There’s an old saying that goes: “Don’t judge a play by its first ten minutes.” Well, maybe it isn’t an old saying, but in the case of The Moors, which is receiving its world premier at Yale Repertory Theatre, it is certainly true. This sly, slow-to-develop satire on a certain sub-genre of Victorian literature (both the books themselves and the authors—mainly female—who wrote them) by Jen Silverman, begins as a parlor drama and ends, well, tumbling into Grand Guignol with just a touch of Theater of the Absurd. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who stay the course of 90 minutes or so, there will be rewards. xxxxx (more…)
In looking at Phoenix-based artist Karen Jilly’s paintings, prints, and drawings of the past 25 years, I am reminded of the way that paintings by the 19th century British painter J.M.W. Turner so perfectly capture the mysterious spirit and powerful forces of a turbulent sea. In Jilly’s art, a similar energy is made visible, only her subject is the turn-of-the-millennium urban landscape, the product of technological advances of the industrial revolution. xxxxx
During the last decade of the 20th century, Jilly focused her attention on the changing landscape of Los Angeles, with bodies of work devoted to areas of the Pacific Coast Highway that had become overpopulated with forests of telephone poles and wires, and underpasses of intersecting freeways, where an elaborate latticework of pillars and scaffolding intermingle with lumber piles and overturned hazard cones. In Jilly’s hands, these typically overlooked environments are transformed into spaces of mysterious intrigue or sublime beauty.
Right: City of Angels VI, 1992, oil on wood panel, 42 x 48 in.
In paintings such as Pacific Coast Highway V (1991), Jilly portrays a strip of land that borders the Pacific Ocean as the antithesis of stereotypical depictions of the coastline as tranquil and idyllic. Instead, she shows us a highly charged view of growth and change, where the natural landscape has been overtaken by the mechanics of the telephone system and the air and sky are breathing smog. Rather than respond negatively to the situation, as many would be prone to do, Jilly expresses a sense of awe and wonder over environmental change in action, applying thick, turbulent brushstrokes and contrasting the dark sooty blacks of poles and wires with the rich luminosity of a smoggy atmospheric haze.
Left: Infinite January I, 1998, charcoal on paper, 38 x 50 in.
From a philosophical standpoint, Jilly’s art is one that inspires us to reflect upon the cycles of past, present, and future, and the larger questions surrounding the very nature of being. In her numerous renderings of the freeway underpasses, she transforms rarely visited spaces into arenas for navigation that become metaphors for life’s journey. In City of Angels VI (1992), architectural details have been obscured in the favor of dark swirling brushwork, turning the area into a haunting cave, with overturned cones signaling that we might approach with caution. Nevertheless, a light in the distance harkens us to enter. Metaphorically, the painting is like life itself. Although we may not know what lies ahead, we must go for the gold and get on board.
Right: Watch, Trip, Crash, Soar, 2005, oil on wood panel, 72 x 96 in.
Similar ideas are at work in Infinite January I (1998), where Jilly has used vigorous drawing to bring such vitality to a dead sunflower, a symbol for humanity, such that the imagery raises provocative questions about life after death. In Watch, Trip, Crash, Soar (2005), the artist’s selective vantage point transforms an industrial structure into a cathedral-like edifice, whose central focus is the light visible through its center. In a manner that recalls the format of another 19th century painter, Caspar David Friedrich, the space of the painting is directional. As our eyes move from the material structures of the foreground to the ephemeral atmosphere in the distance, we are reminded that life is indeed transitory, it is but a beautiful moment along the continuum of space and time.
By David S. Rubin, Contributing Writer
Karen Jilly lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona. Her work is included in museum and corporate collections including: Scottsdale Contemporary Museum of Art; Arizona State University Art Museum; Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum; Jan Turner Print Museum, Chico, California; Phoenix Municipal Courthouse Collection; and Streich Lange Corporate Collection.
David S. Rubin is an independent curator, writer, and artist. He has been active in contemporary art for 40 years and has held curatorial posts at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; MOCA Cleveland; Phoenix Art Museum; and the San Antonio Museum of Art. He can be found on Linked-in at https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=22853511&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic
For as long as there have been plays, there are critics to be found. As the optimistic adage goes, “Everyone loves a critic”—at least in the fantasy environs of Cloud Cuckoo Land.
