This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001


Angélica Negrón will be telling musical stories at free Super Sabado at El Museo del Barrio

Angélica Negrón will be telling musical stories at El Museo del Barrio for free Super Sabado celebration of books

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Ave. at 104th St.
Saturday, April 19, free, 12 noon – 5:30 pm

For the April edition of its free Super Sabado program, El Museo del Barrio celebrates the written word with “Mad About Libros.” From 12 noon to 3:00 on April 19, you can head over to the educational ArteXplorers Family Corner in the lobby or take part in a Manos a la Obra workshop where you can make your favorite book character. At noon and 2:00, in conjunction with Colorin Colorado, singer and actress Flor Bromley will be in the café, telling the stories of Librito and Juan Bobo and the Magic Book; composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón will share the participatory musical tale of Amigos at 1:00 and 3:00. From noon to 4:00, there will be a book fair outside the museum. And at 4:30, Roger Cabán of Poetas con Café will host poetry readings by Myrna Nieves, Jesus Papoleto Meléndez, and others. In addition, you can check out the special exhibition “Museum Starter Kit: Open with Care” as well as “Presencia: Works from El Museo’s Permanent Collection,” featuring pieces by Luis Mendez, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Oscar Muñoz, Benvenuto Chavajay, Christian Cravo, Roberto Juárez, Fernando Salicrup, Rafael Tufiño, and more.


Rayya Elias and Elizabeth Gilbert will be at powerHouse on April 2 for launch of HARLEY LOCO paperback

Rayya Elias and Elizabeth Gilbert will be at powerHouse on April 2 for launch of HARLEY LOCO paperback (photo by Bill Miller)

powerHouse Arena
37 Main St. at Water St., Brooklyn
Wednesday, April 2, free (advance RSVP appreciated), 7:00

“This book is the story of my life,” Rayya Elias writes in the first chapter of the painfully poignant yet ultimately inspiring Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side (Penguin, March 2014, $16). “This is my truth, and it may not be pretty, but I own it.” Pretty it isn’t, as the Syrian-born Elias details her battles with drug addiction, her time in prison, her struggles with sexual identity, and her eventual recovery from a shocking rock bottom. Clean since August 1997, Elias is a gregarious woman with an infectious personality that lights up a room. She “always wanted to be the center of attention,” she notes in the book, and she’s spent much of the last year doing just that, promoting Harley Loco — the title refers to her Rikers Island nickname — around the world. A musician, filmmaker, hair stylist, and major football fan, Elias will be at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena on April 2 for the launch of the paperback edition of her memoir. She will once again be joined by her close friend Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of such books as The Signature of All Things and Eat, Pray, Love who wrote the introduction to Harley Loco. Last fall, we appeared on Elias’s sports-and-fantasy podcast, “Football Riffs and Chicks,” and now she is returning the favor, answering intimate questions for a very personal twi-ny talk.

twi-ny: You just lost your pitbull, Ricky. How are you doing?

Rayya Elias: Well, the grief comes and goes. It’s only been a few days since he passed, so I’m still in shock, I think. Ricky was my kid and companion for thirteen years, so there is a huge gaping hole in my heart. We were meant for each other; he was beaten up quite dramatically (used as a bait dog), and he had the scars to prove it, yet he was so good inside. We did quite a bit of healing together.

twi-ny: For the last year, you’ve spent a lot of time on the road promoting your memoir. What’s that experience been like, especially as you have to keep going back over some very difficult times in your life?

Rayya Elias: Writing the book was the ultimate cathartic experience for exercising those demons. Sometimes, when I was in the midst of working on the book, I doubted my own memory because it was almost too much to grasp. It got pretty deep.

twi-ny: What’s been the best part of the tour?

Rayya Elias: When I was on the road promoting it, it became like a testimonial. My favorite part was that people came out of the woodwork to tell me their stories, whether it was an eighteen-year-old child who had gone missing due to drugs or a gray-haired lady who related to being fat as a kid or being bullied as a teenager. So many people wanted to be heard because they related to many parts of my story. That’s what really kept me in the zone.

twi-ny: How about the worst?

