By William Wolf

ALBERT STADLER EXHIBIT DAZZLES AT BERRY CAMPBELL GALLERY  Send This Review to a Friend

Even before entering the Berry Campbell Gallery in Chelsea, one can see through the broad window paintings that glow with amazing use of color. They are the works of important artist Albert Stadler (1923-2000), honored with the current show that runs through December 22 at the gallery owned by Christine A. Berry and Martha Campbell. The exhibit is appropriately called “Albert Stadler—Studies in Color.”

Stadler, whose first solo exhibition was held in 1962 at Bennington College, is recognized for combining color and minimalist art, as exemplified in this collection. Some of the works on display, nearly all in acrylic on canvas, are attractively bold, while others are sensitively subtle.

In surveying his paintings, one can appreciate Stadler’s ability to blend a variety of colors with his abstract imagery. One favorite is “Twilight,” which he did in 1973. Another is “Wild Character,” painted in 1979. Meadowrise (1983) is another dazzler, as is “Exotic Night.” (1982).

Mari Stadler, who was married to the artist, has dedicatedly worked to keep his art in the forefront, and Valerie Stadler, his daughter, has directed a film, “Albert Stadler: Color,” which explores his achievements. The film includes comments by Mari Stadler, Christine Berry and Sanford Wurmfeld, artist and Professor Emeritus of Hunter College.

The Berry Campbell Gallery is located at 530 West 24th Street. Phone: 212-924-2178. Posted November 17, 2017.

EDVARD MUNCH'S MOODY MASTERWORKS  Send This Review to a Friend

Years ago in Oslo I watched a group of very young students sitting around on the floor in front of “The Scream” with a teacher talking to them about the painting. I have occasionally wondered what those children were making of Munch’s cry of despair. There is only a lithograph of “The Scream” in the current reassessment of Munch’s career on display at The Met Breuer (November 15-February 4, 2018), but there are 42 other works by the artist, including some being seen in the United States for the first time. The current show is titled “Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed.”

Munch (1863-1944) expressed himself with many paintings that reflected a dark vision. One has to hunt to find any that one might call optimistic. There are two paintings called “Starry Night,” and one has a happy glow, while the other, despite the title, is quite dark. One of the cheerful works in the exhibit is the colorful “The Dance of Life.”

There are 16 self-portraits in the collection, and they have in common a severity of one sort or another. There is a unique one that shows Munch in a stance that comes across as delightfully assertive. There is, of course, the self-portrait of Munch in the painting that gives the exhibition its title, “Self Portrait Between the Clock and the Bed,” with Munch standing stiffly in the middle.

One especially impressive painting, “Jealousy,” shows a couple embracing in the background, while in the foreground a man looks dramatically upset, with the presumtiom that he is jealous of his wife with another man.

Works being shown in the U.S. for the first time include “Lady in Black,” “Puberty,” “Jealousy,” “Death Struggle,” “Man With Bronchitis,” “Self-Portrait with Hands in Pockets” and “Ashes.”

Munch was deeply sadden and haunted by the death of his sister Sophie, and several paintings were inspired by his grief, as in “The Sick Child.”

Whatever his subject, the paintings chosen display the individual styles of Munch as his career proceeded and also reflect his often pessimistic view of life, undoubtedly fueled by his personal psychological problems. This is an excellent opportunity to survey examples of what makes Munch’s work so special. At the Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue (at 75th Street). Phone: 212-923-3700. Posted November 15, 2017.

SYLVIA PLATH EXHIBIT IMPRESSIVE AT GROLIER CLUB  Send This Review to a Friend

A striking exhibition illuminating the life and work of the late poet and writer Sylvia Plath has been assembled at the Grolier Club by noted scholar and author Judith G. Raymo. Titled “This is the Light of the Mind,” it opened on September 19 and continues through November 4, 2017.

The tribute to the renowned Plath, who committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30, is mostly from the personal Plath collection of Raymo, who has annotated in detail various examples of Plath’s writing, history and personal correspondence. On surveying the assemblage one can get a firm impression of Plath’s professional and personal life, and come away with a feeling of the loss suffered when her career was tragically so short lived.

In the catalogue published in connection with the exhibit, Raymo notes: “I have been collecting editions of the works of the poet and writer Sylvia Plath for the past 25 years. My early interest was sparked by the posthumous publication of her extraordinary book of poems, ‘Ariel” (1965). Plath and I were both undergraduates who majored in English literature at Smith College in the 1950s. As I began to collect her works in earnest and to read many accounts of her life, I reflected on the experiences of young women who came of age in post-World War II society as we sought to negotiate often-conflicting expectations and challenges of mid-twentieth-century culture.

