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Feb. 22—March 6, 2012 • Volume 4, Issue 3

Napoleon Dynamite Gets Reinvented Page 11 New york’s Review of Culture •

The Whitney Houston Dream Page 10 Tale of Two Operas at The Met Page 14 Mario Naves on Sarah Sze at Asia Society Page 4

CityArts Interview: St. Ann’s Dr. Susan Feldman Page 15 Deborah Rosenthal at Bowery Gallery Page 5


INSIDE GALLERIES / MUSEUMS Sarah Sze at the Asia Society P. 4 Storytelling in Japanese Art at The Met P. 4 Deborah Rosenthal at the Bowery Gallery P. 5 Tibeten comics and Indian modernists at the Rubin Museum P. 6 Djuna Barnes at the Brooklyn Museum P. 7 Fu Baoshi at The Met P. 8 DanCE New York City Ballet Mixes Brecht and Balanchine P. 9

Harkness Dance Festival Stripped/Dressed Curated by Doug Varone

JAZZ A two-week festival at The Stone P. 9

5 weeks, 5 distinct styles, 15 evenings of intimate performances in 92Y’s historic Buttenwieser Hall.


Fri & Sat, 8 pm; Sun, 3 pm; $15 GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company FEB 17-19 Peggy Baker Dance Projects FEB 24 -26 Doug Elkins Choreography, Etc. MAR 2- 4 Monica Bill Barnes & Company MAR 9-11 Susan Marshall & Company MAR 16 -18

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FILM Act of Valor: SEAL team vs. Korean clichés P. 12 CLASSICAL A tale of two operas at The Met P. 14

92Y Harkness Dance Center receives support from the Harkness Foundation for Dance; the Goldhirsh Foundation in memory of Wendy and Bernard Goldhirsh; Jody and John Arnhold; the Mertz Gilmore Foundation; the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the NYC Council; the NY State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NY State Legislature; Judith K. and James Dimon; The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; and the Capezio/ Ballet Makers Dance Foundation, Inc., among others.

AUCTIONS A preview of upcoming events P. 14

92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center


Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street An agency of UJA-Federation


POP The Whitney Houston Dream P. 10 Fox’s new Napoleon Dynamite show P. 11

INTERVIEW Dr. Susan Feldman P. 15

EDITOR Armond White



Account Executives Ceil Ainsworth, Mike Suscavage





CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Caroline Birenbaum, John Demetry, Valerie Gladstone, John Goodrich, Amanda Gordon, Steve Haske, Ben Kessler, Howard Mandel, Maureen Mullarkey, Mario Naves, Gregory Solman, Melissa Stern, Nicholas Wells

CFO/COO Joanne Harras Group Publisher Alex Schweitzer



PRODUCTION/creative director Ed Johnson

director of interaCtive markeTing & digital strategy Jay Gissen

advertising design Quarn Corley

Controller Shawn Scott Accounts Manager Kathy Pollyea

WWW.CITYARTSNYC.COM Send all press releases to CityArts is a division of Manhattan Media, publishers of New York Family magazine, AVENUE magazine, Our Town, West Side Spirit, Our Town Downtown, City Hall, Chelsea Clinton News, The Westsider and The Blackboard Awards. © 2012 Manhattan Media, LLC | 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10016 212.268.8600 | FAX: 212.268.0577 |

2 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012











Jared Hess’ new animated TV version of Napoleon Dynamite.



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n “Turning Journalism Into Art,” means to be human. That’s the delightful Marsha McCreadie describes a show and undeniable mission Ben Kessler finds in currently running at the Brooklyn Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess’ animated Museum, but she also sums up our TV version of his 2004 hit feature film. Often mission here at CityArts. This issue covers called a “cult” movie, Napoleon Dynamite the wide range of art experiences on offer is the rare example of an artwork that actuin New York from the perspective that it ally brought its audience together in popular makes city life more interesting—not just rather than coterie terms. Art—and cultural journalism—ought to do a place to be but the place to be, in order to the same, uniting us even understand the how and as it leads us to introspecwhy of human function Often called a tion. (It can also lead us and social relations. “cult” movie, to celebration, as in “The This insight is to be Napoleon Whitney Houston Dream,” had from sources as vara remembrance of the late ied as Jay Nordlinger’s Dynamite is the report on the two landrare example of singer’s impact on pop culture.) mark operas The Barber an artwork that About the cover: of Seville and Aida and actually brought Djuna Barnes’ sketch Kate Prengel’s coverof a woman thinking age of Chinese artist Fu its audience comes from the BrookBaoshi at The Met, which together in lyn Museum show complements Mario popular rather Newspaper Fiction: The Naves’ story on Sarah than coterie New York Journalism Sze, which leads him of Djuna Barnes 1913– circling back to The Met’s terms. 1919, whom McCreadie show on Japanese art. From there to the Rubin Museum of Art, describes as a flâneur. The apt term perwhere writers Renfreu Neff and Melissa tains to “a person who walks the city in Stern both take in the oasis-like space and order to experience it.” The idea comes two of its current offerings (on Tibet comic from Baudelaire, yet it’s not antithetical books and the body in India, respectively). to the hard-boiled, no-BS approach to There is a sense of art adventure and trav- journalism that can also be devoted to “a complete philosophical way of living el: The world on Manhattan Island. By reporting on these unique, bold under- and thinking.” CityArts is unembarrassed takings, CityArts means to bring thoughtful by that largesse as we go about bringing responses to art that represents what it thinking back to cultural journalism.




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CenterCharge 212-721-6500 Preferred Card of Jazz at Lincoln Center

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February 22–March 6, 2012 | CityArts 3



The Blur of Modernism

ART Thaddeus Radell: “The Will to Remember: Drawings, Paintings and Reliefs,” Next Gallery, Metropolitan College of New York, 75 Varick St., 12th Fl., ends Mar. 9. [John Goodrich]

