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.
Geva Theatre Center’s simple but stunning production of
Marco Ramirez’s The Royale is not only a modern, evocative
play, based loosely on the career of the world’s first black heavyweight
champion, Jack Johnson. It is about a boxing match that virtually symbolizes
the sport’s historic refutation of racist stereotypes. And it also evokes the
art and contradictions of the sport that ultimately triumph over its vulgarity,
venality and vice. Working closely with Movement Coordinator Rocio Mendez, Geva
Theatre Center’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Engagement has
developed a kind of non-balletic dance technique to illustrate the physical contact,
precise effort, and emotional expression of the boxers’ training and actual
fight. The sound and rhythm of the boxing is primarily conveyed by staccato
stomps on the floor. But the actors are almost always also dancers in their
Jamal James has the stature for Jay, the leading man/Jack
Johnson role and gives a powerful but poetic sense of inner conflict to Jay’s
urgent need to win. DazMann Still is appealing as the insecure young boxer who
is his initial opponent in the play. Outstanding among the others is Lisa
Tharps, who comes into leading focus late in the play as Jay’s older sister
afraid of harm when her black family challenges a white leader [the current
Settings, costumes, and potent visual effects are also
slightly stylized and always richly suggest struggle without using violent
detail. “Separate but equal” was a ruse, not a reality, in the lives of these
black characters. And without the boxers ever touching one another, the
climactic fight and its glaring aftermath [virtual silence and blinding light
that makes us gasp and blink] do not leave us unexcited or finally untouched.
In this case artfulness equals power.
By Herbert Simpson,
Production: The Royale (Total Rating: ****, out of 4)
Jamal James, Sean Meehan, DazMann Still, Lisa Tharps, Alexander Thomas
Theater Center – Nextstage, 75 Woodbury Boulevard, Rochester, NY.
Director: Pirronne Yousefzadeh
Author: Marco Ramirez
Production:Scenic Designer and Lighting
Designer: Seth Reiser, Costume Designer: Sarafina Bush; Sound
Designer: Christopher Lane; Dramaturg: Eric Evans; Movement Coordinator: Rocio Mendez
This production was originally staged by the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, NY from March 10 – March 31, 2019, M.Bevin O’Gara, Artistic Director. Center Theater Group/Kirk Douglas Theater, Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director, produced the World Premiere of The Royale in Los Angeles, CA in 2013. Originally produced by Lincoln Center Theater in 2016, New York City. The Royale is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
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.
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.
Serving as an apprentice in the progressive architecture studio of Peter Behrens (1907-08), Gropius was exposed to modern design techniques, new building materials, and an enlightened way of understanding the built environment. This more humanistic design experience stayed with him throughout his life and career. His charm and thoughtfulness were invaluable assets in making him a superstar catalyst for great and emerging artists, designers, and architects. He managed to balance clashing egos, often through exercises of imagination as well as opportunities for collaboration.
Through his charm and intellect, Gropius was able to attract to the Bauhaus a faculty made up of celebrated artists and craftspeople that included Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Anni Albers, Marianne Brandt, and Alexander Schawinsky. According to MacCarthy, Gropius encouraged innovation at the Bauhaus by setting up an environment of “creative dissidence,” the generation of debate that was specifically directed toward inspiring originality and technical innovation. This personal approach resulted in his greatly admired design philosophy as well as formidable educational legacy.
His scores of prominent students include starchitects Marcel Breuer, I.M. Pei, Paul Rudolph, Philip Johnson, Edward Durell Stone, Fumihiko Maki, Edward Larrabee Barnes, Eliot Noyes, and Yoshio Taniguchi. Gropius was a passionate advocate of a healthy exchange of ideas; colleagues and students thrived in that atmosphere of fierce discussion.
Born in Berlin into an upper class family set at the junction of commerce and Kultur, Gropius (1883-1969) was the third child of Walter Adolph Gropius (also an architect) and Manon Auguste Pauline Scharnweber. Though he never knew him, Walter’s uncle was Martin Gropius (1824-1880), the architect of Berlin’s Museum of Decorative arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum). In 1915, Gropius married Alma Mahler, widow of the composer Gustav Mahler. Their daughter Manon (born 1916) died of polio at age 18 in 1935. Gropius and Mahler divorced less than amicably in 1920.
An officer serving in the hussars during his youth, Gropius was handsome, suave, and charismatic. During World War I, he served as a cavalry officer on the Western Front, was wounded, and received the Iron Cross for bravery. During the War, Gropius was buried alive for three days. This hellish experience no doubt informed his visionary utopian philosophy. In 1923, Gropius married Ise Frank; they remained together until his death in 1969. The couple adopted and raised a daughter, Beate Gropius, known as Ati.
Between 1910 and 1930, Gropius was strategically placed, right at the fulcrum of European modernism, which soon became known to the world as the International Style, an expression of the artistic avant-garde. During the rise of the Nazis, he was exiled to the anti-modernist United Kingdom, where he and his family stayed for several years until he was hired by Harvard University’s architectural department to lead it. There he stayed the rest of his life.
Along with Gropius’ status as one of modern architecture’s founding members, in Massachusetts his magnetic personality drew a continuous array of visitors — both friends and strangers — who were anxious to be in the shadow of the distinguished architect and teacher. He was known for his generosity of spirit and overall bonhomie. The architectural firm he helped found, The Architects Collaborative in Cambridge, MA, reflected Gropius’ forward looking focus and collaborative approach.
Notably, his house in Lincoln, MA was financed by Mrs. Helen Osborne Storrow, a prominent widowed philanthropist and progressive thinker. Her family’s generous gifts to The Esplanade and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts helped to finance (the aptly named) Storrow Drive. While at Harvard, absorbing the democratizing influence of American universities, Gropius became an advocate of public art and its valuable role in architecture.
Gropius’ impact can be measured not only by his several iconic buildings — including the Fagus factory, Bauhaus Dessau, New York’s Pan Am Building and Harvard’s Graduate Student Center — but his enormous influence on students and colleagues at both the Bauhaus and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He is also notable for his encouragement of women’s personal as well as artistic endeavors, his much imitated teamwork approach to art and architectural education (which has permeated design schools world-wide), and his egalitarian belief that high design was for everyone, not just the wealthy.
Gropius has long been described, incorrectly, as humorless and cold. Though she does ample justice to the man’s importance as an unquestioned eminence in the history of architecture, design, and art, MacCarthy makes a needed case for Gropius as an affable family man and collegial professional colleague who exuded a very warm, very human presence.
An urban designer and public artist, Mark Favermann has been deeply involved in branding, enhancing, and making more accessible parts of cities, sports venues, and key institutions. Also an award-winning public artist, he creates functional public art as civic design. Mark created the Looks of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, the 1999 Ryder Cup Matches in Brookline, MA, and the 2000 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis. The designer of the renovated Coolidge Corner Theatre, he is design consultant to the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative Program. Since 2002, Mark has been a design consultant to the Red Sox. Mark is Associate Editor of Arts Fuse.
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
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
As is often the case with large
exhibitions which feature thousands of work of art – in this exhibition primarily
19th, 20, and 21 century contemporary photographs – I visited every
gallery and project space and selected the photographs for this piece that
captured my mind’s eye. I was hoping to discover 10 such photographs but only 8
worked their way into my psyche.
