Mumbai-born, London-based artist Anish Kapoor has been creating crowd-pleasing works that alter the perception of viewers’ surrounding space for more than three decades. Such interactive large-scale pieces as Chicago’s “Cloud Gate,” affectionately known as the Bean, and New York City’s “Sky Mirror” draw people into their own reflections with shiny, highly polished colored surfaces, just as his smaller convex and concave sculptures provide warped views of reality, luring us in with mystery and awe. In addition, Kapoor questions the physicality of public spaces, as he did in his 2010 “Memory” exhibition at the Guggenheim, which included a giant bullet-shaped object that blocked one of the gallery entrances in addition to a dark rectangle that might or might not have been a way into the wall and beyond. Many of the ideas behind those works are evident in his latest intervention, “Descension,” a whirlpool twenty-six feet in diameter on view in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 through October 1. Near the center of the water is a beautiful but threatening swirling vortex that has taken on greater meaning in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But Kapoor, who calls it “a sculpture that’s not a sculpture,” places a fence around the water, preventing visitors from getting close enough to fall in or take pictures of themselves reflected in the pool, the way they do with most of his other works.
“We live in a time when the symbolic object in public space is no longer relevant. We don’t have a triumphant arch or the great hero on the horse or whatever else it is,” Kapoor said in a promotional video about the project, referring to monuments prior to the current raging debate over reevaluating certain honorary statues. “We’ve got to reinvent this thing. What we do have is the earth and the sky. So how does a work sit in that space, hold its scale, and not just become a decorative edifice.” The piece creates an inviting, ever-changing communal area for people to just relax and marvel at the wonders of the planet. “Anish Kapoor reminds us of the contingency of appearances: Our senses inevitably deceive us,” Public Art Fund director and chief curator Nicholas Baume explained in a statement. “With ‘Descension,’ he creates an active object that resonates with changes in our understanding and experience of the world. In this way, Kapoor is interested in what we don’t know rather than in what we do, understanding that the limit of perception is also the threshold of human imagination.” Kapoor might not always be a favorite in the art world itself, at least not since his exclusive acquisition of the rights to the “blackest black,” but he knows how to satisfy his audience, and he has done so again with “Descension.”
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through October 9
Washington-born multimedia artist Terry Adkins died in 2014 in Brooklyn at the age of sixty. MoMA is paying tribute to his legacy with the small but intimate exhibition “Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps,” consisting of film, sculpture, instrumentation, paraphernalia, and live performances. Adkins founded the Lone Wolf Recital Corps collective in Zurich in 1986, collaborating with a wide range of artists in numerous disciplines while honoring such figures as Matthew Henson, Bessie Smith, John Coltrane, George Washington Carver, Zora Neale Hurston, and John Brown. The exhibit, which continues through October 9, features such works as “Methane Sea,” constructed of rope, steel, wood, and tape and evoking something that could be found aboard a slave ship; “Omohundro,” an unusual brass and copper instrument; “Upperville,” concrete in which African porcupine quills emerge; a banner that reads “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” a replica of the flag the NAACP used to hang out their window on Fifth Ave. after such tragedies; “Amulet,” an almost noose/whip-like black wall hanging made of rubber, rope, electrical wire, tape, and steel; four eighteen-feet-long akrhaphones (the “rha” in the middle of the name is an homage to Adkins’s father); “Sus Scrofa (Linnaeus),” a contrabass covered by a boar hide and skull; and a trio of performance videos, The Last Trumpet from Performa 13 in November 2013; Facets: A Recital Compilation from Skidmore College the previous year; and, also from 2012, Atum (Honey from a Flower Named Blue), in which Clifford Owens puts on the wolf skin that is on view under the abovementioned banner. There is also background on Adkins alter ego and Lone Wolf mystery member Blanche Bruce, named after the first elected African American politician and only former slave to serve a full term in the Senate. “My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is,” Adkins said in a 2006 interview with Dana Roc. In conjunction with the exhibition, there will be a series of live performances, held in the gallery space, the downstairs theater, and the education center next door; advance tickets are recommended.
