‣ Programming around a new Rothko exhibition in DC aims to illuminate the artist’s musical influences, including Mozart. Michael Andor Brodeur reports for the Washington Post:

But there’s been less exploration into the influence of music on Rothko — a significant shaping force on his aesthetic if we’re to believe what might be his second-most-quoted line: “I became a painter because I wanted to raise painting to the level of poignancy of music and poetry.”

For Danielle Hahn, who heads the National Gallery’s music program, the exhibition’s emphasis on the painter’s practice in the studio offered an opportunity to hear Rothko differently.

“In the past when we’ve programmed Rothko, we’ve focused a lot on Morton Feldman and other of Rothko’s contemporaries, composers who wrote things inspired by his art, composers who he knew,” says Hahn. “But Mozart, and to a lesser degree Schubert and the other classical composers, were to the forefront of what Rothko really adored.”

‣ Writing for Eater, Luke Fortney explains why so many New York City restaurants are closing, even after having survived the pandemic. He writes:

The latest round of closures shows what it takes to run a “successful” restaurant in New York City right now. It relies on investor capital, or extended work days, the right address, and maybe a deal on rent. While several businesses had come to the end of their leases, many others had hit breaking points: Restaurant sales haven’t bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, but commercial rents have, owners say. To learn more, we asked five restaurant owners about their decision to close.

‣ Christopher Knight reports on the restoration of two 16th-century German Renaissance paintings at the Getty Museum for the LA Times:

After a demanding program that included a gasp-inducing repair of the two cracking, 500-year-old limewood panels, Getty senior conservator Ulrich Birkmaier and his team stabilized the paintings, while bringing the images back to something close to what they likely were when they left the artist’s big and busy workshop in Wittenberg, about 70 miles southwest of Berlin, in the 16th century. I saw the Cranach panels three times in the conservation studio. During an interview when final touches were being applied just days prior to the public unveiling, Birkmaier described the 30-month job as “the most labor-intensive” of his career.

Surprisingly, he said, given the stature of the artist and the probable importance of a patron for such a lavish pair of six-foot paintings, the panels are composed of low-grade wood. Tall narrow slats of limewood (or linden) were butt-joined with glue. Individual slats have lots of knots, many of them requiring removal and replacement with inserts in Cranach’s workshop, and some during subsequent conservation.

As a natural material, wood both expands and contracts, reacting to changes in temperature and humidity. The long linear joints and the edges of scattered repairs are sites of significant flaking and paint loss.

Woodworms also had a field day. Tracks from the beetle larvae are visible to the naked eye and, more deeply, to X-rays. Dense clusters of them in the lower registers suggest that the panels might even have been standing in water at some point in time, softening the wood and inviting infestation. Chunks of wood were missing along ragged bottom edges, which required complicated replacement. Parts of his and, especially, her toes needed repainting from scratch, with the intact imagery in the Uffizi pair used as a helpful guide to the painterly pedicure.

‣ Across the US, archives focused on documenting and preserving Black history continue their work in the face of educational bans. Adria R. Walker writes for the Guardian:

In November, a Georgia probate judge, Kenya Johnson, discovered documents in the court’s records room that dated back to the 1840s. Johnson and her staff read through the documents, which included estate planning papers, marriage licenses and wills indicating how enslavers planned to pass down the people they owned as property.

During an interview with Atlanta’s WSBTV, Johnson read aloud from one of the wills: “I bequeath to my daughter Margaret Rebecca my Negro woman Gin. Of dark complexion and all of her children to her and her heirs forever.” The documents, in which lives and futures of enslaved people are written about on lists that include cattle and china, underscore the banality of the institution of slavery.

Scholars say the records could be useful in a manner additive to education – to inform the discussions about reparations. “Some of these records that were found I’m sure could play a crucial role in efforts towards reparations and addressing systemic racial disparities,” Nafeesa Muhammad, a professor of history at Spelman College, said. “Historians and other scholars are going to take advantage of this, especially with respect to Georgia history.”

‣ Ken Fritz was on a mission to build the world’s greatest stereo, and Geoff Edgers has the story for the Washington Post:

And it would take more than what would come to be the crown jewel of his entire system: the $50,000 custom record player, his “Frankentable,” nestled in a 1,500-pound base designed to thwart any needle-jarring vibrations and equipped with three different tone arms, each calibrated to coax a different sound from the same slab of vinyl.

‣ On the 50th birthday of beloved children’s book Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry, author Peter Behrens reflects in the New York Times:

When our family first encountered this book, I had just bought a 40-year-old pickup truck and was developing a website called Autoliterate, mostly about, well, old trucks and cars and things that go. But you don’t have to care two hoots about automobiles to settle in with Scarry.

I still envy the author’s gift for devising titles for the Busytown series that speak directly to their audience. You can count on plenty of forward momentum in a book called “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.” And what better title for a book about a bumbling, error-prone pig than “Be Careful, Mr. Frumble!”? Our son always wanted to know, “What Do People Do All Day?,” so reading all about it was deeply satisfying. By the time we opened “Best Word Book Ever,” we anticipated it would be just that. And it was: page after page of wonderful drawings, strewn with hundreds of words labeling pretty much everything in Busytown, from airports to ice cream cones.

Scarry had figured out how to make non-cloying picture books with so much going on that every page became a delightful exercise in paying attention.

‣ Writer Adrienne Raphel traces the long history and evolution of Monopoly for Atlas Obscura:

Monopoly has a long enough history that it has done more than champion capitalism and wreck families. During World War II, British intelligence created doppelganger game boxes that they sent to POWs, containing not the original board, but maps and tools to help them escape. And Monopoly has quietly returned to its educational roots. The game is frequently used in economics and behavioral psychology settings. For example, University of Tampa sociologist Ryan T. Cragun created different rulebooks for Monopoly to simulate starting with various socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages (“Capitalism: Race, Ethnicity, and Sex/Gender Discrimination Version,” “Communism: Marx’s Version”). Paul Piff at the University of California, Berkeley, concocted a study using Monopoly to demonstrate how privilege impacts personality. When Piff randomly gave some gamers an advantage at the beginning, these players almost immediately turned into alpha dogs. They “began to move their pieces around the board more loudly, displayed ‘signs of dominance and nonverbal displays of power and celebration,’ ate more pretzels, and became ‘ruder, less and less sensitive to the plight of the poor players, and more likely to showcase how well they were doing.’” The really wild finding was the lucky players’ self-congratulatory mindset: “After the game, the rich players attributed their success to their skills and strategy, not the systematic advantages they had over the other player, even though they knew the advantages were real and were randomly assigned.”

‣ Science magazine shares the biggest science breakthroughs of 2023, including GLP-1 Receptor Agonist drugs:

‣ We keep hearing about West Asian countries quitting oil and striving for a green energy future, but as Kate Ferguson reports for DW, that’s not exactly true:

YouTube video

‣ Artist Malvika Raj shares an artwork in honor of late Indian Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, who died by suicide eight years ago this week after being suspended by his university for his anti-caste activism:

‣ Could this mark the return of cottagecore?

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.

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