Who: Janet Biggs, Vinson Fraley, Earl Maneein, CERN-IARI,
What: Livestream multimedia performance
Where: Cristin Tierney Gallery
When: Thursday, April 8, free with RSVP, 7:00
Why: A performance from multidisciplinary artist Janet Biggs is always something special — and something hard to define. For last summer’s Augmentation and Amplification for Fridman Gallery’s “SO⅃OS: a space of limit as possibility” series, the Brooklyn-based Biggs brought together singer and dancer Mary Esther Carter; machine learning program A.I. Anne; composer and music technologist Richard Savery; drummer Jason Barnes, who lost an arm in an accident and now uses a robotic prosthesis; marathon runner Brian Reynolds, a double (below-knee) amputee who is fitted with carbon fiber running prostheses; and violinists Earl Maneein and Mylez Gittens, to explore artistic connections between humans and technology.
On April 8, Biggs and Cristin Tierney Gallery will present another unique and fascinating collaboration, the virtual Singular Value Decomposition, featuring dancer Vinson Fraley, violinist, violist, composer, and arranger Maneein, the Seven)Suns String Quartet, and CERN video footage mathematically manipulated using quantum mechanics and linear algebra. The multimedia “research and development” performance is part of Biggs’s work with Arts at CERN, which is part of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas; also involved are KU associate professor of mathematics Agnieszka Międlar, high-energy nuclear physicist and KU associate physics professor Daniel Tapia Takaki, Spencer Museum research curator Joey Orr, and IARI research fellows Clint Hurshman, a KU graduate philosophy student, and Olivia Johnson, a KU undergraduate studying mathematics and dance. Got that? It might not exactly be easy peasy, but it will blow your mind all the same.
Who: Song Ming Ang, Melanie Kress
What: Live online artist talk
Where: The High Line Zoom
When: Tuesday, April 6, free with RSVP, 1:00 (exhibition continues through April 28)
Why: In the 2019 interview “A New Understanding of Place” for the High Line blog, associate curator Melanie Kress explained why video was part of the elevated park’s continuing celebration of site-specific public art. “When we think of public art, most of us think of murals and sculptures. But to fully showcase the range of mediums that artists are working in today, video is indispensable,” she said. “Video also has the ability to cross back and forth between many different worlds and forms at the same time — between advertising, social media, film, documentary, documentation, television, music videos, and more. It provides a really interesting place for artists to play with viewers’ expectations. In a public space, visitors aren’t necessarily expecting to encounter art — especially video art — so those lines can be blurred in all the more challenging and creative ways.”
The latest video art installation to screen on the High Line Channel at Fourteenth St. is Singapore-born artist Song-Ming Ang’s “Piano Magic,” which consists of 2014’s Backwards Bach, in which Ang, who is based in Singapore and Berlin, plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s C Major Prelude from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier on the harpsichord both forward and backward, and 2011’s Parts and Labour, in which he fixes a disused piano. On April 6 at 2:00, Ang and Kress will discuss the project, which continues through April 28, in a live Zoom Q&A. Ang is also represented at the Asia Society Triennial with the multimedia site-specific installation True Stories, twelve music stands with text and images that explore the demise of societal norms, which he detailed in the Instagram Live program “Talking Dreams: A Conversation with Artist Song-Ming Ang.”
Museum of Arts & Design
The Theater at MAD
2 Columbus Circle at 58th St. & Eighth Ave.
Friday - Sunday, March 26 - April 11, $12-$18, eighteen and under free
Activations April 2 & 9, 6:00
Crafting has seen a huge resurgence during the pandemic lockdown. Since March 2020, people around the world have been passing the time by sewing, knitting, crocheting, and taking on other crafting projects (when they’re not baking sourdough bread). So the time is right for Mia Wright-Ross’s new exhibition at the Museum of Arts & Design, “A Moment to Breathe.” Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Wright-Ross is the founder and creative director of the Washington Heights–based MWR Collection, a “full-service luxury crafting atelier” that makes handbags, home decor, furniture, and other high-end accessories. The exhibit, which runs Fridays through Sundays through April 11, is the culmination of Wright-Ross’s MAD residency, which included informal Zoom studio visits and online workshops. MAD’s ninth Artist Fellow, Wright-Ross learned her trade at Parsons/the New School of Design, where she is an adjunct professor, at internships and early jobs at such companies as Jimlar, Converse, Talbots, and Calvin Klein, and from such mentors as shoe designer Howard Davis and photographer and professor Bill Gaskins.
