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Monday, November 18, 2013

Isa Genzken: Retrosp. @ MoMA, Out of this World

Isa Genzken's  (b. Germany, 1948) body of work, spanning 4 decades up to the present, is an electrifying compilation of installations, sculptures, photos, paintings that is intended to shock & amuse.  Major new exhibits are usually featured on the 6th floor.  Spoiler alert:  note the installation on the ground floor with suspended astronauts & suitcases sprawled below.  It was only after viewing the show that I took in this central, stellar element of the exhibition.  I credit Genzken's pensive, irreverent & fanciful works for my epiphany.  The entrance to the show on the 6th floor is comprised of mannequins posed & dressed in various brighly colored clothing & iconic cultural objects; a prelude  for a jocular & engaging Retrospective.  Inside, her totemic sculptures, both free standing & prone are sleek & coated in jarring colors.  The way the objects respond to the space they inhabit is crucial for Genzken. "Music is in the space between the notes." (Debussy)  Look closely at the 112 gauche works on paper & observe the echo of forms with the wooden canoe shapes. The antennas on the block sculptures symbolize feelers that globalize our world.  There is a plethora of innovative assemblages hampering the monumental impact of the show in a single visit.  The exit gallery is a 9/11 Tribute that is incongruously mournful & celebratory.  Genzken has quasi-cultic recognition amongst young European artists, yet she has remained elusive in the U.S.  Outside, I was aware of the vivid orange fencing at construction sites; a material & design pervasive in many of her works. The show requires you to be vigilant.  Sorry for the buzz kill on the main floor.  However, you should take away an astute awareness of your surroundings and a feeling of exultation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pinta S. Amer. Art Show-Modern & Contemp.

The modern & contemporary art show featuring works by leading Latin artists opened Thurs. night & will close Sun.  That's one hot art show that comes & goes in a NY minute.  I suggest you take the time to see works by emerging artists from countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuala, Peru, Brazil, Chile & Columbia.  Pinta filtered more than 100 galleries galleries wishing to be represented down to 60.  The works are both modern & contemporary including videos, paintings, scuptures, photos, etc. The central piece upon entering is a shopping cart strewn with garbage & detritus strewn around the cart.  There is a staggering video by Dani Marti's "Butterfly Man" '12 whose subject is a meth addict.  We observe his physical deterioration over 2 weeks.  Another video/sound installation "The Only Evil," is a live organism accompanied with deriding laughter. I was intrigued by the works of Carlos Diez Cruz of Venuzeula, a major leader of the kinetic movement.  Several of Cruz's pieces rotate, shifting elements; creating a constantly changing work.  His physichrom, mixed media pieces (1990) changed as the viewer moved creating colorful, illusionary forms that were magnificient.  I was also taken by Peruvian artist Jorge Eilson archeological pastiches comprised of fabrics & various materials.  You have through Sun. to see the Pinta show.  A rare & exciting exhibit of artists but for 2 people @ $50, 60 galleries is a heated entry fee.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

World Class SF Symphony @ Carnegie Hall

San Francisco Symphony (SFS) is heralded as one of the world's great orchestras.  Music Dir. & Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) has been with SF Symph since 1995.  He is one of the world's most highly honored working artists.  He's been awarded the Chevalier des Arts from France, elected to the Amer. Acad. of Arts & Science & awarded the Nat'l Medal of Arts by Pres. Obama.  Watching MTT conduct is similar to watching a ballet.  His elegant conducting of Beethoven's & Mozart's masterful compositions enhance an emotional connection to the music.  Beethoven's Leonore Overture #3 was the 1st piece on the program.  Beethoven wrote only 1 opera: Fidelio.  He labored greatly writing his opera, perhaps his encroaching deafness thwarted his ease with compositing for voice.  Beethoven wrote 3 overtures for his opera. He discerned these were too overpowering to serve as introductions. Leonore Overture # 3 is the most often performed composition discarded from his opera.  MTT is esteemed for performing the music of the classical giants as well as contemporary works.  Steven Mackey's "Eating Greens" was positioned between Beethoven & Mozart's Piano Concerto #25.  MTT is a great communicator.  He takes pleasure in bringing new works to audiences & sharing insights in a warm & engaging manner.  Composer, Steven Mackey (b. 1956) wrote his own notes for "Eating Greens." Mackey paid homage to jazz musician Monk & artist Matisse for their assemblage of innovative parts that combine to harmonize in surprising patterns.  There was a mixture of 40 different added "instruments" to the orchestration.   Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue shared similarites with its rushed urban atmospheric sounds.  Audiences are assured that SFS under MTT's direction of magnificient classical performances and a friendly nudge into today's most creative works.   An added bonus was Mackey joining MTT on stage to receive recognition.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Armory Show at 100, Modern Art & Revolution

