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Death in Venice, alive in New York


Death in Venice, alive in New York

SPECTATOR, October 30, 2018

Death in Venice, alive in New York

Tintoretto looked not up to heaven, but down to the fallen angels of our modern age

Il disegno di Michelangelo e il colorito di Tiziano: The drawing of Michelangelo and the colour of Titian.

With these words, supposedly written on his studio wall, Jacopo Tintoretto staked his claim on cinquecento painting. We are lucky he failed on both counts. Tintoretto was no Michelangelo or Titian, but he could push paint like no one else in La Serenissima. Renaissance means ‘rebirth’, of course. Yet the paintings of Tintoretto can come as deadly shock. His ‘Crucifixion’ of 1565 in Venice’s Scuola Grande di San Rocco strikes like a thunderbolt. The painting is also the single best work of religious art in the Italian Renaissance. With Christ fixed to the cross front and centre, the action of this composition swirls around him like a dark cyclone. Everyone — carpenters, soldiers, a dog — makes up ‘a centrifugal energy that charges the entire picture’, as the late art historian David Rosand wrote. As onlookers gazing up as Christ stares down, we too are swept up in the storm.

With expressive, brooding, and in-your-face energy, Tintoretto never sought the safety of the neo-Platonic shore. In his draftsmanship, he did not trace out the idealised forms of Michelangelo. In his choice of colour, murky at best, he did not seek the fuzzy warmth of Giorgione. Yet with speed and drive, Tintoretto swept through the 16th-century scene by looking, not up to heaven, but down to the fallen angels of our modern age. He went low when Titian and Veronese went high.

As we mark the 500th anniversary of his birth with exhibitions stretching from the Doge’s Palace in Venice to the house of Morgan in New York City, the wild child of the Venetian Renaissance is receiving his due. In New YorkDrawing in Tintoretto’s Venice at the Morgan Library & Museum explores the draftsmanship of this son of a dyer — tintore — in comparison to works by Titian, Veronese, Bassano, and others. Meanwhile at the Metropolitan Museum, Celebrating Tintoretto: Portrait Paintings and Studio Drawings, a focused exhibition in the Robert Lehman Wing, looks to the painter’s quick-fire portrait studies.

Sacco di Noce — ‘bag of nuts’. That’s how Tintoretto’s figuration came to be known, in particular for the dashed-off studies on paper of his later career. What sounds like an insult, in fact, signals an expressive brilliance. Lacking time and inclination, Tintoretto refused to labour over sculptural shading. At the Morgan Library, the torso of his ‘Seated Male Nude’ (c. 1549), on loan from the Louvre and reproduced on the cover of the exhibition catalogue, looks like it ingested some bad shellfish. His ‘Seated Man with Raised Hand’ (c. 1577–78), from nearly two decades later, resembles nothing less than an aquaman pulled from the rippling Grand Canal. The wavy lines of these drawings do not have a sculptural meaning. But they have an expressive feeling — queasy, awkward, very human, very off.

By focusing on works on paper, with seventy drawings by Tintoretto and his circle now on view, the Morgan show makes the case for a ‘drawing school of Venice’. That’s the title of the first chapter of the catalogue, but it ends with a question mark. Ever since their disparagement in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, the idiosyncratic drawings of Venice have been considered a poor imitation of the Florentine school. An opening example here by Titian, ‘Embracing Couple’ (c. 1568-70), should not give Michelangelo or Leonardo cause of concern over the grading average of the drawing school curve. A tangle of marks, with bodily forms barely discernible, Titian’s drawing appears entirely preliminary, a primo pensiero. But more than that, it seems built up and worked over, as if you were applying layers of paint to canvas rather than lines of charcoal to paper. In other words, here is the richest of painters with the poorest sense for basic draftsmanship.

The exhibition follows through with examples by Andrea Schiavone — the ‘Slav’ — who avoided the whole disegno-colorito feud by finding some fusion of the two. His ‘Apostle (St Matthew)’ (c. 1550), and ‘Virgin Annunciate’ (c. 1550-60) of ink, chalk, watercolour, and wash are drawn paintings — or maybe that should be painted drawings. The Venetian Jacopo Bassano went with a similar approach, using coloured chalk to give some heft to his sketchy figures. Meanwhile, practice makes perfect, and Paolo Veronese, ever the dutiful student, drew study after study in pen and brown ink. In ‘SS. Leonard, Mark, and Francis’ (c. 1549-51), he arrived at his own Venetian sense for sharpened form with highlights of white gouache.

