NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts and other NYU locations
566 La Guardia Pl. between Third & Fourth Sts.
October 17-28, free with advance RSVP
This past May, Karl Marx would have turned two hundred years old. The NYU Skirball Center is celebrating his bicentennial with twelve days of special free programming honoring the man who wrote, “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” Audiences can also determine if they want to contribute to the performances based on supply and demand and their own consciousness; the events are all free with advance RSVP but donations are welcome. The “Karl Marx Festival: On Your Marx” begins October 17 at 7:30 with London-based Bulgarian performance artist Ivo Dimchev’s one-hour show, P Project, in which people from the audience will get paid by agreeing to do spur-of-the-moment things involving words that begin with the letter “P.” For example, Dimchev will present them with tasks that might involve such words as Piano, Pray, Pussy, Poetry, Poppers, etc. On October 18 at 6:00, NYU professors Erin Gray, Arun Kundnani, Michael Ralph, and Nikhil Singh will discuss “Racial Capitalism” at the Tamiment Library. On October 19 at 9:30, DJs AndrewAndrew will spin Marxist discs along with readings by special guests from Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.
On October 19 and 20 at 7:30, Brooklyn-based Uruguayan dancer and choreographer luciana achugar will present the world premiere of Brujx, which explores ideas of labor. On October 22 at 6:30, Slavoj Žižek will deliver the Skirball Talks lecture “The Fate of the Commons: A Trotskyite View.” On October 23 at 5:30, NYU professors Lisa Daily, Dean Saranillio, and Jerome Whitington will discuss “Futurity & Consumption” at the Department of Social & Cultural Analysis. On October 24 at 4:00, author Sarah Rose will talk about her 2017 book, No Right to Be Idle at the eighth floor commons at 239 Greene St. On October 25 at 5:30, luciana achugar, Julie Tolentino, and Amin Husain will join for the conversation “Labor, Aesthetics, Identity” at the Department of Performance Studies. On October 26 at 7:30, Malik Gaines, Miguel Gutierrez, Latasha N. Nevada Diggs, Ryan McNamara, Seung-Min Lee, and Alison Kizu-Blair will stage “Courtesy the Artists: Popular Revolt,” a live-sourced multimedia work directed by Alexandro Segade and Amy Ruhl. The festival concludes October 28 at 5:00 with Ethan Philbrick’s Choral Marx, a singing adaptation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s Manifesto for the Communist Party, performed by Benjamin Bath, Gelsey Bell, Sarah Chihaya, Hai-ting Chinn, Tomás Cruz, Amirtha Kidambi, Brian McQueen, Gizelxanath Rodriguez, and Ryan Tracy.
For a year, Dale Chihuly’s “Rose Crystal Tower” has stood tall on the median by the southeast corner of Union Square Park, but it’s set to come down October 5. Presented by NYC Parks, the Union Square Partnership, and the Marlborough Gallery, the thirty-one-foot-high sculpture, made of Polyvitro crystals and steel, is part of the fiftieth anniversary of the Art in the Parks program. The seventy-seven-year-old, internationally renowned, Tacoma-born Chihuly has been working with glass since the late 1960s; oddly, he was blinded in his left eye by glass in a car accident in 1976. “New York City’s energy, architecture, and rich creative history is formidable and it continues to offer infinite inspiration for artists,” Chihuly, whose “CHIHULY” exhibition was on view last year at the New York Botanical Garden, said in a statement.
You don’t have to be a clothing aficionado or a Catholic to be awed by the Met’s spectacular exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” There’s a good reason why it has become the institution’s third most popular show ever (after the 1963 presentation of the Mona Lisa and the 1978 blockbuster “Treasures of Tutankhamun”), welcoming more than a million visitors: It’s a sensational display, superbly organized by Andrew Bolton. Continuing through October 8, “Heavenly Bodies” is spread across the Met Fifth Ave., in the medieval galleries, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, the Robert Lehman Wing, and the Anna Wintour Costume Center, as well as the Met Cloisters, totaling more than sixty thousand square feet. Mannequins dressed in jaw-dropping outfits line hallways, gather on pedestals, appear in surprising places, and interact with installations, revealing the influence Catholicism and art have had on fashion, and vice versa.
