27 April 2008

music, art and dance, oh my

Pretty splendiferous weekend for the arts for me though it ended with someone booing at the Joyce. They must have read that article in the Times a month or two ago about booing.

Friday night was an American Composers Orchestra concert at Zankel Hall, with works by Charles Mason, Jonathan Dawe, Anna Clyne, Peter Heller, Dan Trueman, and Ned McGowan. Charles Mason's "Additions" was lovely in the granular modern style. Don't know if granular is the right word but it's that distinct note business, not all mellifluous with huge string bowing. "Armide" by Jonathan Dawe was a blend of Lully and laptop, in the wonderful cacophonous modern style. Anna Clyne's "Tender hooks" mixed the orchestra with one laptop doing music and another doing graphics. After intermission, a bit of nice interlude with Peter Heller's "Fanfare for Mary," a brass quintet. On to Dan Trueman's "Silicon/carbon." Two laptops isn't enough; let's go for 8 and the PLork (Princeton Laptop Orchestra). The evening ended with Ned McGowan, his big contrabass flute constructed of PVC and "Bantammer swing." I liked it all and was bubbling as I boarded the subway train with my colleague Andrea Harpole who was coming from Art Students League.

During intermission, I read my brother's presentation that he did last week at the Bergren Forum at Alfred University. It's a history of Seventh Day Baptists in Alfred and elsewhere. A cousin of my mother died recently and she called herself an SDB by culture if not by faith. That's pretty close to my story too.

Saturday's gallery hopping started with the Anh-My Lê show at Murray Guy. Really incredible, especially a very green one with a frieze of soldiers in camo, at rest in a forest glade. The soldiers are like a group of saints in a medieval or renaissance painting: a variety of poses, facial expressions, still but something important is in the air. I talked to Janice Guy and Margaret Murray quite a while about the works. This series of works is in color, large prints (maybe 30 by 45 inches), and it evokes much thought about the military machine. The views are all of military installations or activities. The last show was views of Twentynine Palms, a base in California, and was all in black-and-white, rich and dusty.

When I got to Matthew Marks for the Hujar show, I found another renaissance painting: a naked man with a sheet over his shoulders, the light hitting the fabric in a beautiful way. There was also the wonderful portrait of Charles Ludlum with a dotted veil over most of his face; the dots look rather like queer eyes, giving the portrait a surreal cast. Of course, looking at Hujar's photos is bittersweet since he died of AIDS.

With 250 or however many galleries in West Chelsea, there's no way you're going to get to all of them. I had started up that way with Murray Guy, Hujar, and Scott Treleaven on the list, figuring I'd stop at galleries until I got tuckered out. As always, there was at least one real find.

Today's unexpected find was the Bruce High Quality Foundation Retrospective at Susan Inglett Gallery. The work in the window attracted and repelled me but I decided to go in. In the back room was a film being projected way up high on the wall. I started watching it and got drawn into it. Part of the text was "this is public art, this is collaboration" as the same or contrasting images flashed by, e.g., the Iwo Jima photo/sculpture. With all the thinking I've been doing about social computing, and all the talk of strategic planning at work, this collaboration/public art stuff was mesmerizing. Great comparisons. You can find out more about them at http://www.thebrucehighqualityfoundation.com/Site/HOME.html or buy the catalog ($20 at the gallery) which includes a substantial section on the film with much (if not all) of the text. Maybe you had to be there but then the BHQF is dedicated to finding an alternative to everything.

Also on the worth going to list: Thomas Nozkowski at PaceWildenstein; Gary Panter at Clementine (I especially liked the little quonset hut model in the back); "Disavowal (Mark Wyse)" at Wallspace (very intriguing comparisons of photos, via reproductions, so of course you may now think Benjaminian thoughts); Gregory Crewdson at Luhring Augustine (interesting contrast with Anh-My Lê who I'll take any day). The Treleaven show was not so amusing.

I figured if I was going to walk up to see the Dargerism show at the American Folk Art Museum, I might as well stop at Exit Art on the way. Didn't know what the show was but found them in the second or third day of a silent auction. Audrey Christensen (archivist and former MoMA library assistant) was there so we got to talk for a while. She mentioned the EPA (environmental something) show downstairs and there was a wonderful video of some people in black garbage bags doing street interventions. Can't decide if it was wonderful, activist or just "Candid Camera." She also mentioned that Bruce High Quality was a special friend of Exit Art and they will be doing something special at their Williamsburg gallery sometime soon so I guess I better stay tuned.

There are some good things in the Dargerism show: Anthony Goicolea's films; Amy Cutler's works looking a bit like Marcel Dzama whose show I saw at Zwirner a week or two ago; very unsettling Justin Lieberman "Thank heaven for little girls" which mixes Jock Sturges little naked girls on defigured Darger backgrounds. The "Asa Ames, occuptation sculpturing" show upstairs was quite nice.

That evening, I went to the Seán Curran concert at Dance Theater Workshop. The first piece was set to Wuorinen music and the dancers dressed in little undies. Quite lovely. Sound for the second piece mixed Handel arias with taped apologies from The Apology Line, probably my favorite piece. One of the male dancers could move and extend his limbs in a most wonderful manner. The third piece with live music by a very downtown cellist was best liked by the Times reviewer (read it after!) but not by me. I don't deny its energy.

As I read the papers this morning (that's the Sunday paper and some of last week's that were still unread), I noted the description of the Scapino Ballet Rotterdam run at the Joyce. I'm awfully glad I went. The first piece was seven men dancing on artificial turf, together, apart, in sync, in mock battle. Then a solo. The next one was "The brides" and was set to Stravinsky's "Les noces" but such a "raw interpretation" (program notes) that you'd have thought it Southeast Asian folk music. Or maybe it was the compelling face of dancer Sherida Lie. The last piece is described in the program as "mysterious, dramatic and absurd." Animal-like gestures, leaves on the dancer's bodies falling off. I was surprised by the booing (though it seemed fairly singular).

And now I'm sitting at the computer. I should be working on the review of the year in art cataloging (time is running out, the ARLIS/NA conference starts real soon) but I'm still ruminating about all that stuff. My brother and I were having a chat about living in Alfred and I said I could do it. He said: YOU?!?! (my punctuation). I do think I could. And that leads me to pass on an interesting statistic from the good Rachel Donadio essay at the back of today's NYTBR. She says that a recent report from the NEA found that 53% of Americans hadn't read a book in the previous year. I know that academia and museumia are not the real world but 53% had NOT read a book in the last year. I'm stunned. At the same time, more books are being published and, oops, 175,000 new blogs are started every day. By the by, the title of the essay is "You're an author? Me too!"

Now I gotta go get a ticket for "It is not the homosexual who is perverse, but the society in which he lives" by Rosa von Praunheim which is playing in the spirit of 1968 festival at Lincoln Center.

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