June 23, 2011

Compton Verney, Warwickshire

'Capability' Brown and the landscapes of Middle England

Set in its own "Capability" Brown landscape, Compton Verney makes the perfect venue for the first exhibition devoted to the renowned designer (25 June-2 October). Focusing on his work in the surrounding Midlands region, the exhibition explores how Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1716-83) created his "natural" Neo-Classical arcadias; how he responded to technological advances in shooting and carriage-making; and how he managed to move tonnes of earth and create hills, vales and lakes in an age before tractors and JCBs. Running in parallel is another exhibition at Compton Verney, Stanley Spencer and the English Garden, which focuses on the gorgeous landscapes painted by this most English of artists in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.


Two Boys

American composer Nico Muhly has worked with both Bjork and Philip Glass and has now written his first opera, loosely based on events that took place in an English city. When a teenager is stabbed and an older boy is caught on CCTV leaving the scene, it looks like an open and shut case. Yet nothing is as it seems, and Detective Inspector Anne Strawson soon uncovers a strange world of chatroom meetings, assumed identities, supposed spy rings and disturbing cybersex ... Set to a libretto by Craig Lucas and co-produced with New York's Metropolitan Opera, Two Boys is in repertory at the English National Opera from 24 June to 8 July and will be accompanied by a series of debates on the dark side of the internet and other issues raised by the opera.


Women's Word

The third annual Women's Word festival at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge opens with a gala dinner hosted by Sandi Toksvig on 24 June and continues for the rest of the weekend. Novelist Allison Pearson and journalist Natasha Walter consider "the problem with girls": Melissa Hines, professor of social and developmental psychology at the University of Cambridge, goes "in search of the female brain" and examines just what, if anything, differentiates the brains of men and women; writers Jill Paton-Walsh and Martyn Waites reflect on the challenges of using a narrator of the opposite sex; while a panel asks, "Why don't men read books by women?" A series of workshops offer guidance for those wanting to write children's books, crime fiction, film scripts, memoirs, poetry, short stories and television dramas.


Falling Up: The Gravity of Art

Peter Paul Rubens' Descent from the Cross (1611) depicts a seemingly weightless Christ. Cornelia Parker's sculptural installation Neither from nor Towards (1992) suspends bricks in an uncertain state of collapse or resurrection. Both highlight an ambiguous moment of apparent resistance to the force of gravity. This exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery (until 4 September), put together by MA students of curation at the Courtauld Institute of Art, picks out works from its historical collection and juxtaposes them with contemporary pieces held by the Arts Council, with startling results. As "trick photography" takes its place among engravings of the Tower of Babel and Auguste Rodin's bronze sculpture of a leaping Nijinsky, viewers are forced to examine all the different meanings attached to the notion or illusion of gravity in art.


Guilty Pleasures and Modern Vices

London Miles is a site-specific gallery that puts on shows inspired by comic books and other "lowbrow" art in different locations. It has called on young British talent from street artists Alex Young and Insa to incredible digital painter Tom Bagshaw, allotted each a vice or guilty pleasure and asked them to create work inspired by it. Alcoholism, fashion, gambling, gossip and vanity are among the themes to which they have turned their attention. The show will run for just five days until June at an East End venue: 65 Hanbury Street, London.

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