The exhibition deals with grief and collective healing in several ways. It is being held in the Theater at MAD and features two monumental leather tapestries, a large sewing machine that Wright-Ross will activate on April 2 and 9 at 6:00 for a limited in-person audience, and a short film made with multidisciplinary artist Akeema-Zane (Sonic Escape Routes: Shall We Fly? or Shall We Resist?) and SCOGÉ builder and designer and media specialist Starnilas Oge. In addition, on April 1 at 7:00, Wright-Ross and Gaskins will participate in the live Online Learning Lab “Artists in Dialogue.” After the opening weekend of the show, Wright-Ross discussed her fascination with leather, sewing, her hometown, the power of artisanship, and more.
twi-ny: You are most well known for your leather creations. What got you into that material?
mia wright-ross: I have always had a love of leather, even as a young child. My mom would collect Coach bags and I remember going to the store to get them repaired and cleaned. I loved the smell of the leather that engulfed me when we walked into the store. That is my first sensory memory with leather. Later in my creative career, I was able to work with leather more intimately when I was introduced to it as a designer by my mentor, Howard Davis. He was my first and only footwear instructor. In his class, I was able to examine the qualities and utility of leather as a material. Since then I have been in love with the dynamic nature of leather as an unforgiving material. Once it is scratched or stitched, you must live with the mark — make it beautiful at all costs.
twi-ny: Your new MAD exhibit comes at the end of your yearlong residency. What was that experience like? How did the pandemic lockdown affect it?
mwr: Working with MAD has been a delightful experience, especially with all that we have all endured over the past year. The truth is that the residency was initially only six months. I arrived to move into my artist studio within the museum in February 2020, but by mid-March we were told the museum would be closing due to the pandemic. I took a few of my materials and tools and began working in quarantine from my home studio. The MAD Artist Studios department worked with me and extended my fellowship for an additional six months. This allowed me to extend the research and development of my new body of work and also find new ways to connect with the museum’s audience through educational workshops and virtual artist studio visits.
In September 2020, I came back to my studio in the museum with new work in tow. I then realized the amount of work I had created while in quarantine, from the leather sculptures, to the tapestries, and some new works in 2D sketch format. I saw that the incubation of the lockdown was something my creative process was missing. It was the reason I applied for the fellowship in the first place — space to evaluate my reason for being an artisan. I wanted to go inward and find the source of my connection with my work. Amidst all things the pandemic brought — the fear, the grief, and the uprising — personal and collective, I was able to take the time to communicate my feelings and heal through my connection with leather, and I am happy to be able to share that with other artisans.
twi-ny: The show involves sewing, an activity that has flourished during the pandemic, as many people made masks as well as their own clothing. How did the act of sewing come into your life?
mwr: I have been sewing since high school. I was initially taught by a dear family friend, Ms. Gracie. But in 2003, I was accepted to a specialty art program, the Center for the Arts, at my local high school in Richmond. As a little girl, I always wanted to be a fashion designer, so during the summer of my junior–senior high school year, I asked my mother to buy a sewing machine. She purchased a small machine from Walmart and bought me a few Vogue patterns to explore the skill. I instantly fell in love with the process. From there, I took sheets from my great-grandmother’s linen closet, painted textures on them, and began using them to create draped dresses. I had no idea what I was doing but the skill called for me.
twi-ny: On April 2 and 9, you will be onstage, sewing, in front of a limited audience. What do you anticipate for that?
mwr: I want people to engage with the truest parts of themselves when they experience the live performance. The performance adds an additional layer of sensory to the exhibition in that you are able to witness in its most honest and intimate setting, as a space of reverence. I am bringing you into my studio — my worship space. My sewing machine is the altar and I am using my practice to process through my healing as a craftsperson and as a human being.
The film creates an additional layer to the experience as an amalgamation of emotion, visual documentation, making in process, meditation, and memory in sound and visual representation. I hope that the vulnerability of my process allows individuals to assess the areas of themselves that haven’t been allowed to breathe — be it sorrow, love, anger, and anything in between.