From Japan to Sarah Sze By Mario Naves


he advent and subsequent triumph of modernism did much to diminish the role of narrative in the visual arts, insisting, as it did, that the exigencies of craft should take precedence over anything smacking of literature. But modernism is an historical blip—a significant blip, mind you, but a blip all the same. Narratives have dominated world art. To ignore (or downplay) as much is to mistake The Annunciation for a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order. That last line is from the post-impressionist painter Maurice Denis, and it iterates the Kaiho Yuchiku (1654-1728), “The Tale of Drunken Demon (Shuten Doji Emaki),” Edo period (1615feet-on-the-ground essence of picture mak- 1868), late 17th century. Scroll II from a set of three handscrolls, ink, color, and gold on paper, 12 3/4 x 797 in. ing. But it also throws out the allusive and, Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. yes, the literary baby with the bathwater. Thoughts about narrative—about temporal “read” as originally intended—unrolled by though the work hints at pictorial invenflow, cultural myths and the human imagi- hand—they wouldn’t be long on this earth. tion. The trouble is, Sze is a sculptor—or an Still and all, Storytelling is a rich, engross- installation artist, whatever. Where to begin nation’s range, influence and probity—came to mind while viewing Storytelling in Japa- ing and provocative brew. If only for the detailing her materials? Among them are nese Art, an exhibition at The Metropolitan simultaneously occurring narratives in a rolodex, a tape measure, pocket change, Kano Jinnojo’s kaleido- rocks, an upturned driver’s license, rolledMuseum of Art. scopic “The Battles of up photographs of natural phenomena, a Which isn’t to suggest A story is and Yashima” desk fan plugged in and working, exquisitely that the colors and flat captivating to the Ichinotani (c. early 17th century), ordered confetti, a take-out coffee cup from surfaces assembled by extent to which the show would be worth “Bread Corrado Pastry” and string, lots of the painters and sculpit is told well, a trip. But it contains infi- string. What Sze gleans from Calder is his tors featured in Storytelling don’t merit attention. gift for rendering line as a three-dimensional and the artisans nitely more than that. A story is captivating entity and the theatrical contingencies of his responsible to the extent to which he more Sarah Sze “Circus.” for this panel it is told well, and the The site-specific works are deftly configaccumulates and painting, that artisans responsible for organizes detri- ured within the soaring galleries at Asia Socithis panel painting, that devotional carving tus—the more impres- ety. Sze does have a way with the juxtaposidevotional carving or sive her meticulous tion of the minute and the encompassing, or emaki, a form emaki, a form of illumiarrangements of this, the architectural and the ephemeral. What of illuminated nated handscroll, tell that and the other thing she doesn’t bring to the work is any sense of handscroll, tell become—the more you particularity. One Sze is indistinguishable them well indeed. In the work, elaborate them well indeed. have to wonder what it from the other. stylization coexists with In the end, all those finicky agglomis she’s concealing or, for acute observation, generalization with spec- that matter, running from. erations of stuff don’t coalesce into anything ificity, charm with gravity. Hell is rendered Sarah Sze: Infinite Line, a mid-career exhi- with much vitality, personality or staying in burnt copper tonalities and whiplash bition at Asia Society, does everything and power. An ambitious blur of expertise—we rhythms; the seasons with lucid economy. goes nowhere simultaneously. Give the art- should ask more from our artists. Shibata Zeshin’s “The Ibaraki Demon” (ca. ist this much: She imagines what might have 1839–40), the closest Storytelling comes to a happened if Robert Rauschenberg had been Sarah Sze: Infinite Line showstopper, is a miraculous confluence of a neatnik beholden to Alexander Calder and Through March 25, Asia Society, 725 Park Ave., line, gesture, character and motion. not the New York School—and if he had 212-288-6400, Motion as a string of events unfolding in been a victim of information overload rather time presides, even if it’s inhibited by cura- than its messenger. Storytelling in Japanese Art torial prudence. Were “Illustrated Legends Immaculate confusion is the result, pain- Through May 6, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine” or other emaki fully choreographed and scrupulously inert, 1000 5th Ave., 212-535-7710,


4 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

Kim Sloane: “Paintings,” M55 Art, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City, ends Mar. 3. [JG] CLASSICAL A Stylish Wizard: Simon Trpceski, a pianist from Macedonia, is an old-fashioned virtuoso, stylish and wizardly. He gives a recital of Schubert and Liszt at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m., 881 7th Ave. [Jay Nordlinger] Maazel and the Vienna Phil: Lorin Maazel conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in a program that includes his orchestral treatment of Wagner’s Ring. Sounds should be glorious. Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave., Mar. 3, 8 p.m. [JN] Masur and the Missa Solemnis: Kurt Masur leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra and other forces in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis. A profound conductor working with one of the profoundest of works. Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave., Mar. 6, 8 p.m. [JN] Global Melodies: Folk and classical music meet as Carnegie Hall partners with the World Music Institute for “The Routes and Roots of Bartók.” Zankel Hall, 881 7th Ave., Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m. [Judy Gelman Myers] DANCE Flamenco Fling: Manuela Carrasco, the “Empress of Flamenco” comes to town. City Center, 130 W. 56th St., Mar. 2, 8 p.m. [JGM] JAZZ Blue Tuesdays on Wednesday: Singers Sheila Jordan, an NEA Jazz Master, and Jay Clayton, adept with Cage as well as standards, in a rare joint intimate appearance with favorite guitar and bass accompanists. Feb. 29, 8:30 p.m., Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia St. [Howard Mandel] New Music Observatory: Master of “Conduction” Butch Morris leads an open rehearsal then batons a spontaneous orchestra performance every Monday in March at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at The Stone—another reason anyone seriously interested in experimentation beyond genres should visit John Zorn’s recital room. Corner of Avenue C and 2nd Street. [HM] Urbanity at Birdland: Guitarist John Pizzarelli’s Quartet’s sing-and-swing take on the American Songbook, 8:30 and 11 p.m., Feb. 28–Mar. 3, Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. [HM] FILM Vocal Styling on View: Documentary “Por el Flamenco” reveals the healing power of cante jondo, revered by Federico García Lorca. Free admission, Q&A with director after the film. Bar open one hour in advance. This event is held with the support of the Cultural Affairs Department, Israeli Consulate. Centro Español, 239 W.14th St., Mar. 4, 10 p.m. [JGM]

Singular Journeys Rosenthal’s transcendental landscapes By John Goodrich


earthy red-brown shift momentously before the eye in a somber dance. Are they sheets of rain or dampened mountainsides? It makes no difference. The painting resonates with the workings of nature— grave, luminous and inescapable.

Deborah Rosenthal: Journeys and Topologies Through Feb. 25, Bowery Gallery, 530 W. 25th St., 4th Fl.,

“Sensational” —New York Times



, 4C NP

Publication: City Arts


These images balance the serene and the charged, the ingenuous and the fateful.

Insertion date: FEB 8, 2012

eralized landscapes of yellow, orange/ochre and slate gray. Fine networks of lines define these spaces, turning portions of canvas into receding plains, mountain ranges and suggestions of trees and streams. Animating the paintings is the recurring theme of a figure reclining across the bottom of a vertical format with a second figure striding energetically above. These images balance the serene and the charged, the ingenuous and the fateful. In “Winter Journey II” (2010), the form enclosing the recumbent figure could be either a tomb or a protective shelter—or possibly both. A series of larger paintings delves more deeply into abstracted landscape spaces. These have a less pictographic touch, with lines serving as the contours between pulsing colors that shape hills, sky and sometimes distant buildings. Against these broad movements, specific incidents stand out.

LaPlacaCohen 212-675-4106

ith her current show at Bowery Gallery, Deborah Rosenthal continues to infuse a highly personal approach with intimations of the mythic. Stylistically, the artist’s abstracted paintings have always recalled for me Robert Delaunay in their melodic, organic overlapping of planes of vivid color. (As a fellow Bowery Gallery artist, I’ve had the opportunity of observing it up close for a number of years.) But her goals seem quite different, closer in spirit to Kandinsky or Rouault in their transcendental longings. Her latest showing of nearly 20 paintings, depicting wayfarers and abstracted landscapes, not only depict but personify journeys of the soul. The word “journey,” in fact, appears in the titles of a number of smaller canvases featuring pictographic stick figures in gen-

The title of one canvas, which locates two small figures and a boat-like structure beneath billowing facets of color, tells us the painting is an homage to Claude Lorrain, and indeed, the lightest notes, shining between passages of violet-gray and subdued yellowish-green, suggest one of

his vibrant harbor scenes. In “On the Earth (Adam and Eve)” (2010), two figures firmly anchor a foreground zone of subdued purple; tiers of bluish-green and blue-violet stretch above, culminating in a distant, wing-like spreading of forms. But such references—to specific events and to artistic precedence—prove unnecessary in “Rain in the Mountains” (2011). Here, punctuated by just a few points of turquoise blue, planes of slate gray and Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware (detail), 1851, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897.

