Astor Place South Plaza
April 10-30, free
As part of Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming, Greek sculptor Kostis Velonis has installed Life without Tragedy on the South Plaza of Astor Place, near Tony Rosenthal’s movable black cube called Alamo. Developed by Velonis and Christian Kotzamanis, the work consists of a trio of dark gray wood steps that evoke Greek amphitheaters that would stage tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and served as places for sociopolitical discourse. Presented in conjunction with DOT Art, the Village Alliance, and the Public Theater, which is hosting most of the events during the festival, including Tim Blake Nelson’s Socrates, the sculpture has narrow steps that are not easy for adults or children to climb, a striking comment on the state of political discussion today in the United States, Greece, and around the world as real-life tragedies wreak havoc and fascism is on the rise.
Marian Goodman Gallery
24 West 57th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday - Saturday through April 20, free
In 2017, South African multimedia genius William Kentridge staged Kurt Schwitters’s 1932 Dada poem, “Ursonate,” at the Harlem Parish as part of the Performa Biennial. In December, his extraordinary production The Head & the Load, which explored the fate of nearly two million black Africans forced into service by colonialist European countries as porters and carriers during World War I, also incorporated text from “Ursonate.” Kentridge turns to Dada again for the title of his latest exhibition at Marian Goodman, “Let Us Try for Once,” taken from the last sentence of Tristan Tzara’s 1919 Dada Manifesto: “If all of them are right and if all pills are Pink Pills, let us try for once not to be right.” In a promotional video, Kentridge notes that the title “comes out of the sense that everybody’s certainty of their own rightness is behind so much of the violence which is exacted to beat that sense of rightness into others.”
The show is divided into four sections across two floors. In a back room, a two-channel video of Kentridge’s inspired performance of “Ursonate” plays, featuring such language as “rakete rinnzekete,” “fümmsböwötääzääUu pöggiff,” and “rrummpff tillff toooo?” along with visuals and, at the end, musical accompaniment. KABOOM! is a three-channel sculptural installation that is a miniaturized version of The Head & the Load, with audio, video, drawings, and projections. “This was not its starting point of The Head & the Load, but it is what the work itself, the material we were dealing with, pushed us towards,” Kentridge explains in a statement. “By the paradox I mean the contradictory relationships towards Europe — the desire of Africans to be part of Europe, to share in the wealth and the richness of Europe, and wanting to resist Europe and its depredations.”
Lexicon is a collection of large bronze sculptures that Kentridge compares to text in a book, representing “the heaviness of words or thoughts,” including a telephone, an ampersand, a movie camera, a knight on a horse, and a pitcher; Processione di Riparazioniste Maquettes (Full Set) is a horizontal procession of smaller laser-cut steel objects, while Paragraph II, three rows of twenty-three bronzes, evokes black type on a white page. In fact, many of these pieces have appeared as images in Kentridge’s videos in which he turns the pages of dictionaries and historical books.
The exhibition also offers a sneak peek of his latest opera, Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, which is coming to the Met in December. Kentridge has previously adapted Shostakovich’s The Nose and Berg’s Lulu; at Marian Goodman, preparatory charcoal drawings give a sense of the flavor of his take of Berg’s version of Georg Büchner’s unfinished Woyceck and continues Kentridge’s exploration of the Great War. “The conceit of the production was thinking of Berg’s Wozzeck as a premonition of WWI. This is where war and ideas around it entered the project,” Kentridge notes. “Let Us Try for Once” lends fascinating insight into the recent past, present, and immediate future of this marvelously talented artist.
Who: Lawrence Weiner and Glenn Fuhrman
What: Artist talk in conjunction with publication of The FLAG Art Foundation: 2008-2018
Where: Gagosian Shop, 976 Madison Ave. at 75th St., 212-796-1224
When: Tuesday, April 16, free with RSVP, 6:00
Why: In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the Chelsea-based FLAG Art Foundation has published The FLAG Art Foundation: 2008-2018, a fully illustrated catalog that looks back at its first fifty exhibitions, which has featured such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Mark Bradford, Maurizio Cattelan, Robert Gober, Félix González-Torres, Jim Hodges, Ellsworth Kelly, Charles Ray, Gerhard Richter, and Cindy Sherman. On April 16, gallery founder Glenn Fuhrman and seventy-seven-year-old Bronx-born conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner will be at the Gagosian Shop on the Upper East Side to discuss the history of FLAG as well as its current exhibition “On Board the Ships at Sea Are We,” consisting of works by Weiner, Rachel Whiteread, and Robert Therrien examining scale, materiality, and absence. The catalog includes a foreword by Fuhrman, preface by founding director Stephanie Roach, and original contributions from Ashley Bickerton, Delia Brown, Patricia Cronin, Cynthia Daignault, Lisa Dennison, Sarah Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset, Eric Fischl, James Frey, Louis Grachos, Stamatina Gregory, Jane Hammond, Hilary Harkness, Jim Hodges, Philae Knight, Josephine Meckseper, Richard Patterson, Jack Shear, Carolyn Twersky, Lesley Vance, Rebecca Ward, and Heidi Zuckerman. Admission is free with advance RSVP.