“Some practicing Catholics might perceive certain fashions shown as indelicate or even offensive, either for their retrograde and reactionary associations (by the liberal left) or for their sacrilegious and blasphemous implications (by the conservative right),” Bolton writes in his catalog introduction. “Similarly, there might be concerns on the part of Catholics and non-Catholics alike that fashion is an unfitting and unseemly medium by which to convey ideas or reflect imagery related to the sacred and the divine. Dress, however, is central to any discussion about religion: it affirms religious allegiances and, by extension, asserts religious differences.”
At the Met Fifth Ave., a row of colorful dresses refers to the ecclesiastical fashion show from Federico Fellini’s Roma. Hierarchical clothing and habits appear in front of medieval tapestries. Thierry Mugler’s tenth-anniversary collection, “The Winter of the Angels,” consists of celestial figures, while Jeanne Lanvin’s dresses are inspired by Fra Angelico paintings. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s “ex-Voto” evening ensemble is paired with Byzantine copper panels depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. An evening dress by Gianni Versace has a bold cross running down the entire front, inspired by a Byzantine processional cross he saw at the Met. A haunting choir row in robes by Cristóbal Balenciaga stands high above. John Galliano’s evening ensemble for the House of Dior looks like it could be worn by Jeremy Irons as the pope in The Borgias. In the Costume Institute, actual papal finery is on display, real items worn by religious leaders, shown in vitrines but not on mannequins.
At the Cloisters, there are several tableaux in which a figure is placed in such a way as to create a narrative, most effectively with a woman seen primarily from the back in a wedding dress by Balenciaga as she waits alone in the Fuentidueña Chapel while “Ave Maria” plays on a loop, along with another wedding dress, by Marc Bohan for the House of Dior, worn by a woman in the Langon Chapel. The Garden of Eden is re-created in the Glass Gallery with garments by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino, Raf Simons for Christian Dior, and Jun Takahashi that include direct references to such famous works as Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Thom Brown incorporates the Met’s famous Unicorn Tapestries into a wedding dress in that room. Chiuri and Piccioli’s daring red dress in the Merode Room is based on the virgin in “The Annunciation Triptych” (and is echoed in a small stained-glass image of Jesus behind it), on view nearby. Galliano’s stunning black gown for Dior in the Gothic Chapel mimics the crypts and armor surrounding it. Gaultier’s “Guadalupe” boasts a knife plunged through a dripping heart. Classical music echoes in each hall and gallery.
Another star of the show is Shay Ashual, who created the remarkable wigs and hairstyles on the mannequins, artworks in their own right that bring an unusual and engaging aspect to the wide-ranging couture. In his catalog essay, “A Vision of Beauty: Fashioning Heaven on Earth,” C. Griffith Mann writes, “Beauty and its role in visualizing the holy was a fundamental preoccupation of medieval thinkers, artists, and patrons.” As “Heavenly Bodies” so lovingly and intelligently demonstrates, the same is still true today, so make your pilgrimage before it’s too late.
There’s an intrinsic challenge about making a documentary about a photographer: How to portray the artist’s work, silent, still pictures of a moment in time, in a medium based on sound and movement. In Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, producer, director, and editor Sasha Waters Freyer attacks that issue by delving deep into many of Winogrand’s photographs, lingering on them as friends, relatives, and colleagues rave about his glorious images. “Well, what is a photograph? I’ll tell you what a photograph is. It’s the illusion of a literal description of how a camera saw a piece of time in space,” Winogrand said in a 1975 lecture at the University of Texas Austin, later adding, “All it is is light on surface.” Of course, in Winogrand’s case, it is much more than that; the black-and-white pictures he took with his trusted Leica M4 inhale and exhale at the exciting pace of real life. “It’s this observation of human behavior, of human activity, human gesture, the relationships between people, whether they know each other or not, how we behave in the world,” curator Susan Kismaric says. Writer Geoff Dyer calls Winogrand’s work a “psychogestural ballet,” while photographer Matt Stuart looks at photo after photo, pointing out “the dance” in each one. “When things move, I get interested. I know that much,” Winogrand, who passed away in 1984 at the age of fifty-six, says in his gruff voice. “He had no ambition for fame or celebrity. He was totally obsessed and possessed by photography,” his good friend, photographer Tod Papageorge, says. “It was work work work work work.”
