THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY in Washington, DC, has opened “1898: U.S. IMPERIAL VISIONS AND REVISIONS.” The museum describes this as the first major Smithsonian exhibition to examine the U.S. intervention in Cuba, and the nation’s expansion into Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. As such, it marks the 125th anniversary of the U.S. acquiring overseas territories and its emergence as a world power.(more…)
“PRAYER & TRANSCENDENCE” now at Washington, DC’s Textile Museum
THE TEXTILE MUSEUM at the George Washington University Museum has organized a fascinating exhibition that explores the role and iconography of classic prayer carpets–a subject I knew nothing about, but which I enjoyed thoroughly under the guidance of a superb docent.(more…)
“Pictures From Home” on Broadway: from book to stage, and into your heart
PICTURES FROM HOME currently running thru April 30 is the most delightful and thought-provoking play currently gracing the Broadway stages at this very moment. Featuring the tried-and-true Danny Burstein, Nathan Lane, and Zoë Wanamaker – three stellar actors at their very best – the play is wowing audiences with loads of laughter, wisps of tears, and nostalgia to boot, for one hour and forty-five intermissionless minutes. As to be expected, with such accomplished illuminate, be prepared to add a 7-minute tsunami of an uproariously well-deserved curtain bows.(more…)
The Counter/Self at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
THE COUNTER/SELF IS THE TITLE of this exhibition, immediately captured my attention. I have always been interested in the hidden characters of people, including myself. We all have many faces and various personalities in addition to the one we consider our true self. It brings to mind Janus with his two faces in mythology and all the people through historical and contemporary times who often changed their personalities. As I have experienced myself, it can happen when we’re under social pressure, relocating, or trying to succeed in a society that has a different culture than the one we’re used to. Every self is performative and we also summon different characters to avoid conflict with others or to please them, as needed. Each of us express or hide our various sides of ourselves. Both social and personal identities are created by inner drives and external expectations that mirror our dreams and fears. There are also the masks we choose to put on intentionally to transfer us into another world or character. So, I thought this exhibition would offer endless possibilities in addressing this complex and exiting theme.(more…)
NYC’s High Line Gallery 4: Brazil x Iran Colors and Forms
NYC’s HIGH LINE GALLERY 4 presents an exhibition of recent works by twenty Brazilian and Iranian artists, curated by Iranian Roya Khadjavi, and Brazilian Flavia Tamoyo. In the dead of a New York winter, this engaging diverse salon style exhibition comes as a revelation, where creativity and inclusiveness are the threads that weave together the energies of cross-cultural collaboration. The curators selected works whose forms and colors combine to express a unique take on the artists’ personal lives and concerns, that speak to issues both public and private dominating their thoughts. The show includes Maritza Caneca, Afsaneh Djabbari Aslani, Sylvia Martins, Dana Nehdaran, Malekeh Nayiny, Rona Neves, Zahra Nazari, Anna Paola Protasio, Maryam Palizgir, Mana Sazegara, Atieh Sohrabi, Bruno Schmidt, Erick Vittorino, Vincent Rosenblatt, Dariush Nehdaran, Mana Sazegara, Faraaz Zabetian, Malekeh Nayiny, Atieh Sohrabi, and Farnaz Zabetian.(more…)
Broadway’s Friedman Theater, Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat: Imagined Conversations
HAVING LIVED IN New York City’s East Village for many decades, the very neighborhood where much of the action in Anthony McCarten’s currently running Broadway play The Collaboration takes place, and where art world legends Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) – here beautifully channeled by actors Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope – could frequently be seen roaming the streets.(more…)
FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME
WE HAD FINISHED reviewing the galley proofs. Jane Isay, our publisher, hugged us and sighed, “This is the stuff dreams are made of.” Mike Kahn and I, unknown authors, had written what we imagined would be a book read only by psychotherapists. Now we were about to embark upon a nationwide tour, sponsored by a house whose writers had won Pulitzer Prizes. The typesetter (in those pre-digital days type was set by hand) was born in Puerto Rico. He got so carried away with The Sibling Bond that he sent a copy to his older sister. He urged Jane to have it translated into Spanish. It was later reborn El Vinculo Fraterno. In German it became Geschwister-Bindung .(more…)
‘Under the Skin’: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
Billed as “A Penetrating Portrayal of A Queer Giant,” performance artist John Kelly’s explosive gay-themed show “Underneath The Skin,” – bolstered by actor/dancers Hucklefaery, Estado Flotante, and John Williams Watkins, each playing multiple characters, a slew of videos, (one featuring Lola as Gertrude Stein), lots of song and dance, oodles of simulated male to male sex, and a cornucopia of informative lecture-like projections, all centering around the life and work of little known historical footnote Samuel Steward (1909-1993), channeled to a fare-thee-well by Kelly is currently holding court at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City at the Ellen Steward Theatre through Thursday, December 22.(more…)
NYC’s Gagosian & Nathaniel Mary Quinn: “Not Far From Home: Still Far Away”
Nathaniel Mary Quinn, “Not Far From Home; Still Far Away,” on view at Gagosian, presents an exploration of Quinn’s relationships in fourteen intense portraits, created in a range of media that includes oil paint, gouache, charcoal, oil stick and pastel. Distortion is the keynote of Quinn’s inner-based perception, expressed in a vision that transforms the artist, his friends and his female subject, apparently his mother. He disregards visually perceivable features, boldly executing truncated, layered, re-imagined, and spliced images that exude a sense of deep emotional anguish. Quinn’s impeccable inventive paintings compare with the visceral images Francis Bacon created in his portraits, and Picasso’s Synthetic Cubist women.(more…)
Broadcast Agonistes: Washington Shakespeare Theater’s “Much Ado About Nothing”
Just when you think Shakespeare might be too Old School for the 21st century, headlines pop up to remind us that WS was pretty clever about the constants of human behavior. ABC Network worked itself into a tizzy recently when the two anchors of “GMA3”, its afternoon spinoff of “Good Morning America,” were revealed to be romantically involved. GASP! The tabloids and social media had such a hot time revealing all that the president of ABC News “temporarily removed” the anchors from the air because their romance had “become a distraction.”(more…)
NYC’s Grimm with Tjebbe Beekman’s “Tetris”
Grimm presents “Tetris,” an exhibition of seventeen new acrylic and acrylic emulsion paintings by Dutch artist Tjebbe Beekman. In Beekman’s deeply felt and strongly envisioned images, the components and fragments function as indefinable players in what can be described as confounding theatrical productions; they immediately impress the viewer with their powerful symbolic meaning. The title of the exhibition lends insights into Beekman’s artistic intentions. “Tetris” is defined as an “endeavor involving rearranging things of a different shape into physical space.”(more…)
Laura Pels Theatre: “You Will Get Sick”–So Real, Surreal & Otherworldly
“You Will Get Sick,” currently playing Off Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre here in NYC through Sunday, December 11 is the most riveting, and mind-stretching play that I have seen this season. The reason being, is that you really have to pay close attention to know where you are at any given moment, as there are more twists and turns then a frog in a blender. Blink and you are in another world.(more…)
Washington’s NGA, “The Artful Traveler: Sargent in Spain”
A CENTURY AGO, WHEN portraiture was the leading platform proclaiming status and position, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was in high-demand as the top portrait artist of his era. He was lauded by his long-time friend, writer Henry James, for his ability to translate visual perception into art “as if painting were pure tact of vision, a simple manner of feeling.” (Henry James, “Picture & Text,” Harper’s Magazine, 1887.)(more…)
Flying high at NYC’s Hayes Theater: ‘The Kite Runner’…Closing Sunday, Oct. 30th!
Sometimes, a gripping story with universal relevance sells big. Such was the(more…)
case of “The Kite Runner,” Khaled Hossein’s 2003 semi-autobiographical
novel which was turned into a movie, a graphic novel, an audio tape, and a
new Broadway play. Topping the New York Times Bestseller list for over two
years – thanks to countless book clubs across the country – it took the reading
public by storm.
More Than a Wall: Maya Lin at Washington, D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery
This Fall, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., has opened a “One Life” exhibition spotlighting architect/designer/sculptor Maya Lin. The Gallery’s Curator of Painting and Sculpture, Dorothy Moss, had first thought of doing a video portrait of Lin, but as she explored her subject, she began to think instead of an exhibit that portrayed Lin’s unique career. Lin’s work has an intriguing hybrid quality that embraces photography, sculpture, liquids, and solids–an approach she defines as “existing on the boundaries–between East and West, public and private.” (Maya Lin to Dorothy Moss)(more…)
NYC’s Chain Theater: Everlasting Love’s “2 ½ BREATHS”
What is it to become a word? To become or even create an emotion that doesn’t exist…at least not yet. How much power does the artist have to convince and make believe? The awesome power to make one believe. How much potential does movement theatre actually have? In this world? Now. These questions have been the driving force in writing this piece – Playwright Bridgette Loriaux
Every once in a while, a little-known theater company, usually from a distant city, mounts an amazing ground-breaking theatrical production, brings it to New York City for a limited run, and then returns to their home base leaving us all lusting for more.(more…)
DARIO ZUCCHI’S JOYFUL PHOTOGRAPHS: “The Unexpected Smile” at Washington’s Stanford Gallery
The Art Gallery of Stanford in Washington, D.C., is currently hosting a photographic exhibition aptly named “The Unexpected Smile, 2022: Selected Photographs of Dario Zucchi.” Stanford Gallery Director Adrienne M. Jameson writes in the catalogue’s Preface, “Imagine our good fortune in encountering Dario Zucchi’s work at the precise moment we needed to experience it! His photographs not only draw us back into the museum after a seemingly endless hiatus, but also enable us to revel in what makes an afternoon in a gallery distinctive, the intertwining of art and viewer.” (Catalogue, 4)(more…)
Baryshnikov Arts Center with, “The Orchard”: A Holographic Circus
I seem to remember reading, in all of the hoopla surrounding the Baryshnikov Art Center’s Production of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, somebody saying “Unlike anything that you ever saw before.”
This talking head could also have said, as audiences were soon to find out, that this production, adapted, created, reimagined, and directed by Kiev born Igor Golyak, and starring Mikhail Baryshnikov is a work of genius. Obviously, the great Chekov is embedded deeply in their bones.
Titled “The Orchard,” Golyak’s two-version production (both live and virtual), presented as a limited run, opened on June 16 and closed on July 3rd. Way too soon if you ask me. Hopefully, it will be brought back somehow, somewhere by a theater-loving angel.
To ensure that the audience’s eyes and ears were glued to the stage throughout, director Golyak cleverly chose to use what some critics deemed the star of the play, an imposing vertical 12-foot metal crane-like arm placed center stage on an all-blue set (Anna Fedora). It serves coffee, sweeps the floor, acts as a tree, a person, a bookcase, a place to hide from danger, and a beeping camera that films the play’s goings on. More importantly, it serves to direct our eyes to the play’s imminent action.
Brilliantly encasing the entire production is Carol Rocamora’s translation of Chekov’s last play, The Cherry Orchard (1904). Though most of the play’s original language was kept, a few scenes, though barely noticeable, were cut and rearranged. Eliminated was Dunyasha. the maid, and her would-be lover.
Added to the play’s mix, quite effectively was a giant stage-covering scrim which intermittently featured on its surface live text, video, and close-ups of the actors in real time. Equally absorbing were several speeches delivered in ALS sign language, as well as in French, Russian, and German. Also, slipped into the play’s text, adding a touch of twenty-first century was mention of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv.
Another beguiling addition to the stage was a robotic silver metal dog that could be seen playfully scampering about the stage. Able to do tricks, as well as play dead, it was an audience favorite.
Aside from Firs’ (Baryshnikov), the long-time estate’s keeper appearing to open up the house, the play truly begins with the arrival of Lyobov Andreevna Ranevskaya (Jessica Hecht) to the family’s estate in the Russian countryside. Ranevskaya had run off to Paris with her lover to escape the grief she felt over the loss of her young son. And now she is back.
Following in her fashionable entrance, we meet her brother Gaev (Mark Nelson), her adopted daughter Varya (Elise Kibble), her natural daughter Anya (Juliet Brett), and their servants. They are there to try and save the beloved home and cherry orchard from being auctioned off due to an unpaid mortgage.
Rounding out the cast, each with their own intricate story which links them closely to the family, is Darya (Charlotta Ivanova, also Golyak’s wife), Pyotr (John McGinty, hearing- challenged in real life), a frightening Russian-speaking, Passerby (Llia Volak) in black military dress, another Golyak nod to the ongoing Ukrainian war, and Lopakhin (Nael Nacer), the now rich, former peasant who ends up buying the Orchard.
Lopakhin’s idea to save the orchard which unfortunately falls on deaf ears, is to turn the estate into a tourist attraction by creating rent-paying summer houses on the property. We realize that times are a-changing – the Russian revolution of 1917 which marked the end of the Romanov dynasty is only 11 years away – when Lopakhin gloats, after he buys the estate that he and his father were never allowed into the family’s home. His only regret is that the beautiful Ranevskaya does not come along with his purchase of the estate.
The virtual live production, with the same 2 hour running time, features the play’s most dramatic scenes, punctuated by performances by Baryshnikov as Anton Chekov, and Hecht as his wife and mistress. Here the viewer follows Chekov into a virtual replica of the Baryshnikov Arts Center building where we could enter various rooms where we hear both Chekhov speaking in Russian with subtitles, and his wife and mistress, often quoting letters, talking about their lives.
Happening at the same time we get to see the audience sitting in the theater, some who are participating in the estate’s sale, flashed on the scrim. The virtual performance ends outside the now sold arts center with Baryshnikov, this time as Firs, slowly walking away with his belongings. In the live theatre production, after everybody leaves, and Firs forgotten by the family he has served all his life is alone. Firs, hearing the sounds of the cherry orchard’s trees being chopped down in the background just before everything vanishes, he sadly comments to himself that, “Life has slipped by as though I hadn’t lived.”
For those lucky enough to catch either version of the play, both magnified by an army of design wizards and technical geniuses, from Scenic Design (Anna Fedorova), Costume Design (Oana Botez), Lighting Design (Yuki Nakase Link), Projection Design (Alex Basco Koch), Sound Design (Tei Blow), Robotic Design (Tom Sepe), Emerging Technology design (Adam Paikowsky). Interactivity Design (Anna Hrustaleva), to a ASL sign language expert (Alexey Prosvirnin), and a clowning coach (Alita West), the experience, hypnotic to say the least, was not unlike watching a giant aquarium filled with a frenzy of tropical fish. This, primarily due to the effect of the giant scrim which ironically both distanced ourselves, as well as brought us a lot closer to the play’s action.
By Edward Rubin, Senior Contributing Editor
Note: Masks required in building and theatre, along with proof of a vaccination, and a valid government issued photo ID.
