cityArts May 24, 2012
The May 24, 2012 issue of cityArts. CityArts is an essential voice on the best to see, hear and experience in New York’s cultural landscape.
Critics’ Picks MUSEUMS Dream Weaver: Thai artist and poet Pinaree Sanpitak’s new installation and textile works, “Hanging by a Thread.” She will also have a solo show at the Chrysler Museum this October. Through June 1, Tyler Rollins Fine Art Ltd., 529 W. 20th St., 10W, 212-2299100, trfineart.com. [Valerie Gladstone] Edited by Armond White New York’s Review of Culture • CityArtsNYC.com GALLERIES Heliontrope: A luminous exhibition of a decade’s work by one of the last great French modernists, with nearly 30 paintings and drawings by Jean Hélion (19041987), revealing his evolution from pure abstraction to figuration. Through June 30, Schroeder Romero & Shredder, 531 W. 26th St., 212-630-0722, srandsgallery.com. [John Goodrich] Freudian Trip: “Lucian Freud Drawings” includes over 80 works spanning from 1940 to the present day in charcoal, pastel, conté, pen and ink, crayon, etching and watercolor. Through June 9, Acquavella Galleries, 18 E. 79th St., 212-734-6300, acquavellagalleries. com. [VG] CLASSICAL Adventures with Lang Lang: You never know what Lang Lang, the sensational young pianist, will do: lay an egg or knock you out? Always worth attending. May 29, Carnegie Hall, 212-247-7800, carnegiehall. org; 8 p.m. [Jay Nordlinger] Kara Hayward on the lookout as Wes Anderson’s Suzy. Binocular Vision Wes Anderson looks at life twice in Moonrise Kingdom By Armond White W ill Wes Anderson ever return to the blunt sexuality of the Hotel Chevalier overture to The Darjeeling Limited? The mannered style of his new film, Moonrise Kingdom, suggests, perhaps, an adieu to innocence. It’s a remarkable fantasy creation at the same time that it knowingly presents a sophisticated deconstruction of prelapsarian innocence. Moonrise Kingdom is titled for the idyll shared by two New England preteens in love, Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman). It’s the name they give an unchristened cove previously known by its map coordinates, or the technical “Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet.” Suzy and Sam are both 12 years old, but Anderson’s personalized vision makes their identities emerge affectionately; Suzy’s detached from her parents and three brothers, Sam’s an orphan isolated from the delinquents in his foster home and his scout troop. They are typical Anderson protagonists—which means nothing about them is typical. Both Suzy and Sam’s intelligence arises from their self-conscious loneliness as part of their survival tactics; she reads books about girls in danger, he becomes an exemplary boy scout. Their shared paradise might not last into adulthood, but instead of Stand By Me’s sappy view of adolescence, Anderson offers fine insight into their specific emotional qualities. Leaning toward fantasy, Anderson studies the depths of personality. Suzy and Sam are not sexualized, like the Peter and Wendy in P.J. Hogan’s extraordinary 2003 Peter Pan. This is also a runaway’s story, like François Ozon’s Criminal Lovers, a Hansel and Gretel tale mixing Night of the Hunter and They Lived By Night, but Anderson favors a chaste view of sexual precocity. This delicate, eccentric sensibility of Anderson’s films (The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tenenbaums) confuses some people, but his meticulous visualization of feeling and adolescent experience is what distinguishes his cinema. Childhood isn’t coddled in an excessive or nostalgic way, it provides a key to Anderson’s sense of basic human nature. The adults in Moonrise Kingdom— Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand), Sam’s Scout master, Ward (Edward Norton), and the local police captain, Sharp (Bruce Willis)—display an older but similar weariness and dissatisfaction. Despite the farcical tone, no one is infantilized; all are seen compassionately. Norton’s weak chin and slight lisp personify the dweeb that is Anderson’s specialty. He’s not brilliant like the nerds Jason Schwartzman plays for Anderson, rather, he’s one of Moonrise Kingdom’s mundane, unjudged innocents. Starting with Suzy’s brothers listening to Benjamin Britten’s 1946 recording The Young Person‘s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34 (Themes A-F), Anderson diagrams the Continued on next page Britten and Brilliant: Two days after Opera in Cinema