CRITICS’ PICKS GALLERIES Editorial Eye: Aperture Foundation presents “Delpire & Co.,” featuring a half-century of achievement in the life and career of visionary French publisher, editor and curator Robert Delpire. Through July 19, Aperture Foundation, 547 W. 27th St., 4th Fl., 212505-5555, aperture.org. [Valerie Gladstone]
Edited by Armond White
New York’s Review of Culture • CityArtsNYC.com
CLASSICAL Fiddler with the Phil: Violinist Pinchas Zukerman plays with the New York Philharmonic—and conducts them, too. He will play three concertos. Even if you don’t like his interpretation, you will hear a marvelous sound. June 6-9, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Columbus Ave. at 65th St., 212-875-5709, nyphil.org. [Jay Nordlinger]
Photo by Nathan Johnson
JAZZ & POP Jazz Awards’ Sweet 16: The 16th annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards’ New York City Party, with announcement of award winners and performances by Organ Monk quartet, singer Paulette McWilliams accompanied by pianist Nat Adderley Jr. and double-neck guitar whiz Gabriel Marin with electric bassist John Ferrara. June 20, 4-6 p.m.; $100, $60 for JJA members. Blue Note Jazz Club, 131 W. 3rd St., 212-475-8592, jjajazzawards.org. [Howard Mandel]
Pictured L-R: Frank Wood, Annie Parisse, Christina Kirk, Jeremy Shamos, Damon Gupton and Crystal A. Dickinson in a scene from Clybourne Park.
How Tony are the Tony Awards? ‘Clybourne Park’ questions American and theater history By Armond White
f the award for Best Play goes to Clybourne Park at the June 10 Tony Awards ceremony, will it put the Tonys on “the right side of history”? That particular aphorism entered popular speech during the 2008 presidential campaign (in a rare Obama reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), and its artfulness is part of the verbal gymnastics that distinguish Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris’ drama about the language of race relations. Playwright Norris’ inspiration for Clybourne Park came from the 1960 Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun. That landmark drama about a poor black family moving from an urban ghetto to a white suburb used the fictitious Clybourne Park as the symbolic site of racial integration and social mobility just as the civil rights effort was gaining momentum. Norris revisits Hansberry’s symbol five decades later to illustrate how social discourse has changed—
so much so that Clybourne Park figures to win the Best Play Tony that A Raisin in the Sun lost to The Miracle Worker. Does this mean theater culture has progressed? Clybourne Park is most interesting in its realization that contemporary discourse, in fact, puts us outside history, mired in the confusions of social fragmentation, political bromides and rhetorical deception. The deceit of political sloganeering has seeped into the average person’s language. It affects the ability of Norris’ seven characters to articulate their personal and public feelings. A key lines asks, “Can we just come out and say what it is we‘re really saying?” That question reveals mainstream American theater’s difficulty dealing with experiences that are personal flashpoints before being codified by politicians and sanctioned by mainstream media. It’s why A Raisin in the Sun has still not received its due as one of the finest American dramas (superior to the over-lauded Death of a Salesman), even among reviewers who glibly mention it while praising Clybourne Park; they ignore Hansberry’s deep explication of African-American life, missing the significance of Norris’ historical-aesthetic reference, his invocation. Why didn’t A Raisin in the Sun win the Tony in 1960? The answer might explain
what makes Clybourne Park this year’s frontrunner: Contemporary Broadway shares the same bias for focusing on white experience as network television. It is the mainstream’s manner to reflect a socially empowered viewpoint—the perspective that always controls what is “the right side of history,” as Frank Rich recently used Clybourne Park to normalize the wildly contradictory political rhetoric of the Obama era. Thankfully, Norris himself won’t have it; his two-act contretemps omits Hansberry’s deep ethnic and social concerns, deliberately leaving out a third-act resolution. This reflects our modern political delusions as much as it satisfies the current mode for hectoring speech, aggressive posturing and judgmental belittling in our culture. Hansberry’s play derived from the moral and religious roots of social revolution, while Norris’s two-act past/present contrast anatomizes (that’s the pop term) our spiritual amnesia, a very real aspect of the Obama era. “You can’t live in a principle” says one of Clybourne Park’s bickering personae. That imperative was proven when A Raisin in the Sun was a Tony also-ran and is still accepted even as Hansberry’s classic becomes a theatrical specter—like Norris’ evocation of a dead soldier— that the annals of the Tony Awards ignores.
