Exclusive Interview with Marilyn Nonken, recipient of NCP 2014 Visionary Award

Marilyn Nonken, recipient of The Nouveau Classical Project's Visionary Award 2014

Marilyn Nonken, recipient of The Nouveau Classical Project’s 2014 Visionary Award

“The music I’ve been fascinated with for the past few years is known as spectral music, which came out of Paris in the early 1970s and reached New York just around 2000.  In my own artistic life, I feel like I came of age with this music in my ears and in my hands.”–Marilyn Nonken

On October 8th, The Nouveau Classical Project will honor pianist Marilyn Nonken with the 2014 NCP Visionary Award at their Annual Benefit in New York City. This award recognizes innovative leaders whose work has made a significant impact on the new music community. In addition to being an incredible musician, Ms. Nonken is the Director of Piano Studies at New York University and recently wrote the book “The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Debussy and Scriabin to the Digital Age,” published by Cambridge University Press. Please read below for an exclusive interview with Ms. Nonken and READart.

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Interview with Marilyn Nonken: Thoughts on New Music and Exploring the World Beyond Pitch and Harmony

RANY: For those who might not be familiar with the genre of “new music”, how would you define it?

MN: It seems strange to me that people ask for definitions of “new music,” as the word “new” usually doesn’t seem to pose challenges. Is a book from 1926 new? Are clothes from the fifties new? Of course they’re not. Music from the 1920s or 1950s is not new, either.  Some listeners assume that certain kinds of music they haven’t heard before must be “new” — when really it is just new to them. So I try to make this distinction. The term “new” is useless to describe music in any meaningful way. Simply put, “new music” means recent music that is made during our lifetime – either by composers who are still living, or from the recent past. For popular music, there are many ways to describe specific styles–Death Metal, Emo, Afropunk, K-pop, Classic Rock. Similarly, there are just as many categories within classical music like Contemporary Classical or Composed Music, and they are just as different from one another. Chance music. New Complexity. Minimalism.  Terms like this can be a place to start. We should be like the Germans and create new words to describe new experiences! The music I’ve been fascinated with for the past few years is known as spectral music, which came out of Paris in the early 1970s and reached New York just around 2000.  In my own artistic life, I feel like I came of age with this music in my ears and in my hands.

 

RANY: At what point in your artistic career did you become interested in new music?  

MN: I was 17 years old and studying classical piano at the Eastman School of Music. I had a close friend whose name was Alton Howe Clingan, and he was a composition major. He wrote fabulous music, inspired by composers of the New Complexity Brian Ferneyhough and Michael Finnissy. It was edgy, colorful, and virtuoso. He had a brilliant cycle of pieces inspired by Yukio Mishima. And he couldn’t get any of our friends–gifted kids our own age destined for careers in music–to play his scores. In that conservative environment,  “new” music was not a priority. It was not valued as part of our training. Most of the teachers seemed to think that music history tanked around the time of World War I, and they conveyed this attitude to their students. To them, playing anything written after that point was optional, and most likely a waste of time.

 

RANY: What are some first repertoire pieces you would recommend for a pianist who is interested in new music? What about first pieces to develop an understanding of extended technique?   

MN: There is no simple answer to this question – the repertoire is so vast! Each pianist must find the composers for whom s/he feels an affinity, and finding these mysterious bridges takes a willingness to explore.For pianists interested in modern music, there are groundbreaking works to study by Olivier Messiaen, Arnold Schoenberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen, or Pierre Boulez.  There was a whole line of composers who moved through Darmstadt in the mid-century–Luciano Berio, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Gyorgy Ligeti, for example — whose piano etudes have become close to “standard” repertoire. Additionally, there is also a wonderful trove of American music that relates back to Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, and Ruth Crawford, and leads up to Elliott Carter, Donald Martino and a subgenre informally known as “Uptown” in New York. Equally germane to this short list is the music of John Cage and the New York School, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, and all of the people they influenced as well, like the Bang-on-a-Can composers. There is a whole world of Minimalist and Post-Minimalist, New Complexity and New Simplicity composers to explore. I always recommend that pianists talk to composers their own age, and find out what they are listening to, and what makes them tick. I still work this way myself. I ask the composers I admire: What do you listen to? What do you want to hear?

Extended techniques are unusual ways of playing an instrument. For example, on the piano, there are ways of making sound apart from the hands on the keyboard, and the feet on the pedals.  One always has to ask if these techniques are effective. As an artist, you want to make certain, if you’re going to do something radical, that you are doing it for a profound musical reason. The works of George Crumb, such as his Makrokosmos I & II, are a good way to get a feel for what extended technique is all about. There is no way to learn how to do this but to roll up your sleeves and get inside! These works are ideal for learning different techniques for playing on the strings (like the harp), and for using simple tools (glasses, chains, thimbles) to create unearthly effects.  For bowing inside the piano–which can be a little treacherous–C. Curtis-Smith’s Rhapsodies piece (1973) is a terrific way to learn this technique. Whenever I’ve had to learn new techniques, I’ve found it invaluable to reach out to other players and get their perspectives on what works, and what doesn’t work. Bowing in the piano is a great example, as the scores for the earliest bowed works required that the pianist create bows out of fishing line, which is a complete nightmare! Thankfully, today there are many good synthetic alternatives that achieve a better tone and adapt well to a range of instruments. Furthermore, there are many pieces that experiment with different ways to use the piano without actually playing on the keyboard. For example, Gerard Pesson’s La lumière n’a pas de bras pour nous porter is a piece I’ve enjoyed touring with this season, which is known for its ingenious use of the keyboard.  Aaron Cassidy’s Ten Monophonic Miniatures and Helmut Lachenmann’s Guero similarly explore this world beyond pitch and harmony.