Monday, September 18
An Evening with Kamau Amu Patton, featuring restaging of Patton’s Amun (The Unseen Legends) with live electroacoustic improvisation to Patton’s Theory of Colors, screening of Patton’s 2008 performance Proliferation of Concept / Accident Tolerant, and discussion with Patton and Akili Tommasino, Roy and Niuta Titus Theater, $12, 7:00
Wednesday, September 20
A Living Space, with Sanford Biggers, Juini Booth, Demetrius Oliver, Clifford Owens, Kamau Amu Patton, and Dread Scott restaging passages from 2013 recital Postlude (Corpus Specere), exhibition space, $12, 7:00
Sunday, September 24
Envy of the World (A Blues for Terry Adkins), with Blanche Bruce on chordophone, Cavassa Nickens and Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, Kamau Amu Patton on banjo, and recitation by Arthur Flowers, Tyehimba Jess, and Rashid Johnson, exhibition space, $12, 7:00
Tuesday, September 26
A Visionary Recital (after Terry Adkins), with Charles Gaines on percussion, Jason Moran on piano, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, improvising new composition by Gaines based on scrolling projection of Lone Wolf text translated into music, Roy and Niuta Titus Theater, $12, 7:00
Wednesday, September 27
The Legacy of Terry Adkins and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, panel discussion with Charles Gaines, Clifford Owens, and Kamau Amu Patton, moderated by Valerie Cassel Oliver and Akili Tomassino, Education and Research Building, Celeste Bartos Theater, $15, 6:00
Saturday, September 30
PopRally Presents: Twilight Brothers, with Sacred Order members Clifford Owens and Kamau Amu Patton and Da’Niro Elle Brown, Zachary Fabri, LaMont Hamilton, and Kambui Olujimi, followed by lobby reception and DJ set by Patton and Brown, exhibition viewing, and open bar, Roy and Niuta Titus Theater, $25, 9:00
EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY PEOPLE (Alan Govenar, 2017)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, September 15
With the future of such government agencies as the National Endowment for the Arts in jeopardy, documentarian and folklorist Alan Govenar celebrates the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowships in Extraordinary Ordinary People. Since 1982, the fellowships have honored “our nation’s master folk and traditional artists . . . recognizing the ways these individuals demonstrate and reflect our nation’s living cultural heritage and the efforts of these artists to share their knowledge with the next generation.” Govenar speaks with the program’s founder and first director, Bess Lomax Hawes, and former director Dan Sheehy, who explain the importance of nurturing a diverse group of artists who often live and work on the margins. New and archival footage feature more than two dozen figures, from such musicians and singers as Koko Taylor, Clifton Chenier, Wanda Jackson, Narciso Martinez, Sheila Kay Adams, “Flaco” Jiménez, John Lee Hooker, Chum Ngek, “Queen” Ida Guillory, Earl Scruggs, and B. B. King to such artisans as quilter Laverne Brackens, lace maker Sonia Domsch, and ceremonial regalia maker Clarissa Rizal. Govenar (The Beat Hotel, Stoney Knows How) previously documented the story of another of the film’s subjects, dancer and drummer Sidiki Conde, in You Don’t Need Feet to Dance. The film opens September 15 at Cinema Village; the 8:00 shows on Friday and Saturday night will be followed by a Q&A and mini-concert with Govenar, Adams, and Conde.
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 La Guardia Pl. between Third & Fourth Sts.
September 8-9, $40 (use code JLS1 for 50% discount), 7:30
Formed in 1967 by Joshua White and others, the Joshua Light Show is celebrating fifty years of adding psychedelic visuals to live music with a pair of shows at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. On September 8, the onetime Fillmore resident artists will be working their image-making magic with punk-blues purveyors Boss Hog and the experimental, progressive Dave Harrington Group, while they will join John Colpitts’s Man Forever and electronic music composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith on September 9. Over the years, JLS has stuck to its analog beginnings, using liquid and light, while incorporating digital elements. The current lineup features Alyson Denny, Curtis Godino, Nick Hallett, Seth Kirby, Ana Matronic, Brock Monroe, Gary Panter, Doug Pope, Nica Ross, Briged Smith, Bec Stupak, Jeff Cook, George Stadnik, and White. We caught them in 2012 at Skirball with John Zorn, Lou Reed, Bill Laswell, and Milford Graves and in 2011 at the Hayden Planetarium and were instantly sucked into their groovy world. Tickets are $40 for each show or $60 for both; use code JLS1 to get them for half price.
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through September 17
“Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends” is almost too much of a good thing, a massive MoMA retrospective of the interdisciplinary artist who died in 2008 at the age of eighty-two. The exhausting exhibition consists of more than 250 works, highlighting his collaborations while celebrating the vast nature of his practice. “Oh, I love collaborating, because art can be a really lonely business, if you’re really just working from your ego,” he says in an old interview on the audio guide. The show follows the Texas native from his Black Mountain College years through his time in Italy and North Africa, from his early combines and classical-influenced pieces to performances, silkscreens, objects, “Experiments in Art and Technology” (E.A.T.), and more. Many of his greatest hits are here, including “Bed,” “Monogram,” “Canyon,” “Gift for Apollo,” and his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, alongside collaborations with Jasper Johns, John Cage, Jean Tinguely, Willem de Kooning, Susan Weil, Brice Marden, Sturtevant, Alex Hay, and more. Among the most unusual works is the bubbling “Mud Muse” created with Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank Lahaye, and Jim Wilkinson. And most entertaining is Rauschenberg’s involvement in the dance world, making sets for and even performing in pieces by Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown and Laurie Anderson, Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, and others, some filmed by Charles Atlas. The exhibition is supplemented with works by such Rauschenberg contemporaries as Aaron Siskind, Cy Twombly, Lucinda Childs, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Robert Whitman. Meanwhile, the audio guide includes contributions from Yvonne Rainer, Calvin Tompkins, Weil, Marden, Brown, Virginia Dwan, Atlas, Julie Martin, and Rauschenberg’s son, Christopher. So how does one make sense of it all? MoMA is hosting a series of talks and performances to help sort everything out. The exhibition continues through September 17; the below “gallery experiences” are free with museum admission, with no advance RSVP required. (Only the September 12 “Dante Among Friends” performance requires paid ticketing.)