Blue Note Citywide Jazz Festival: The second annual fest, 30 gigs of broad stylistic range between June 10 and 30 at the Blue Note, Highline Ballroom, B.B. King’s, Henry St. Playhouse, Brooklyn Bowl and the Apollo Theater. Some highlights include Savion Glover tapdancing in duet with drummers Jack DeJohnette and Roy Haynes, June 14-16; McCoy Tyner and Charles Tolliver Big Band playing John Coltrane’s “Africa/Brass” suite, June 21-24; Kathleen Battle with Cyrus Chestnut, Gato Barbieri, Tim Ries’ Rolling Stone Project and Spanish singer Buika. Schedule at bluenotejazzfestival.com/ category/events/2012-06. [HM] Bolero Forever!: Paquito D’Rivera plays Boleros de Chopin, with Diego Urcola, trumpet, valve trombone; Alex Brown, piano; Oscar Stagnaro, bass; Mark Walker, drums; Arturo Sable, percussion. June 12-17, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.; $30-$40. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th St., 212-258-9595, jalc.org/dccc. [VG] DANCE Russian Steps: New production of John Cranko’s “Onegin,” with music by Tchaikovsky, based on Pushkin’s great verse novel “Eugene Onegin.” June 4-9; $20+. American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera House, 212-362-2000, abt.org. [VG] Dance Picante: Viva la gente! It’s salsa night at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing Dancing 101s. June 13, 7 p.m. David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Broadway betw. 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-875-5000, midsummernightswing.org. [VG] Plié in the Sky: Hudson Guild Theatre Company performs a contemporary version of “The Sleeping Beauty” on the High Line, using dusk as a curtain. June 7, 7:15 p.m. The High Line under the Standard Hotel, at 12th St., 212760-9817, hudsonguild.org. [Phyllis Workman]
Art Profiteer Taryn Simon’s gotcha pics guilt the art world By Marsha McCreadie
Courtesy the artist. C. Taryn Simon
ne is always suspicious of an exhibit where you have to strain to “get it” by going to the wall text, then to the images, then back to the text, and so on. Such is the case with A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters 1-XVIII by artist celeb/deb Taryn Simon, at 36 the conqueror of the art world with this show at MoMA and a standalone at the Tate. The artist instructs us how to “read” the riveting photos of the descendants/antecedents of nine families (the full show has 18 bloodlines or chapters), including the related victims of genocide in Bosnia; a tooth represents one, taken from a makeshift grave, and the last living member is a student in Syracuse. Another line descends from Hans Frank, Hitler’s legal advisor (what a journalistic coup to convince some—if not all—to be photographed!) Also shown are those without roots: Ukrainian orphans. A sign in the orphan-
age’s common room is highlighted: “Those who do not know their past are not worthy of the future”; the text says most end up in the hands of human traffickers. The “living man” of the title is an East Indian officially listed as dead by distant relatives who lay claim to his property. Is the common thread stark human misery or doomed stoicism? (Yet the very extended family of the Kenyan healer Joseph Nyamwanda Jura Ondijo, his nine wives, 32 children and 63 grandchildren, seems at ease.) Nearly all of Simon’s subjects stare vacantly at the camera, clearly at her direction. The Australian rabbits, an example of planned decimation, have it down. Only two of the Taryn Simon. Chapter XVII from A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII (detail). 2011 Pigmented inkjet prints., 84 x 241 7/8“ (213.4x614.4 cm). hundreds of photos carry any other expression: #66 and his despite-thewrong place at the wrong time, genetic grim-orphange goofy grin and #19, Arthur doesn’t have a vision. predisposition? The viewer must fill in all Ruppin, a smiling New Jersey real estate the blanks. Simon’s photographic effort is developer, namesake of the original Arthur Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead daunting—four years traveling the globe Ruppin sent to Palestine in 1907 by a Zionand other Chapters 1-XVIII to get just the right bloodlines and families Through Sept. 3, MoMA, 11 W. 53rd St., ist organization to investigate possibilities on same-sized pigmented inkjet prints. for Jewish settlers. 212-708-9431, www.moma.org. But though she may have an eye, Simon Is the show about chance, being in the
Everything Moves Martin Puryear’s universe By Melissa Stern
