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Nov. 30–Dec. 13, 2011 • Volume 3, Issue 19

Bigbee and Ashbery Define Art Page 4 New York’s Review of Culture • CityArtsNYC.com

Rediscovering Calder Page 6 Showing Off Rauschenberg’s Delights Page 7 On Gaming: LA Noire Page 8 Shrinking Marilyn Monroe Page 14 Lauder’s Euro Classics Page 7

CAPTURING COCTEAU Clergue Photos Crown an Era Page 5

Lucien Clergue, Yul Brynner and Jean Cocteau, “Testament of Orpheus,” Les Baux de Provence, 1959. Lucien Clergue: Jean Cocteau, The Testament of Orpheus 1959. Curated by James Cavello. Nov. 18–Dec. 31, 2011. Westwood Gallery NYC. © 1959 Lucien Clergue. Courtesy Westwood Gallery NYC.


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GALLERIES Brett Bigby at Alexandre Gallery P. 4 John Ashbery at Tibor de Nagy Galler P.4 Lucien Clergue at Westwood Gallery P. 5 Alexander Calder at Pace Gallery P. 6 Cézanne’s wine bottles P. 6 Robert Rauschenberg Collection at Gagosian P. 7 Ronald S. Lauder Collection at Neue Galerie New York P. 7 GAMING The New Noir of L.A. Noire P. 8

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JAZZ A How-To Guide to Improv P. 9 CLASSICAL Wagner at the Met P. 10 New York Philharmonic’s Survival Programs P. 11

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DANCE Kyle Abraham’s New Work P. 12 The Cunninghams Carry On P. 13 FILM A Weak Celebrity Bio of Marilyn Monroe P. 14 Cronenberg’s Toast to Headshrinking P. 14

wynton marsalis Photo by Platon

OF C E I S L M U C O rris  E 0 G a H 9 : 3 : T K I N lan H & l R A T E A and 0 ND N 3 : s / 7 X A A & nce E ra 10 9– 2 A L A T R De F C Y s 7/ E N E e T I 1 D S Jam N U ith C ll D E R E V ra w urre M O A N K alists B t s c  Y e m F R th vo / 8 D A Orch st Ki I er li 17 Wi L a – c t 1 5 H O Cen d vo C n n D E E W incol lis a a N AO A z at L Mars C H tra A Jaz nton s  F C rche /8 Wy 2 1 C O ter O – I n 20 U S n Ce N J A E M incol T H at L z

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AUCTIONS Going, Going Auctions P. 15

EDITOR Armond White awhite@manhattanmedia.com MANAGING EDITOR Mark Peikert mpeikert@manhattanmedia.com 

ASSISTANT EDITOR Deb Sperling SENIOR MUSIC CRITIC Jay Nordlinger



SENIOR DANCE CRITIC Joel Lobenthal

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

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2 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

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Lucien Clergue, “Jean Cocteau on the set of Testament of Orpheus, Nice, 1959” (1959, printed 2001), gelatin silver print, edition of 30 signed, numbered, titled by the artist, 16 x 12 inches. Nov. 18–Dec. 31. Westwood Gallery NYC. @ 1959 Lucien Clerge, courtesy Westwood Gallery NYC.

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ho is the Cocteau of our era? Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts, but two decades into the new millennium we haven’t yet spotted an artistic multitasker to equal Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles or Melvin Van Peebles. That’s why the Lucien Clergue exhibit that Valerie Gladstone writes about in this issue of CityArts is both timely and haunting. These days, artists scatter to their specialized fields, fearing to cross over into others and face the fresh regard of new audiences. But Cocteau, Welles and Van Peebles—polymaths who could write, direct, draw, perform and provoke—leapt at opportunities to try out new strategies, discover new gifts and encounter new, different audiences. Showing off was how these artists expanded the arts. Their multidisciplinary approach is what CityArts constantly looks for—especially by bringing the traditional arts into the same pages as the pop arts. This issue matches Jay Nordlinger’s assessment of Wagner’s Ring to Howard Mandel’s Baedeker on improvisatory jazz orchestras. Joel Lobenthal’s observation of Merce Cunningham’s dance legacy juxtaposes Kyle Abrahams’ new

movements at The Kitchen, while Robert Battle (subject of The CityArts Interview) brings Alvin Ailey’s legacy into a new era. As Cocteau understood, mixing keeps the arts and the artist from going stale. CityArts takes on the mission of keeping arts culture and those who care about it excited about different approaches to self-expression. A review of culture is always on the lookout for what’s new. If there is a new Cocteau on the horizon, that artist might have to be as interested in dance and theater as in fine arts and digital play. When the new Cocteau appears, CityArts promises to take notice. The On Gaming column by Steve Haske premieres in recognition of new forms of image-making and storytelling. Why? Because, as Cocteau demonstrated, multidisciplinary is the art world’s article of faith. About the cover: Lucien Clergue was only 25 when he photographed Cocteau on the set of his last film The Testament of Orpheus—a brave assertion of artistic ambition. The young devotee captured the old master in stylish profile with actor Yul Brynner as if posing a multileveled tribute: The King and I.

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The Strauss Symphony of America Alexander Steinitz, conductor (Vienna) Rebecca Nelsen, soprano (Vienna) Thomas Sigwald, tenor (Vienna) Dancers from

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November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 3


GALLERIES

Gallery Openings

Describing Profundity in Art Bigbee astounds, Ashbery floats

Blue Mountain Gallery: “Winter Show.” Opens Dec. 3, 520 W. 25th St., 4th Fl., 646-486-4730, bluemountaingallery.org. The Giacobetti Paul Gallery: Cornelia Jensen: “Structure + Light.” Opens Dec. 1. Rebecca Aidlin: “Water.” Opens Dec. 1, 111 Front St., Brooklyn, giacobettipaul.com.

By Mario Naves

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hat I know about poetry I know from my poet friends, and what they say about the poet John Ashbery is never less than fond and often more than querulous. Ashbery, a self-described “harebrained, homegrown surrealist whose poetry defies even the rules and logic of surrealism,” seems to share this equivocal response. What I do know is that Ashbery defies the rules and logic of art criticism. Whether working as a critic for Newsweek or a more specialized forum like Partisan Review, Ashbery proved peculiarly simpatico to the travails and successes—the “inside business,” as it were—of the visual artist. Palling around with the painters Fairfield Porter and Leland Bell probably accounts for Ashbery’s sensitivity; so do four years of art lessons. How much of a commendation can it be, then, to tout Ashbery’s collages, on display at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, as a dilettante’s gift? There’s no doubting Ashbery’s sophistication; his whimsical works on paper channel Max Ernst’s collage novels, Anne Ryan’s intimate accumulations of paper, string and fabric and Joseph Cornell’s unseemly lyricism. But his collages don’t have a serious (or ambitious) bone in their collective bits and pieces. Coasting on the goodwill of artistic precedent, Ashbery is constitutionally unassuming; the work is airy, all but disposable. Don’t count on anything as epochal as Ernst’s “The Hundred Headless Woman” or as tender as Ryan’s plainspoken grit. And forget Cornell—nobody’s that good. What Ashbery offers is the pleasure taken in making pictures because, well, that’s what a body can do. Reconfiguring vintage postcards, comic strips and magazines, Ashbery creates dioramas in which Icarus descends into Yellowstone Park, Bosch’s Tower of Babel is a boy’s pillow and Popeye the Sailor Man serves as leader of a cadre of pissing totems. Ashbery isn’t always so winning; the conglomerations of game boards and Life magazine covers are more akin to scrapbooking than an admirer would like to admit. But mostly the poet indulges his light touch for cheery distraction, for moments so ephemeral, silly and mild that we can’t help but be grateful for the wry respite they proffer.

Animazing Gallery: “Brian Froud: Visions for Film & Faerie.” Opens Dec. 2, 54 Greene St., 212226-7374, animazing.com.

Hasted Kraeutler: Pierre Gonnord: “Relatos.” Opens Dec. 8, 537 W. 24th St., 212-627-0006, hastedkraeutler.com. Lesley Heller Workspace: Dana Melamed: “Transforming Voids.” Opens Dec. 14. “Limited Engagement.” Opens Dec. 14, 54 Orchard St., 212-410-6120, lesleyheller.com. Staley Wise Gallery: Michael Dweck: “The End: Montauk, N.Y.” Opens Dec. 9. Michael Dweck: “Habana Libre.” Opens Dec. 9, 560 Broadway, 3rd Fl., 212-966-6223, staleywise.com.