Yes, there was a drawing school of Venice. Tintoretto started his own. At the Morgan, there are several examples of the students in his workshop drawing studies of Grimani Vitellius, or at least a fleshy cast of him, all from slightly different angles. There are also numerous attempts by the Tintoretto Workshop at depicting a cast of Michelangelo’s ‘Samson and the Philistines’. Of Tintoretto’s many pupils, Palma Giovane may have been his best. With white paint over brush and brown, he traces the light reflecting off Michelangelo’s bronze like muscles beneath oily skin. Meanwhile Domenico Tintoretto, Jacopo’s son, carries on the family name with drawings that look to the female nude laid bare in a newly naked way, unidealised and full frontal, from the bottom up.

At the Metropolitan Museum, the diminutive scale of the Celebrating Tintoretto exhibition belies the birthday party within. For someone known to go big, Tintoretto painted some of his most arresting portraits small. Collected in a single room in the Lehman Wing, the show looks behind the quickfire brushwork, or prestezza, for a selection of personal portrait studies, some of which informed larger compositions. Along with drawings from the Lehman collection by Domenico, these closely cropped figures appear out of the darkness in a raking light. Like the ‘Crucifixion’ in the Scuola di San Rocco, they also face us head on.

There is nothing idealised, nothing reserved in their poses. Focused on the elders of the Venetian Republic, these are powerful portraits of powerful men, and they glare back from the canvas. Tintoretto may not have had the drawing of Michelangelo or the colour of Titian. But in his stare, he was death in Venice.


Gallery Chronicle (October 2018)


Gallery Chronicle (October 2018)


Gallery Chronicle

On “Red Grooms: Handiwork, 1955–2018,” at Marlborough Contemporary, “Rackstraw Downes: Paintings & Drawings” at Betty Cuningham Gallery, “Graham Nickson: Cumulus, Monumental Trees and Transient Skies” at the New York Studio School, & the late Richard Timperio, gallerist at the legendary Sideshow in Williamsburg.

Funny what you remember from childhood, but I will never forget an exhibition of Red Grooms I attended when I was six. The show was called “Ruckus Manhattan.” It featured a reprise of an urban diorama that Grooms and the artist Mimi Gross had first exhibited in downtown New York City in the mid-1970s. Reworked and expanded in Grooms’s studio, “Son of Ruckus Manhattan,” as this installation sponsored by Creative Time came to be known, took over a storefront at Fifty-fourth Street and Sixth Avenue for a few months when I saw it in the winter of 1981–82. The cover charge was $2 for parents and $1 for me. I made sure to catch it as many times as I could.

Out of papier-mâché and other simple materials, Grooms had constructed an oversized subway car to look like some childhood dream. The walls and floors were warped, which seemed to simulate the precarious feeling of standing on a moving train. Grooms then filled the car with cartoonish figures, each one playing out some exaggerated urban story. To contemporary sensibilities, their wild physiognomies would undoubtedly cause offense—and, in fact, Grooms’s caricatures got him in trouble just a year later.

Step off the train, and “Ruckus Manhattan” presented bridges you could walk on and skewed riffs on city landmarks. This all led, as I remember it, to the back seat of an oversized checker cab. An old-fashioned meter, the kind with a metal handle, ticked off the fare at alarming speed. Then the animatronic driver swiveled his head, moved his arms, and gave his “Where to, Mac?” spiel.

Much art aspires to the carnivalesque. Grooms unabashedly created a carnival. If this was art, I wanted more of it. So I am somewhat surprised that my art life has not been filled with more Grooms. Like the Bermuda Triangle and the Paris-to-Dakar Rally, childhood preoccupations do not always translate into adulthood. But serious art has also moved away from its sojourn into Grooms’s style of low humor and immature enthusiasms, and that’s no fun.

The same avant-garde spirit that gave us Muppet theater and took an interest in childhood points of view also helped create Grooms. Born Charles Rogers Grooms in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937, Red earned his nickname when studying abstraction with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown. He bounced around the Art Institute of Chicago and The New School for Social Research before starting to stage his own installations and “Happenings” at his Flatiron studio and alternative spaces in the East Village. Through these performances and his subsequent work, he pushed against the aging seriousness of Tenth Street abstraction.

