Art and History

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The Plaza Hotel in fog and flame. 11:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, November 12, 2018. Cold in New York with temperatures in the high 40s, dropping in the mid-30s in some spots with all kinds of cold, rainy, snowy, icy weather predicted for the Northeast in the next day or two. New Yorkers have gotten used to the fairer (if rainy) autumn of light jackets and/or sweaters to ward off any chill. Wet and icy it has not been.

Art and History. I usually don’t write about art exhibitions – except to report on their openings. But Wednesday (November 7th) the Robert Simon Fine Art gallery at 22 East 80th Street hosted an opening featuring the works of painter Pamela Talese entitled “The Third Rome; Allegorical Landscapes of the Modern City.”

Many of the paintings were completed on site during Talese’s annual visits to Rome, beginning in 2012. All were of modern Rome, a group of small-scale oils reflecting her exploration of late 19th and 20th century sites and neighborhoods of Rome. Her specific interests were those parts of Rome that the tourist rarely sees, yet are vibrant with contemporary Roman life; and also the architectural reminders of Rome’s 20th century past, specifically of the time of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Pamela Talese at the opening of her exhibition, “The Third Rome,” on view at Robert Simon Fine Art.

The exhibition takes its title from Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini’s celebrated dictum that “After the Rome of the emperors, after the Rome of the Popes, there will come the Rome of the people.”

This became Mussolini’s cultural mantra during his 20-year regime (1922-1943). It manifested in the massive transformation of architectural and civic landscape. Many buildings and monuments of the Fascist era remain — as does the long shadow of pseudo-populism.

Talese explains: “Benito Mussolini was the Robert Moses of Rome. They were both ‘master builders’ with megalomaniacal views of what their city should look like — regardless of the people who lived in it. Mussolini’s Third Rome was one of constant and remorseless demolitions in the city center, which outpaced the building of new neighborhoods on the periphery. By the early 1930s, this propaganda-driven planning left at least 25,000 Romans homeless.”

Minerva Medica and Tram Wires, Oil on linen panel, 12 x 16 inches. According to Pamela, “the erroneously named Temple of Minerva Medica has been a favorite subject for ages. This decagonal structure in opus latericium (coarse-laid brick work) 4th Century building is, in fact, a ruined nymphaeum devoted to the nymphs and often connected to the water supply. “

Talese’s is the first solo exhibition by a contemporary artist at Robert Simon Fine Art, which specializes in Old Master paintings. Mr. Simon described the show as “not the Rome of Panini or Piranesi, but of one unvarnished, revealing the tragedy as well as the triumph of the city’s history.”

“The brutal elegance of the modern structures, both appealing and unnerving, contrasted with the older architecture, raises issues that resonate today: the transience of political power, the tragedy of demagogic populism, and the vitality of the individual.”

Many paintings in the exhibition were done around the Foro Italico (formerly Foro Mussolini) in Rome’s northern section. It was built between 1928 and 1938 as a sports complex intended for the Olympic Games. It was also a school where young boys were trained in aggressive combat sports. Mussolini believed these “sports” would develop the qualities of good soldiers.

Allbergo Giallo, Garbatella; Oil on panel, 9 3/4 by 9 3/4 inches.
Gazometri, Ostiense; Oil on linen over panel 11¾ x 15¾ inches.

Throughout the park, the giant figures of Carrara marble stand naked and posed — each holding the implement of his sport. Talese has reimagined the interpretation of their classical style, portraying both “the visible and invisible, the past and present, the experience and the evidence, of these ordinary people, civic leaders, tyrants, and of course, defeated heroes.”

The themes of Pamela Talese’s previous exhibitions are related — “718,” focused on sites in New York’s outer boroughs; and “Rust Never Sleeps,” was an essay on industrial decay. They find new life in the ancient city of the Roman Empire.

Marble Athlete with Club from the Province of Lecce (9 3/4 by 9 3/4).

From the past to the present. Last Tuesday night The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (The NYSPCC) held its 6th annual Food & Wine Gala Tuesday night at The Metropolitan Club in Manhattan. Chef Costas Spiliadis, whose world-renowned Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Estiatorio Milos was the 2017 winner of The Concierge Choice Awards’ International Cuisine category, designed a one-of-a-kind menu for guests, and also donated all food. The exquisite cuisine was paired with world-class wines provided by George Spiliadis, Founder of Cava Spiliadis.