Freyer traces the life of “a city hick from the Bronx,” from his boyhood, when he had polio, through three marriages and three children, from his fear of nuclear war to his love of the female form, from the streets of New York City to California and Texas. She weaves in audio and video from lectures and interviews, filmed and taped conversations with photographer Jay Maisel, and photos and home movies of Winogrand and his family. Freyer speaks with photographers Thomas Roma, Jeffrey Henson Scales, Leo Rubinfien, Laurie Simmons, and Michael Ernest Sweet, curator Erin O’Toole, gallery owner Jeffrey Fraenkel (who compares Winogrand to Norman Mailer), Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, historian and critic Shelley Rice, and two of Winogrand’s ex-wives, Adrienne Lubeau and Judy Teller. There are also extensive quotes from legendary MoMA photography curator John Szarkowski. The film explores several turning points in his career, both good and bad, including the “New Documents” show with Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus; his seminal work in 1964; “The Animals,” a series shot at the Central Park Zoo, where he would go with his kids; his color work; Public Relations, in which he examined the role and effect of the mass media; and his controversial Women Are Beautiful book, which was labeled as sexist and misogynistic.
Influenced by such photographers as Robert Frank, Walker Evans, and Dan Weiner, Winogrand could not stop taking pictures. He took so many — the thought of his working in the digital age is both thrilling and frightening — that he didn’t even develop thousands of rolls, leaving behind a treasure trove of material that Roma explains was misinterpreted by critics. “I would like not to exist,” Winogrand said. It’s a good thing for the rest of us that he did, sharing his unique view of the world, incorporating the chaos of his personal life into his remarkable pictures. Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable, which features original music by Winogrand’s son, Ethan, and animation by Kelly Gallagher, opens September 19 at Film Forum, with Freyer participating in Q&As following the 7:00 shows on September 19 and 21. In her director’s statement, the Brooklyn-born Freyer writes, “In looking at Winogrand in all his multidimensional human complexity, I take aim at the ‘bad dad’ and ‘bad husband’ tropes in artist biography, seeking to undermine these as sources of triumph or artistic necessity. Winogrand was an artist whose rise and fall — from the 1950s to the mid-1980s — in acclaim mirrors not only that of American power and credibility in the second half of the twentieth century but also a vision of American masculinity whose limitations, toxicity, and inheritance we still struggle, culturally, to comprehend. The film ultimately invites a deeper consideration of Winogrand not only as a ‘man of his time,’ in the words of MoMA photography curator Susan Kismaric, but also as a man struggling to define himself simultaneously as an artist and a parent (as so many of us do).”
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.
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.
Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Ave. at 36th St.
Tuesday – Sunday through September 23, $13-$20 (free Fridays 7:00 to 9:00)
You might be surprised to find out that from 2005 to 2015, Wayne Thiebaud was sixth on the list of top-selling living American artists at auction, totaling more than $163 million in aggregated sales (trailing Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, and Jasper Johns and ahead of Robert Ryman, Frank Stella, Robert Indiana, and Cindy Sherman). Or maybe that’s not surprising at all, given how his oeuvre is so viscerally pleasing while also technically adroit, as revealed in the lovely exhibition “Wayne Thiebaud, Draftsman,” continuing at the Morgan through September 23. Now ninety-seven and still working, the Arizona-born, California-raised artist is best known for his luscious paintings of pies, jelly apples, ice-cream cones, and other tasty treats, but the show reveals him to be an expert draftsman through drawings and sketches not only of desserts but of cityscapes and landscapes. His influences range from Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Giorgio Morandi, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Paul Prudh’hon to Krazy Kat cartoonist George Herriman and time spent in trade school and the military and as a commercial artist, window dresser, and graphic designer for Rexall Drugs and Universal Studios. “One day [printer] Kathan [Brown] brought down lunch, which was a cheese sandwich, a couple of olives, and a beer, and I said, ‘Before we eat this, I think I’ll draw it,’” Thiebaud is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog.
