555 West 24th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through February 24, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
For the first time ever, Gagosian has gathered all nine of Tom Wesselmann’s large-scale “Standing Still Lifes,” made between 1967 and 1981, joined by drawings, maquettes, magazines, photographs, and other paraphernalia associated with the dynamic, colorful works. Melding Pop art with hyperrealism, each work consists of multiple freestanding pieces that depict basic objects, from lipstick, a telephone, sunglasses, and keys to a toothbrush, a framed picture, a cigarette, and an orange. Other subjects include his wife, Claire Selley, and actress Mary Tyler Moore. “In all of my dimensional work I use the third dimension to intensify the two-dimensional experience,” the Ohio-born Wesselmann, who died in New York in 2004 at the age of seventy-three, explained under a pseudonym, Slim Stealingworth. “It becomes part of a vivid two-dimensional image. The third dimension, while actually existing, is only an illusion in terms of the painting, which remains by intent in a painting and not a sculptural context.” The show continues through February 24 at Gagosian’s Twenty-Fourth St. space.
Marianne Boesky Gallery
507-509 West 24th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through February 24, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Burundi-born, Johannesburg-based artist Serge Alain Nitegeka explores space and volume, flatness and depth in “Personal Effects in BLACK,” continuing at both Marianne Boesky Galleries in Chelsea through February 24. Seen from different angles, many of the works seems to have a three-dimensionality — and in fact, several do. His “Colour & Form” series consists of geometric shapes in soft blues, sunny yellows, sharp whites, and dense blacks that seem to emerge from and go deep into the unprimed plywood. A pair of “Form Ephemeral” pieces actually do extend off the wood like wall sculptures. And in one of the two galleries, the five objects that comprise “Personal Effects” are like unfinished paintings gathered on the floor. Nitegeka has connected the two galleries with a site-specific installation through a narrow corridor filled with black bars partially blocking the way, a kind of maze.
“Black is brute darkness,” Nitegeka explains about the exhibit. “An intangible destructive mass that is dense and viscous, weighing me down deep into silence. It puts me into a state of overwhelming appreciation and meditation — a space of unknown emptiness and depth. There is an uninterrupted silence, and nothing is familiar. It is there as I drift in and out of sleep, where I wander blindly, arms stretched outwards trying to clutch onto something. I move about in a majestic solitude of colors and forms. My mind blank and hands busy. The once straight lines bend evenly into curves as I learn to surrender.” Nitegeka develops his pieces spontaneously rather than planning out every detail, resulting in shapes and colors that are unexpected and abstract. In several works the raw plywood shows through, acting like a floor or a table. “I know that no one is exempt from the heaviness of the unknown,” he adds. “At the end of the day, while we close our eyes asleep in the black, the heaviness catches up. No one is spared. Black is ever constant.”
SUMMER WITH MONIKA (SOMMAREN MED MONIKA) (Ingmar Bergman, 1953)
209 West Houston St.
February 23, 24, 26, 27, March 3
Series runs February 7 - March 15
Swedish director Ingmar Bergman shocked the film world in 1953 with the controversial Summer with Monika, the tale of two young lovers who run away from their families and go on a brief but intense sexual adventure. The film featured full-frontal nudity by Harriet Andersson, with whom Bergman had a short relationship; the movie was actually edited down by distributor Kroger Babb to focus on the sex and nudity, renaming it Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl! and marketing it to US audiences as an exploitation picture. But Film Forum is screening the superb original version as part of its five-week centennial celebration of Bergman’s birth. Based on the 1951 novel by Per Anders Fogelström, Summer with Monika takes place in a working-class area of Stockholm, where Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (Harriet Andersson) toil away in a glassware factory. Harry lives with his ailing father (Georg Skarstedt), while Monika sleeps in her family’s kitchen. Both teens are bored with their already dull and unfulfilling lives. So when they meet in a café, the bold, forward Monika lures the shy, fragile Harry into what begins as a summer of fun, as they steal Harry’s father’s boat and head out to their own private hideaway, but ends up as something very different. Bergman boils down an entire relationship — courtship, romance, children, breakup, in a way a precursor to his later epic, Scenes from a Marriage — into ninety-seven sharp, intuitive moments, turning clichéd plot twists into subtle statements on life and family. Cinematographer Gunnar Fischer shoots the film in a dark, gloomy black-and-white, with stark close-ups — Monika stares directly into the camera at one point, challenging the audience — and long shots of water and nature, while Erik Nordgren’s score is kept spare, with Bergman favoring natural sound and light.
