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‘The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom’ Review: A Career Rewritten


For the past 20 years, in his second career as a best-selling author, Howard Bloom has been grappling with the big questions, all of which can be boiled down to, as he puts it here, “What does the universe want from you and me?” Bloom has, in the pre-Covid-19 world chronicled in this documentary about him, a strict routine that helps him in this discipline.

It includes morning exercise and consulting a list of reminders of what to take with him when he ventures out of his Brooklyn brownstone. It also involves a staggering number of medications, which he needs to combat his chronic fatigue syndrome, which struck him in 1988 and left him unable to step out of his bed, let alone his apartment, for many years.

Directed by Charlie Hoxie, “The Grand Unified Theory” is a moderately engaging documentary that credibly portrays Bloom’s indefatigability. He speaks of his aspiration to be a “24 hour-a-day information processing device” and defends his auto-didacticism by saying “Grad school looked like Auschwitz for the mind.” That eyebrow-raising simile is emblematic of Bloom’s bluff offhandedness, which likely served him well in his first career as a high-profile music publicist. (Recalling his tenure representing Run-DMC, he says, “We made rap.” Kurtis Blow and others might like a word.)

The movie spends more time on Bloom’s personality than it does on the ideas promulgated in such volumes as “The Lucifer Principle,” for which the actor Jeff Bridges contributes an onscreen blurb. And when Bloom confides his plan to let a Dubai-based fitness instructor and gym entrepreneur handle his archives, we get into what looks like some P.T. Barnum territory.

The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 7 minutes. Rent or buy on iTunes, Vimeo and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.



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Cosmas Magaya, Musician and Teacher of African Traditions, Dies at 66


This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

In his village in northern Zimbabwe, Cosmas Magaya played music to summon ancestral spirits at traditional rituals of the Shona people: ceremonies to request divine guidance, to ward off illness, or to call for rain.

The same music made him an internationally acclaimed performer and teacher of the plucked instrument called the mbira. He toured the world, made recordings, taught at universities and was a fountainhead of Shona cultural knowledge.

Mr. Magaya died on July 10 of Covid-19 in Harare, the capital, his daughter Tsitsi Hantuba said. He was 66.

Mr. Magaya played the mbira dzavadzimu, the “mbira of the ancestors”: a wooden plank with tuned steel prongs and buzzing resonators attached. He improvised around complex, age-old multilayered patterns, at once percussive and meditative.

In a long collaboration and friendship, Mr. Magaya helped Paul Berliner, an ethnomusicologist and now a professor emeritus at Duke University, to learn, analyze and transcribe the deep structures and improvisatory extensions of Shona mbira music. They worked together to impart the tradition to musicians worldwide.

In recent years, Mr. Magaya made annual visits to perform and teach in the United States, and he had students in Europe and Africa as well.

Some Zimbabweans thought he had revealed too much to outsiders. But, Ms. Hantuba said, “He was so passionate about mbira and traditional beliefs that he wanted to share as much as he could.”

Mr. Berliner first studied with Mr. Magaya in 1971 in the country then called Rhodesia, when the virtuosic 18-year-old Mr. Magaya was a principal member of a renowned mbira group, Mhuri yekwaRwizi. Mr. Berliner recorded the group’s music on albums released for the Nonesuch label’s Explorer series — “The Soul of Mbira” (1973) and “Shona Mbira Music” (1977) — that introduced many Westerners to traditional mbira music. Mr. Berliner wrote books about the tradition, including the “The Art of Mbira: Musical Inheritance and Legacy” (2020), guided by Mr. Magaya’s understanding of a profound, evolving cultural heritage.

Mr. Magaya is survived by his wife, Patricia Nyamande; his daughters, Ms. Hantuba, Matilda Magaya and Rutendo Magaya; a son, Mudavanhu, who plays mbira in his father’s style; and 11 grandchildren. His first wife, Joyce Zinyengere, whom he married in 1976, died in 1999.

Cosmas Magaya was born on Oct. 5, 1953, in a rural area of the Mondoro (now Mhondoro) district. His father, Joshua Magaya, was a farmer, a traditional healer and a spirit medium. Cosmas began playing mbira when he was 8, initially taught by a cousin, Ernest Chivhanga, who also built mbiras. He was 12 when his cousin began taking him along to play at ceremonies. The leader of Mhuri yekwaRwizi, the singer Hakurotwi Mude, heard the teenage Mr. Magaya and invited him to join the group, and Mr. Magaya moved to the capital.

During the protracted civil war that led to an independent Zimbabwe in 1980, Mr. Magaya moved to Bulawayo in the south. He taught mbira at the Kwanongoma College of Music. But he mainly earned a living, from 1973 to 1997, as a depot manager for the government’s Dairy Marketing Board.

Mr. Magaya rejoined Mhuri yekwaRwizi as the musical director for its first international tours, in 1983 and 1985, in Europe, and later toured internationally on his own and with various ensembles. Mr. Magaya’s teaching in the United States included residencies at Middlebury College and Duke, Brown and Stanford universities, and he regularly appeared at the annual Zimbabwean Music Festival in Oregon.