 

RANY: What is the gender ratio in new music field? Have you come across many notable female composers? 

MN: I’ve been fortunate to work with some extremely talented women composers such as Kaija Saairaho, Liza Lim, Elizabeth Hoffman, Tania Leon, Julia Wolfe, Ursula Mamlok, Augusta Read Thomas, Yu-Hui Chang, Laurie San Martin, and there are more out there! I’ve always been inspired by Chaya Czernowin and Katharina Rosenberger (with whom I haven’t had the chance to work with…yet) :-).  There is a very exciting generation of younger voices, and then there are striking historical examples, like Fanny Mendelssohn, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Ursula Mamlok — who was born in 1923 and is still writing music!  Nonetheless, it has always been, and continues to be a difficult world for industrious women doing serious, challenging work.  Unfortunately, this discourse is not limited to the field music. Women today are still in the minority; particularly those women who are trying to do something seismic or challenging. The notion of “female power” and its unconventional and unbridled expression can often be too much for some people to handle. Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho aptly stated in an interview with the Guardian in 2012 that femininity is “so apparent, so unavoidable” that it inevitably colors the way our work and our contributions are perceived.

 

RANY: You are a very accomplished musician!  You have written a comprehensive book “The Spectral Piano”, performed worldwide in top concert halls, and have been named a Steinway Artist alongside musical greats like Bruce Hornsby, Billy Joel, Diana Krall and Rufus Wainwright. What is next for you?

MN: I would love to learn Hugues Dufourt’s complete Schubert cycle, a set of pieces written over a period of ten years at the turn of the new Millennium, which find their inspiration in Schubert’s settings of Goethe. I have already toured with and recorded one of these pieces; it’s something of a fantasy to do the whole cycle.  I would like to revisit Tristan Murail’s Les travail et les jours, which he wrote for me and I recorded as well. I haven’t had the chance to play it for a few years, and I know I would have a very rich experience, spending more time with this work … it’s like a great book you want to re-read every few years! Furthermore, I would like to expose Murail’s piece to more audiences, as I think the world is ready for it. I am always curious to discover new works, and composers I don’t yet know – I enjoy looking for those mysterious bridges.

 

RANY: What do you have coming up this season, concert-wise? 

MN: I have some exciting concerts coming up. On October 12th at (le) Poisson Rouge, I’m sharing a program with the British pianist Peter Hill. We will play the music of Olivier Messiaen, who died in 1992 and also with whom Peter was very close. The program will feature the fantastic two-piano Visions de l’Amen and the New York premiere of the recently discovered work La fauvette passinerette.  These works are good examples of music that is not “new”: although Visions is from 1943 and La fauvette is from 1961, they will present themselves as “new” to many listeners. I’m playing a solo program in Montreal on October 16th, featuring a work written for me by Boston composer Joshua Fineberg and spectral pieces by Dominique Troncin, Tristan Murail, and Claude Vivier.  In December, I’m especially happy to be returning to Spectrum in New York for a portrait of composer Drew Baker — something of a belated release party for Stress Position, our recording that is now out on New Focus.

Fjords Review to Publish All Women’s Edition with Guest Editors from The Riveter and READart

Fjords Masthead

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 
CONTACT: Fjords Review
John Gosslee, Editor
(708) 320-9807
www.fjordsreview.com

 

Joanna Demkiewicz, Kaylen Ralph and Heather Zises to Guest Edit Women’s Edition of Fjords, Summer 2015

(NEW YORK, NY) October 2, 2014- Fjords Review announces guest editors Joanna Demkiewicz, Kaylen Ralph and curator Heather Zises to edit the upcoming women’s edition of Fjords to premiere on Fjords new app editions in Summer 2015. Demkiewicz and Ralph, founding editors of The Riveter, will select poetry, short stories, and other liteary items. Zises, (READ)art founder, will select artwork for Fjords. The special edition of Fjords will feature authors and artists who identify themselves as women. Submissions open on October 2, 2014 and close on February 1, 2015.

Women writers and artists may submit 3-5 poems, short stories, essays and other literary work. Up to 5 pieces of artwork and single videos of spoken word or other performance arts are accepted for inclusion in Fjords new app editions in Summer 2015. Please include all work in one document with a cover letter as the first page and include cover letter in the provided space for art and video.

Guidelines are available at www.fjordsreview.com

Up & Coming: NCP Annual Benefit Honors Marilyn Nonken with 2014 Visionary Award

NCP Annual visionary award

On October 8th, The Nouveau Classical Project will honor pianist Marilyn Nonken with the 2014 NCP Visionary Award at their Annual Benefit in New York City. This award recognizes innovative leaders whose work has made a significant impact on the new music community. In addition to being an incredible musician, Ms. Nonken is the Director of Piano Studies at New York University and recently wrote the book “The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Debussy and Scriabin to the Digital Age,” published by Cambridge University Press.