Andersson, who would go on to make many more films with Bergman, including Sawdust and Tinsel, Smiles of a Summer Night, Cries and Whispers, and Fanny and Alexander, is enticing as Monika, who doesn’t mind stepping on people’s souls while asserting herself as an independent woman, while Ekborg, who had a small part in Bergman’s The Magician, shows plenty of vulnerability as Harry, who wants to do the right thing and is ready to at least try to be a grown-up when things get complicated. The film is still shocking after all these years, and still rings true. “I want summer to go on just like this,” Monika says. But there are always other seasons, and more summers, to come. Summer with Monika is screening February 23, 24, 26, and 27 and March 3 in the Film Forum series, which continues through March 15 with such other seasonal Bergman works as Smiles of a Summer Night, Summer Interlude, and Autumn Sonata.
HOUR OF THE WOLF (VARGTIMMEN) (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)
February 24 and 28, March 1, 2, 5, 9
One of Ingmar Bergman’s most critically polarizing films — the director himself wrote, “No, I made it the wrong way” three years after its release — Hour of the Wolf is a gripping examination of an artist’s psychological deterioration. Bergman frames the story as if it’s a true tale being told by Alma Borg (Liv Ullmann) based on her husband Johan’s (Max von Sydow) diary, which she has given to the director. In fact, as this information is being shown in words onscreen right after the opening credits, the sound of a film shoot being set up can be heard behind the blackness; thus, from the very start, Bergman is letting viewers know that everything they are about to see might or might not be happening, blurring the lines between fact and fiction in the film itself as well as the story being told within. And what a story it is, a gothic horror tale about an artist facing both a personal and professional crisis, echoing the life of Bergman himself. Johan and Alma, who is pregnant (Ullmann was carrying Bergman’s child at the time), have gone to a remote island where he can pursue his painting in peace and isolation. But soon Johan is fighting with a boy on the rocks, Alma is getting a dire warning from an old woman telling her to read Johan’s diary, and the husband and wife spend some bizarre time at a party in a castle, where a man walks on the ceiling, a dead woman arises, and other odd goings-on occur involving people who might be ghosts. Bergman keeps the protagonists and the audience guessing as to what’s actually happening throughout: The events could be taking place in one of the character’s imaginations or dreams (or nightmares), they could be flashbacks, or they could be part of the diary come to life. Whatever it is, it is very dark, shot in an eerie black-and-white by Sven Nykvist, part of a trilogy of grim 1968-69 films by Bergman featuring von Sydow and Ullmann that also includes Shame and The Passion of Anna. Today, Hour of the Wolf feels like a combination of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining with elements of Mozart’s The Magic Flute — which Bergman would actually adapt for the screen in 1975 and features in a key, extremely strange scene in Hour of the Wolf. But in Bergman’s case, all work and no play does not make him a dull boy at all. Hour of the Wolf is screening February 24 and 28 and March 1, 2, 5, and 9 in Film Forum’s centennial celebration of the birth of Ingmar Bergman.
PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
February 23-25, March 1-3, 7
Ingmar Bergman’s magnificently complex 1966 avant-garde masterpiece, Persona, is not just about the relationship between an actress who has suddenly decided to stop speaking and the young nurse caring for her but about the very power of film as a narrative device able to explore and examine the psychological behavior of characters both fictional and real. Persona opens with mysterious, penetrating music by Lars Johan Werle joined by the sound and image of a movie projector as the reel counts down from ten, featuring snippets of an erect male member, a cartoon, a child’s hands, a comedic silent ghost story, a tarantula, a bleeding slaughtered lamb, and a nail being hammered through a man’s palm before the camera takes viewers inside a hospital where a boy in a bed (Jörgen Lindström) starts reading Mikhail Lermontov’s mid-nineteenth-century book A Hero of Our Time, which the author describes as “a portrait, but not of one man only. . . . You will tell me, as you have told me before, that no man can be so bad as this; and my reply will be: ‘If you believe that such persons as the villains of tragedy and romance could exist in real life, why can you not believe in the reality of Pechorin?’ . . . Is it not because there is more truth in it than may be altogether palatable to you?” That passage relates to Bergman’s oeuvre as a whole but particularly to Persona, a film about identity, storytelling, and the medium itself.