presents Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes” at the Big Cinemas Manhattan Theater, Opera Moderne mounts Britten’s “Turn of the Screw,” based on Henry James’s supernatural masterpiece. SCARY! May 26, Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, 212-864-5400, symphonyspace.org; , 8 p.m., $55 advance, $45 for members & children, $60 day of show. [Judy Gelman Myers] JAZZ Now’s the Time: Brilliant pianist, composer and band leader Jonathan Batiste, co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (NJMH), present “Jazz is: NOW.” May 23, NJMH, 104 E. 126th St., 212-348-8300, jazzmuseuminharlem.org; 7 p.m., free. [VG] DANCE Names and Misnomers: A survey of international dance styles graces the Museum of Art and Design theater. Performers include Souleymane Badolo, Bridgman/Packer Dance, Claire Porter and Misnomer Dance Theater. June 1, The Theater at Museum of Art and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, 212-2997777, madmuseum.org; 7:30 p.m., $20, $12 for members. [Phyllis Workman] Women’s Whirl: Gotham Dance Festival celebrates the work of American women, among them Jane Comfort & Company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, Kate Weare Company, Pam Tanowitz Dance and Monica Bill Barnes & Company, in this one-night celebration program, “Working Women.” June 5, The Joyce Theater, 175 8th Ave., 212-928-6517, gothamarts.org; 7:30 p.m., $10+. [VG] CITYARTS MUSEUMS Surveying the Italian Scene Lessons from the Accademia and The Met By Mario Naves B link during your next visit to The Met and you’re likely to miss Bellini, Titian, and Lotto; North Italian Paintings from the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, an exhibition snuggled almost imperceptibly into the museum’s collection of European art. As the Accademia Carrara undergoes renovation, The Met is hosting 15 of its paintings as a means to “expand [the Accademia’s] reputation internationally.” The last time The Met and the Accademia Carrera joined forces was with a revelatory exhibition of still-life paintings by local hero Evaristo Baschenis (1617-1677). The current venture doesn’t pack the same punch. The star names might lead you to believe otherwise, but the lone Titian canvas is at best a curio and—what’s that again?—an attribution. Bellini’s “Pieta With the Virgin and Saint John” (ca. 1455-60) is…well, it’s a dud. Compare it to The Met’s own “Madonna and Child” (ca. 1480) and weep. Lotto justifies marquee billing. Three altarpiece panels originally installed in the Church of San Bartolomeo evince a showman of impeccable concision, if not at the top of his powers. That distinction is earned with “Portrait of Lucina Brembati” (ca. 1518-23), wherein Lotto adroit- Moonrise Kingdom Continued from previous page basic social unit of family in a remarkable series of lateral pans through the Bishop family frame house, then through the campsite of Sam’s Kahaki Scouts unit at Camp Ivanhoe. The idea of musical variations serves Anderson’s method of describing social groups and human relations. Each character is introduced in their private rooms, personal worlds—individuals as part of a whole. If it looks just like the animated universe of Fantastic Mr. Fox, that’s Anderson’s affectionate point. But don’t underestimate his perspicacity. These white folks retracing the Indian trails of their habitat reveal a lot more about Americans’ connection to their history than Alexander Payne’s smug The Descendants. ly concentrates his knack for rendering finery and tapping into the psyche. The more time you spend with Ms. Brembati, the more intimate, and unnerving, the encounter. Wow, you think, the things a painting can do. The same sentiment can be applied to canvases by Giovanni Battista Moroni, a lesser-known “natural talent” whose gift for portraiture won Titian’s recommendation. Moroni’s “Portrait of a Little Girl of the Redetti Family” (ca. 1570) is a remarkable evocation (or illusion) of a child wiser than her years. But “Portrait of a Twenty-Nine-Year-Old Man” (1567) is the triumph, the sitter’s wary individuality having been distilled with no consequent loss in mystery. The remainder of Bellini, Titian and Lotto is filled out with drab talents (Bergognone), by-the-book tradesmen (Giovanni Cariani) and flashy pasticheurs (Andrea Previtali). On the slim evidence at hand, it’s difficult to know whether Vincenzo Foppa or Moretto da Brescia are more than that. Is da Brescia’s “Christ and a Devotee” (1518) a happy one-off