If the truth be told, each of these eight
works entered my brain even before I began to question myself – which I have
been doing ever since I visited the exhibition – what it was about these images,
among the thousands on display, which forced themselves on me. One thing is
sure in my self-diagnosing; I found pieces of myself, past and present, living
in each of these photographs. Hopefully, some of these photos will speak to you
The format that I chose use to present these photographs lists each of the eight galleries contact information, the Wikipedia and artists’ website links, if available, and a note or two, supplied by the artist or the gallery:
Scott Nichols Gallery, 49 Geary, Suite 415 San Francisco, CA 94108 p 415 788 4641 c 415 350 9994 firstname.lastname@example.org www.scottnicholsgallery.com
A private dealer since 1980, Scott Nichols opened the gallery in 1992, specializing in classic and contemporary photography with an emphasis on group f/64
Imogene Cunningham (1883-1976) The Unmade Bed, 1957, Vintage gelatin silver print 9 ½” x 12 ¾” signed and dated $38,000.
Imogene Cunningham (1883
– 1976) was an American photographer known for her botanical photography,
nudes, and industrial landscapes. Cunningham was a member of the
California-based Group f/64, known for its dedication to the sharp-focus
rendition of simple subjects.
The Todd Webb Archive was established to educate the public about
20th-century photographer Todd Webb. This year, the archive is
making rare, never-before-seen vintage work available.
Webb (1905-2000) La Salle at Amsterdam,
New York 1946, 11” x 14” Vintage Gelatin Silver Print, Signed, Titled, and dated
by the photographer.
Todd Webb was an American photographer notable for documenting everyday life and architecture in cities such as New York, Paris, as well as from the American West. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Webb
Winter Works on Paper was opened for business by David Winter in
1993. Since then he has created a singular niche in the world of print,
drawings, and photographs. Trained as a sculptor, David Winter has developed an
eye for works on paper that are decorative and graphically compelling but also
unusual and off-beat. From a Kindergarten cut-paper design to an architectural
by Piranesi, from a pressed fern for the 19th century to a
photograph of the moon’s surface, from a poster from the Russian revolution to
an anonymous snapshot; the eccentric plurality of media and imagery are brought
together under one roof.
Classroom, hand colored G.S. P. circa 1950, $1500. 00, photographer unknown.
Deborah Bell Photographs has
been a dealer of fine-art photographs since 1988.
The gallery offers a broad
range of works spanning the history of photography, concentrating on the
20th century, with special emphasis on European photography between the world
wars; American photography from the 1940s-1970s; selected fashion photography;
and photo-documents of conceptual art and performance. Along with
presenting innovative exhibitions and representing living photographers and
estates, our goal is to work closely with individuals and institutions in
building collections of depth and quality.
Mariana Cook (American, b. 1955) Sea Wall, Blackhead, Burren, Ireland, 3 July 2005 from an edition of six prints in this size. Gelatin silver print, mounted, signed, titled, dated & numbered 3/6 in ink on mount verso image 36” x 36″ (91.4 x 91.4 cm), mounted 38” x 38″ (96.5 x 96.5 cm) $13,700 framed .
STONE WALLS was conceived by Mariana Cook, the last protégé of Ansel Adams, at her home on Martha’s Vineyard on the day before Thanksgiving 2002. After 56 cows strayed through a crumbling section of the stone wall she shares with her neighbor, Cook studied the tumbled wall and was struck by its beauty. With that inspiration, Cook spent the next eight years traveling to farms, towns, and temples in Peru, Great Britain, Ireland, the Mediterranean, New England, and Kentucky in pursuit of dry stone walls. As Wendell Berry writes about stone walls in his essay in Cook’s book, Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries, “They are products equally of art and nature. They look both human and natural.” He concludes that the photographs are “a record of a kind of rural life by now almost lost, but certainly of worth and possibly indispensable.” http://www.cookstudio.com
Founded in 1995, Yancy Richardson,
one of the preeminent galleries in-photo-based art features contemporary, as
well as photography from the 20 th and 21st century. The gallery is committed to working with museums,
private institutions, leading art collectors and other galleries to advance the
careers of the artists we represent. Their current program includes critically
recognized, emerging photographers such as Bryan Graf, Zanele Muholi and Paul
Mpagi Sepuya as well as mid-career artists such as Mitch Epstein,
Laura Letinsky, Andrew Moore,
Mickalene Thomas and Hellen van Meene. Additionally, the gallery regularly
exhibits the work of established masters, including August Sander, Ed Ruscha,
Andrew Moore Back Room at the Harmony Club, Selma, AL, 2017, 50 x 60 inches Archival pigment print, Edition 5 of 5, $18,500
The result of
twelve trips over three years, Moore’s work in the American South uses historic
homes, both grand and modest, the preserved backroom of a Jewish social
club, the curtained entry to a Freemason’s temple, a worm-eaten map of
Hale County and a ruined bridge in a verdant swamp to suggest the economic,
social and cultural divisions that characterize the South and the love of
history, tradition and land that binds its citizens. Following in-depth
explorations of the economically ravaged city of Detroit (2007 – 2009) and the
mythic high plains region along the 100th meridian (2011 – 2014), the
work continues the artist’s investigation of “the inner empire” of the
Born in London, Peter Fetterman has been deeply
involved in the medium of photography for over 30 years. Initially a filmmaker
and collector, he set up his first gallery over 20 years ago. He was one of the
pioneer tenants of Bergamot Station, the Santa Monica Center of the Arts when
it first opened in 1994. The gallery has one of the largest inventories of
classic 20th Century photography in the country particularly in humanist
photography. Diverse holdings include work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado,
Steve McCurry, Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Willy Ronis, André Kertesz, Manuel
Alvarez Bravo, Lillian Bassman, Pentti Sammallahti, Sarah Moon and Jeffrey
“In 1984, I was asked to photograph Jean Michel Basquiat for L’Uomo Vogue. When I walked into the artist’s loft I was immediately engulfed by a wave of creative confusion. The room was a swirl of people, paint, canvas, color and smoke. Off in the corner was Basquiat submerged and almost invisible. My immediate instinct was to remove him from all the distractions and place him in front of a thin 4’ wall of grey seamless paper. I wanted to see behind his eyes and allow him to tell the most elemental part of his story – the human spirit behind the art. It is tempting to second guess the decision I made that day at 57 Great Jones St, but I was interested in a simple portrait of a complicated genius. I was a young artist myself and I was drawn to the immediacy of this painter’s presence. I believed in that moment that less was more and I knew no better solution. During that short period of time, less than one hour, I shot 79 frames. While each of my photographs are similar in structure from frame to frame, Basquiat’s intensity, his intelligence, anger, curiosity, gaze, and hands and body language mutated and shifted. Those faceted revelations moved me to share this work for the first time. His luminous presence and indelible talent shines through the simplicity of the setting. I don’t regret my decision.” – Richard Corman
Vintage Photography, Photographs by American and European
photographers of the 20th Century , including Italian photography, fashion,
industrial, and New York School.
Platt Lynes (1907-1955) Untitled, 7”
x 9”, circa 1940, vintage gelatin print, $9,500 Sold.
Lynes (April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
was an American fashion and commercial photographer who worked in the 1930s and
1940s. He produced some photographs featuring many
gay artists and writers from the 1940s that were acquired by the Kinsey
Institute after his death in 1955. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Platt_Lynes
Note: An exhibition of Georges Platt Lynes Portraits, Nudes, & Dance is currently on view through May 23 at the Keith De Lellis Gallery.