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February 22–March 6, 2012 | CityArts 5


Karma Komix History of Tibet Pop at Rubin Museum By Renfreu Neff


isitors entering the lobby of the Rubin Museum of Art are welcomed with soothing Eastern music played by live performers nestled in the curved foot of an elegant spiral staircase—the building is itself a landmarked structure created by the noted French architectural designer Andrée Putman for Barney’s, its previous incarnation—that rises six levels through galleries of priceless permanent collections and traveling exhibitions from countries bordering the 1,800mile arc of the Himalayan mountain range. For the Sherpa-challenged, an elevator is recommended for the ascent to the top; take the stylish stairway down to see the exhibitions. The Rubin is the most user-friendly museum in the city; I know of no other that encourages the visitor to slide one of its small padded benches over and sit in unhurried contemplation before the thangkha painting of one’s choice. Spiraling all the way down to the lower level, one enters the realm of Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics, an extraordinary exhibition of vintage comic books and early action figures that, in keeping with the Buddhist principles of lineage and reincarnation, is the most complete and comprehensive collection of comics related to Tibet ever assembled.

Curated by Dr. Martin Brauen, anthropologist, religious historian, author of several English-language and German publications on Tibetan and Himalayan art and culture and chief curator of the Rubin from 2008 to 2011, the exhibit includes comics from Germany, France, Belgium (The Adventures of Tintin), Italy, India and Japan, in their original languages and translated into English, some for the first time. They are presented for easy perusal in facsimile format in bound albums on a broad table flanked by stools. Headphones are also available for the enjoyment of a video narrated by Brauen. How could a mysterious country surrounded by the world’s highest, most perilous snowcovered mountains—the impenetrable “roof of the world”—inspire such fantastic stories? It’s a question that embodies its own answer. W.Y. Evans-Wentz was one of the earliest explorers to Tibet, and his book, The Tibetan Book of the Dead (or The After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane), first published in 1927 by Oxford University Press, may have been the first report back by someone who had actually journeyed to Tibet (OUP printed a fifth edition of the classic in 2000) and immersed himself in Buddhism, along with the esoteric concept of the bardo, the after-death mind state in which visions of ferocious demons and deities are unleashed in vengeful comeuppance to settle one’s hash before rebirth. In a nutshell. Evans-Wentz also edited and compiled

Post-Colonial Pictures Modernist Indian painting liberates the Rubin By Melissa Stern I love the Rubin Museum of Art, a jewel of a museum housed in the old Barney’s store on Seventh Avenue. However, since its opening in 2004, the museum has struggled with how to be more than just a historical institution. There have been a few forays into the contemporary art world, all tied to Buddhism, but the museum has never felt part of the modern New York art scene. With the opening of The Body Unbound: Modernist Art From India, the museum has

6 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

made a huge leap toward presenting the development of Indian painting as a truly modernist form, related but not bound to ancient traditions and fully embracing artistic developments in Europe and America. After India gained its independence in 1947, Indian artists were able to integrate politics and contemporary thought in their painting in ways that had been impossible under English rule. The exhibition begins tentatively, with the delicate works of artists newly freed from colonialism. These transitional pieces are unsatisfying as paintings but are perhaps more valuable seen as artistic documents of the development of a new Indian identity.

A panel from Green Lama (no. 1) page 3, script by Richard Foster, art by Mac Raboy, 1944. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines and Tibet’s Great Yogi: Milarepa, expanding the occult magnet that drew European explorers— Alexandra David-Neel, Heinrich Harrar, who spent seven years in Tibet, and Giuseppe Tucci—to the Kingdom of Snow, where people possessed mystical powers, the secret of extreme longevity and the ability to levitate. The author James Hilton novelized a mystical arcadian “Shangri-La,” but none topped the tales of loony Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to have been there, done that, while Evans-

As the show progresses, both chronologically and thematically, one sees the powerful influence of western painters like Milton Avery and Ben Shahn. What keeps this show constantly interesting is that the work is truly fresh, not a slavish imitation of the West. Throughout the exhibition there is a sense of the integration of Indian color and passion with Western composition and the intellect of Modernist thought. There is a knockout work by Geive Patel, “Early Morning Local,” which portrays a quiet moment, presumably in the very early morning on a commuter train. The figures are rendered with a sensitivity that is touching. A gentle palette and soft light lull you until, upon second glance, you notice that this is a radically modern painting. Space and figuration are described with a

Wentz was a callow tween in Trenton, N.J. Reading Evans-Wentz’s Book of the Dead in the ’70s, for all of his archaic references to “lamaism” and “lamaseries,” I thought it the most beautiful book I’d ever read and flippantly dubbed it “karma komix.” Walt Disney fell under the influence, too, as shown in Walt Disney presents Mickey Mouse in High Tibet and Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge in Tralala, the Roof of the World, accompanied by Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig frolicking in the snow. There were serious heroes, of course—Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystical Arts; The Green Lama, the Man Who Defies Death; Dalai Lama: Superhero— and here we see Flash Gordon and the beginnings of Batman, Iron Man and a lithe Tomb Raider Lara Croft, as well as sinister villains, as in Pharoan, where Nazi agents go to Tibet in search of occult secrets to advance Hitler’s doctrines. Sometimes there was an unfriendly crossover, where a villain could turn nasty: “It’s the Green Lama!! Get him boys!!” commands a really pissed off Bugs Bunny. The popularity of comics gave birth to action figures, and some are displayed here: Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were protoaction figures but are not as scary as the tiny caped Doctor Strange. As for the Yetis, how long can a snowman stay abominable? My guess is that the Yeti evolved from the comics into an industry of its own, encompassing more dependably articulated movie icons like King Kong, Chewbacca, Yoda, vampires and lumbering, uncuddly robots.

Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics Through June 11, Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St., 212-620-5000,

language of abstraction that is completely contemporary. Though the subject is uniquely Indian, the painting transcends borders and definitions and allows the viewer to look at it simply as a terrific painting, nationality be dammed. This is the first part of a three-exhibition program. The second, Approaching Abstraction, opens in May. The third, Radical Terrain, opens in October. I am particularly looking forward to the third, which I think will showcase some of the very talented and unique visions emerging from India today.

The Body Unbound Through April 9, Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St., 212-620-5000,