This year marks the 100th Annv. of the Armory show in NYC organized by a small group of American artists which heralded in works by leading Amer. & European artists never before seen by the vast population.   Works by Impressionist, Fauvists & Cubist artists were assembled by Amer. artist J. Alden Weir; the 1st & last Pres. of the Assoc. of Amer. Painters (AAP)  Major European artists such as Picaasso, Duchamp, Van Gogh, Leger & Cezanne were presented for the viewing pleasure of the American public for the first time.  How wonderfully exciting - NOT!  The outcry by both the critics & public was one of shock & repugnance.  Weir was ignobly removed from his post & the AAP was disassembled after organizing this mass collection of some of the world's most revered artists.  Today it's incredulous to think the works were considered immoral, insane & anarchistic.  Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" was described by art critic, Julian Street as "an explosion in a shingle factory."  Then Pres. Teddy Roosevelt declared, "That's not art!" One hundred works of paintings & sculptures from the original exhibit are on view.  In addition to Duchamp's painting, look for Cezanne's "Hill of the Poor," the 1st piece of European art purchased by the MET.  Don't miss this Brigadoon opportunity to see this extraordinary collection of some of the world's most significant pieces of art and imagine how it was viewed as radical 100 years ago.    

Julliard's Percussion Pummel Us into the 21st C

Last night's performance by Julliard's Percussion Ensemble @ Alice Tully was a contemporary program that is breaking new ground for its instrumentation, sound & innovation.  Prague composer, Ondrej Adamek's "Fishbones" '07, building on the innovations of Amer. composer John Cage, used a number of instruments that were played while immersed in water:  pipes, plastic boxes & wooden slats.  Six musicians played large bows against the sides of cymbals creating a sound slightly less irritating than nails on a chalkboard.  However, this got my attention focused on the arrhythmic acoustics that blended into a broad pitched composition sumptuous in sound & tempo. I've never heard anything quite like it.  Whistles were used that augmented the surprising mixture of sounds for a an exotic & intense dynamic.  Another piece by French composer Philippe Manoury, "Le Livre des Claviers" 1988, was an exciting & powerful composition using gongs, marimbas & vibraphones.  Mallets in varying shapes were played on inventive accoustic instruments in addition to xylophones.  The intensities & techniques provided a layered viseral experience in percussive compositions that was extremely exciting. I've learned to expect from Julliard the unexpected & the cutting edge in contemporary music.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kill Your Darlings, Ginsberg's World on Fire

The stylish film, Kill Your Darlings, is the true story of Allen Ginsberg's friendship with Columbian classmate Lucien Carr.  Carr brought Ginsberg into the social circle with Jack Kerouac & William S. Burroughs.  During this time, Carr was also found guilty of killing David Kammerer a ubiquitous stalker in Carr's life. The sex & murder heightens the intrigue with the onset of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg, Kerouac & Burroughs constitute the 3 founding members.  It's fascinating to learn with whom artists form early relationships & what events at the time leads to a wide outpouring of creative genius.  It is common knowledge of the connection between AG, JK & WB but I was not familiar with the their involvement with Carr & his notorious murder.  It was Carr at the center of this circle of talented writers with their "new vision" marking an epoch of social & artistic change.  The wider story is this heinous act of Carr's which drew all 3 in as accomplices.  The entire cast is exceptional.  Radcliffe plays Ginsberg with ardent sexual awakening.  Ben Foster, one of the best actors today plays Burroughs with enigmatic flair.  Newcomer Dave DeHaan is Carr, convincing as the charismatic maverick that draws everyone to him.  The movie artfully captures the look & feel of NYC in the 40's with a nostalgia for the time.  This is a movie worth Howling about and seeing.      