Wednesday, September 6, 11:30 & 3:30
“Dance among Friends: Robert Rauschenberg’s Collaborations with Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor,” featuring Changeling, Three Epitaphs, Tracer, You Can See Us, and excerpts from other works, Sculpture Garden
“Robert Rauschenberg’s Process,” with Lauren Kaplan
Wednesday, September 6, 11:30
Thursday, September 7, 1:30
Wednesday, September 13, 1:30
Thursday, September 14, 11:30 & 1:30
“No One Is an Island,” with Kerry Downey
Thursday, September 7, 1:30
“Rauschenberg Among Friends,” with Elisabeth Bardt-Pellerin
Saturday, September 9, 11:30
Sunday, September 17, 1:30
“100 Ways to Make a Picture,” with Petra Pankow
Sunday, September 10, 11:30
Monday, September 11, 11:30
“A Bit of This and That: Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines,” with Jane Royal
Tuesday, September 12
“Collaborators, Friends, Lovers,” with Tamara Kostianovsky, 11:30
“Dante among Friends,” with Robin Coste Lewis and Kevin Young responding in music and poetry to Rauschenberg’s Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, curated and hosted by Terrance McKnight, $5-$15, 7:00
On the High Line at 30th Street between 11th & 12th Aves.
September 5-7, free, 4:00 – 7:00
Donald Trump might be seeking to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but a very different kind of wall is going up on the High Line this week. On September 5-7 from 4:00 to 7:00, Romanian dancer, choreographer, and performance artist Alexandra Pirici will construct “Threshold” at the gate that separates the eastern and western rail yards at Thirtieth St. The architectural boundary is not made of wire, concrete, or wood but performers who will move about and transform the public space. Among the participants lining the flexible human wall — which visitors can interact with — will be Marissa Brown, Catherine Cabeen, Miguel Angel Guzmán, Samuel Hanson, Casey Hess, Jordan Isadore, Jhia Louise Jackson, Annie Kloppenberger, Elizabeth Mulkey, Candace Tabbs, and Jessica Weinstein. In such pieces as “Leaking Territories,” “Aggregate,” “Monument to Work,” and “If You Don’t Want Us, We Want You,” Pirici, who cites Tino Sehgal, Jérôme Bel, and La Ribot as influences, mixes in the political in both clear and subtle ways. Admission is free, and no advance RSVP is required.
In Kaari Upson’s first solo New York museum show, “Good thing you are not alone,” the California native goes in search of the perfect double as it relates to consumption, mass production, the ideal of America, and her relationship with her mother. Consisting of drawing, painting, sculpture, and video, the exhibition is centered by “Hers” and “Idiot’s Guide Womb Room,” an interactive installation, constructed of steel Costco shelves, urethane foam, aluminum, plastic, and wood, in which visitors can take a seat, watch videos of Upson dressed as her mother and performing rituals, read various Complete Idiot’s Guide books, and check out piles of life-size replicas of her mother made of latex, synthetic hair, fabric, foam, duct tape, and debris. Upson, who has portrayed her mother in more than thirty videos, sees it as an “amalgamation of it being not just my own real mom but a multiplicity of a type of woman that’s transitioning from being objectified, like a certain particular age where she almost becomes invisible,” she tells curator Margot Norton on the audio guide. “So that idea that she can almost have agency through her invisibility allowed me to go up in spaces and do very strange things.”
Upson references her mother’s fondness for soda in “Teeth on Pepsi Plinth,” rows of fossilized aluminum-cast cans (“Lifetime Supply”) with crystalline teeth (“Crocodile Mother”) on top of them, part of her ongoing “MMDP (My Mother Drinks Pepsi)” project. She recasts discarded furniture into drooping wall pieces that recall the work of Lynda Benglis and Claes Oldenburg, in “Brown Recluse,” “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue,” and “You Don’t Need a Rope to Pinch a Stranger’s Butt.” In the intense video Split Eye, Upson films her eye in close-up, using glass and mirrors to create intriguing, often disturbing effects. And in her latest body of work, a series of graphic drawings explores a family living in a Las Vegas tract house, incorporating such phrases as “Where all autonomy is lost” in “home’” and “Caught in a pattern of endless reproduction” in “event horizon.” In “Good thing you are not alone,” Upson makes the private public, and the public private, delving into the subconscious of contemporary American culture with a forensic approach, uncovering a repetitive world from which there appears to be no escape.