Cast: Mikhail Baryshnikov (Anton Chekov/Firs Nikolaevich), Jessica Hecht (Lyobov Andreevna Ranevskaya), Elise Kibler (Varya Mikhailovna), Juliet Brett (Anya), Nael Nacer (Yermolai Alekseevich Lopakhin), Darya Denisova (Charlotta Ivanovna), Mark Nelson (Leonid Andreevich Gaev), John McGinty (Pyotr Sergevich), LLia Volak (Passerby)
Technical: Scenic Design: Anna Fedora, Costume Design: Oana Botez, Lighting Design: Yuki Nakase Link, Projection Design: Alex Basco Koch, Sound Design: Tei Blow, Clowning Coach: Aelita West, Music Composition: Jakov Jakoulov, Emerging Technologies: Adam Paikowsky, Robotics Design: Tom Sepe, Hair/Makeup: Anna Hrustaleva, Interactivity Design: Alexander Huh, Virtual Sound Design: Alexey Prosvirnin, Director of ASL: Seth Gore, Director of Photography: Leanna Keyes, Production Manager: Jason Reis, Associate Producer Virtual: Zachary Meicher-Buzzi, Production Stage Manager: Jennifer Rogers
The Orchard conceived, adapted, directed, and reimaged by Igor Golyak and based on Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard as translated by Carol Rocamora, opened on Thursday, May 16, 2022 for a limited run through Sunday 3rd at the Baryshnikov Arts Center at 459 275 West 37th Street in Manhattan. Running time is just under 2 hours with no intermission. For more info or to buy tickets call 617-942- 0022 x 1 or log on www.theorchardoffbroadway.com
NYC’s Irish Rep- “Belfast Girls”: Three Months on a Slow Boat to Australia
Playwright’s Note: Between the years 1848 and 1851 over four thousand Irish females took passage on ships from Ireland to Australia under the Orphan Emigration Scheme, established by Earl Grey. This action had the effect of relieving many of the workhouses and poorhouses of Ireland (already full to the brim with people seeking respite from the ravages of the ‘Great Famine’), and of providing ‘new blood’ for the Colonies – wives, servants, farm-workers. The women who left were more generally known as ‘orphan girls’, though many were neither orphans or, strictly speaking, girls. The most notorious and riotous amongst these – both in transit and on arrival in Australia – were known as the Belfast girls.(more…)
D.C.’s Renwick Gallery Celebrates Its 50th
Centrally-located across from the White House, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery (part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum) is the nation’s flagship museum of American craft and decorative arts. Opened in 1972, the museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by showcasing widely-diverse perspectives of craft and design with the exhibition THIS PRESENT MOMENT: CRAFTING A BETTER WORLD. The museum launched an acquisitions campaign in 2020 to enlarge the number of Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and women artists represented in its permanent collection. More than 200 craft objects were collected, and over 130 of these newly-acquired works are among the 171 artworks on display in THIS PRESENT MOMENT. Nora Atkinson, the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick helped organize the exhibition with Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, and Anya Montiel, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.(more…)
Which Way To The Stage: An Ode To The Theater, On and Off Stage
MCC Theater’s production of Which Way To The Stage running through Saturday, May 28, at Robert W. Wilson Theater Space at 511 West 52 nd Street in Manhattan, is one of the most enjoyable plays that I saw this season. Not only has the play been extended a week – my very hope while watching the play – but the audience, a heavy contingent of yeah-saying youngsters, many obviously actors most likely seduced by word-of-mouth, not only continued to clap after the actors left the stage, but gathered in the theater’s lobby to continue the conversation. And why not, as playwright Ana Nogueira, an actress herself, had just fed them the unvarnished story of life in the theater…the ups, and downs, and sideways.
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Uncovers Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’
Another Picasso exhibition? Yes, he was brilliant and there are new generations waiting to discover his significance—but is there really anything new to say? The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, and the Art Gallery of Ontario think there is, and have co-curated a new exhibition whose ambitious purpose is revelation. To achieve this goal, PICASSO: PAINTING THE BLUE PERIOD showcases how X-Ray imaging reveals young Picasso’s emergence as a distinctive painter in his early career in Paris and Barcelona. There is always room for new ideas in art history, and Phillips Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele believes that since much conservation work is done behind the scenes, sharing their work with the public “is a unique chance to spotlight the science of preserving art.”(more…)
NYC’s Almine Rech Gallery with Sarah Cunningham: “In Its Daybreak, Rising”
Almine Rech presents “In Its Daybreak Rising,” an exhibition of eighteen new abstract oil paintings by Sarah Cunningham. The exhibition is unusually focused and pure in its means. The semi-abstract works with representational underpinnings speak for themselves; their surprising immediacy quickly engages the viewer. One is not asked to read long texts pertaining to the show, or to contend with convoluted explanations of current trends that abound from the Metropolitan Museum to galleries in every art district in New York. Abstract painting comes in many guises; the works are often visually attractive, but ultimately fail to convey meaningful content, which would make them matter more authentically. Beauty is never wrong if it is authentic, but without an in-depth foothold, it can tilt toward the decorative, Sarah Cunningham’s works have no link to decoration. The psychologically complex works present configurations of thick worked media that create depth, movement, and inner space.(more…)
Washington, DC’s Hillwood Museum: “The Luxury of Clay- Porcelain Past and Present”
Today ceramic objects are taken for granted, including earthenware, brick or even fine porcelain because of their omnipresence. We eat from plates, drink from cups and mugs and decorate our dwellings with vases filled with flowers. The ceramic industry is one of the oldest that goes back thousands of years, perhaps because clay was plentiful, the process basic and people figured out how to make useful and decorative things with it. One of the earliest pieces ever created using fired clay dates back to the late Paleolithic period 28,000 BC. A female statue of a nude woman, known as the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, was discovered in the Paleolithic site Dolní Věstonice in the Moravian area south of Brno in the Czech Republic. Also found at this same site in a horseshoe shaped kiln were hundreds of clay figurines representing Ice Age animals ––bear, lion, fox, horse and owl along with over 2000 balls of burnt clay.
In China pot fragments dating back to 18,000-17,000 BCE have been found. Historians believe that China’s use of pottery successively spread to Japan and the Russian Far East region where archeologists have recovered shards of ceramic artifacts dating to 14,000 BCE. However, progress toward porcelain making evolved very slowly in China since its production is far more challenging than that for earthenware or stoneware. Porcelain is the most prestigious kind of pottery because of its delicacy, strength, and radiant translucent, white color and was finally produced about 2,000 to 1,200 years ago in China.(more…)
Picasso and the Guitar: Memory and Metaphor
Inspired by, ‘Picasso: Guitars (1912-14)’- At the Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Though living in France most of his life, Picasso was a Spaniard, through-and-through, remaining proud of his birthright, cultural heritage and sun-drenched memories of childhood, over his lifetime. Any retrospective of his work as a painter and sculptor reveals that he was continually informed by the iconic images of Spain, at both conscious and unconscious levels: the raven-haired, large-eyed female figures, matadors and bull-fighting motifs, the open-balcony studio settings of his imagination, replete with palm-strewn vistas of warm seas, mythic creatures from Greco-Roman legend and seductive naked sylphs, all belie his enduring visceral attachment to las cosas de españa.(more…)
New York City Opera & Museum of Jewish Heritage: ‘The Garden of the Finzi-Continis’
Despite countless closings, postponements, cancellations, empty seats, Covid interventions, and the annoying requirement of having to wear a mask, present proof of a vaccination with a valid government issued photo ID, and go through a security check, even before you enter the theatre, New York City’s theater scene appears to be chugging along, surprisingly so, with an abundance of better than- usual fare.(more…)
Two Rivers, Worlds Apart: Linked by Opium and American Ambition
The Connecticut River cradles the city of Middletown (f. 1653), at a modest bend in its course, a place originally called Mattabesset, Algonquin for “end of the carrying place.” Tranquility now prevails over the city’s waterfront park, with its east-facing view of neighboring Portland (once called Chatham), and expansive southerly vista toward Haddam’s broad navigable channel.(more…)
Maryland’s Glenstone with Charles Ray: An Ongoing Series of Rotating Exhibitions
Charles Ray is known for his uncanny realistic sculptures of cars, plants, and humans. He has been making art for nearly five decades. He was born in Chicago and moved to L.A. in 1981 where he continues to reside. Ray has had a flourishing international career; exhibiting his work in numerous prestigious venues as three Venice Biennales, Kunst Museum Basel, five Whitney Biennials, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago and Documenta to mention only a few. Although he is known for such iconic figurative works as the Family Romance, 1993; Boy with Frog, 2009 and his experimental statues. Ray’s work does not lend itself to specific categorization since it is ever evolving and rooted in the time and place of its conception(more…)
NYC’s Atlantic Theater Co.- Kimberly Akimbo: A Young Soul In An Old Body
Kimberly Akimbo the newly penned musical with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Shrek the Musical) and music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Caroline, or Change) is the most loving, loveliest, and poignant theatrical experience of the year. Starring the invincible Victoria Clark whose every performance is pure gold (she won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for The Light in the Piazza 2005), Kimberly Akimbo is currently gracing the stage at NYC’s Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater through Saturday, January 15.(more…)
IN THE HEIGHTS, BELFAST, and WEST SIDE STORY: Capturing a Sense of Place
A pandemic life of semi-isolation has given me a renewed appreciation for living in a community. In between Covid surges this past year, three movies struck me as more relevant than they perhaps originally intended. IN THE HEIGHTS, BELFAST, and the new version of WEST SIDE STORY each showcased neighborhood communities and the generations that fostered them. Each also conveyed how new generations had their own dreams, and how fulfilling their new hopes demanded escaping the place that had originally nurtured them. Life is complicated.(more…)
In Memorium: Stephen Sondheim
There will be hundreds of “appreciation” pieces published in print and online during the next few days memorializing the life and work of Stephen Sondheim who died Friday at the age on 91. There will be tens of thousands of mourning Facebook posts and emails spun around the globe. But this one may be slightly different from the majority, although thousands and thousands of devotees feel the same way.(more…)
A Guest Editorial: “Beauty in Things that Pass – what dogs can teach us”
It wasn’t planned. And that’s perhaps what made it all the more magical. But this past Christmas morning, Vlad and his best friend Malibu were the only dogs in the baseball field (the one we pretend is a dog park). I’m not sure why they were the only dogs there. It might have been the holiday, of course, or the hour (7am). Or it could have been the mud left from the previous day’s snow flurries. And HERE is what ensued:(more…)
Manhattan Theatre Club’s ‘Morning Sun’: No Heart Untouched
Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of British Playwright Simon Stephen’s three-generation memory play Morning Sun ran through Sunday, December 19th at New York City Center.For the discerning theatergoers who live and die theater, and perhaps still remember the dazzling effectiveness of Stephen’s Tony winning play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (2015) it was a must see. I kid you not.(more…)
New York’s Gagosian Shows Nathaniel Mary Quinn: Not Far From Home: Still Far Away
Nathaniel Mary Quinn, “Not Far From Home; Still Far Away,” on view at Gagosian, presents an exploration of Quinn’s relationships in fourteen intense portraits, created in a range of media that includes oil paint, gouache, charcoal, oil stick and pastel. Distortion is the keynote of Quinn’s inner-based perception, expressed in a vision that transforms the artist, his friends and his female subject, apparently his mother. He disregards visually perceivable features, boldly executing truncated, layered, re-imagined, and spliced images that exude a sense of deep emotional anguish. Quinn’s impeccable inventive paintings compare with the visceral images Francis Bacon created in his portraits, and Picasso’s Synthetic Cubist women.(more…)
Denver’s Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities with ‘Text in Art’
Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Ed Ruscha, and Christopher Wool are just a few of the most renowned artists who have very successfully used words as key elements in their art. After all, visual art is a form of communication, and the addition or focus on text in the creative process can be a very powerful tool. Currently, the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Arvada, Colorado is presenting two excellent exhibitions curated by Emily Grace King and Collin Parson that focus on a number of contemporary artists who too address the import and range of text in art.(more…)
HUNG LIU: ‘A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY,’ AT NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, WASHINGTON, D.C.
In August, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., opened HUNG LIU: PORTRAITS OF PROMISED LANDS. An immigrant herself, the Chinese American artist Hung Liu is best-known for creating large-scale portraits that transform refugees and other marginalized figures into “dignified, even mythic figures on the grand scale of history painting” (Hung Liu quote). Dorothy Moss, the museum’s Curator of Painting and Sculpture, worked with Liu for the past three years to develop this exhibition. “We spoke at length about her engagement of history through her use of photographic archives,” Moss told me, explaining that Liu used photographic images “to create portraiture that positions ‘history as a verb.'” The artist believed her art was a way to connect past with present — to use the constant flow of history to create a visual narrative about how “things of the spirit stay with us much longer than things of the past” (Hung Liu quote).(more…)
On My Bucket List
If it’s September, it’s réttir, or sheep round up time in Iceland. Some 800,000 of the Norwegian-Icelandic variety (short legged and densely coated) are let out to pasture in late spring to freely roam, untended and unfenced, in the pastures and hillsides of the verdant Icelandic landscape. There, they graze for months on an abundant diet of sheep’s sorel, mountain avens, blueberries and broad leaf grasses. Nurturing, fresh water mountain streams crisscross virtually every open field. Sure-footed and affable, they can be seen, clustered in small groups—almost always a ram and 3-5 ewes—beside the country’s roadways or spotted in the distance as minuscule white dots, high on the sloping mountain ranges. A motorist is more likely to encounter a sheep crossing the highway, than any other kind of wildlife. Such unwarranted encounters are rare, though, because in the vast, open landscape, highway visibility can extend for miles.(more…)
Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams
The night I attended a live production of Jacob Storm’s one man show, Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams,held at the Cell Theater in New City, it was raining lightly. Though the playwright actor was protected by a small overhang which covered the staging area, the umbrella holding, stage-facing audience, seated outside in the theater’s lovely garden was not. Ironically, this being a second rain date, it was touch and go as to whether this play would go on at all. I reminded the nervously pacing Storms — who was performing this night for an audience of 18 (composed chiefly of theater critics — how scary can things get?) – about Diana Ross’ 1983 Central Park concert in which, drenched to the bone she continued to sing throughout half a murderous storm.(more…)
NYC’s George Street Playhouse with, “Tiny Beautiful Things”
Tiny Beautiful Things, George Street Playhouse’s filmed play, based on Cheryl Strayed’s book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (2012), a collection of Strayed’s columns is beautifully brought to life by actress Laiona Michelle, who as Sugar, plays a down-to-earth, expletive-spouting advice-giving columnist. While the play’s three accompanying actors, John Bolger, Kally Duling. and Ryan George, each playing a wide range of advice-seeking letter writers, occupy their supporting cameos quite nicely, it is Laiona Michelle’s emotionally absorbing, take no prisoners star-turn that commands our fullest attention.(more…)
‘Fierce Poise’: A NEW LOOK AT HELEN FRANKENTHALER
The end of World War II signaled a vast new beginning. Life pulsed with hope as people eagerly embraced change. French couturier Christian Dior tossed aside the war’s strictures against using fabric for fashion and premiered his extravagent “New Look” in 1947–a retro salute to “radical femininity” that featured tight-fitting jackets, padded hips, and yards of flowing A-line skirts. Carmel Snow, editor of America’s HARPER’S BAZAAR, tagged Dior’s fashion by exclaiming “It’s quite a revolution…Your dresses have such a new look!”(more…)
‘Safe House’-Sarasota’s Innovative Theater In the Age of Covid
After Fletcher leaves his cybersecurity job with a powerful corporation, he and his wife, Ava, hide with damning company secrets. Then Ava mysteriously disappears. But where did she go? Fletcher turns to strangers to find out.