Napoleon, 2009, collage, digitized print, 12 3/8 x 9 1/8 inches. Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York

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hat did Brett Bigbee think of a recent headline announcing “Painting is Back” and its accompanying article, in which his current show at Alexandre Gallery was featured? Given how deeply Bigbee is immersed in the verities of 15th-century Netherlandish painting and early American folk art, he’s likely to have shrugged it off, wondering just where it is painting might be returning from. This is, after all, an artist for whom Hans Memling isn’t a dusty historical figure but a contemporary—and the competition. The

4 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

notion that the art form could be anywhere but here and now is antithetical to a temperament that favors the long reach over the quick fix. Bigbee is a paint handler and draftsman of infinite patience and consummate skill; his paintings often take years to complete. Working from observation, he transforms an intimate scope of reference—family, foodstuffs and the natural world—into mesmerizing displays of technical virtuosity. Bigbee coaxes ghostly, surreptitiously stylized portraits from dense fields of graphite. With oil

paint he brings greater tangibility to form, rendering each object in his purview with crystalline attention. Pegging Bigbee as a realist is simultaneously accurate and a misnomer. Meticulous craftsmanship does more than limn appearances. Fidelity to verisimilitude generates otherworldly, if not quite surrealist, portent. Bigbee endows people, objects and places with unnatural clarity and quietude. When a picture concerns itself with a girl on the verge of pubescence—as in “Abby” (2005–2010), a portrait of heart-stopping austerity—time is rendered both immovable and forever tenuous. There’s never been a painting quite like it. Bigbee comes close to achieving something similar in “Joe and James” (2002–2003), a painting that suffers—not fatally, mind you, but enough that it nags—from theatricality; artifice, though understated, undercuts the dour antagonism of the boys named in the title. He falls altogether short with “Portrait of Ann” (2004–2008), if only because art historical precedent—in this case, Leonardo’s sfumato—is made blatant. Bigbee is at his best when he doesn’t tip his hand. But these are the gaffes of an artist who more than earns our respect and, yes, amazement. Painting may not be eternal, but its scope is greater than any headline can encompass. Bigbee proves it each time he puts brush to canvas.

Brett Bigbee: Recent Work Through Dec. 17, Alexandre Gallery, 41 E. 57th St., 212-755-2828, www.alexandregallery.com. John Ashbery: Recent Collages Through Dec. 3, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 724 5th Ave., No. 12, 212-262-5050, www.tibordenagy.com.


Clergue Captures Cocteau Finely Woven Carpet

Monogrammed Old Master

Lavish photo testaments to an era By Valerie Gladstone

Old Master Portrait

shoulders and bulbous glass eyes. Clergue even shot the bulbous glass eyes affixed to Cocteau’s face. Looking at these photos, one can’t help but think, like the character in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, that those were halcyon days. Perhaps not, but it’s entertaining and enlightening to have Clergue’s images, which allow us to feel that way. An especially artistic photographer, Clergue went on to have a 30-year association with Picasso as well as friendships with artists like Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Jean

Jean Cocteau only directed six films, spending far more energy on his poetry, painting, sculpture and novels. But from The Blood of a Poet (1930) to the great Beauty and the Beast (1946) and his final Testament of Orpheus (1959), he brought poetry, ideas and fantasy into his film work. In Testament of Orpheus, he chronicled his own search for the meaning of art and life, disguising himself as an 18th-century poet. Wanting company on this project, he invited old friends and luminaries to be part of the production, which was shot in Les Bauxde-Provence. A glittery bunch, they included actors from his previous films, like Jean Marais, Maria Casares, Edouard Dermit and Henri Cremieux, as well as Pablo Picasso, Jean-Pierre Leaud, François Truffaut, Yul Brynner, Roger Vadim, Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Sagan. As one can imagine, what went on behind the scenes was often as interesting as what made it to the screen. Fortunately, now-famed photographer Lucien Clergue, who was then only 25, was there to capture much of it. The first New York exhibit of his exquisite gelatin silver prints (Lucien Clergue: Jean Cocteau, Lucien Clergue, Yul Brynner and Jean Cocteau, “Testament The Testament of Orpheus 1959, of Orpheus,” Les Baux de Provence, 1959. Lucien Clergue: Jean Cocteau, The Testament of Orpheus 1959. Curated by James curated by James Cavello at WestCavello. Nov. 18–Dec. 31, 2011. Westwood Gallery NYC. wood Gallery) includes marvel© 1959 Lucien Clergue. Courtesy Westwood Gallery NYC. ous portraits, such as the poetic “Jean Cocteau at Milly-la-Foret” (1959), with the great man elegantly dressed in Renoir, Roman Polanski, Robert Rauschenan overcoat and scarf, standing in front of one berg and Christian Lacroix. He also made of his drawings, his eyes closed as if dream- art-related films, such as Picasso, War, Love ing of something beautiful. There’s another of and Peace (1968). Widely exhibited and colCocteau and Brynner, both debonair men in lected, his works can be found in The Musemoody silhouette, the actor dashing in a tux- um of Modern Art, The Boston Museum and edo, a cigarette at his lips. The Fogg Museum at Harvard University, A group shot dominated by the ebullient among others. Fittingly, the photographs Picasso shows him surrounded by his soon- in this show will become part of the permato-be wife Jacqueline Rocque, bullfighter Luis nent collection of a new museum dedicated Dominguez, Cocteau, Serge Lifar and Lucia to Cocteau in Menton, France, not far from Bose. They are a happy, animated band of where they were shot. players, all great characters of the time. At least two photos of Cocteau and the Lucien Clergue: Jean Cocteau, The Sphinx give some idea of the eccentricity of Testament of Orpheus 1959 Cocteau’s vision as he stands against a wall Through Dec. 30, Westwood Gallery, 568 Broadway, with what look like wings sprouting from his 212-925-5700, www.westwoodgallery.com.

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November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 5


Rediscovering Alexander Calder Stabiles versus mobiles By Jim Long

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ry to picture yourself in a Paris apartment in the early 1930s. Alexander Calder is giving a performance of his newly created circus made of twisted wire and cloth scraps. In the audience are Miró, Léger, Mondrian, Arp, Brancusi, the Delaunays, Duchamp, Kiesler and Man Ray; in short, the European avant-garde. Man Ray, who had tried to introduce Dada to New York, fled back to Paris, calling the effort “as futile as trying to grow lilies in a desert.” The irreverent energy of change was everywhere in Paris, and Calder apparently managed to endear himself to members of normally opposing factions, forming fast and lasting friendships—especially with Léger and Miró. Through composer Edgar Varèse he met experimental architect Kiesler, who introduced him to Mondrian, and the 1930 visit he made to Mondrian’s studio converted him completely to abstraction. There he had his first vision of colored planes in motion. “Every direction was forward,” he would later remark. Calder’s main themes derive from the theater spectacles devised by Léger and the biomorphic abstractions of Miró and Arp. Everything was in the air and the artists collaborated and freely borrowed from each other. Over the decades since, Calder’s work has become so famous it is difficult to remember how good he really is, but his appreciation of the role of mechanical engineering and the clarity of his construction methods have influenced later artists as diverse as Judd, di Suvero, Pfaff, Flavin, Bourgeois, Rickey, West and Kelly. His great innova-