twi-ny: How did the film collaboration with Starnilas Oge and Akeema-Zane come about? [ed. note: below film clip courtesy Mia Wright-Ross (@mwrcollection) and her collaborators: Film Design by Starnilas Oge (@scoge2222) and Sound Design by Akeema-Zane (@kissingtherain)]
mwr: They are both dear friends of mine and I knew I wanted to involve my community of artist friends in this work in every way possible. It happened quite naturally. Starnilas has been a close friend in design, and I have always admired his perspective in video/film work. I felt he would bring a level of raw intimacy to the editing process that I couldn’t make possible alone. And Akeema-Zane is truly a sound craftsperson. I’ve known Akeema for a very long time, and we became neighbors over the past few years. I have always admired the ways in which she researches and dissects consciousness through whichever media she is working in. With her exploration in audio design, having her perspective truly enhances the multisensory experience of the exhibition.
twi-ny: On April 1, you will take part in a live conversation with Bill Gaskins. What are some of the things you are looking forward to talking about with him?
mwr: First let me say, Bill Gaskins is my guiding light. He is not only an amazingly talented artist but also my mentor. So, it’s safe to say we will be examining the work in a way that is intimate, philosophical, and examines historical and contemporary context. With Bill, I never know what to expect, which is why he is such a great teacher and artist.
twi-ny: Earlier this month, you were awarded the inaugural Female Design Council grant, which focuses on women of color. What does that mean to you?
mwr: Community is the reason I am able to do the work I do. Without the support of my familial and artist communities, I would not be where I am today. So the award from the Female Design Council means that I am able to continue to do this work and push the bounds of what the design community identifies as an artisan. Design and the luxury industry is a heavily white male–dominated field but women, especially women of color, have consistently contributed to the successes of the design industry from a space of the unseen. From [former slave, seamstress, activist, and author] Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley to [fashion designer] Ann Lowe, Black designers and artisans have always been here and will continue to evolve through our work. I am grateful that the FDC sees this as a vision they want to be a part in supporting designers of color through the support of my studio work.
twi-ny: The health crisis has also led to a severe economic downturn. How has that affected MWR Collection, which specializes in the luxury market?
mwr: Well, the easiest way to respond to this question is that MWR Collection is still here. It has definitely been a learning experience to sustain a small business in a time of economic downturn. But I’ve always sought to maintain MWR Collection as a small, steady, growing business. So when the pandemic began, it meant that I had to reassess my definition of growth — “slow and steady wins the race” was my assessment. Which meant that I could take the time to evaluate our strong suits and ways the brand could be more secure in what we stand for in luxury even during a time of economic instability. I began working with a branding team to strategize on the future of MWR Collection, which is something I didn’t have the time or knowledge to do in the past. Now with the new strategy, I am crowdfunding to support the launch of our new products and maintaining our consistent audience throughout the global luxury market.
twi-ny: Richmond has seen its fair share of controversy recently, primarily involving Monument Ave., and it was also home to BLM protests. Do you still have family there? If so, have you been able to see any of them over the course of the last year?
mwr: Yes, all of my family is still in Richmond. I actually traveled back to VA during the BLM protests last summer. Richmond has always been controversial and will remain this way because of the powerful Black people that push our communities. It was a bit of a shock to see the burned buildings and tags on the statues of Monument Avenue. But this is not a Richmond that is new to me. The ancestral spirit of Richmond has always been rooted in revolutionary Black people. I was happy to see my ancestors’ spirits still thriving in our communities of color and making their presence known as we continue to fight for freedom.
twi-ny: When we come out on the other side of this, what is the first thing you want to do that you’ve been unable to because of Covid-19?
mwr: I don’t like to identify with “the other side of this” when it pertains to the pandemic. This is the world we are living in now, all of it — the protests, the pandemic, the memories, and the grief. We can’t avoid it or history will continue to repeat itself. I hope this exhibition can show people what can be done when we are honest with ourselves, with our experiences, and with each other. Breathe through it all.
Last summer, Rockefeller Center presented the first edition of “The Flag Project,” replacing the 193 flags that usually surround the ice rink, one for each member country in the United Nations, with flags designed by emerging and established artists (including Carmen Herrera, Hank Willis Thomas, Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, KAWS, Laurie Anderson, Sanford Biggers, Sarah Sze, Shantell Martin, and Faith Ringgold), adults and children, to honor how New Yorkers have come together during the pandemic lockdown, celebrating essential workers, the uniqueness of the Big Apple, and/or hope for a promising future.