Without a doubt, Safe House , which does not include live actors, is hardly typical live theater. And “audience members” are anything but passive viewers. Instead, they are the strangers to whom Fletcher turns to find his wife.(more…)
Bad Dates: A Dazzling Array Of Shoes, Clothes, Men, Police, and the Roumanian Mafia
For great fun, and a breathless romp through one woman’s topsy-turvy life, Bad Dates , George Street Playhouses’ filmed version of Theresa Rebeck’s 2003 zany one-woman play starring Broadway actress Andréa Burns ( In The Heights, On Your Feet, The Nance ), is the hip place to be.(more…)
The Melancholy Soul of Tchaikovsky: A Cinematic Journey
Canadian born Hershey Felder, writer, actor, playwright, composer, and musician – piano is his forte – with some 5,000 one-man solos shows performed around the world since 1999, is known for creating historically accurate and exquisitely nuanced portrayals of world-famous composers. Among his extensive composers’ repertoire—each of which he brings gloriously alive—are musical greats Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Puccini, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, and Tchaikovsky. Many of these productions are available for purchase at www.HersheyFelder.net.(more…)
The Uncommon Path of Ronald Weintraub: Kaleidoscopic Abstraction
“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent, with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” ~Henri Matisse
Ronald Weintraub became an artist by an uncommon path. He was a prominent entrepreneur with multiple careers including leading a family business, the founder and CEO of Harmon, the largest publisher of real estate photo magazines in the United States and the publisher of the New York Sun newspaper. Earlier he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California studying Political Science. Although he was pressured by his father to join the family business after graduation, he opted in 1956 to enter the Army and spent two years in Camp Zama, Japan, during the Post-American Occupation. Weintraub refers to this “as a significant transformative time of my life!” This was a critical turning point because of his involvement in army life with a wide range of US and Japanese. On returning in 1958, he attended Harvard’s Business School learning from the pragmatic case method. This applied philosophical approach to problem solving would shape and influence all of his future participations both in business and art.(more…)
‘Merchants of Deceit’: A work of historical fiction due in spring `21
“Opium has a harm. Opium is a poison, undermining our good customs and morality. Its use is prohibited by law…However, recently the purchasers, eaters, and consumers of opium have become numerous. Deceitful merchants buy and sell it to gain profit.” ~ ~Qainlong Emperor (known as Hongli), 6th in Succession, Qing Dynasty (1793)
The Samuel Russell House occupies a prominent place on the Wesleyan University campus, a neoclassical ‘wedding cake’ located on the corner of Washington and High Streets. Its prominence speaks to the career legacy of the man who planned and coordinated the 1827-28 construction of architect, Ithiel Town’s design for the home. But, many are not aware of the fact that Russell’s rise to prominence in Middletown derived from his accrued fortune in the sale of opium, tied to the early 19th century China Trade. The detailed historical records left behind by Samuel Russell speak volumes about his skills as a fastidious financial record-keeper and prescient businessman, but little about the heart and soul of the man who accomplished so much for himself, his family and the busy trading hub of his birthright, Middletown, CT.(more…)
The ‘Big Lie’: A Cautionary Note
It is a mistake to believe that the long nightmare is over. Over the last five years, Donald T**** has injected a slow-acting venom into the American consciousness, the effects of which will continue to manifest, even after he micro-manages his ’emperor has no clothes’ exit on the 20th of January. On this eve of a new administration, it is useful to remember some history, recognizing that while events may not repeat themselves, ithey often rhyme (thank you, Mark Twain). I’ve been recalling a Wesleyan University seminar I chaired in 2017, just months after the last election. Entitled: Rise of the Right: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and the Age of Extremism, the day- long event was intended to alert conference goers to the through-line betwween past and present and–at that particular time–our uncertain and perilous future with a known autocratic despot at the controls. I dug into my files, to find the attached handout, which I had prepared for that event (a scan of the original).(more…)
Washington, D.C.’s Nat’l Portrait Gallery: ‘Remember the Ladies”
In a March 31, 1776 letter to her husband John, Abigail Adams urged him and other members of the Continental Congress to “remember the ladies…all men would be tyrants if they could.” It would take until 1920 for women to achieve Suffrage, but the indomitable Abigail–despite her inability to vote or hold property–would be a powerful First Lady in John Adams’ Presidency (1797-1801).(more…)
217 Films: Considering Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’ and America
“Civilisation has been a series of rebirths. Surely this should give us confidence in ourselves.” ~Lord Kenneth Clark
In the latest in their series entitled, ‘Essays in Film,’ documentary film makers, Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton (217 Films) have once again shed light on a complex historical theme, placing it in the context of our vast American cultural narrative. After tackling topics like, Art in the Gilded Age, Arts of the Works Progress Administration, and the 1913 Armory Show, among others, this time their sights came to rest on British art historian and BBC star, Lord Kenneth Clark, and his much-touted 1970’s TV series, “Civilisation.” The video’s late-2020 release celebrates the 50th anniversary (1970-2020) of the American public television premiere of Lord Clark’s ground-breaking, thirteen-part BBC documentary series. Featuring archival footage from the original programs, as well as contemporaneous interviews with Sir David Attenborough and James Stourton (Clark’s definitive biographer), this documentary, entitled, “Civilisation and America,” focuses on the ways in which the series, airing in American homes in the midst of a time of great political and social upheaval, was received on this side of the Atlantic.(more…)
A serendipitous opportunity to read ‘Enraptured by Raptors’!
The newly published work by photographer/author, Jennifer Packard, Enraptured by Raptors, offers a most welcome, positively uplifting saga. In an unlikely stroke, its action centers around the recent real life of a family of red- shouldered hawks; it is replete with wonders of discovery, raptors’ behavior and activities that we can actually relate to, and an encouragingly heartwarming response to it all, by an urban Wahington, D.C. community.(more…)
NYC’s Pace Gallery- “Adrian Ghenie: The Hooligans”
Pace presents “Adrian Ghenie: The Hooligans,” an exhibition of nine large-scale semi-abstract oil paintings and three charcoal drawings rendered on paper. The term “hooligans” refers to an underground group of individuals who ignore the limitations of polite society, shaping their lives to be free of constraints. In his powerful new works, Ghenie explores the artists who formed movements that rocked established academies, challenging the status quo of their times with new visions of transformed realities, reinvigorating art in the process. Ghenie has identified J.M.W. Turner, the Impressionists, especially Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin as the artist “hooligans” whose activities he chooses to emulate. His focus is on the primacy of oil paint in a semi-abstract approach which downplays figurative imagery. This daring exhibition is beautifully installed, presenting bold monumental paintings and intriguing charcoal drawings, but it is unfortunate that it is located on the second floor, where it is possible that the public may overlook it.(more…)
14-Year old Musician/Actor Joshua Turchin Takes the Stage by Storm
Joshua Turchin wrote the book and lyrics, and composed the music, to an original, award-winning, Broadway-bound musical which wowed New York critics. Not bad for a 14-year-old, huh? But the New York-based youngster, who is also an actor, would rather you not dwell on his age. Instead, he wants people to focus on his accomplishments. And there are many. For instance, Joshua recently released the cast EP of his Broadway-bound musical, The Perfect Fit. The EP, or extended playlist, is available on platforms such as Amazon, iTunes, and Apple Music.(more…)
Streaming: Jessica Sherr’s ‘Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies’
Of all the celebs channeled by drag queens and female impersonators, Bette Davis, like flies to honey, has always been at the top of every performers list. Her mannerisms, her clipped New England cadences, her famous lines like “fasten your seatbelt this is going to be a bumpy ride,” and the forever dangling cigarette in her airborne hand, like the actress herself, are legendary.(more…)
ABE: A MASKED LINCOLN PORTRAIT
George Washington may be revered as the tradition-setting first President, but Abraham Lincoln remains the President we turn to in dire times. His words and understanding have a timeless human sensibility–his accessibility makes him “present” when we need national reassurance.(more…)
Lincoln’s ability to remain high on our radar is reflected in how often he’s been showcased. In 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall. Architect Henry Bacon created a neoclassical temple, and Daniel Chester French designed the remarkable interior Lincoln sculpture that looms over the Mall.
NYC’s Mnuchin Gallery—Church and Rothko: Sublime
“Church and Rothko: Sublime,” an exhibition of twenty-seven oil paintings on canvas, brings into focus, in the context of the ‘Sublime,’ the similarities and divergences of two deeply contrasting artists who extended the art of painting to suit their overriding visions, separated by a span of nearly 100 years. Michael Altman Fine Art and Christopher Rothko collaborated with Robert Mnuchin and the Mnuchin team to present this respectful, comprehensive and deeply appreciative journey through the pictorial language of a 19th and a 20th Century master, who succeeded in transmuting their art to the level of the emotional and psychological sublime, through purely visual means. The show adheres to an expanded, unconventional definition of the ‘Sublime,’ which includes not only the contemporary sense of the ‘majestic,’ but the Romantic era version, as well, of a frightening, perilous dark side. There are ten abstract Rothko works and seventeen Frederic Church oil paintings on view.(more…)
HBO’s ‘Coastal Elites’- Grappling with Politics, Culture and the Pandemic
Ever since Covid-19 shut down our theatres, movie houses, museums, concert halls, opera houses, jazz clubs, and stadiums – in short, our entire country’s entertainment industry – thus robbing thousands upon thousands of singers, actors, writers, producers, directors, musicians, athletes and countless others, of their livelihood, not to mention their raison d’etre, there has been a marked increase in entertainment offerings on TV, cable, online, blogs, websites and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney. Some are free, some are for pay, and all are being eagerly snapped up by pleasure seeking audiences.(more…)
Expressions of Artistic Freedom Proven in Film, ‘Married to Math’
“Married to Math” is a film made as if it were a mathematical equation with unknown expressions of value being moved towards a solution. Created by Nina Zaretskaya, founding director, Art Media Center, ‘TV Gallery,’ this documentary presents three mathematicians from the former Soviet Union who released the artistic expression of their youth after the distraction of their training in formal mathematics.(more…)
Artist, Julia Arriola, in Conversation with Elaine A. King
Julia Arriola is an artist living in Tucson, Arizona. Her art is interdisciplinary and she works across materials. Underlying much of her work is a unique perspective of Native Americans symbolism, social awareness as well as an intertwined interest in the mechanical age that comprised the late 19th century. This conversation took place from September 22-28, 2020. After the first introductory exchange Elaine A King will be EAK and Julia Arriola will be JA.(more…)
Flappers, Film Stars and Fast-witted Women: Why the Twenties Roared
The 1920s were corset-free. Victorian remnants were thrown aside as modernism celebrated ‘the new.’ Cole Porter got it right when he wrote, “In olden days,/ a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking./ But now, God knows, anything goes!”
The ratification of Suffrage in 1920 launched the new decade with an exclamation point. Times had changed, and women embraced freedom from a past that was as belittling as their garments had been. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald tagged the decade “the Jazz Age,” and women flung themselves into an exhilarating and untraveled future of possibilities.
GATHERINGS: The National Mall as America’s Stage
Hemmed in by Covid19 strictures that keep us apart, creative people have discovered imaginative new ways to connect. Drive-in movies (remember those, Boomers?) are enjoying new popularity, providing safe social distancing along with the community experience movie fans crave. The Metropolitan Opera’s recent “Gala” featured its major artists—singers, orchestra, chorus—in Zoom performances that gave opera lovers fascinating glimpses into the talents and personalities of favorite performers. Dance wizard Mark Morris has been conducting Zoom rehearsals with his troupe, and a piece he originally choreographed for this summer’s Tanglewood Festival has now been reimagined as a video entitled “Lonely Waltz” that streams on his website. (markmorrisdancegroup.org)
Artists have also joined the virtual fray. In partnership with the Art Production Fund, artist Nancy Baker Cahill launched an “Augmented Reality” animation entitled Liberty Bell on July 4th. The Fund’s Executive Director, Casey Fremont, explained that the idea was to give viewers “the opportunity to reflect upon their personal experiences of liberty, injustice, and inequality” by displaying this prime symbol of American Independence.
The work is accessible by Baker’s free “4th Wall” app, and a viewer simply aims a cell phone at the intended site for the bell to appear. There are six Liberty Bell sites: in Boston where the Tea Party occurred, at Fort Tilden in Queens, Fort Sumter in Charleston, the “Rocky Steps” leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool in the nation’s capital. In Washington, the bell animation takes up 37,000 square feet and is composed of red, white, and blue ribbons that seem to be unraveling. A soundtrack accompanying the AR features a bell ringing from a lulling sound to something much more urgent. (https://nancybakercahill.com/4th-wall-ar-app)
The appearance of Liberty Bell on the National Mall made me think about how the Mall serves as a platform for all kinds of expression—for national celebrations, for protests, and as a canvas for art.
When George Washington instructed Pierre L’Enfant to design the Federal City in 1791, L’Enfant envisioned a “grand avenue” lined by gardens and stretching from the proposed Capitol to an equestrian statue of George Washington that would be placed south of the President’s House. In 1802, a map described the grand avenue as “the Mall”—a tip-of-the-hat to London’s Mall, where people promenaded fashionably near Buckingham Palace.
America’s Mall had a haphazard look until the 1902 “McMillan Plan” (left). Inspired by the “city beautiful movement” of the late nineteenth century, McMillan extended L’Enfant’s Mall further west and removed a conglomeration of unrelated structures—including greenhouses, a railroad station, and a Central Market—and replaced the clutter with an open expanse of grass lined by four rows of American elm trees. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the Mall has been festooned by Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and a growing armada of memorials commemorating iconic national figures (Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King), and wars (Korea, Vietnam, World War II).
The Mall is the site for celebrations like presidential inaugurations, Fourth of July fireworks, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It has also served as the rallying platform for such major national events as Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert, Dr. King’s March on Washington in 1963, and a major anti-Vietnam protest in 1972.
But the National Mall has also emerged as a stage for creative expression. There are permanent art installations in both the Hirshhorn Museum and National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Gardens, but there have also been several temporary artworks showcased. In 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt (left. Photo: Richard Latoff), was displayed in a massive showcase of 2,000 panels created by family and friends of those who had died of AIDS.
In 2012, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden commissioned Doug Aitken to create a video work that illuminated the entire façade of the building, transforming it into “liquid architecture” by using eleven high-definition video projectors that splayed across the museum’s curved exterior. Entitled “SONG 1,” the video was accompanied by an “urban soundscape” that featured the 1934 Harry Warren-Al Dubin song “I Only Have Eyes for You,” originally composed for the Warner Bros. film Dames. The Aitken projection was visible on the Mall from sunset to midnight, March 22 to May 20, 2012.
In October 2014, the National Portrait Gallery contributed the next major work of Mall art. Nik Apostolides, then Associate Director of the Gallery, persuaded Cuban American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada to create one his enormous “facescapes” on the Mall (right). Rodriguez-Gerada photographed 30 anonymous young men of all races and blended them into an enormous composite portrait that stretched over six acres at the base of the Washington Monument. Calling his portrait “Out of Many, One,” the artist required 2,500 tons of sand and 800 tons of topsoil to create a vast face that was viewed from the top of the Washington Monument. He explained, “My art aims to create a dialogue about the concept of identity, and it questions the role models who are chosen to represent us in the public sphere. These works have no negative environmental impact and are created to poetically blend back into the land.”
In July 2019, the National Air & Space Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission by projecting a 363-foot image of the Saturn V rocket onto the Washington Monument (left). On two nights, a 17-minute projection called “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon” recreated the launch of the Apollo 11 mission that took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon.
Sponsored by the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, Nancy Baker Cahill’s Liberty Bell (below, with hands of the artist pictured), continues the idea of using the National Mall as a canvas for artistic expression. Unbound by a museum’s four walls, her AR animation evokes freedom in its identity as ‘virtual.’ Yet the artist has described her intention as conveying the essence of American identity. “What I’m trying to do with this piece,” she has said, “is asking people to consider, ‘What is liberty?’”