Elements of Art Cézanne’s wine bottles (Part 2 of 3) By Phyllis Workman Almost 100 years ago, Paul Cézanne painted “Blue Pot and Bottle of Wine,” now on view in the collection at The Pierpont Morgan Library. Though oil on canvas, it has the hurried tentativeness of a sketch. The longer you stare at it, taking

tion was to succeed in adding movement to sculpture when everyone else tried and failed. (Except perhaps for Man Ray, who in 1920 created a hanging construction of 63 coat hangers titled “Obstruction.”) Non-referential abstraction did not take completely with Calder. Through a nearly infallible sense of scale and color, he began to develop an iconic set of symbolic shapes that lead the viewer through windblown torrents of leaves and petals or direct the gaze skyward to the constellations. Pace Gallery has mounted an exhibition of 15 of these mature works from the pivotal year 1941, a mix of maquettes, experiments and realized sculpture. Calder’s fabrication and assembly process are as fascinating to observe as his growing visual vocabulary— the one inevitably triggers the other. His “stabiles,” sculptures that do not include the element of movement—a term coined by his friend Arp—are represented only by “Untitled” (1941), a Kekuléan stick and ball constellation attached to a dark mountain or treetop base configured of intersecting triangles. The work evokes Calder’s family’s 1906 move from Philadelphia to Pasadena, Calif., when he was a child, at just the time the world’s largest telescope was under construction atop Mt. Wilson. Seven “standing mobiles” are included, and the gallery literature informs us that the nearly 8-foot-tall “Tree” has been reunited with a small mobile of various materials that originally hung from the end of its limb for the first time since it was exhibited at Calder’s 1943 retrospective. The construction details of the work reveal a complex process of assembling and joining sheet metal components to achieve an abstract/ essential tree form made up of a few reductive shapes of bark-like boilerplate metal. It is unclear whether the separation of the

note of its incompleteness, it becomes a picture of expectancy. It is a portrait of thirst. In 1902, Cézanne might have been painting the atmospherics of café living and the sensuous pleasure of quaffing. The painting’s almost hazy, inebriated images are unstable. The sketchy look has a gelatin-like shiver—it suggests the very opposite of a still life. On the left is a blue pot surrounded by not fully realized earthenware. Immediately to its right a group of orbs, some

6 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

“mobile” from the “stabile” in 1943 was the choice of Calder or of the owner to whom the sculpture belonged at the time. “The Great Yucca” is a vibrant, organic piece that calls to mind the work of the late sculptor Nancy Graves and, in its direct primary colors, the late work of Sol Lewitt. “Untitled (Red Petals maquette)” flows from poetry and is a small study for a work commissioned by the Arts Club of Chicago to be installed in an octagonal room paneled in polished rosewood. It is with the “mobiles,” a term coined by Duchamp, that the exhibition disappoints. Many of the works were experimenAlexander Calder, “Un effet du japonais,” (1941), sheet metal, rod, wire, and paint. Photo courtesy the Calder Foundation, New York tal; the artist combined different metals of varying weight to balance and achieve complex forces of nature, becoming sudden whirls rhythmic movement. Leaf, feather and of Dionysian chaos: “Thus the objects petal forms dominate the sculptural lan- always inhabit a halfway station between guage, which is concise and “signature” in the servility of a statue and the indepenstyle. Unfortunately, because of constraints dence of nature…an object that exists only imposed by the gallery, we cannot know the in, and which is defined by, its motion.” result of Calder’s enthusiasm for surprising Who argues with Sartre? Notwithstanding effects and are expected instead to gaze on these obvious problems, the exhibition is lifeless specimens arranged for display and a valuable addition to Calder scholarship accompanied by notices and guards to dis- and well worth seeing. courage any activation of the work. According to Calder’s friend Jean-Paul Calder 1941 Sartre, Calder’s beautiful and logical Through Dec. 23, Pace Gallery, 32 E. 57th St., 212arrangements react instantly to the gentlest 421-3292, www.thepacegallery.com.

in yellow-shaded contours that suggest lemons, spill out across the table. A butter knife stops the spill; it lies next to the eponymous wine bottle. Only one-third full, the bottle indicates the picture’s strongest sense of life. Ingest has happened here. Cézanne could be commenting on the experience of wine-consumption through this sketchy image. He captures the translucence of the glass as well as the volatility of the bottle’s purplish contents. Light surrounds the objects, bending and

folding the blue pot and yellow lemons as if tossed in a kind of visual sangria. It’s the idea of wine that is in the making. “Blue Pot and Bottle of Wine” achieves its post-impressionist quality from the strange fact that its imagery seems unfinished, not fully digested. The aftermath of drinking and dining are vividly depicted in Cézanne’s ingenious impression of the comestible moment. It’s a portrait of life in anticipation of drunkenness. It would make a perfect label for a crisp bottle of Vouvray.


Rauschenberg’s Delights An artist shows off his collection By Melissa Stern

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ne of the most fun things an art lover can experience is a glimpse into the private collection of a beloved artist. The current exhibition at Gagosian uptown featuring Robert Rauschenberg’s private collection leaves one giddy with delight and reeling from the sheer volume and quality of collected work. The show has 200 works in it—a mere sampling of Rauschenberg’s 900-piece collection. Everything and the kitchen sink appears in this show, from a 3.5 x 2.5 inch portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady to numerous and stunning paintings and drawings by Rauschenberg’s close friend Cy Twombly. Trades, purchases or gifts from friends and lovers, the pieces take over three floors of Gagosian’s flagship

Madison Avenue gallery, and each room brings new revelations into the life and mind of the man who collected it all. Many of the works in the show are by Rauschenberg’s contemporaries, and one can easily see the connection between their artistic sensibilities. Then there are the surprises: A small ink drawing, “Study of a Chicken,” by Alexander Calder, is a delightful, almost throwaway “portrait” of said chicken. A wonderful collage from 1964 made by chorographer Steve Paxton, Rauschenberg’s friend and collaborator, is a revelation into the nature of improvisation and artistic connection between men. A series of photographs by Grant Mudford of abstracted pieces of street paving relate directly to Rauschenberg’s own fascination with the connections between seemingly disjointed images. There is a particularly delightful painting by James Rosenquist entitled “Waiting For Bob.” The story goes that it was to be a collaboration between the two artists. Rosen-

Alienated Yet Alluring Lauder selects and collects Euro classics By John Goodrich

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requenters of the Neue Galerie know what to expect from this jewel-like museum on 86th Street: fine and decorative art from Germany and Austria and a highly elegant café to boot. At the moment, however, visitors will find a somewhat different installation celebrating the museum’s 10th anniversary. Until April 2, 2012, key works from the personal collection of the museum’s cofounder, Ronald S. Lauder, will fill the museum’s two floors of exhibition spaces. How to install artworks ranging from 3rd century BCE Celtic buckles to Joseph Beuys’ felt-wrapped cello? Lauder’s personal tastes—which concentrate on medieval art and armor, French modernism and German postmodernism, along with the usual turn-of-the-century German/ Austrian art—make for some intriguing juxtapositions. In a large room dominated by medieval armor, the dome-like brow of Cézanne’s self-portrait peers over a row of rounding helmets. (This entertaining moment

quist went first, painting a partial door and leaving a big empty space in the middle, presumably for Rauschenberg to do his thing. When the canvas arrived at his studio, however, he pronounced it “perfect” and refused to lift his own brush to it. The show abounds with such pleasures. It takes time to walk thorough the collection, and there are certainly some misses; I did not feel passion for the musical scores of John Cage and Morton Feldman amassed here. But there are those for whom these works will be the best in the show. The diversity of vision is astounding. There is a wonderful mural-sized photograph on the fourth floor of the gallery showing Rauschenberg in his studio with many of the pieces in the show hanging behind him. The opportunity to see these works brings us closer to this brilliant artist, whose restless energy and ever-evolving personal work brought him closer to the things he truly loved. It’s inspiring.

Nearby, a horse’s ornamented helmet contrasts with the busy tidiness of a nearly contemporaneous painting by Albrecht Altdorfer (ca. 1480–1538). The rest of the installation, however, is more conventional, with works by modern masters clustered in separate rooms. Seurat’s monumental, velvety conté crayon drawings highlight a small room of works on paper by Degas, Van Gogh and Cézanne. Another gallery’s dimmed lighting enhances the delicate exoticism of figure drawings by Klimt and Kokoschka and the bruised electricity of two dozen Schiele watercolors. In another room, the dyspeptic corporality of figure paintings by Otto Dix, George Grosz and Christian Schad contrast intriguingly with disembodied abstractions by Kandinsky and Klee—but here I kept returning to the Egon Schiele, “Mime van Osen” (1910), watercolor, gouache sturdier eccentricities of some and crayon on paper. Max Beckmann paintings and Kurt Schwitters collages. Most inviting was a gallery dominated recalls Bonnard’s comment that Cézanne painted as if he wore a suit of armor. In by School of Paris artists. Matisse and fact, Cézanne’s obsessive contours play Picasso are both represented mainly by nicely off of the knurled metallic surfaces.) works on paper, but Matisse’s “Backs”—his

Andy Warhol, “Robert Rauschenberg” (1967), acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 14 x 10 1/4 inches. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever.