  Red Grooms , Shoot the Moon,  1961 ,  Colored inks, paper movie with movie scroll ,  Marlborough Contemporary.

Red Grooms, Shoot the Moon, 1961, Colored inks, paper movie with movie scroll, Marlborough Contemporary.

True to style, “Red Grooms: Handiwork, 1955–2018,” an expansive hundred-work survey curated by Dan Nadel now at Marlborough, Grooms’s long-time gallery, opens with a laugh.1 A monitor by the entrance plays Grooms’s Shoot the Moon (1962), a delightful low-budget film shot by Rudy Burckhardt that pays homage to George Méliès’s 1902 landmark A Trip to the Moon.

The film helps position Grooms’s paintings and sculptures—and painted sculptures—as backdrops in a lifelong Happening, one in which we play enchanted roles. Grooms has long taken the signage of the carnival midway as his point of departure. A reverence for American folk traditions runs through his work. In the current exhibition, Grooms paints a banner to encourage visitors to step right up to the show. A Popeye-like strong man, In the Navy (2001), flexes his muscles in high relief. I love Bagels and Cream Cheese (2011) and other pseudo–street advertisements, where all sense of good taste gives way to simply tasting good. There are also slick takes on matinee idols, such as Dolores del Rio and Charles Boyer (1979), and a wide manner of painting styles. Grooms’s twelve-foot-tall painting of Dave Scott, the seventh astronaut to walk on the moon, is a tour de force.

And, oh boy. If you have a funny bone, be sure not to miss the back room of the first floor gallery. From Ruckus Manhattan, 42nd Street–Porno Bookstore (1976) is the one not-safe-for-work component of the original installation that was edited out of the more family-friendly 1981 version. Here, beyond the sculpture of some loitering leatherman, past gaudy curtains, is a reminder of the old Deuce. Grooms has painted the cover of every “magazine” in the smutty racks by giving them names as only he might. I was especially struck by “Cactus Club,” purportedly featuring things one should not do with a succulent.

Upstairs, the exhibition reveals the ultimate reason why Grooms has been so appealing. He is an exquisite draftsman. Here in works on paper, which are highlighted in the exhibition’s catalogue, we can see his great enthusiasm for city life and the many people who live it.

 Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes is not so much a “realist” as he is a “locationist.” Beyond his remarkable technique, which seems to capture landscape in uncanny wide-angle, “fish-eye” detail, what may be most significant is what we do not see in his work: a painter sharing a personal perspective on what is often a mundane scene—of overgrown fences, air-conditioning ductwork, or dusty riverbeds. Now at Betty Cuningham Gallery, “Rackstraw Downes: Paintings & Drawings” features eleven new paintings, and related drawings, of various perspectives observed from very specific places, including an intersection near Manhattan’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the artist’s own loft and studio.2

What unites Downes’s depictions of these anonymous places is his own particular and idiosyncratic relationship with them. There’s a lot of portraiture in these landscapes; you could never mistake one of his paintings for the work of anybody else.

Simply consider the way he constructs these scenes, which he composes on site without the aid of photography. Through several fascinating preparatory drawings on paper now at Cuningham, especially of the interchanges of the George Washington Bridge spiraling above Riverside Drive in Upper Manhattan, we can see Downes’s distillation of space through his evolving familiarity with place. The curve of the highway overpass comes into greater focus as he notes the subtle changes in appearance over time and season, which he marks with the hours and dates written in the margins. Unlike a snapshot, with its imperious single-point perspective, his compositions record the tracking of head and eye, mostly side to side, in the way we most naturally turn our heads in wide perspective rather than observing up and down.

Centered at a place of maximum visual interest, his compositions look for unifying forms that allow us to transit through complex spaces—ramps, fences, viaducts. The results may be unusual in the history of image-making. They nevertheless carry a familiarity in the shared way we experience space, newly observed from standing height.

In his selection of mundane locations—strange, again, as places to paint, but familiar as places we experience—Downes also shares an idiosyncratic sensibility towards landscape, and in particular the history of American landscape painting. Unlike the Hudson River School painters of beautified scenes, of a transcendent spiritualism conveyed through pristine depictions, Downes seeks out the quotidian in blemished and worked-over places.