Deborah Norville, a member of The NYSPCC’s Children’s Council, was the evening’s host. Mary Pulido Ph.D, the organization’s Executive Director, gave an inspirational speech about The NYSPCC’s work championing New York’s most vulnerable – the children and the young people suffering and enduring the abuse, neglect and abandonment that is rife and largely ignored in our society today.

Deborah Norville.

This noble and deeply humane enterprise also requires raising the public consciousness about these young lives which also requires vigilance in raising the funds needed to support it. Tuesday night’s dinner was an effective course because it was also fun/enjoyable for the guests/funders.

Auctioneer Harry Santa-Olalla conducted the evening’s reverse auction, raising crucial funding for The NYSPCC’s Trauma Recovery Program. The program offers a specialized therapeutic program for children, ages 5-18, who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, neglect, traumatic bereavement, or who have witnessed family violence.

Dr. Mary Pulido delivered a powerful speech. “We are the first line of defense for vulnerable children and their families in New York City. Our Trauma Recovery Program provides life-saving counseling to children who have suffered unthinkable abuse, and we’re so grateful to everyone who attended this crucial event and contributed to their rescue and recovery.”

NYSPCC Executive Director Mary Pulido.

Mary’s words reflect her natural kindness and empathy. But it’s more than unthinkable what happens to so many of these children, and how it destroys lives in the bud, and how that destruction affects all of us.

This Gala is one of two major fundraising events for The NYSPCC. The other is their annual Spring Luncheon. This year’s was held at the Pierre in April and featured an emotional guest speech by Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney. I’ve been attending this lunch for several years, and it’s impressive to see the growing attendance, particularly among younger women and men in New York. The luncheon featuring Ms. Maroney brought out a lot of the major philanthropic activists.

Dinner at The NYSPCC’s Food & Wine Gala.

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) is one of the most highly respected child protective agencies in the world. It was founded in 1875 by Elbridge Gerry (whose residence coincidentally occupied the land on which the Pierre now stands). The NYSPCC helps the most vulnerable children of our community recover from trauma. More importantly, it helps prevent child abuse through its work with parents, teachers, children and foster care agencies.

The NYSPCC’s amazing work is used as a model for child abuse prevention centers across the nation. The NYSPCC has investigated more than 650,000 cases on behalf of over two million children and has educated over 47,000 professionals working with children on child abuse and neglect issues.

NYSPCC Board Member Dr. Penny Grant, Dawne Marie Grannum, Lori Snyder, and Jean Shafiroff.
NYSPCC Board Member Sarah Stack, NYSPCC Board President Karl Wellner, NYSPCC Executive Director Mary Pulido, and NYSPCC Board Member David Stack.
Tom Glocer, NYSPCC Board Member Maarit Glocer, and President of The NYSPCC’s Board Karl Wellner.
L to R.: NYSPCC Executive Director Mary Pulido and Michael Ferraro.; Kathleen Giordano and NYSPCC Board Member Dr. Penny Grant.
George Spiliadis, NYSPCC Children’s Council Member Vicky Cornell, NYSPCC Executive Director Mary Pulido, PhD, Deborah Norville, and Karl Wellner.
Susan and James Winter.
Krista Corl, NYSPCC Executive Director Mary Pulido, PhD, NYSPCC Children’s Council Member Vicky Cornell, and Alexandra Osipow.
Laura Garcia, Meiland-Shaw, Krista Corl, and Vicky Cornell.

On a kinder, optimistic note about growing children, the highly prolific Linda Fairstein, whose Alexandra Cooper crime novels are international bestsellers — her 20th (!!) “Blood Oath” comes out in March of next year (we’re almost there) — also has just published her third (!!) Devlin Quick mysteries, “Secrets from the Deep.”

Click to order Secrets from the Deep.

Linda, as you may know worked in the District Attorney’s office for two decades, which may lead you to assume its influence on her best-selling fiction. However, most interesting is her original inspiration — the Nancy Drew mysteries series — written for young girls in the mid-20th century. Devlin Quick is the 21st century character written for young people of the same interest which is, mysteries.

When Linda was a kid her life interest was sparked by Nancy Drew. If you didn’t know, the character Nancy was in publishing the female counterpart to The Hardy Boys mysteries. Many of us who grew up on those two very young “detectives” series retain a lifelong interest in the genre that Linda Fairstein enhances year after year with something new for the curious.

The good news from my point of view is that it potentially encourages kids (8 – 12) to READ — a fantastically satisfying personal habit when developed early. Devlin Quick is the perfect Christmas gift for all the kids on your list, both boys and girls.

Rosanna Scotto launching Linda’s newest book on Good Day New York.

Photographs by Sylvain Gaboury/PMC

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