Djuna Barnes makes news at Brooklyn Museum By Marsha McCreadie


gentlemen happy to be still working after 40-plus years as train conductors or waiters, providing a grounds-up view of old New York. The original articles—slightly tattered, sepia-toned, some with photos of Barnes— are safely behind glass on the wall. (Can’t get tippy-toe high or close enough? Find them in a book cleverly tethered to a nearby bench.) If you imagined Barnes in a continental café sipping a thick coffee, fretting about the human condition (or caught her “cameo” in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris), views of this sprightly young dame are a breath of fresh air. She did get to Europe on a Vanity Fair assign-

e may have been reading the wrong thing all along. Blame it on T.S. Eliot, who proclaimed Djuna Barnes’ stylistically avant-garde Nightwood equal to great Elizabethan tragedy—the novel was canonized by many in lesbian literature as a breakthrough: a lightly disguised version of Barnes’ breakup with her female lover. You can’t argue with those folks. Yet the real action may be in Barnes’ work-for-hire as a self-styled journalist/illustrator, now on view in Newspaper Fiction: The New York Journalism of Djuna Barnes, 1913–1919 at the Brooklyn Museum. With a unique combination of selfinsertion, the telling detail, painting and drawing, she worked from 1913 though 1919 at The Brooklyn Eagle, The World, The Telegraph— an ur-Tom Wolfe, a New Journalist. She called her form “Newspaper Fiction.” Barnes’ writing style is smashing, her sideways take on her subjects disarming. In “Visiting a Gorilla (at the Bronx Zoo),” Barnes observes that the gorilla has a “queer sort of drawingroom caution...a cold sort of appraising stare that holds neither envy nor malice.” To demonstrate the complacency of American suffragettes vis-à-vis their hunger-striking British counterparts, she lets herDjuna Barnes, “Sketch of a woman with hat, looking right,” for “The Terrorists,” New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine, self be force-fed by a rubSept. 30, 1917. Ink on paper, 12 3/4 x 8 1/2 in. Djuna Barnes Papers, ber tube, describing each Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries. excruciating “drip drip” (step aside, George Plimpton, with your participatory sports journalism). She does stunt journalism—“My Adventures Being Rescued” at a firefighters’ training session—and socially progressive pieces on the plight of orphans, pointing out that the blue-eyed ones get adopted first. On occasion she creates or embellishes characters. Flâneur strolls through Greenwich Village produce memorable vignettes and images of bohemian life: The day begins with breakfast at 4 p.m.; purple ties and yellow bathrobes can be the norm. Another series profiles elderly

ment in 1922 to interview James Joyce, and stayed until the eve of World War II. Surely Barnes, who died at 90 in 1982, would be happy that Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party,” which includes her, is in the next room, and that her exhibit faces the vulvar images in the Herstory Gallery’s feminist timeline mural.

Newspaper Fiction: The New York Journalism of Djuna Barnes, 1913–1919 Through Aug. 19, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn, 718-638-5000,

Joshua South Photography

Turning Journalism Into Art

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space N.P. Mander Organ Recital Series Presents

Organ Plus! Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 4 PM Nancianne Parrella, organ Jorge Ávila, violin Victoria Drake, harp Arthur Fiacco, cello Featuring works by Boccherini, Lalo, Grandjany, Franck, Bloch, Vierne, Duruflé and more.

Tickets $20 General | $15 Students/Seniors THE CHURCH OF ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA 980 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028 Tickets & information available at | (212) 288-2520

Antique, Fine Art and Midcentury Auction Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 2pm

Edmund Grecean Oil (Left), Isaac Witkin Bronze (Right)

Clarke Auction ∙ 2372 Boston Post Road ∙ Larchmont, NY 10538 Ph: (914) 833-8336 ∙ Fax: (914) 833-8357 ∙ Email:

February 22–March 6, 2012 | CityArts 7

enoteca & trattoria

In the heart of the Upper West Side ‘Cesca serves equal portions of elegance and relaxed ambiance. A “very fine, though unrelentingly rustic” authentic dining experience borne of its founders’ Italian heritage. Executive Chef Kevin Garcia presents simple yet extraordinary fare and owner and Italian-wine expert Anthony Mazzola has put together an incomparable list of Italian wines.

“Heaven and Earth Glow Red,” 1964, Horizontal scroll, ink and color on paper, Nanjing Museum. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


T 164 West 75th St. at Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY 10023



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The New CityArts Bringing Thinking Back to New York’s Art and Culture Visit for exclusive content. 8 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

he title of The Metropolitan Museum’s new Chinese painting exhibit, Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), is misleading. The painter in question did live through the establishment of the Chinese Republic, the Sino-Japanese wars and the rise of the Communist party, but Fu is far more academic than revolutionary. It is his adaptability and willingness to lose himself in the river of history that makes this show so interesting. We begin with the young Fu training himself to paint by copying the masters. He inscribes each of his early paintings with an explanation of his influences (“Cheng Sui, active 1605-1691, modeled his landscapes after Dong Yuan, active 930s-960s…I love his simple, vigorous style and imitate it”). Fu was also a professional maker of seals, and the first room of the show includes many of his seals. Like the early paintings, these are well-realized, workmanlike pieces, far more imitative than original. Fu evidently became more dynamic in middle age. My favorite pieces in the exhibit are a series of rainy, romantic paintings of mountains and remote cottages, done at the end of World War II. “Whispering Rain at Dusk” is a wonderfully broody picture washed in purple-gray; the trees and their leaves look like raindrops. In all the hugeness of nature,

the eye goes to a tiny red figure laboring up a path to a house high up in the mountains. “Myriad Bamboo in Mist and Rain,” similarly, is almost all green mist; trees and rain take over the picture except for some high, far-off mountain peaks and a clean-looking river. Three friends shelter in a cottage, and we can almost hear their crackling fire. After Mao Zedong took power, Fu found work as a propagandist. We generally expect to look down on propaganda, but in fact, Fu’s Mao-era work is wonderfully fresh. He traveled to the Soviet Union with a delegation of Chinese artists and painted the parks, cathedrals and airports he saw there. The trip obviously energized him; suddenly, the landscape is neither an academic study nor a reflection of mood but a real place that must be observed and recorded in detail. The trees and factory windows are charming in their sharp-outlined specificity. Fu’s homages to Mao are also effective. Soldiers, again closely observed in detailed uniforms, trudge bravely through the snow. A cowherd appears to assure peasants that more prosperous times are coming. A number of paintings are inspired by Mao’s poetry. It is not difficult to see in these late works the same capable young painter who so dutifully copied the works of the ancient masters.

Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) Through April 15, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave., 212-570-3894,




hought-provokingly revived at New York City Ballet earlier this month, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s 1933 The Seven Deadly Sins is mercilessly unsparing of its audience’s feelings. It parades before us every act of compromise and hypocrisy, both individual and collective, of which we—spectators, society—may have been guilty. Just as when it was new last year, in Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s staging, the conflicted heroine was sung by Patti LuPone and danced-pantomimed by Wendy Whelan. The dancing Anna—Anna 2—is nearly the final repository of human impulse, her stagemates reduced to money-grasping automatons. She is continuously brutalized by her doppelganger’s froggy-voiced insistence that she acquiesce to the ways of the world. In Brecht’s masterly inversion, the

sins Anna 2 is accused of are often her manifestations of morality and idealism. Finally, Anna 2 and her humanistic propensities are defeated altogether. Seven Deadly Sins is unlike anything else in NYCB’s repertory, or any other ballet company’s, and it was riveting from beginning to end. Brecht’s lyrics curdled as they dropped from LuPone’s lips, while Whelan was vulnerable to a degree that was almost painful. That meant, of course, that she as a ballerina had studied with a dispassionate eye exactly how to position her body so that it registered as an avatar of unguarded revelation. Ballet is an outside-in sort of art form: putting herself in the positions, the ballerina triggers an appropriate emotion in herself and the audience. At the same time, a ballerina who can move her audience emotionally usually knows how to generate within herself a palpable simulation of those emotional conditions. Whelan’s performance registered as the most sophisticated kind of appraisal fueled by devastating emotional honesty.