The benefit will take place at The DiMenna Center and the evening will feature a concert of classical and new music, fine food and drink, and good company! Supporting NCP means supporting new music, the performers, the creation of new and innovative art, and the emerging artists for whom the group provides valuable opportunities.

MORE ABOUT THE NCP ANNUAL BENEFIT:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 6:30-9:30 pm

6:30 pm Silent Auction & Cocktail Hour by Georgi Vodka

7:30 pm Dinner, Performance & Award Presentation

Benefit Location: The DiMenna Center (map) 450 W 37th St NYC

photo caption: Misaki Matsui

photo caption: Misaki Matsui

ABOUT THE NOUVEAU CLASSICAL PROJECT: The Nouveau Classical Project (NCP) is a hybrid music ensemble and creative production hub that is putting “a new face on classical music” (NPR Deceptive Cadence) and “leading [the] unlikely intersection of classical music and fashion” (The New York Times). Spearheaded by Artistic Director and Pianist Sugar Vendil, NCP’s mission is to re-imagine the concert experience in modern and dynamic ways through adventurous projects, new repertoire, and collaborations with fashion designers, dancers, composers, and more. NCP began by collaborating with fashion designers to create music-inspired looks to be worn by musicians and has since expanded to creating imaginative projects that go beyond the traditional concert format.

Marilyn Nonken

Marilyn Nonken

ABOUT MARILYN NONKEN: Marilyn Nonken is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire of her generation, known for performances that explore transcendent virtuosity and extremes of musical expression. Upon her 1993 New York debut, she was heralded as “a determined protector of important music” (New York Times). Recognized a “one of the greatest interpreters of new music” (American Record Guide), she has been named “Best of the Year” by some of the nation’s leading critics. Nonken’s performances have been presented at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, the Guggenheim Museum, (Le) Poisson Rouge, IRCAM and the Théâtre Bouffe du Nord (Paris), the ABC (Melbourne), Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano (Santiago), the Music Gallery (Toronto), the Phillips Collection, and the Menil Collection, as well as conservatories and universities around the world.

BLOCK par·ti

AW I need to speak to you

BLOCK par·ti

pärtē: the basic scheme or concept for an architectural design reoriented by a diagram]

**BLOCK par·ti has been extended one more week!!   Now on view September 7th-28th, Thursday-Sunday, 12-6pm**

Opening Sunday, September 7 at OffLINE Gallery at CENTRAL BOOKING, BLOCK par·ti includes artworks that serve as diagrams of emotional and physical spaces, through painting, drawing, photography, and mixed media. Using natural and constructed materials, the pieces investigate themes of disconnection and abandonment, informed by geometric and architectural tropes. Featuring work by Charles HeppnerMelissa MurrayRobert SaywitzMarielis SeylerMichael TharpJeff Tse, and Allison L. Wade, the exhibition will be on view September 7 through September 21. BLOCK par·ti is curated by Heather Zises, Founder of (READ)art and Amy Kisch, Founder + CEO of AKArt Advisory

Charles Heppner’s Sanctum Boxes were originally inspired by the meditation practice during the Catholic Lenten season of the Stations of the Cross, during which the Passionis retold in 14 distinct episodes and one is encouraged to mediate on each, applying those lessons to one’s own way of life. After reading a modern interpretation written by the Maryknoll Society, Heppner was moved to create works based on his own interpretation—and subsequently—his own challenges. Each work is a sanctum, often using a cigar box, with images the artist has taken from everyday interactions. The meditations, indicated by the title, focus on ideas such as self-reflection, compassion, and gratitude.

Melissa Murray’s work from her series 246a, entitled after a 300-year-old home on Cape Cod, present her impressions of space, architecture, and the effects of time. The location became a catalyst for metaphors relating to the idea of what a home is, happenings in the outside world and a deeper understanding of what it is for time to pass. While placing focus on the structure, she delved into the theme of internalizing a forgotten space and recreating it, transmuting it through a filter influenced by her life in New York City.

Robert Saywitz’s works from his Graveyard series first appear as stark natural landscapes, but upon closer inspection, are burial grounds composed of discarded objects—killed by overuse or outdated by technology. His Suspended Beliefs look at the constructed, layered, and idiosyncratic nature of storytelling and memory—and their roles within family and history. These visual diaries investigate our ability to suspend the trauma of our waking lives—seeking refuge in the altered state of sleep or in a collective identity. Words, ideas, quotes, and maps find their way into landscapes and portraits as waking life interacts with the unconscious. 

Marielis Seyler’s photographs, through interactions in public and private spaces explore the duality of the constructs and boundaries between nature and mankind. Placing large-format Trample pictures of various subjects in public spaces, she invites viewers to decide what their role in a collective narrative will be, her trampled-upon photographs becoming a record of our response to an invitation to degrade or protect, to partake in the sacred or profane. The artist’s use of imagery creates a narrative that pokes, prods, and laughs—albeit derisively—at our environmental and psychological plight. 