or does it herald a minor master? The Met and the Accademia Carrara should join forces again to answer that question for the rest of us. Bellini, Titian, and Lotto; North Italian Paintings from the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo Through Sept. 3, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave., 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org. Anderson acknowledges his selfaware pageantry (and dependence upon social ritual and public ritual) in a flashback to Suzy and Sam first meeting at a church performance of Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludd. It resembles a layered, cut-out Christmas card unfolding before our eyes. A rebuke to 3-D gimmickry, it also makes imagination real in the same way of an Anderson tableau. There’s beauty when Suzy and Sam are on a misty beach with an olive-colored lantern on the left, yellow suitcase on the right, her saddle oxfords on left, a blue record player on right and a pair of binoculars in the foreground. Binoculars, a familiar image from Anderson’s debut Bottle Rocket, symbolize his gift for seeing youth and adulthood simultaneously. This double vision makes Moonrise Kingdom odd and substantive. Follow ArmondWhite on Twitter @3xchair JAZZ CITYARTS Moves Like Morton Marcus Roberts sets his own rules By Howard Mandel J azz musicians pushing beyond the standard deviations advance the art form, and pianist Marcus Roberts stands out among many excellent current keyboard players with a thrust all his own. Performing the 1920s classics of Jelly Roll Morton faithfully yet also revised at Jazz at Lincoln Center May 11 and 12, and collaborating with banjoist Bela Fleck on record and at the Blue Note June 5 through 10, Roberts has been and will be neither strict neo-conservative nor outright populist, not representative of trends nor an outlying iconoclast. He’s his own man, creating quite freely within explicit structures, exploring new associations while asserting uncompromised individuality. Roberts’ music is odd, interesting, utterly unpredictable and fun to hear. In Western European classical music, one knows how the music goes and takes satisfaction in its realization. In jazz, we may know what the musicians start with, but thrill to follow their improvised paths forward, unsure of how and where they’ll arrive. Jelly Roll Morton’s compositions for his Red Hot Peppers are highly specific, recalled with precision by fans. Roberts, who is blind, took transcriptions of Morton’s recordings and reharmonized them to get new, rich, coloristic blends from trumpet, trombone, two saxophones, clarinet, piano, bass and drums. That JALC-associated ’bone player Ron Westray, tenor saxist Stephen Riley and three young men who were Roberts’ students at Florida State University had startlingly different soloing styles, stretching out in ways Morton couldn’t have imagined but might well have applauded, didn’t bug their leader at all. Indeed, on “Grandpa’s Spells,” “The Chant,” “Deadman Blues,” “Dr. Jazz,” “Original Jelly Roll Blues,” “Winin’ Boy” and “The Pearls,” Roberts strived to play nothing like Morton, coming up with strategies for each of his featured episodes that seemed capricious, if not random. threw down power chords and clusters in a frenzy, concentrated for a chorus on the bell-like highest notes of the piano and added contrasts and comments to his horn players’ efforts. Westray blew like a burbling brook, Riley employed a strangely hollow, hoarse tone on anarchic, late-swing era fragments of phrases, and the kids Joe Goldberg (clarinet), Alphonso Horne (trumpet) and Ricardo Pascal (tenor and soprano saxes) walked the line between Hot Peppers fidelity and their personal impulses, usually sustaining the balance. The concert I heard, the first of two, was fascinating, though the band hadn’t completely jelled. Drummer Jason Marsalis kept strict time, right on top of Roberts in duet on “King Porter Stomp”; he and bassist Rodney Jordan are Roberts’ regular partners. Piano and banjo are rarely heard together, but Bela Fleck is a rare banjoMarcus Roberts ist, and with Roberts’ trio on Across the Imaginary Divide, the combination Morton was no roughhouse blues and sounds natural. Roberts is stately at moboogie guy; he filtered 19th-century Euroments, folksy at others, delving into tango pean romanticism and bordello flourishes and blues. This may not be jazz, or it may into syncopated stride and in ensembles be an unexpected