ith no background of blues, gospel or swing, what does “jazz” sound like? A two-week festival March 1–15 at The Stone of the Zurich-based musicians who record for the Swiss record label Intakt offers intriguing examples. Pianist Irene Schweizer will perform powerful, blocky improvisations. Pierre Favre, her frequent accompanist and one of Europe’s busiest drummers, will demonstrate his non-idiomatic rhythmic approach. Trombonist Samuel Blaser brings a burred vocal tone and patient deliberation to melodic development. Ingrid Laubrock, with childhood classical and choir training, plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, has studied for-

mally with U.K. as well as U.S. jazzers and leads several bands, one with Brazilians; her music stymies characterization. A dozen unfamiliar instrumentalists make their New York debuts (see The Stone’s schedule online at, some in league with local veterans, including Elliott Sharp, Melvin Gibbs, Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille and Mark Feldman. A showcase of individuals rather than an invading movement, the Intakt artists’ stand won’t conclusively answer questions about Eurojazz. But why should such questions arise? Because there’s a bristly contradiction in jazz theories. The music is regarded as essentially derived from black American experience and/or a universal language, crossing borders based on fundamental values of virtuosity and spontaneous humanistic response. There’s also a popular notion that artful jazz is loved better in Europe and Japan than in the United States. Indeed, the story

Taylor-Corbett’s choreography included adept people-moving, vignette delineation and, for Whelan, the occasional extended sequence of dance. These combined the elongated, abstracted language of classical ballet with the crumpled and contracted emotional viscera of modern dance—made possible, or at least more viable, because Whelan was not en pointe. Also at NYCB this month, two performances of Balanchine’s simultaneously austere, athletic and curlicued 1941 masterpiece Concerto Barocco brought out the best in first-violin ballerina Teresa Reichlen and both Abi Stafford and Sara Mearns, who alternated as her second-violin ballerina co-star. Stafford Patti LuPone and Wendy Whelan in Lynne Taylormaximized the possible length of her Corbett’s The Seven Deadly Sins. compact body without flailing in an Photo by Paul Kolnik attempt to make an authoritative statement; it was the best performance I’ve seen glamorous space-cushioners. When the balfrom her in a long time. lerinas stood still, they were majestic. And Reichlen sometimes has trouble getting when the symmetrically tall Mearns and her exceptionally long limbs where they are Reichlen suddenly pivoted into a series of supposed to be in requisite Balanchinean piqué arabesques in perfect unison—think double-time without losing expression. of an extremely refined egg-and-spoon Mearns knows how to keep her muscles sprint—they were electrifying. breathing but is also sometimes flustered by speed. Here, both were varsity players and Read more by Joel Lobenthal at

has been promoted that jazz creativity is now richer across the waters than here at home. I believe that’s a “grass is greener” fallacy. Well-paying gigs have long been available overseas for American musicians underappreciated in our culture. Since Josephine Baker took Paris by storm in the ’20s, dancing in a skirt of bananas, black jazz-associated Americans have often been privileged as “authentic” and exotic. European governments’ historic support of the arts—a throwback to the patronage model started in their royal courts?—until recent cutbacks helped black (and white) American jazzers find some relief from good ol’ U.S. racism, enjoy nice paychecks, artistic respect and the benefits of short distances between foreign capitals for efficient tours. Well and good. This phenomenon also primed the European jazz pump; the basics of jazz took root in the British Isles and throughout the Continent almost as soon as Louis Armstrong’s earliest recordings reached those shores. Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli created the first identifiably homegrown Euro jazz style, but that was just a beginning. Brits, French, Dutch, Germans, Italians, Scandinavians, Greeks, Turks, Eastern

Europeans and Russians have all borne local jazz scenes and produced their heroes, musicians who might hone their skills with traveling Americans but also promote their national identities. After almost 100 years, that trend has reached fruition. Has the jazz spark abandoned home for more fertile fields abroad? Nah, but it has spread worldwide and taken root almost everywhere. That doesn’t weaken our native stock; American jazz is ennobled by such emulation. And if we open our ears to individuals’ music, we’re bound to be delighted. We don’t listen to countries, after all, we listen to people. In the movie The Third Man, Orson Welles, playing villain Harry Lime, compares the Borgias’ reign of warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, resulting in Michaelangelo, da Vinci and the Renaissance, with Switzerland’s “500 years of brotherly love, democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” Well, Switzerland also gave us Rousseau, mountain climbing, LSD and excellent chocolate. At The Stone, hear Intakt’s musical artists and some of what’s coming next.

Reach Howard Mandel at February 22–March 6, 2012 | CityArts 9




mong Broadway’s young theater gypsies, Whitney Houston’s 1994 performance at the American Music Awards has been circulating as a unique theatrical tribute. Houston never appeared in a Broadway show, but her AMA medley of “I Loves You, Porgy” and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”—preserved in a 10-minute YouTube clip—connects to the current Porgy and Bess revival and speaks to the deepest desires of Broadway hopefuls. The video’s distribution confirms Houston’s standing as perhaps the most significant—certainly the most influential—singer of the past quarter-century. I started to write pop singer, but the very nature of Houston’s art automatically implies popularity, among listeners as well as wannabe singers. Hers was an art that functioned primarily as widely accepted communication. The Broadway/YouTube exchange is absolutely fitting, since Houston’s AMA performance idealizes the popular communication that Broadway itself has lacked in the recent decades that it has fallen from popularity to become a subculture. In that amazing YouTube samizdat, Houston unearths “I Loves You, Porgy” and links it to the Dreamgirls anthem to show her command of musical legacy. It was a quintessential act of cultural continuity. Houston’s rendition implicitly paid tribute to the legendary songstresses who essayed the Gershwin tune (from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone), as well as to Jennifer Holliday, whose signature song became the litmus test for R&B singers during the 1980s, when Houston was embarking on her own recording career. (She doesn‘t personalize “Porgy” as Holiday so chillingly did; Houston had a different personal story to convey, which can be heard on I Look to You, her overlooked last album.) In 1994, Houston essayed those landmark songs after her chart-topping album

10 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

sales and the multimedia breakthrough occasioned by the movie The Bodyguard to announce her personal triumph. If “triumph” sounds cold and egotistic, the warmth and wonder of the AMA performance corrects the meaning. Houston’s outsize talent and remarkable control of her instrument are on display, but this is no mere technical exercise; it communicates genuine pop joy. Houston celebrates the moment of her mass popularity by singing songs that have had deep meaning for generations of music lovers and lovers of female singers who have vanquished personal adversity through the magnificence of song. In the clip, there’s a quick cut to Houston’s husband, Bobby Brown, smiling with professional admiration and personal gratitude. This is how pop stardom is supposed to work. Today’s Broadway gypsies admire it because it is rare to behold. Houston embraces the language of show tunes as an expansion of her pop-record territory and another mountain scaled. This performance is the apotheosis of what her career has meant. She interweaves jazz/gospel melisma, showbiz finesse and operatic power to represent the pinnacle of her endeavors. She ultimately segues from the classics into her then-new single, “I Have Nothing (If I Don’t Have You)”—star-to-fan code that every diva follower understands. The moment not only expresses the sheer joy of singing but also contains political celebration. Houston’s success was as much an emblem of the Reagan revolution as the dissenting voice of hip-hop but expressed the cultural flip side—the positive possibility of social advance. In videos like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Houston, in her curly blonde wig, really was the All-American Girl. If it seemed at the time that Houston might neglect soul music’s legacy by being hyped as a bleached, MOR pop object (sometimes singing drivel, but not always), her climb nonetheless represented social advancement, whose terms were yet unconfirmed—and are constantly renegotiated by black crossover artists. (I

Courtesy of Arista Records.