Gallery of Photography specializes in classic black & white photography
from the 20th and 21st century with an emphasis on
humanist and photojournalist imagery. The gallery features work by renowned
vintage photographers, and represents both contemporary and emerging
Stephen Wilkes (American, B. 1957) Hurricane Sandy, Seaside Heights, New Jersey, 2012 Digital C-Print signed limited edition (3/12) $25,000 Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography.
As Stephen Wilkes intended, this photograph is incredibly
beautiful yet tragic all at the same time. “I’ve often found that there is
great power in telling difficult stories in a beautiful way. Interest in any
given story wanes so quickly, yet it’s only through taking the time to go
deeper that we get to a place of real understanding. I had to return to this
story, and I wanted try to comprehend the scale of this storm. The only way for
me to capture Sandy’s destructive fury was from above.” –Stephen
Wilkes https://www.stephenwilkes.com ,
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…)
The Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Museum has opened a stunning exhibition that showcases the Empresses of China’s long-lived Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). A collaboration with the Peabody Museum and Beijing’s Palace Museum, “Empresses of China’s Forbidden City” is intended to address the neglected history of these women: the press release argues that “male officials who wrote Qing court history recorded very little” about the Empresses’ activities, and this exhibit is meant to tell the little known stories of how these women lived and how they influenced politics and international diplomacy.
All mages are 30 x 30″, Digital print on Canson Arches Infinity Watercolor Paper (acid free), framed, Limited edition (1/3 ed of 3 +1AP), 2018. Courtesy of Robert Kananaj Gallery and the artist.
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…)
Aida Izadpanah, Alignment series, Handmade, fired, painted porcelain on wooden board, 12 x 12,” 2019
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…)
Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, and Derrick Baskin in AIN’T TOO PROUD (all photos by Matthew Murphy)
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…)
This inspiring show celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Bauhaus.
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
Alison Luff as “Nell Gwynn,” in an Olivier Award-winning comedy at the Folger Theatre. All photos: Brittany Diliberto
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…)
Dana Scutz, Beat Out the Sun, oil on canvas, 94 x 87.5,” 2018
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…)
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…)
L-R: Dove Cameron, Zurin Villanueva in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. All Photo credits: Monique Carboni.
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…)
Artist Joseph Delaney stands with his painting ‘VJ Day’ (all images Courtesy of the Ewing Gallery unless otherwise noted)
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…)
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…)
Raúl Esparza (Arturo Ui) , Elizabeth A. Davis (Girl) in Classic Stage production of ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’. All photos: Joan Marcus.
“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…)
Grace Van Patten (Joan Arc), Glenn Close (Isabelle Arc), in Public Theater’s production of ‘Mother of the Maid.’ All photos, unless otherwise noted, Joan Marcus.
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…)
Bahareh and Farzandeh Safarani, “5:30 a.m. In the Basement,” Oil paintings on canvas overlaid with video projection, 60×36 inches, 2018.
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…)
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…)
Kimberly Gilbert (Billy Dawn), in the Ford’s Theatre production of ‘Born Yesterday.’ All photos: Carol Rosegg.
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…)
Sam Bartman, Majestic Waters (2001), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17″.
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…)
“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…)
New York Botanical Gardens, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
The most magical ‘back to nature’ attraction for out-of-town-tourists, as well as native dwellers, is New York’s City’s Botanical Garden, situated in the Bronx. With over 250 acres, containing unique tropical and desert habitats, rose and rock gardens, a lily pond filled with goldfish that come to the surface to talk to you, the county’s largest Victorian-era glass house, and miles of lushly planted paths to both walk or tram, this National Historic Landmark preserve is a wonderful way to spend a glorious day. And most astonishing is a 50 acre old-growth forest of massive maples, oaks, and chestnuts that has stood, blessedly so, unmoved since the American Revolution. I might add for those that love to shop and eat, there are two eateries, two picnic areas if you prefer to bring your own lunch which I and three friends did, and a wonder-filled gift shop, offering Botanical Garden-raised plants of all kinds for sale. One of those is currently gracing my living room. (more…)
Joe Chisholm (Berger), Joshua Carey (Woof,) in Geva Theatre Center’s production of ‘Hair.’ All Photos: Ron Heerkens Jr // Goat Factory Media Entertainment
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
Stephen Cook, My Disease My Infection (2017), charcoal, oil stick and aluminum paint on paper, 77 ¾ x 61 ½”.
It was one year ago that I first became acquainted with the work of Stephen Cook, and OneWay Gallery. Being in Narragansett, I was not expecting to see much beyond the stereotypical sails and sunsets in any ‘art gallery’, so I was completely taken aback by Cook’s versatility and vigor as a contemporary painter. His one-person exhibition featured a number of varied principles and directions, and I instantly read his art as having been created by an energetic and reactive young mind inundated with expressions of socio-cultural information and imagery. So I began to take notes for a review seeing that moment as a great opportunity to get to know the artist and his work. (more…)
Renee Taylor, in “My Life on a Diet” Photo by Edward Rubin
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…)
Eli Gelb (Benjamin) and Idina Menzel (Jodi). Unless noted, all photos by Joan Marcus (2018)
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…)
Commodore Primous (Terk) and Vinny Montague (Young Tarzan) in recent Atlanta Lyric Theatre production of ‘Tarzan.’ All photos courtesy of Atlanta 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…)
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. (more…)
“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…)
Why do people collect? What drives someone’s passion? Collectors are a fascinating species, perpetually both hunting-and-gathering and then showcasing their accumulated treasures.
Left: Catherine the Great, 1914, Fabergé Easter Egg.
Businesswoman and philanthropist Marjorie Merriwether Post is a prime example of a highly-dedicated collector. When her father C.W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company, died in 1914, Marjorie became one of the wealthiest women in the world. She lived in New York City and began collecting to furnish her vast Fifth Avenue apartment, focusing on fine and decorative arts. She was an early patron of Cartier when he opened his business in Manhattan, and she became interested in Russian Imperial art when she began meeting emigres fleeing Russia after the 1917 revolution. According to Malcolm Forbes, Mrs. Post “pioneered Faberge collecting” (Malcolm Forbes, 7/30/1973, quoted in Fabergé Rediscovered catalogue, p. 163). (more…)
The meticulously curated Giacometti exhibition on view at the Guggenheim Museum spans the artist’s early years during his involvement with the Surrealist group (1920s) through his later period when he became associated with the French Existentialist movement in the 1940’s. The exhibition is organized by Megan Fontanella, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Catherine Grenier, Director, Fondation Giacometti, Mathilde Lecuyer-Maillé, Associate Curator, Fondation Giacometti, and Samantha Small, Curatorial Assistant, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
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…)
Mitchell Rales, the science and technology billionaire, and his art historian-wife, Emily Wei Rales, are co-founders and directors of Glenstone Museum (left). The Rales foresee Glenstone Museum as being the “21st century version of New York’s Frick Collection.” The founders aim “to create a seamless integration of art, architecture, and landscape and make it available free of charge to all who wish to visit.” It initially opened in 2006 with a 30,000-square-foot pavilion designed by the late New York architect Charles Gwathmey. The newest pavilion by Thomas Phifer and Partners will open in October 2018, adding 50,000 square feet of new indoor display space to the 9,000 square feet of existing exhibit space, known as the Gallery. Glenstone will become one of the largest private museums in the world, comprised of an arrival hall, entry pavilion, bookstore and two cafés along with 130 acres of designed landscape with newly installed outdoor sculptures. (more…)
In January, the Jewish Museum in New York opened a major new exhibition, “Scenes from the Collection.” In a series of linked galleries, the Museum presents elements of its distinguished collection, aspiring to draw out “the many strands of Jewish tradition, spirituality, and history brought into expression through artistic creativity” and to create “a mirror of Jewish identities and a guide for the formation of new ones.” In effect, as the exhibition text notes, “Scenes” might be considered “a kind of self-portrait of the Jewish Museum.”
