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


brand new art frmo china

Who: Barbara Pollack
What: Conversation, gallery talk, book signing in conjunction with publication of Brand New Art from China: A Generation on the Rise (Tauris, $25, September 2018)
Where: James Cohan Gallery, 291 Grand St., and Pace Gallery, 537 West Twenty-Fourth St.
When: Thursday, September 20, 6:00, and Tuesday, September 25, 6:00
Why: In 2010, when twi-ny interviewed art critic, curator, teacher, and writer Barbara Pollack about her book The Wild, Wild East: An American Art Critic’s Adventures in China, she said, “In New York, I am just another person trying to make a living by writing about art. But in China, I get treated like a star critic with a certain degree of power.” Pollack’s well-deserved prominence is evident in her follow-up, Brand New Art from China: A Generation on the Rise, which features a quote on the front from Ai Weiwei, who says, “Frank, honest, and full of passion. . . . a rare and precise insight.” A good friend of twi-ny’s, Pollack herself is certainly frank, honest, and full of passion. (Full disclosure: Pollack’s literary agent is also twi-ny’s business manager.) Pollack is indeed a superstar in China, where artists clamor for her to write about their work. The new book explores such Chinese artists as Cao Fei, Chen Tianzhuo, Chen Zhou, Gao Ling, Guan Xiao, Jin Shan, Li Liao, Liu Wei, Qiu Xiafoei, Zhang Xiaogang, and Xu Zhen, in such chapters as “The Last Chinese Artists,” “The Me Generation,” and “Post-Truth.” Here’s a brief excerpt about Xu:

There are many occasions when Xu Zhen has eschewed references to Chinese culture entirely or mixed up symbols so seamlessly that the only reaction could be total confusion. At one of MadeIn’s first exhibitions, the company produced an entire survey of “art from the Middle East,” combining aesthetic strategies from conceptual art practices with just enough stereotypes of the war-torn, Islamic-dominated region to evoke a Middle Eastern identity. There were mosques made of Styrofoam and Charlie Hebdo political cartoons woven into tapestries. There were sculptures made of barbed wire and a field of broken bricks set on an invisible waterbed, so the ground seemed to move like a silent earthquake. When these works were shown at James Cohan Gallery in New York in 2009—with the title “Lonely Miracle: Art from the Middle East”—most visitors had no choice but to assume these were products of a collective of Arab artists, which was exactly the point. In this globally driven art world, it is easy to fake ethnicity. All it takes is a bit of irony and just enough cultural references to add locality to the mix.

Barbara Pollack and Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei supplied a quote for Barbara Pollack’s latest book on Chinese art (photo by Joe Gaffney)

Pollack will be at James Cohan Gallery on September 20 at 6:00, in conversation with Xiaoyu Weng, the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation associate curator of Chinese art at the Guggenheim, followed by a book signing. On September 25 at 6:00, she will lead the gallery talk “Zhang Xiaogang & the Future of Chinese Art” at Pace in Chelsea, where “Zhang Xiaogang: Recent Works” is on view through October 20. To get a taste of Pollack’s thoughts on Zhang’s earlier work, here’s another excerpt from the book:

So, Zhang Xiaogang’s emphasis on a Chinese identity is not the result of isolation and ignorance of Western art practices but a reaction to his initial embrace of those trends. In Europe, he faced his crisis head-on by seeing the masterpieces of Western art history and feeling as if there was nothing more he could add to that legacy. Back in China, however, he was surrounded by a new cultural experience that could not be captured through Western iconography and symbols. His rejection of the West was not total. Instead, he embraced an approach that allowed for innovation in both Western and Chinese traditions for art.


Nova Ren Suma will be celebrating the launch of her latest book September 4 at McNally-Jackson

Nova Ren Suma will be celebrating the launch of her latest book September 4 at McNally-Jackson

Who: Nova Ren Suma, Melissa Albert
What: Book launch of A Room Away from the Wolves (Algonquin Young Readers, $18.95) by Nova Ren Suma
Where: McNally Jackson, 52 Prince St., 212-274-1160
When: Tuesday, September 4, free, 7:00
Why: Seven years ago, Nova Ren Suma gave the first public reading of her debut young adult novel, Imaginary Girls, at This Week in New York’s tenth anniversary party on the Lower East Side. Since then, Suma has become a YA superstar, earning numerous accolades and starred reviews for that book as well as 2013’s 17 & Gone and 2015’s The Walls Around Us, developing a reputation for her unique forays deep into the teen psyche, exploring a slightly twisted reality with more than a touch of the supernatural. For the launch of her fourth YA novel, A Room Away from the Wolves, Suma, who was raised primarily in and around the Hudson Valley and now lives in Philadelphia, will be back in Gotham on September 4 to celebrate the launch of the book at McNally Jackson on Prince St. “Living in New York City was my childhood dream and made my heart full for more than twenty years,” Suma, a former colleague, told me. “The last thing I did before I moved away was finish the final revision of this book, the first novel I ever wrote set in the city I love. I had to come home for the very first event — I couldn’t launch the book anywhere else.” The book itself was partly inspired by Suma’s “possible-maybe ghost sighting” at Yaddo and her use of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’s writing studio.