The Private Collection of Robert Rauschenberg Through Dec. 23, Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Ave., 646-453-1050, www.gagosian.com.

series of four 6-foot-tall bronze reliefs— line one wall: what simpler, more powerful wrestling with art’s irreducible elements? Several Brancusi sculptures poignantly echo a small gouache by the artist depicting his studio. Also on hand is Kandinsky’s large, symphonic painting, “Composition V” (1911), an appealing mixture of freeform engineering and psychic eruption. A final room showcases postwar German art. Admittedly, this isn’t my cup of tea. I found the works by Gerhard Richter and Beuys solipsistic and diagrammatic and those of Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz turgidly self-indulgent. (If Dix and Schad had already perfected a kind of ironic alienation—smoothed by craft— the younger generation chiefly cranks the volume or multiplies the dangling implications.) Still, there’s something uniquely unsettling about Sigmar Polke’s large painting, “Japanese Dancers” (1966), whose prancing, half-naked figures, recorded in weathered, distancing Ben-Day dots, conjure a moment that’s desirous but denying, sophisticated but blinkered. Sampled enough alienation? Head down to that café and sink your teeth into some Klimt torte.

The Ronald S. Lauder Collection Through April 2, 2012, Neue Galerie New York, 1048 5th Ave., 212-628-6200, www.neuegalerie.org.

November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 7


ON GAMING

The Pleasures of New Noir BY STEvE HASkE

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.A. Noire is a terrific mess. If you look, you can find note of this mixed in with the game’s various critical acclaims and accolades—the adoration from the mainstream press upon its highprofile release over its use of Avatar-esque motion capture technology, the shock that a video game could really be technologically sophisticated enough to accurately capture the facial tics and nuances of real actors who, in the context of the game’s narrative, are hiding something.

Yet, as is so often seen in film noir itself, there are two sides to every coin, something L.A. Noire’s design addresses aggressively as an interactive homage to the genre. You might assume developer Team Bondi has created a free-roaming game with the choose-your-own adventure feel of Grand Theft Auto (Rockstar Games’ crime-based free-for-all that has generated over $500 million in sales to date)—that L.A. Noire lets you drive all over a meticulously researched reconstruction of 1947 Los Angeles would appear to support this impression. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

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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.

It doesn’t always work—player choice is often stunted by L.A. Noire’s merciless script. Phelps can blow every interview and still pass a case; inscrutably, you only get one shot during an interrogation to expose a suspect’s lie when packing hard evidence. You can’t even pull your piece unless the action calls for it. Calling L.A. Noire a game in the traditional sense is a mistake. If you try to go off the rails by, say, sending the wrong guy to the big house, the Aaron Staton in L.A. Noire. narrative arc will find a way to right Courtesy of Rockstar Games your wrong, revealing the actual culprit later. Meanwhile, certain optionRather than staying one step ahead of al safeguards designed for the less patient Johnny Law, stealing cars and running almost let the game play itself. (I strongly amok, you take on the role of Cole Phelps, a recommend you keep game hints turned off.) hard-nosed, straight-arrow LAPD gumshoe As spectacularly flawed as L.A. Noire may whose job involves routine police work and be at points, it’s nevertheless a slight shove (cue facial tech) questioning suspects in in the right direction. What writer/director what is essentially a hard-boiled detective Brandon McNamara lacks of Billy Wilder’s procedural with pulp dialogue. As a game, interpretive precision and Dashiell Hamthere isn’t anything else like it. But it’s in mett’s flair for Byzantine criminal puppetthese unique and often clumsy attempts at mastery is made up in immersion. You might crafting a different sort of interactive expe- feel like you’re watching a movie (albeit one rience that L.A. Noire becomes fascinating. that doesn’t always clearly jive with noir’s Measured against the explosive metric of traditional themes) or you might balk at a typical action title, L.A. Noire is decidedly the idea of a modern, big-budget game that methodical. Phelps’ day-to-day is your game- advocates brainy gameplay over endless play, and a good chunk of it is spent searching shoot-outs. L.A. Noire is hardly perfect, but for clues and performing lite forensic exami- in some limited, expendable sense, it is new. nations at crime scenes. The linear nature And maybe that’s the point. of solving episodic cases feels like playing a dialogue-driven television drama (and aside Steve Haske is a Portland, Ore.-based from leading man Aaron Staton, it seems at journalist. Follow him on Twitter least half the cast of Mad Men has bit parts). @afraidtomerge.

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.

Through December 2011 The Galleries at the Atrium Shops & Cafes 153 E. 53rd St., New York, NY, 10022 Gallery hours 7 AM to Midnight every day www.pamelalawton.com

(detail) Outside of Oceania, 2, 2010, oil on canvas, 36” x 42”

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

8 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

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JAZZ

By Howard Mandel

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arge ensembles defying genre labels and intent on collective improvisation are unusual but not entirely new; there’s a nearly 50-year history of them just in the East Village. But a new movement of improvised orchestration is upon us, exploring the balancing act at the heart of the art of jazz: How much collective organization vs. how much personal liberty bring the best results? Lawrence Douglas “Butch” Morris and Karl Berger, who conduct Monday night workshops/performances in the East Village at Lucky Cheng’s and The Stone, respectively, are leaders of these investigations. Elliott Sharp, Greg Tate, Adam Rudolph and Walter Thompson are activists, too. Each takes a different approach to directing the dozen or two individualists under his baton, but everybody’s trying to guarantee freedom with structure toward wonderful ends. The suite-like performances that have emerged from Berger’s eight-month stand at The Stone, for instance, have a warm, buoyant vibe issuing from brief folkloriclike motifs and the low-key, common-sense guidance he offers his players. They are mostly veteran musicians from avant rock and world music as well as jazz scenes, and can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other. The collective’s intuited communication has attained a high point since weekly shows began last March and will be tested in a season finale incorporating iconoclastic sax soloist John Zorn, who comes to the project cold for concerts Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Berger hopes to resume activities next spring in a location yet to be determined. Morris imposes structure more strictly on his younger minions, whose strings and reeds instrumentation resembles that of a conventional chamber orchestra. There’s percussion but no jazz drum kit, saxophones or jazz brass—though Brandon Ross’ electric guitar does add edge. The players use no score and themselves come up with pitches, gestures and accents in response to Morris’ commands for long tones, repeats, shifts to softly articulated “ghost notes” and development. The company has absorbed his system of hand gestures—as a body it can switch swiftly from lyricism to funk and back. Morris treats his orchestra as a tool for instant composition; when asked, “How did you write that?” he answers with pleasure, “I didn’t.”

These ensembles aren’t like jazz big bands (the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band), which favor arrangements of fixed compositions that open for solo improvisations but don’t allow all hands to shape the music spontaneously. The present drive for more organically grown group expression may date from the Jazz Composers Orchestra, which was founded in 1965 and involved musicians associated with Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Carla Bley in daylong programs at the Public Theater. Public afternoon rehearsals preceded evening performances. Berger was involved in the JCO, and in the mid ’70s he established his Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, propounding the “making music is easy” philosophy he professes today. Several participants in The Stone sessions attended his Woodstock school. In the ’80s and ’90s, East Village composerperformers sought ways to organize large groups without dictating to them. Zorn came up with intricate games in which improvisers reacted to signals with the sounds they liked. Sharp designed works based on natural or mathematical forms, like the Fibonacci series, for his Orchestra Carbon, coming Dec. 8 to Roulette in Brooklyn. Morris, a neighbor of Zorn and Sharp, unveiled his concept in “Conduction Number One: Current Trends in Racism in Modern America” at The Kitchen in Soho in 1985, and since then has introduced conduction to diverse ensembles around the world. Morris is a direct influence on guitaristwriter Tate, whose moveable feast Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber gigs weekly on Sundays during December at the Boom Boom Room in Tribeca and at a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America at Tammany Hall Dec. 7. Rudolph, the percussionist/composer/improviser whose multi-culti Go: Organic Orchestra was a hit at the old Roulette in Soho and came to Roulette-Brooklyn Nov. 21, once taught at Berger’s Creative Music Studio. Thompson, who independently invented a hand gesture conducting system he calls “soundpainting,” was also at CMS in the ’70s. Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies present Thompson and Morris in a “Conversation with Composers” Nov. 30. Large-scale improvisation, “free” but with direction, may be a topic of the moment because, as with loosely knit but ostensibly cohesive political movements, everyone’s curious: “What’s next?”