Michael Tharp’s work involves the interplay between the known and unknown, perception, and the semiotics of sense-making. He has been working with freight pallets since the 1990s, as sculptural-painting hybrids, exploring their gaps, and the physicality of their history as ‘transporters’ (and associated ‘damage’ and repair as metaphor for the human condition). The ‘backwards four’ series questions the acceptance and sensibility of ‘sign’ and also provokes an engagement with the self-reflexivity of the plane, as if we have crossed over to the other side. His Google Search Screen Captures focus on one (and only one) Google image word search and the first page of ‘results’ as the new arbiter of the collective Jungian archetype or Platonic ideal. They address the transitory nature of our current digital web age and and algorithmic effect on our knowledge and information. His Pallets in the Wild reference naturalist photography by capturing the pallets in their natural habitats on the streets of NYC, drawing attention to their overlooked ubiquity and underpinnings as transportation and commerce functionality and as found/art objects.

Jeff Tse strives to create imagery that parallels sculpture more so than the two-dimensional photograph—paying close attention to the grace and texture of each object. A driving force in his work is his desire is to translate subliminal aesthetic forms into imagery that is timeless and flawless. A play of light and form, the images focus on beauty found in the natural world, taking on a widely varying set of subjects—from boletus to stone to driftwood. Tse carefully selects specific objects in the same manner in which a sculptor would choose the finest clay with which to work—and those from which he can build and evoke inordinately pleasing forms.

Much of Allison L. Wade’s work deals with relationships and problems inherent in contemporary modes of communication. Her paintings and photographs show text messages that have ended the artist’s own relationships, whether sent by her or to her. The texts featured in Wade’s work are an exposition of one-way communication and social distance. It is easier in our postmodern world to leave a voicemail and now a text message then talk face to face to other people. These new tools in communication put the sender even further away from the recipient.  

Dates + Times
Opening Reception + LES Gallery Walk: Sunday, September 7, 4-8pm
Exhibition: September 7-28, Thursday-Sunday, 12-6pm
Press Reception: Friday, September 12, 6-8pm

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LOCATION

OffLINE at CB
OffLINE at CENTRAL BOOKING
21 Ludlow Street, Unit 1
New York, NY 10002
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CONTACTS

CB_logo_bk
CENTRAL BOOKING 
info@centralbookingnyc.com
AKART LOGO
Amy Kisch, CEO + Founder, AKArt Advisory
amy@AKArt.com
RANY logo
Heather Zises, Founder, (READ)art
hz@readartny.com

UPCOMING OPENINGS: Central Booking, Lehmann Maupin & Paul Kasmin

peter-d-gerakaris-central-booking-evite-floating-world-compresse

With Labor Day swiftly approaching, New Yorkers are savoring final moments at beaches in the Far Rockaways and The Hamptons before their social calendars become flooded with a plethora of events in the concrete jungle. For the NYC art world, the month of September is traditionally stippled with multiple gallery openings and premieres–and this year is no exception.

In just a few weeks, Central Booking will launch its fall season with “Building”, a group show which examines architecture through art. Curated by Maddy Rosenberg, the exhibition will present 2D and 3D works by Yael Brotman, Anne Desmet, Peter D. Gerakaris, Janet Goldner, Estelle Henriot & Aurelia Deniot, Harriet Mena Hill, Joseph Kennedy, Martha Wilette Lewis, Adrienne Moumin, Agnes Murray, Sumi Perera, Pigi Psimenou, Ann Reichlin, Barbara Rosenthal, Robert Saywitz, Carolyn Shattuck, Sarah Stengle and Dannielle Tegeder. An accompanying catalogue will be available through the gallery and will feature essays about the works on view. To read the press release please click here.

OPENING RECEPTION: Friday September 12th, 6-8pm

LOCATION: Central Booking, 21 Ludlow Street, LES

LES GALLERY WALK: Sunday September 7th, 4-8pm 

 

Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future, Nir Hod at Paul Kasmin

Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future

Israeli high realist painter and fashion maverick Nir Hod will present a new body of work at Paul Kasmin.  In his recent series of “Genius” paintings and sculptures Hod depicted aristocratic young men and women whose cherubic cheeks contrast with their scornful expressions and smoldering cigarettes. As Richard Vine wrote in the catalogue for Hod’s survey exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, “From the beginning of his career, Nir Hod has opposed the ideology that labels sumptuousness an esthetic sin. His work openly substitutes the pleasure principle and a fluid multiplicity of selves for the old notions of high seriousness and personal authenticity.” An accompanying catalogue will be available through the gallery and will feature essays about the works on view.

OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday September 11th, 2014, 6-8pm

LOCATION: 515 W27th Street, Chelsea

 

Drawings, Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin

Do Ho Suh, Blueprint drawing

Lehmann Maupin will present Drawings, an exhibition of new works by renowned Korean artist Do Ho Suh. On display at both 540 West 26th Street and 201 Chrystie Street, the exhibition will highlight the significant role and varied forms drawing plays in Suh’s oeuvre. This two-part show will feature the range of his works on paper, including drawings using pencil, pen, ink, and watercolor, his unique “thread” drawings, as well as his large-scale rubbings.

OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday September 11th, 2014, 6-8pm

LOCATION: Concurrent exhibitions at 540 West 26th Street, Chelsea and 201 Chrystie Street, LES

BOOK LAUNCH: Saturday, September 13th, at 540 West 26th Street from 4-6PM

 

 

Celebrity Crush: Portraits by Math-You Namie on View at The Refinery Hotel

Beyonce, Math-You Namie

Beyonce, Math-You Namie

A new exhibition of fresh works by Math-You Namie and Tim Jarosz are currently on view at The Refinery Hotel, a sophisticated New York City boîte located in Midtown.  Presented by Indiewalls, the exhibition will run through December 2014 in the hotel’s central arteries. The partnership between Indiewalls and The Refinery Hotel underscores the hotel’s commitment to remain a cultural ambassador for its guests and to support the artistic community. The exhibition was curated to compliment The Refinery’s thoughtful, sophisticated design (by Stonehill and Taylor), and invites art enthusiasts to peruse the hotel’s impressive design elements and fine art collection throughout the property.

Artist Math-You Namie has a flair for depicting pop icons in a casual, graffiti style, while simultaneously paying tribute to their mesmerizing characters. Executed in an array of unorthodox mediums like bleach, self tanner and coffee grounds, Namie’s edgy celebrity portraits captivate the viewer with their gritty glamour. The paintings compliment the aesthetic of The Refinery so well that they easily could have been commissioned exclusively for the space. Installed above turn-of-the-century telephones and flanked between two modern red leather chairs, Namie’s tableaus accentuate the perennial balance between old and new. Tim Jarosz’s color photographs provide a natural counterbalance for Namie’s raw portraits.  His series highlights the expansive sensibility of the city through emblems of transport like grafittied VW vans, subway cars, and densely stacked buildings. Possessing a modernist bent, Jarosz’s eclectic and colorful images present an exciting contrast to the hotel’s interior designs. His photos practically blink like neon lights against the stark, black wood walls upon which they are installed.

 

 

Van, Tim Jarosz

Van, Tim Jarosz

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Math-You Namie: Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Namie is a graduate of Hunter College and resides in New York City. His work has sold at Sotheby’s three times within the past three years, and he has been featured in GLAAD’s Art Auction and Benefit as well as the Media Awards in New York and LA every year since 2005. Namie has donated work to several chapters of the Human Rights Campaign throughout the country for the past decade. His work portrays a sense of effortless movement and ease through his use of textiles, materials and hand-painting with acrylics. His technique is figurative, employing negative space to graphically reproduce the subjects. Namie’s work can be found at: http://indiewalls.com/matthewnamie

Tim Jarosz: Born and raised in Chicago Illinois,  Jarosz received a BFA in graphic design from Eastern Illinois University. After achieving a career as a graphic designer for studios in and around his home city, he shifted his focus to professional photography He now uses both design and photography equally in his work, and both play a crucial part in creating his signature style. He is an internationally-published artist and has shown his work in galleries around the country. He has started and runs The Studio 312, an art collective and gallery featuring local artists. Jarosz’s work can be found at: http://indiewalls.com/timjarosz1

The artwork on display can be found at: http://indiewalls.com/venueprofile/refinery-hotel-100.

 

ABOUT THE REFINERY HOTEL

Tailored luxury, styled by history, sophisticated at every turn… That’s the blueprint for Refinery – A New York Hotel, the latest addition to Manhattan’s increasingly glorious Boutique Hotel scene. It’s a particularly apt name, for Refinery has truly refined the Boutique Hotel concept: instead of edgy quirk of dubious charm, guests will find a welcome brand of thoughtful, eclectic and intelligent design that layers cues from the past with tremendous contemporary flair.

 

ABOUT INDIEWALLS

Indiewalls is an online hub where property developers and designers come to source artwork from a community of independent and emerging artists for their projects. Indiewalls gives buyers access to artists and installations, and gives emerging artists access to new buyers and projects. Indiewalls is fostering a proliferation of artistic creativity in commercial properties around the world. Indiewalls often works one-on-one with property developers to help oversee the entire curation, production, and logistics of the property’s art collection.

 

 

 

 

The Myth of the Sugar Sphinx: Kara Walker’s Unsweetened Sculptures

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

 

This review was published in Fjords Review on August 28, 2014.

On view at the Domino Sugar Refinery in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is a large-scale public project by art provocateur Kara Walker. Commissioned by Creative Time, the expansive installation—which features sculptures made out of comestible materials—is a raw survey about sugar refinery, trade, slavery and the pitfalls of overconsumption. Even though the factory plant has been closed for a decade, its decrepit walls and rafters remain thickly coated with molasses and the pungent aroma of burning sugar still hangs in the air.

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Docked amidst the shadows of towering girders in the refinery is a ghostly white vessel. Fabricated out of 160,000 pounds of refined sugar and carved polystyrene, the confectionary colossus resembles a reconfigured sphinx of high strangeness. Entitled A Subtlety, aka Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World, the name makes reference to intricate sugar sculptures “soletelties” (or “subtleties”) that bedizened European banquet tables in the middle ages. At a cinematic scale of 40 feet tall and 75 feet long, Walker’s monument is hardly inconspicuous. Fashioned with a cartoonish head of a “Mammy” and the body of a lusty, over-sexualized being, the sculpture is an unnerving hybrid of stereotypes for black women.