remember overhearing two young white men going through the Houston section in a record store, gawking at her album covers and exclaiming, “I would kill to fuck her!”— a crude public statement of broken-down barriers.) Houston’s National Anthem recital at the 1991 Super Bowl was perhaps the definitive performance of that political hymn, proclaiming at the time of Desert Storm a forceful, soaring belief in American potential. She was proof of it herself. That’s part of what makes Houston’s death particularly disturbing: Her great voice—an aural beacon—has been dimmed. Noting her fall isn’t half as devastating as recalling the ascension, prominence, acceptance and promise that she epitomized and that her tunefulness, smile and slinky, womanly figure once made glorious. That AMA/YouTube clip shows Houston improvising her new hit song as only a great

artist could; she takes its slickly structured climax, then reconstructs it several times. Teasing the effect, testing herself, showing off what’s possible and then delivering… well, class. That unsettling term of social categorization that is frequently used to reward proper behavior is also part of Houston’s achievement. Yet, being a pop star, she had to keep contact with the wide audience she dreamed of pleasing. Even that magisterial medley was an act of noblesse oblige that brought a tuxedoed and gowned awards show audience back to the call-and-response of the congregational church. This common touch—sending out great feelings and having them reciprocated—is why Broadway gypsies are watching the performance and trading it among friends. They would kill to repeat the Whitney Houston dream.

Follow Armond White on Twitter @3xchair.

Dynamiting Stereotypes Jared Hess puts TV on blast By Ben Kessler


ox TV’s new Napoleon Dynamite cartoon confirms Jared Hess’ step up in status from cult director to protean pop auteur. As co-creator of the show (adapted from his 2004 live-action feature film), he has faithfully guided his vision into a new medium, almost to an entirely new idiom. Even with a good deal of the movie’s idiosyncrasy replaced by assembly-line TV gag writing, Hess’ sensibility comes through in small but notable ways. The tenacity of Hess’ vision may be related to its deep roots in parts of American culture that the mainstream often ignores. His films deal with the far-out fantasies that flourish in flyover country (Napoleon Dynamite is set in Preston, Idaho). Not close enough to the big-city action to glean the latest styles of dress and behavior, Hess’ characters nonetheless soak up American pop culture’s arrogant excess, using it to fuel their eccentricity. Some critics have accused Hess of ridiculing his characters, but that’s just a squeamish

response to his lack of sentimentality. Hess’ visual style depicts landlocked American life with the vibrancy of folk art. Yet, every day, the People of Walmart photoblog supplies fresh proof that the outlandish sights in Napoleon Dynamite and Gentlemen Broncos have a fascinating, sometimes embarrassing real-world basis.

the unfairly neglected Gentlemen Broncos. The Napoleon Dynamite animated series is not yet all that it could be. Ex-Simpsons producer Mike Scully developed the show along with Jared and Jerusha Hess; I’m guessing it’s his influence that keeps pulling scenes into familiar Simpsons rhythms. The

Even with a good deal of the movie’s idiosyncrasy replaced by assembly-line TV gag writing, Hess’ sensibility comes through in small but notable ways. This authenticity must be at least part of the reason why Napoleon Dynamite is one of the only American “indie” films to become a genuine pop phenomenon. In addition to launching the phrase “Vote for Pedro” into the vernacular, the movie helped launch the career of the band Arcade Fire, one of whose members garnered lots of press attention in 2004 for his resemblance to the Napoleon Dynamite character. Napoleon’s evolution from short film to feature film to cartoon demonstrates the very process of pop adaptation and mutation that Hess explored in

premiere episode, “Thundercone,” begins in a gas station convenience store that might as well be Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart. Messages on the signboard outside Napoleon’s school bring us to Springfield rather than Hess country; “NOW TEACHING EVOLUTION” is a representative example. And although I can see the value for the writers in keeping Napoleon’s wimpy brother Kip unattached and continually trawling for love on the Internet (lots of potential plotlines there), I grievously miss LaFawnduh, Kip’s girlfriend from the film, who became

his wife in the post-credits sequence. Despite these disappointments, “Thundercone” has moments that convey an authentic American essence. In a phys-ed scene, Napoleon and his classmates play a violent version of tag their gym teacher calls “Smear the Deer,” but which many Americans know from their own childhood gaming as “Smear the Queer.” Hess’ unconventional take on teen sexuality comes to the fore when Napoleon applies tainted acne cream that amps up his aggression and hormones. Napoleon says to Pedro: “I’m having all these strange desires right now. Like, I really want to get married and go on a honeymoon right now, but I mainly just feel like crushing people’s lives.” Playing Napoleon’s science teacher, Jemaine Clement reprises his Dr. Ronald Chevalier voice from Gentlemen Broncos in the second episode, “Scantronica Love.” After pairing off his students with the help of the Scantronica matchmaking computer, he enthuses, “That’s it! Enjoy each other! Reap while the corn still grows high!” The region-specific agricultural metaphor works within the larger metaphor satirizing pop culture’s manipulation of teen sexuality. So far, the best parts of the Napoleon Dynamite cartoon carry Hess’ signature awareness of how conformist pop threatens to turn us all into rubes.

Manhattan School of Music

George Manahan

Thomas Hampson

David Geber

MAR 1 / THURS / 7:30 PM


SATURDAY, MAR 10, 2012 Downtown Grace Church School 86 4th Ave. 12PM - 3PM

SUNDAY, MAR 11, 2012 Park Slope Union Temple 17 Eastern Pkwy 12PM - 3PM

SATURDAY, MAR 31, 2012 Upper East Side St. Jean Baptiste School 173 E. 75th St. 12PM - 3PM

SUNDAY, APR 1, 2012 Upper West Side Congregation Rodeph Sholom 7 W. 83rd St. 12PM - 3PM

Borden Auditorium

The Third Annual Elizabeth Beinecke Concert

MSM Chamber Sinfonia George Manahan, Conductor Thomas Hampson, Baritone, Narrator David Geber, Cello

MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 (“Prague”) DANIELPOUR Come Up from the Fields Father (NY Premiere) STRAVINSKY The Fairy’s Kiss (Divertimento) THOMSON The Plow That Broke the Plains With a screening of Pare Lorentz’s 1936 film The Plow That Broke the Plains $20 Adults | $12 Seniors and Students

122ND & BROADWAY | 917 493 4428 | WWW.MSMNYC.EDU © 2012 MSM. Program and artist subject to change. Photos: Manahan by Richard Bowditch; Hampson Johannes Ifkovits; Geber by Peter Schaaf.