Bergman muse Liv Ullmann stars as Elisabet Vogler, an actress who suddenly stops talking while onstage in the midst of a play and continues her silence as she is hospitalized in an institution. Her doctor (Margaretha Krook) is sure there is nothing seriously wrong with Elisabet, that her refraining from speech is a choice based on the horrors she sees in the world. “Reality is diabolical,” she tells her, before sending Elisabeth and Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) to her cottage on Fårö Island, hoping the isolation will help ease her fears. On the island, Alma opens up about her own life, particularly about sex, but as the two women grow extremely close, they are also torn apart, both by the narrative and the celluloid, which rips and burns halfway through, setting up a chilling conclusion that is part existential thriller, part ghost story, and very much a sharp, incisive look deep into the human psyche. Filmed in haunting black-and-white by Sven Nykvist and including numerous dazzling, experimental shots, Persona is a grand cinematic achievement, an intense work that expanded the boundaries of what the medium can do. In his 1990 book, Images: My Life in Film, Bergman wrote, “Today I feel that in Persona — and later in Cries and Whispers — I had gone as far as I could go. And that in these two instances, when working in total freedom, I touched wordless secrets that only the cinema can discover.” Indeed, “wordless secrets” abound in Persona, one of Bergman’s most penetrating and mesmerizing tales. Even the title holds additional meaning, as “persona,” in Latin, originally referred to the mask an actor wore that represented the character they were playing onstage. Persona is screening February 23-25 and March 1-3 and 7 in Film Forum’s Ingmar Bergman Centennial Retrospective.
Abrons Arts Center, Underground Theater
466 Grand St. at Pitt St.
February 22-25, $20
Abrons Arts Center and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York have joined forces for the US premiere of Compagnie l’heliotrope’s Pollock, a riveting show about the tempestuous relationship between Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, who met in 1942, married in 1945, and stayed together, through good and bad — primarily Pollock’s alcoholism and infidelities — until his death in a car crash in 1956. Written by Fabrice Melquiot and directed by Paul Desveaux as part of a trilogy about American artists that also includes works about Janis Joplin and Diane Arbus, Pollock unfurls like one of Pollock’s paintings, nonlinear, experimental, and abstract, forming an intense and entertaining whole. Pollock (Jim Fletcher) and Krasner (Birgit Huppuch) tramp barefoot across Desveaux’s set, which features a pair of transparent plastic canvases, a small kitchen area, and microphones at either side, where Pollock and Krasner share some of their tale. The stage is a metaphor for Pollock’s thoughts; “Jackson Pollock drags on his cigarette and now he’ll go / into / into the bar that functions as his head / Jackson Pollock’s head is a bar not a head all I serve in my bar is pure genius no ice it rips out your tonsils plucks off your uvula,” the Wyoming-born Pollock says. Brooklyn native Krasner adds, “That’s what genius is / Pollock / It’s on your face like a mark of shame you’d like to hide but it’s got you in its grip / It won’t let go will never let go drink all you like Pollock you’ll never escape it / It’s how you’re made it’s there it’s / It’s on your face on every one of your paintings poor love my poor love and because your face lets you see where to put your feet like the paintings help you stand up straight / You keep your beautiful face for all to see and tuck your crutches under your arm / Then your genius explodes / You don’t wanna fall flat on your face.”
The couple cuddle and argue, smoke cigarettes, drink from bottles, interview each other, dance, paint, and name-drop such friends and colleagues as Hans Hoffmann, Tony Smith, Pablo Picasso, Andre Derain, Pierre Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and Alexander Calder. They speak in poetic rhythms — the English translation is by Kenneth Casler and Myriam Heard — as they relate various aspects of their relationship, including events after Pollock’s death in a one-car accident that might have been a suicide; Pollock’s mistress at the time, Ruth Kligman, was in the car too but survived. “Painting / And killing myself / I don’t do anything else,” Pollock says. A moment later, Krasner examines a Pollock painting using mathematics and fractal density. “You’re exactly what I wasn’t expecting this evening,” he says. It’s not exactly what the audience was expecting either, but Pollock is an insightful and entertaining exploration of love and the creative process. Fletcher (Isolde, The Evening), a longtime member of Richard Maxwell’s New York City Players and who most recently played Lemmy Caution in Why Why Always at Abrons, Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty’s multimedia adaptation of Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, inhabits Pollock’s mind, body, and spirit, giving an expert performance that is complemented by Huppuch’s (Men on Boats, Telephone) bold, beautiful portrayal of Krasner, just as Pollock was complemented by Krasner. Many of the scenes and much of the dialogue were inspired by real episodes, as Melquiot and Desveaux drip, scratch, and splatter the elements together to come up with an impressive theatrical canvas.