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

 

While many people find aspects of Walker’s work raw and unsettling, it is exactly within these areas of discomfort that Walker extracts deep-rooted issues to the surface. That A Subtlety is a blindingly white monument is no coincidence. Quite intentionally, the work functions as a springboard for weighty topics like sexual, physical and racial exploitation. Walker has publicly shared that her work is an attempt to gain a firmer grasp on history, particularly because “the meaty, unresolved, mucky bloodlust of talking about race is where I always feel like the conversation is inconclusive”.So how is A Subtlety to be interpreted? Is she a Guardian? A monument? Or perhaps a destructive female terror, like the Hindu goddess Kali? Interestingly, the etymology of the name “Kali” primarily means “time” but also means “black” in honor of being the first creation before light itself. Not unlike Walker’s glimmering beast, Kali is often presented as dark and violent, but is also conceived as a benevolent mother goddess.

 

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

The subtitle of the piece, Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World points to the processional of life-scale sculptures of black boys staged throughout the factory. Molded out of resin and coated with molasses, the translucent amber figures embody a brûléed past of pain and profit. Wielding woven baskets, the young figurines remind viewers of how sugar cane field labor and slavery “changed our diets” by the 19th century—an observation made by Walker in her exhibition notebook—as the demand for sugar from the New World gained momentum. Quite harrowingly, most of the molasses sculptures on view were decaying –undoubtedly a reference to countless laborers who perished at the expense of refining sugar. Where some figures were caked with golden scabs of streusel, others had collected murky pools of molasses in their baskets and were secreting syrupy puddles onto the factory floor. As thousands of visitors circumnavigated the installation, shoe soles stuck to the ground, reminding them that parts of history are still roiling with unrest.

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

 

Although Walker’s sphinx and her attendants are mute, they have activated a tangle of clamor. For three months, the general public has participated like a Greek chorus as part of Walker’s exhibition. Not since Christo and Jean Claude’s The Gates project in Central Park have crowds queued so thick to ogle a series of monuments (the waiting line to gain entrance to the sugar refinery stretched over a mile long). Once inside, it was nearly impossible to separate the crowd’s interactions with the work from the artwork itself. Sadly, the fact that visitors were shamelessly posing in front of the monument like tourists and making lewd gestures toward anatomical parts exposes how unsophisticated most of our society remains. However, this behavior also reveals Walker’s deep understanding of social mores. Her absurdist sensibility hones right in on our culture’s obsession with self-importance through “selfies”, especially when confronted with controversial or sexually charged backdrops. Furthermore, Creative Time encouraged viewers to post pictures of the exhibition on Instagram, which just perpetuated more mania within our “spectacle culture”.  That said, knowing that art allows the greatest freedom of thought to the viewer, it would seem hypocritical to relinquish that privilege. Besides, who is anyone to define one unilateral form of artistic expression? Perhaps that is a riddle only a sphinx can answer.

 

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

Photo credit: Peter D. Gerakaris

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Kara Walker is a contemporary African American artist whose work is fraught and intersected with issues of race, gender, identity, and sexual politics. She is best known for her panoramic friezes of black, cut-paper silhouettes set against white grounds that pungently address the history of slavery and racism. Through the appropriation of 19th century visual vocabulary, Walker creates provocative antebellum narratives in the form of drawing, painting, text-based work, video, film, performance, and cyclorama. The New York-based artist has been a professor of Visual Arts in the MFA program at Columbia University since 2002, and is the second youngest person to ever receive MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grant.”

 

On Language: Kay Rosen’s New Text-based Works at Sikkema Jenkins

 

Rosen installation shot2

KAY ROSEN: BLINGO

This review was originally published in Fjords Review on June 27, 2014.

Renowned for her text-based works, American artist Kay Rosen uses language as her primary material and subject for her paintings, drawings, editions, and installations. By playing with different approaches to typography and layout, format and scale, space and color, Rosen’s compositions explore the many avenues of language and how it can be represented visually. While a proclivity for puns and vernacular wit allude to the artist’s background in language and linguistics, the adroit use of words as objects and icons reinforces Rosen’s role as an artist who has mastered the interplay between visual and verbal realms.

An exhibition of Rosen’s new works Blingo, is on view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. from May 16 through June 28, 2014. Comprised of acrylic, gouache paintings on watercolor paper, enamel sign painting on canvases and one latex paint wall installation—this current series represents a shift in the way that Rosen constructs relationships between the text and the support. Instead of conforming the size and shape of the canvas or paper to accommodate text, letters and words are customized to fit the picture plane. By placing more focus on the space around the text, Rosen establishes an equal dialogue between content and site. For example, the wall painting Monuments, which is prominently displayed in the entry gallery, equally engages the wall space in two directions. The word “obelisk” is painted vertically from floor to ceiling, just like an upright pillar, and the word “odalisk” sweeps horizontally across the wall, just like a reclining figure on a chaise. Gracefully hinged to each other at the letter “S”, the two words create a fine tension and conceptual harmony through their seamless integration. Rosen states: “Vertical does not trump horizontal; nor upright, prostrate. Male does not trump female. Sculpture does not trump painting. The representation of both ODALISKS and OBELISKS throughout the history of art is equally iconic and illustrious. Any perceived hierarchy is supplied by the viewer.”