Left, above: View of the “Constellations” Gallery. Photo by Jason Mandella. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, NY.(more…)
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 (more…)
Serena Dykman, director of, ‘Nana,’ a documentary about her grandmother, a concentration camp survivor.
Two recent documentaries, both directorial feature film debuts, approach the memory and history of World War II from distinctly different and refreshing perspectives.
Serena Dykman’s “Nana” is a eulogy, not only for her grandmother, Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant, a survivor of Auschwitz who died when Serena was 11, but for all victims of the Holocaust. “I remember a lot of people attending her funeral,” director Dykman recalls. “I remember that she was a very important person, a public person.” And Dykman remembers hearing the vocabulary of her grandmother’s mission – words like “Auschwitz,” “Birkenau,” “ghetto,” “Mengele,” “gas chambers” – “and not understanding them, but knowing they were bad words.” (more…)
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…)
“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]
Édouard Manet, Young Woman in 1866 (1866). Met Museum, NY
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. (more…)
The Waterfront Museum is located afloat, on the waterfront in Red Hook, NY, aboard the landmark-designated, Lehigh Valley Barge #79.
For the past twenty years the Waterfront Museum, which floats on the edge of New York Harbor about a mile south east of the Statue of Liberty, has featured numerous exhibitions that concern our waterways and coastline. The current exhibition, Derelicts: Oil Paintings by Jim St. Clair, is thanks to the film, theater and television production designer, Dean Taucher who met the museum’s president, David Sharps, and quickly organized the exhibition matching St. Clair’s gritty and highly tactile paintings with this unique and wonderful institution. (more…)
Yangyang Pan, ‘In Between the Blossom,’ 2018, Oil on linen, 42 x 72 in.
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…)
“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 XIII’ (2018), mixed media on canvas, 39 1/4” sq.
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…)
Clay paving brick, walls of Ur-Nammu (c. 2500 BCE). 37.5 cm sq, 9.5 cm deep. Credit: British Museum/University Museum Expedition to Ur, Iraq, 1926.
“Without the city, there can be no civilization” ~Ibn Khaldun, 14th–century, CE philosopher and historian
If ever there were clear evidence of the adage that ‘past is prologue,’ it can surely be found in the newly installed Middle East galleries exhibit at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Extraordinary artifacts dating back up to 5,000 years Before the Common Era (BCE) are displayed in ways that build on the narrative of an expanding culture, sited principally in the once water and sun-drenched Fertile Crescent (likely site of the Biblical Garden of Eden)—and today’s Iran, Iraq, portions of Syria and Turkey. The preservation of artifacts and the ways in which they can represent the story of everyday life in a Bronze Age community, and thus through five millennia, to their emergence as elegant, highly-organized urban societies is breathtaking and spellbinding. Curatorial excellence, wedded with extraordinary scholarship were the keys to bringing this exhibition to life—and life’s presence can be felt and seen in what is placed on dynamic interactive display here. (more…)
Marcel Duchamp, ‘Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2’ (1912), first appeared at the Armory Show (1913). Version #3, painted for a patron/collector is part of the “Modern Times” exhibition.
The ragged shores of America received a wakeup call one day in April, 1913. Shock waves reverberated through a complacent art world on this side of the Atlantic with the opening of the ‘International Exhibition of Modern Art,’ otherwise known as the Armory Show. Three Americans, Walt Kuhn, Walter Pach, and Arthur B. Davies set out to “lead the public taste in art, rather than follow it,” with a three-city tour (New York, Chicago and Boston). The show became an important event in the history of American art, introducing astonished Americans, who were accustomed to realistic art, to the experimental styles of the European avant garde, including Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism. And while many pieces selected for viewing by European artists, like Matisse, Gauguin, Pissarro and others were already many years old by that time, their worked electrified public opinion, serving as a catalyst for American artists, sending them scrambling for a new, independent narrative style aimed at creating their own “American artistic language.” (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, ‘Totem of Confessions’ (2015), Photo by Daniel L. Hayes.
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.
Paul Cézanne, Self-Portrait (1883-1887), 44 × 36 cm. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark.
The landmark exhibition Cézanne Portraits is a collaborative endeavor co-organized by London’s National Portrait Gallery, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC— for this, the final stop of its tour. Even though modified to some extent, due to loan restrictions, it reveals a remarkable selection of portrayals, disclosing the distinct qualities of this extraordinary artist, a forerunner to Cubism whose work became the essence for abstract art of the 20th century. Both Matisse and Picasso have said that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” Yet Cézanne stands alone between his Impressionist and Post-Impressionist peers for his deep respect for the art of the past. Throughout his career Cézanne continuously went to the Louvre to consult the Old Masters. (more…)
Serdar Arat, ‘Departing Skies’ (2004), acrylic on wood, 20 x 47 x 2”.
I believe the first time I had the opportunity to write about the work of Serdar Arat was in 1999. I was with The New York Times a little over a year back then when and I discovered this little gem of an exhibition program in the lower level of the Concordia College’s library. At that time, I wrote his painting was “somewhere between peaceful and puzzling.” I saw his work as representations of “tomorrows vistas”, and in fact, one of the works in that exhibition, his hauntingly beautiful The Island (1998), which is an homage to Isle of the Dead (1880) by Arnold Böcklin, has another, even more recent and beautiful version in Shadow of the Island (2011) in this wonderful exhibition titled Departing Skies: Serdar Arat 1987-2017. (more…)
Val Kilmer, Photo by Hank O’Neal (all images courtesy of Woodward Gallery, NYC)
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…)
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…)
Martin Weinstein, Sun Dogs, 3x, (2011), acrylic paint on acrylic sheets.
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…)
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…)
Krzysztof Wodiczko, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, 1988. Public projection at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, February 13-15, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Lelong, New York. Photo: Joshua Jest
The 1980s was a tempestuous decade of global political shifts: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; along with the demise of Communism; a soaring stock market until the Crash of 1987; and the rise of U.S. right-wing conservatism under President Reagan. Moreover extensive technological advancement led to Cable Television, with its multiple channels, MTV and CNN allowing viewers greater viewing options, along with late night television and personal computers all contributed to altered visual viewing and the way we received information.[i] The change in the art canon shifted in the 1970s toward Post-modernism inspired by the rapid spread of Critical and Revisionist Theory. Additionally the AIDS crisis surfaced in the 80s, the rise of multiculturalism, Feminism theory and the intensive product branding demonstrated by Nike and Calvin Klein advertising on cable TV. This snap shot of a decade is noteworthy when viewing the Hirshhorn Museum’s exhibition Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s.(more…)
Francine Tint, ‘Paris Red’ (2017), acrylic on unprimed canvas 51 x 65″ (all images courtesy of the artist). Now at Cavalier Gallery, New York City
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…)
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…)
Kate Fahy (Thatcher), Jennifer Mendenhall (Queen Elizabeth) in Round House Theatre production of ‘Handbagged.’