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wool's Work@Guggenh. "SELL THE KIDS" ah, NO

THE HARDER YOU LOOK THE HARDER YOU LOOK, one of Christopher Wool's contextual, black/white & grey painters for which he has gain notoriety as one of "the most important Amer. painters of his generation," (Schjeldah, New Yorker) is on view at the Guggenheim in Wool's 1st major retrospective.  His paintings consisting of large scale stencils of witticisms echo today's music & urban sprawl are not aesthetically pleasing.  They do, however, assert a compelling dialogue as you meander. The individual pieces, especially his photos & layered spiraled form paintings begin to piece together to express an aura of abandonment, isolation & power.  Still, I'm not convinced that Wool's work  constitutes a substantive artform that will bear the test of time.  "The harder they come, the harder they fall, one & all." (Marley)

After Midnight, One Amazing Act After Another

If you see one show this year or next, make it "After Midnight."  It is a Cotton Club Nightclub Revue; Harlem '1932.  There aren't sufficient superlatives to laud upon this Broadway magic.  Every aspect of this show from the costumes, to the staging to the performers was first-rate.  The orchestra, on stage for the entire performance, are from The Jazz @ Linc Ctr All Stars.   The musical numbers are composed  by the all-time greats: Ellington, Arlen, Calloway.  The incredible cast of singers were all extraordinary.  Fantasia Barrino, an American Idol winner, deserves to win this year's Tony Award. The multi-talented ensemble of dancers performed tap, swing, jazz & even break dancing that was jaw dropping, show stopping.  The performances were so hot the the stage was combustible.  Bravo to Dir./Choreographer Warren Carlyle for an evening of music, song & dance that flowed seamlessly from one fabulous number to the next.  I want to call out Julius "iGlide" Chisolm for his sinuous otherworldly dancing.  But, it would be an injustice not to say that all the dancers were less than spectacular.  The gospel truth, the singing & dancing was stunning.  Zaz Zuh Zaz, there is nothing I have to say that I didn't love about this show except when it was time to go.  The exuberance of "After Midnight" made me "Happy as the Day is Long."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NYPhil Rehearsal of the Masters: Bach, Handel & Mozart

This dreary, rainy day was made brighter by the music of 3 of the greatest classical composers.  The performance featured J.S. Bach's Cantata #51, a portion of Handel's oratorio from Samson and Mozart's Requiem.  The conductor was Bernard Labadie, a highly regarded specialist in Baroque & Classical repertoire.  He greeted all 3 assemblies with a very warm "Good Morning" and thanked them all after each piece.  His genial camaraderie was appreciated by both orchestra & audience alike.  Labadie is one of the few conductors I have had the ability to hear clearly his orchestral critiques.  While I am a lover of all 3 composers, I am not a fan operatic music.  I would not have sought out this program but I did take advantage the rehearsal deal on this inclement day & enjoyed a little sunshine indoors while broadening my horizons.

A Night with Janis Joplin, Must Make Amends

Come on! Come on!  You've go to be kidding me, the lead role of Joplin @ the Wed. matinee was performed by the understudy.  You're breaking my heart now baby.  My desire to see the show was because I saw a piece of Mary Bridget Davies' performance from the show.  Davies was Joplin reincarnated with that unique gravely sound.  Davies even resembled Joplin.  The understudy looked like Mayim Bialik and had no semblence of Joplin's enthralling pipes.  At times it was impossible to see the performers as the stage lights flashed blindingly into the audience.  The band's volume was also uncomfortably loud, perhaps to cover the disparity in the quality of the voices.  I am going to take this show apart piece by piece now baby.  Janis' own life story was uninteresting.  More time was spent paying tribute to the female blues singers whose music impacted her. Etta James, Bessie Smith and Aretha Franklin were a few she paid homage.  Unfortunately, Aretha Franklin in no way resembled or sounded like the famous singer.  It might have added some spark to this mess.  Even Franklin's microphone didn't work.  One of her backup singers had to switch mikes with her on stage.  Janis spouted spiritual dribble directly meant to empower but it all fell flat.  Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose…I want reparation for my $90 wasted.