The extremes of his anti-monumentalism can be absurd at times, wonderfully so, as in a series of paintings of Snug Harbor (not in this exhibition) that never look beyond the cramped ventilation ductwork snaking through an attic. Yet rather than lament the encroachment of man, Downes shows a reverence for the man-made and a fascination with its empirical intrigues. He labors over places that do things simply and without fanfare, such as the Sodium–Sulfur 4 Megawatt Battery System, Presidio, TX (2013) and the Vent Tower and Salt Shed (2017) along Manhattan’s West Side Highway. Rather than “landscapes,” he calls these “surroundings,” and his most recent work here features his most personal surrounds: his studio, recorded from multiple vantage points and tweaked through preparatory drawings; and an image of the Cuningham gallery itself, here presented as only Downes would choose to do it—from the narrow back-alley light shaft, stacked with air-conditioning condensers dripping onto a tiny weed growing by the drain.

  Graham Nickson , Red Lightning Sunset I,  2005 ,  Watercolor on paper ,  Courtesy of The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation Inc.

Graham Nickson, Red Lightning Sunset I, 2005, Watercolor on paper, Courtesy of The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation Inc.

Graham Nickson has dedicated his career to working against the grain. As a painter and watercolorist, he has sought to capture the beauty of land and sky without restraint, reveling in the gloam from points near and far. As the dean of the New York Studio School, he has challenged generations of artists to find their bliss through the craft of modern painting and sculpture. Both accomplishments are now on view in the school’s gallery in an exhibition titled “Cumulus, Monumental Trees and Transient Skies” that marks his thirtieth anniversary at the institution.3

Curated by The New Criterion’s critic Karen Wilkin and Rachel Rickert of NYSS, the show draws on the collection of the late philanthropist and New Criterion poet William Louis-Dreyfus, with forty works of clouds, trees, and skies, all clustered in series. The packed exhibition pushes Nickson’s chromatic sensibilities to the limit—at times to the point of over-amplification. The serial arrangement on one wall of fifteen watercolors of “Monumental Tree,” otherwise known as “Serena’s Tree,” presents a remarkable and united portrait of Nickson’s color range, capturing the same subject across times and seasons. A similar hang on another wall of various cloud studies fails to come together in the same way, perhaps due to the fact that the depicted locations vary.

Of course, the abundance of work speaks to the patronage of Louis-Dreyfus, a collector who quietly buoyed a generation of working artists. No gallery space could fully contain his extraordinary generosity. I hope this exhibition will encourage larger venues to try.

  Richard Timperio in his gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Paul Behnke.

Richard Timperio in his gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Paul Behnke.

One could call Richard Timperio a gallerist, but such a term might signal a commercial interest, while Timperio had none. Last month, Timperio died at age seventy-one, leaving a hole in New York’s alternative art world that will never be filled in the way he came to occupy it. Since 2000, Timperio had run his gallery called Sideshow from the ground floor of his building on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His history of exhibitions predated the rise of the Williamsburg art scene and came to postdate its precipitous demise. He exhibited artists across generations, and his gallery became a home for many at pivotal moments in their careers, uniting the studio cultures of Soho and Tribeca with the East Village and the outer boroughs.

In this space I have written often about his shows, with standout exhibitions of Thornton Willis, James Little, Dana Gordon, Louise P. Sloane, Tom Evans, and Joan Thorn, among several others. His greatest impact may have been in his omnium gatherum surveys that opened every new year. Here the work of just about every artist you cared for found some square inch of space on the gallery wall. Timperio, a Color Field painter himself, gave these exhibitions outlaw names such as “At the Alamo” and “Sideshow Nation,” which suited his own cowboy style. I doubt much ever sold, but the exhibitions became communities unto themselves, and the openings were the most packed events in town. With a space that might have rented for a quarter-million dollars a year, Timperio could have cashed out long ago. We are fortunate he instead dedicated his life to dealing so many artists in.

1 “Red Grooms: Handiwork, 1955–2018,” opened at Marlborough Contemporary, New York, on September 6 and remains on view through October 27, 2018.

2 “Rackstraw Downes: Paintings & Drawings” opened at Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, on September 5 and remains on view through October 14, 2018.