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…)
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…)
Katrina Lenk (Dina), Tony Shalhoub (Tewfig) in the award-winning Broadway production of ‘The Band’s Visit.’ All photos: Matthew Murphy
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…)
Eva Ensler in One-woman Show, The Body of the World.” All photos: Joan Marcus
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…)
Peter Liashkov, Shall (1967), acrylic, oil, spray enamel on canvas, 51 x 81”, Courtesy of the artist
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…)
The Arsenal Building. (Daniel Avila/NYC Parks). Located at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue in Central Park, the Arsenal is the NYC Parks headquarters, and one of two buildings within the park’s borders that predate the park itself. (image: NYC Parks)
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…)
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…)
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…)
Lestyn Davies in Farinelli and the King. App photos: Joan Marcus
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…)
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…)
“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.
“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).
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…)
Mark Bradford at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden with details of Pickett’s Charge, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Cathy Carver.
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…)
Britney Coleman (Babe)and Tim Rogan (Sid) in Arena Theater’s ‘Pajama Game.’ All photos: Margot Schulman
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…)
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, ‘The Ship of Tolerance, Zug,’ 2016. Courtesy of the artists and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in London, Paris, Salzburg and Pace Gallery, New York. Photo by Luis Eduardo Martinez Fuentes.
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, ‘A Bigger Splash’ (1967), acrylic on canvas. David Hockney Collection, Tate, London
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…)
Scott Harrison (Dr. Harry Trench), Madeleine Farrington as Blanche, in G B Shaw’s ‘Widowers’ House’ at Washington Stage Guild. All photos: C. Stanley Photography
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…)
Detail, The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room for the Alice S. Kandell Collection Photograph: 2010. Objects: Tibet, Chine, and Mongolia, 13th-20th century Mixed media. Gifts and promised gifts from the Alice S. Kandell Collection
The Freer Gallery of Art was the first Smithsonian museum to showcase art. It opened in 1923 to house the Asian collections of Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer, and in 1987 it was joined on the National Mall by its sibling museum, the Sackler Gallery. Closed the past eighteen months for renovation, their re-opening on October 14-15th was headlined as “Where Asia Meets America”—two galleries, one destination. (F/S press release, 10/11/17) (more…)
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.
Ruby and Diamond Hummingbird Brooch. All photos by Square Moose, courtesy of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens (2017)
Hillwood Museum’s new exhibition stopped me in my tracks. It had me at the title wall, which proclaimed Spectacular with elegant clarity. Would this exhibition live up to its title?
Nestled in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, Hillwood was the last residence of Post Cereal heir and General Foods founder Marjorie Merriweather Post. When she died in 1973, she endowed her mansion, collections, and gardens to “future generations,” and Hillwood opened as a public institution in 1977. In addition to her comprehensive collections of Russian imperial art and 18th-century French decorative arts, Mrs. Post created one of the most extraordinary private jewelry collections in the world. Hillwood’s exhibition Spectacular now provides a showcase for the iconic “grand pieces” she acquired over a 50-year period. (more…)
Joseph Ziegler as Timon, and cast in 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…)
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…)
Bay Blanket 3, 2014, oil and acrylic on linen over wood panel, 72×96″. All images courtesy of Angell Gallery, Toronto, Canada
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…)
Gobsmacked by an age enthralled with the immediate, “tradition” has lost its footing. Institutions built as permanent bulwarks of common purpose have been fissured by an appetite for what is happening in the moment: NOW is desirable because it is instantly accessible and gratifying. Yesterday is not on the social media radar, and building old walls higher won’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It is the age of Elon Musk’s Tesla, not Henry Ford’s Model T.
Left: Choreographer, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, has been appointed the Smithsonian’s first choreographer in residence.
This exterior view of MOAR is about as inviting as its stolid massing gets. The architecture conceals rather than reveals the building’s subject. All photos courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution.
The United States was birthed in resistance, rebellion, and war. The story of the American Revolution, repeated, refined, and simplified over many generations, has become an iconic element of our national fable: our patriot “ancestors” resisted the tyranny of the greatest empire of its day, preserved American liberties, and established a novel kind of egalitarian republic. The catch-phrases of “the times that try men’s souls”–“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” “all men are created equal,” and “the consent of the governed”–still resonate in our political and cultural discourse. And yet the story of the Revolution is complex and messy, full of sharp elbows and glaring contradictions, including the persistence of slavery, the dispossession of Native Americans, tensions within the states, among the states, and between state and federal governments, and a tendency to advantage our elites over our masses. If ever there was a difficult, challenging story to tell, it is the story of our Revolution and its impact on subsequent generations, right up to the contemporary moment. In a sense, the story of the American Revolution, which is also the story of our first civil war, has always been contested and fraught. (more…)
Evan Buliung (centre) as Sky Masterson with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. All photos: Cylla von Tiedemann.
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 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…)
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…)
Martin Weinstein, “Kenoten, October Evenings,” 2016, acrylic on multiple acrylic sheets, 27 x 20 3/4″.
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…)
‘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…)
l to r: Gregory Wooddell as Frank, Cameron Folmar as Clitander, Liam Craig as Acast and Tom Story as Oronte. All photos by Scott Suchman, unless otherwise noted.
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…)
Seldom do museums in Washington, D.C. engage in collective undertakings, in spite of their eminence and professional staff. Unexpectedly, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and The Phillips Collection have chosen to work in partnership on complimentary exhibitions showcasing the works by the German painter Markus Lüpertz. This is the first official alliance between the two venues. The Hirshhorn’s exhibition titled “Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History,” curated by Evelyn Hankins, focuses on Lüpertz’s early work from 1962 to 1975, in the context of post-war Germany; while Dorothy Kosinski, director of the Phillips Collection, curated “Markus Lüpertz,” offers a retrospective of the artist’s five-decade oeuvre.
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…)
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…)
“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…)
Caricature of Mark Twain, soon after the publication of ‘The Gilded Age- A Tale of Today’ (1873), co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner.
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…)
Jessiee Datino with Jason Kolotouros in “Other Than Honorable” at Geva Theatre Center. (All photos by Huth Photography)
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…)
Cast of the musical “Ragtime” at Ford’s Theatre, directed by Peter Flynn. All photos by Carol Rosegg.
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…)
Patti LuPone (Helena Rubenstein)and Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) in ‘War Paint.’ Photos by Joan Marcus.
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…)
“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. (more…)
Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Augusta, Princess of Wales, 1742, oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 62″. Royal Collection Trust.
Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World offers a visceral, multi-faceted and interdisciplinary look at the eighteenth century told through the passions and activities of three women—German aristocracy by birth, British royalty by marriage. Among their shared interests were natural philosophy (we moderns might call it “science”), literature, theater, music, fine art, religion, architecture, collecting, exploration, patronage, botany, charity, medicine, education, politics, crafts, horticulture, and gardening; and the list could go much, much further on. All three women demonstrated a deep-rooted and persistent interest in the limits and possibilities of human endeavor, both in terms of the interior developments of creative genius and in the external interaction of humanity with the world around them. They used all available resources to encourage the arts and sciences to blossom under their charge as Queen Consorts and senior women at court. (more…)
Mary Hrbacek, Fierce Affection (2014) Acrylic on Linen, 40 x 40″
You pass by them each day, a world replete with these silent sentinels, looming and swaying in breezes high overhead. They cleanse our air, shade our backyards, grace our hillsides, and even sacrifice themselves to set our campfires aglow, or frame a roof over our heads. Trees are a ubiquitous part of our lives in all but the most barren or harshly urbanized parts of our lives. Their beauty and utility go largely unheralded, unless you take the time to explore the wonder of both their form and function in our everyday existence. One artist in particular has taken the time to carefully examine this deeply-rooted, but often ignored feature of our landscape—dramatically expressive living organisms that overspread approximately 9.6 billion acres or 30% of the world’s land surface—trees. (more…)
Solo performer Geoff Sobelle, in ‘Object Lessons.’ Photos: Joan Marcus
The New York Theatre Workshop, one of the most audacious theaters in New York City, never fails to astonish its audience in the wide-ranging fare that it chooses to present, the directors and actors that tread its stage, and its stunning production designs.
I’m talking about set, lighting, sound, costume, and film. In fact, in can be said that visual and audio surprises – you never know what is going to hit you between your eyes and ears upon entering the theatre – is one of the NYTW’S major calling cards (more…)
Childlike simplicity and frankness along with infinite universes brim throughout the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibition currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Kusama’s unique visual language of recurrent patterns of dots, vibrant colors, wondrous-mirrored rooms and pumpkins evoke an atmosphere of positive joyfulness that invite viewers to participate in her unique visual world. This display is a welcomed relief in Washington, DC’s current gloom and doom milieu! (more…)
Glenn Close as Norma Desmond in ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ All photos: Joan Marcus
To say that Glenn Close brings down the house during the musical Sunset Boulevard is almost an understatement, as the hoots, hollers, and applause – I even heard a bravo or two– offered by her admirers, shook the very rafters of the Palace Theatre after every number she sang. And that was not the end of it. At curtain call, the now-standing audience celebrating Close’s return to the iconic role of silent screen star Norma Desmond after a twenty- two year Broadway absence – both the musical and Close won a Tony in 1995 – just about refused to let Close leave the stage. (more…)
Artist, Theaster Gates. Photo courtesy of hypocritedesign.com
Theaster Gates is a 21st century Renaissance man whose art practice comprises painting, sculpture, installation, music, design, performance and urban planning. Gates is, as are L.A. artists Mark Bradford and Richard Lowe, an extraordinary social practice artist who can sees potential beyond the surface of a situation despite its outwardly decrepit state. He was born in Chicago in 1973 on Chicago’s run-down South Side, known as Greater Grand Crossing, where he continues to work and live. This visionary raises money, collaborates with urban planners/architects/policy makers and has been supported by Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel who made Gates an off-the-record commissioner of renewal for the city’s South Side. (more…)
John William Hill, American (born England), 1812-1879, Apples and Plums, 1874. Watercolor on paper, 7 7/8 × 11 3/8 inches. Collection of Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr.
Is it appropriate to define watercolor as “the medium” in American art? That’s the contention curator Kathleen A. Foster sets forth in her new Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition and catalogue, American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent.
Establishing watercolor’s significance has been the driving force of Foster’s career, beginning with her 1982 Yale dissertation, “Makers of the American Watercolor Movement, 1860-1890.” While the medium has often been called “quaint” and sniffed at as something women toyed with on Sunday afternoons, Foster has made it her career crusade to show that the medium launched a vital aesthetic movement in America after the Civil War. Instead of imitating French Impressionism, artists embraced watercolor and catalyzed the creation of a uniquely American art–one whose vibrant identity suited the rise of America’s modern national identity in the late 19th century. (more…)
“I don’t control painting, painting controls me.” ~ Hubert Roestenburg, German Expressionist
Left: Henri Matisse, Woman in a Hat (1920) Private Collection.
What can art teach us about human motivation? It is in our nature to surround ourselves with the people and things that reinforce our self-image and belief systems, as evidenced in the case of the current president? Take notice of the ‘new’ oval office and the change in art work that now hangs within sight of the chief executive, and all those who care to notice in photographs of proceedings there. To the right of the desk, from a viewer’s perspective, is a large portrait of Andrew Jackson (c. 1834), by then-Nashville colleague and White House resident artist, Ralph E.W. Earl. Jackson lost a bitterly contested election to John Quincy Adams in `24. His next campaign—characterized by his rough-hewn style and unconventional Tennessee country ways—was aimed at earning the vote of the ordinary man. This carried him to victory in 1828. In order to manage his public image, it is said that Jackson kept the artist close by in the years that followed, requiring that multiple portraits be produced to reinforce the perception of the man as a heroic and statesman-like figure. (more…)
Editor’s Note: We recently learned of the untimely death of sculptor, Boaz Vaadia, at age 65. This piece ran in ARTES in 2013, after a wonderful visit to his studio in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Our time together on that and other occasions always felt more like a reunion of friends than a series of interviews. Boaz’s warmth and congenial style will always be remembered. His talent and devotion to his medium were remarkable, as was his love of family. His towering bluestone figures will stand for all time as a memoriam to his craft and the lasting impression he made on those lucky enough to know him during his brief time among us.
The narrow metal door is just a step up from the narrow street, one of many in the matrix that is the Williamsburg neighborhood, a quaint section of New York City’s Brooklyn borough. A small hand-lettered name appears above the mailbox beside the entrance—Vaadia—alerting me to the fact that I’ve reached my destination, the studio of well-known sculptor, Boaz Vaadia (left). artes fine arts magazin (more…)
I have always appreciated the bravery, as well as the chutzpah, of those performers who choose to go it alone in a one man or one woman show. Not unlike comedians who stand totally exposed before an audience hoping to avoid the slings and arrows, or for that matter the stink of rotten tomatoes, these are all but naked performers. Ultimately, they rely on the shear force of their god-given personality, and well-honed talents to wow their audience; and in the best case, bring them to their feet amidst thunderous applause. (more…)
Cover image for NGA exhibition: ‘Stuart Davis: In Full Swing,’ Owh! on San Pao (1951). Detailed caption info for all images at end of review
Stuart Davis (1892-1964) is considered to be one of America’s first modern artists and a precursor of Pop Art. He was an enthused colorist whose bright, well-developed paintings translated French Cubism into an unquestionably American art expression. Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, currently on view at Washington’s National Gallery of Art, considers his work from 1921 and his breakthrough paintings of tobacco packages. It then moves through five decades to his final canvas, demonstrating through the chronology Davis’s habit of recycling earlier work for new compositions. With more than one hundred of his most important, visually complex compositions on view, the exhibition highlights Davis’s ability to assimilate the imagery of popular culture, the aesthetics of advertising, the lessons of cubism, and the sounds and rhythms of jazz into works that hum with intelligence and energy. (more…)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mademoiselle Églantine’s Troupe, 1895–96. Ed. Note: For detailed captions on all images, see story end.