He returned to live in northern Zimbabwe, where he raised corn and cattle. In 2000 he became the program director for Nhimbe for Progress, a nonprofit organization devoted to health and education in the region’s impoverished villages, and in 2004 he succeeded his father as village headman.

Mr. Magaya saw his collaboration with Mr. Berliner as a way of honoring the memory of his ancestors and teachers. In “The Art of Mbira,” he told Mr. Berliner, “Once we’ve completed this study on behalf of our late mbira-playing comrades — leaving it for others who come behind us — I will know that if I die tomorrow, I can go to my grave satisfied.”



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Review: Reliving ‘Private Lives,’ This Time Mostly Women’s


Probably the tightest is “Old Beggar Women,” by Avery Deutsch. This one, too, takes place on adjoining balconies, but in a nursing home instead of a Deauville hotel. There, by amazing playwriting coincidence — or perhaps not — Sibyl, in her 70s, encounters Amanda, in her 80s. Deliciously, neither can remember Elyot’s name, though both were married to him; along with men, the male gaze has disappeared from the story. If not very credible, the plot at least is engaging and unexpected, and as a sequel to Coward succeeds more than its contrivances might suggest.

Part of that, again, is Woodard, who handily swaps personalities and styles in five of the eight plays. Here she plays Sibyl to the Amanda of Kathleen Chalfant, likewise dependably precise and piquant. That the evening’s women (who also include Jacobson, Ali Ahn and the terrific Lilli Cooper) are generally more compelling than the men (James, Frankie J. Alvarez, Edmund Donovan and William Jackson Harper) may be the natural result of plays that are less interested in the Elyots of this world than the Sibyls and Amandas. (Two of the festival’s directors, Vivienne Benesch and Mêlisa Annis, are women and the third, Em Weinstein, identifies as nonbinary.)

That dynamic continues in the remaining plays, two of which, without sampling Coward, at least nod to him in passing. Both “Plague Year” by Matthew Park and “In the Attic” by Jessica Moss pick up his battle-of-the-sexes theme, with women winning the battle decisively. In Park’s play, a resourceful woman in plague-time England (Cooper) must save herself, and her baby girl, from both a domineering husband (Donovan) and a thoughtless lover (Alvarez). Moss takes the theme of novel romantic arrangements even further, mashing “Private Lives” with “Rebecca” and “Jane Eyre” (and its stepdaughter, “Wide Sargasso Sea”) into a deliciously silly Pythonesque squib.

The virtues of the remaining two plays are not Cowardy ones. Though “Evermore Unrest,” by Mallory Jane Weiss, unpacks a relationship between a woman (Ahn) and her ex (Alvarez) through fragments of letters, texts and scrawls on foggy mirrors, its main concern is not romantic, but ecological. Likewise, Ben Beckley’s “Outside Time Without Extension” gives us the measure of two lovers (Ahn and Harper) but is more of a formal experiment, allotting one minute of its length to each 10 years of their lives.

And yet perhaps Beckley’s play — the evening’s opener — is more like “Private Lives” than I at first supposed. Its side-by-side Zoom panes do, after all, simulate the effect of adjacent balconies. And when Ahn and Harper later move into a single frame (apparently, they are quarantining together) the shock of intimacy that made Coward so modern is deftly recreated. How long since we’ve seen a stage kiss?

Short New Play Festival 2020: Private Lives
Available on the Red Bull Theater website and YouTube through July 24 at 7 p.m.



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In Alex Trebek’s Reluctant, Moving Memoir, Life Is All About the Next Question


Around the margins, a darker story blooms. Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario, in 1940, to Ukrainian immigrants — warm, loving people, if ill-suited for each other. His father drank. Trebek’s early years were full of poverty, instability and illness, but he presents them with his typical cloudless beneficence: “I don’t have a lot of ghosts. I don’t have any bad memories that affect my life. It’s all good.” When he was 7, he fell into a frozen lake and became afflicted with painful rheumatism. For 12 years he’d wake crying in the night until suddenly the pain disappeared. “Go figure,” he shrugs.

Young Trebek had a rebellious streak. He clashed with the nuns at school and bounced between jobs. He quit military college when he heard that buzz cuts were mandatory. “I had a good head of hair — a sort of pompadour with a ducktail in the back,” he writes. (Photographic evidence is provided.) “I’d be damned if I was going to let them shave it off.”

Trebek might have inspired dread in his teachers and early employers, but he discovered that his real talent was in projecting calm, in allowing others to shine. As a host, it has been his proudest quality — his ability to buoy an anxious contestant through tone alone.

Facts themselves can confer steadiness. A small aside: I took to “Jeopardy!” early, and in high school had a weird, cursory career competing in televised trivia contests. My teammates and I — immigrants all, as it happened — glutted ourselves on dates and data with a hunger I couldn’t have possibly explained at the time but that now seems embarrassingly obvious. Facts could be trusted. Facts consoled. Their patient, dogged acquisition constituted a kind of shy possession of the world.