artin Puryear is a man on the move. In his current exhibition at McKee Gallery, almost all of the pieces refer in one way or another to an act of movement, whether literal, as in the pieces “The Rest” and “The Load,” which are on wheels, or metaphoric, like the stunning piece “Heaven Three Ways/ Exquisite Corpse ‘Heaven.’” Cast in white bronze, it’s an elegant triad of gestures that moves from earth to sky in one majestic sweep. This is Puryear’s first exhibition since his huge, traveling retrospective, which hit MoMA in 2007. It reflects both a great evolution in Puryear’s work and the continuing dedication to material, form and fabrication that makes it some of the most powerful contemporary art in America. For Puryear, everything is in flux; everything moves. From pieces on wheels to pieces on giant rolling timbers, the entire show exudes a sense of physical poten-
tial. There are sculptural carts on wagon wheels, sculptures that are paper-thin sheets of Alaskan cedar curving along the walls and a huge field of willow branches that seem to blow in an invisible wind. Without the faintest hint of cliché, these all evoke a feeling of exploration, new lands and new lives. It is a show that to me expresses a great optimism. As always with Puyear’s work, there is a tie to our cultural past, our history of making objects by hand. This is a critical element, I think, in keeping Puryear’s work so consistently potent, ethereal yet accessible. Beyond its beauty, there is always a connection to the hand that made it, and by extension to the viewer who imagines in him or herself the potential to be the makers of such things. It’s a show that offers no easy interpretations, no comtempo art-world irony or bratty high concept. The show quietly and powerfully draws you into Puryear’s exquisite universe and leaves you feeling somehow better for the experience. Martin Puryear: New Sculpture Through June 29, McKee Gallery, 745 5th Ave., 212-688-5951, mckeegallery.com.
Martin Puryear, “Night Watch,” 2012.
Reclamation Pop Saint Etienne explore pop—exquisitely By Ben Kessler “My momma said don’t go There’s nothing for you there…” —Saint Etienne, “Heading for the Fair”
n James Joyce’s “Araby,” the third story in Dubliners, a pubescent boy shows up late to the eponymous fair, hoping to find a gift that will earn him the affection of a neighborhood girl. But his romantic hopes and dreams don’t mesh with the shabby, depopulated scene that greets him at Araby, and the story ends, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” That Joycean flush of frustrated, outraged idealism is arguably the U.K.’s most important contribution to Western pop culture. Joyce’s burn— the natural reaction of the creative consciousness constrained by society’s limited scope for sensitivity—can be discerned in Angry Young Man plays, British New Wave cinema, rock, glam, punk and new wave. By the time British pop trio Saint Etienne came on the scene in the early ’90s, pop music was already developing its own range of responses to this cultural tradition of anguished social protest. Across the spectrum, artists were looking back at “Araby” and asking: How can we comfort this child? This question produced a split in pop life between protest and succor, political awareness and spiritual sensitivity. The contradictions might have proved unsustainable had it not been for the suppleness of the pop album form. The new Words & Music by Saint Etienne has been called a concept album (the concept being “love of pop” or “the magic of pop”—you
get the idea), but like all great albums, it works not through imposing intellectual unanimity on a set of songs but through thematic repetition and juxtaposition, context and contrast. All great albums use a folkloric logic— social awareness is dispersed (as if to play dumb for the authorities) among various tracks that have, like Dubliners, a cumulative subconscious effect. The form has an inherent socializing aspect, too. Hearing a beloved single in the context of an album for the first time, you may feel that if this song you’ve played over and over and has come to stand for so much can find its kin, there’s hope for even your most extreme emotions to
encounter sympathy. Few artists have marshaled their contradictions as well in album form as Saint Etienne do here. Words & Music’s very first transition—the gentle reminiscence of leadoff track “Over the Border” into the ecstatic “I’ve Got Your Music”—seems to embrace the entire pop experience. Singer Sarah Cracknell’s exquisite refrain (“Love is here to stay”) hangs in the air, a pause just long enough to introduce anticipation intervenes, then “I’ve Got Your Music” announces itself with the brashness of a breaking news headline. The introspective side of pop collides with the side that favors immediacy above all else. The collision makes one aware of the beauty on both sides. Read the rest of “Reclamation Pop” on Cityarts.info.
