nation, Western forces have consistently proved their acquisitive nature in conquests of land, people, and resources. Japanese art and culture are no exception to this rule. Walking down the steps leading to American Sojourns and the Collecting of Japanese Art, I was met with a silence only broken by the occasional footsteps of security guards lightly pacing the interconnected rooms of the museum halls. The exhibit’s pieces, displayed in a comfortably small space, radiated an air of tranquility and sophistication.

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A New Look: Eva Hesse at Cornell Cinema

Watching Eva Hesse, I felt almost certain that I had seen artist Eva Hesse’s work somewhere. The latex and fiberglass sculptures, the thrown-about ropes and the arrangement of her shapes seemed to me incredibly modern, given that Hesse had worked primarily during the sixties. Perhaps it’s just that by now, Hesse is well-known in context of the modern art movement, with several posthumous exhibitions. For example, following her death in 1970, Hesse’s work was displayed in a grand exhibition at the famous Guggenheim Museum — weird, absurd sculptures that had never been quite been seen before Hesse were gathered together and in the exhibit, five years’ worth of her work completely filled the floors of the Guggenheim, a remarkable feat given the size of the museum and Hesse’s deteriorating health prior to her death as her friends note in the new 2016 art documentary Eva Hesse. Eva Hesse does more than simply recounting the life of an artist, or discussing an art movement — it explores and examines the complex interconnections between Hesse’s art and her life, detailing the development and fluidity of her times.

BANKS | The Elusive Quicksilver of Adaptation

I’ve been telling people for a while now that I fear I may be outgrowing my column, and that fear was almost confirmed in the early stages of writing this one. As I rummaged through the dozens of pages in my “Sun Columns” document, I found that many of the ideas/thoughts there failed to strike me with any kind of zest or zeal for transmitting them to print. It’s as if the would-be incisive ingredients of my metaphorical ink had been reduced to a sparse collection of watered down pencil shavings and stale, rehashed themes. I realized that — in spite of all the demons I’ve exorcised using the style on which I have relied for over two years — the time had come for me to slough off some of my inhibitions and mold the medium into what I needed it to be… or else I would soon become unfulfilled. And so, Editor willing, I will commence with doing just that.