Of course, any possession in this life is, at best, temporary. “My life has been a quest for knowledge and understanding, and I’m nowhere near having achieved that. And it doesn’t bother me in the least,” Trebek cheerfully concludes. He ends the book at home, like of all us, in quarantine. He is exhausted by cancer treatments, exhausted by uncertainty but still sublimely calm and grateful. As he’s always advised his contestants to do, he’s already looking ahead to the next question.



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Paul Fusco, Photographer on a Funeral Train, Dies at 89


Paul Fusco, a photographer whose eye for the human impact of earthshaking events was perhaps never more evident than in the pictures he took of track-side mourners while riding Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train in 1968, died on July 15 at an assisted-living center in San Anselmo, Calif. He was 89.

His son, Anthony, said the cause was complications of dementia.

In a long career behind the camera, Mr. Fusco worked for Look magazine and the Magnum photo agency and pursued self-financed projects, including a photo series documenting the sobering aftermath of the 1986 accident at the Chernobylnuclear power plant in Ukraine.

His varied body of work included images of hard-luck coal miners in Kentucky in 1959, Cesar Chavez and his farm workers in 1966, AIDS patients in San Francisco in 1993 and the funeral and protests that followed the death of Alberta Spruill during a botched police raid in Harlem in 2003.

The Kennedy funeral train photographs, though, later compiled in several books and used in an HBO documentary, may have been his best known. That wasn’t true when they were first taken, however. On assignment for Look, he shot thousands of images, but the magazine used only one — “not because they didn’t like them,” he told Publishers Weekly in 2008, but because the magazine, a biweekly, was “a little behind the story.”

After Look folded in 1971, the photographs ended up in the Library of Congress, largely forgotten, except by Mr. Fusco.

“As I remained the owner of my photos,” he told the French publication L’Indépendant in 2008, “every five years, on the anniversary of Bobby’s death, I offered them to magazines. They never took them.”

That is, until George magazine, whose founders included Senator Kennedy’s nephew John F. Kennedy Jr., published some for the 30th anniversary of the assassination. That led to a book, “RFK Funeral Train,” in 2000. For the 40th anniversary of the assassination, in 2008, Lesley A. Martin of the Aperture Foundation was seeking to update that book.

“Paul had mentioned that there were ‘some’ images at the Library of Congress,” she told Publishers Weekly, “so in good conscience and due diligence, I checked it out.”

She found more than 1,800 Kodachrome slides.

“Paul’s body of work on that single day — already so unique, impressionistic, emotionally powerful — was so much more,” she said. The photos were gathered into a book, “Paul Fusco: RFK,” with an introduction by Norman Mailer.

By the 50th anniversary, there was an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In The San Francisco Chronicle, Charles Desmarais looked back, assessing what Mr. Fusco had made that day in June 1968.

“He would have not have framed his project as conceptual art, a term then only recently coined, and one that an editorial photographer would have rejected in that day,” he wrote. “Yet his instinctual response to what he saw as his train car slowed, city by town by curve in the track, was to extract something human from an almost algorithmic serial record.”

Mr. Fusco said the funeral train series had not been planned; his editor had been vague in issuing the assignment.

“He told me, ‘There’s a train, get on it,’” Mr. Fusco told Publishers Weekly in 2008. “No instructions.”

He boarded the train as it set off in New York after the senator’s funeral there but was mostly looking ahead to the burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia that was to follow the train’s arrival in Washington.

“All I was thinking about was how to get access when we got to Arlington,” he said. “Then, when the train emerged from beneath the Hudson, and I saw hundreds of people on the platform watching the train come slowly through — it went very slowly. I just opened the window and began to shoot.”

During the eight-hour ride he captured images of all sorts of Americans, standing on rooftops, waving flags, bowing their heads.

Some of the pictures, shot from a moving train, are understandably blurry.

“The motion that appears in a lot of the photographs, for me, emphasized the breaking up of the world,” Mr. Fusco told The New York Times in 2008, “the breaking up of a society, emotionally.”

John Paul Fusco was born on Aug. 2, 1930, in Leominster, Mass., to Peter and Marie Rose Thibaudeau Fusco. He became interested in photography as a teenager, and, after graduating from high school, studied for six months at the New York Institute of Photography.

Mr. Fusco enlisted in the Army in 1951 during the Korean War and trained at the Army School of Photography. Sent to Korea, he was wounded in combat and, his family said, received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

After his military service he used the G.I. Bill to study at Drake University in Iowa and then at Ohio University, which had a fine arts program in photography. He graduated in 1957 and joined Look as an assistant in the photo department but was soon made a photographer. He joined Magnum in 1973.

In addition to the Kennedy funeral train pictures, Mr. Fusco examined death and loss in “Bitter Fruit,” an exhibition documenting the funerals of soldiers killed in the war in Iraq. The government had banned the photographing of flag-draped coffins at American bases where the dead were initially taken, but Mr. Fusco went to cities and towns where soldiers were being memorialized in various ways.