Expressivity Now! A festival of avant-garde visions By Howard Mandel
he old-school avant-garde is now! The 17th annual Vision Festival is a seven-night, 37-event assertion by proudly unfettered improvisers that the 50-yearold principles of high energy and exploratory alternatives to traditional and “commercial” jazz still thrive. Real estate realities have pushed this Fest from its East Village roots to a new stage: Roulette, in Brooklyn, of course. But the proud DIY esthetic and energizing, raw or extreme generation of sounds that were once shocking and now are less so, a signal the musician puts his all on the line, still apply. See the schedule at artsforart.org/event/visionfestival17/ schedule. With individualistic multiinstrumentalist (mostly sax and trumpet) Joe McPhee being honored for “a lifetime of achievement”; a revised version of The Gardens of Harlem, the late Clifford Thornton’s 1974 orchestra suite, as its centerpiece; and concerts led by two handfuls of the most iconoclastic sexta- and septuagenarian instrumentalists on the planet—among them Charles Gayle, Kidd Jordan, Connie Crothers, Dave Burrell, Sonny Simmons, Wadada Leo Smith, Elliott Sharp, singer Sheila Jordan and poet Amiri Baraka— the Vision Fest best might seem to be in search of lost time. But with the participation, too, of up-n-comers including Gerald Clayton, Darius Jones, Matts Gustaffson, Mary Halvorson, Taylor Ho Bynum, Craig Taborn, Jeff Parker, Ingrid Laubrock and Nicole Mitchell, it’s evident that valuing musical expressivity more than musical structure is also attractive to players who weren’t around to hear Albert Ayler and John Coltrane live—they take the thrust of 1960s “free jazz” as seriously as if they had been. That free jazz movement of the ’60s had
a sociopolitical agenda to demonstrate empowerment, rip away jazz’s deadwood and shake the establishment, as well as to let loose youthful juice. The mission of the Vision Fest retains a lot of the ancient aura. It was born in the East Village out of a cadre that buzzed around bassist William Parker; Patricia Nicholson Parker, his wife but a force (choreographer/dancer) in her own right, runs the show and the nonprofit producing group, Arts for Art, from an LES office at the “educational and cultural center” Clemente Soto Velez. Parker believes in grounding her production in critical thinking; I assume that’s why I’m a panelist discussing “Free Jazz/Free Music—Why Then/Why Now?” Thursday, June 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. She also believes in mixing media, so there are visual artists painting the music, videographers, dancers and poets on each program. And she’s big on making music available to all, so on Friday
afternoon, June 15, there are free events in partnership with the New York City Housing Authority at Rutgers Houses, 200 Madison St. Choosing one night, I’d attend June 16 to hear trombonist Steve Swell’s Quintet; French bassist Joelle Leandre with flutist Mitchell and baritone Thomas Buckner; Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, reeds; Reggie Workman, bass; Andrew Cyrille, drums); and violinist-composer Jason Kao Hwang’s Burning Bridge, with Chinese pipa and erhu in the band. Roulette is a good bet for Vision 17, Manhattan being too upscale for unvarnished radicalism. Undaunted by age, economics or fashion, the Vision survives. Reach Howard Mandel at jazzmandel@ gmail.com
The hunter, Chris Hemsworth, and the dwarfs.