From March 27 to April 30, Rock Center will be hosting the second stage, featuring eighty-three eight-by-five-foot flags decorated by photographs taken by the general public along with commissioned artists, focusing on New York City’s diverse life and energy and one-of-a-kind spirit and imagination. Tishman Speyer has teamed up with Aperture Foundation for this follow-up, with the finalists chosen by Aperture executive director Chris Boot. As you walk around the area, you will see images of Katz’s Deli, a masked lion in front of the New York Public Library, yellow cabs, kids playing in a fountain, women getting their hair done, a dog with its tongue hanging out, a snowy day in the park, an old subway car, a street-cart coffee cup, two women touching hands, a red flower under a fire escape, skateboarders, and other comforting, familiar scenes of the city. Among the professionals with their own flags are Kwame Brathwaite, Renee Cox, Elliott Erwitt, Roe Ethridge, Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley, Susan Meiselas, Duane Michals, and Tyler Mitchell.
I first saw Yana Schnitzler perform with two members of her Human Kinetics company in a small storefront on Nassau St. in September 2007, the trio moving through a rapt audience crowded on the floor. Fourteen years later, Schnitzler is once again in a small storefront, this time all alone, in a tiny space on West Thirty-Seventh St. in the Garment District near Port Authority, operated by the nonprofit arts organization Chashama, Well, she might be physically by herself, but she is surrounded by the hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties of women from around the world.
Prepandemic, the Berlin-born dancer, choreographer, and installation artist began Tales of a Phoenix: The Letting Go Project by putting out an open call for women to send her pieces of fabric on which they were to write something about themselves. “Like a snake that sheds its skin when it is outgrown, what is it that you’re yearning to shed?” the invitation read. “What old habit, memory, fear, or belief that might be amplified in these challenging times are you ready to let go of because it does not allow growth? What is it that keeps you from building a renewed version of yourself?” Women sent their replies by the hundreds, and beginning February 20 and continuing through March 29, Schnitzler will be working in the Chashama space, stitching the pieces together into a huge skirt, evoking a southern storytelling quilt. She’ll be there Monday to Saturday from 1:00 to 6:00; passersby can watch from the sidewalk or come in and speak with her, as long as they are masked and remain socially distanced. They are also welcome to take a strip of fabric and a pen and share their own personal note. Before being added to the skirt, the fabric contributions and their messages hang on the walls, anonymous works of art that are powerful and emotional; be sure to have tissues at the ready.
“I need to let go of trying to be perfect for others. I need to be perfect for me!” one woman proclaims. “I would like my toxic family to no longer have the power to cause me pain,” another says. “Patriarchy Overdose” is written in black marker over a painting of flowers and smiling, blond Barbie-like figures. The word “Depression” is stitched onto brown fabric under dark clouds, the threads dangling off the letters. The phrase “I’m not __ enough” (pretty, smart, brave, creative, myself . . .) is written over and over again in a circular pattern until, at the very center, it says, “I’m not enough.” Some are extravagantly designed, while others are more simple and basic, but each one communicates a feeling that connects, particularly at a time when misogyny, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and other forms of violence against women are so prevalent, during a pandemic that has affected single and working mothers disproportionately. In the back is a headless, limbless mannequin dubbed Sally, which can be interpreted as something to keep Schnitzler company or a grim reminder of the status of women in contemporary society.
Schnitzler is a site-specific specialist who has previously brought Human Kinetics to the glassed-in Urban Garden Room in midtown, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Hudson River pier, the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, and the fountain outside the Met. “Letting Go” has quickly become part of the community; people pass by and say hello, write on a piece of fabric and slip it under the door, and come inside to chat. When it got very cold, a man who worked in the building across the street lent Schnitzler a better space heater. Once she leaves the storefront, she will take the skirt and the individual pieces of fabric yet to be stitched on the road; the plan was to hold exhibitions in galleries in Detroit, DC, and Bonn, Germany, but Covid-19 still has something to say about that.
Although several of the pieces are difficult to read, filled with so much pain and anguish, the project emits a positive, heartwarming, spirit-lifting energy that is embodied by Schnitzler, who is hopeful for the future of these women and the planet. Tales of a Phoenix developed organically, heading off in unexpected directions that surprised and delighted Schnitzler; it will come to a close next year with the ritualistic public destruction of the skirt, worn by the artist. She’ll be getting rid of the collective fears and anxieties, worries and heartache of the past year-plus in one large, participatory primal release of mass healing, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from which the phoenix will rise again.