Taking Care of Baby @ MTC, We Can't Handle the Truth!

"Taking Care of Baby" is a play by Dennis Kelly.  A mother is convicted of killing her infant son, shortly after her infant daughter died from SIDS.  It would seem a heinous subject with a macabre appeal.  However, this is a perceptive & thought provoking play that questions deciphering & dissemenating truthfulness.  An annoucement is made at the start "the words are taken from transcripts and correspondences."  Actors are 1st shown all seated on stage.  The production of "The Exonerated" '07 from the Innocence Project had actors reading court transcripts from cases of wrongly convicted individuals.  "Taking" is not a reading.  It is a play that blurs the boundaries between a factual case (where names are changed) and fiction.  The young mother, Donna, is released from prison after 14 months for the murder of her infant.  Her sentence is overturned due to insufficient evidence.  Donna moves back in with her mother, Lynn, who is running for congressional office.  Veracity is put on trial.   Did Donna kill her children?  Her husband believes she did.  Her mother tells her daughter she believes her innocent - but is the mother being honet?  Is there a disease that explains/excuses people's behaviors?  The play exposes:  the chicanery of politicians, self-promoting charlatan psychiatrists & journalists and the public's frenzy with tragedy as entertainment.  This absorbing play questions you to think how we  interpret what's presented.  "To set the record straight, people often don't know what to think, it's what people see that makes the difference."  "Taking Care of Baby," is the play to see.  Having seen it, you may judge things differently.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty-A Gothic Mess

Choreographer/Dir. Matthew Bourne (Swan Lake, Cinderella, Marry Poppins) is a multiple Olivier & Tony Award winner.  I've been a fan of these works and anticipated a creative & entertaining  production of "Sleeping Beauty, A Gothic Romance" @ City Center.  However, I wa let down by this bawdy production which barely held a trace of Bourne's brilliant choreographic talents so I split at intermission.  The 1st 20 min. was a silly puppet show of an infant crawling on stage & climbing the curtains.  The dark fairy Carabosse (Mallificient) appears as an enormous shadow conjuring up infant Aurora.  When Carabosse appears on stage she looked like a Gothic Drag Queen who merely dragged her feet & wagged her arms.  The recorded music of Tchaikovsky's beautiful music was pounding to distraction and the choreography lacked musicality with the score.   There was too much rolling on the stage & too little dancing.  The badmittion dance was bad & overdone.  I liked the dancing of the King of the Fairies.  Aurora's dancing was lovely but she did too little of it & too much silly running barefoot, flapping her arms.  Bourne's ballet has little to praise.  The campy production was so annoying it was  difficult to sleep through; that would have been preferable.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Commons of Pensacola, Too Familiar Ground

The Commons of Pensacola @ the Manhattan Theatre Club has 3 interesting draws:  Sarah Jessica Parker, Blythe Danner & actress Amanda Peete as playwright.  The Commons is a riff on the Bernie Madoff scandal.  The play takes up after the conviction of their husband/father and the wife and daughters are left with collateral damage.  The wife, Judith (Blythe Danner) has retreated to FL from NYC & is living in a tiny, squalid aptmt.  Judith is in failing health with early dementia.  The shambles of her life cause her to remark "I am the only one in FL who can't wait for alzheimer's."  Judith needs to borrow money from her daughter, Becca, (SJP) and her boyfriend, Gabe to pay her help's weekly salary.  Judith questions her what she's owed & demands receipts & the use of coupons.  Judith's extravagant lifestyle has been shattered.  Becca, 43, is a homeless, has-been TV actress who is dating Gabe, a 29 yr. old journalist.  Gabe uses Becca to get to Judith for an inside interview.  The real question is was Judith complicit in her husband's illicit activities.  I'm puzzled whether the play was intended as a serious drama or a spoof.  It was a droll melodrama with wearisome emotional rants. The skilled veteran actresses, Danner & Parker could not instill vigor in this all too familiar scenario.  Cate Blanchett played the relinquished socialite with perfection in Blue Jasmine.  And, Amanda Peet should not give up her day job.