expansion of the art. Who was unfailingly supportive. Roberts, howcares? It’s fun to hear. ever, laid out right-hand-only single note lines with perverse restraint of momentum, ReachHowardMandelat firstname.lastname@example.org CITYARTS POP Tailored Excess Gossip and Xenomania make joyful noise By Ben Kessler A rkansas-bred indie band Gossip (née The Gossip; like Facebook, they dropped the definite article) came to A Joyful Noise, their fifth studio album, having exhausted the exhortative possibilities of millennial dancepunk. Ahead of the pop culture curve, singer Beth Ditto went the distance—shorter than it seems—from subaltern militant (2006’s Standing in the Way of Control) to prophet of boho-hipster liberation (2009’s Music for Men). The band’s breakout single, “Standing in the Way of Control,” was celebrated for its punk progressivism vis-à-vis gay marriage. Just as audacious but much less straightforward, A Joyful Noise is in sync with our current conflicted—ahem, “evolved”—cultural moment. Gossip made an unequivocal break with the recent past when they decamped from producer Mark Ronson’s studio to work with Brian Higgins, founder of hitmaking outfit Xenomania. Ditto has said of Ronson, “We had all the same reference points.” Indeed, Ronson’s sampling sensibility curates pop music history according to a consistent hierarchy of “underground” values. He goes at his business with an undisguised sincere belief in the purity, the authenticity, that cultural history lends to certain sounds. Higgins has no such belief. His is a synthesizing sensibility. Higgins and his collaborators put all of pop in the hopper. In its production for acts such as Saint Etienne, Girls Aloud and Florrie, Xenomania uses eclecticism for scale. The key to the Xenomania genius lies in tailoring excess: knowing when too much is just right vs. when it really is too much. Clearly, Higgins’ philosophy is that a strong topline melody exerts discipline downward and no effect that serves to impress the melody deeper into the listener’s consciousness should be questioned. So, yes, this is the full-on pop sound that Gossip have been tending toward for the last half-decade. But it’s not a cynical assault on the charts. When rock acts go pop, they often burrow all the way in as if to hide themselves, eliding the intermediate steps, the thought process that got them there. (Of course, that’s because, often, there is no thought process other than The Pet Shop Boys’ ironic rallying cry, “Let’s make lots of money.”) A Joyful Noise, however, retains many of the ingredients of the familiar Gossip sound. By collaborating with Xenomania, Gossip embark on a (forgive me) epistemological adventure, detaching their sound from its obvious reference points and mining their punk inheritance to discover its deepest register of truth and meaning. Tracks like “Get a Job” deviate from sentimentalized ideas about outsider authenticity. Where some might see a righteous affront to conformity, Ditto sees troubling inertia: “It was adorable when you were in your twenties/Not so cute anymore now that you’re pushing 30/Girl, you better get a job.” Much of the album flips Gossip’s previous rebel-rousing role to incite introspection rather than subcult rites of affirmation. The slow-building ballad “Casualties of War” looks beyond the political arrangement of gay love relationships to weigh serious consequences: “You lost the fight/I heard it was a good fight/The kind where no one wins and no one’s right.” The closing track, “Love in a Foreign Place,” brings the theme of xenomania (love of all things foreign) to the forefront. It’s ironic that this album, not the purest representation of the signature Higgins sound, concludes with what may prove to be the definitive Xenomania song. With a hook powered by triumphal, parallel bass and synth lines (classic Xenomania), the song fulfills the album’s title by heralding an expat state of being where there’s “so much to live for, so much to lose.” Recasting her personal history as existential narrative, Ditto exults in having overcome the limits of “life in a small town.” But “Love in a Foreign Place”—and the album as a whole—is anchored by the chastening awareness that anywhere can be a small town. A Joyful Noise drives us back to those warring personal impulses that are the true origin and final testing ground of our politics. GALLERIES CITYARTS Radiant Details Innerst luminates the land By Maureen Mullarkey C ontemporary