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

AKIKO KITAMURA’S CROSS TRANSIT

Cross Transit

Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura’s Cross Transit is a multimedia collaboration with Cambodian photographer Kim Hak (photo by Sopheak Vong)

Japan Society
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, $30, 7:30
212-715-1258
www.japansociety.org
www.akikokitamura.com

Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura’s Cross Transit has been traveling across the world, and it pulls in to Japan Society this week for two shows, on Friday and Saturday. The seventy-five-minute work is a collaboration between Kitamura, Amrita Performing Arts Center, and Cambodian photographer Kim Hak, with performers from Japan and Cambodia — Kitamura, Ippei Shiba, Yuka Seike, Yuki Nishiyama, Llon Kawai, and Chy Ratana — moving in front of a stretched canvas onto which their shadows are cast and Hak’s deeply personal photographs and video, capturing a Cambodia that is fading from memory, are projected in a collage-like, fragmented manner. The piece also includes text by Hak, with costumes by Tomoko Inamura, lighting by Yuji Sekiguchi, sound design by Hiroaki Yokoyama, and set design and projections by Akihiko Kaneko. Kitamura (Enact Frames of Pleasure, Ghostly Round), the founder of the Leni-Basso dance company, spent time in Phnom Penh studying Cambodian movement, spiritual rituals, and martial arts and participated in workshops with Hak; Kitamura, who was last at Japan Society for the world premiere of TranSenses in January 2017, has also collaborated with Indonesian artists on To Belong in her quest to incorporate a wide range of Asian artistic styles into her movement language and to bring countries together through cultural exchange. The March 22 performance will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception, while the March 23 show will be followed by an artist Q&A.

KIRSTEIN AND BALANCHINE’S NEW YORK CITY BALLET: FOUR MODERN WORKS

Peter Walker in George Balanchine’s Agon. Photo: Erin Baiano

Peter Walker will be part of NYCB performance at MoMA that includes excerpt from George Balanchine’s Agon (photo by Erin Baiano)

MoMA, Museum of Modern Art
Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
March 16-18, free with museum admission of $14-$25, 12:00 and 3:00
Exhibit runs through June 7, $14-$25
212-708-9400
www.moma.org

In conjunction with the wide-ranging exhibition “Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern,” MoMA is presenting “Kirstein and Balanchine’s New York City Ballet: Four Modern Works,” a series of dance performances in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at noon and 3:00. The exhibit, which opens on Sunday and continues through June 7, consists of nearly three hundred paintings, photographs, sculptures, letters, videos, drawings, and ephemera collected by or associated with the Rochester-born Lincoln Kirstein, a polymath, cultural critic, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, librettist, and writer who cofounded the New York City Ballet with George Balanchine and was part of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives unit during WWII. The presentation, hosted by NYCB corps de ballet member Silas Farley, will include excerpts from 1941’s Concerto Barocco, 1946’s The Four Temperaments, 1948’s Orpheus, and 1957’s Agon, accompanied by Brooklyn-born pianist Elaine Chelton. The works will be performed by Farley, Gonzalo Garcia, Anthony Huxley, Sara Adams, Ashley Laracey, Unity Phelan, Peter Walker, Devin Alberda, Marika Anderson, Eliza Blutt, Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Laine Habony, Baily Jones, Olivia MacKinnon, Jenelle Manzi, Miriam Miller, Andrew Scordato, and Mary Elizabeth Sell. It’s free with museum admission, but there is limited seating.

LOU REED DRONES

(photo by Da Ping Luo)

Laurie Anderson will be presenting “Lou Reed Drones” March 13 at St. John the Divine (photo by Da Ping Luo)

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St.
Wednesday, March 13, free with advance RSVP, 6:30 - 11:30 pm
212-316-7540
www.stjohndivine.org
www.loureed.com

When punk godfather Lou Reed departed this mortal coil on October 13, 2013, at the age of seventy-one, he left behind a legacy of music, poetry, and good old New York City toughness. His songs and style have so influenced our concepts of “downtown,” “cool,” and “rock,” it’s as if he’s still with us. And that’s how it will feel on March 13, when his longtime partner, musician and artist Laurie Anderson, presents “Lou Reed Drones” in the Crossing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for five hours beginning at 6:30. The soundscape installation features more than a half dozen of Reed’s guitars, each one in front of a large amplifier; his former guitar tech and collaborator Stewart Hurwood fiddles with various knobs and dials as droning feedback noise emerges, a different emanation of Reed’s famed Metal Machine Music. We saw the piece two years ago in the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, where we could lie on the floor and just let it vibrate in all our cells; it’s a dramatic piece that can take you wherever you want to go, reaching another level as it floats into St. John the Divine’s eight-second echo. (Visitors are encouraged to walk around the space to experience unique sonic perceptions.) That performance offered the bonus of additional live musicians, including Anderson on violin. Free with advance RSVP, the work is part of the exhibition “The Value of Sanctuary: Building a House without Walls,” which continues at the cathedral through June 30.