The show, the first extensive museum survey of Thiebaud’s works on paper, is a panoply of delights, from the 1964 watercolor and graphite “Nine Jelly Apples,” in which the sweet jelly seems to be dripping down the wall, to the 1983 charcoal “Three Roads,” an imaginative rendering of San Francisco streets, from a circa-1970 graphite self-portrait of Thiebaud looking serious to the 1960s-1970s “Page of Sketches with Ties,” four rectangular depictions of numerous ties, from the 1964 brush and ink “Hamburgers,” three rows of the all-American food, to the fantastical 1967-68 “Ridge with Clouds.” Thiebaud is not making any grand statements about consumption or hunger; the self-effacing artist and teacher is merely using his impressive skill to explore various subjects and styles. He also seems to have a penchant for drawing items in multiples of three, although he claims that is not on purpose and has no secret meaning. “Learning to draw is just learning to see more clearly and more organized,” he told curator Isabelle Dervaux in an illustrated talk at the Morgan. “That’s another side benefit of learning to draw. You’re going to learn to see a lot better and a lot deeper.”
Thiebaud’s works have a way of getting inside your head, offering up sweet memories. Walking through the exhibit, I was like, well, a kid in a candy store. I thought of the first hamburger I had at Wetson’s, of the candy store down the street from my elementary school, of how rarely I saw my father wearing a tie, of a cake my aunt used to make for my birthday, the first time I licked an ice-cream cone and the ice cream dripped onto my hand, of a childhood friend’s dog, and of getting lost while wandering through parts of San Francisco and New York City. Dervaux has done a marvelous job laying out the show, dividing it into such themes as “Foodstuff,” “Tradition,” “Early Drawings,” and “Cityscapes and Landscapes,” creating compelling juxtapositions that tell us yet more about Thiebaud and his methods. It’s a joy to experience these works, many of which have never before been shown publicly. “Most of these are private drawings — to find out something, to make notations, or just to experiment,” Thiebaud has said. “You want to feel that these are things that will never be seen.”
The New School, Tishman Auditorium
63 Fifth Ave. between 13th & 14th Sts.
Monday, September 17, $10, 6:30
Exhibition continues in City Hall Park through December 7
kitchen trees slideshow
California-born, New York-based artist B. Wurtz will be at the New School on September 17 to give a talk about his latest project, the Public Art Fund installation “Kitchen Trees,” in City Hall Park through December 7. The whimsical site-specific show surrounding the fountain features five arboreal found-object sculptures made of colanders, each totemlike work a different color of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue — topped with plastic fruits and vegetables (apples, bananas, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, pears, plums, peppers) hanging from upside-down pots and pans. Curated by Daniel S. Palmer, it’s a vibrant celebration of the mundane and the everyday, and it might very well make you hungry for a home-cooked meal. “With my work, I’m just looking at the world and exactly what it is, not wishing it were something else but trying to make something hopefully positive using ordinary things,” Wurtz says in a Public Art Fund video.
“He will look at something in a way that’s very different from just simply its function,” Palmer adds. Palmer will moderate the talk, which will explore Wurtz’s fifty-year career. The artist, who studied with John Baldessari and Barbara Kruger, has created assemblages with plastic bags, dish towels, socks, buttons, and other household materials to investigate his central themes of food, clothing, and shelter, but this is his first installation of monumental works. In conjunction with “Kitchen Trees,” “Domestic Space,” part of his Photo/Object series, continues at Metro Pictures in Chelsea through October 20. Don’t search for grand statements in any of Wurtz’s work. “I don’t have to tack on meaning later. It’s already built in,” he explains in the short video, which also uses his music for the soundtrack.