Here’s the first paragraph to give you a taste of her immense skill and expert craftsmanship:

When the girl who lived in the room below mine disappeared into the darkness, she gave no warning, she showed no twitch of fear. She had her back to me, but I sensed her eyes were open, the city skyline bristling with attention, five stories above the street. It was how I imagined Catherine de Barra herself once stood at this edge almost a hundred years ago, when the smog was suffocating and the lights much more dim, when only one girl ever slept inside these walls of stacked red brick.

At McNally Jackson, Suma will be joined by managing editor Melissa Stewart, author of The Hazel Wood (Flatiron, January 2018, $16.99), for a reading, conversation, and signing. “When I read the opening pages of The Hazel Wood, I pretty much swooned,” said Suma, who also leads popular workshops, teaches in the MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and recently started the online YA short-story anthology Foreshadow with Emily X. R. Pan. “The book is fantastically imaginative, gorgeously told, and deliciously dark — everything I love. I can’t wait to talk city fairy tales, mother/daughter stories, and embracing all things weird and wild with Melissa Albert.” If you can’t make it to the event, you can order a personalized, signed copy of A Room Away from the Wolves here.


NYPL explores the 1960s counterculture movement in multimedia exhibit (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

NYPL explores the 1960s counterculture movement in multimedia exhibit (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwartzman Building
D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall
Daily through September 1, free

The New York Public Library revisits one of the most turbulent eras of American history in “You Say You Want a Revolution: Remembering the 60s,” which continues at the main Manhattan branch through September 1. Part of Carnegie Hall’s citywide “The ’60s: The Years that Changed America,” the show features photographs, art, letters, documents, video, music, propaganda, and more, divided into “Get My Soul Free: Consciousness,” “Wang Dang Doodle: Sexuality and Gender,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: The New Left,” “Bad Moon on the Rise: War in Vietnam,” “I’m Black and I’m Proud: Civil Rights and Black Power,” and “Back to the Garden: Communal Life,” exploring the counterculture and its legacy. John Updike defends the war in Southeast Asia. Tom Wolfe takes notes for what would become The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Film clips celebrate Woodstock and Hair. Buttons declare, “Black Is Beautiful.” The death of the hippie is memorialized in Haight-Ashbury. Psychedelic posters announce happenings. Patty Hearst reinvents herself as Tania. Gloria Steinem has something to say to the New York Times. And Uncle Sam wants out. There are also listening booths where you can act as your own DJ, choosing songs from hundreds of albums arranged politically. Free tours will be held at 12:30 and 3:30 Monday through Saturday and Sunday at 2:00.


Black Panther

Black Panther is screening for free in Cunningham Park on August 6

The free summer arts & culture season is under way, with dance, theater, music, art, film, and other special outdoor programs all across the city. Every week we will be recommending a handful of events. Keep watching twi-ny for more detailed highlights as well.

Sunday, August 5
Movies Under the Stars: Escape to Witch Mountain (John Hough, 1975), Beach 94th St. off Shorefront Parkway in Rockaway Beach, 8:00

Monday, August 6
Movies Under the Stars: Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018), Cunningham Park, Queens, 8:00

Tuesday, August 7
signs & symbols: artists & allies, group exhibition opening featuring work and discourse, with live performances and discussions continuing every Thursday night through September 7, signs & symbols, 102 Forsyth St., 6:00

Wednesday, August 8
Hip to Hip Free Shakespeare in the Park: All’s Well That Ends Well, directed by Owen Thompson, Flushing Meadows Corona Park at the Unisphere, continues in repertory with King Lear at various parks through August 25, Kids & the Classics workshop at 7:00, show at 7:30

Wild Style will celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary with special guests on August 9

Wild Style will celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary with special guests on August 9 in East River Park

Thursday, August 9
SummerStage: Wild Style 35th Anniversary Reunion at the Amphitheater with special guest DJ Funk Flex, with Almighty Kay Gee, Busy Bee, Charlie Ahearn, DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore, DJ Tony Crush, Eclipse, EZ AD, Grand Master Caz, Patti Astor, and Rodney C and preshow hip-hop dance workshop with Fabel, East River Park Amphitheater in John V. Lindsay East River Park, 6:00