EGON SCHIELE: IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT LINE

 Egon Schiele Reclining Male Nude. 1910. Watercolor and black crayon on paper. Signed and dated, lower left. 12 3/8" x 16 3/4" (31.4 x 42.5 cm). Kallir D. 663. Private collection.

Egon Schiele, Reclining Male Nude, watercolor and black crayon on paper, 1910 (private collection)

Galerie St. Etienne
24 West 57th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through March 9, free
212-245-6734
www.gseart.com

The centennial remembrance of the death of Austrian artist Egon Schiele at the age of twenty-eight in 1918 has featured special exhibitions around the world. One of the most stirring is “Egon Schiele: In Search of the Perfect Line,” which has been extended at Galerie St. Etienne through March 9. The Midtown gallery has been the longtime home of Schiele’s work, having hosted his first American one-man show in 1941. The current exhibit focuses on his extraordinary drawing skill, featuring portraits, nudes, landscapes, and nature scenes. “Egon Schiele ranks among the greatest draughtsmen of all times,” gallery owner Jane Kallir writes in her extensive exhibition essay. “Schiele’s works on paper stand on their own as complete artistic statements. Drawing almost daily, he used the medium to record his fluctuating responses to the basic problems of human existence: sexual desire, personal identity, the tenuousness of life, and the inevitability of death. Over the course of his brief career, Schiele’s drawing style changed frequently — sometimes several times in a single year. He was constantly searching for the perfect line: that split-second of transcendent clarity, when inner emotions and outward appearances become one.” Even the most ardent Schiele fans are likely to be surprised by the range of the drawings. While the 1912 Self-Portrait with Brown Background is classic Schiele, the artist looking strangely at the viewer, a 1906 self-portrait depicts Schiele as a well-dressed schoolboy deep in thought, facing off to the side, his left hand against his chin, a pencil in his right hand.

 Egon Schiele Houses in Krumau. 1917. Charcoal on paper. Inscription, dated February 19, 1921, by Karl Grünwald, verso. 11 1/2" x 17 3/4" (29.2 x 45.1 cm). Kallir D. 2136. Private collection.

Egon Schiele, Houses in Krumau, charcoal on paper, 1917 (private collection)

In On the Beach, a well-to-do couple stand happily on a boardwalk, the work bathed in blue and orange. The watercolor and pencil Newborn Baby almost floats off the tan wove paper, a startling contrast to Baby, where you can follow Schiele’s exquisite line. In Seated Girl with Bent Head, the subject is hunched over in the center, packed with emotion even though her face is not visible. Be sure to linger over City Houses (Krumau Ringplatz), Little Tree (Chestnut Tree at Lake Constance), Work Shed in Hilly Terrain, and Two Houses (Suburb of Vienna), which offer unexpected pleasures. And then follow the chaos of the line in Woman with Blonde Hair and Blue Garment. “Schiele’s premature death leaves hanging the tantalizing question: What would have happened next?” Kallir writes. “His oeuvre, comprising roughly 3,000 works on paper and over 300 paintings, may be interpreted as a visual coming-of-age story. Marked by the indelible stamp of youth, his work follows the path toward maturity and records faithfully the growing wisdom of adulthood. . . . In the best of his last works, Schiele had finally found the perfect line.”

THE MYSTERY OF PICASSO

Picasso

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and French director Henri-Georges Clouzot collaborate on thrilling film about creative genius

THE MYSTERY OF PICASSO (Le mystère Picasso) (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Opens March 1
212-727-8110
filmforum.org
milestonefilms.com

Suspense master Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso, now playing at Film Forum in a beautiful 4K restoration from Milestone, is one of the most thrilling films ever made about art and the creative process. In the 1949 short Visit to Picasso, Belgian director Paul Haesaerts photographed Pablo Picasso painting on a glass plate. Picasso and his longtime friend Clouzot take that basic concept to the next level in The Mystery of Picasso, in which the Spanish artist uses inks that bleed through paper so Clouzot can shoot him from the other side; the works unfold like magic, evolving on camera seemingly without the genius present. “We’d give anything to have been in Rimbaud’s mind while he was writing ‘Le Bateau Ivre,’ or in Mozart’s while he was composing the Jupiter Symphony, to discover this secret mechanism that guides the creator in a perilous adventure,” Clouzot says at the beginning. “Thanks to God, what is impossible in poetry and music is attainable in painting. To find out what goes on in a painter’s head, you need to follow his hand. A painter’s adventure is an odd one!” It’s breathtaking as the pictures emerge, revealing Picasso’s remarkable command of line, altering images as he pleases with just a brushstroke or two.