It’s a potent question for our times. Will the pandemic affect our ideas about liberty and freedom? A recent New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright (2020 article illustration, below, left) describes how earlier pandemics—notably, the plague that ravaged Fourteenth Century Italy—pointed people to new directions that remarkably led to the Renaissance.
Wright wonders, as we all do, if our “new normal” will lead us to reimagine the old and create something wonderful–or will the worst and most irrational ways of thinking produce cesspools of unreason? He writes, “Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places….the racial inequities, the poisonous partisanship, the governmental incompetence, the disrespect for science, the fraying of community bonds.” Wright ends on a hopeful note—“when people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.” (Lawrence Wright, “How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—And Open Minds,” THE NEW YORKER, July 20, 2020.)
The question is, will we? Are we still “one,” or have we become intractably “many”?
By Amy Henderson, Contributing Writer
Liberty Bell will be accessible on all six city sites through July 4, 2021.(more…)
Jak Katalan: Painting in a Time of Corona
Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask. ~Robert Motherwell
In 1984 John Caldwell, a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art who organized two Carnegie Internationals, introduced me to Jak Katalan. I was impressed with the quality of his ingenuous art, with its roots in Cubism, Constructivism and Minimalism. Upon seeing his work, it was obvious he is an artist who understands the complex language of abstraction. He maintains an interest in creating non-representation in which the illusion of nature is completely eliminated. Abstract art uses visual language of shape, form, color and line to produce a composition that may exist with a degree of independence from actual world visual references. The end purpose of Katalan’s work was in its organization, experimentation and expressive potential.(more…)
Tucson Arizona Yun Gee Park Gallery, with Contemporary Art Exhibition
Artists for decades have been interested in exploring the sculptural and reflective properties of light and how it affects an object within the space it occupies. Larry Bell, one of the artists associated with the West Coast group, “Light and Space,” best known for his glass boxes and large-scaled illusionistic sculptures, created a wide range of work based on the theme of light and reflection beginning in the 1960s. Throughout his oeuvre Bell used the language of minimalism and geometric abstraction to construct his illusionist fabrications where the existing space became part of sculptures. The exhibition “Transparent, Translucent, Reflective, Refractive” at Yun Gee Park Gallery, in Tucson, Arizona, displays the work by Collen Quigley, Zak Timan and Moira M. Geoffrion who continue along this path of investigation.(more…)
Editor’s Letter: June, 2020
“Art is the reasoned derangement of the senses.”
Left: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Roman Widow (1874)
It’s the silly season again in American politics. Wide-ranging intolerable rants, invectives and urgent pleas are being aimed at the most vulnerable members of our community, marginalizing and vilifying many for simply for not being “one of us,” while seemingly animating others to demand accountability for the actions of the “one-percent.” This Age of Exclusion seems to strike a chord with alarmingly large numbers of people on both sides of the aisle—those fed up with the system, with died-in-the-wool politicians and with a feeling of powerlessness—who then, historically, act on a sense of disempowerment and disenfranchisement to take notice, rise up and agitate for change. This particular essay is not a call for some ill-defined new world order, or even for an upending of our historically-stable republican (small-‘r’) system. Yet, this current state of affairs is all too reminiscent of a passage by William Butler Yeats, who fretted in his 1919 post-apocalyptic poem, The Second Coming, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer / Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”(more…)
On Film & Stage: A Legacy of Madness among Us
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily “updates” have become must-see TV these days. Cuomo gives factual descriptions of coronavirus developments in his state with straight-forward clarity. Like a favorite teacher, he reminds us often that the pandemic brings out both the best and the worst in us. Our best are the medical, rescue, grocery, and delivery people—they are our heroes. The worst are those spewing rage-Tweets and flinging responsibility to others. Witnessing angry tantrums on the national stage made me think of famous mad scenes I’ve seen over the years. Donald Trump can’t hold a candle to Maria Callas!(more…)
PANDEMIC DIARY: April 2020
Freud believed that humor and artistic expression are really displaced anger. The New Yorker cover showing Trump wearing his face mask as a blindfold gives me a chuckle. COVID-19 has unleashed a deluge of internet humor offering a micro-blip of relief. For the cynically inclined, go to You Tube for “Social Distance” set to “Sound of Music,” or “We Must Fight the Virus,” to the tune of “The Sounds of Silence.” I send and receive them from family and friends. The other day, I noticed that my laughter had acquired a hollow undertone.(more…)
What to Read Now: Three Novels About Plagues
It’s the year of the big virus. We’ve had weeks of #StayTheFHome or sheltering in place, depending on where you live. And in some states, you’re not doing that. You’re going about your regular daily business, going to parties, bars and beaches and getting infected or infecting others.But enough with the happy talk. Let’s talk about death—or at least, about plagues.(more…)
Art of Leadership: Erik Larson’s ‘The Splendid and the Vile’
In 2014, amidst complex machinations over Britain’s role in the European Union, Boris Johnson (in his pre-Prime Minister days) was prompted to write a biography of Winston Churchill. He wanted people to be reminded how a singular figure—in this case, the wartime British leader Churchill—could play an essential role in the life of a nation. When Churchill took office in 1940, appeasement of Hitler was still a popular idea, but Churchill fought to ditch such rubbish and instead led Britain to war. In Johnson’s words, Churchill’s leadership “saved our civilization.” (Johnson, Winston Churchill, p. 5)(more…)
D.C.’s Phillips Collection with “Riffs and Relations: Af-Am Artists & European Modernism”
The Phillips Collection along with Dr. Adrienne L. Childs, an independent scholar, art historian and curator, organized the exhibition “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition”. It presents 72 works by 53 artists, leaning heavily on contemporary work juxtaposed with distinguished early 20th century European Modernists such as George Braque, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and noteworthy African-Americans as Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence and Alma Thomas.(more…)
Provincetown’s 14th Annual Tennessee Williams Theater Festival
Each year, for the past fourteen, David Kaplan, the curator and co-founder of the annual Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown, has had the daunting and, as he might say,’ blessed’ task of mounting a high-wattage festival that shines an incandescent light onto Williams’ fantastical multi-storied life and works. Guided by Kaplan’s fertile imagination, a large staff, and a healthy parade of donors, organizations, volunteers, businesses, and theater companies from around the world – it does take a small army – the Festival has grown every year since its inception in quality, content, and audience attendance. Nowhere, other than the cities of New Orleans and St Louis – both of which have their own annual Williams Festivals – can audiences get to grandly feast on a never-ending cornucopia of all things Tennessee.(more…)
Washington’s National Gallery Showcases ‘Degas at the Opera’
For today’s audiences entranced by cell phone entertainments, the idea of going to a grand communal event is a rarity if not a total unknown. But there was a time when entertainment aimed at conveying a larger national character. For nineteenth century France, the Paris Opera declaimed itself the grandest of the grand—it was the nation’s cultural and social center, and people dressed in high foppery to showcase the importance of being French. It was all about unabashed spectacle.(more…)
NYC’s The New Group: ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’
Surprise of all surprises, the 1969 movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” thanks to The New Group and Pershing Square Signature Center, is back in the news again—this time, not as a film but as a play with music. Cleverly directed by Scott Elliott, from a book by Jonathan Marc Sherman, the musical has dialogue and locations nearly identical to those in the film.(more…)
NYC’s Cherry Lane with ‘The Confession of Lily Dare’
In or out of drag, whether on stage or page, the 65-year-old actor playwright Charles Busch, with some forty years of show business under his belt, is a force to be reckoned with. His signature calling card is in his allover inventiveness, his humorous tongue-in-cheek playfulness, looking outrageously spectacular in a gown and wig, and most importantly, a straightforward honesty in everything he touches. In short, Busch is entirely believable even when he is not.(more…)
NYC’s Baryshnikov Arts Center: Tú Amarás (You Shall Love)
After performing around the world, Bonobo, the internationally acclaimed Chilean experimental theater company finally made its way to New York City’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, with Tú Amarás (You Shall Love), a socio-political offering with a surreal touch that examines what is an enemy, how do we create one, and how do we connect to others?(more…)
Toronto’s New, Sleepover Gallery: An Interview with Founder, Apollonia Vanova
Emese Krunák-Hajagos (EKH): As you’ve said, Darren Gallery is reopening with a new concept, Sleepover Art Gallery, after a long and painful renovation. Where did this idea come from?(more…)
Money, Matrimony & Madness, at Irish Rep’s ‘London Assurance’
First things first. Before I delve into the Irish Repertory Theater’s marvelous production of London Assurance by Dublin-born playwright Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) – extended now through Sunday, February 9 – I must say that the award-winning Irish Rep is a gift from heaven.(more…)
Make It Mine! Washington Theaters Update Classics for Today
The current passion for reinventing ‘classics’ to fit today is replete with both good intentions and overbearing ego. The core idea of a ‘classic’ is that it has something significant to convey over time. Updating ideas of significance for contemporary audiences can work wonderfully, but there are also huge opportunities to create flops.
The movie Little Women opened to popular and critical cheers this past Christmas. Director Greta Gerwig has explained that she loved the Louisa May Alcott classic as a child, but that it conveyed such new relevance when she re-read it in her 30s that she had to make it into a film. There have been earlier movie versions—notably the 1933 movie directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo—but Gerwig thought a new movie could beautifully encapsulate the book’s core ideas intersecting women with ambition, art, and money. Meryl Streep’s Auntie March gives an iron-fisted definition of how women in the 19th century had to marry unless they had their own economic independence—unless, as Auntie chortles, they were rich like she was.(more…)
How Many Tears Are Enough? An Installation by June Ahrens
June Ahrens’ installation How Many Tears Are Enough? is a contemplative work that slowly reveals its intricate symbolic, emotional content. It is comprised of various types of shape defining wires and ropes suspended from the ceiling, all hovering just above long sheets of highly reflective silver Mylar. While the main expression of three-dimensional lines dominates most of the space of the University of Connecticut’s Stamford Art Gallery, there is also a back wall covered with unadorned black, knotted rope that creates a waterfall-like backdrop. When seen together, these two works give gallery visitors a basis for establishing personal links that may be viewed by some, as a dramatic field of ascending souls.(more…)
Heroes of the Fourth Turning; a Conservative Christian Fugue
Will Arbery’s latest play, Heroes of the Fourth Turning, having been extended two times by popular demand, is now running Off-Broadway through Sunday, November 17, at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. With more religious, personal, and political exposition (read talk) than many a mind can absorb at one sitting, Heroes of the Fourth Turning is essentially a snapshot of the current divisive state of affairs in this country. It is a play that not only digs deep but demands one’s fullest attention. In short, this is not a play that one can sit back, relax, and let it gently waft over you.(more…)
Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal,’ on Broadway: From the End to the Beginning
“I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.”~Harold Pinter, taken from his 2005 Nobel Prize Lecture
When I first heard that Harold Pinter’s Betrayal was coming to Broadway I was thrilled. I was long craving for something above and beyond the usual Broadway fare: something challenging that would set my brain to thinking, and my heart to feeling. On the other hand, having seen Betrayal a number of years ago and remembering virtually nothing about it, I was of the mind that this play, based on Pinter’s own seven-year extra-marital affair during the 1960s, and written in reverse chronological order, was a one-trick pony.(more…)
Washington’s Folger Theatre with Henry IV, Part 1: The Art of Falstaff
The Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., has opened its 2019-20 season with a production of Henry IV, Part 1. The theater describes the play as a “layered coming-of-age tale of power, rebellion, honor, and redemption.” It’s actually much more worthwhile than this pro forma statement.(more…)
The Art of D. Dominick Lombardi: Deciphering the Unconscious
In the late fifties my parents purchased a 1956 edition of the American Peoples Encyclopedia. I vaguely remember their being stressed about affording the encyclopedias, since my family had just moved into a home my father built himself, and we didn’t have much money left over, even for furniture. Despite his trepidations over the purchase price, my father carefully measured and built a bookcase for the encyclopedias so they would be safely stored until their future use. One day, when I was about three or four years old, I pulled down one of the books, opened it, and saw an image of Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece, Guernica (1939).
At that time I had no idea what I was looking at, but when I saw the image, a painting that expressed the collateral damage of the Spanish Civil War in one Basque town as an abstracted event, I was mesmerized. Right then and there, I knew on some deep level that I was face to face with a most significant and meaningful picture, not only based on the feeling I got from it, but that it was found in one of those very important books that seemed to both disturb and enhance my family’s lives. Later, I must have visited that painting, then located at the Museum of Modern Art, at least twenty times before it was sent back to Spain in 1981. I cherished every moment I spent with that painting, as it taught me so much about the power of art.(more…)
New York Gallery, Elga Wimmer PCC, with: ‘Pink Dreams in a Land with No Name’
On view at Elga Wimmer PCC, the exhibition “Pink Dreams in a Land with No Name,” curated by Roya Khadjavi, presents nineteen visual art works comprised of twelve mixed media pieces and nine laser cut canvas collages, created by Iranian born artists Sara Madandar and Shahram Karimi, who both currently reside in the U.S. The show explores the strategies the artists have conjured in order to come to terms with their experiences as immigrants living a demanding cross-cultural existence, intensified by the anti-immigration political climate in the U.S. and the social constraints inherent in Iran. Through the creative process of confronting, sorting, and clarifying painful memories and impulses, elucidating notions of place, nation, gender and self, the artists forge the essence of their inner identities and current personas, in works that speak to the feelings and difficulties of displaced people worldwide.(more…)
Broadway’s Sea Wall/A Life: Love and Loss on a Bare Stage
Sea Wall/A Life, two extraordinarily, powerful, one-act plays, presented in monologue form, are holding court at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. Fueled by strong reviews, and the star power of film and stage actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Strurridge, it is one of the most deeply moving productions currently gracing the stage here in New York City. With word-of-mouth religiously shouting hosannas! this starry-eyed production is already being touted (by those that tout) as a Tony contender in several categories, acting and direction (Carrie Cracknell) among them. Closing night is Thursday, September 26 and tickets are tight. Just Saying!(more…)
Smithsonian AAM’s “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975,”
In a time when exhibitions about gender, race and politics have become repetitive, one is habituated to seeing political art in museums and galleries. Despite the prevalence of such shows, few offer much depth beyond routine media coverage or reveal substantive significant works of art. The poignant survey titled “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975,” organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum is an exception to political shows not only because of the extraordinary selection of 115 works by 58 visionary artists of the time but also because of the diversity of the art and artists. The inclusion of African-Americans, Asian American, Latinos and many women artists is admirable!(more…)
‘Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward’—Elegance of Yesteryear
“There are probably greater painters than Noël. Greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars, and so on. If they are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combines all fourteen different talents The Master, Noël Coward”— Lord Louis Mountbatten’s toast to Noël Coward on his 70th birthday.(more…)
Three Washington, D.C. exhibits: Women’s Suffrage at 100—Equal Rights Delayed
In a letter written to her husband John on March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams enjoined him to “remember the ladies” as the Founding Fathers defined the rights of Americans under independence. “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands,” she continued, for women did not want to be “bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Adams and his cohort didn’t abide by Abigail’s words, and even as we currently celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s passage this year—and ratification next summer—Suffrage remains but a landmark in the ongoing fight for equal pay and equal rights for women.(more…)
New York’s Lincoln Theater with ‘The Rolling Stone’: Deadly Plight of Uganda’s Gays
While New York City recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising with much hoopla and an enormous traffic-stopping Gay Pride parade that went on well into the night, New York’s Lincoln Center Theater chose to feature the other side of the coin by mounting the American premiere of playwright Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone. Sensitively directed by Saheem Ali – the play, an import from London – is scheduled to run through Sunday, August 25th.(more…)
New York’s Playwrights Horizons: ‘A Strange Loop’—Revealing!