3 “Graham Nickson: Cumulus, Monumental Trees and Transient Skies” opened at the New York Studio School, New York, on September 4 and remains on view through October 21, 2018.


Sims City


Sims City

THE NEW CRITERION, September 2018

Sims City

On the ignominious removal of a Central Park monument.

Like something out of Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety, a black sign now appears in place of a statue that had stood at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street for over eighty years.

By order of Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Parks has relocated the statue of Dr. James Marion Sims to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where Sims is buried. Plans are being developed to commission a new monument on this site.

So a statue is gone from Manhattan, its online record wiped clean. James who? Doctor of what? Few noticed its presence; fewer now may notice its absence. The handful who wanted it gone—“by order of”—were louder than the many who did not care whether or not it stayed. And most are fine to leave the story there. But in an era out to prove its revolutionary impermanence, a case should be made for the history of a forgotten figure and the permanence of his small monument. The past deserves its say.

In defense of a statue—

The Central Park monument to J. Marion Sims was, until recently, one of a string of statues and plaques that adorns the park’s outer wall. Like the Ninety-first Street memorial to William T. Stead, a journalist who distinguished himself for bravery by sacrificing his life during the sinking of the Titanic, and the 101st Street monument to Arthur Brisbane, the “editor and Patriot,” the Sims statue existed in the civic background, largely overlooked, if not entirely forgotten, by the city that hosted it.

That changed on April 17, 2018. In a public event organized by the Mayor of the City of New York, as protesters, surrounded by a ring of media trucks, chanted “Marion Sims is not our hero,” a forklift raised the bronze statue from its base and deposited it on the back of a Parks Department pickup. With its head covered by a blue tarp, a yellow cable wrapped around its neck, the statue rode off to the shouts of the crowd and the clicking of the cameras. The statue has not been seen since.

Following the deadly August 2017 conflagration in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a national reckoning with monuments to the Confederacy, few might have predicted that Dr. Sims, the “father of modern gynecology,” would be the New Yorker ultimately destined for ignominious denouement. But such are the capricious politics of our modern iconoclasm and the unexpected opportunities it presents for displays of scolding and shame. Following a widening pattern of censorship, one that has quickly moved beyond Confederate memorials, a fever call for “social justice” has sought to redress history through public acts of effacement. Born out of a toxic relationship with the past, this frenzy should be alarming to anyone concerned with the intricacies of history and its record in material culture. In the case of Sims, the public verdict, issued without representation for the defendant, may have dishonored the legacy of an innocent and even heroic man.

Surgeon and philanthropist. Founder of the Woman’s Hospital State of New York. His brilliant achievement carried the fame of American surgery throughout the entire world.”

The inscription, carved into a roundel, is still in evidence beneath the cut bolts of what remains of Sims’s monument. It speaks to the historical sentiment behind his memorialization. Created by Ferdinand Freiherr von Miller in 1892, the bronze statue of Sims was first erected in Bryant Park. In 1934, the statue moved uptown to a new base facing the New York Academy of Medicine, which has occupied its current six-story building across Fifth Avenue since 1926.

In the case of Sims, the public verdict, issued without representation for the defendant, may have dishonored the legacy of an innocent and even heroic man.

That Sims was a pioneering surgeon in the area of women’s health is beyond dispute. His innovative surgeries became the basis for curing what were thought to be irreparable reproductive injuries, paving the way for the modern therapeutic practices and instruments that today benefit women worldwide. “In recognition of his services in the cause of science & mankind,” as a second roundel still reads, “awarded highest honors by his countrymen & decorations from the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, Spain & Portugal.”

The challenge for Sims has been our interpretation of his early research work around his home in Montgomery, Alabama. Between 1845 and 1849, Sims performed experimental surgeries to repair the vesicovaginal fistulae of twelve enslaved women, three of whom we know from Sims’s records by first name: Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey. This surgery was conducted without anesthesia on a population for whom the law did not compel personal consent. In recent decades, medical historians have cast these actions as unethical, if not abhorrent. With a record of experimentation on slaves, without anesthetic, Sims can easily come across as a Dr. Mengele of the antebellum South, and therefore ripe for condemnation.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 1993, Durrenda Ojanuga Onolemhemhen calls Sims’s surgeries on “powerless Black women” a “classic example of the evils of slavery and the misuse of human subjects for medical research.” In particular, Sims has been labeled an “anesthetic racist” for not practicing proper pain management on his enslaved patients, even as he performed multiple unsuccessful surgeries before perfecting his operating procedures.