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Reach Howard Mandel at jazzmandel@gmail.com. November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 9


CLASSICAL Jay Hunter Morris as the title character in the Met’s new production of Wagner’s Siegfried. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

A Ring That Chimes ENLiVENiNG WAGNER’S THiRD iNSTALLMENT BY JAY NORDLINGER

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10 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

ne by one, we are seeing the operas of Wagner’s Ring at the Metropolitan Opera, in a new production by Robert Lepage. We have now seen the third opera, Siegfried, the one that follows Die Walküre and precedes the finale, Götterdämmerung. Lepage has not made a Siegfried that will dance through your head forever. But it is a sensible and credible Siegfried. Some aspects of it are a little puzzling or silly. Early in the opera, I wondered, “Who’s that bulky blonde woman?” It turned out to be Bryn Terfel, portraying the Wanderer in a long wig. At the end of the show, when Terfel was taking his bows, I realized that the wig was white or gray. In Act II, the dragon is more comical than fearsome. But complaints and quibbles aside, this is indeed a worthy Siegfried, and we will see how Lepage ends the cycle when Götterdämmerung premieres in January. The most important participant in a Siegfried, or any other Ring opera, is the conductor. The Met’s music director, James Levine, was supposed to conduct, but he has been sidelined with injuries and ailments. Subbing for him on the night I attended was Derrick Inouye. From what I can gather, he has had a journeyman’s career. And my hope for him was that he would merely manage the opera competently. He did much more than that. He conducted the opera with real understanding and command. A couple of times, he let his guard down, and this

was particularly true at the end: The music should peal like wedding bells, and on this occasion it was rather limp. All in all, though, Inouye had performed laudably. As for the Met orchestra, these guys played so well, I felt they were casting a vote of confidence in the conductor. I should single out the low brass: Wagner gives them a field day in Siegfried, and they took full advantage. The ground under Lincoln Center slightly shook. In the title role was Jay Hunter Morris, not to be confused with James Morris, the veteran bass. Siegfried is a famously punishing part, and you root for the tenor to get through it. Anything else is gravy. Morris got through it, and gave us a little gravy. Most of the time, his singing was rough and ready, but he gleamed when Wagner allowed him to sing high. What’s more, Morris looks somewhat like a Siegfried should. Ideally, this character is a splendid physical specimen, a Norse Tarzan—never mind that he is the son of twins. Gerhard Siegel was Mime, and among his contributions was authentic German: The text sounded just right from his mouth. Mime is both crafty and pathetic, and Siegel made sure he was that. Also, his Mime was oddly swishy. Eric Owens, who sang Alberich, sounds like a Wotan in the making, as many have remarked. Unfortunately, he doesn’t sound much like an Alberich. He pours forth lushness, which is nice. But Alberich requires bite, articulation and menace. Terfel sounded magnificently like a Wotan, or the Wanderer, as he is known in Siegfried. In the past, Terfel has been a

Continued on the next page


By Judy Gelman Myers

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ut of apathy, fear or intransigence, we barricade ourselves from things we don’t know—people, places, music. Symphonic music is often thrust behind these barricades, so the New York Philharmonic has created an education department to help bring it out front where it belongs. Why does it belong out front? Director of Education Ted Wiprud explains that, beyond the music itself, the program is about “a large number of people developing skills together with the sole purpose of bringing beauty into the world. It’s an astonishing model for other things we do in our lives.” Every month, the Philharmonic’s education department offers lectures for adults, online learning for kids (Kidzone! gets 40,000 hits monthly), young people’s concerts and partnerships with public schools. On Nov. 10, through the Musical Encounters program, young city residents attended an open rehearsal of Beethoven’s Pastoral, where orchestra members in jeans and T-shirts dispelled the image of symphonic musicmaking as a strictly black-tie affair. Meanwhile, the music itself became more approachable when played by violinists in sneakers. On Nov. 12, teaching artists and members of the New York Philharmonic convened in Avery Fisher Hall before the famed Young People’s Concert. On the promenade of one of the most prestigious concert halls in the

Wagner Continued from page 10 beautiful voice crooning in the part of Wotan. He has been short on majesty, solidity and godlikeness. On this occasion, he was not short at all. His exchange with Erda was downright memorable. Erda was sung by Patricia Bardon, who was both correct and moving. She had some of the molten earth in her voice (just as Wagner puts it in the music). Hans-Peter König boomed adequately as Fafner, disguised as a dragon, and Mojca Erdmann chirped adequately as the Forest Bird.

Immanuel Lutheran Church: Black Marble performs in “Virtuoso music for two violins by Telemann, Shield & Leclair” as part of the Midtown Concerts series. Dec. 7, 122 E. 88th St., 212-967-9157, midtownconcerts.org; 1:15, free. Miller Theatre: Fred Sherry, Jennifer Koh, Stephen Gosling, the Talea Ensemble & others perform world premieres by John Zorn as part of the 12th season of Miller Theatre’s Composer Portraits series. Zorn will also give a late-night encore solo organ performance after the concert. Dec. 9, Columbia University, 116th & Broadway. 212-854-7799, millertheatre.com; 8, $25.

world, world-class musicians performed quartets composed by public school students from 3rd through 7th grade in a weekly after-school program called Credit Suisse Very Young Composers (VYC). Jon Deak, founder of VYC, rejects the idea that kids need to know the rules of composition before they can compose. “Music comes to all of us at an early age,” he says. “We’re just going back to where music comes from.” In their weekly sessions, Deak and his teaching artists play games like Ear Fantasy and Sound Geography, encouraging students to bring into the open the music they carry inside. Older students learn how to develop a professional-level voice and musically notate their pieces without help. Deak, who played with the Philharmonic for years, feels a tremendous sense of gratitude to the orchestra and believes deeply in maintaining its vitality through public education. He says the process works both ways—the symphony wins when kids are empowered to create. “If only people with doctorates can compose, then the art form collapses. This isn’t outreach,” he confides. “It’s self-interest.”

Incidentally, Lepage provides us with an enchanting (electronic) bird, even if his dragon leaves something to be desired. Assigned the chores of Brünnhilde, Deborah Voigt acquitted herself with honor. But if you want to hear a really resplendent Brünnhilde, try Voigt’s recording with Plácido Domingo, made in 1999. Some people think of The Ring as a fourmovement symphony, and if that is so, Siegfried is the scherzo: fast, fizzy, quirky, full of life. Of course, it has other types of music too, such as the Wanderer’s hymnlike lines. You would hesitate to say you had a favorite Ring opera, but I must say I look especially forward to Siegfried.

“They looked like they could have danced all night; I certainly could have watched them.” – New York Times

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Joseph W. Polisi, President Lawrence Rhodes, Artistic Director

Church of the Epiphany: Singerinstrumentalist ensemble Trefoil performs in “Christo è nato: Lauding the Nativity in Medieval Florence.” Dec. 10, 1393 York Ave., 212-8660468, salonsanctuary.org; 8, $25.

November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 11


DANCE

Personas in Motion Kyle Abraham’s dance biography

Kelley Donovan & Dancers: In the new evening-length work “Fractured Realm,” the company employs its signature weight-shifting techniques in an exploration of “creation, destruction & connection.” Dec. 10, PMT House of Dance, 69 W. 14th St., 617-388-3247, kddcompany.wordpress.com.

