Artist Judy Chicago is known for her feminist work “The Dinner Party” (1974-79), plates depicting women’s lives, on permanent exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Not as well known, but very pertinent now, a few decades later, she created another dinner, “Rainbow Shabbat,” challenging hostilities between religious partisans.
“Purlie Victorious,” playwright-actor Ossie Davis’s surreal satire about racism in the Jim Crow South, was first produced in 1961 at the cusp of the new civil rights movement. The Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, NC, had just taken place in February 1960.
There is sometimes a surreal disconnect between what the political class and the artistic class say. The Whitney Museum’s Puerto Rico exhibit, on till April 23, is an attack on American colonialism. The U.S. annexed the island as booty after victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and these artists’ works say it oppress the people who live there.
Rodney Zelenka is an artist from Panama whose exhibit now in New York shows stunning colorful realistic/fantastic paintings that comment on how abusive power by major governments has caused suffering among peoples worldwide.
What’s better than seeing an artist’s work at a museum? There are some event promoters who would like to persuade you that it’s even better to experience an “immersive” event, meaning you are surrounded by huge blow-ups of the painter’s works as in this exhibit of Claude Monet’s art.
That doesn’t cancel out museums, but it has some advantages.
We know Edward Hopper’s iconic “Early Sunday Morning,” the low red buildings. But at the Whitney Museum’s Hopper exhibit, there are paintings most of us have never seen before.
Dec 3, 2019 – Angela Zumpe, a Berlin filmmaker, media artist and painter, was in New York in November to present a film and also a book that intercuts the story of LÃ¡szlÃ³ Moholy-Nagy, a visionary lighting designer and the most experimental of the Bauhaus artists, with her own story. Zumpe is a media artist and was a professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau, where the Bauhaus was based.
The costumes seem South Asian and place the dancers in a real world. In the first piece, “Tilted Arc,” there is a lively pulsating South Asian sound created by classical piano and horn, and the dancers exude energy.
Aug 9, 2019 – At the Whitney‘s summer exhibit, a rich retrospective of decades of art produced in America, are some highlights that show politically aware painters reflecting the important struggles of the era, against the oppression of workers, against fascism, against racism.
May 13, 2019 – I pay attention to political art, but I was amazed at an exhibit at the new Whitney Biennial which not so subtly attacks the museum’s board of trustees vice chair as the owner of a company that builds weapons that target civilians!
A dance event of the main Avignon Festival featured two productions about words and language, “Prononcer Fénanoq” and “Long Time No See.” Maybe there‘s a reason why dance is about movement, not words.
The place is elegant, the courtyard of the Palace of the Popes, where Popes of the Catholic church held court. The surrounding six-story palace walls are beige brick with Roman arches and a rose window. An amazing venue. The state took it over after the 19th century Napoleonic revolution, and later it became a state museum. The huge courtyard reminds one of a Greek outdoor theater. So, for that reason alone, one goes to any event the Avignon Festival holds there.
It‘s an imaginary master class named in homage to Nijinsky, choreographed by Faizal Zeghoudi, text by Marie-Christine Mazzola, danced by four fine interpreters of his art, and narrated by Bernard Pisani, once a dancer, now an actor. I loved the dance. I was less entranced by the pretentious text.
I liked this clever pas de deux. But don‘t think classical ballet, think very contemporary male-female dance. “Et Si” means “And if.” First you see a table, and under that legs. Everything above the table is blacked out. He is twisting. She kicks off red spike heels. You use your imagination. Very smart. She is cool. The twists are erratic, movements are jagged. Like the relationship.
The Tjimur Dance Theatre of Taiwan presents a finely designed contemporary dance inspired by the culture of the PaÃ¯wan tribe, an aboriginal group of the island‘s south. Choreographed by Baru Madiljin, “Varhung – Heart to Heart” is slow, expressive, angular. It tells stories of people‘s lives, loves, difficulties though the cultivation and harvesting of the ginger plant.
The best production I saw at the 2018 Avignon Theater Festival was “Dance ˜n Speak Easy,” a stunning work by Wanted Posse set in the U.S. 1930s prohibition era. The mood is swagger, the language is hip hop, the undercurrent is aggression.