“We know the many details of Plath’s daily existence from her remarkably candid journals, in which she recorded her thoughts, experiences, and drafts of her poetry and fiction from the age of eleven. When read in tandem with her correspondence to her mother, her friends and her family, these documents provide us with an abundant record of a writer’s interior and private life and its many turning points.”

Raymo notes that “Plath’s poems and stories have been translated into more than thirty languages” and that “fictionalized versions of Plath’s life have been made into films, plays, novels and an Italian opera. ‘The Bell Jar’ regularly appears on high school reading lists and ‘Ariel” is now required reading in many gender studies courses. In 2010, Plath was inducted into Poet’s Corner in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. And in April, 2012, she was one of ten American poets honored with his or her image on a U.S. postage stamp.”

Attending the opening of the exhibition, I was particularly struck by the details Raymo provided in her meticulous descriptions of the material on display. One can spend considerable, pleasurable time reading the examples of poems and correspondence, and the explanations that accompany them. The exhibit is on the second floor of the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street. Posted September 24, 2017.

EXCELLENT SINGERS HIGHLIGHT FREE OPERA CONCERT AT LIBRARY  Send This Review to a Friend

Living in New York has its entertainment perks, some of them free entertainment, and one can survey the scene to see what’s around in any given week. For example, last Saturday, July 15 (2017), one could have gone to the New York Public Library branch at 112 East 96th Street and experienced a free afternoon opera concert of L’Elisir d’Amore “ (“The Elixir of Love”) by Gaetano Donizetti, presented by the New York Opera Forum.

The opera was sung by five performers with superb voices. In an 1830 country setting Ilana Goldberg, soprano, performed the key role of Adina, a wealthy owner of a farm, fought over by competing suitors. I had enjoyed her for the first time in a previous concert (see SEARCH then under ABOUT TOWN), but on this occasion it was a more complete opportunity to appreciate her impressive voice and her considerable acting skills.

I had never heard any of the other four performers, each in excellent voice—Jennifer Allenby, soprano, as Giannetta, Adina’s friend; and three fine male singers, Joseph Mayon, tenor, as Nemorino, a peasant in love with Adina; Charles Gray, baritone, as Belcore, a sergeant, and Spencer Leopold-Cohen, baritone as Dulcamara, a travelling medicine man. Richard Nechamkin was Music Director and also pianist.

The opera in concert was in an intimate lower level library space that afforded the opportunity for the kind of close-up experience one doesn’t get at a full production in an opera house. Absent were ticket prices! If you missed the aforementioned concert, there is an opportunity to enjoy excerpts from “Der Rosenkavalier” by Strauss and “Suor Angelica” by Puccini in another free recital by the New York Opera Forum at the 96th Street Library at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 12. No advance registration is required. Posted July 17, 2017.

RAUSCHENBERG'S ART GETS HUGE EXHIBIT AT MoMA  Send This Review to a Friend

The Museum of Modern Art is offering a wide-scale exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s art in its show titled “Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends” (May 21-Sept. 17, 2017). It is a well-conceived exhibition that also contains works by artists with whom Rauschenberg (1925-2008) associated, and accordingly it reflects some of the influences that proved important. But overall, this is a prime opportunity to visit Rauschenberg’s creativity and contemplate his place in the world of modern art.

The exhibition was organized in association with Tate Modern in London and features some 250 works. Some of the art is more intimate, some lavish, some especially inventive. The thrust explores Rauschenberg’s avant-garde mix of different materials and mediums, as well as his involvement with dance and performance.

Throughout there are excellent explanations of different phases of his life, for example when he was close to Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly. There was also Susan Weil, to whom he was married. His broadened application of his art integrated with other art forms included working with Trisha Brown, John Cage and Merce Cunningham and being sought to do set and costume designs for live performances.

One striking work is the depiction of a taxidermied goat emerging from within an auto tire. The artist’s social conscience is reflected in his “Signs,” featuring Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy in a grouping that reflects their historical period. A popular stop along the way through the collection is a huge pool of bubbling mud, with a warning of not to stand too close, lest you get splattered.

