By William Wolf

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.

NEW YORK ALIVE WITH ENTERTAINMENT OPPORTUNITIES  Send This Review to a Friend

In covering the arts beat, I receive so many invitations that I generally must avoid works in progress without regular runs. But there is a larger world out there of drama, dance and assorted other entertainment working hard to achieve goals and be recognized. There’s also an immense, competitive talent pool.

Two examples of events that I recently attended, short plays presented by a theater group called Infusionarts and the Producers Club under the title “Relationships,” and “Works in Progress” by FJKDance, a new contemporary company, are cases in point.

Critics don’t generally review showcases and works that are still in the shaping. But it can be interesting to see them as examples of the volume of arts efforts in New York and report on them.

On the evening of November 7 at the Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, I mounted the stairs to the tiny Royal Theater to see a group of short plays under the title “Relationships,” and was interested in the range covered and the talent participating. For example, “Divided,” written and directed by Beth Newbery, dramatized the plight of five girls being kept as sex slaves and plotting an escape. Jody Doo as Kat emotionally and daringly conspires to lead a break-out, along with actresses Ilinca Tuvene, Johanna Block, Chelsea Burris an Tadaa Jackson. Alberto Gonzalez Jr. also had a key role. The subject, of course, is in tune with horror news stories about young women turned into prostitutes against their will.

Another play, “Forclosure,” written by George Cameron Grant and directed by Newbery, was a creative attempt to deal with poverty and its effect on a wife and mother. It starred Sammi Price, Philip Childers, Ty Gailloux, Ryo Hayashida and Andee Usman.

There was a nifty idea stirring in “Racquetball,” written by Philip Paradis and directed by Laurie Rae Waugh. Two professors were played by Thamer Jendoubi and Ken Coughlin. One is up for tenure and told that the university is looking for diversity, but lacks a Communist on staff. If he said he were a Communist, tenure would be a sure thing. Given all the people kicked out of universities in the anti-Communist witch hunts, the mere idea is hilarious. If the prof doesn’t want to say he is a Communist, then he could satisfy the university’s diversity need for a gay on staff. And if he said he were a gay Communist, tenure would definitely be a cinch.

Other plays on the bill included “The Jedi Mind Meld,” written by Shari Umansky and directed by Newbery,” and “Girl Parenting,” written by Thursdon Stone and also directed by Newbery.

On the very next night, November 8, I ventured to the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, 248 West 60th Street, to see the “FJKDance 2015 Works in Progress.” The director and choreographer is Fadi J Khoury, who also dances in the company founded last year. Its aim is to fuse different dance genres, such as modern, jazz, classical ballet and folklore.

Khoury talked to the audience at length about the company and its desires, illustrated by works of different approaches. One was an effort inspired by ballroom dancing (which Khury teaches), and enlivened with the music of Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck and John Klemer.

Another offering titled “Reflections” combined projection and lighting designed by Calvin Anderson, photography works by Cathy Gavin and music by Peter Michael von der Nahmer. It is an intensely flowing piece that seeks to explore life, nature and humanity. “Dum Tak” combined Tabla (Middle Eastern drum) and Latin Salsa and Rhumba, and three couples performed in point shoes, Latin heels and bare feet.

I don’t qualify as a dance critic, but I enjoy seeing dance programs, and my impression was that FJKDance presented a vibrant, attractive and talented group possessing great enthusiasm and led by a director-choreographer with ultra dedication to his chosen art form.

During any given week it is possible to sample entertainment in assorted venues apart from the high profile shows with long runs. That’s one of the pleasures of living in New York. Posted November 23, 2015.

GREAT PICASSO SCULPTURE EXHIBIT AT MUSEUM OF MODERN ART  Send This Review to a Friend

Admirers of the works of Pablo Picasso, as well as anyone interested in sculpture, should not want to miss the extraordinary new exhibit “Picasso Sculpture” installed at MoMA (through February 7, 2016). The collection is breathtaking and reveals various stages of the artist’s sculpture from the years 1902 through 1964. As with his paintings, Picasso’s sculptures, many of which come from his personal collection, span so many different styles and reflects his phenomenal imagination and range.

There are some 140 works on display from public and private collections, including 50 from the Musée national Picasso—Paris, which has collaborated in this exhibition. As one walks through the galleries, one observes the artist’s work in various forms--clay, cardboard, plaster, bronze, sheet metal, depending on the period represented. If Picasso had never achieved fame for his paintings, his sculpture alone should have deserved to earn him important status.

Striking, for example, is his cubist “Seated Woman” of unfired clay dating to Barcelona in 1902. There is also the eye-catching “Guitar” of ferrous sheet metal and wire dating to Paris, 1914. I was also fascinated by his plaster “Bust of a Woman” of 1931. There is a section devoted entirely to his extraordinary work in sheet metal.

The exhibition is well annotated, including the story of his efforts to create a monument to his friend, poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire. One can see some of his attempts. none of which achieved acceptance by the memorial committee. The story may seem familiar to those who have followed contemporary battles over monuments.

Allow sufficient time for your visit, as there is so much detail to observe, and you may want to return as well. This is one of those very special shows that stand out among others, and MoMA deserves credit for its effective execution. At MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street. Phone: 212-708-9431. Posted September 18, 2015.

HENRI MATISSE: THE CUT-OUTS AT THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART  Send This Review to a Friend

There was a moment when I stood at a strategic point where I could see through a few rooms at the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit, “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” (Oct. 12, 2014-Feb. 8, 2015). The dazzling array of color created a fabulous vision, a feast for the eyes. As one moved about, one could see smiling faces everywhere among the museum-goers. Such is the happy effect this unusual exhibition offers.

I had missed it at the Tate Modern during a summer trip to London. Fortunately, it has come here, with some tweaking, and MoMA is giving it a fitting display. One surveys the evidence of Matisse’s genius as expressed in the work he has done with cut-outs, mostly as planning for larger undertakings or book illustration, but all in the form of achievements that stand on their own.

During the1940s Matisse worked with cut paper, and we see results in this dynamic show. A major feature is his cut-out “The Swimming pool,” which MoMA acquired in 1975. It was not shown for 20 years, but is a special piece in the current display.

Many of the cut-outs seen were for use in the 1947 book “Jazz,” which Matisse illustrated. There are 100 examples of Matisse’s work in the overall show. Everyone will have favorites, such as “The Clown,” “The Circus” or “The Sword Swallower,” to cite but a few examples.

There are minute cut-outs and huge ones, all revealing the extraordinary tendency of the artist to experiment. This is a special show not to be missed, and MoMA is to be commended for the decision to present it and for the way in which it is being displayed. At the Musuem of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. Phone: 212-708-9431. Reviewed October 13, 2014.

BLACKLIST PLAY 'FINKS' BROADCAST  Send This Review to a Friend

"Finks" by Joe Gilford, the award-nominated play about the blacklist struggles of his parents, Jack Gilford and Madeline Gilford that received much acclaim last season at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, will debut as both a public radio and streaming podcast hosted by onetime blacklisted actor Lee Grant and in print from Dramatists Play Service Thursday, December 12, at 6:00pm at The Drama Bookshop, 250 West 40th Street.

At the event in the Drama Bookshop in its downstairs theater, members of the original cast of Finks will read excerpts from the play. There will also be a presentation of excerpts from the radio production followed by playwright Joe Gilford and radio producer and director Sue Zizza in a talkback. A reception and a book signing will follow. Present from the original cast: Aaron Serotsky, Miriam Silverman, Ned Eisenberg, Leo Ash Evens

  

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