Doc Fortnight 2018: George (Jeffrey Perkins, 2017) and Carolee, Barbara, and Gunvor, (Lynne Sachs, 2018), MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves., 212-708-9400, Wednesday, February 21, $12, 7:30
“Art and Practice with Carolee Schneemann,” MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave. at 46th Ave., 718-784-2084, Thursday, February 22, free with advance RSVP, 6:00
Exhibition continues at MoMA PS1 Thursday - Monday through March 11, suggested admission $5-$10, free for NYC residents
MoMA PS1’s “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” is a revelatory exploration of the career of the immensely influential multidisciplinary artist. The seventy-eight-year-old Pennsylvania-born Schneemann will reveal yet more this week during two special programs. On February 21 at 7:30, she will be at MoMA for the world premiere screening of Lynne Sachs’s Carolee, Barbara, and Gunvor, a nine-minute short about Schneemann, Barbara Hammer, and Gunvor Nelson, which is screening with Jeffrey Perkins’s George, about George Maciunas and Fluxus, as part of “Doc Fortnight 2018: MoMA’s International Festival of Nonfiction Film and Media.” Schneemann, Perkins, and Sachs will participate in a discussion after the films; in addition, Alison Knowles will re-create her interactive 1963 piece Shoes of Your Choice. (MoMA PS1 will also be hosting “An Evening in Honor of Carolee Schneemann,” a screening and discussion on March 5 with Melissa Ragona, Jenny Jaskey, Branden W. Joseph, and the artist.) “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” continues through March 11, an expansive two-floor survey that shines a light not only on Schneemann’s well-known feminist video and performance pieces but her exceptional paintings and sculptures. Superbly curated by Sabine Breitwieser with consulting curator Branden W. Joseph and organized at MoMA PS1 by Erica Papernik-Shimizu with Oliver Shultz, the show takes deep looks at such Schneemann works as Meat Joy, in which a group of people roll around with raw beef, chicken, and fish; Interior Scroll, in which Schneemann pulls a long strip of paper from her vagina and reads the contents; and Up to and Including Her Limits, for which she strapped herself in a harness and used her body to draw on a surface. In 1993, Schneemann declared, “I’m a painter. I’m still a painter and I will die a painter. Everything that I have developed has to do with extending visual principles off the canvas.” For the Abstract Expressionist Pinwheel, a white-gloved staff member will spin the painting upon request. Like Joseph Cornell, she made shadowbox-type works, and her collections of sharp, often aggressive detritus hang on the walls like three dimensional paintings. Colorado House is a “failed” painting turned into a freestanding sculpture. Magnetic audio tape falls out of the bottom of One Window Is Clear — Notes to Lou Andreas Salomé, a tribute to the Russian-German psychoanalyst and writer.
“My work can take substance from the materials I find,” Schneemann wrote to French poet and activist Jean-Jacques Lebel in 1964, which helps explain Blood Work Diary, a visual document of her menstrual flow. For Body Collage, a naked Schneemann, coated in wallpaper paste and molasses, rolls around in paper shreds. Her body is also one of the main subjects in Fuses, a film in which she makes love with her then-partner, James Tunney, while her beloved cat, Kitch, hangs around nearby. Kitch can be found in several works, but it’s Cluny (and later Vesper) who Schneemann gets perhaps a little too close to in Infinity Kisses. Meanwhile, Vulva’s Morphia is so hot that Schneemann includes four electric fans to cool off the thirty-five vaginal depictions, with such text as “Vulva decodes feminist constructivist semiotics and realizes she has no authentic feelings at all; even her erotic sensations are constructed by patriarchal projections, impositions, and conditioning.” That statement gets to the heart of Schneemann’s six-decade oeuvre, taking back the female body, and the power that comes with that, and redefining it, with no limits. Particularly in the era of #MeToo, “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” is an extraordinary exhibition by an extraordinary artist who has never been afraid to make the private public, and political.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Through February 25, $25 suggested admission
There’s something very pure about the paintings of English artist David Hockney, so directly enchanting that Randall Wright’s 2015 documentary about him was simply called Hockney and the Met’s grand retrospective, which closes February 25, is titled David Hockney, no further description needed. I called the film “a wonderful documentary that celebrates not only the artist but his work and process, which comes alive on the screen, digital technology allowing the paintings and photographs to pop with their brilliant colors. If you didn’t appreciate Hockney’s talent before, this documentary will change your mind about it. And if you already were a fan of him and his work, this film will make you love him even more.” The same can be said of the Met show, including the digital aspect; the first major survey of Hockney in New York City in thirty years features the digital triptych “View through the Artist’s Bedroom Window, Bridlington” that reveals the development of a trio of images made on an iPad. Celebrating his eightieth birthday, the show comprises more than eighty painting, drawing, photographs, and video works as Hockney, over the course of nearly sixty years, goes from abstraction to realism, from portraits to landscapes, from 1960’s “Love Painting,” when he was still at the Royal College of Art, to 2017’s “Interior with Blue Terrace and Garden.”