There are videos that reflect his contributions to Trisha Brown’s dance events. One can find startling works of color as well as his white paintings. Whether or not one appreciates Rauschenberg’s adventurism into multi-use of objects during his career, this is a show that demonstrates his concepts and artistic achievement, as well as an occasion to study the relationship between his work and others. Setting Rauschenberg among friends is a nifty idea that helps reveal inspirations that flourished during interlocking careers. At the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. Posted May 21, 2017.

FJK DANCE  Send This Review to a Friend

Fadi J Khoury, co-founder in 2014 with Sevin Ceviker of FJK Dance, spoke of the ambitious program at the Peter Norton Symphony Space Theatre on Nov. 17 as works in progress. Khoury, as artistic director, choreographer and male lead dancer of the relatively new company, envisions the aim of bringing different dance forms—modern, jazz, ballet and folkloric—into a common language of shared creativity. The concept was dramatically on display in the program selected for the Nov. 17 occasion.

The initial number, "Oblivon," which Khoury choreographed and danced in, celebrated tango and its sexuality, also danced by Elisa Toro Franky, Felipe Escalante, Harold Blackhood, Mara Driscoll and Ceviker. The accompanying score illustrated the sort of blend that Khoury advocates, a mix of the contemporary and Rachmaninoff.

This was followed by “Move,” consisting of dance inspired by African rhythms, samba and Arabic percussions, again choreographed by Khoury, who danced along with the striking Sofia Bogdanova and also Ceviker.

After intermission, there was a dynamic shift to “Mundo,” again with Khoury’s choreography, but this time highlighting Latin American social dancing and the folkloric, with jazz pianist Frank Abenante and his NYC Latin Jazz Ensemble. The impressive company of dancers made the blend come vividly alive.

FJK Dance has been gathering support, as evidenced by the large turnout for the performance, which was a benefit for the company. Khoury was gracious and enthusiastic in thanking followers and benefactors. At Peter Norton Symphony Space Theatre, Broadway and 94th Street. Posted November 21, 2016.

DIANE ARBUS: IN THE BEGINNING  Send This Review to a Friend

In looking at the extensive photo exhibit devoted to the work of Diane Arbus, one can imagine being in her shoes and roaming New York with her perceptive eye for both the unusual and the relatively mundane. Titled “Diane Arbus: In the Beginning,” the show is at the Met Breuer (July 12-November 27, 2016) and covers the first years of Arbus’s career, spanning from 1956-1962.

You’ll find more than 100 photographs on display, not arranged in any special order. You can just walk along the the aisles and study the pictures on both sides, crisscrossing the large room on the Breuer’s second floor. What you’ll discover is an eclectic collection that captures her range.

Arbus had a fascination, for example, for men dressing as women, whether female impersonators or ordinary cross-dressers. She also enjoyed seeking out the bizarre at amusement parks, such as a man billed as the human pin cushion, Siamese twins (the old way of describing them rather than the politically correct co-joined), and other oddities.

In one amusing photo she shot a little boy doing a Maurice Chevalier impersonation. One of her best and most known photos is of two little girls who are identical twins. She snapped a man who had grown to giant height alongside his normally short parents. In contrast, there is a lone photo of a midget. There is a photo of a nudist couple indoors. Arbus was fond of capturing moments by taking pictures of action on movie screens.

But Arbus could also illuminate character by photographing an elegant woman finely dressed and suggesting stature. She would snap upscale dancers reflecting society life. She reveled in street scenes and captured children in various circumstances.

The exhibit also contains a few photos by contemporaries, but the work of Arbus overwhelms them in this display. I came away newly impressed with her artistry, but could not escape the feeling of sadness that such a talented person ended her life by suicide in 1971 at the age of 48. At the Met Breuer, Madison Avenue at 75th Street. Reviewed July 12, 2016.

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART OFFERS SPECTACULAR HELLENISTIC EXHIBITION  Send This Review to a Friend

There are wonderful sights to behold in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ambitious show titled “Pergamon and the Hellenstic Kingdoms of the Ancient World,” which opens today (April 18, 2016) and continues through July 17, 2016.

A significant part of the display, approximately one third, comes from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, with some 40 museums also contributing. Many works have never been lent before. The impressive show reflects art from the Hellenistic period, encompassing three centuries between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and the first century B.C. establishment of the Roman Empire.

One especially stunning sculpture is a hermaphrodite, said to be a Roman copy of the original Greek work. One comes upon it dazzled by what appears to be a rear view of a woman sleeping peacefully in the nude except for a garment draped about her legs. One can gaze at the sheer beauty and contour. Go around to the other side of the sculpture, and the genius of the work comes into focus, as one can view the male organs.