Rosen installation shot- Monument

 

Many of Rosen’s word constructions are built upon instrumental pairs that function as a hub of exchange. Through structure and meaning, individual letters offer linguistic evidence that they are also the subjects themselves. Typographical ascenders and descenders, doubled letters, mirror images, and word orientation tend to recall concrete poetry arrangements, but upon closer examination, they serve as visual cues that invite the viewer to consider new ways of reading language. Basic words gain autonomy as signs once they are recontextualized into the pictorial realm. As a result, Rosen’s compositions become activated with vibrant tones of semiotics and semantics. Across the wall from Monuments hangs Marooned: the inaugural piece in the series that began a new dialogue between space and text for the artist. Rosen deliberately outfits the word “marooned” with vast borders of blank paper to underscore its deep isolation in the composition. The burgundy, non-serif letters seem to lay insufferably still like a ship that has unexpectedly encountered shallow waters. While the first three letters of the word “MAR” function as a foreshadowing of murky doom, the last letter “D”—which resembles the stern of a vessel—suggests imminent abandon, especially considering that the only viable option for escape are a pair of lifeboats (as suggested by the doubled letter “O”) are hopelessly wedged into the center of the word.

Marooned_KR

In the main gallery, the walls are neatly arranged with ten other works that quietly invite the viewer to engage in wordplay. InParrot, the grammatical ambiguity between noun and verb creates wonderful slippage between the two. To reinforce the idea of the word as a verb, two rows of letters are vertically arranged in parallel lines that mirror one another. Alternately, “parrot” transforms into a noun through the extra doubling of the letter “R” in the middle line, which conjures the idea of a single bird trilling with a broad, lime green wingspan. Perhaps the most cinematic work in the series is the painting Steps. By dividing the proper name “Fred Astaire” into a series of uneven red-letter planes that diagonally descend from the upper-left corner to the lower-right corner, the work becomes an architectural space. At a glance, the phrase “Red Stair” pops out at the viewer, suggesting famous steps on a red carpet or bleary eyes from too many late nights of Hollywood celebration. The work also maintains a performative aspect, which is created by tiers of text that resist a fluid reading upon first glimpse. In order to decipher the message, the viewer must reduce their reading speed and adopt a rhythmic pace in order to follow Fred Astaire waltzing down the steps of his own name.

Steps_KR

The namesake of the show, Blingo, refers to a digital word game of Bingo popularized by Facebook. Like the standard version, this electronic iteration uses gridded playing cards with letters in the top row and numbers that populate the rest of the allotted boxes. However, the game has been noticeably updated with jolts of flashing color and animated mascots. Although Rosen makes an overt digital detour by keeping her work “analog”, it is possible that she is challenging her practice by appropriating aspects of contemporary awareness into her current series. Works like LOL, whose giggly letters bounce off the baseline with a rapidfire ricochet of “HA”, and *Risk, whose composition resembles a text message with its clever shorthand and shared root word “Aster”, would indicate an inevitable pull into the Millennial sphere. In this digital world, the screens upon which we currently read, write, and communicate tend to be smaller in scale, but remarkably efficient. In order to adhere to this strange phenomenon, perhaps Rosen subconsciously economized her use of text and space to customize her own visual platform.

Parrot_KR

 

Barre Works: Potential Energies, A New Modern Ballet, Premieres at BAM

 

 

Potential Energies poster designed by Mad Anthony; Group photo by Mickey Hoelscher.

Potential Energies poster designed by Mad Anthony; Group photo by Mickey Hoelscher.

Last night RANY attended The Nouveau Classical Project,’s world premiere dance project entitled Potential Energies at BAM Fisher. The hybrid music and production ensemble collaborated with TrioDance Collective to perform a “new modern ballet”. The 50-minute piece which is divided into three acts, each containing three movements, was conceived of and directed by NCP’s founder Sugar Vendil and choreographed by Barbie Diewald to music by composer Trevor Gureckis.

The “non-narrative exploration” (as described by Gureckis) of Potential Energies is largely inspired by the emerging adulthood of the Millennial Generation: How to face the real world after graduating from university? The pressure for success can be so overwhelming that sometimes dreams must be relinquished in order to survive. When faced with losing something after so much longing, hope and hard work, the piece asks: What is the potential of all the energy you spent, both emotionally and physically?

Similar to the Broadway sensation Rent, which captured the cultural zeitgeist of its era, Potential Energies showcases the arduous balancing act of today’s creative artists who volley between hope and survival. This tension is artfully portrayed by Vendil’s idea to add movement into the mix of her ensemble: by pairing each musician with a dancer, the performers face the challenge of transcending their conventional roles in order to represent two aspects of an individual personality.  While the musicians’ limited movements point to a persistent reality, the dancers’ unrestricted motions allude to a fantastical realm filled with lofty visions and creative passions. States Vendil, “To connect a tight thread between art forms is both a priority and a challenge. I have always enjoyed the natural choreography that musicians have while playing, therefore I thought about ways in which those movements might be integrated into a dance piece. While the idea isn’t new, I felt there was room for innovation, and this became the initial premise for Potential Energies.”