“This is not some weepy melodrama engineered for a Hollywood movie,” Benjamin Genocchio wrote in reviewing the exhibition for The New York Times when it was at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., “but a window onto a world of shocking and realistic grief.”

Not all of Mr. Fusco’s work was somber. In 1968 he took a particularly evocative picture of Janis Joplin performing at the Fillmore in San Francisco. In 1977 he and his wife at the time, Patricia Sayer Fusco, collaborated on a book (“Marina & Ruby: Training a Filly With Love”) about their daughter and the horse she raised. In 1999 he shot a series at the Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey.

Mr. Fusco’s marriage ended in divorce in 1993, though he and his ex-wife remained close. In addition to his son and daughter, Marina Fusco Nims, he is survived by five grandchildren.

The photographs he shot in the Chernobyl area during visits in 1997, 1999 and 2000 documented birth defects among the population, patients in a children’s cancer ward and more. They were collected in a 2005 book, “Chernobyl Legacy.”

In the 2008 interview with L’Indépendant, he called that project “the most important job of my life.”



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Lianne La Havas Traces the Arc of a Romance


The English songwriter Lianne La Havas has always been an outlier, working a decidedly personal amalgam of rock, pop and R&B. Her music revolves around the lithe interplay of her syncopated guitar patterns and her freewheeling voice, which leaps and curls and wriggles with an insouciant vibrato. Her guitar parts echo and rival the ambiguous, unresolved chords and supple rhythmic games of Joni Mitchell and Radiohead, while her voice moves from low, sultry insinuations to open-throated declarations.

At a time when so much pop speaks of constriction — with narrow singsong melodies, metronomic beats and desiccated instrumental tones — La Havas is determinedly expansive, and anything but mechanical. She makes her trickiest musical stratagems sound effortless, even playful.

Her third album, “Lianne La Havas,” traces the course of a romance, from blissful beginnings to a bruised ending. Its sequencing suggests that the experience is cyclical; the album both starts and ends with the breakup. The opener, “Bittersweet,” uses a plush, pinging Isaac Hayes sample to ground the song in vintage R&B seduction. But that’s deceptive; the song announces a separation with sorrow and relief. “Bittersweet summer rain/I’m born again,” La Havas sings, twice in each chorus. The first time is low and disconsolate, continuing with the words “all my broken pieces”; the second is higher, a cry of pain turning to wordless release before she exults, “No more hanging around.”

The rest of the album plays as a flashback of the affair: a dizzying initial obsession that gives way to doubts, tears and estrangement. Desire and flirtation fill “Read My Mind,” with La Havas singing airily about “the pure joy when a girl meets a boy/natural chemistry,” while the backup vocals tease, “What you waiting for?” Next, in “Green Papaya,” she finds herself in unknown emotional territory, but more than willing to venture further. “Take me home/Let’s make real love,” she coos. “Take me out of the blue.”

But second thoughts soon arise. She tries, at first, to push them away in “Can’t Fight,” with restless rhythm-guitar chords and multiple vocal lines detailing her conflicted impulses, and “Paper Thin,” a stark ballad that offers mournful compassion: “I know your pain is real, but you won’t let it heal.” She channels desperation into plush, slow-motion R&B in “Please Don’t Make Me Cry,” and lets it erupt in a volatile version of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” — diffident at first, then explosive.

La Havas doesn’t give herself an easy narrative of romantic right and wrong. There’s no clear rupture and barely a flicker of anger as she makes her reluctant separation, only a growing realization that it’s impossible to hold on. In “Courage,” which suggests bossa nova in both its melodic turns and its sense of longing, she is “Lost and overcome by the memory/Of everything we were but will never be.” At the end of the album, in “Sour Flower,” the singer is alone but free: “No more looking out for someone else/but me,” she vows; the meter is an unconventional 5/4, subtly setting aside expectations.

The songs illuminate passion, impulsiveness, ambivalence and uncertainty, yet the structures La Havas created are lucid and poised. While matters of the heart may be out of control, her fingers and voice are impeccable.

Lianne La Havas
“Lianne La Havas”
(Nonesuch)



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10 Best Quarantine Concerts Online


Some livestreamed concerts emulate the one-time-only experience of live shows — they’re webcast just once in real time, then disappear from the web. Others recognize that anything that’s digitized can be recorded and replayed. Here, alphabetically, are 10 of the best virtual concerts that have stayed online.

Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, a big band dedicated to the fusion in its name, has turned its weekly Sunday-night slot at Birdland into virtual sets that hold supercharged mambos alongside far-reaching jazz excursions. Painstakingly edited together from solo home recordings, the music still swings mightily. The June 14 edition features Rudresh Mahanthappa with breakneck alto saxophone solos in “The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite” composed by Arturo’s father, Chico O’Farrill.