In the past year or three there have been a healthy number of beautifully crafted, wonderfully acted, and solidly produced black-centric plays both on Broadway and Off that have examined from every conceivable angle – historically, sociologically, and psychologically – what it means to be black in the United Sates, both past and present.
To joggle my mind as well as yours New York theatres have hosted Father Come Home From The Wars, Choir Boy, The House That Will Not Stand, Fabulation, The Color Purple, An Octoroon, American Son, Daddy, The Secret Life of Bees, The Slave Play (previewing on Broadway this coming September), and the still running The Rolling Stone, and Pulitzer Prize winning Fairview. Most all were favorably reviewed. However, not since A Strange Loop which is currently running thru July 28th at Playwrights Horizons have we come across a many faceted in your face gay male character like Usher (the extremely talented Larry Owens) who spares no detail, however raw, intimate, personal, scatological and sordid–and it is all of those and more–in the telling and showing of his life.(more…)
New York’s Laura Pels Theatre: ‘Toni Stone’ Knocks It Out of the Ballpark
April Matthis, as Toni Stone (1921-1996) the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro League, is knocking it out of the ballpark every night at the Laura Pels Theatre through August 11, 2019.The play, lightly based on Martha Ackmann’s book “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone,” is overwhelmingly inspirational, deeply humane, and totally moving.With Toni Stone, the bases are loaded with the crème de la crème of the theatrical world – from Lydia R. Diamond’s poetically crafted play to Tony Award-winning director Pam MacKinnon’s direction and the inventive choreography by Camille A. Brown – all of whose finely calibrated work radiate a deeply ingrained brilliance.(more…)
Sins of the Father
THE MINUTE I SAW HIM IN THE WAITING ROOM I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy case. Stefan was wearing sunglasses; he was slow to put down his magazine. Trudging several paces behind me, he hesitated at the threshold of my office, where he insisted that I choose which chair he should sit in. He waited to be interviewed.(more…)
Editor’s Letter, June 2019: Towards a Critical Insurgency
Editor’s Note: Recently, a number of young art critics were asked to discuss the particular challenges contemporary art writers face, including student debt, material precariousness, an oversaturated job market, a general lack of editorial attention or guidance, the prevalence of online publishing, and more. Panelists presented in partnership with the School of Visual Arts (SVA), their BFA in Visual & Critical Studies and MFA in Art Writing. Among the presenters was, Will Fenstermaker, an editor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an associate editor at the Brooklyn Rail. His comments at that New York City event, presented here as a Guest Editorial, consider what possibilities exist for art criticism in our moment.
A few weeks ago, we were given prompts for our opening remarks. One was the question, “Do you think there is a crisis in the field of art criticism?” I first learned that criticism was in crisis when I was enrolled at the MFA Art Criticism & Writing program at SVA (School of Visual Arts) in New York City.(more…)
Geva Theatre Center’s ‘The Royale’: A Simple but Stunning Production
Virtually all of our leading contemporary repertory theaters now include non-traditional experimental techniques in staging not only original new work but also – even especially – to perform and reconsider revivals of historic classics. Canada’s great Stratford Festival now regularly gives us Shakespeare revivals with actors playing characters of the opposite sex, six or seven actors performing plays written to have a cast of more than 30 characters, and realistic people and animals played by puppets. Understandably, their audiences are sharply divided in response.
Stratford’s recent very popular and admired version of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” not only presented the required characters of the two sets of twin-brother masters and servants who confuse everyone they meet about which twin brother is which, but also cast women as male twins and men as women in most of the main roles. The multiple mix-ups got much amused approval; but I thought them to be just wrong and not confusing enough to have fooled Helen Keller. But I have to admit that my local theater is currently turning abstraction into a knockout punch.(more…)
Book Review: Walter Gropius, Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus
Award-winning author and critic Fiona MacCarthy is out to change wrong-headed perceptions of Walter Gropius in her biography. And she succeeds.
His first (and angry) wife Alma Mahler, also Gustav’s first wife, described Walter Gropius bitterly and unflatteringly in her memoir on their combative marriage. Evelyn Waugh satires him in his novel Decline and Fall as the stiff and doctrinaire Otto Silenus. In his book Bauhaus to Our House, author Tom Wolfe uses him as a human swizzle stick in a sour cocktail raised to modernist architecture as little more than soulless functionalism. Frank Lloyd Wright admirers championed the latter’s “nature” inspired approach to design over Gropius’ purely rational and functional use of glass and steel. For them, Wright was warmly organic; Gropius was dismissed as all angles, coolly geometric. Over the years, he was often described by architectural critics and historians as humorless. However, in truth, though certainly ‘Germanic courtly’ in demeanor, Gropius could be quite charismatic and socially adroit.
Thankfully, award-winning author and critic Fiona MacCarthy is out to change wrong-headed perceptions in her biography. And she succeeds in challenging too long held notions that Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus, one of the fathers of modern architecture, was austere, cold, and withdrawn. Rather than giving us a portrait of a mechanical architectural rationalist, she underscores Gropius’ humanity, and how that inspired his visionary philosophy as well as the consummate aesthetic courage he showed in through an extremely volatile, even dangerous, political age.(more…)
AIPAD’s NYC Photography Show: ‘Eight Photographs Out Of Thousands’
Earlier this month (April 4-7), the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, widely known as AIPAD, celebrated its 39th edition of The Photography Show. Situated at Pier 94 on the Hudson River in New York City it featured nearly 100 fine art photography galleries and project spaces from around the world. Also on premises were numerous talks, and some two dozen plus booths populated by book dealers, publishers, and photography related organizations.
Roughly speaking, 57% of the galleries represented came from the US, with the majority from New York City (29) and California (13). Twenty galleries came from Europe (France 7, London 6), 2 from Asia, 2 from South America, and one – the Stephen Bulger Gallery from Toronto, Canada. I specifically mention Bulger, as I have seen a number of wonderful exhibitions there, and I have long loved the city of Toronto.(more…)
National Museum of Women in the Arts: Ursula von Rydingsvard, ‘The Contour of Feeling’
Ursula von Rydingsvard is a notable sculptor whose work ranks high among women artists of her generation including Jackie Winsor, Mary Miss and Alice Aycock. Rydingsvard was born in Deensen, Germany of a Polish mother and Ukrainian father. During the German occupation of Poland, she along with her six siblings underwent the suffering of World War II, and lived in German refugee camps for banished Poles. In 1959, because of the U.S. Marshall Plan and the assistance of Catholic agencies, her family came to the United States where they re-located to Plainville, Connecticut. Her early tumultuous history persists to inform her immense work resulting in an intimidating beauty. Resembling landscapes ravaged by external forces, von Rydingsvard’s art evokes the abstraction of Cubism and possesses an irresistible magnetism. (more…)
Toronto’s Kananaj Gallery with Emmanuel Monzon: Urban Sprawl Emptiness
Solitude surrounds the guest when entering Emmanuel Monzon’s exhibition at Robert Kananaj Gallery. All the photographs seem similar at first glance in their quiet compositions and monochrome colours. Taking a closer look, one recognizes their nuances – and becomes mesmerised by their magical beauty. They radiate an ephemeral, almost surreal tension that captivates the viewer. (more…)
New York City’s Elga Wimmer PCC with Group Show: ‘Material Culture’
Elga Wimmer PCC presents “Material Culture,” an exhibition of five Iranian artists, curated by Roya Khadjavi that includes staged photographs, installation photography, porcelain sculptural reliefs, minimalist abstract art and abstract porcelain landscape paintings. The term “material culture” implies that the artists do not visualize their outcomes in advance, but rather their art emerges through the working process, by means of intuitive experimentation in which clues for resolution ensue from the materials. The show includes works by Massy Nasser-Ghandi, Aida Izadpanah, Maryam Khosrovani, Dana Nehdaran and Maryam Palizgir. (more…)
Broadway’s Imperial Theater- ‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations’
There are few examples of jukebox musicals – a denigrating term if ever – that have blown me away. In fact, without over taxing my brain, Jersey Boys, which dramatizes the formation, success and eventual break-up of the 1960s rock ‘n’roll group The Four Seasons is the only jukebox musical of import that immediately comes to mind.
Directed by Des McAnuff, and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, Jersey Boys opened on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre to rave reviews in November 2005. Winning four Tony Awards, one for Best Musical, after 4642 performances it closed in January 2017. (more…)
A Creative Camelot: The Bauhaus and Harvard University
Founded shortly after World War I in Germany, the Bauhaus was the most famous and influential avant-garde art and design school in the 20th Century. Its artists, architects, designers craftpersons and students generated a creative, all-encompassing conversation about the nature of architecture, art and design in the modern era. Over the course of its relatively short, 14-year history, Bauhaus was at first located at Weimar, then Dessau, and finally Berlin (closed by order of Nazi Party, 1932).
Above, left: The Gropius House, c. 1937-8. Photo: Mark Favermann
Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Theater’s “Nell Gwynn”: Vibrant
This winter, Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Theater is giving audiences a glorious celebration of why theater matters. Nell Gwynn is a boisterous, riotous romp that conveys theater’s sheer delight.
The play is recent—written by Jessica Swale in 2015—but focuses on the Restoration actor-ess (as we learn) who transformed theater into an arena where women began to be cast to play women’s roles, rather than the tradition of men-playing-women. (more…)
New York’s Petzel Gallery with Dana Schutz: “Imagine Me and You”
Petzel Gallery presents “Dana Schutz, “Imagine Me and You,” an exhibition of twelve new large-scale oil paintings and five bronze sculptures that makes visual commentary in multilayered social, personal and political tableaux. Schutz confidently confront the viewer directly, with breathtakingly fierce, even brutal images. They are not “pretty”; the artist is not overly preoccupied with aesthetics, or with traditional “good taste.” Her assertive art is instead utterly honest, prepped to seize the awareness of a media-saturated public for whom art, film and television supply an overload of daily visual sustenance. (more…)
A Theatrical Double-header on Washington, D.C.’s Stages
‘Anything Goes’ at Washington’s Arena Stage
One of the pure joys of America’s classic musical theater was to create worlds filled with singing, dancing, and topicality. No one did this better than Cole Porter, and his iconic 1934 Anything Goes fits the bill in Trumpian America as well as it did in the Great Depression.
Left: Soara-Joye Ross (Reno Sweeney) and Corbin Bleu (Billy Crocker) in Anything Goes. All photos this story: Maria Baranova.
Washington’s Arena Stage puts on one major American musical each year, and this year’s selection of Anything Goes had audiences on their feet with joyful celebration. The show was presented on Arena’s in-the-round stage, and the boisterous tapping flowed seamlessly to every vantage point. (more…)
New York’s Pershing Square Signature Center: ‘Clueless, The Musical’
For those that loved Clueless, the 1995 cult movie starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd, watched the TV series (1996-99) based on the film, and perhaps read all twenty-one of the Cher young adult books, well, Clueless is back, this time as a two and a half hour, acrobatically dance-heavy, in-your-face, over the top, teenage hormonal-exploding, fun-filled, six-piece band-backed musical. And that’s saying a mouthful!
Produced by the ever-adventurous The New Group (Sweet Charity, The Jerry Springer Show), and adapted for the stage by Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982) from her original film script, and directed by Kristine Hanggi, Clueless, The Musical is currently running Off Broadway at Pershing Square Signature Center’s smallest theater, through January 12, 2018. (more…)
Touring the Galleries of Knoxville: Diversity, Energy and Creativity
As someone who has kept a sharp eye on the New York City art scene since the early 1970s, I must admit that some of my most memorable experiences have occurred in Tennessee. In 2012, it was the Tennessee State Museum where I saw and reviewed an exhibition of the politically charged, multi-media works of John Mellencamp. Later that same year it was the powerful and moving retrospective of the photography and videos of Carrie Mae Weems at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, both in Nashville. (more…)
The Cove Pop-Up Exhibition, Providence, R.I.
Once in a while I stumble upon an exhibition that really opens my eyes and reorients my thinking and understanding of the creative process. The Cove Pop Up exhibition here in Providence, RI, which includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and utilitarian objects, offers a great number of art works by talented individuals who are dealing with varying degrees of debilitating issues. The exhibition theme is one that should enlighten many, revealing how creative and honest one can be as an individual when unencumbered by thoughts of High Art or fashionable trends. These free-thinking and enlightening individuals are working with the very successful programs offered through The Cove, RHD-RI, Flying Shuttle Studios and edge+end where “adults with developmental disabilities reach their goals” with the creation of some pretty amazing and illuminating works of art. (more…)
Brecht’s ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,’ at NYC’s Classic Stage Company
“Every day I read the play, I think, I hear the words these words on CNN as I read them on the page. The play will be falling right around the midterm elections, and it is fitting that it reminds us of the choices that are available to us in relation to the way the world can go. That really is the foundation of what classical theater says. Classic plays have politics at their heart-you take a play like Richard III or the Scottish Play—they’re warnings. And there’s a warning in Arturo Ui. This is a time for theater to say something; if we’re not screaming and shouting now, when are we ever going to do it?”
— John Doyle, Artistic Director of Classic Stage Company
For those who love the work being done at the Classic Stage Company and Bertolt Brecht, both of which I do, you had better run to see The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, as its curtain goes down on Saturday, December 22, 2018. Written in 1941, when Brecht was living in exile in Helsinki, Finland, just before he decamped to Hollywood, the play chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui a fictional 1930s Capone-like Chicago mobster and his ruthless attempts to control the cauliflower market by forcefully selling protection to business owners, ironically from his own men. (more…)
New York’s Public Theater: Glenn Close in ‘The Mother of the Maid’
People on trial, especially women that end up being executed, make good theatre and film, as well as subjects of art. The two reigning queens whose lives still continue to resonate long after their deaths are Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), the last Queen of France, who literally lost her head, and Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431) who went up in flames nearly seven centuries ago. Done in by politics, both were captured, jailed, put on trial, dragged through the streets and summarily executed, as a kind of entertainment before a boisterous crowd of unruly citizens. And ever since their demise each continue to be resuscitated, again and again, in both fictive and non-fictive modes, for the viewing, listening, and reading pleasure of those of us still alive. (more…)
New York Gallery, Elga Wimmer PCC: ‘The Safarani Sisters: Reincarnation’
Roya Khadjavi Projects presents “The Safarani Sisters: Reincarnation,” a series of fourteen new video-paintings in which the identical-twin Iranian sisters, Bahareh and Farzandeh Safarani, create a plausible world of visual intrigue. The exhibit features the artists in a performance-based genre of photography, painting and video. Reincarnation refers to the rebirth of one’s psyche into a new body, but here it is the twins’ inner life that undergoes a process of transformation. The Safaranis incorporate the ambient play of shadow, light and reflection to stress interior versus exterior reality in their psychologically potent episodic narratives. The video projections create convincing atmospheric visual and kinesthetic effects. Windows play an important role as metaphoric unconscious portals that signify each twin’s quest for self-revelation. (more…)
George Shaw: ‘Corner of a Foreign Field’ at Yale Center For British Art
In his complex exhibition “A Corner of a Foreign Field, realist English painter George Shaw undertakes a time traveling odyssey to investigate the flourishing forested environs and the remains of Tile Hill, the post war council estate in England where he grew up. From 1996 to 2018, Shaw produced 70 paintings, prints, sketchbooks and 60 drawings that poignantly capture, in a “before” and “after” sequel, images of what a relatively short time ago was a vibrant neighborhood as it atrophies from neglect. The show is subdivided into ten themes that evolve through the course of the exhibition: there is “Recording a World,” “Landmarks and Memorials,” “Graffiti and Abstraction,” “Ash Wednesday,” and “The End of Time,” to name but a few. The artist blends references to art history, personal memory, popular culture and 70s political realities to create a convincing amalgam of visual art whose reminiscent energy can be viscerally felt. (more…)
Washington, D.C.’s Ford Theatre with ‘Born Yesterday’: Delicious!