The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. has recently opened an exhibition that showcases an extraordinary collection of Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs. Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the ‘Belle Epoque’ focuses on about 100 “defining images” that embrace the artist’s entire lithographic career (1891-1899) and provide a fascinating window into Montmartre’s fin de siècle café and cabaret society. (more…)
“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Left: Paul Delaroche, Two Heads, Camaldolese Monks (1844).
Sweeping up the Heart
Every singer, every actor, every dancer considers themselves artists. The world of expression and those who give form to our emotions through lyrics and movement, is poorer in these fresh days of a New Year, a result of the loss of several talented performers in recent weeks. While my head was still spinning with each new, sad announcement, I received an email from cherished, long-time friend and contributing editor to ARTES, Ed Rubin. Eddy is a New Yorker, through-and-through, and as a result, has ‘theater’ coursing through his veins. The performing arts come alive for those, like Ed, who can casually encounter a star or a cultural icon on the streets of the City, at a restaurant or party. You quickly learn that celebrities are just people, as their vulnerability and untimely deaths so often painfully demonstrate. (more…)
Alan Sonfist, “Leaves Frozen in Time: Spring,” Mix Media on Canvas, 4 x 4 ft. (122 x 122 cm.) no date provided
A Fine Line, the inaugural exhibition for the newly launched Gallery 100 New York, presents an amalgamation of the varied but related works of four international artists, who use straightforward natural materials with telling effect.The show curated by gallery director Michelle Loh, features Wang Huangsheng, Oliver Catté, Mahmoud Hamadani, and Alan Sonfist.An express emphasis on paper unites the installation; there is an aura of purity emanating from the white paper of the drawings on view that permeates the space.Color plays an important tandem role; hues glitter in conjunction with the brown cardboard works, and in the nature-based leaf piece entitled “Leaves Frozen in Time: Spring.”The abstract drawings explore the essential delicacy of paper as it comingles with ink flowing irregularly over the surfaces, while the creative potential and durability of cardboard come sharply into focus in cityscapes that radiate urban exuberance. Traditional underpinnings resound through the exhibition; the use of ink, which is made from tree bark, is a medium used for millennia in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. (more…)
“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”
~E. B. White
Right: Bartelomeo Veneto, Lady Playing a Lute (c. 1520). Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan, Italy)
Rebirth and Resilience
Dear Reader- In May of this year, the ebb and flow of ARTES articles and opinion—so much a part of my life and that of our writers and online visitors since launching in 2009—came crashing down. The diagnosis: the accumulated content of 27 Gb of words and images, supported by WordPress code that in some cases dated to our inception, caused it to collapse under its own virtual weight. As explained, it was an aging sand castle foundation, eroded by a relentless tide of new material being heaped on top. Our repeated and best efforts to keep the site ‘live’ were to no avail. In the weeks that followed, shock, sadness and a genuine sense of loss permeated my emotions.
Right: Casper David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818).
My dismay was only reinforced by conversations with tech experts who offered little hope for an easy fix; or a complex rehabilitation effort at great expense, with no guarantees at the other end. Weeks turned to months as I contemplated life without ARTES as a daily project. I taught more classes, began writing a long-planned book, and roamed the many book stores and libraries in my area looking for solace. It was an emotional summer for me as various strategies for restoring ARTES churned in the back of my mind. Events were further complicated by added responsibilities related to my aging mother at one end of life’s spectrum, and the imminent arrival of a grandchild at the other. (more…)
Matthias Bitzer, Installation view. Foreground: phosphor notes (a different sort of gravity), mixed media (2016)
The works in Matthias Bitzer’s show, “a different sort of gravity” couldn’t be more confounding or diverse; this is the show’s aim. On my first view, I found the installation to be incoherent, even confusing.It took my breath away. On the second view I realized that the exhibit resonates with a sense of its true meaning, but this baffling heterogeneous display takes time to grasp.(more…)
Bobby Steggert (Henri Toulouse-Lautrec), Mara Davi (Suzanne Valadon) in Long Wharf’s production of ‘My Paris.’ All photos: T. Charles Erickson
A crippled man, diminutive in size, falls victim to drink, drugs and various other vices and dies before he is forty. Not the stuff you would gravitate towards if you were considering creating a musical, unless you wished to have your audience leave the theater feeling worse than it did when it sat down. You also probably wouldn’t think of writing a musical about a wicked witch or a girl named Mimi dying of HIV or a mother suffering from bipolar disorder. You’d walk away from the projects…and you would be wrong. xxxxx(more…)
Back in 1931, the Westport Country Playhouse’s inaugural season, several plays were presented in repertory, that is, several plays alternated daily. This also occurred in the 1932 and 1935 seasons, but the repertory concept was soon abandoned and wasn’t attempted again until the mid-1960s. That’s about to change this year, for the Playhouse will be opening its 2016 season with two plays in repertory, Red, by John Logan, and Art, by Yasmina Reza, in a translation by Christopher Hampton. Both plays won Tonys for Best Play, Art in 1998 and Red in 2010. xxxxx(more…)
Robert Irwin, ‘Untitled’ (1969), acrylic paint on shaped acrylic, 53″ diameter. Collection: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., has just opened a major exhibition that celebrates one of America’s most influential postwar artists. Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change is the first American museum survey of Irwin’s work outside of California, where he was a leader of the Light and Space art movement in the 1960s.
Exhibition curator Evelyn Hankins, in her catalogue essay “Experiencing the Ineffable: Robert Irwin in the 1960s,” explains that capturing the arc of Irwin’s pioneering and ever-changing artistic trajectory has been a daunting task. Irwin’s evolving artistic work doesn’t fit into convenient art theory pigeon holes. His path unfolds in its own particular way and is totally devoted to the experience of seeing. xxxxx(more…)
Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi’s (1904-88) philosophy of life and artistic output are so intricately intertwined that it is near impossible to think of them separately. He is also one of a handful of 20th Century artists whose very ideas and explorations, perhaps even more vital today than in his own time, warrant careful study. Noguchi was no ordinary thinker. He believed that seeing stars from the bottom of a well can be a sculpture, spoke of ancient monuments and stones as being alive, light and sound as sculpture, and shapes carrying memory. He also was extremely interested in the additional space that sensory experiences and imagination supplies and experimented widely with such notions as weightlessness in weight. xxxxx(more…)
Donald Sage Mackay (James Tyrone, Jr. and Kate Forbes (Josie Hogan). All photos by Ron Heerkens, Jr.
This fine production of Eugene O’Neill’s last play was planned as a co-production with the Theatre Royal of Waterford Ireland and played there first. Geva’s artistic director, Mark Cuddy, has negotiated artistic exchanges with Ireland’s leading theaters for more than twelve years since his sabbatical year there, and made this choice with Ben Barnes, now director of the ancient Theatre Royal, and previously director of Ireland’s famed Abbey Theatre. It is a play with only five characters and basically a single setting, but it’s on my “NFA List” [Not For Amateurs]: rich, haunting, debatable, truly meaningful, funny, tragic, humane, and heartbreakingly beautiful. xxxxx(more…)
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona, Rome. All photos courtesy of the author.
As one walks the city of Rome, its major public squares and bridges, basilicas, galleries and other holy places, the work of 17th century sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini appear to accompany the visitor. No other artist, pope or urban planner had a more enduring impact on the look of the Eternal City today. From the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square to the fountains of Piazzas di Spagna, Popolo, Navona and Barberini – Bernini sculpted Rome’s look like no other. xxxxx(more…)
Michele Fanoli after Richard Caton Woodville, ‘Politics in an Oyster-House,’ 1851, hand-colored lithograph, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of the Estate of William Woodville VIII), 2015.