The corporate sponsorship is relentlessly overbearing, but it paid for a close-up, “MTV Unplugged”-style studio session for Aventura, the New York City band that turned Dominican bachata into best-selling pop. Romeo Santos croons in his otherworldly high tenor and flirts with the camera, sometimes with his cousin Henry Santos harmonizing on a remote hookup. The other band members supply bachata’s syncopations with transparent precision.

Erykah Badu started off charging just $1 admission to her increasingly ambitious series of livestreamed shows; this one has lingered online. “Apocalypse 3” was a surreal soundstage production — costumes, lights, musicians in separate plastic bubbles — that expanded on her 2015 mixtape, “But You Caint Use My Phone,” vamping on technology, communication and connection. Her cues to the band only clarify her easygoing control.

The roots-rock songwriter Jason Isbell celebrated the release date of his new album, “Reunions,” by performing its songs in a livestream from the near-empty Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, joined by his wife, Amanda Shires, on fiddle and harmony vocals. The songs are moody character studies with philosophical undercurrents; the banter in between was loose and free-associative. Images of homebound spectators were broadcast on big video screens via Zoom, a bit awkward on both sides.

“Big white mansion is my habitat,” Gunna rapped in a track by Metro Boomin called “Space Cadet.” He staged “Wunna Live in LA” on the terrace of a big white Los Angeles mansion, with a live band — some masked — punching up his recorded tracks. Gunna’s career catalyst, Young Thug, makes a guest appearance. The songs boast of material and sexual triumphs, but they’re delivered as minor-mode incantations, turning almost hypnotic.

Norah Jones has been doing bare-bones livestreams a few times a week during the pandemic: just her and her upright piano (or occasionally a guitar), playing to an unmoving camera that she occasionally glances at. The songs in this 21-minute set — hers and one by Cut Worms — contemplate love, transcendence and loss with troubled grace. If only she had better miking.

Jorma Kaukonen — a guitarist and singer in Hot Tuna and, in the 1960s, in Jefferson Airplane — has his own 200-seat theater on his Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio, from which concerts had been livestreamed long before the lockdown. Since the pandemic hit, Kaukonen has been playing mostly solo weekly concerts from its cozy stage, working through a lifelong repertoire that spans ragtime and psychedelia, trying not to repeat a song and garrulously answering fan questions delivered by his wife, Vanessa.

The South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini merges the modal propulsion of McCoy Tyner with kindly, straightforward melodies that lead into quasi-mystical meditations and explosive sprints. His homemade livestream — he plays upright piano and is joined by his wife, the singer Omagugu Makhathini — is a mini-manifesto of hope, determination and gratitude. “I can’t really move outside my home, so it forces us to move deeper within,” he says in a five-minute spoken introduction.

Can a stadium concert fit into a living room? Daniela Mercury, a Brazilian superstar who performed for hundreds of thousands of people on New Year’s Eve 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, struts, twirls and sambas as if she’s on a much larger stage, with her masked band behind her on what looks like a patio and her children showing up as Carnival revelers. In a nearly three-hour set of upbeat songs celebrating Carnival and her home province, Bahia, she’s completely tireless.

Sure, cover bands have surefire, time-tested material. Even so, Post Malone’s tribute to Nirvana — a benefit for the World Health Organization that was apparently shot in a rec room with a well-stocked bar — was heartfelt and loud, not to mention one of the few real-time livestreams that could handle the sonic demands of electric guitars. Travis Barker commanded the drums, and Post Malone, true to Nirvana aesthetics, wore a dress.



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A Land Art Pioneer’s Adventures in Time and Space


But there is another way to view such works and their eccentric creators: as prescient. In a culture swimming in expensive objects, where art has become thoroughly corporate, never before has an immersive experience seemed more important; there is singular joy in works that draw attention to the barren beauty of the land and the endless skies above it, pieces too large for even a billionaire to build a private museum around. “People have dismissed the earthworks as monuments, but in fact, they’re critiques of the monumental,” says Michael Govan, the 56-year-old director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who has championed the land artists for nearly 30 years, especially when he was the head of the New York-based Dia Art Foundation in the 1990s and early aughts. He points to “City” and its low, rolling geometries, as well as the hypnotic 1,500-foot swirl of black basalt and salt crystals that make up the most famous of all land artworks, Robert Smithson’s 1970 “Spiral Jetty,” a natural sculpture in a shallow lake bed in northern Utah. Much of Turrell’s “Roden Crater,” Govan says, is underground, purposefully recasting a former site of violent eruptions into a subtle temple of light.