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., has just opened a delicious revival of Garson Kanin’s 1946 play, Born Yesterday. The original Broadway production starred Judy Holliday as showgirl Billie Dawn, and she won a Best Actress Oscar for that role in the 1950 movie.
Ford’s has kept Kanin’s script intact, and director Aaron Posner explained that they believed this comedy about personal transformation and “the complex underbelly of politics” would resonate with today’s audiences (Ford’s press release). (more…)
Three Exhibitions at New York’s Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden
With three exhibitions opening at the Hammond Museum, the big surprise is the work of Sam Bartman. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1922, Bartman has spent the last 60 years of his life creating stirring paintings that combine some of the most the incompatible materials. In experimenting with what he calls his “special sauce”, Bartman has somehow tamed a mix of resins, varnishes, motor oil, glitter and automotive paints with oils and acrylics that results in everything from endlessly crackling surfaces to minute swirling storms of color. There are even the occasional brushstrokes that push the variously drying materials around, leaving fossil-like impressions of battered brush hairs sorrowfully spent in a furious wake of swished paint. (more…)
Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story Brought to the Stage
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between the true and the false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.” – Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), left.
Thinking is not merely l’engagement dans l’action [engagement in the action] for and by beings, in the sense of the actuality of the present situation. Thinking is l’engagement by and for the truth of Being. The history of Being is never past but stands ever before; it sustains and defines every condition et situation humaine – Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), above, right
In bringing the lives of political theorist and philosophical thinker Hannah Arendt and philosopher Martin Heidegger to the stage at The Theatre for the New City – the play ran through October 14 – playwright Douglas Lackey, known for his historically grounded, highly-researched, and deeply thought out plays (Kaddish in East Jerusalem, Daylight Precision, A Garroting in Toulouse), has now tackled an historical subject more directly related to his so-called ‘other life’, that of a practicing professor of philosophy.
Through a series of 23 trenchantly sketched scenes in two acts, the Arendt-Heidegger play billed as a love story, covers the years 1924 when the brilliant, and wide-eyed, 18-year-old Hannah Arendt – some forty years before she coined the eponymous term ‘banality of evil’ which brought her world-wide fame – first meets her teacher, the 35-year-old, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, soon to be lionized for his book Being and Time (1927), and ends in 1964 in a dramatic confrontation between both parties. (more…)
‘Hair’ at Rochester, NY’s Shakespeare Festival Theatre: Stirring & Effective
I wondered how the old love-rock musical would play these days for an audience of younger folk unfamiliar with Hippie rebellion , flower children,‘60s rock music, and a more feminine long-hair style and slovenly tie-dyed clothes-styles. For that matter, I wasn’t so sure how the now-rather-old folks, mostly more establishment, would regard it. I saw its original New York Public Theatre production and Broadway Premiere, and loved most of the many others I saw in many places; so I knew that all they had to do was start singing “Let the Sun Shine In”, and I’d be in tears. (more…)
SRO Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, with ‘Photo-A-GoGo’: It’s Elementary
Photo-A-GoGo presents art that has photography as an element, whether it is predominant or used as a minor accent, to show how the creative process now parallels or responds to the ubiquitous social digital/exchange mentality. We have the MIME, Instagram, Snapchat, all the ways we express or project our ideas or self-image – so the photograph, instead of being “worth a thousand words” is now as common as a mosquito in July. However, that does not mean that art or the intention behind it or the imagery utilized is, in the end, benign.
Left: Don Doe, Fille Sans Dot, Fille Avec Dot (2017), giclee, 22 x 15″ (more…)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., has a ‘Sense of Humor’
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has opened a new exhibition that celebrates “the rich, yet often overlooked, tradition of humor on paper.” Reminding us that humans are capable of laughter, Sense of Humor chronicles how the graphic arts have captured our fundamental desire to be amused.
Left: Robert Crumb, Zap, no. 1, 1968, paperback with half-tone and offset lithographic illustrations, Gift of William and Abigail Gerdts, 2014.
Popular culture has cheerfully tapped into this desire. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) perhaps said it best in the song, “Make ‘Em Laugh/Don’t you know ev’ryone wants to laugh?” (Words & lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed) While “high arts” like painting and sculpture have rarely considered humor a worthy subject, popular culture has never felt such restraint and has always reached out to far wider audiences than one-off paintings or sculpture. (more…)
Conserving Cultural Heritage—the Tangible and Intangible
Columbia’s Cartagena, is a 500-year old urban jewel in the Caribbean. But climate change and rising sea levels threaten its heritage.
Urban planning is the formulating of a strategy for design and regulation of the uses of space in a city, town, or metropolitan region. The profession focuses on the physical form, economic functions, and social impacts of the urban environment, as well as on the specific location of different activities within the city space. Urban planning draws on engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture, as well as economic, social, and political concerns. Thus it is a technical profession that depends on political will and public participation — in order for it to succeed development must be regulated. (more…)
New York Theatre: Renee Taylor Returns, ‘My Life on a Diet’
Most famous people who are long in the tooth–if they are not dead, quietly retired, or resting on their well-earned laurels–tend keep a very low profile. You rarely hear about them. But not the indefatigable, 85-year- old Renee Taylor, an Energizer bunny, whose funny and bittersweet autobiographical, one-woman-show, My Life on a Diet, is currently playing to full houses at St. Clement’s Theatre, here in New York City. (more…)
New York’s Laura Pels Theatre, ‘Skintight’: Love, Lust, Beauty, and Idina Menzel
Idid not see Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews which by general consensus is said to be his best play to date. But the last three Harmon plays that I did see, Significant Other, Admissions, and the still running Skintight – it closes on August 26th – each, a familiar mixture of comedy and drama containing everything and the kitchen sink, come across less a play, more a TV sitcom in which the playwright’s comedic hand overrides most everything important that is being said. (more…)
Tarzan, Singing and Swinging at Atlanta’s Lyric Theatre
Edgar Rice Burroughs’s fictional character Tarzan was a cultural sensation when it was first appeared on the scene in magazine form in 1912, and then as a popular novel in 1914, both titled “Tarzan of the Apes.” Becoming a big hit with the public, the Chicago-born Burroughs (1875-1950) went on to write an additional twenty-five Tarzan sequels over the next half century. On a frantically productive, life-long roll, Burroughs’ also penned some fifty Sci-Fi and Western novels. When he died, he was believed to have been the writer who had made the most money from films, earning over $2 million in royalties from 27 Tarzan pictures. (more…)
‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ at Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival
The intensity of tortured love between the four Tyrones in Eugene O’Neill’s tenderly intimate and brutally heart-wrenching autobiographical tragedy Long Day’s Journey Into Night would be repulsive if it were not so humane, bizarrely and sometimes even comically self-aware, and so believably eloquent and poetic. It is a supreme challenge for actors and directors, and a modern masterpiece. This revival perhaps lacks some of the grandeur of Stratford’s superb two earlier productions, and does some judicious trimming of the text, but it is reasonably faithful to O‘Neill, truly moving, and a welcome return of a classic.
Above, left: Scott Wentworth as James Tyrone and Seana McKenna as Mary Cavan Tyrone in ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night.’ All Photos: Emily Cooper.
Editor’s Letter: July, 2018
“Art is here to prove, and to help one bear, the fact that all safety is an illusion.”
Left: Marino Marini, Man on a Horse (1959)
Picasso is a Fake! Believe Me.
I’m wondering about something I’ve heard a lot of people talking about. This isn’t coming from me. I’ve just heard a lot of people talking about Picasso and what he might have been up to. Look at the facts: have you ever seen him make a painting? He stands beside something he says he’s done. But have you ever seen him actually painting? All that coverage and I never have. The press, they try to make it seem like he’s legitimate, but the failing press gets it wrong about me all the time, so why not him? Think about it…if they’re wrong so many times, why should they be telling the truth about Picasso? (more…)
Parallel Fields: Three Artists at Manhattan’s Lichtundfire Gallery
Processing information, data and imagery that accumulates or is set aside from our dominant thinking forms our beliefs, opinions and behaviors. You stub your toe and for the next few hours or so you tread more carefully. You get a speeding ticket and the next time you’re on that particular road you drive more carefully. You stargaze one evening and experience one of the century’s greatest meteor showers, so you continue to look skyward every chance you get. Those very specific lessons both short term and long become bigger, more life changing if you fixate over them. That tendency to obsess, that hyper focus on the mundane to the miraculous is what leads to exceptional thought, creative foretelling and compelling art of modern and contemporary times. (more…)
The Art of St Petersburg, Florida
My trip to St Petersburg, Florida, was as much a success as I could have hoped for. The show I co-curated with Amanda Cooper, Water Over The Bridge: Contemporary Seascapes, is a timely and topical exhibition. Its subject matter, which in large part includes thoughts of climate change and the rising water levels strikes a loud cord here following the wrath of the area’s fall storms. But before I get into the specifics of that exhibition and the exhibition at Leslie Curran Gallery nearby, I want to give you my thoughts on the newest exhibition at St. Pete’s MFA (Museum of Fine Art).
Above, left: Selena Roman, Untitled (Tube) (2013), Archival inkjet print, Photo: Courtesy of the artist
Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel: The Jew Who Sculpted Confederate Monuments
Author’s Note: The ultimately fatal “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia began on Friday night, August 11, 2017 at the Rotunda, the iconic building at the heart of the University of Virginia campus. The ralliers were there to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park named for him in downtown Charlottesville. The protesters gathered under a statue of the university’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s outsized ﬁgure stands on an inverted Liberty Bell at the Rotunda’s entrance. Milling at Jefferson’s feet, the protesters shouted neo-Nazi and white supremacist slogans like “Blood and Soil!” “White Lives Matter!” and, in a pointed reference to removing Lee’s monument, “You/Jews will not replace us.” Most likely, not one of them knew that a Jew sculpted that Jefferson image (left). That Jew was Moses Jacob Ezekiel—the very same Jew who sculpted the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Confederate Memorial is one of the tallest and most elaborate structures in Arlington National Cemetery. Erected in 1914, nearly a half-century after the war Civil War ended, the monument was designed and executed by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, an expatriate, gay, American Jewish southerner. The Confederate Memorial is one of several monuments Ezekiel executed glorifying the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy. The full corpus of Ezekiel’s work reflects his identity as an artist, a southerner, and a Jew. (more…)
This Imagined Life: Faith & Romance in a Modern America
“Into the mystery of this heart which beats / So wild, so deep in us—to know/ Whence our lives come and where they go.” ~ Matthew Arnold, The Buried Life (1852)
“Of the last two lines, it is probably the last that is obscure to you. Life is as fugitive as dew upon the feet of men dancing in dew. Men do not either come from any direction or disappear in any direction. Life is as meaningless as dew.
Now these ideas are not bad in a poem. But they are a frightful bore when converted as above.”
~Letter to L. W. Payne, March 31, 1928 [Stevens, H.: 250]
It was not until the age of thirty-five that Wallace Stevens published his first body of poetry. The collection was entitled Harmonium (1923), and the inclusion of the poem ‘Sunday Morning’ (1915) by an otherwise cerebral, contemplative young Connecticut poet was, in retrospect, a watershed event. While initially panned by critics, it has gained traction over decades as a particularly luminous example of a nascent, itinerant poet’s work, and is often considered a classic example of the early modernist American genre. But, by undertaking an analysis of an early effort like Sunday Morning, the opportunity to benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of Stevens’s later, more mature poetical aesthetic is missed. In exchange, however, this exemplary work stands on the cusp of an emerging avant-garde style in American poetry—stripped down and clear-eyed in its narrative intent—and prepared, at least in spirit, to leave European literary traditions far behind.
Yangyang Pan: ‘The Unveiling,’ at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art
Yangyang Pan, who was born in 1976, spent the first 30 years of her life in Central China where the meanderings of the Yangtze River, traditional Chinese art and art education shaped her thinking. She even taught art where she studied, at the Sichuan Fine Art Institute, but never realized her full potential as a painter until she moved west to Canada in 2006. At that time, Pan quickly found new inspiration in the work of Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston, opening up her eyes, mind and emotions through the freedom of Abstract Expressionism. (more…)
Editor’s Letter, May 2018
“Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.” ~Plato
Left: Pere Borrell del Caso: Escaping Criticism (1874), oil on linen. Banco de España, Madrid.
Artistic Wasteland: The Arts in America in the Age of Military Parades
On Monday, February 8th, 2016, candidate Donald Trump spoke at a Rotary Club gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire, where several Arts Action Fund members were present and attempted to ask Trump about his position on the arts. While he answered few questions, he did remark on his aesthetic goals for his proposed border wall with Mexico. To paraphrase Trump, he said “And I am going to have to add some designs to the wall because someday they might name it after me and I want it to look real nice” (Source: Americans for the Arts Action Fund). (more…)
‘Hugo Fontela: Nowhere Island’ at New York’s Marlborough Gallery
Marlborough Gallery recently presented, ‘Hugo Fontela: Nowhere Island,’ an exhibition of new mixed media paintings whose enigmatic title conveys an air of mystery that stirs curiosity on the metaphysical issues inherent in the unusual leitmotif. In an era in the art world when individuality has long been depleted by appropriation, when trends devised with no evident antecedents rule, and cronyism perpetuates outdated art modes, a fresh voice is a lifeline. As the art market is increasingly distorted by inflated commercialism, and only the top of the highest end art stars flourish, it is noteworthy that with clarity and cogency, Hugo Fontela offers a symbolic vision that explores associations which lead to speculation on the very essence of being and existence, in pared down pristine environmental formats. (more…)
‘Do Ho Suh: Almost Home’ at Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian American Art Museum
During this era of transience, migration and social technological transformation, the art of Do Ho Suh’s focusing on the importance of home is noteworthy. Born in Korea in 1962, he came to the United States in 1991 to continue his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University. He is a highly accomplished artist who spends time between several cities—New York, Seoul and London. Britain currently is his place of residence even though he continues to travel internationally. He feels his art is inspired by his transient existence and his entrenched memory of homes. (more…)
Is Art Obliged to Engage the Viewer?
And by obligation, of course, I mean the artist’s motivation to deliver a work of art to the world that represents a highly individualized statement about a relevant theme or subject. In doing so, should the impact, legitimacy and enduring success of that creative effort be measured by the response of the viewer, alone? Is art only deemed ‘important’ or ‘timeless’ if it resonates with the consciousness of the public? Or is it ultimately a private exercise in expression by the artist, requiring no moral or didactic justification, wherein capturing the attention and interest of the viewer is merely incidental? Is it true, as French artist and critic, Théophile Gauthier, argued in the 19th century, that the artist’s embrace of, “Art for art’s sake” would protect him from the purely utilitarian and pragmatic demands of public taste and other external influences? And must art remain aloof from the currents of public taste to remain cogent today? This polemic is at the heart and soul of the long-standing debate about the creative forces that have shaped the artistic arena in the post-modern era. (more…)
Art Gallery Ontario, with Artists Mitchell/Riopelle: ‘Nothing in Moderation’
On my way to this exhibition I was thinking of Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) and Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), as a golden couple in a post-war, Golden Age. Paris retained its charm and New York was newly ascendant after World War II. Riopelle seemed a ‘golden boy,’ irresistible and charming with his expensive race cars — including Bugattis — boats, properties and artistic success. Mitchell brimmed with athletic confidence, and was not at all shy about her body. Looking at photographs with her lovers, we can’t miss seeing the sexual magnetism she radiated. Theirs was a good match in many ways—but on careful examination, they were anything but a golden couple. (more…)
‘No Spectators’ for Smithsonian American Art Museum’s BURNING MAN
What happens when you plunk large-scale craft installations into a pop-up desert city of 75,000 partying campers?