Hockney was born in Bradford, England and has lived on the Yorkshire Coast and in the Hollywood Hills. He still paints every day, with a sparkling control of color, form, and space that instantly engages viewers making their way through the galleries, divided into “Early Works,” “Los Angeles,” “Pair Portraits,” “Sketches & Photocollages,” “Assembled Views,” “Roads & Landscapes,” and “Blue Terraces.” He didn’t hide from his sexual identity in his paintings, even though homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom until the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. Many of his classic works are on view: 1967’s “A Bigger Splash,” a spectacularly rendered backyard pool with a small home, part of a diving board, and two tall palm trees set against a blue sky, a bravura example of his use of line and geometric shapes; 1964’s homoerotic “Man in Shower in Beverly Hills”; 1980’s swirling, mazelike “Nichols Canyon”; and 1986’s chromogenic print “Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #1,” which focuses our gaze on the word “stop” three times, an instruction that we, and Hockney, have no intention of obeying.
But the show goes much deeper. “One of the surprises for me is how varying he was,” curator Ian Alteveer says in a Met video. “He, at a very young age, was expressing themes of queerness and of difference and displaying them very proudly in his work.” This is perhaps best exemplified by 1963’s “Domestic Scene,” in which a nearly naked man washes the back of a fully naked man taking a shower in a bucket, and 1960’s “The Third Love Painting,” which includes a large phallic object and a quote from Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard at the Close of the Day,” among other text. Meanwhile, the gems keep coming, from such double portraits as “American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman),” “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy,” “My Parents,” and “Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy” to the Matisse/Picasso-inspired “V.N.” paintings and depictions of the Grand Canyon, art dealer John Kasmin, onetime lover Peter Schlesinger, artist Ron Kitaj, and his longtime manager and former companion Gregory Evans. You’ll leave the show feeling gleeful and chipper, ready to bask in the glow of the world outside while excitedly wondering what Hockney will come up with next.
Fresh Step’s Cats on Glass pop-up show, continuing in Robert Miller Gallery’s Chelsea space through Presidents Day, is a sweet-natured celebration of all things feline, a tribute to our whiskered friends who essentially rule the world, all in the name of a new kitty litter. Not only are you encouraged to take lots of pictures, but if you post a photo or story on Instagram, you will receive a pair of cat sunglasses.
The “Larger than Life” room honors the historical power of cats in “Larger than Life,” consisting of several large-scale pussies standing on small podiums so you may “Treasure the Monumental” and bow at their majesty.
Feline fanciers can take a break by sitting on a furry seat, putting on cat-ear headphones, and finding “purr-vana” in the Me-owm Meditation Room, which welcomes visitors with a neon “Meowmaste” sign and offers everyone a chance to meditate alongside an imaginary cat in their mind.
Everyone is invited to get on all fours and “Revel in a Cat Daydream” in the Pom Pom Room, an area filled with colorful pom pom garlands and balls hanging from above and reaching toward the comfy floor carpet, where there are objects to bat at like playful kitties.
In the lobby are small cat paintings and mirrors that lead to the mane event, the Live Cats on Glass Playhouse, where you are given the opportunity to “Admire Cats from a Totally New Purr-spective.” On the walls are large-scale photographs of cats that are available for adoption. In one corner, you can put giant kitty heads on and see the world through a cat’s eyes.
But the centerpiece is the deluxe Live Cats on Glass Playhouse, a series of rooms, encased in Plexiglass, about six to seven feet off the ground, where cats can run around, play with other cats, hide in corners, and mew away. Visitors are able to walk under the structure and watch the cats from beneath, looking up at their toe beans pushed against the glass, see them being taken out of and put back into their carriers, or slightly pet them through small holes and slits.
Roberto was not happy until he was joined by his brother, Craig. Geisha ruled from a spot that was clearly just for him. And Twinkle wasn’t sure what to do and where to go.
And finally, people can interact with some of the animals in a separate room, with the possibility of giving one of them a forever home. Once the Chelsea exhibit ends, it is likely that Fresh Step will take the show on the road, sharing feline joy around the country.