In real life, though, however happily the Esteemed Class of Critical Punditry may yearn for popular approval, a profession that elevates itself by judging others offers a ripe target for snarky comments itself. A complicating factor today is that social media has entered the fray and declared that everyone’s unvetted judgment is worthy. In an eye-level world, lofty criticism is passe and democracy rules: “Everyone is a Critic.” xxxxx (more…)
Curator D. Dominick Lombardi uses the work of fourteen artists to form a narrative of anxiety and contemporary malaise: that is, we’re all on ‘shaky ground.’ Collectively, the work is neither illustrative nor does it serves as propaganda for any particular issue or message—it’s subtler than that. In his catalog essay, the curator explains how each piece fits within the premise, but it’s an interesting challenge to consider the artwork, deciphering the “shaky ground” message on its own merits.
Lombardi names the issues at hand: “Foreign and domestic terrorism, war, hate crimes, discrimination, social media, partisan politics, corporate corruption, major ‘accidents’, health threats and the stress that follows…” While not immediately apparent, the works and their titles are capable of eliciting embedded, implicit, or eye-of-the-beholder meaning. The art on view (mostly wall pieces) vary, running from non-representational abstraction—shapes, colors and lines—to cartoonish figuration. xxxxx (more…)
Recently published, Palm Beach Panache, by inveterate design fashionista, Carolina (pronounced, Caro-lee-na) Fernandez, plunges headlong into a world few get to see. Behind the gates and curving drives leading up to those fine homes bordering the ubiquitous Florida inter-coastal waterways, there are treasures of design and good taste meant for only the most discerning eye. But, Fernandez has managed to pierce the coveted privacy veil, inviting her readers into those hallowed realms with dozens of beautiful photographs and her probing narrative style. Inspired by her own investment in Sunshine State property, as well as shaping attractive living environments for her own family, based in New England, the author ventured into the Palm Beach community to learn about and share her observations of the unique, ‘Palm Beach style.’ xxxxx (more…)
The Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries are currently presenting a “once-in-a-lifetime exhibition” showcasing the powerful designs of the revered 17th century Japanese master Tawaraya Sotatsu. Sotatsu: Making Waves is the first major exhibit in the Western hemisphere devoted to the artisan who revolutionized Japanese visual culture by bringing traditional courtly arts to the newly-emerging urban masses of Edo (now Tokyo), Japan. xxxxx (more…)
I first met Peter Frank, curator of this show, in the fall of 2003. It was on a press trip to St Louis – Peter came in from LA and I was one of the writers in from New York. The idea of this particular junket was to get a good look at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum of St Louis, plus a few of the local tourist attractions, art galleries and artist’s studios to round off our experience. Both aforementioned museums are impressive for their architecture, as well as their world-class exhibition programs. The Saint Louis Art Museum’s building and the grounds it overlooks are a testament to good taste and stateliness, designed and built by Cass Gilbert for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair); while the Contemporary Art Museum of St Louis is one of the more impressive and memorable contemporary institutions our country has to offer, a credit to the uniquely visionary mind of architect, Brad Cloepfil. xxxxx (more…)
Fathers and sons – mothers and daughters. There seems to be a natural arc to those relationships. There is an initial bonding, a cleaving, followed, when the children are a certain age, by a pulling away, an antagonism that seems to be built into the species. Fathers stare at sons, mothers stare at daughters, and it is as if they are viewing each other from different planets. Finally, for most, there is a resolution, a re-acquaintance, as it were, on a different level, when sins are forgiven, foibles forgotten and resolution of the relationships occurs. xxxxx (more…)
Throughout my career as an art critic, the artistic medium artists choose has always been a central issue. In the 1970s, photography was questioned. Was it an artistic medium or only a craft? Then came performance and installation art, followed by video art. Luckily, today, it seems anything can be considered an artistic medium. So, I was not surprised when gallerist, Robert Kananaj installed a show for short-film maker, Randall Okita. It included three pieces: two installation artworks and one video.