Picasso

Pablo Picasso races against the clock to complete a painting as cinematographer Claude Renoir captures it all

Most of the works are accompanied by glorious music by composer Georges Auric, ranging from bold fanfares and classical lilts to jazzy riffs. (Several drawings have no music so the sounds of Picasso’s brushstrokes can be heard, a score unto itself.) Picasso is seen several times in the film, which is in black-and-white except for the colors in the paintings: Before the credits, he paints at an easel, closely examining the work with penetrating wide eyes; a moment later, he appears in a cloud of smoke (from his cigarette); in the middle, shirtless, he shows off his impressive seventy-five-year-old physique, battling the clock as Clouzot announces that a reel is running out, another camera revealing the basic method employed by Clouzot and cinematographer Claude Renoir, the nephew of filmmaker Jean Renoir and grandson of Impressionist master Auguste Renoir; and, at the end, Picasso boldly signs the film, which was shot over three months in the summer at Studios de la Victorine in Nice. (Among those stopping by to check out the progress were Jean Cocteau, Jacques Prévert, and Luis Buñuel.) At another point Picasso decides that he wants to switch from ink on paper to oil on canvas.

“I haven’t gone below the surface yet. We should go deeper. Risk all. Try to see one picture turning onto another,” he says as Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Les Diaboliques) and Renoir (The Golden Coach, The Spy Who Loved Me) change to CinemaScope. The result is La Plage de la Garoupe, which was shot over eight days using a stop-motion technique so editor Henri Colpi could remove Picasso from the scene, since he had to make it the traditional way, in front of the canvas. All of the works were supposed to be destroyed once the film was completed, but it is rumored that a few still exist. Colpi wrote in Letters to a Young Editor that Picasso had kept many of the drawings but they were damaged in an accident involving his cat. In the final shot, Centaur, a sculpture Picasso made from such studio materials as a lens box, a light stanchion, an easel, and boxes, can be seen in the background; it is currently in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Mystery of Picasso might not contain the artist’s finest works, it can feel repetitive even at seventy-five minutes, and it’s not all quite as spontaneous as it seems, but it offers a captivating look inside the mind of one of the most important and distinguished artists of the twentieth century.

HACHIOJI KURUMA NINGYO PUPPET THEATER

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater presents two programs at Japan Society this week

Japan Society
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
February 28 - March 2, $40, 7:30
212-715-1258
www.japansociety.org

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater rolls into Japan Society this week with its unique brand of storytelling, led by fifth grand master Koryu Nishikawa V. Moving large puppets on a three-wheeled dolly, the company will present two female-centric programs, one consisting of Yugao, Date Musume Koi Higanoko, and Tsuri On’na, the other Yugao, Date Musume Koi Higanoko, and Kuzunoha; Yugao is a new work by Nishikawa V based on a story from The Tale of Genji. Each show will be preceded by a lecture by Dr. Claudia Orenstein of Hunter College; opening night will be followed by a reception with the artists. The works will be performed by Ryuji Nishikawa V, Ryusha Nishikawa, Ryuki Nishikawa, Ryukei Nishikawa, and Yoshiteru Nishikawa, led by Nishikawa V, with gidayu chanter Koshiko Takemoto and live shamisen music by Sansuzu Tsuruzawa and Yaya Tsuruzawa. In addition, there will be a “Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Performance and Workshop” for students on Friday and a “Master Class on Kuruma Ningyo Puppetry” on Saturday and Sunday. And on March 10, Nishikawa V will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Family Afternoon — Pens & Poems for children ages twelve and under with an adult.

MARTHA ROSLER: IRRESPECTIVE

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Martha Rosler’s A Gourmet Experience and Objects with No Titles are part of Jewish Museum retrospective (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.
Through March 3, $8-$18, pay-what-you-wish Thursday from 5:00 - 8:00, free Saturday
212-423-3200
thejewishmuseum.org
www.martharosler.net