David Wojnarowicz packed a whole lot of living into his too-brief thirty-seven years, and the frenetic pace of his life and death is copiously captured in Chris McKim’s dynamic documentary, Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker. Born in New Jersey in September 1954, Wojnarowicz — pronounced VOY-nah-ROH-vich — experienced a difficult childhood riddled with physical abuse from his father, became a teen street hustler in Times Square, and later dabbled in heroin. He gained fame as an avant-garde artist and anti-AIDS activist in the 1980s, when several of his pieces earned notoriety, condemned by right-wing politicians who wanted to censor the works and defund the National Endowment for the Arts, which had supported the shows of art they found objectionable or morally corrupt. (The controversy continued decades past his death, into December 2010, when the National Portrait Gallery edited his short film Fire in My Belly in a group show.)
McKim lets Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS-related complications in July 1992, tell his own story, using the multimedia artist’s extensive archive of journals, cassette tapes, phone messages, photographs, and super 8 films; Wojnarowicz lived his life as if it was an ongoing radical performance installation itself, obsessively recording himself. “All the paintings are diaries that I always thought as proof of my own existence,” he says. “Whatever work I’ve done, it’s always been informed by what I experience as an American in this country, as a homosexual in this country, as a person who’s legislated into silence in this country.”
Editor Dave Stanke does a masterful job of putting it all together, primarily chronologically, seamlessly melding Wojnarowicz’s paintings, photographs, and videos into a compelling narrative that is as experimental, and successful, as the artist’s oeuvre, placing the audience firmly within its milieu. He intercuts news reports and other archival footage as Wojnarowicz’s life unfolds; among those whose voices we hear, either in new interviews or old recordings, are cultural critics Fran Lebowitz and Carlo McCormick, gallerist Gracie Mansion, curator Wendy Olsoff, his longtime partner Tom Rauffenbart, photographer and close friend/onetime lover Peter Hujar, artists Kiki Smith and Nan Goldin, artist and activist Sur Rodney Sur, Fire in the Belly author Cynthia Carr, Wojnarowicz’s siblings, and photographer and filmmaker Marion Scemama, who collaborated with Wojnarowicz on the haunting Untitled (Face in Dirt), pictures of the artist partially buried in the southwest desert. In addition, McKim includes such conservative mouthpieces as Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association and Senator Jesse Helms, who both sought to shut down Wojnarowicz and the NEA.
Influenced by such writers and artists as Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs, and Arthur Rimbaud, Wojnarowicz’s art is as bold and in your face as it can get, relentlessly depicting a hypocritical world inundated with lies, violence, and perpetual inequality. Among the works that are examined in the film are Untitled (Buffalo), Untitled (Peter Hujar), Gagging Cow at Pier, Arthur Rimbaud in New York (Times Square), Burning House, Untitled (One Day This Kid . . . , David Wojnarowicz (Silence = Death, New York), Untitled (Genet After Brassai), and his Fire, Water, Earth, and Air four elements series. McKim also focuses on Wojnarowicz’s incendiary East Village punk band, 3 Teens Kill 4, with snippets of such songs as “Hold Up,” “Hunger,” and “Stay & Fight.” Wojnarowicz spoke in a relatively calm, straightforward tone, especially when compared with the constant whirlwind surrounding him, but his work, from art to music, revealed the fiery emotions bubbling inside, a roiling mix of rage, rebellion, and resistance.
McKim (RuPaul’s Drag Race, Out of Iraq) adds a curious, overly sentimental modern-day ending that might elicit a tear or two but is completely out of place; otherwise, Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker, named after one of the artist’s works from 1984, is an intense journey into the mind of a deeply troubled soul who shared his endless dilemmas in very public ways that made so many people uneasy. “Last night I was standing around here, looking at my photographs. They’re my life, and I don’t owe it to anybody to distort that just for their comfort,” he says.
Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker opens virtually at Film Forum through Kino Marquee on March 19 and includes a prerecorded Q&A with McKim, Mansion, McCormick, and producer Fenton Bailey, moderated by journalist Jerry Portwood. There will also be a live Q&A on March 30 at 7:00 with McKim and Stanke, moderated by artist and activist Leo Herrera, that is free and open to all.
Who: Yoshitomo Nara, Pedro Alonzo
What: Live discussion
Where: Dallas Contemporary online
When: Saturday, March 20, free with RSVP, 9:00
Why: In celebration of the opening of the Yoshitomo Nara career survey “i forgot their names and often can’t remember their faces but remember their voices well,” running at Dallas Contemporary from March 20 to August 22, the Japanese artist will speak with adjunct curator Pedro Alonzo about the show, which features paintings, drawings, and sculptures from 2006 to the current day, including many works that have never been on view before. Nara will discuss his artistic process, continuing sociopolitical themes, and new, more introspective pieces he made specifically for this exhibition. Admission is free with advance RSVP.