By Valerie Gladstone

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n the Vimeo trailer shot by visual artist Carrie Schneider for choreographer Kyle Abraham’s new work, Live! The Realest MC, a young boy hurries along a lonely city street, interrupted by images of cracked pavement and barbed wire. The camera stutters, stops and starts, switching quickly from his face to boys racing around a corner. He picks a delicate white flower and squeezes it in his hand. The boy in the video could have been Abraham as he was growing up in Pittsburgh, fearful that being gay might get him beaten up and ostracized by the hiphop community. In the story of Pinocchio he found an allegory on which to base his excursion into the dark and lonely place of his childhood. “I was inspired by Pinocchio’s quest to be a so-called real boy,” Abraham says on the phone from Ireland, where he is choreographing a work for the Irish Modern Dance Theater. “I put it in a gay context, with a boy struggling with his identity when surrounded by hip-hop bravado. I remember lowering my voice in my teens to make it sound deeper so I would fit in.” Abraham has long interwoven his own personal history with larger themes, first as a student at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School and later at SUNY Purchase and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In Radio Show, which won a Bessie (New York Dance and Performance Award) in 2010, he explored his father’s Alzheimer’s and the end of old-time radio stations in Pittsburgh. This time around, he gives his stand-in, Pinocchio, a hip-hop persona. He is related to the title character in his smashing solo, Inventing Pookie Jenkins, from 2006. “He struggles with the difference between who he is when he’s alone and who he is in public,” Abraham explains. For Live! The Realest MC and his previous work, Opus 1, an homage to photographer Eadweard Muybridge, Abraham collaborated with Schneider. “Kyle knows how distracting video can be in performances,” she says, “so he uses it differently. He breaks it up and fractures it unconven-

Dances Patrelle: The company presents its 16th annual production of “The Yorkville Nutcracker,” in which dancers age 5–65 & featured dancers from The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, & New York City Ballet transport the audience to the Upper East Side of 1895. Dec. 8–11, The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 68th St. betw. Park & Lexington Aves., 212-772-4448, dancespatrelle.org; $45+.

LAVA: The acrobatic 8-woman performance troupe collaborates with visual artist Tony Feher in “Atlas,” navigating through space with trampolines, wheels & water bottles. Dec. 1–11, Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., 212-219-0736, dixonplace.org; $10+. Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company: The company celebrates its 40th anniversary with screenings of past performances & live performances of original work. The performance will be followed by a reception & silent auction of some of the company’s costumes to benefit a dance organization in northern Japan. Dec. 3, Ailey Citigroup Theatre, 405 W. 55th St., 212-868-4444, www.ichinohedance.org; 7, $30 (performance only), $70 (performance & reception). WestFest Dance Festival: 21 mid-career & advanced choreographers—including featured guests TAKE Dance, David Parker and the Bang Group, Gibney Dance Company & Urban Bush Women—present works in two alternating programs. Dec. 8–11, Merce Cunningham Studio Theater, 212-427-627, westbeth.org; $20. Theater LISTINGS Happy Hour: Oscar-winner Ethan Coen’s evening of short plays receives its world premiere courtesy of the Atlantic Theater Company with an ensemble cast including Amanda Quaid, Joey Slotnick and Ana Reeder. Ends Dec. 31, Peter Norton Space, 552 W. 42nd St., atlantictheater.org. A Christmas Carol: Reid Farrington presents a trippy remix of the classic holiday show, uniting live performance & clips from 35 different film versions of the tale on moving screens to form a massive “magic lantern.” Dec. 1–18, Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St., 212-598-0400, abronsartscenter.org.

Dancer-choreographer Kyle Abraham. Photo by Ian Douglas

tionally. He turns it into dream sequence. He’s bold; he’s not afraid. He breaks rules in powerful ways.” This isn’t surprising for an artist who takes inspiration from Merce Cunningham and Ralph Lemon and who danced with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and David Dorfman Dance. But he wants people to know that his new work has comedic elements and a soundtrack, which he produced, with the flavor of ’90s rap as well

12 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

some tunes from jazz pianist Bill Evans. From Ireland, Abraham goes on to nonstop work back home, his career booming. Asked how he feels about being today’s hot young choreographer, he replies, “I’ve been caught off guard at how many great things can happen.”

Live! The Realest MC Dec. 8–10. at The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, www.thekitchen.org

Angry Women in Low Rise Jeans with High Class Issues: This witty, woman-centered comedy takes on first world problems from bikini waxes to birth control side effects. Dec. 1–18, Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave., 212-2541109, angryyoungwomen.net. Cosi fan tutte: The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater gives three performances of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” conducted by MSM graduate Israel Gursky. Dec. 7, 9 & 11, Borden Auditorium, 120 Claremont Ave., 212-749-2802, msmnyc.edu.


Mind and Body Math The Cunninghams carry on By Joel Lobenthal

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ou wouldn’t know it from watching him on stage, but Merce Cunningham dancer John Hinrichs “would describe [himself] more as a math guy than as a dancer,” he recently informed me by email sent while on the company’s “Legacy Tour,” its final circuit around the world. The company will be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Dec. 7–10 before giving its very last performance at the Park Avenue Armory on New Year’s Eve. What you see a dancer project on stage is both a direct product of his or her personal biography and a constructed performing persona that is distinct and independent from real life. But the Cunningham dancers radiate a cultured adultness on stage, which may be due in part to the fact that most have college degrees. Hinrichs grew up in Rochester, Ill., and received his BS in math education from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in 2006. He joined the company in 2009, the year Cunningham himself died at age 90. In his late career, Cunningham worked to thwart the audience’s construction of narrative or emotional throughlines in his works. He experimented with ever more complicated rhythms and spatial patterning and mined the possibilities of computer-programmed choreography via software installations. The logic of math, then, might seem like an appropriate preparatory discipline for Cunningham’s work. Nevertheless, “that analytical side can get in the way,” Hinrichs says. It’s a question of finding the right approach for the individual dance. “To solve a problem in dance” might require “a rigorous analytical approach...that

involves physics and body mechanics,” but just as frequently it might demand “completely shutting off analytical thinking and using the body’s intelligence” or concentrating on a “creative image that takes physics/ mechanics into account.” The poses and movements of human bodies connecting or separating in space will always cue, consciously or not, certain responses in the spectator. And steps will be more compelling the more thoroughly they are realized physically. For Hinrichs, “the most satisfying and complete moments in performance come when I tap most deeply into my instincts and humanity.” Hinrichs doesn’t yet have another dance job lined up, but plans to continue his dance training and wants to take acting and improvisation classes, as well as try creative writing. Meanwhile, the Cunningham repertory will be licensed out to companies around the world. Cunningham’s work uses ballet vocabulary and has been, and is today, performed by ballet companies. Earlier this month at City Center, American Ballet Theatre performed Cunningham’s 1980 Duets, which first entered ABT’s repertory 30 years ago. The accuracy of two different six-couple casts varied not so much from performer to performer but from moment to moment within each of the couples’ interactions. One also had to allow for the fact that ABT’s Duets could never, and probably should never, look like the Cunningham company itself. Change is inevitable, and we will see how the Cunningham repertory will fare without his presence and without a company dedicated to his work. His troupe’s final appearances are thus to be treasured all the more.

What you see a dancer project on stage is both a direct product of his or her personal biography and a constructed performing persona that is distinct and independent from real life. But the Cunningham dancers radiate a cultured adultness on stage, which may be due in part to the fact that most have college degrees.

Read more by Joel Lobenthal at Lobenthal.com.

The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in St. Martin.

Enjoy the Caribbean Sun and Captivating Culture on a Winter Getaway to St. Martin By Penny Gray For an experience in the Caribbean both calming and cultural, why not head down to St. Martin? As the smallest island in the world ever to have been partitioned between two different nations (the French and the Dutch), this 37-square-mile island offers the rarest and richest of opportunities to bask in both endless sunshine and cultural diversity. American Airlines began offering daily, nonstop flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport to St. Martin’s Princess Juliana International Airport Nov. 17. The flights use a Boeing 757 aircraft, with 20 seats in business class and 166 seats in economy. Flight 667 departs from JFK at 7:59 a.m. and arrives in St. Martin at 1:09 p.m. Upon arrival, take a taxi to the French side of the island (the border can hardly be perceived, and both islanders and visitors alike cross back and forth without even knowing they’re entering a new country) and find yourself in Marigot, the capital city of French St. Martin. Perhaps the most French in spirit of all the cities in the Caribbean, Marigot resembles a French market town complete with streetside cafés and bistros ideal for people-watching, as well as luxurious boutiques and elegant shops with the latest fashions. Visit the open-air Marigot market for a chance to sample freshly caught fish and local produce, spices and tropical fruit. Stroll to the southern end of Marigot for a brief education in the island’s history at the St. Martin Museum, where artifacts dating back to 1800 BCE and ceramics from 550 BCE can be found alongside a detailed history of colonial life on the island, including the progression from plantations and slavery to modern development. Then climb to the top of Fort St. Louis, the largest historical monument on the island, for a panoramic view of Dutch St. Maarten and the stunning sea surrounding it. From this vantage point, you can choose one of the country’s great beaches for a quick dip to cool down after your climb. The beach at Grand Case is an excellent choice, and there are some savory barbecue stands located nearby with some of the best food on the island (the stands are