Manhattan School of Music

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Manhattan School of Music Graduate Program in Orchestral Performance

February 22–March 6, 2012 | CityArts 11


Two Acts of War SEAL team vs. Korean Clichés

up a curiously unsecured playground full of Western schoolchildren in Manila. The By Gregory Solman filmmakers immediately resort to showing a masked bomber walking away from aken as a singular feat of selfless will— the explosion behind him, unflinching and and war, we’re reminded, is “a country unfazed, as only heavies and arrogant action of will”—Act of Valor serves an oblique heroes do in Movieland, where they can purpose as a bracing, unspoken homage to afford to be unconcerned that their nonchaMichael Monsoor, awarded the Medal of lance is a dead giveaway. The bombing leads to a SEAL team rescue Honor posthumously for jumping on a live grenade to spare his fellow Navy SEALs and of a far too easily uncovered captured CIA agent (Roselyn Sánchez). A decent rendiallied Iraqis in 2006. Otherwise, this pro-am production, tion of a hairy extract, distinguished by what co-directed by practical first-timer Mike appears to be live fire mixed with Hollywood “Mouse” McCoy and stunt man Scott pyro, can’t compensate for how many times Waugh, generously spreads the valor around we’ve seen it before. From there it’s on to a but fights in vain to break free of fictional mission to prevent a terrorist network led by a drug peddler Christo (Alex war movie tropes, wastKorean Veadov) and a (admiting a cast of admirable, tedly movie-rare) Islamic uncredited, active duty screenwriter jihadist from smuggling SEALs who nonetheless Park Sang-yeon suicide bombers and vests lend the project a too easily won integrity and and director Jang packed with undetectable Hun’s imaginations ceramic ball bearings into patriotic patronage. The screenplay, by Kurt get stuck in the America through Mexico for 9/11 Part 2. Johnstad (who co-wrote mud of modern The SEALs fire off a 300), has a tidy, seminarAmerican warfew random, uninhibstudy act structure that movie mythos, ited cracks, sprinkled undercuts any pretense of an insider’s angle on and the essential with military argot and refreshing indifference special ops that might at story elements to left-elite political least dive more deeply fall prey to popularity. When a terthan the dramatizations sabotage. rorist flees a country, in episodes of Navy SEALs: for example, he’s said to Untold Stories. There’s no air between the action. In the have “pulled a Roman Polanski”; they’re end, it is no more satisfying to watch real too much their own men to care about SEALs roll through a movie contrivance than Academy approval. But the filmmakers to suffer real actors pretending authenticity mostly reduce them to action figures and in a work with a shaggy, shapeless documen- keep their personalities—and, ironically, tary texture. It doesn’t correct a single stereo- their humanity—under wraps along with type. It lacks both the sobriety of a true story their identities. The Front Line, a Korean-made Korean and the imagination of evocative fiction. Acts of Valor’s slouching toward Hol- War movie that came and went last month, lywood starts immediately, with terrorists battles the same tendency as Act of Valor. using an ice cream truck—the contorted It quotes American war movies so fre“Camptown Races” playing over the loud- quently that one immediately recognizes speaker adding an original touch—to blow it as a Korean movie—or at least one origi-


12 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

Scenes from Acts of Valor. nating from a country where the native schoolboys can’t catalog the clichés. Overrunning John Woo’s dubious achievement in Windtalkers—the first war movie with quite possibly more gratuitous violence than war itself—The Front Line retrenches the genre further by, almost impossibly, overdramatizing the hesitant battle for the Eastern front during the interminable negotiations at the end. Rather than provide a native perspective—a historical reverse angle, if you will—as a complement to the Sam Fuller Fixed Bayonets! point of view, Korean screenwriter Park Sang-yeon and director Jang Hun’s imaginations get stuck in the mud of modern American war-movie mythos, and the essential story elements fall prey to sabotage. The war-as-meta-

phor comes off as artificial and inauthentic as the high school plays of the brazenly derivative teen dramatist in Rushmore. To cite one example as parting shot: A dying soldier interrupts his last testament to mournfully tell his comrade that he can’t remember what his own mother looks like. The problem here goes beyond the perverted Brechtian effect of throwing the viewer out of The Front Line into Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun; the filmmakers see no distinction between Empire’s Jim, who has grown from boy to young man in a Japanese prison camp, and a fullgrown soldier who could only have been separated from his mother for three years, tops. Besides, this is what wallet photos are for. But the copycat wars against movie memory.

NYT Award-Winners_ManhattanMedia 2/17/12 1:58 PM Page 1



Snap for financial aid info.






Going, Going Auctions By Caroline Birenbaum

The finale of Act 1 of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera (c) 2009

A Tale of Two Operas Agility, power, wit and heft at the Met By Jay Nordlinger


n the classic cartoons, opera singers are fat and often wear horns. You will see that in real life, too. But opera singers, like other people, come in all shapes and sizes, and so do operas. In consecutive performances, the Met staged operas on opposite ends of the scale. The first was The Barber of Seville, by Rossini, a quintessential bel canto comedy. The second was Aida, by Verdi, a quintessential grand opera. The first opera requires nimbleness, subtlety and wit. The second opera can use those qualities too—but it also requires power, heft and durability. Bartlett Sher’s production of The Barber has been much refined and improved since it debuted in 2006, and it is one of the most delightful shows in town. Taking the part of Rosina the other night was one of the most delightful singers in town, or anywhere else: Diana Damrau. The most difficult music is child’s play for her. She is musical in everything she does, including the merest cough. As a comedic actress, she has few peers, certainly in the opera world—there’s a touch of Lucille Ball about her. John Del Carlo, our Dr. Bartolo, is a positive riot. He can get laughs just standing there. A simple quiver of his jowls is worth paying for. And, in a real piece of luxury casting, the great bass Ferruccio Furlanetto was Don

14 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

Basilio. It was interesting to hear so famous a King Philip (from Verdi’s Don Carlo) in this crafty comedic role. Furlanetto makes a dark sound, as a bass should, but there is also Italian sunshine in it. In this production of The Barber, there is one humble mule. (I’m speaking of an animal, not casting aspersions on a singer.) In Sonja Frisell’s production of Aida, which premiered in 1988, there are about five proper horses—but no elephant. There’s a prop that represents a tusk, however, serving as a war trophy. Has the Met gone cheap? Violeta Urmana was Aida, and she has the strength and splendor to pull it off. On this occasion, she had some very shaky moments, but she recovered from them admirably. Stephanie Blythe was Amneris—and she has one of the biggest voices we have ever heard. It always seems amplified, way up to 11, as they might say in This Is Spinal Tap. It is a glorious voice too, and Blythe knows what to do with it. To borrow an old line, you could have retitled the opera Amneris. In The Barber, there is a lot of flitting around, vocally and physically. In Aida, they mainly plant their feet and sing. Nothing wrong with that. The women in this show are not to be mistaken for the models next door to the Met at Fashion Week. But they are built for Aida, and other operas. Some singers are built for a variety of operas—for example Stephanie Blythe, who is a fine Rossinian. Isn’t that nice, when you can’t be pigeonholed?

Rago presents a large weekend auction of top-notch modern decorative art and designer furniture Feb. 25 and 26. Varied pieces of note include an English arts & crafts cabinet by F.A. Rawlence with wonderful iron decorations, a pair of French art deco daybeds by Andre Sornay—offered separately but begging to remain together—a substantial nailhead bronze sculpture by Harry Bertoia from the 1970s and a faience pillow pitcher by Betty Woodman (1980s). Even good catalog photos cannot convey the scale, details and quality of the material, so Rago wisely brought an exhibition of highlights to Manhattan the weekend of Feb. 11–12 to introduce the company to New Yorkers. Rago, Lambertville, N.J., Feb. 25 & 26, 11 a.m. Previews Feb. 18–24. Many of the works in Swann’s Feb. 23 sale of Private Press & Illustrated Books and Feb. 28 sale of Fine Photographs & Photobooks would be right at home with the pieces from Rago, including the Kelmscott Chaucer and contemporary American booksas-sculpture from Janus Press in the first auction and William Bradford’s magnificent volume The Arctic Regions, Illustrated with Photographs Taken on an Art Expedition to Greenland, 1873, and Berenice Abbott’s “City Arabesque,” silver print, 1938, in the second. Swann, Feb. 23, 1:30 p.m. Previews Feb. 17 & Feb. 21–23. Feb. 28, 2 p.m. Previews Feb. 23–25 & Feb. 27–28. Christie’s March 1 auction of Fine American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture features the Collection of Dr. Mark and Irene Kauffman of Florida, including paintings by Jack Levine, Ben Shahn and Max Weber, along with works from other consignors encompassing a wide range of artistic movements, from 19th-century paintings and 20th-century abstraction to American modernism. Their March 7 sale, “First Open: PostWar and Contemporary Art,” invites collectors to discover works by emerging artists and lesser-known pieces by well-known names. The centerpiece of Christie’s March 8