When New York mayor Bill de Blasio convened a special commission last year to review “city art, monuments, and markers,” the panel arrived at similar conclusions. Arguing that “there is no question about the abuse of the women he experimented upon,” the commission wrote that Sims “has come to represent a legacy of oppressive and abusive practices on bodies that were seen as subjugated, subordinate, and exploitable in service to his fame.”

The commission’s recommendation to remove the statue from a neighborhood that “largely consists of communities of color, predominantly Latinx [sic] and Black” was met with the forklift a day later—a record turnaround for city work. The panel had served its political purpose—giving the mayor a pass on similarly controversial yet much more popular city monuments, including those of Christopher Columbus and Theodore Roosevelt, by targeting a lesser-known work.

While protest groups, including an organization called the “Black Youth Project 100,” had been staging graphic spectacles in front of Sims—young women have appeared wearing hospital gowns soaked in fake blood—“no person or group wrote or testified to request that the Sims monument remain in its current location.” By this, the commission therefore showed that the removal of Sims (unlike the Italian Columbus) would not upset a large bloc of city voters.

Yet, there are researchers who have long proposed a counter-narrative to the condemnation of Sims. Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2006, L. Lewis Wall, a doctor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, one who has been honored for his work on behalf of African women with vesicovaginal fistulae, offers a different understanding of Sims’s achievements. Dr. Wall notes the horrific long-term effects of vesicovaginal fistula, a tragic condition that results from crushing complications of labor and fetal death, and leaves a woman with a permanent hole between bladder and vagina, resulting in a loss of urinary and often fecal control and a befouling of the reproductive organs.

Records maintain that Sims did, in fact, gain patient consent for his procedures, argues Wall. Moreover, the sensitive nature of the surgery would have required a patient’s willingness to proceed. The surgeries also had a known therapeutic outcome—curing, for the first time, a horrific long-term affliction. As for the charge of “anesthetic racism,” it should be noted that the use of anesthetic ether was not first demonstrated until October 16, 1846, in Boston, a year after Sims began his operations in Alabama. Even then, its adoption was not immediately universal, and it carried its own complications; surgeons trained before its advancement often continued to practice without it, as Sims did later on both his black and white patients.

Taken as a whole, such an interpretation portrays Sims not as a monster, profiting off of sadistic experiments on “the Black body,” but as a surgeon who championed corrective intervention for a disregarded and, indeed, powerless population suffering from severe injury. We may never know what truly happened in his operating theater, but given the ultimately therapeutic outcomes Sims achieved for Lucy, Anarcha, Betsey, and the other women he cured, it may very well be that the only subject in this story operated upon unjustly and without consent is the statue of J. Marion Sims.

Such a fate reminds me of the story of “The Burghers of Calais,” here turned into postmodern farce. Besieged by the English in 1346, so the legend goes in its telling by the medieval writer Jean Froissart, the city of Calais was spared by Edward III for giving up six of its leading citizens—“burghers,” or bourgeois—presumably destined for execution. Headed by the first volunteer, Eustache de Saint Pierre, these local leaders sacrificed themselves to save their city during the Hundred Years’ War.

Through a commission from the French port, Auguste Rodin famously immortalized these men in his sculpture of 1889, portraying the local leaders not as divine heroes composed on pedestals but as ordinary, downtrodden, and, indeed, besieged figures. Their clothes are torn and their bodies are bound as they carry out the keys, and their duty, for the salvation of the town.

Today, such sacrifice is not immortalized in bronze. Rather, it is bronze that must be immortalized in sacrifice. Pushed from the gates of Manhattan, the statue of J. Marion Sims was besieged, and finally sacrificed, for New York’s supposed racial salvation. Such symbolic destruction may serve to connote a phantom catharsis. But, ultimately, the only real-world change is the destruction of the symbol itself through a spectacle that may only perpetuate historical injustice. Unlike those burghers of Calais, the mayors, governors, and institutional leaders of today will eagerly wrong the symbols of the dead, along with the complexities of history, to protect, and enhance, their own righteous living.