Rayya Elias: There is no worst. Honestly, I love all of it. It’s something I’ve longed for, so I’m taking it all in, the hotels, the road food, even the airports, and especially when friends I haven’t seen in years show up at a reading/performance, I love it.

twi-ny: Is there a question that you’ve been surprised you haven’t been asked yet?

Rayya Elias: Not really; people have pretty much dissected it. I was really happy that a college radio station in Brisbane, Australia, asked about methadone detox. No one in the States really bothered giving that one any thought. I was pretty grateful, as I have a strong opinion about it!

twi-ny: You’re very good friends with Elizabeth Gilbert. How did the two of you meet?

Rayya Elias: Liz and I have been friends since the year 2000. She came into my studio and needed an intervention. Not a drug intervention like I was used to, but a hair intervention. I cut her hair and we told each other stories. She was writing for GQ at the time and asked me to style a story that Mary Ellen Mark was shooting. We clicked on a level that neither of us really understood. It was deep, and very real, and she became a part of my life. Then, many years later, she bullied me into writing my memoir. Ha!

harley loco

twi-ny: Do you want to offer a sneak peek at the powerHouse event? For example, will you have your guitar with you?

Rayya Elias: I will absolutely have my guitar, and I will play a few songs. A new one is called “Touch the Ground,” inspired by Liz’s book The Signature of All Things. I recorded it, and with Barb Morrison producing, it sounds amazing.

twi-ny: Last November, we appeared on “Football Riffs and Chicks.” That was a lot of fun. Will there be another season?

Rayya Elias: I loved having you and Ellen on “FR&C”; it was so much fun. Yes, I will definitely do it again; this year I will concentrate a little more on fantasy, I think.

twi-ny: Your fantasy football team, which is named the Pittbulls, after Ricky, finished in a three-way tie for the best record in our fantasy football league. Were you happy with your team’s performance?

Rayya Elias: I’m never happy with my team’s performance unless I win. My guys were getting hurt every week, so I really had to study and pick up the next best available athlete for the position. It was hard going. I can’t imagine what the real live sport is like for the coaches. That’s why I’m in awe of the game.

twi-ny: You were born in Syria and still have family there; how has the political situation there affected them and you?

Rayya Elias: It’s been extremely difficult. The country is torn, my family is torn, my heart is broken for the Syria I visited just four years ago. I spent Christmas and New Year’s with family in Aleppo and Damascus. Now they are struggling and I haven’t heard from some of them in quite some time. No one saw it coming because the country seemed to be on the verge of a tourism breakout and everything seemed to be going well.

twi-ny: Okay, so you’re a writer, musician, hair stylist, podcast host, filmmaker, and big-time football fan; what’s next for you?

Rayya Elias: I’m wrapping my head around a new book, a novel of sorts. I’ve never tried to write fiction, but I’m gonna give it a whirl. Music is something that is constant in my life, so that’s a given. The rest is up to what inspires me. I’m the type of person who loves to be involved in creative endeavors and make stuff. Once an idea enters my head and my heart, it starts to take over my being, and once it’s too much to hold in, then I gotta let it out. If I can’t keep it in, I gotta let it out!


Lisa Anne Auerbach will activate her “American Megazine” on Friday nights at the Whitney Biennial (photograph © Lisa Anne Auerbach)

Lisa Anne Auerbach will activate her “American Megazine” on Friday nights at the Whitney Biennial (photograph © Lisa Anne Auerbach)

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.
Through May 25, $18 (pay-what-you-wish Fridays 6:00 - 9:00)
Many programs require advance registration and/or tickets

The 2014 Whitney Biennial, the last to be held in Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith’s 1960s building on the corner of Madison and Seventy-Fifth, is another mixed bag, further complicated by the curious decision to have three floors organized by three different curators, creating a more disjointed survey of the state of American art than usual. Perhaps the best time to take in this year’s model is when you get the added bonus of a special performance or program, many of which require advance RSVP or tickets. On May 7 at 7:30 ($8), the curators, Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner, will participate in a roundtable discussion with Jay Sanders that should shed plenty of light on their choices, but there are lots of other events as well. From April 2 to 6 in the second-floor Kaufman Astoria Studios Film and Video Gallery, Academy Records and Matt Hanner present the concurrent film loop The Bower with the three-hour audio No Jets, combining visuals of a cherry tree with audio of flight delays immediately following the events of September 11, while Gary Indiana’s Stanley Park merges images of a Cuban prison with shots of jellyfish. Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst’s twenty-three-minute short, She Gone Rogue, plays April 2-6 and 9-13 in the lobby gallery. On April 4, New York City teens in grades nine through twelve are invited to a free artist workshop led by the collective My Barbarian; the program continues April 11 with Joshua Mosley. On Friday nights through May 23, Lisa Anne Auerbach will activate her large-scale American Megazine on the third floor.