Friday, August 10
Lincoln Center Out of Doors: West Side Story Reimagined, with Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band and poetry by La Bruja and Rich Villar, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 7:30

Saturday, August 11, 18, 25
Norte Maar’s Dance at Socrates, with Kristina Hay and Hilary Brown | HB² PROJECTS and Gleich Dances with Sarah Louise Kristiansen on August 11, Movement Migration | Blakeley White-McGuire and Project 44 | Gierre Godley with Janice Rosario & Company on August 18, and Kyle Marshall Choreography and Kathryn Alter and Dancers with Thomas/Ortiz Dance and konverjdans on August 25, Socrates Sculpture Park, 4:00

Sunday, August 12
Blues Brunch with Bill Sims Jr., Bryant Park Southwest Porch, 12 noon


Brooklyn’s Alex Mali will perform as part of Brooklyn Museum’s August First Saturday free programming

Brooklyn’s Alex Mali will perform as part of Brooklyn Museum’s August First Saturday free programming

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, August 4, free, 5:00 - 11:00

The Brooklyn Museum starts preparing for the annual West Indian Day Parade with the August edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter Alex Mali, the Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Dance Festival, with Dance Caribbean Collective, the Sabrosura Effect, Project of ContempoCaribe, KaNu Dance Theater, and Bloodline Dance Theatre, followed by a Q&A; a Fiyah Fit movement workshop with choreographer Jessica Phoenix; a caribBEING House mobile art center; a hands-on workshop in which participants can create noisemakers for the West Indian Day Parade, inspired by instruments in “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas”; Drink and Draw sketching of live models from mas camps, with sounds by Rodney Hazard; pop-up gallery talks by teen apprentices on Caribbean art and stylistic influences in the museum collection; pop-up poetry with Rico Frederick, Erica Mapp, and Camille Rankine of Cave Canem; and the community talk “Organizing Caribbean Communities in Brooklyn” with Ernest Skinner, Dr. Waldaba Stewart of the Medgar Evers Caribbean Research Center, Ninaj Raoul of Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, and Albert Saint Jean of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “William Trost Richards: Experiments in Watercolor,” “Infinite Blue,” “Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.


A Hawaiian hale offers a place to gather in center of exhibit (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

A Hawaiian hale offers a place to gather in center of Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at New York Botanical Garden (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The New York Botanical Garden
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, LuEsther T. Mertz Library Art Gallery
2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx
Tuesday – Sunday through October 28, $10-$28
hawai‘i slideshow

In 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe was offered a commission from the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, later known as Dole, to go to Hawai‘i and create artwork for an ad campaign. The fifty-one-year-old famous artist accepted the proposal, taking it as a chance to explore a state she had never visited before. It turned out to be nine weeks that reshaped her art and her views of nature and beauty; the New York Botanical Garden, which has previously celebrated the work of such artists as Claude Monet and Frida Kahlo, is now exhibiting “Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i,” a lovely show that details the flora of what would become the fiftieth state in the Union in 1959, as experienced by O’Keeffe. Twenty of the Wisconsin-raised O’Keeffe’s paintings are on view in the garden’s sixth-floor LuEsther T. Mertz Library Art Gallery; they were last seen as a set in 1940 at an American Place, the midtown gallery run by her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. “If my painting is what I have to give back to the world for what the world gives to me, I may say that these paintings are what I have to give at present for what three months in Hawai‘i gave to me,” O’Keeffe wrote in her artist statement for the show. “Maybe the new place enlarges one’s world a little. . . . Maybe one takes one’s own world along and cannot see anything else.” The NYBG display includes “Waterfall — No. 1 — ’Iao Valley — Maui, 1939,” a green mountain range with a narrow stream of water flowing down the center; the gorgeous “Hibiscus with Plumeria,” an extreme close-up of the flowering plant; and, side-by-side, the two works that the Hawaiian Pineapple Company eventually used in their ad campaign, “Heliconia’s Crab’s Claw Ginger” and “Pineapple Bud.” Outside the gallery are large-scale reproductions of photos O’Keeffe took in Hawai‘i, a digital version of her sketchbook, and copies of the ads in magazines.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Two of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawai‘i paintings were used in ad campaign (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Two floors down is the short documentary Off in the Faraway Somewhere: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Letters from Hawai’i, in which Sigourney Weaver narrates excerpts of letters O’Keeffe sent back home to Stieglitz, who is voiced by Zach Grenier. “It was as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen,” O’Keeffe wrote about the ocean views. Down the hall is “Flora Hawaiiensis: Plants of Hawai‘i,” a history of flora on the Hawaiian Islands, divided into native plants, canoe plants (brought by the first human visitors), and post-contact plants, introduced after Captain James Cook’s 1778 landing there. The walk to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory along Garden Way is lined with hanging lights by Hawaiian-Chinese sculptor Mark Chai inspired by plants in O’Keeffe’s paintings; in the round pond is “Heliconia Loop,” the large, circular hole in the middle serving as a kind of viewing scope for the surrounding trees. (As a bonus, the work lights up at night.)