Not that such work tends to attract gentle personalities. The artists largely were products of a tumultuous era and landscape: first, the ragged and fierce avant-garde that developed in Northern California at the end of the 1960s, and then the dark, abrasive downtown New York art and music scene, which would soon give way to the canvas of the Western deserts. Safety and caution were never held in esteem. Smithson, a prolific essayist, died at 35 in 1973 when the small plane in which he was scouting locations for a new piece crashed near Amarillo, Texas. The reclusive Walter De Maria, who in his early 20s was a drummer with the precursor band to the Velvet Underground, created “The Lightning Field,” composed of 400 sharpened 20-foot stainless-steel posts in a roughly one-square-mile grid about three hours from “Star Axis” in western New Mexico; he lived alone in the same SoHo loft for more than 50 years and was felled by a stroke in 2013. Over the course of trying to complete “City,” Heizer developed severe respiratory problems and nerve damage that led to years of opiate addiction only recently shook. Mary Shanahan, his wife of 15 years, left him in 2014 — beaten down by his needs and those of “City” — and he stopped eating, plummeting to about 100 pounds. “Every bone in me is torqued and twisted,” he told The New Yorker’s Dana Goodyear in 2016.

Ross, a Pennsylvania contractor’s son, has always seemed the counter example, steady and calibrated with an almost merry, avuncular demeanor. Temperate and health-conscious, he has long availed himself of both Eastern and Western medicine, regarding both arcane herbal supplements and the high-tech surgical procedures perhaps in his future as ways to keep going. In contrast to Heizer, who in his early years debated art late into the night at the legendary bar Max’s Kansas City, Ross spent the late 1960s immersed in a decidedly unmacho milieu: designing sets and performing with the experimental Judson Dance Theater in Lower Manhattan and later with Anna Halprin, the San Francisco-based postmodern choreographer who mentored Meredith Monk and Trisha Brown. It was a scene dominated by powerful women, recalls the dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer, 85. When Ross wandered in, offering to adapt some of the vertiginous latticework sculptures he had been working on and then manipulate them onstage for the dancers, there was, she says, “nothing aggressive or macho about him. He listened.”

Credit…Janek Zdzarski, courtesy of Anna Halprin.

Despite its audacious ambition to map time, “Star Axis” is far smaller in scale than either Turrell’s or Heizer’s projects. But that, paradoxically, is part of its emotional power. Every granite step to the oculus seems imbued with Ross’s Zen-like determination; you can’t help but imagine the hundreds of sunsets he has experienced there in silence. “His project,” says Govan, “is not only for us to meditate on time and light. It’s also Charles’s mediation, and you feel that when you’re experiencing it. The calculations, the moving of stone, the mixing of concrete, the collaboration with those same workers all those years. There’s a humanness to it.”



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Works by Sir John Richardson’s Many Friends in Sotheby’s Sale


Sotheby’s might seem an unusual choice to sell items from Richardson’s collection, considering that he opened the New York office of its rival, Christie’s, in the 1970s. Ms. Wanger said that both houses competed for the sale but that the two grandnieces who are his heirs “just felt very strongly about Sotheby’s.”

One of the Picasso prints is “Picador et Taureau,” a 1959 linoleum cut of a bullfight. Picasso inscribed it to Richardson when he gave it to him in 1960, the year he left the south of France, where he had lived since 1952. Sotheby’s presale estimate is $25,000 to $35,000.

“Self-Portrait: Reflection” is by Freud, the figurative painter who died in 2011 at 88 (and whose grandfather was Sigmund Freud). Phoebe Hoban, the author of “Lucian Freud: Eyes Wide Open,” said in an email that Richardson and Freud first encountered each other at the Slade School of Fine Art at University College, London, in 1942. Sotheby’s estimated that “Self-Portrait: Reflection” would sell for $70,000 to $100,000.

Another Freud etching to be sold is a portrait of David Dawson (presale estimate, $70,000 to $100,000). Ms. Hoban said that Richardson had told her that “David was many different things to Lucian, not just a studio assistant and a primary subject, but a best friend.”

Ms. Bartow said the Warhol Jagger, inscribed by the artist “to John R,” was one of 10 in a series that was different from the famous Marilyn Monroe images. Each image of Mr. Jagger was different, unlike the Monroe set, where only the colors changed from image to image.

Ms. Bartow said Richardson would have noticed. “As a scholar who made his living through his eyes rather than just through reading things and interviewing people,” she said, “he had the intelligence to see that this was a different approach by the artist.”



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Zizi Jeanmaire, French Star of Ballet, Cabaret and Film, Dies at 96


Zizi Jeanmaire, the ballerina, cabaret singer and actress whose gamine haircut, corseted costume and charismatic, erotic performance made an indelible impression in the 1949 ballet “Carmen,” died on July 17 at her home in Tolochenaz, Switzerland, overlooking Lake Geneva. She was 96.

Her daughter, Valentine Petit, confirmed the death.

Over the course of a six-decade career, Ms. Jeanmaire reinvented herself continuously, beginning as a classical dancer whose greatest roles were choreographed by her husband, Roland Petit, and who danced with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, among other illustrious names.

“Carmen,” which Petit created in London before it moved to Broadway, shocked audiences with its onstage smoking and frank sensuality, and made stars of both Petit and Ms. Jeanmaire.

Soon after, when Petit was planning a new ballet, “La Croqueuse de Diamants,” featuring songs with lyrics by Raymond Queneau, Ms. Jeanmaire quietly worked on her singing, then won the role by displaying her sultry voice in the title song.