Miguel Gutierrez and Mickey Mahar team up for dance performance that examines midcareer anxiety (photo by Eric McNatt)

Miguel Gutierrez and Mickey Mahar team up for dance performance that examines midcareer anxiety (photo by Eric McNatt)

On April 6 at 4:00, James Benning’s re-creation of the 1969 classic Easy Rider will be shown in the Kaufman gallery in conjunction with Julie Ault’s “Afterlife: a constellation.” Composer Robert Ashley and director Alex Waterman will present the world premiere of their opera, Crash, April 10-13 ($20); their Spanish-language TV opera, Vidas Perfectas, runs April 17-20 ($20), while their reimagined speaking opera, The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer and Unknown Accomplices for Crimes Against Humanity, with Amy Sillman, Wayne Koestenbaum, Mary Farley, and Barbara Bloom, plays April 23-27 ($20). Fred Lonidier will lead a teach-in on April 11 at 7:00 that looks at art and labor. On April 12 and 26 ($10 per family), Whitney Wees offers kid-friendly tours and workshops for families with children ages four to five, in addition to the sketching tour “Sculpture and Drawing” for families with kids ages six to ten ($10); also on April 12, Mosely will be leading an Artist’s Choice Workshop for families with children ages eight to twelve ($10), and the Open Studio program, for kids of all ages, will examine Sheila Hicks’s “Pillar of Inquiry / Supple Column.” (Other family workshops are scheduled for April 26 in the Whitney Studio, May 2 with Dan Walsh, May 10 for kids with autism and with My Barbarian, and May 17 with Sara Greenberger Rafferty.) From April 16 to 20, Taisha Paggett will debut a new performance piece in the lobby gallery. On April 17 at 7:00 ($8), Miguel Gutierrez and My Barbarian’s Alexandro Segade have put together “Take Ecstasy with Me,” an evening of performances and reflections by Kalup Linzy, Jacolby Satterwhite, Nao Bustamante, Jorge Cortiñas, A. L. Steiner, Kate Bush Dance Troupe, Juliana Huxtable, and others, inspired by the work of the late Cuban theorist José Esteban Muñoz; Gutierrez will perform the duet Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/ with dancer Mickey Mahar April 23 – May 4 ($20).

Anthony Elms, Stuart Comer, and Michelle Grabner will discuss their curatorial choices at May 7 panel discussion (photo by Filip Wolak)

Anthony Elms, Stuart Comer, and Michelle Grabner will discuss their curatorial choices at May 7 panel discussion (photo by Filip Wolak)

On April 18 at 7:30, Kevin Beasley, with Leon Finley and Christhian Diaz, will present the interactive audio piece “Public Programs in Sonic Masses.” (Beasley will also host a teen workshop on May 2 and activate his sound sculptures on May 14 at noon, May 16 at 1:00, and May 17 at 3:00 in the lobby gallery.) On April 26 at 6:30 ($8), Triple Canopy will investigate “Media Replication Services.” Doug Ischar’s Come Lontano, Tristes Tarzan, and Alone with You will screen April 30 – May 4 in the Kaufman gallery. On May 1 at 6:30 ($8), Joseph Grigely will deliver a “Seminars with Artists” lecture about communication and miscommunication, followed by Susan Howe’s talk on the “telepathy of archives” on May 14 at 6:30 ($8) and Amy Sillman examining the materiality of color on May 22 at 6:30 ($8). On May 6 at 7:00 ($8), Ault, Benning, and William Least Heat-Moon will discuss “Histories of Place.” On May 11, Travis Jeppesen will read his novel The Suiciders in a durational performance on the third floor. And on May 19 at 7:00 ($8), Dawoud Bey will lead a roundtable Conversations of Art discussion about the portrayal of southern blacks during the civil rights movement. Tickets are available in advance for all of the above events that require an additional fee, as indicated in parentheses; some free programs require preregistration, so don’t hesitate if you want to attend any of these Whitney Biennial bonuses.