Sex, drugs, rave culture, steampunk, and sand bugs all flourish in the 100-degree heat, but Burning Man insists that the major draw is the fantastical art—the wildly mutant vehicles, psychedelic art, and electronic dance music.
From Nature: An Interview with Val Kilmer, by D. Dominick Lombardi
Val Kilmer, well-known actor, director and producer is also an accomplished poet and visual artist. In all instances, the diversely and abundantly talented Kilmer must manage his creative energies in many different ways, but for him it is in the visual arts, like poetry, where there is more of a need or want for experimentation, chance and enlightenment, as poetry and the visual arts are the ultimate internal process.
Kilmer brings everything to the table, even the very core of our being, as thoughts of God and the origins of the universe vie for his and our attention in his art. I recently had the pleasure of asking Kilmer a few questions to help clarify his process and intent in the following Q & A. (more…)
Contemporary Artist, Michael Zansky and ‘The Saturn Paintings’
What’s attractive to artists about quantum science is that on the subatomic level, matter is in flux. Art is the imitation or the distortion of a thing in another substance. It imagines that all its elements can, if they want, change, swap and mutate characteristics constantly.
Michael Zansky began making art in the late 70s. He showed in Boston while he was at college at For 40 Years his paintings, drawings and models have addressed the protean character of the human condition. From then to his recent show at the Herron Gallery, University of Indiana, Michael Zansky has been mutating. (more…)
Connecticut’s Housatonic Museum of Art with Eclectic Landscape Exhibition: New Perspectives
In the United States, landscape painting has long served as a metaphor for other themes: symbols of our terrestrial treasures (in the case of the Hudson River School); a post-Civil War “return to order” (in the example of American Luminist painters); our complex national heritage portrayed by Regionalist artists in the Roosevelt era; or the broad, flat expanses of the natural and built environment manipulated by installation artists in the contemporary period. Whether it’s the view out our bedroom window, or from a high summit vantage point, landscapes speak to issues of identity, emotion, inclusion and alienation. (more…)
Penny Arcade at New York’s, Joe’s Pub: ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’
Every time I have sex I get into a relationship. Every time I get into a relationship I stop having sex. I found the Bermuda Triangle. It is between my legs. Everyone who goes there disappears out of my life. – Penny Arcade from Longing Lasts Longer
After three years of touring her one woman show, Longing Lasts Longer around the world, the eminently quotable performance artist Penny Arcade, an uncanny in-your-face, truth-telling Cassandra is back at Joe’s Pub at NYC’s Public Theatre. (more…)
New York’s Cavalier Gallery shows Contemporary Artist, Francine Tint: ‘Explorations’
The illustrious forty-plus year career of Francine Tint, established with works in over two dozen museum collections and a number of prestigious grants, continues to amaze. Her latest paintings currently on view at Cavalier Gallery, in New York City, are a whirlwind of subconscious thoughts and responses that quickly take shape in distinctive colors and tantalizing textures. They represent an intuitive and animated journey that emerges from the delicately watermarked and stained unprimed canvas to a weightier, more expressive vocabulary of distinct effortless lines, thick swathes of imposing color and darting detail, to create a wholly visceral sense of atmosphere and depth. (more…)
Editor’s Letter: March, 2018
“Memory is more indelible than ink.”
Left: Helen Levitt, Untitled, New York City (1939)
When the bronze bell in the hallway clanged to life at three each day, it was our signal to head to the door. “That bell is for my purposes, not yours,” crowed Miss Sweeny, that wattle of skin under her chin now fully animated. But to no avail. A classroom full of eight-year olds was already out of their seats, ready to encounter the warm spring afternoon burgeoning just beyond the school windows, and in the streets of our small New England town. Any semblance of an orderly dismissal—boys on one side, girls on the other—was undone by incessant pushing and shoving in line and the energizing, shared vision of escape to a broader world of possibilities. (more…)
Washington’s Round House Theatre with ‘Handbagged’: Power Tools for Powerful Women
The title of Moira Buffini’s play says it all: Handbagged is about women, imagery, and the iconic accessory that symbolizes their status and power. The handbag was a power prop much like FDR’s jauntily-poised cigarette or Churchill’s homburg, but uniquely different because it signified power that wasn’t dependent on men.
Handbagged focuses on the interaction of two late-20th century women who played major roles on the international stage. Both Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have used “handbags” as conspicuous signifiers of their status. (more…)
Toronto Contemporary Artist, Nicole Collins, Interviewed by Critic, Emese Krunák-Hajagos
Nicole Collins has been exhibiting simultaneously around town, with ‘One Shot,’ at General Hardware and ‘Furthest Boundless’ at Koffler Gallery. I interviewed her about her work.
EKH: For One Shot at General Hardware you wrote, “The final marks are black (for bile, melancholy), the very first time I used black on a painting, an indicator of an obsession that has played out over the ensuing 24 years and found its’ zenith in Furthest Boundless.” What came first: the theme of death or the color of black? (more…)
Broadway’s ‘The Band’s Visit’: Whimsical and Touching
I knew I had to attend the show. The American Theatre Critics Association’s mini-conference had splendid panels with this gorgeous musical’s creators and performers.
In my 4th row seat I saw the sold-out matinee and tried not to disturb with my fast-growing lung infection. Then I left Manhattan and flew home. The Broadway opening didn’t occur until five days later. My angry doctor didn’t let me get out of bed, but by then my writing about this haunting, heart-lifting artwork was important only to me. (more…)
‘In the Body of the World’: a Glorious Rebirth for Eve Ensler
The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play first came to the attention of New York audiences when it opened Off-Off Broadway in 1996. Since then it has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Fashioned from some 200 interviews that Ensler conducted among woman in all walks of life and ethnicities, the play openly deals with sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth and orgasms, all subjects that the playwright, performer, and activist is still involved with. A recurring theme throughout the monologues is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. Originally performed by Ensler herself The Vagina Monologues eventually morphed into the lives of many actresses, both unknown and famous, each telling the story of one woman. (more…)
Artist, Peter Liashkov’s Lifelong Investigations of Post-Physical Being
Over the course of five decades, Peter Liashkov has produced a significant body of works that he calls “Sidelife,” a term appropriated from a collection of poems by the Romanian-born poet Paul Celan. Comprised of paintings and drawings of the human figure, the series posits one of the most basic questions about human existence: What happens when we die? (more…)
Jennifer Lantzas and New York’s Arsenal Gallery Experience—’Natural Impact’
Jennifer Lantzas is one of those very important people you never hear enough about, someone who helps to fulfill our cultural and aesthetic needs at a time when urban living can be a bit challenging and at times overwhelming. As the Deputy Director of Public Art for NYC Parks. Ms. Lantzas is responsible for managing temporary public art exhibitions in city parks throughout the five boroughs, which includes such events as artist workshops, lectures and film screenings. Parks are our most important city refuge. They bring us back to a place of calm, when we can experience a slice of nature amidst the calamity of city life. By adding art carefully and selectively in our many beautiful parks, we can achieve a further enhancement of the spirit at a time when we need it most. (more…)
David Hockney at The Met 5th Avenue: “Intoxicating Exuberance”
While described as a retrospective in eight galleries with just 60 paintings, 21 portrait drawings and five of his ground-breaking “Joiner” photo collages the David Hockney exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met 5th Ave.) is a bit of a tease.
It has been installed by Ian Alteveer, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Met, which collaborated on the exhibition with Tate Britain and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Through February 25 it remains on view in New York. (more…)
John Lithgow, Showing and Telling “Stories by Heart” on Broadway
For many a theatergoer, John Lithgow, the much-loved 72 year-old actor could read from the phone book and his legion of stalwart fans would gift him with countless oohs, ahs, and a standing ovation. In fact, given his four decades long award-winning Film and TV appearances—6 Tonys, six Emmys, two Golden Globes, Four Grammys, and two Academy Award nominations for The World According To Garp (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983)—all Lithgow would have to do is walk across the stage and he would be greeted with a tsunami of applause. This is exactly what is happening every night at Broadway’s American Airlines Theatre where he is performing his one man show Stories By Heart through March 25th. (more…)
New York’s Belasco Theatre with ‘Farinelli and the King’: Rylance back on Broadway
Even before Farinelli and the King, starring Mark Rylance, opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, I was chomping at the bit in anticipation of seeing the ever brilliant Rylance unleash his incandescent magic once again. Winner of three well-deserved Tony’s, Boeing-Boeing (2008), Jerusalem (2011), and Twelfth Night (2014), an Oscar for best supporting actor in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015), not to mention a number of Olivier awards, was enough to have me drooling. (more…)
Book Review: Matthew Hahn, ‘The Animated Marx Brothers’—A Look at Humor’s Social Value
Immersed in wintery gloom and headlines of doom, perhaps it’s time for us to take a deep breath and remind ourselves to laugh! Humor –remember that?!–is the perfect prescription for sanity.
From slapstick to Seinfeld, America’s popular culture has always embraced humor. Composers of the classic American songbook extolled happiness in such songs as “Make ‘Em Laugh”, which Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed wrote for Singin’ in the Rain. Who can forget Donald O’Connor’s romp (left) while singing, “You start off by pretending you’re a dancer with grace,/You wiggle till they’re giggling all over the place,/And then you get a great big custard pie in the face,/Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh!” (more…)
Editor’s Letter, January, 2018
“What is honored by a country is cultivated there” ~Plato
Left: Artist Unknown, The “Cobbe” Portrait of Wm. Shakespeare (early 1700s), owned by Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin (1686–1765). Undiscovered until 2009.
Greatness with Grace
Editor’s Note: It is not ordinary policy at ARTES Magazine to take a political stance on matters, but given the emotionally charged environment in our cherished ‘house divided,’ we must occasionally speak out. Circumstances sometimes necessitate that we reflect on the dire cultural climate in which we, as artists, musicians and writers now find ourselves working. Common ground for those concerned with the arts can often be found in public gatherings, where shared values of open social critique, expository expression and challenged cultural boundaries are the common currency. These moments are rare and when they occur, we should rightly expect our nation’s leaders to lend credence to events honoring those who have devoted their lifetime to giving voice to our values as a People. The 2017 Kennedy Center Honors is just such an event; and while the awards ceremony occurred in early December, the proceedings were only just recently aired on network television. In response to the decision on the part of President Trump not to attend, Playwright Sarah Rule wrote an editorial that appeared in the New York Times on December 25th. It follows here, in its entirety, for your consideration.
By Sarah Ruhl (for The New York Times Editorial Page)
Dec. 25, 2017
On Tuesday night CBS [aired] the Kennedy Center Honors, and President Trump [was] not be on the screen, because he declined to attend the event when it was held on Dec. 3 in Washington. What does it mean that Mr. Trump didn’t have the nerve, for a single night, to be in a room with artists who have criticized him?
The president’s team claimed that he did not attend so that the artists could celebrate in peace rather than having a political distraction. But the president votes, as we all do, with his feet.
Though the arts have never been neutral politically, the honoring of artists is a bipartisan ritual. The Kennedy Center was a place where the left and the right could agree that the arts occupy a central place in our culture, worthy of our attention and respect. Artists chosen for the Kennedy Center awards generally have fans on the left and the right and everywhere in between. The checkbooks of art patrons are not marked with their party affiliations.
I came of age in the culture wars of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan planned to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, and, instead, ended up whittling down its budget by a small percentage. Still, in 1984, before putting medals on Arthur Miller and Lena Horne among other luminaries, he reflected on the way Americans had developed “a culture that was as fertile as this new land” and had continued to innovate in arts and entertainment.
“And today our nation has crowned her greatness with grace, and we gather this evening to honor five artists who have helped her to do so,” he said. I never thought I would be quoting Ronald Reagan to make an argument for the centrality of the arts in American life — but his phrase struck me, during the bizarre cultural moment we are living through: “Our nation has crowned her greatness with grace.” Mr. Trump wants “to make America great again” without dissent and without the arts; but can one truly have greatness without grace?
When President George W. Bush presided over the Kennedy Center awards for the final time, in 2008, one of the honorees was Barbra Streisand, a vocal critic of his policies. After Mr. Bush read her biography, he added, “She’s also been known to speak her mind.” The audience laughed, then applauded. Ms. Streisand later wrote: “President Bush gave me his signature wink and mouthed, ‘We showed ’em.’ I guess in some small way, he and I proved that we could agree to disagree, and, for that weekend, art transcended politics.” The wink and the joke were actually profound — they signaled a functional democracy.
During his eight years in office, President Barack Obama could be seen one minute on Broadway with Michelle Obama, at August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” or at “Hamilton,” and the cast of “Hamilton”could also be seen at the White House.
I remember the Obamas appearing on a video feed at the Tony Awards to introduce and exalt “Hamilton,” and thinking: We are living in the golden age of theater. An age in which a poet-politician was at home with the great Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was himself at home with the sonnet form in an acceptance speech. This cultural flowering and embrace of an artist by a ruler made me think of the synergy between Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare. If “Hamilton” represented a national renaissance and a broadening of our democracy, where are we now?
Shortly after the election, Mike Pence went to see “Hamilton.” Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, addressed the vice president-elect after the show: “We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”
Does it get more Shakespearean than this? The actors speaking an epilogue directly to a ruler? Mr. Trump wanted the cast to apologize. Because, he tweeted, the theater must be a “safe and special place.”
“Safe and special?” For whom? In an “us” versus “them” culture — when most artists have become a “them” to the ruler, what hope is there for gentleness in civil discourse, a welcome difference of opinions, multiplicity, empathy and grace?
In dictatorships, the artists are often the first to go. Or maybe they are the third to go, after the press and the intellectuals. The refusal of the president to celebrate them is a chilling and clear departure from American values. Perhaps the Trumps didn’t want to compete with the Obamas, who at the 2016 Kennedy Center awards received the longest standing ovation of the evening.
Mr. Obama met with Marilynne Robinson, a writer he admired, to interview her for The New York Review of Books in the fall of 2015. I think of a president with enough humility and curiosity to interview her — a politician-writer meeting a fellow writer on equal ground, discussing the virtues of the yellow notepad — and I want to weep.
* * *
Sarah Ruhl is an American playwright, professor, and essayist. Among her most popular plays are Eurydice (2003), The Clean House (2004), and In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) (2009). She has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a distinguished American playwright in mid-career. Two of her plays have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and she received a nomination for Tony Award for Best Play.
In 2015, she published a collection of essays, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Her most recent play, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday(2017), premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. She currently serves on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama.
Cézanne’s Realms of Inner Space (fantasy on a chance meeting with Friedrich Nietzsche)
“We philosophers are never more delighted than when we are taken for artists.” ~F. Nietzsche
“Painting from Nature is not copying the object: it is realizing one’s sensations.” ~P. Cézanne
“The living is merely a type of what is dead, and a very rare type.” ~F. Nietzsche
Chapter 1. La Recontre
Pämierlieutenant Friedrich Nietzsche walked down the gangway into the bright Mediterranean sun, a battered valise in hand. The year was 1869. Scanning the busy dockside, he saw a sign over the customs house door announcing, ‘Marseille,’ along with a fingerpost directing travelers ‘ à droite’ for public transport to his next destination, L’Estaque. Conscription into the Prussian army two years earlier meant a brief return to active service as international tensions mounted, with a duty station assignment in Lucerne. But in spite of his military responsibilities and ongoing squabbles among diplomats far removed to the north, Nietzsche intended to use his short military leave to seek the warmth and intellectual stimulation of this azure-drenched, palm-fringed coastal retreat.