Throughout the performance, dancers and musicians interface, become entangled, and struggle for harmony. The opening scene reveals a stark spotlight on cellist Kivie Cahn-Lipman and dancer Allison Beler. Cahn-Lipman stands sturdily over his cello, methodically plucking one note with his fingers; Beler crouches at the base of the cello, eyes fixed upon its strings. Beler begins to play with Cahn-Lipman by wrapping herself around both musician and instrument, producing an unruly wake of creative dissonance. This raw friction notably peaks again during the second act when pianist Vendil endures visual and gestural interference from dancer Cara McGaughey. Like an impetuous child that demands undivided attention from their parent, McGaughey taunts Vendil by covering her eyes as she plays octaves in both hands.  The two performers quickly launch into a compelling tango with tension that feature failed attempts of unshackling Vendil from her piano bench, and rookie puppeteer stunts that temporarily remove Vendil’s fingers from the piano keys while playing. Perhaps it is when the performers deliver synchronized hand gestures that pierce the air (an impressive feat to witness), that the audience is reminded that although the dancers and musicians struggle to exchange languages, they are collectively suffering from the same malaise.

Cellist Kivie Cahn Lipman with dancer Allison Beler (L); pianist and NCP founder Sugar Vendil with dancer Cara McGaughey (R). Photo credit: Emma Tammi and Henry Jacobson.

Cellist Kivie Cahn Lipman with dancer Allison Beler (L); pianist and NCP founder Sugar Vendil with dancer Cara McGaughey (R). Photo credit: Emma Tammi and Henry Jacobson.

The music of Potential Energies was dynamic yet focused. Each movement told a story, but was centered upon a singular point. This minimal structure is parallel to how scenes in a classical ballet unfold, which created a nice bridge between the two mediums. While dancers activated the floorspace with intricate and expansive phrases, the musicians stimulated the airwaves with stylistic vignettes and repetitive structures that make subtle allusions to the work of revered composer Philip Glass (who was in attendance) and Arnold Schoenberg. Melodic fragments made by pianos, strings and woodwinds seamlessly twisted and turned with the movements of the dancers, and also resounded deeply within the empty, in-between moments. The piece as a whole was ultimately energetic and full of potential, and I hope that last evening’s debut inspires other cities to host this ensemble’s nouveau spin on ballet.

Dancers and musicians interface during Potential Energies. Photo credit: Emma Tammi and Henry Jacobson.

Dancers and musicians interface during Potential Energies. Photo credit: Emma Tammi and Henry Jacobson.

No dance performance is complete without a costume, which is where Atelier de Geste, a performance inspired studio and brand, enters the scene.  In order to match the tone of this “ballet noir” performance, ADG Founder and Director Beau Rhee selected a somber palette of fabrics comprised of blacks, charcoal grays and neutrals. The female cast members were outfitted in ADG’s signature Teatro Two-Tone tights (musicians in Calligraphy Ink Black and dancers in Carravaggio Chiaroscuro) and deconstructed ballet skirts which were fashioned out of leather and silk.

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Potential Energies was performed by Laura Cocks, flute; Mara Mayer, clarinet; Marina Kifferstein, violin; Kivie Cahn Lipman, cello; Sugar Vendil, piano. Dancers: Allison Beler, Colleen Hoelscher, Cara McGaughey, Susan Philipp, and Christina Soto.

ABOUT The Nouveau Classical Project: NCP is a hybrid music ensemble and creative production hub that is putting “a new face on classical music” (NPR Deceptive Cadence) and “leading [the] unlikely intersection of classical music and fashion” (The New York Times). NCP began by collaborating with fashion designers to create music-inspired looks to be worn by musicians and has since expanded to pursuing imaginative projects that go beyond the traditional concert format.

 

 

 

 

 

RANY Collaboration with CultureHorde and AKArt during Frieze NY 2014

 

 

Thank you note from Culturehorde

A beautiful thank you to Amy Kisch, Founder and CEO of AKArt for inviting RANY to join forces with her curatorial team and CultureHorde at the vernissage of Frieze NY 2014! We enjoyed leading collector groups around the third edition of the fair and visiting a wide range of galleries (which were selected by AKArt). For those of you who are curious, below is a quick list of our gallery stops. Also, please click here to see CultureHorde’s Facebook page which documented a wonderful evening of art and conversation!

Amy Kisch of AKArt, Amy Sande Friedman, and Heather Zises of (READ)art at ferry dock for Frieze NY 2014

Amy Kisch of AKArt, Amy Sande Friedman, and Heather Zises of (READ)art at ferry dock for Frieze NY 2014

Gallery Booths visited on Collector Tour at Frieze 2014: 

Lisa Cooley, Lower East Side, NY

Pilar Corrias, London, England

Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Alexander Gray Associates, Chelsea, NY

David Kordanksy Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Galeria Jaqueline Martins, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Lehmann Maupin, Chelsea & Lower East Side, NY

Non, Beyoglu, Istanbul

Simon Preston, Lower East Side, NY

Salon 94, Upper East Side and Lower East Side, NY

Jack Shainman Gallery, Chelsea, NY