called “lolos” by locals). After lunch, head on over to the Dutch part of the island, St. Maarten. In the capital city of Philipsburg you’ll find plenty of duty-free shops nestled among arcades and courtyards crammed with flowers. Even if shopping is not your passion, the traditional West Indian architecture alone warrants a walk through the charming town. Front Street, one of the town’s two main thoroughfares, features sites of more historical import, including the court house and the Simartin Museum. At the eclectic museum, the contents of a British shipwreck can be found alongside artifacts from the natives of the island, the Arawaks. After a brief orientation in Philipsburg, climb aboard the Lord Sheffield, St. Maarten’s sophisticated pirate ship. A square-rigged sailing vessel armed with black powder cannons, the Lord Sheffield is a unique way to get a tour of the island from a distance or go for a snorkel or a sunset sail. If a smaller, private boat is more your speed, consider renting your own boat and exploring the largest landlocked lagoon in the Caribbean, certainly the most unique geographical feature of St. Maarten. After such an adventurous day, return to the French side of the island to relax on Orient Beach. Often referred to as the “French Riviera of the Caribbean,” this beach offers plenty of places to enjoy a frozen drink and relax in a lounge chair while staring out into the sea. Most of the best restaurants on the island line this mile-long beach, so consider one of the many fine dining options for a leisurely (and fresh) meal by the sea, often involving freshly grilled fish and local vegetables in season. After dinner, take a stroll up to Paradise Peak, the highest point on the island. There are two observation decks on the 1,400-foot-tall Pic Paradis, and at night, the island glitters with electricity like fireflies and boats at sea provide a magical light show. From the top of the mountain, you can have a long think about where you’d like to relax the following day. After all, no trip to St. Martin is complete without a day of lounging on one of the many quiet, protected beaches or coves and doing absolutely nothing at all.

November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 13


FILM

A Giant Played by a Midget WEAK CELEBRiTY BiO OF MARiLYN MONROE BY ARMOND WHITE

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rt critics cite Andy Warhol’s 1962 “Gold Marilyn Monroe” (a tinted print using a Niagara movie still) to exemplify the movie star’s “infinitely reproducible” image. Movie critics simply yell “Oscar!” at Michelle Williams’ image of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, but her impersonation amounts to a giant played by a midget. My Week with Marilyn doesn’t deserve a Warholian defense, since the movie fails to enhance or complicate one’s relationship to Monroe’s celebrity or humanity. Based on Colin Clark’s memoir recalling his encounter with Monroe when he worked as a gofer on Laurence Olivier’s 1957 production, The Prince and the Showgirl, the star’s pop status is reduced to a sensitive “natural” whose approach to Method acting was misunderstood. Director Simon Curtis settles for Monroe’s distant tabloid myth according to Clark’s privileged, star-struck naiveté. She’s presented as an inadvertent sexpot, abused

Method Envy CRONENBERG’S WRY TOAST TO HEADSHRiNKiNG BY GREGORY SOLMAN David Cronenberg’s wry, almost incredulous treatment of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and the late 19th-century mind transforms what could be neurotic movie misery into common unhappiness—or perhaps the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude. A Dangerous Method confines its fictional gaze to a remarkable historical confluence of winding intellects, when future shrink Sabina Spielrein (a courageous Keira Knightley) went from Jung’s patient-who-knew-too-much to his spurned lover bordering on extortionist.

by intellectual louts from Lee Strasberg to Arthur Miller to Olivier himself, who all exploit her value as a showbiz commodity. Condescension toward fame is all that’s reproduced here, like Bennett Miller’s celebrity exploitation in Capote. Curtis’ monotonous style ignores what made Monroe fascinating—instead, too many close-ups make for a tedious characterization. Close-ups don’t necessarily mean insight. Curtis affects a Playboy Magazine style of false, pornographic “intimacy,” but Williams lacks the personality and lush physicality for successful prurience; she’s more Renée Zellweger than Monroe. Curtis and Williams’ collaboration creates shallow sympathy for a misused waif who strikes sexy-pathetic poses, going through fits of sullen insecurity while Olivier (hammy Kenneth Branagh) and Dame Sybil Thorndike (hammy Judi Dench) wait on set at the legendary Pinewood Studios. There’s no perspective on Monroe’s art— her cagey, incomparable performances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Bus Stop, which were clearly not the work of an airhead. More superficial than Warhol’s print, Williams’ performance is the height of arrogance. Monroe’s emotional instability

is merely another shameless stunt performance like Cate Blanchett’s Bob Dylan, Charlize Theron’s Aileen Wuornos, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Truman Capote and— worst of all—Blanchett’s ludicrous Katharine Hepburn. Williams’ unimaginatively “natural” approach (all moue and retard) fits the Olivier line “No wonder she’s permanently 10 feet under water,” rather than vividly inhabiting “Marilyn.” Williams keeps audiences under water, lacking the liveliness of Theresa Russell memorably impersonating the Marilyn icon in Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 Insignificance. Russell met the legend head on, adding her own sexual insouciance and cunning suppositions about Monroe’s intelligence (including a remarkable moment explaining to Albert Einstein his own theory of relativity). Insignificance (recently released on Criterion DVD) challenged pop myth as incisively as Warhol, but My Week with Marilyn resembles a tabloid tease. A step down from Christopher Munch’s The Hours and Times, which used the leg-

end of John Lennon’s lost weekend with Brian Epstein for queer appropriation, this bio is so wan that suggestions of feminism get lost in celebrity worship. It’s particularly wrong-headed when bland Julia Ormond is cast as Vivien Leigh, then Olivier’s wife. (Curtis comes up with no better indication of female movie star empathy than to use the Monroe-Leigh summit to indict Olivier’s chauvinism. Worthless.) Combining political sympathy and media ignorance, the filmmakers confuse Monroe’s fame with her self—a mistake Warhol’s print should have discouraged, calling for a smarter response to Pop legends. In My Week With Marilyn, Williams’ portrayal of Monroe as an extension of her screen roles cannot be trusted. There’s too much deliberation in Williams’ slyness, including a third-rate singing impersonation of Marilyn’s famous “That Old Black Magic.” Fact is, Monroe was not Cherie in Bus Stop, even though it was a great performance. Only a stupid actor could give this impersonation.

As Jung individuates, he grows to see Freud as more fraud than father figure archetype. Neither man seems particularly happy. It’s a lively, playful surface— beautifully rendered by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky—but without much deep psychology to commend it. Sabina comes to Jung’s clinic in Switzerland diagnosed as a hysteric, a basketcase of tics, exasperating fits and childish exhibitionist display. Without having investigated her most basic sexual history, Jung (Michael Fassbender) futilely applies mystical theories of ESP and primitive brainwave chronographs redolent of carnival sideshows. He writes and finally visits his idol Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in Vienna before undertaking his first psychoanalysis, questioning Sabina from behind— the conscience position—and interpreting her dream language, finally revealing Sabina’s repressed childhood abuse and unleashing

her textbook sexual fetish. Or does he? Cronenberg and screenwriter Christopher Hampton suggest Sabina’s selfawareness and manipulative emotional control: She could be putting Jung on or at least exaggerating her maladies for attention, a possibility reinforced by her professed desire to practice psychiatry. Meanwhile, Jung’s frisson with another fallen Freud disciple, the amoral sex and drug addict Otto Gross— conspicuously referred as a patient to Jung by Freud himself, like a human bomb—convinces Jung to shed his useless repression and take up with Sabina. Or did he want that all along? Guilty over his compromised position with Sabina, shamed by the castrating effects of the perfectly decent, pregnant wife who keeps him (Sarah Gadon) and conscious of his method’s critical scrutiny by Freud, unintended and uninhibited observation effects

ricochet around this egghead triangle to Lermontov poems and Das Rheingold. Yet that’s only entertaining from a position of airy superiority to the characters. Adapted by Hampton from his stage play The Talking Cure, the story comes apart like a series of nesting boxes as the clash of titanic superegos prove and reprove their own theories, watching their own actions as a running subtext as if helpless, falling into psychosexual traps they themselves would eventually spring upon the rest of the world. But Cronenberg and Hampton’s atomistic treatment of the characters’ traits seals them in waxen, mechanistic action. The filmmakers act too distant in time or consciousness to relate to any human tragedy and make an emotional claim. In the end, they’ve succumbed to gross nihilism: Nothing is at stake.