Matthew Pillsbury, “Sitting on the High Line, Thursday, November 10, 2011” archival pigment ink print

Matthew Pillsbury, “Sitting on the High Line, Thursday, November 10, 2011,” archival pigment ink print (image courtesy Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York)

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore
547 West 27th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Wednesday, March 12, suggested donation $5, 6:30
Exhibition continues through March 27

In such series as “Screen Lives,” “Time Frame,” and “City Stages,” French-born photographer Matthew Pillsbury has taken pictures of New York and other urban locations (London, Paris, Vancouver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Miami) with a black-and-white eight-by-ten camera, using exposures ranging from a few minutes to an hour. The results are mysterious, mesmerizing photos that capture several moments in time at once, a kind of past, present, and future rolled together in an often ghostly evocation of an alternate reality mimicking our own. “City Stages” features such locales as Zuccotti Park, the High Line, the Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library, and Washington Square Park in addition to such events as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Village Halloween Parade, and the Lunar New Year Parade, while “Time Frame” goes to the Guggenheim, Grand Central, and the American Museum of Natural History; “Screen Lives” features more personal interiors, with shots of people in rooms with a television on. In conjunction with his current show at Aperture, Pillsbury will be at the Chelsea gallery on March 12 at 6:30 to lead a tour of the exhibition and to sign copies of his first monograph, City Stages (Aperture, October 2013, $55.25), which contains works from all three series. The “City Stages” exhibit will remain on view through March 27 at Aperture; in addition, Pillsbury’s “Nate and Me,” which focuses on the photographer and his former partner who still works with him, is running at Sasha Wolf on Orchard St. through April 20.


Multiple venues
February 28 - March 2, free with advance RSVP

For the fifth annual Festival Neue Literatur, a half dozen up-and-coming German-language authors, two each from Germany (Olga Grjasnowa, Abbas Khider), Austria (Milena Michiko Flašar, Maja Haderlap), and Switzerland (Melinda Nadj Abonji, Richard Weihe), will meet with two established American writers (Monique Truong, Keith Gessen) to contemplate the role of reading and writing in today’s quickly changing global society in conjunction with this year’s theme, “Border Crossings.” The three-day festival begins at 1:00 on February 28 at Deutsches Haus Columbia with “Encounters Across the Ocean,” which pairs the six European novelists with six students each from the Department of Germanic Languages and the Creative Writing Program. On March 1 at 6:00 at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, curator Tess Lewis will moderate “Memory and Language: Angels or Demons,” a discussion with Haderlap, Nadj Abonji, Michiko Flašar, and Truong that addresses such questions as “To what extent does language determine identity and one’s understanding of the world?” and “Is the fickleness of memory a burden or a liberation?” Sunday begins with a noontime Literary Brunch at Deutsches Haus NYU in which the six European writers will read from their works; German fare will be served. Things come to a close on Sunday night at 6:00 at McNally Jackson with “Search for Roots: Exile’s Revolving Doors,” with Grjasnowa, Khider, Weihe, Gessen, and moderator Lewis examining the questions “Are we all ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ now?” and “What is rootedness today?” As preparation, the 2014 reader, which includes samples of works from the six German-language writers and promises that you will “discover famous Austrian, German, and Swiss authors nobody in the U.S. has heard of,” can be downloaded for free here.


Jonny Briggs, “Filling the Void,” C-print, 2013 (photo courtesy Julie Meneret Contemporary Art)

Jonny Briggs, “Filling the Void,” C-print, 2013 (photo courtesy Julie Meneret Contemporary Art)

Julie Meneret Contemporary Art
133 Orchard St.
Wednesday, February 26, free, 6:00
Briggs exhibition continues Wednesday - Sunday through March 30