There is a fascinating cultural breeze riffling through some of America’s most esteemed museums. In February the Philadelphia Museum of Art announced an upcoming exhibition on Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950, which aims “to provoke.” This week, the National Gallery of Art launched its 75th anniversary with the first comprehensive exhibition to survey 300 years of American life, not through art-to-the-manner-born, but through prints—a “democratic artistic medium” that is inexpensive, widely accessible, and easily distributed. xxxxx(more…)
Yes, it’s true that in Shakespeare’s time men and boys played women’s roles on stage (because, by law, they had to) and, yes, as the Yale Rep’s playbill notes, women have had occasion to dress as men and, yes, there have been stagings of Shakespeare’s plays that have used cross-gender casting. All of this is noted in the playbill, and as one reads it one gets the feeling that the authors perhaps protest too much as justification for the current casting of Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s later plays that has defied pigeonholing (tragedy? comedy? Perhaps a “romance”?). The play is, at best, problematic, and scenes and plot devices echo many of those used by the Bard in earlier plays, so much so that one gets the feeling that Will might have been running out of gas. In any event, Yale Rep’s current production, under the direction of Evan Yionoulis, reflects, if unintentionally, the problems in the play itself, compounding confusion as to how the audience is supposed to respond to what it is seeing. xxxxx(more…)
Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde. The “Golden Bend” in the Herengracht, Amsterdam, 1671-1672. Oil on panel. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Creativity cannot exist in a vacuum. Whether intentional or subliminal, ideas travel and leave their mark regardless of culture, method of transport, or purpose. Because of this, society evolves and changes. Art changes. It has to, in order to survive. Creators borrow from everything around them, infusing each work with a moment in time and space. Throughout history as the world started to get smaller, this evolution only intensified. Exposure to new cultures created new opportunities, not only in art but also commerce. Nothing comes without a price however, often at the expense of the originator. xxxxx(more…)
Jason Middlebrook, ‘We All Can Relate’ (2015), acrylic on maple, 22 x 28 x1″.
The exhibition entitled “Fault Lines: Shifting Perspectives on Landscape in American Art,” at New York’s, GP Presents, displays five contemporary nature-oriented artists whose process-based art engages natural motifs with new intentions. While they offer new contexts that dismantle and restructure nature as a subject, the artists are fully engaged in exploring it as a hot topic. xxxxx(more…)
Editor’s Note: Artist, China Blue, lives and produces art in the New England region. She is founder and executive director of The Engine Institute, an organization fostering collaborative explorations between artists and scientists through research, development and presentations, with the goal of facilitating the spread of scientific and artistic literacy. A light and sound artist, China explores human sensory and perceptual abilities through her investigations and explorations into bioacoustics, ultra and infrasonic sampling devices, brain wave monitoring, and robotic sensory avatars. Here, she sets her sights on a complex human condition–Alzheimer’s disease–applying her creative abilities to discover new ways of understanding the way we think and feel.
Richard Friswell:I see your work on display in galleries and installation settings in the greater New York area. It is a pleasure to finally explore it with you, in depth. First, tell me about the overarching message of your recent series of paintings?
China Blue:This work explores how we connect and hold on to our life experiences. Memory is transient. Our recollections occur in fragments that arrive as flashes detached from time. “Memory Networks” is a project that investigates linking and preserving them in beautiful abstract figurative forms to hold them together. Made with aluminum based paint the shiny globules and lines make for stunning examples of how we can hold on to our thoughts and experiences. xxxxx(more…)
Tori Murray as Tina Denmark in RUTHLESS! All photos: Carol Rosegg
To say I loved the musical Ruthless, currently playing at St. Luke’s Theatre in New York City, through June 18th (after several extensions by popular demand), is a gross understatement. More accurately, I loved, loved, lovedRuthless. In fact, after seeing the play two times, thoughts of marrying the musical as well as its delightful cast of seven came to mind. I was sure that such a union would supply me with a lifetime of high octane fun. xxxxx(more…)
One survives through an obsession with vengeance, the other through an obsession with atonement. Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.
You don’t ask people with knives in their stomachs what would make them happy; happiness is no longer the point. It’s all about survival; it’s all about whether you pull the knife out and bleed to death or keep it in…
~Nick Hornby, “How to Be Good”
Leonardo DiCaprio as one-time frontiersman,Hugh Glass, in ‘Revenant’
Two of the most highly acclaimed films of this awards season have been Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” and László Nemes’s “Son of Saul.” Oscars went to Iñárritu for Directing, Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor and Emmanuel Lubezki for Cinematography. Nemes’s “Son of Saul” won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Both films center on a protagonist in unimaginable torment. One survives through an obsession with vengeance, the other through an obsession with atonement. xxxxx(more…)
Jan Brueghel the Younger, ‘The Five Senses: Sight,’ (detail) c. 1625. Oil on panel, 27 5/8 x 44 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection.
This spring, the Phillips Collection, a private museum in Washington, D.C. calling itself “America’s first museum of Modern art,” presents 39 masterworks of European and American landscape painting from the collection of philanthropist and entrepreneur, Paul G. Allen. Seeing Nature is a traveling national exhibition that is co-organized by the Portland Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. xxxxxxxxxx(more…)
Jonathan Yeo, Kevin Spacey as ‘President’ Frank Underwood (2016). National Portrait Gallery
The 2016 presidential campaign has evaporated the blurry distinction between “real” and “virtual” that Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin railed against in his classic 1962 book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. At the time, Boorstin was furious about how Madison Avenue advertisers—the Mad Men who were engulfing the media with consumerism–and a television system then-dominated by a three-network monopoly, had created a culture based on “illusions that we mistake…for reality.” (Boorstin, 5-6). xxxxx(more…)
David Altmejd, The Flux and The Puddle, 2014, detail, with heads. Photos, unless otherwise noted: Poul Buchard Brondum and Co. Courtesy of Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.
I was excited when I heard that the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal was planning a retrospective of David Altmejd’s work in the summer of 2015. I couldn’t wait to see it. Altmejd is an international artist whose work has been included in important Biennials (Istanbul, 2003; Whitney, 2004; Venice, 2007 where he represented Canada) and large exhibitions in New York, Paris, Montreal, and in Humlebæk (Denmark, 2016)) among others. He was born in Montreal in 1974 and, like many other successful artists, he moved to New York, where now he lives and works. xxxxx(more…)
Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. All production images: Joan Marcus
With the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda yet again the vernacular music of the streets, hip-hop and rap, have evolved to high art in the sensational, smash hit Broadway opera Hamilton, based on the extensive biography by Ron Chernow.
For just under three hours in two acts, with elaborate exposition, the music and choreography pulses relentlessly forward with a rainbow cast telling the galvanic story of the most brilliant of the founding fathers. xxxxx(more…)
"Thank you for calling my attention to ARTES. As I mentioned in my comments at Yale, the Internet needs more on-line publications that address the field of art with a comprehensive, in-depth treatment of the subject. ARTES fills that void. I will continue to read the magazine and wish you well in your efforts to bring this much needed resource to a broader audience."
~Holland Cotter, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic, 'The New York Times'