In November 2012, I tried to buy a mahjongg case from renowned artist Martha Rosler as part of her MoMA atrium presentation “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale,” but alas, we couldn’t agree on a price. However, I’ve completely bought into the Brooklyn-born artist and activist’s latest show, “Irrespective,” an involving survey exhibition continuing at the Jewish Museum through March 3. “We need to be out there, but we also need to be in here, because otherwise the art world will go on doing the things it’s done in the way it’s done it, and that is not really the best that art can be,” Rosler explains on the audioguide. “It’s hard for me to look at my own life as other than just keeping on with doing what I was doing, which was a tripartite thing: making work, writing about ways of thinking about the world and about the production of art, and teaching.” That perspective shines through in the exhibit, which includes photography, sculpture, video, text, and installation going back five decades, taking on war, advertising, mass media, political leaders, the education system, modes of travel, and more from a decidedly feminist angle.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Martha Rosler, Prototype (Freedom Is Not Free), resin, composite, metal, paint, and printed transfers, 2006 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Curators Darsie Alexander and Shira Backer and designers New Affiliates, in close collaboration with Rosler, have reconfigured the museum space, which is laid out almost like a maze as visitors go from gallery to gallery in whichever order they choose, following no specific pattern as they encounter Rosler’s oeuvre uniquely, on their own path, echoing the range of her subject matter and media. (However, it is loosely chronological if you go counterclockwise.) As you enter, to your left is Prototype (Freedom Is Not Free), a giant mechanical leg that threatens to kick you; it relates to the prosthetics soldiers need after losing a limb to an IED, while the inclusion of images of stiletto heels invokes women warriors as well as wives, mothers, girlfriends, and sisters who care for men when they come home from battle seriously wounded. Rosler has revisited her “House Beautiful” series, in which she takes magazine and newspaper ads promoting domesticity, featuring suburban women doing what was considered women’s work, and places war images over specific parts. A Gourmet Experience consists of a long table set for a banquet and audio and video dealing with cooking, serving, and eating; nearby is a new iteration of Rosler’s 1970s installation Objects with No Titles, a collection of soft sculptures made with women’s undergarments, coming in all shapes and sizes.

In her most influential and well known video, Semiotics of the Kitchen, Rosler creates a new kind of verbal and physical language using standard utensils and her body. Food, labor, and power structures are highlighted in such photographic series as “Air Fare,” “North American Waitress, Coffee-Shop Variety (Know Your Servant Series, No. 1),” and “A Budding gourmet: food novel 1.” On the audioguide she notes, “Who doesn’t like food, especially if you’re Jewish? Our entire domestic life is centered on the question of reproduction and maintenance; maintenance involves, aside from cleaning the house and doing the laundry, making sure everyone is fed three times a day. And you’re supposed to be good at it.” In the video Born to Be Sold: Martha Rosler Reads the Strange Case of Baby $/M, Rosler defends Mary Beth Whitehead, a surrogate mother who decided to keep the baby she was carrying for adoptive parents, while in Unknown Secrets (The Secret of the Rosenbergs) she employs a handout, photographs, a stenciled towel, and a package of Jell-O to detail how Ethel Rosenberg might have been framed.

Martha Rosler

Martha Rosler wields a sharp knife in Semiotics of the Kitchen (black-and-white video with sound, Jewish Museum, New York)

Reading Hannah Arendt (Politically, for an Artist in the 21st Century) comprises mylar panels hanging from the ceiling, printed with quotes from the German Jewish theorist’s 1951 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, including this paraphrasing of Noam Chomsky: “‘Detachment and equanimity’ in view of ‘unbearable tragedy’ can indeed be ‘terrifying.’” Photos of airports are accompanied by such phrases as “haunted trajectories,” “interpenetration of terrors,” and “vagina or birth canal?” In The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems, Rosler snaps photos along the Bowery but without any people in them; instead, she adds various words associated with drunkenness, but the absence of the denizens of Skid Row is palpable. In “Greenpoint Project,” she documents the gentrification of the neighborhood where she’s lived for nearly forty years. And in “Rights of Passage,” she traces her commute using a toy panoramic camera.

While some of the work is repetitive thematically, Rosler argues on the audioguide that “when people say, ‘Wait, you did that already,” I would say: ‘That’s right, I did that already, and so did we. And how is what we’re doing now different from what we did then?’” The Jewish Museum show might go back fifty years, but it doesn’t feel old in the least, as so much of what Rosler stands for and has been exploring throughout her career is still on the line, from war to gender inequality, from corrupt politicians to reproductive rights. That she does so with a wickedly wry sense of humor — she has referred to herself as a “standup comic” — only makes it all the more accessible, using laughter as a decoy. “The Monumental Garage Sale is a decoy,” she tells Molly Nesbit in a catalog interview. “Cooking and its customs and material objects are decoys: they provide an entry into daily life — roles and procedures that have become naturalized or normalized.” Thus, I might not have purchased that mahjongg case at MoMA, but that was just a decoy as well.