The European arts scene and more |

The European arts scene and more

“In Morbid Colours: Art and the Idea of Decadence in the Bohemian Lands, 1890-1914” (Arbor Vitae) by Otto M. Urban is the catalog of a major exhibition that was part of the cultural programs celebrating the Czech presidency of the EU.

It documents and collects an amazing array of Symbolist and Expressionistic works produced over two decades at the turn of the last century. While works in these genres, by other European modernists — such as Edvard Munch, William Blake, Hieronymous Bosch and Odilon Redon — are well known, many of the artists represented in this volume are less familiar.

The works are concerned with issues of otherness and difference, re-visioning some of the basic visual tenets of Christianity — the apocalypse, last judgment and crucifixion — often blending them with erotic overtones.

Collectively, the visual images are content driven and decadence can be seen as tragic flights into “distant dreams” and hysteria, rendered in aphoristic paradoxes and confrontations with the unnatural or not normal.

The volume is an important addition to understanding just how wide spread modernism was to become in the twentieth century.

Offering up a biography of a city, “Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” (Doubleday) by Russell Shorto charts the evolution of one of Europe’s most intriguing cities.

Both a history of the physical changes of the city and the ideas contribute to its unique character. Shorto’s book ranges over a wide range of topics from it’s unique geography and the constant battles to keep the sea at bay to its tolerance and encouragement of eccentric behavior and beliefs; one former mayor of the city has described it as a place where “craziness is a value.”

Describing the deeper meanings of liberalism as an open tolerance of differing value systems, Shorto shows the city’s influence on American political and economic strategies.

He also traces the development of the world’s first great global corporation, the importance of the vast collection of Rembrandts in the Rijksmuseum and notes that the Amsterdam Hilton was the site for John & Yoko’s bed in for peace.

In doing so, Shorto makes both past and present equally alive.

Kirk Robertson covers the Churchill County arts scene.