Park Ave. Armory
643 Park Ave. at 67th St.
Sunday, April 14, $25, 3:00
In December, Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera was arrested in Havana for protesting Decree 349, which criminalizes public and private art that the Ministry of Culture deems unpatriotic or does not receive government permission for commercialization. “Before there was censorship, you could play around. Now you go to jail, now they take your house. It’s not a joke. There are no more games to play,” Bruguera told the Guardian in February. “What we want is to eliminate the decree and work together to find regulations that are based on the needs of the artists and what will protect them, not only the government.” Bruguera, an artist-in-residence at Park Avenue Armory, will be at the armory on April 14 for the Sunday Salon discussing a place to seek refuge: The presentation, part of the Interrogations of Form series, is entitled “Museum as Sanctuary.” The salon kicks off at 3:00 with an introduction by Bruguera and “Make Sanctuary Not Art,” a ritual gathering on safe spaces led by Luba Cortes, Geoff Trenchard, Jackie Vimo, and Abou Farman. From 4:30 to 5:30, the pop-up exhibition “You See Me?!?” displays work by undocumented LGBTQ Mexican American artist Julio Salgado and the collective Emulsify, including the video installation “Con Cámaras y Sín Papeles.” The afternoon concludes at 5:30 with “Institutions as Sanctuary in Times of Exclusion,” a conversation with Alexandra Délano Alonso, Camilo Godoy, Sonia Guiñansaca, Bitta Mostofi, and Verónica Ramírez, moderated by Bruguera.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, April 6, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum celebrates Frida Kahlo in the April edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Renee Goust, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company (Puebla: The Story of Cinco De Mayo), and Pistolera (with visuals by Screaming Horses), as well as Yas Mama!’s El Noche de las Reinas with Lady Quesa’Dilla and DJ sets by Hannah Lou and Shomi Noise, hosted by Horrorchata; pop-up poetry with Danilo Machado, Jimena Lucero, and Francisco Márquez; the community talk “Art and Disability” with Dior Vargas and Kevin Gotkin; pop-up gallery talks of “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas” with teen apprentices; a hands-on workshop in which participants can adorn instant photos with a Kahlo-like flourish; and an “Archives as Raw History” tour focusing on disabled artists and visitors with archivist Molly Seegers. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room,” “One: Do Ho Suh,” “One: Egúngún,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” “Kwang Young Chun: Aggregations,” and more.
Who: Lynn Goldsmith
What: Book talk, Q&A, and signing
Where: Morrison Hotel Gallery, 116 Prince St., second floor, 212-941-8770
When: Tuesday, March 26, free, 6:00 - 8:00
Why: From 1977 to 1980, photographer Lynn Goldsmith chronicled the rise of KISS, the hard rock group consisting of lead singer and bassist Gene Simmons, lead guitarist Ace Frehley, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley, and drummer Peter Criss. On March 27, the band, which now features Simmons, Stanley, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, and drummer Eric Singer, will play Madison Square Garden for the last time as it makes its way around the world on its farewell tour. The night before, on March 26 at 6:00, Goldsmith will be at the Morrison Hotel Gallery on Prince St. to present her 2017 gift to the loyal KISS Army, KISS: 1977-1980, an illustrated book that collects more than 250 shots of the band along with text contributions from Simmons and Stanley. “I have to admit appreciating singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, or Paul Simon a great deal more than the music of KISS, but who would I rather photograph or pay to see in concert? No contest: KISS,” Goldsmith writes in the introduction. Goldsmith will talk about working with KISS, participate in a Q&A, and sign copies of the book; in addition, prints will be on display. If you’re wondering where KISS is that night, it’s the third of three off-days prior to the MSG show.
“These are the memories of human beings,” Cambodia photographer Kim Hak says in Cross Transit, an engrossing collaboration with Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura and Amrita Performing Arts Center of Phnom Penh. There’s one night left — March 23 — to see the show at Japan Society. With the seventy-five-minute multimedia piece, Kitamura continues her exploration of the future of Asia, following To Belong, on which she worked with Indonesian artists on such topics as diversity and inclusion. Cross Transit is Kitamura and Hak’s attempt to recapture a past that has gone missing because of the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979; in a way, the work is a dance about photography and architecture. In voiceover Cambodian narration that is translated by an English speaker, Hak explains that many families, including his own, had to either destroy or bury personal photos to protect themselves from the oppressive regime, hiding their identities to avoid being arrested, tortured, and killed.
While recovered family photos and new pictures taken by Hak of abandoned buildings are projected behind them on three stretched canvases, Kitamura, Ippei Shiba, Yuka Seike, Yuki Nishiyama, Llon Kawai, and Chy Ratana move about the otherwise dark stage like lost souls or ghosts, reaching out with their hands and arms, trying to make connections in awkward, aggressive ways. They dance in haunting silence, to Hak’s words, narration by Paul Dargan, electronic noise, a Cambodian pop song, percussive sounds evoking gunshots and the snap of a camera, original music by Hiroaki Yokoyama, and vocalizations by Yoshie Abe; Akihiko Kaneko designed the set and the projected films, with dramatic lighting by Yuji Sekiguchi and naturalistic costumes by Tomoko Inamura. The motion of the dancers is initially slow and individual but eventually moves more closely in unison, with several impressive lifts and carries and rolls along the floor. In one section the dancers call out words in English, Japanese, and Cambodian, including “Here,” “Home,” “Now,” and “What are you talking about?” (The non-English words are not translated.) The Cross Transit project, which began in 2014, continues with “vox soil,” a collaboration between Cambodian, Indonesian, Indian, and Japanese artists. Kitamura (Enact Frames of Pleasure, Ghostly Round) and Hak will participate in a Q&A following the March 23 performance at Japan Society.