14 CityArts | November 30–December 13, 2011

Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn.


AUCTIONS

JEWELRY SALES Doyle: Dec. 6, 10 a.m.: Important Estate Jewelry. Previews Dec. 2–5, www.doylenewyork.com.

Going, Going Auctions

Phillips de Pury: Dec. 6, 4 p.m.: Jewels. Previews Nov. 30–Dec. 6, www.phillipsdepury.com. Sotheby’s: Dec. 7, 10 a.m. & 2 p.m.: Magnificent Jewels. Dec. 7, 10 a.m.: The Elegant John Traina’s Accessories. Previews Dec. 3–6, www.sothebys.com. Christie’s: Dec. 7, 2 p.m.: Ancient Jewelry. Previews Dec. 3–6, www.christies.com. Bonhams: Dec. 8, 1 p.m.: Watches. Previews Dec. 3–7. Dec. 13, noon.: Fine Jewelry. Previews Dec. 10–13, www.bonhams.com. Christie’s: Dec. 13–16, evening and day sessions: Elizabeth Taylor The Legendary Collection. Previews Dec. 3–12 by advance ticket. Auction VI online only, bidding from Dec. 3–17, www.christies.com.

By Caroline Birenbaum Rare Gems and Lovely Baubles Most of the December Fine Jewelry sales will undoubtedly be upstaged by Christie’s four-day extravaganza offering the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. To view this bounty, purchase timed exhibition tickets in advance—and note that seating at the auctions is limited to registered bidders. (There is an online-only component for the hoi polloi.) A portion of the money generated by admissions and the elaborate printed catalogs will go to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The final lot in the Dec. 13 evening session is the renowned 33.19-carat diamond ring that was among the lavish gifts Taylor received from Richard Burton. The wedding bands from her two marriages to Burton and the richly colored garments she wore at those wedding ceremonies are in the Dec. 14 afternoon and evening sessions. Other spectacular diamonds are featured in Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale Dec. 7, including an intense pink diamond ring and the Star of Golconda, an old mine, cushion-shaped 33.03-carat diamond ring. For Walls & Shelves Beyond bodily adornment, a wide array of painted, printed and written material will be on exhibit. Here’s a brief sampling of upcoming auctions. Freeman’s Fine American & European Paintings sale Dec. 4 features 19th-century gems such as Severin Roesen’s lush autumnal “Still Life,” Thomas Cole’s “Part of the Ruins of Kenilworth Castle” and James A.M. Whistler’s “Blue and Opal: The Photographer,” plus works by Pennsylvania impressionists who can hold their own with more widely known American practitioners.

Out of town Rago, Lambertville, N.J.: Dec. 4, 12 p.m.: Jewelry. Previews Nov. 30–Dec. 4, www.ragoarts.com. Freeman’s, Philadelphia, Penn.: Dec. 5, noon: Fine Jewelry & Watches. Previews Dec. 1-4. www.freemansauction.com. Marc Chagall, “Interior of the Ashkenazi Ha’Ari Synagogue, Safed” (1931), from the collection of Lillian and Jack Cottin, New York. Est. $300,000-$500,000. To be sold at Sotheby’s NY Dec. 14. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Swann’s Dec. 13 sale of Important Photobooks & Photographs contains Edwin Hale Lincoln’s masterpiece Wild Flowers of New England, eight volumes with 400 exquisite platinum prints, 1910–14. Sotheby’s offers Important Judaica on the morning of Dec. 14 and Israeli and International Art that afternoon. Among the highlights are a Hasidic prayer book, Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, early documents of Jewish Americana and three synagogue interiors by Chagall. Bonhams presents Fine Books & Manuscripts Dec. 15. Along with desirable maps and atlases, works on travel and exploration, natural history and literary classics, there is a large selection of artists’ letters, manuscripts and illustrations ranging from 19th-century French painters to present-day Americans like Edward Gorey, Charles Schulz and R. Crumb. Swann concludes its autumn season Dec. 15 with a single-owner collection, The Complete Poster Works of Roger Broders, whose elegant Art Deco images have epitomized the French Riviera for generations. This is the first auction to comprise his entire poster oeuvre. Christie’s Dec. 19 photographs sale includes Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part II, consisting of 20th-century scenes related to the theme “Crossing America.”

Gorgeous Decor ’Tis also the season for modern design and decorative arts, and most of the sales are aglow with Tiffany pieces. On Dec. 14, Bonhams offers an eclectic selection of lovely objects ranging from the late 19th century to the present. On Dec. 15, Wright, which specializes in 20th-century architecture and architect-designed furniture, features Bertoia sculptures and beautifully crafted works from an interior designed by Samuel Marx that are new to the auction market.

Leslie Hindman, Chicago, Ill.: Dec. 4, 1 p.m., Dec. 5, 11 a.m.: Fine Jewelry & Timepieces. Dec. 6, 12 p.m.: Vintage Couture & Accessories. Previews Nov. 30–Dec. 5, www.lesliehindman.com. Skinner, Boston, Mass.: Dec. 6, 10 a.m.: Fine Jewelry. Previews Dec. 4 & 5, www.skinnerinc.com.

ART & BOOK SALES Swann: Dec. 8, 1:30 p.m.: Maps & Atlases, Decorative Graphics. Previews Dec. 3–8, www. swanngalleries.com. Swann: Dec. 13, 2 p.m.: Important Photobooks & Photographs. Previews Dec. 8–13, www. swanngalleries.com.

DESIGN AND DECORATIVE ARTS SALES

Swann: Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m.: The Complete Poster Works of Roger Broders. Previews Dec. 10–15, www.swanngalleries.com.

Phillips de Pury: Dec. 13, 6 p.m.: Design Masters. Dec. 14, 2 p.m.: Design. Previews Dec. 7–13, www. phillipsdepury.com.

Sotheby’s: Dec. 14, 10 a.m.: Important Judaica; 2 p.m.: Israeli & International Art. Previews Dec. 9–13, www.sothebys.com.

Bonhams: Dec. 14, 10 a.m.: 20th Century Decorative Arts. Previews Dec. 10–13, www.bonhams.com.

Bonhams: Dec. 15, 1 p.m.: Fine Books & Manuscripts. Previews Dec. 10–15, www. bonhams.com.

Sotheby’s: Dec. 15, 10 a.m.: Important 20th Century Design, 2 p.m.: Important Tiffany. Previews Dec. 10–14, www.sothebys.com. Christie’s: Dec. 17, 10 a.m.: Magnificent Tiffany; 2 p.m.: Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design. Previews Dec. 10–16, www.christies.com. Out of Town Wright, Chicago, Ill.: Dec. 15, 1 p.m.: Important Design. Previews Dec. 8–14, www.wright20.com. Skinner, Boston, Mass: Dec. 17, 10 a.m.: 20th Century Furniture & Decorative Arts. Previews Dec. 15 & 16, www.skinnerinc.com.

Christie’s: Dec. 19, 4 p.m.: Photographs. Previews Dec. 10–18, www.christies.com. Out of Town Freeman’s, Philadelphia, Penn: Dec. 4, 2 p.m.: Fine American & European Paintings. Previews Dec. 1–3, www.freemans.com. Leslie Hindman, Chicago, Ill.: Dec. 11, 1 p.m.: Modern & Contemporary Art, American & European Art. Dec. 12, 1 p.m.: Old Master, Modern & Contemporary Prints. Previews Dec. 7–10, www.lesliehindman.com.

November 30–December 13, 2011 | CityArts 15


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10/13/11 12:41 PM

Profile for CityArts NYC

cityArts November 30, 2011  

The November 30, 2011 issue of cityArts. CityArts, published twice a month (20 times a year) is an essential voice on the best to see, hea...

cityArts November 30, 2011  

The November 30, 2011 issue of cityArts. CityArts, published twice a month (20 times a year) is an essential voice on the best to see, hea...

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