Promiscuous Myths New ‘Snow White’ cuts a swath through culture By Armond White
hy should we be watching commercials director Rupert Sanders’ film, Snow White and the Huntsman, when Romain Gavras’ No Church in the Wild music video for Kanye West begs our attention? Whatever unrest West artfully evokes with Gavras’ references to insurrection and political strife is truer to the temper of modern living than this overextravagant CGI fairytale. Updating the Snow White legend into a vampire-zombie-cyber-goth fashion show results from commercial calculation more than any credible feeling for the ideas of innocence, selflessness, hope, beauty (and their opposites) that the Snow White story used to instruct. Charlize Theron struts her usual psychotic anger as Ravenna, a vengeful queen lusting for eternal youth and power, while Kristen Stewart as Snow White again anguishes over her obligation and destiny. A Monster and Twilight mashup for no purpose. SWATH may trigger reflex pretensions about feminism and narcissism (including Chris Hemsworth’s stolid Hunstman), but at the same time it is uprooted from the basic needs of storytelling and deep emotional identification. So many jumbled motifs occur in Sanders’ SWATH that it resembles the promiscuity of music videos that ransack our cultural heritage out of art directors’ and costume designers’ mad zeal. SWATH plunders the recent melting, morphing history of F/X— everything from that damnable The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Avatar—yet never achieves the exotic originality of such mag-
nificent Chinese fantasies as Chen Kaige’s The Promise or Zhang Yimou’s Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower, which evoke authentic cultural memory. Gavras, son of political filmmaker Costa Gavras, supplies similar cultural evocation for West: political consciousness as a form of style, music video as quasi-political Internet communiqué. No Church in the Wild’s only message concerns the amoral panic that SWATH disregards. West’s current artistic project uses imagination to create new myths; his innovations constantly provoke (though not always successfully, as in his visually striking yet metabolically abrasive Niggas in Paris music video). No Church in the Wild pinpoints the loveless circumstances of modern living that SWATH placates with meaningless fantasizing. West uses the history of cinematic agit-prop to recall its absence/ignorance in today’s media, but SWATH exploits fairytale mythology without the philological intelligence found in Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves. Although the idea of Ravenna’s vainglorious mirror as a gigantic upright cymbal is pretty good, the half-hour that Theron’s glowering is offscreen allows SWATH’s best moments: the dwarfs, played by reliable British character actors at their eccentric best—Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane—a dream team. Little else matches the fantasy quintessence that Walt Disney’s animators found for the 1938 Snow White—that glass coffin simplification was a perfect surrealist abstraction. By the time SWATH pillages Joan of Arc imagery for Snow White’s triumph, then goes inert, the melty-morphy junkpile makes it unignorable that our cultural memory is in tatters. Follow Armond White on Twitter at 3xchair
Something to Smile About Memories of Corella and Duncan By Joel Lobenthal
merican Ballet Theatre’s Angel Corella retires from the company this season. Since he joined ABT in 1995, Corella’s artistry has sometimes suffered from his audience’s uncritical and unconditional adoration. They didn’t seem to care what he did or how he did it, as long as he was flashing his smile, being boyishly and adorably “himself.” But Corella’s final Giselle with ABT last month, dancing Count Albrecht opposite guest Alina Cojocaru as Giselle, was really something to smile about. Don’t get me wrong: This Giselle was certainly not the first time I’ve seen him present himself so well, but it was the best Albecht I’ve seen him do, as well as one of the finest performances of his ABT career. His smile was under control, both discreetly displayed and scaled down from ear-to-ear grin. Corella gave a thoroughly adult performance. Corella also made modulated use of his characteristically high-energy attack. He articulated individual steps in his big Act 2 solo; he didn’t run them together in a blur. As an aristocrat disguised as a rustic in Act 1, Corella demonstrated an awareness that, no matter how passionate his feelings for the peasant girl Giselle, repose is a hallmark of the ballet aristocratic as well as of the dimensional performer. Corella leaves ABT to devote himself to the Barcelona Ballet, where he’s been artistic director since founding the company several years ago. He’ll again be princely in his farewell performance June 28, when he partners Paloma Herrera in Swan Lake. May 26 was the 135th anniversary of Isadora Duncan’s birth—and what better way to spend it than watching the closing
performance of a week-long anniversary season by the Isadora Dance Company at Judson Church? The Art of Isadora encompassed abstract movement studies and her more programmatic responses to Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, as well as to her time spent in the Soviet Union a few years after the 1917 revolution. The company is directed by Lori Belilove, who takes on the role and dances of Duncan herself, presiding over an ensemble of women and girls who perpetuate Duncan’s own “Isadorables.” Individual and community have a unique relationship here: There is stand-alone solo choreography by and for Duncan; there are also ensemble works in which Duncan slotted herself as both counterpoint and epicenter of a sometimes autonomous but ultimately complementary group. Furthermore, Duncan’s solo material sometimes seems to attempt to embody within her own singular body a dialogue between individual and choral response. Read more by Joel Lobenthal at Lobenthal. com.