May 21, 2018 – The people who put up this poster at New York’s CooperHewitt Museum, which I saw yesterday, must be millennials or younger! It’s a critique of US foreign policy mostly in the 1980s. War in Vietnam, invasion of Grenada, Contras in Nicaragua and death squads in El Salvador, US bombing of Libya, invasion of Panama. But blurb says the poster was created in ca (about) 1980! How can a poster that references those events be created before most of the events occurred? Curators appear to know nothing of the US 1980s war crimes the poster attacks!
Dance Forms has been presenting performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for 16 years, everything from classical to avant garde, from major company principals to unknowns. This year’s International Choreographers’ Showcase had major European and American ballet soloists and the iconic post-modern choreographer Douglas Dunn, who danced with Merce Cunningham’s company. As one expects from Dance Forms, were some very fine pieces.
The Fringe is not only about theater. There is also dance. Here are performances I found important. The classic Studies in Red, 3 girls 2 boys, twists, turns, high kicks and poses in excellent form was a highlight. This choreographers‘ showcase has been presented at the Fringe for 15 years, and it‘s a good chance to see an eclectic selection of creative dancers, ranging from traditional to minimal. In this case, the best were traditional!
Sept 29, 2014 –
Last week (Sept. 22), I went to a Metropolitan Museum of Art event about a new exhibit, Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.
It included a talk by Secretary of State John Kerry and some speeches by art experts. A theme was the destruction that the “bad guys” have wrecked on historic art and archeological places in the Syria-Iraq region.
Can an art lecture in the form of a theater piece push you to the edge of your seat? This rich, engrossing play by John Logan does! Painter Mark Rothko’s inflated sense of self collides with the challenges of youth’s new visions in Logan’s fascinating pas de deux about the meaning of art and its indelible connection to commerce.
Protest at Rosenstrasse by non-Jewish women saved their Jewish husbands and sons —
In a small park just off Karl Liebnechtstrasse in former East Berlin stands an extraordinary group of reddish pink sculptures called Block der Frauen, the block of women. German sculptor Ingeborg Hunzinger, an artistic refugee from the Nazis, chiseled them to commemorate an extraordinary event that occurred at that site in February 1943.
The Nazis had rounded up some 2500 Jewish men and boys, the husbands and sons of non-Jewish women, and imprisoned them at Rosenstrasse 2-4, the Jewish Community Center to gather them for deportation to death. The women found out where the men had been taken and converged there. From 600 the protests grew to 6,000. The guards pointed machine guns at them and threatened to open fire. The women held their ground.
After a week, propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who indicated in his diary that he was worried about the protest‘s public relations impact in Germany and abroad, ordered that the Jews with Aryan spouses or parents be released. And then the event seemed to vanish from history.
Why didn‘t we know about this? Why is it still generally believed that no one could challenge the Nazis and live?
The citizens of Buenos Aires are called “porteÃ±os,” people of the port. Perhaps this connection to the rest of the world contributes to their sophistication. “BA” is a city of grand, classical-style buildings, elegant neighborhoods, scruffy crowded “barrios,” pedestrian malls and even a kitchy tourist waterfront along the RÃo de la Plata, the Platt River. Like other great cities, it‘s a center of contemporary art. Much of that reflects its turbulent political history.
Argentina has come a long way since the period of repression of 1976-1973, the time of the military’s dirty war against the left. The government has granted the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” concession booths at the square opposite the Presidential Palace, and they are mentioned in official guides. The cafÃ©-bookstore is a tourist attraction! In this vibrant city, politics and culture mix with a Latin passion.
The most riotous time I had in Italy was at Michelangelo‘s David 500th birthday party. Well, not exactly a party, an exhibit at the Academy Gallery (Galleria dell‘Accademia) in Florence. Hmm? Isn‘t David just a piece of white marble, beautiful, yes, but riotous?
I‘m talking about Robert Morris‘ “The Birthday Boy,” an hysterical send-up of two leftwing art historians, each in a separate video talking about “The David.” The American Morris did them in 2003-4. His satire has the art critics (played by actors), typically veering into discussions of international politics, feminism, all the hot-button issues. Or didn‘t you think an art historian discussing “The David” could bring in an attack on George Bush?
Paris has always been stimulating to the artistic soul and also a little outrageous. There are two edgy museums with art that pushes the most controversial boundaries – sex and politics. And both also defy the staid notion that museums are only for solemn daylight viewing. They are he Museum of Erotic Art in Montmartre, and the Palais de Tokyo near the Arc de Triomphe.