British photographer Jonny Briggs will be making his U.S. debut this week with the solo show “Monstrares,” running February 26 through March 30 at Julie Meneret Contemporary Art, a new gallery that opened this past fall on Orchard St. on the Lower East Side. In his work, Briggs, the 2011 winner of the Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4’s New Sensations Prize, explores his memories of childhood and family, brought to life in carefully staged installations using latex molds in photographs that are not digitally manipulated. “In search of lost parts of my childhood I try to think outside the reality I was socialised into and create new ones with my parents and self,” he explains in his artist statement. “I look back to my younger self and attempt to recapture childhood nature through my assuming adult eyes.” His work evokes that of Bernardí Roig, Ron Mueck, Will Ryman, and even a hint of Cindy Sherman, while the title is a sly combination of the Latin word for “show” or “display” and the English word “monster.” The opening-night party on February 26 will feature special guest Saskia Hamilton, who will read poems she wrote that were inspired by Briggs and his photography. Hamilton, who is the title subject of the Ben Folds and Nick Hornby song “Saskia Hamilton” (“I’ve only ever seen her name on the spine / But that’s enough I wanna make her mine”), has previously published such poetry books as Divide These and As for Dream; her latest, Corridor, is due in May from Graywolf Press.



On February 7, 1964, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr landed at JFK to a wild welcome as they came to America for the first time to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. New York City is paying tribute to that seminal moment in the history of the Fab Four with Fabmania Week, featuring a host of special events celebrating this golden anniversary. The centerpiece of it all is the fortieth anniversary of the Fest for Beatles Fans, taking place February 7-9 at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown ($32.50-$225). Among the many guests are Cousin Brucie (broadcasting live), Donovan, Billy J. Kramer, Peter Asher, Chad & Jeremy, Freda Kelly, Bob Guren, and Allan Tannenbaum; the Fest also features a re-creation of the Cavern Club, screenings of Ryan White’s Good Ol’ Freda, a marketplace of memorabilia, look-alike and costume contests, and yoga sessions in an ashram, in addition to book signings, art exhibitions, and other tributes. On February 6, Donovan, Asher, Kramer, Kelly, Vince Calandra, and moderator Martin Lewis will take part in the friends-of-the-Beatles panel discussion “It Was 50 Years Ago Today . . . Celebrating 50 Years of the Beatles in the USA” at the 92nd St. Y ($15-$29, 8:15). The Morrison Hotel Gallery exhibit “50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ First US Tour,” curated by Julian Lennon, opens on February 7 and runs through February 28, consisting of twenty-five images, some never before shown in public, of John, Paul, George, and Ringo taken by such photographers as Ken Regan, Charles Trainor, Curt Gunther, Robert Whitaker, Rowland Scherman, and Terry O'Neill.

Curt Gunther’s photograph of the Beatles playing with slot cars is included in Morrison Hotel Gallery exhibit curated by Julian Lennon (photo © Curt Gunther, 1964)

Curt Gunther’s photograph of the Beatles playing with slot cars is included in Morrison Hotel Gallery exhibit curated by Julian Lennon (photo © Curt Gunther, 1964)

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will be home to the multimedia exhibition “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!” from February 6 through May 10, examining the effects Beatlemania had on American pop culture during the mid-1960s, comprising interviews, instruments, posters, music, and an oral history booth where fans can share their own memories; there will also be a free symposium on February 9 in the library’s Bruno Walter Auditorium with presentations by Bruce Spizer (“The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America”), Dennis Elsas (“It Was 50 Years Ago Today — The Beatles Invade America”), Chuck Gunderson (“Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of the 1964 Summer North American Tour”), Allan Kozinn (“Studio Days / Touring Years”), and Russ Lease (“The Drop-T Logo and the Most Significant Drumkit in Popular Music History”), emceed by curator Robert Santelli. On February 8, the Town Hall will hold the “America Celebrates the Beatles’ 50th Anniversary All-Star Concert” ($63-$272, 7:30), with a wide-ranging lineup playing songs by and inspired by the Liverpudlian quartet, including Melissa Manchester, Tommy James, Al Jardine, Danny Aiello, Marshal Crenshaw, Larry Kirwin, Aztec Two-Step, Melanie, along with appearances by such Beatles fans as Dick Cavett, Len Berman, the Amazing Kreskin, and Charles Grodin. And on February 8 & 9 at 1:00, the Paley Center will present “The Beatles Invasion 50-Year Celebration: See the Fab Four on the Big Screen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” with showings of the complete Ed Sullivan Show broadcast from February 9, 1964, and the Maysles brothers’ original What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A. documentary.