Another dramatic sight is the huge statue of Athena that dominates the area in which it is displayed. As one might expect, there are numerous heads of Alexander the Great in various stages of preservation and of varying sizes.

Although one is struck especially by the larger works, there are smaller sculptures that fascinate, as well as the more miniscule evidence of the period encompassed. Encased are coins of the time, jewelry and assorted other objects.

This is a show worth taking time to explore. As one who previously visited the Pergamon, now undergoing renovation, I was especially interested in seeing this Met exhibit, and the B.C. treasures that have made it to New York for the occasion. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street.) Phone: 212-535-7710. Reviewed April 18, 2016.

UNUSUAL DEGAS EXHIBIT AT MOMA  Send This Review to a Friend

“Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty,” the new show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (March 26-July 24, 2016) spotlights the methods of his artistry as well as the results. On this occasion we get a glimpse into Degas’ experimentation, most notably with monotypes.

The exhibition includes some 120 monotypes, as well as another 60 related works, including paintings, drawings, pastels, sketchbooks and prints. They represent what Degas was trying out from the mid-1870s to the mid-1880s. Monatypes are produced by drawing in black ink on a metal plate that is then run through a press, with a print made in the process.

It is quite fascinating to see the fruits of Degas’ labor, works that reflected the subject matter in which he was interested. We are all accustomed to his ballet scenes, and there are some of those in the exhibit, but it is educational to examine his monotypes to see what he did with that special method.

The artist (1834-1917) addressed working class abuse by showing women doing harsh work in laundries. Like many artists, he was intrigued by prostitutes in brothels, as seen in the show. He also found nude women compelling subjects, such as his portraits of women bathing.

What makes the display especially appealing and useful is getting a sense of how Degas was seeking to find new ways of artistic expression and the extent to which his work with monotypes enhanced his art.

Getting this formidable display together was a huge task, and credit is due the organizers, Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; with Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator, and Heidi Hirschl, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.

The exhibition is special for those interested in the mechanics of Degas’ experimentation, but it also should appeal to the general art lover who wants a fuller understanding of Degas’ achievements. At MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street. Posted March 25, 2016.

ILANA GOLDBERG AND RACHAEL HIRSCH DELIGHT IN RECITAL  Send This Review to a Friend

Living in New York affords pleasant opportunities. I wasn’t even aware that there was The Concert Space at Beethoven Pianos, 211 West 58th Street. But learning of a recital with the welcoming title, “’Tis the Season, An Evening of Arias and Duets,” I ventured there on December 9th and after wending my way through a display of impressive pianos, I reached the attractive, intimate concert space that seats about 60, a perfect setting for a close-up acquaintance with two accomplished singers.

Ilana Goldberg, soprano, and Rachael Hirsch, mezzo-soprano, have exquisite, strong voices. Both also displayed a talent for acting roles associated with the operatic numbers chosen, and one could easily visualize them on an opera stage, where they surely belong.

With Leesa Dahl expertly at the piano throughout, Goldberg and Hirsch took turns soloing and also performed together, their program consisting primarily of opera, but in the second half demonstrating their versatility with show tunes.

The appealingly sung opening number was “Ah, perdona al primo affetto” from Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito,” with Hirsch as Annio and Goldberg as Servilia.

Goldberg than demonstrated her skill with “Neghittosi, or voi che fate” from Handel’s “Ariodante,” followed by Hirsch singing “O Mio Fernando” from Donizetti’s “La Favorita.” Goldberg returned to sing “Ah, douce enfant” from Massenet’s “Cendrillon.” They joined in "Viens Mallika,…Dôme épais” from Delibes’s “Lakmé, with Goldberg as Lakmé and Hirsch as Mallika.

Hirsch had a good time with “Habenera,” from, Bizet’s “Carmen,” as she sashayed through the aisle, choosing a few audience members on whom she doted. Goldberg did justice to Amina’s aria “Ah, non credea mirarti” from Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.”

Switching to modernity, Goldberg sang “My White Knight” from Wilson’s “The Music Man” and the demanding “Getting Married Today” from Sondheim’s “Company,” with an assist by Kyle Torrence.

Goldberg as Maria and Rachael Hirsch as Anita concluded their enjoyable, talent-revealing recital with “A Boy Like That” from Bernstein’s “West Side Story” score. I came away exhilarated and eager to hear more from these fine performers. Posted December 13, 2015.

  

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