Above: Friedrich Nietzsche as a Prussian military officer (1868-69).
Washington Stage Guild with ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Other Stories’
Many of our earliest memories of Christmas are rooted in stories that made sugar plums dance in our heads. I remember being enthralled by having “’Twas the Night before Christmas” read to me, and later relishing Dr. Seuss’s tale of the Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff) trying to steal Christmas.
Left: Thomas Nast, Merry Old Santa (1863).
Storytelling is essential to the spirit of Christmas, and the Washington Stage Guild decided this year to celebrate that spirit with a show that cobbles together several favorite Christmas stories in a holiday production called A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Other Stories. Dylan Thomas’s story takes center stage, but Artistic Director Bill Largess has also included Louisa May Alcott’s short “Merry Christmas,” Charles Dickens’s “What Christmas Is as We Grow Older,” “A Medieval Puzzle,” and A.A. Milne’s “King John’s Christmas.” (more…)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: Mark Bradford’s ‘Pickett’s Charge’
Mark Bradford uses the language of abstraction in his texturally layered paintings in which he combines collaged commonplace materials with paint. This celebrated African-American artist from Los Angeles since the early 2000’s continues to fuse his interests of cultural identity with abstract forms tackling a full spectrum of subjects including race, class, gender, aestheticism, or everyday life. (more…)
Washington’s Arena Stage- The Pajama Game: Warm Embrace for Cold Times
Arena Stage is a stellar Washington, D.C. theater that regularly presents new productions of classic Broadway musicals. For the holidays this year, Arena is producing The Pajama Game. A smash hit when it was first staged on Broadway in 1954, The Pajama Game won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, and Best Choreography. (more…)
Washington, D.C.’s Hirshhorn with, ‘Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Utopian Projects’
In May 1988 the New York Times critic John Russell wrote, “Ilya Kabakov is many things in one – a poet, a reporter, a storyteller in prose, a portraitist who never shows us his sitters directly, an environmental sculptor and an understated magician.” Having witnessed Ilya Kabakov’s ”Ten Characters,” at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, in 1988 and other constructions in Europe including the famed “Toliet” at Documenta, and “The Ship of Tolerance” at the Venice Biennale, I am in full agreement, that Kabakov is perhaps one of the most creative artists who continually expresses his humanist concerns through architectural quixotic realism, suggestive of the 19th century French utopian architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. (more…)
David Hockney at Eighty: Everything Old Is New Again
For a number of decades both the name and work of English-born, Californian by adoption, David Hockney, has been quietly flying under the art world’s radar, breaking all attendance records, despite a major exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2012 which included a gallery of works he had composed on an iPad. More than likely, the gently reserved Hockney was outshouted by the manufactured spectacles of circus artists’ billionaire Damian Hirst and half billionaire Jeff Koons, unarguably the two richest artists on the planet. (more…)
Washington Stage Guild: Onstage with George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ House
Washington Stage Guild is a long-standing gem in the national capital’s sparkling theater scene. The repertory company was founded in 1986 in a derelict area of downtown Washington near the National Portrait Gallery. Traumatized by riots that swept through in 1968, the area was still dominated by empty spaces, boarded-up windows, and porn shops. Ford’s Theatre was nearby, but the Gaiety Burlesque house was a highpoint. Few tour buses lingered. (more…)
New York’s Friedman Theater ‘Prince of Broadway’: Lightly Skimming Legendary 7-Decade Career
One might think after winning a record 21 Tony Awards for producing or directing (and sometimes both simultaneously) many of Broadway’s most popular and critically acclaimed musicals of the past 70 years, that the return of Hal Prince to The Great White Way with his latest venture, Prince of Broadway, would have been a shoo-in.
The show is unabashedly a compendium of popular songs culled from his greatest hits like West Side Story (1957), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Cabaret (1966), Company (1970), Follies (1971), Sweeney Todd (1979), Evita (1979) and The Phantom of the Opera (1986), – the last still up and running after 30 years and the longest running musical in history.
But a shoo-in? Not so! (more…)
Stratford Festival of Canada with the Bard’s ‘Timon of Athens’
Timon of Athens has not been a popular Shakespeare classic: in fact, it has not been revived so often as most of his others. Its horrors are more melodramatic than tragic; and its comic elements are more bizarre satire than familiar foolishness. There’s a self-indulgent quality to Simon’s obvious pleasure in the abject worship he receives for his generosity when giving away his treasures to his grateful followers that undercuts our admiration. Then, as he loses his fortune and must ask for help from those he’d lavished gifts upon, we can smirk at their ingratitude and hypocrisy but are not filled with sympathy for the smug and vengeful Simon. Lord Bountiful becomes vengeful victim, and Shakespeare’s drama starts to resemble Moliere’s later The Misanthrope. (more…)
Silent Opera Over Venice: Richard Humann’s Augmented Reality at Venice Biennale
The connection between the potential of augmented reality (AR), and art is a simple one to make—sometimes it only takes a ‘T.’ Yet as Richard Humann settles back into his Brooklyn studio after his nine-hour return flight, he can’t help but smile knowing he’s onto something considerably more complex.
Left: Richard Humann, The Dogs of War (2017), Augmented Reality, variable dimensions
“I don’t remember leaving it this way,” Richard says, setting down his laptop bag, “It’s remarkable how much mess it takes to get artists to their exhibitions.” However, this mess brought more than Richard Humann to the sun soaked waterways of Venice, it likewise brought “Ascension”, the first AR installation to premier during the Venice Biennale, in conjunction with the European Cultural Center and the GAA Foundation. (more…)
Now at Beers London: ‘Concrete Forest/Paintings of Kim Dorland’
The artist, Kim Dorland caught my attention with his painting, Bay Blanket #3, in his 2014 exhibition at Toronto’s Angell Gallery. In this work, a young woman—the artist’s wife Lori—kneels on a bed in front of a wall covered with family paraphernalia, holding a Bay blanket to cover her nakedness. Her face and arms are created from thick paint that the artist has partly removed, so it looks cratered. There are heavy patches of paint on the blanket as well as the images on the wall. It is very physical, very energetic, and you can see the movements of the artist’s hand throughout as he layered and manipulated the paint. Somehow it is still able to capture that intimate moment, as the figure hugs her body and looks out from her surroundings. The multi-coloured, striped ‘Bay’ blanket is emblematic of the Canadian North and the other walls are bare, as a cabin might be. (more…)
Canada’s Stratford Festival’s ‘Guys and Dolls’: A Production Knockout
Director/choreographer Donna Feore seems to have solidified Canada’s Stratford Festival’s standing as not only the largest and finest classical repertory theater in this hemisphere but also Canada’s greatest musical theater. This season’s superb Guys and Dolls may not be the astoundingly perfect production that her 2013 recreation of Fiddler on the Roof became, nor so daring a restaging as her A Chorus Line last season, but it may be more pleasing than either, and is certainly the all-around best version I’ve seen to date (and that includes the Broadway original). Following and completing the late Brian Macdonald’s transformation of Stratford’s masterful Shakespearean repertory artists into first-rate, Broadway-level singers and dancers, also, Feore has now demonstrated a repertory of Stratford musicals worthy of filming, touring, or reproducing worldwide. (more…)
Ai Weiwei: ‘Trace’ at Washington’s Hirshhorn
Ai Weiwei is a riveting artistic presence who raises hackles and hell wherever he can. Born in Beijing in 1957, he studied at the Beijing Film Academy before moving to the United States in 1981. He soaked up the colorful life of New York’s East village, and when he returned to China in 1993 he became a major and disruptive figure in the contemporary art scene there. Ai relished antagonizing the repressive Chinese authorities, and the government in turn targeted his political activism, ultimately arresting him 2011. He was imprisoned for three months and forbidden to leave China until 2015. (more…)
Editor’s Letter: July, 2017
“We must first look, before we can see.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Left: Isamu Noguchi, Mother and Child (1944-1947), Onyx, 19 3/8 × 12 3/4 × 8 5/8″. Noguchi Museum, NY.
On Being Taught Not to Fly
Another essay by art and theater critic, world traveler and ARTES contributing editor, Edward Rubin…
It wasn’t until I visited the Doge’s Palace in Venice (below, left and right [detail]) and came face to face with “Paradise,” Tintoretto’s large painting that hangs majestically in the Ducal Hall that I discovered that Tintoretto was still alive. Here he was, some 400 years later, looking down at me looking up at him. I didn’t have to read the painting’s label which no doubt listed the artist’s name, the title of the painting, and the date it was executed. I didn’t have time. I was pulled right past the words into the heart of the matter. Communication was instantaneous. I knew immediately that this seething mass of humanity, posing as saints and angels on canvas, all 23 by 72 feet of it, was transmogrified flesh…Tintoretto’s. (more…)
New York Gallery, Lichtundfire with ‘Counterpoints to the Narrative’
Counterpoints to the Narrative is on view until the end of this month at Lichtundfire. It provides a thoughtful exploration of contemporary mediums, color theory, and depth of field, featuring three artists who engage unique materials to bring an idiosyncrasy of observation in traditional approaches to balance and color. The exhibition is a revelation on more than one level from its curator Dominick Lombardi; and Lichtundfire, a gallery I have come to admire as sage to the world of objective theory through its exploration of new approaches in the rapport of material to expression. (more…)
Addison Gallery of American Art with Stella Prime: Prints from an American Master
‘Frank Stella Prints’ offers an unusually illuminating perspective on the career of virtuoso artist, Frank Stella, who helped define the perimeters of American art over the past five decades. The show focuses on his printmaking, and its over 100 works on paper suggest the ways his highly experimental approach transformed our understanding of the traditional print.
This elegant and comprehensive exhibition, the artist’s first major print retrospective since 1982, also offers up a clear view of Stella’s stylistic evolution — a series of reinventions that morphed from the minimalist geometric abstraction of his early years to an effervescent complexity of his later gestural work. (more…)
‘The School For Lies’ at Shakespeare Theatre, Washington, D.C: “Rippingly Appropriate” for 2017
Egad–imagine life riven by “fake news,” “alternate facts,” and boorish behavior?! Playwright David Ives has, and he has now wickedly transformed this thought into a gleeful roast. His new play, The School for Lies, is loosely based on Moliere’s mid-seventeenth century caricature of French oafishness, The Misanthrope, and it is one of the funniest productions ever concocted. It is the perfect antidote for our dreary times. (more…)
Roman Ruins: Update on a Once Great Beauty
On a recent sunny September afternoon, I stood on one of the hills of Rome with a group of Italians, looking across the brown Tiber (below) to the old orange buildings of Trastevere. A bright green bird, maybe some sort of parrot, swooped over the river toward a row of darker green umbrella pines. Modern Rome has few birds, except for sparrows and pigeons, and precious little quiet, so we stood for a while and drank it in. (more…)
‘Matisse in the Studio,’ at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts: Vibrant Beauty
French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was a seminal influence on 20th Century Art, a creative spirit who helped define the century’s revolutionary approach to the visual. The MFA’s Matisse in the Studio – the only venue in North America where this exhibition will be shown – is the first major international show to examine how the objects in the artist’s personal collection played in powerful role in shaping his art. It is a fascinating look at how the objects he regarded with affection effected a great artist’s oeuvre. (more…)
Editor’s Letter: May, 2017
“History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.’”
Left: Frank Duveneck, study for, Guard at the Harem (1888). Collection Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
Art Preserves the Historical Record: Muslim Slaves in 19th Century America
First, a little background…
Slavery is as old as civilization. The capture, sale and exploitation of slave labor had been a burgeoning business for the nations of Europe and Africa—then the center of the known world—and beyond, throughout recorded history.
So when slavery arrived on the shores of the American colonies, it was merely a natural progression of a widely recognized and accepted practice. It is important to note, at this point, a detail about exploration and settlement of the North American continent in the 400 years since its “discovery”, up until the Civil War. After the vast landfall’s presence was known for certain, this “New World” was invaded by three principle groups—each with its own agenda. (more…)
217 Films Releases “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age”—Brilliantly Conceived
Mark Twain wasted little affection on the extravagances of Victorian America. Boisterous lifestyles and conspicuous consumption followed hard on the heels of a dreadfully protracted Civil War. In its aftermath, industrial innovation, commercial and urban expansion fueled both a new, burgeoning middle and astronomically-rich industrial class. Across the Atlantic during the same period (1870-90s), the French had their own term for these times: La Belle Epoch. Soured by its implications for our own societal values, Twain disparagingly referred to it as the “Gilded Age.” The good news, of course, was that American exceptionalism was coming into its own, as a nation and its inchoate culture began to emerge from under the dominant shadow of its mentor—Western Europe. But, that shift toward cultural autonomy and global dominance was a trend that only historical perspective now confirms. For cultural observers of the time, like Twain, the old world order was slipping away, life moving at breakneck and confusing speed toward an ill-defined future and an ebullient new century. (more…)
“Other Than Honorable” at Rochester’s Geva Theatre: A Lasting Impression
I think this is an important play. It has won acclaim in development around the country, clearly knocked out the opening night audience on its world premiere at Rochester, New York’s Geva Theater Center, and is most certainly headed for a Broadway debut. Some of award-winning, fearless Jamie Pachino’s hard-hitting script and trail-blazing director Kimberly Senior’s showy, theatrical second act may get more subtly tuned-up first, but ‘Other Than Honorable’ is sure to make a lasting impression and win awards. (more…)
Washington’s Ford’s Theater with “Ragtime”: Resonates with Our Time
From the opening notes of its come-hither “Prologue,” the new Ford’s Theatre production of Ragtime is an immersive experience. This historic Washington, D.C., theater is intimate: the stage sits close to the audience, and actors at times run back-and-forth along the aisles. Ford’s also has a unique identity no other theater can offer, because hovering over all the action is the Presidential Box where Lincoln was shot. The legacy of his injunction to find “the better angels of our nature” gives this production of Ragtime a particular poignancy. (more…)
Broadway’s LuPone and Ebersole in “War Paint”: Double Display of Delicious Divadom
It’s no surprise that Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, two of Broadway’s most beloved Tony-winning performers, each with their own cadre of diehard followers, are filling the seats at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater. It is equally unsurprising that the audience goes over the moon after each Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics) War Paint song that they sing. And there are some twenty of them. They must realize that this is History in the Making, heaven-sent if you will, for having two knock ‘em dead Broadway stars singing their hearts out for the price of one, is a treat of great and rare proportion. (more…)
Award-winning WW II Drama, ‘Land of Mine’: Boy Soldiers and the Allies’ Revenge
“All wars are waged against children.” Eglantyne Jebb, British social reformer and author of “Declaration of the Rights of the Child” (1876-1928)
Two of the finest World War II films ever made are Austrian filmmaker Bernhard Wicki’s “The Bridge” (“Die Brücke”) and Soviet Russian filmmaker Elem Klimov’s “Come and See.” Wicki’s film, based on Gregor Dorfmeister’s 1958 novel of the same name and based on actual events, was released in 1959, a mere 15 years after World War II ended, when the experiences of war would have been fresh in the German memory.