At first, I thought that this was another Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) event, similar to others throughout Toronto, filling every art venue. But it is much more—a breathtaking exhibition that could stand proudly in any Kunsthalle in the world. All the works are metaphorical, but if I wanted to distinguish between them I would say Portrait as a Random Act of Violence feels like swearing, Things I Can’t Tell You is a poem and Be Here Now functions as a prayer. xxxxx (more…)
What better way to see a city than through the eyes of a painter? For everyone knows that great painters see life not as it is for an ordinary person, but rather, life as it can be transformed into something otherworldly — an artwork. On a recent trip to Copenhagen, I did exactly that — I saw the Danish city, which was founded as a fishing village in the 10th century, through the eyes of Vilhelm Hammershøi, a painter who lived and worked there for most of his life. Born in 1864, Hammershøi made a name for himself painting the interior spaces where he lived, and the landmarks of the city, in a stripped-bare style that anticipated both pointillism and modernism. Revered in his home country, he has been largely forgotten abroad. That is, until now. Currently, he is the subject of Painting Tranquility: Masterworks by Vilhelm Hammershøi from SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark, a critically acclaimed exhibition of his paintings currently on view at the Scandinavia House in New York through February 27, 2016. xxxxx (more…)
Reviewer’s Note: The majority of this review was written last week, as Bowie released Blackstar, his 25th album, on his 69th birthday. It was only this morning I learned of his passing, and that he had quietly been battling cancer for 18 months. Of course, having spent some 25 hours in total immersing myself in Bowie research—so much so that it seemed I became Bowie – as ‘making us Bowie’ has always been his strength—I was devastated. It was like part of me died, which indeed it had. As a result, the tone, as well as the reception of this review, will likely change for anyone reading these words today.
Ever since David Bowie emerged on the scene, as a quasi-alien rock star with the rock ‘n’ roll game-changing album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars, in 1972, blurring the lines between man and woman, most everything that he has touched—if not in reality, certainly in perceived memory—has turned to gold. xxxxx (more…)
Sarah L. Kaufman is the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Dance Critic. For over twenty years, as she has written about dance, art, sports, and everyday life, she has discovered a major dynamic that elevates the extraordinary from the humdrum: grace.
Grace injects a sense of ease and harmony into what otherwise would be routine and ordinary. It’s the sort of quality that we sense when it crosses our path, and Kaufman—whose career has been devoted to describing its existence—now shares some of her accumulated perceptions in The Art of Grace; On Moving Well Through Life. xxxxx (more…)
Located just a few blocks from the pulsing retail heart of America’s country music capital and its cathedral, the original Grand Ole Opry’s Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, Tennessee, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is at the crossroads of the contemporary art scene. Not a collecting museum in the traditional sense, the Center nevertheless manages to offer a wide variety of exhibitions—everything from Italian classic fashion design to Michelangelo drawings. Their goal, according to Ellen Pryor, Director of Communications, is to “’keep the wake churning behind the tugboat,’ adhering to an exhibition philosophy aimed at new and expanding audiences in a changing demographic.” With that objective in mind, the current exhibition, third in a series about the human body in contemporary art organized by Frist Center Chief Curator, Mark Scala, Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art includes provocative artworks that address themes of trauma, loss and transformation. xxxxx (more…)
“The highest condition of art is artlessness.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Left: Giovanni Baldoni, Giuseppe Verdi (1886)
“Angels are very important, because they provide people with an articulation of the conviction that God is intimately involved in human life.”
Heaven is up. And it is that spectre of ethereal blackness lying far beyond the stars of a night-time sky that sparks our imagination. For the ancients, their gods lived here among us, performing magical acts, competing with each other and settling old scores. Mountain tops, roiling seas, wooded glens and drifting clouds were their domiciles; their kind only occasionally traversing the skies. But they were mostly earth-bound, much like their less-than-sempiternal counterparts. It took the monotheistic sensibilities of a handful of Christian zealots—diarists and letter writers mostly—hovering around a central sacrificial visage to move Western culture toward a theological new world order. xxxxx (more…)
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…)
Tim Realbuto’s YES, billed as a 90-minute, one act play, plus an epilogue, has the heft and feel of a fuller length performance. I can’t image a second act. But for Realbuto, who wrote, directed, and puts in a powerful performance in this riveting play, it wouldn’t be unwelcomed. His ‘one act’ production was so »more