auction of 20th-Century Decorative Art & Design is a collection of Viennese secessionist works from the Hollywood home of Ron Bernstein, featuring pieces by Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and Eugene Gaillard. The sale also contains French art nouveau glass, lamps by Tiffany Studios and art deco, mid-century and contemporary decorative works. Christie’s, March 1, 10 a.m. Previews Feb. 25–29. March 7, 10 a.m. & 2 p.m. Previews March 3–6. March 8, 10 a.m. Previews March 3–7. Sotheby’s March 7 auction of 20th-Century Design is built around an important private collection of mid-century furniture and ceramics, including an early oak “Tokyo” bench by Charlotte Perriand, 1955, a monumental stoneware vase by Axel Salto, 1958, and a wide-mouthed earthenware vase by Lucie Rie, 1975. Among the highlights of the March 9 Contemporary Art sale are a maquette by Alexander Calder for his mobile “Wichita,” 1973, and “Montag,” an oil-on-paper composition by Gerhard Richter, 1983. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s is also handling a sealed bid auction of the extraordinary Archer M. Huntington Collection of Rare Spanish Coins, which closes March 8. Huntington gratified his passion for the peoples, culture and history of the Iberian Peninsula in many ways, to the ultimate benefit of New Yorkers. He founded the Hispanic Society of America, an art museum and research library, and funded construction of its elegant building in Audubon Terrace. He amassed a collection of coins from every period and land where Spanish influence was felt and transferred ownership thereof to the board of trustees of the Hispanic Society. The coin collection was not accessioned into the HSA collection and was never exhibited. The board will use the proceeds of the sale for future acquisitions and collection care that fits its mission as an institution devoted to the arts and literature of the Hispanic world. Sotheby’s, March 7, 10 a.m. Previews March 3–6. March 9, 10 a.m. & 2 p.m. Previews March 3–8. Sealed bids accepted until March 8. Public previews Feb. 22–24; thereafter by appointment.


Dr. Susan Feldman T

hirty-two years ago, the New York Landmarks Conservancy hired a young social activist named Susan Feldman to figure out how to bring people to St. Ann’s Church, a Brooklyn Heights architectural gem desperately seeking restoration funds but with a congregation barely topping out at 30. Concerts at the intimate church setting lured Manhattan classical music greats like the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center—soon followed by vanguard rock ‘n’ rollers like John Cale, Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull—across the bridges to perform under the church’s lofty ceilings, surrounded by exquisite stained glass windows. Over the decades, St. Ann’s morphed into St. Ann’s Warehouse, a music and theater behemoth now located in Dumbo (it moves to a new venue at 29 Jay St. for the 2012–2013 season) that’s not only a major hub for New York City’s avant-garde but is a primary venue choice for the international arts community. None of this could have happened without Feldman’s unerring instincts for forging wonderfully symbiotic relationships with emerging and established artists, government and community groups and similar-minded performance venues. Feldman took a break from planning the new space to recount highlights from St. Ann’s recent history. [Elena Oumano] Did the church ask you to leave? They didn’t ask us; we left after 15 years following a dispute with the rector at that time. They worried that we’d pressure them to come up with millions of dollars—more than we’d raised—to continue restoring the church, and they didn’t want to be responsible for that. I also think they felt that the tail was wagging the dog. After 21 years, we just decided to go, and we came here in December 2000. This has turned out to be a good move. The Walentas family [of Two Trees Management] gave us free office space, which they still do, and said we could stay as long as we wanted if we gave back to Dumbo. But we needed a performing space. In February 2000, they said, “Have a look at the Manhattan Milling building at 38 Water Street.” I walked in and fell in love, just as I had with the St. Ann’s building. We were only going to be there for nine months and

it’s been 11 years. We’ve always been much more like a European space than a traditional proscenium theater, so we accept work that can’t necessarily fit in those theaters, as well as commission and occasionally make our own productions. We work with interesting international companies and artists looking to make a mark, as well as avant-garde American companies like The Wooster Group and Mabou Mines that want a bigger space. We figured we could do here for emerging theater artists what we did for musicians back in the church—give them a bigger platform that lets them go many different places. If you heard Aaron Neville and others sing in the church, you knew they could perform in an opera house, at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall. It was this grand, very tall space with this incredible sound. Our warehouse space is similar in that it’s very deep, with the same feeling of having the audience and the artist together in a single space, not the performance over here and the audience over there, and so the work is elevated. These settings are so special that I’ve come to see that when something is right, it’s enhanced by the space, and when something is wrong, it’s really wrong. I’ve become sensitized to what’s going to work and what won’t. I don’t think we’ve had too many failures along the line. Now we have to leave Water Street. We have a three-year lease on the new space on Jay Street and we’re figuring out if we can make it permanent. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Do you ever get panicked that it’s going to end? Whenever I feel that way, I work on getting a new space. We were supposed to have the Tobacco Warehouse; the whole organization was poised for that. We’d raised money, hired people and were in love with our incredible plan that no one saw except the people who chose us to be there. We—along with our partners Brooklyn Bridge Park and the city, state and federal governments—were sued by neighborhood organizations and even the Landmark Conservancy that originally hired me to keep the Tobacco building empty and the surrounding space as park-

Dr. Susan Feldman. Photo by Pavel Antonov.

land. It was horrifying when that fell apart and there was a shock heard around the world. People were worried and, finally, relieved when we found Jay Street. We’ve always been part of a bigger mission and vision. It was never like, “We’re doing the arts in a church”; we were saving a church that should be preserved. And with Dumbo, we were helping to build a neighborhood. We didn’t even get to argue our side before the judge determined that the Tobacco Warehouse shouldn’t happen. That was hurtful. We went back to looking at other places until it became apparent to me last summer that even if we found a place we liked, none would be ready in time for us to move in for the Fall 2012 season. So when 29 Jay Street became available, even if only

for a few years, we thought, that’s what we should do. We have breathing space, we get to stay in the neighborhood and it’s also a warehouse, so we won’t have to change our mission. I’d love to find the right building and be able to afford it, and I’m hopeful that will happen to us. I also want this to become institutionalized so it’s not dependent on just me. We want it to go forward. It’s funny; we always wanted to change the name and we said when we find permanent space, we’ll change the name, but we never got that permanent space. It’s always been St. Ann’s.

The Wooster Group’s Early Plays, based on the Glencairn plays by Eugene O’Neill, runs at St. Ann’s Warehouse Feb. 14–Mar. 4. February 22–March 6, 2012 | CityArts 15

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16 CityArts | February 22–March 6, 2012

cityArts February 22, 2012  

The February 22, 2012 issue of cityArts. CityArts, published twice a month (20 times a year) is an essential voice on the best to see, hea...