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory celebrates Georgia O’Keeffe’s love of Hawai‘i both inside and out (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The centerpiece of the exhibition is, of course, the display in the conservatory, where hundreds of plantings have been added to create a Hawaiian-like atmosphere. The colorful plants and trees, both inside and outside, include heliconia, pineapple, kava, breadfruit, lotus, white angel’s trumpet, bird-of-paradise, hibiscus, cup of gold vine, Hawaiian tree fern, flamingo flower, ti plant, coconut palm, ohia lehua, jackfruit, red rosemallow, Arabian coffee, taro, banana, Maui wormwood, screw-pine, frangipani, sacred lotus, sweet-potato, sugar cane, candlenut tree, Indian-mulberry, air-potato, Malaysian-apple, and bottle gourd, among others. Visitors can take a break in a traditional hale, a structure made of wooden poles, natural cords, and a pili-grass thatched roof, all surrounded by plants. In conjunction with the Poetry Society of America, poems on white boards pop up on the path, by Brandy Nālani McDougall (“Māui,” “Red Hibiscus in the Rain,” “Yellow Orchids”), Puanani Burgess (“Awapuhi”), Kahikāhealani Wights (“Koa”), Sage U’ilani Takehiro (“Kou Lei”), Juliet S. Kono (“Silverswords”), and several by former US poet laureate W. S. Merwin (“Islands,” “Remembering Summer”). “I am looking at trees / they may be one of the things I will miss most from the earth / though many of the ones I have seen / already I cannot remember,” Merwin writes in “Trees.” Curated by Theresa Papanikolas, PhD, of the Honolulu Museum of Art, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i” more than establishes just how unforgettable the state can be.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The heliconia is one of the many plants that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe when she was in Hawai‘i (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The exhibit is supplemented with special events throughout its run, which ends October 28. On July 28 and 29, Celebrate Hawai‘i Weekend features “The History of Hawaiian Tattooing,” “‘Iolani Palace’s Queen Gowns,” and the NYBG Fashion Walk. “Aloha Nights” ($18-$38) take place on August 4 and 18 and September 1 and 8, with an evening viewing, interactive storytelling hula lessons, lei-making demonstrations, and live music. Hula Kahiko and Hula Auna demonstrations will be held on Saturdays and Sundays through September 30. And artisan demonstrations of coconut kiʻi puppet-making, lei-making, Hawaiian instrument crafting, poi-making, and more are set for Saturday and Sunday afternoons as well. E hauʻoli!


(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

You can relax with a wide range of poetry at eighth annual festival on Governors Island (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Colonels Row, Governors Island
Saturday, July 28, 11:00 am - 7:00 pm, and Sunday, July 29, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, free (donations accepted)
new york city poetry festival slideshow

In his 1850 essay “The Poetic Principle,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty.” You can engage with the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty this weekend at the eighth annual New York City Poetry Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday all around Colonels Row on Governors Island. The free fête features three main stages — the White Horse, the Algonquin, and Chumley’s — in addition to numerous pop-up areas and the Ring of Daisy open mic, with presentations by more than six dozen organizations and collectives and hundreds of professional and amateur poets. Saturday’s headliners are Danielle Pafunda and Ladan Osman, while Sunday’s are Nico Tortorella and Terrance Hayes. The celebration of literature is sponsored by the Poetry Society of New York, partnering with Writopia, Visible Poetry Project, and ThinkOlio. Among the many presenters are Red Lips Woman Productions, the Adroit Journal, Argos Books, Brooklyn Poets, Art Kibbutz, Blaqlist Group, NYRB Poets, St. Rocco’s Readings for the Dispossessed, the Poetry Brothel, the Dysfunctional Theater Company, Antrim House Books, Sarah Lawrence College, Jackie Robinson Poetry Day, La Pluma Y La Tinta, Cave Canem, Pen Pal Poets, the NY Browning Society, Pelekinesis, the Italian American Writers Association, Underground Books, Strange Fangs Song Factory, and the Writer’s Studio. Of course, Poe also wrote, in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, “Words have no power to impress the mind with the exquisite horror of their reality.”