art—that subset of it that Charles Saatchi branded as “the art of our time”—disdains delectation. In the main, today’s artists consider themselves neither creators nor custodians of beauty. Eager to be greeted as standard-bearers of their time, they make self-conscious claims to disparate ideological agendas, ones that displace or disavow any aesthetic category whatever. In the words of Kelly Baum, curator of contemporary art at the Princeton Art Museum, “Art is now defined by its disidentification with the discipline of art.” Mark Innerst’s recent paintings at DC Moore clear the palate from the aftertaste of so much aggressive disidentification. He works in splendid isolation from prevailing sociopolitical or gendered “strategies.” His canvases are a luminous rebuke to squinteyed definitions of what a contemporary artist is ordained to produce. Born in York, Pa., in 1957, Innerst earned his BFA at Kutztown University in 1980. He began his career in the early 1980s as part of the downtown New York art scene, interning at Artists Space and the Kitchen. Currently dividing his time between Philadelphia and Cape May, he is a radiant painter of urban architecture and Pennsylvania river views. A rigorous craftsman and fastidious tonalist, he has achieved a degree of critical success that is as anomalous on the contemporary scene as it is deserved. Innerst is not easily categorized. Neither his style nor his motifs fit cleanly into those stylistic pigeonholes cherished by critics and art historians. While earlier paintings were more readily categorized as landscapes or cityscapes, and some still are, the ensemble on view now is more ambiguous. Can he still be accurately be called a realist? Or is he an abstract painter seizing elements of visual reality for his own conceptual purposes? A luminist, perhaps? “Labels are the dickens,” complained John Bauer who devised the term “luminism” in a 1954 essay on what he consid- ered a neglected aspect of the realist movement in 19th-century American landscape painting. If a label is needed for Innerst’s light-drenched motifs, Bauer’s coinage serves best. Luminism is an enigmatic word that has suffered various definitions, all centered on American artists’ ongoing attention to qualities of light and atmosphere. Dan Flavin’s neon constructions and James Turrell’s lightwave scuptures enjoy the label as readily as Innerst. One of the smallest of his recent works, the incandescent “Lit Horizon” (2012), bears a family resemblance to the poetry of Turrell. Bands of fluorescence streak across a striated panel no more than eight inches square. Parallel veins of color progress in the order of the spectrum: blues melt into greens, the warmth progressing seamlessly toward white light. No tungsten lamps here, just pigment. It is a dazzling performance, repeated in varied ways on other panels. “The Tide” (2012) shrinks the already reduced waterside motif of its pendant piece, “Canal” (2012), to a narrow strip of concentrated light eclipsed at intervals by pitch black. The contrast catches and holds the eye in pure delight. His urban conundrums, particularly the imposing “Architrave” (2012) and “En Route” (2012), are magical. Views down an imaginary avenue are severely telescoped to reveal only a slim corner of successive buildings. Light gambols from one architectural element to another, touching all the moldings, cornices, fillets and epistyles along the upper stories of the buildings that line the urban canyons. Condensed to slim horizontals, the buildings are tethered to reality by the details articulated and stressed by light. I am disappointed only by the selfconscious, camera-derived motifs in works such as “Passing Clouds” (2012). Here, a traditional landscape panorama is too obviously reliant on digital manipulation of tonal scales and Photoshop tools. Conventional photography maneuvers, sweetened with Hudson River School cloud formations, deflect attention from his strength: a lyrical quality of engagement with the visual world, however diffuse. Innerst enjoys an uncommon ability to dissolve mass into light without mechanical means. Why spoil it by waving a camera at us? He achieves compelling effects by simply paring down his motifs to a neardematerialized core without abandoning depiction altogether. His loveliest work remains tethered to palpable evidence. Mark Innerst: The Ongoing Landscape Through June 8, DC Moore Gallery, 535 W. 22nd St., 212-247-2111, dcmooregallery.com.