After that ballet went on to Broadway and a U.S. tour, the Hollywood producer Howard Hughes offered Ms. Jeanmaire a movie contract. Samuel Goldwyn produced her first film, “Hans Christian Andersen,” and it was he who suggested that she change her name from Renée to the more alluring “Zizi,” a childhood nickname. She danced with Petit and Eric Bruhn in that film.

She went on to dance alongside Bing Crosby in the movie revival of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes”; on Broadway in “The Girl in Pink Tights” and “Can-Can”; and in a number of French films (“Folies Bergère,” “Charmant Garcons,” “Guingette”).

In 1981, Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times that Ms. Jeanmaire’s appearance in the lead role of Pistache in Cole Porter’s “Can-Can” was the show’s “one authentic link to the world it wishes to celebrate.”

“This pixieish performer, with her lacquered hair, gravelly voice and flat-out music-hall delivery, need but appear to transport us to the Folies Bergère,” Mr. Rich wrote.

Ms. Jeanmaire established her presence as a cabaret artist at the Alhambra Theater in Paris in 1961. In the song “Mon Truc en Plumes,” (“My Thing in Feathers’), which would become her signature number, she emerged in a tight sequined top and sheer tights (designed by Yves Saint Laurent, a close friend), accompanied by a bevy of young men fanning her with huge pink feathers. Famous French singers and writers — Marcel Aymé, Guy Béart, Boris Vian, Barbara and Serge Gainsbourg — wrote songs for her (Gainsbourg wrote an entire revue for her, “Zizi, Je t’aime”), and she would make almost 30 albums over her career.

Ms. Jeanmaire continued to perform in revues created for her by Petit into her 70s. She also appeared in his ballets, notably starring in a 1966 film of “Le Jeune homme et la mort,” with Nureyev; and with Mr. Baryshnikov in a 1980 television film of “Carmen.”

She was immortalized in 1969 by the hit song “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely),” in which Peter Sarstedt sang of his mystery heroine, “You talk like Marlene Dietrich, and you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire.”

Renée Marcelle Jeanmaire was born in Paris on April 29, 1924, the only child of Marcel Jeanmaire and Olga Brunus. Her first glimpse of ballet was in the dance sequence of Charles Gounod’s opera “Romeo and Juliet.” Enchanted by the show, she persuaded her parents to let her enroll at the Paris Opera Ballet school. She was 9, the same age as her classmate Roland Petit. “Our eyes crossed; I fell for him,” she said in a 2008 interview with Paris Match.

At the school, Ms. Jeanmaire was mentored by the acclaimed ballerina Yvette Chauviré, who introduced her to the teacher Boris Kniaseff, who would become a significant presence throughout her career. She was accepted into Paris Opera Ballet in 1940, at 15, as was Petit, and although Paris was occupied by Nazi Germany, the opera dancers continued to practice and perform. (The director, Serge Lifar, welcomed high-ranking German officers to the theater and was accused of collaboration after the war.)

Although she attracted favorable attention in her early years with the company, Ms. Jeanmaire was unhappy with the roles she was given and left at 20. Petit, who wanted to choreograph and direct his own company, followed soon after.

In 1944, Ms. Jeanmaire joined the troupes Ballets de Monte Carlo and De Basil’s Ballets Russes, and in 1948, Petit asked her to join his company, Les Ballets de Paris. Still in love with him, she was determined that he would create a ballet for her. “It was thanks to this role that I could express my personality as a dancer,” she told the newspaper Le Monde in 2006. “In a way, I discovered myself through performing it.”

But her relationship with Petit remained ambiguous until they reunited after their respective stints in Hollywood and on Broadway; they married in 1954. The next year, while Petit was choreographing “Daddy Long Legs” for Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, Ms. Jeanmaire gave birth to her daughter, Valentine Petit, her only immediate survivor.

Over the next two decades, Petit created numerous revues for his wife, buying the Casino de Paris in 1970 as a showcase. She became a huge star in France, celebrated for her flamboyance, long-legged androgynous sexiness and husky-voiced charm, and the couple were a glamorous, sought-after presence on the French cultural scene. “Without her,” the French poet Louis Aragon is reported to have said, “Paris would not be Paris.”

Ms. Jeanmaire continued to appear on the ballet stage, performing in Petit’s “Symphonie Fantastique” at the Paris Opera in 1975 and in other works created for the Ballet de Marseilles, which Petit directed from 1972 until 1998. (He died in 2011.)

Her final performances were in 2000, in the amphitheater of the Bastille Opera in Paris, featuring songs written by her daughter, who has had her own career as a singer and songwriter.

“My only tragedy,” Ms. Jeanmaire told Le Figaro, “would be to no longer be able to perform.”



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Trump’s Briefings, ‘The Apprentice’ and the Perils of the Second Season


The pinnacle of Donald J. Trump’s TV career lasted one night, and he has never stopped trying to relive it.

The finale of the first season of “The Apprentice” in 2004 was the top-rated show on TV. Afterward the host, finally a mass-media star after decades of courting fame, believed that giving people twice as much of him would be twice as good.

NBC agreed, scheduling the show for two cycles the following year (and then a spinoff with Martha Stewart). The “Apprentice” that returned was more Trump-centric, the host more brash, loud and insulting, his boardroom firings more dramatic and stunt-filled. Mr. Trump himself took to the talk- and comedy-show circuit like a starlet in Oscar season, appearing in ads and on red carpets delivering his trademark “You’re fired” finger-point and sneer. He was everywhere.

It didn’t work. The ratings declined, first gradually, then precipitously. While competitors like “American Idol” topped the charts for years, “The Apprentice” declined until Mr. Trump was left hosting a gimmick version with C-list celebrities. For years after, he would cling to that one glorious stat from 2004 like an Electoral College map, to claim that his reality show was still the biggest thing on TV.

The host, of course, rebooted himself, parlaying his network celebrity into a second life as a political commentator on Fox News, then candidate, then president. But his reality-TV experience is worth keeping in mind as he plans to revive his evening coronavirus briefings, in the apparent belief that rebooting last spring’s ratings hit will reboot his poll numbers.

NBC’s mistake with “The Apprentice” was partly an eternal TV pitfall: milking the prize cow until it runs dry. Donald Trump, it turned out, was no more immune to overexposure than Regis Philbin and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” (“Idol,” on the other hand, aired just one season a year, and aimed to make stars of its contestants, not just its hosts.)

But it was also an error distinctive to Mr. Trump, who was both the star and a producer of “The Apprentice”: Since his 1980s tabloid days, he never believed there was such a thing as bad publicity, at least for him. Or as the “Pod Save America” host and former Obama strategist Dan Pfeiffer put it in a Tweet on Tuesday: “Trump always thinks more Trump is the solution when it is always the cause of the problem.

Sure, attention is an asset, in politics as in reality TV. Mr. Trump’s willingness to feed the news beast in 2016 earned him billions in free media and effectively made him the election’s protagonist.

And as I wrote during Mr. Trump’s first run of briefings in the spring, they offered him an opportunity he hadn’t had since he started “The Apprentice”: a regular TV platform in which he could speak to a mass audience beyond his loyalist base. For a moment, they allowed him to create the visual impression that he was acting on the pandemic, by going out and speaking on it. For a moment, his approval ratings — and TV ratings — went up.

But what you do with the attention turns out to matter, at least when the stakes are hundreds of thousands of lives, not a game-show prize. It matters if you suggest that household disinfectants could be a medical treatment. It matters if you go to war with your own medical experts. It matters if you minimize, on Page 1, a terrible reality that everyone can read about for themselves in the obituaries.

Judging by the president’s decision, he doesn’t see this as the problem. Instead the problem is not enough him on TV, giving the people what worked for him before — zinging, blustering, pointing fingers and fighting.

His plan to return to prime time was not accompanied by an announced shift in public-health policy. The thinking simply seems to be: People want to see the president doing something. And to Donald Trump, going on TV is the doing-somethingest thing of all.

Thus we saw him on Sunday, sitting for an excruciating interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, doubling down on blatant disinformation — like his claim that the United States has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate in the world — in the face of ruthless fact-checking. As in his “You’re fired” days, he fell back on his trusty catchphrase, calling Mr. Wallace “fake news” as if the words could dispel the interviewer from the boardroom.

At one point, Mr. Wallace brought up the president’s past criticisms of him, asking if he understood that it was a journalist’s duty to interview the president’s rivals, too. A more blunt way of putting it would be: Does the president think it’s Fox’s job to help him win the election?

He seems to think so. He tweeted a complaint in May that Fox was “doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected.” But in a broader sense, he has suggested that TV itself owes him payback for all he’s given it. TV networks, he has said, will miss the ratings he brings if he is voted out of the White House.

He may be right, but he also assumes that TV viewers think like TV networks. He acts as if Americans would suffer anything rather than the boredom he imagines they would endure without him. Thus his preferred epithet for his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. — “Sleepy” — which may not be the killer burn he imagines to a populace tired of staying up all night in anxiety.

And yet Mr. Trump is, if you trust the current polls, currently losing to a challenger who is running a quasi-incumbent-like media strategy, avoiding making big splashes and letting his rival do the work for him. Mr. Trump seems resentful of this — “Let him come out of his basement,” he told Mr. Wallace — or maybe just incredulous. Why would any sane person not get as much media attention as possible?

Mr. Trump seems to believe that Americans are yearning for a TV star more than they are yearning for a leader — or, at least, that they do not recognize a difference between the two.

Criticize his approach, of course, and there is a ready answer: The “Too much is never enough” strategy worked for him in 2016. It worked in 2004, too, in the first season of “The Apprentice.”

It always works until it stops working. Until someone decides that too much, in fact, is enough already.





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