Who: Blanche Bruce, Clifford Owens, Kamau Amu Patton
What: Livestream performance
Where: Performa’s Radical Broadcast website channel
When: Friday, May 1, free, 4:00
Why: In 2017, MoMA hosted a series of performances and talks in conjunction with the exhibition “Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps,” one of which I was fortunate enough to see. The exhibit focused on the work of artist and musician Terry Adkins (1953-2014), the founder of the performance collective Lone Wolf Recital Corps. This spring the Pulitzer Arts Foundation was scheduled to open “Terry Adkins: Resounding,” consisting of sculptures, instruments, digital videos, and various personal ephemera. Along with the postponement of the show, several live performances were canceled, but on May 1 at 4:00, the Pulitzer, in conjunction with Performa and organized by corps members Clifford Owens and Kamau Amu Patton, will be presenting “Radical Broadcast: Lone Wolf Recital Corps,” a livestream performance featuring Adkins alter ego Blanche Bruce (named after former slave and US senator Blanche Kelso Bruce) revisiting the early scores “Second Mind” and “Alto Age,” with Owens joining from his New York City apartment and Patton working from his Chicago studio. (Owens participated in the 2005 Performa Biennial and Adkins in the 2013 edition.) Adkins once said, “My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is. It’s kind of challenging to make both of those pursuits do what they are normally not able to do.” That is especially true of playing live music in the age of coronavirus.
Who: Xavier F. Salomon
What: Happy-hour discussion of great works of art in the Frick Collection
Where: Frick YouTube channel
When: Fridays at 5:00, free
Why: One of my very favorite places in New York City is the Frick Collection, a kind of home away from home for me, where I go when I need to take a break from the rest of the world and relax among spectacular works of art — many of which I consider close friends — and sit peacefully in the enchanting garden with its lush fountain. But I’m now able to get a much-needed taste of the Frick — which opened in 1935, sixteen years after the death of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick — with the fab program “Cocktails with a Curator.” Every Friday at 5:00, Frick chief curator Xavier F. Salomon enjoys a specifically chosen drink (recipe included for cocktail and mocktail) with viewers as he describes one of the museum’s treasures. On April 10, Salomon discussed Giovanni Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert while sipping a Manhattan, followed on April 17 with a look at Rembrandt’s Polish Rider while enjoying a Szarlotka. On April 24, Salomon will delve into Anthony van Dyck’s Sir John Suckling with Pink Gin in hand. Speaking live from his New York City apartment, Salomon is seen in the lower right hand corner of the screen as the camera roams around the artwork, offering stunning detail; Salomon is wonderfully calm and straightforward as he explores the piece and relates its story to what is happening today during the pandemic.
Who: Lonneke Gordijn, Lee Ranaldo
What: Online conversation hosted by Pace Gallery
Where: Pace Gallery Instagram Live
When: Thursday, April 23, free, 5:00
Why: If you haven’t been to Pace’s huge new home in Chelsea yet, it will be a little while longer before you get to check it out. But during the lockdown, Pace is hosting a series of livestreamed performances and conversations. On March 12, musician, composer, visual artist, writer, producer, and Sonic Youth cofounder Lee Ranaldo was scheduled to play a duet with EGO, a shapeshifting sculptural installation by DRIFT, a Dutch studio that was established in 2006 by Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn to bring people together with nature and technology. That event was cancelled because of the coronavirus, but on April 23 at 5:00, Ranaldo and Gordijn will take part in “Duet: Lonneke Gordijn in Conversation with Lee Ranaldo.” The free talk, focusing on creative collaboration in today’s complex world, will be streamed live on Instagram.
In 2013, a new hero burst onto the art scene, despite being dead for nearly seventy years. First came “Hilma af Klint — A Pioneer of Abstraction,” by all accounts an eye-opening show that toured Europe, followed five years later by the smash Guggenheim exhibit “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future,” which propelled the extraordinary work of the Swedish abstractionist into the mainstream. I fondly remember making my way through the show, mouth agape at the many wonders I was seeing. German director Halina Dyrschka continues the celebration of this previously little-known painter in the documentary Beyond the Visible — Hilma af Klint, which will be available for streaming April 17 through Kino Marquee in association with BAM in Brooklyn and Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles. Dyrschka and Guggenheim assistant curator David Max Horowitz will participate in a Zoom Q&A with BAM on April 18 at 3:00.
In her debut full-length film, Dyrschka digs deep into who af Klint was, what inspired her unique achievements, and why she had been overlooked until the 2010s. “Now we have a real scandal,” German art critic and af Klint biographer Julia Voss says. “Suddenly, more than fifty years after history was written, completely out of the blue, at least for the general public, we discover this woman who painted abstract works before Kandinsky, creating this huge oeuvre, fully independently, and by a kind of miracle it’s all stayed together. It’s like finding a time capsule in Sweden. And now we have to ask: How should we integrate it?”
Born in Stockholm in 1862, af Klint incorporated physics, mathematics, the natural world, and spiritualism into her paintings, abstract canvases that predated Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, who both, like af Klint, died in 1944. She didn’t exhibit any of her work until 1906, and after that only sparingly. Upon her death, her estate was not permitted to show anything for twenty years; her first posthumous exhibition was held in LA in 1986.
“We are not here forever,” Dyrschka narrates early in the film. “So it is not at all astonishing that someone once wondered about what it means to be in the world and how everything fits together — and came up with a huge answer. The strange thing is I only found out about it more than one hundred years later. Art history has to be rewritten.” Among the others lobbying for af Klint’s ascension into the art canon are artists Josiah McEhleny and Monika von Rosen, novelist Anna Laestadius Larsson, art historians Ernst Peter Fischer and Anna Maria Bernitz, Eva-Lena Bengtsson of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, collector Valeria Napoleone, and gallerist Ceri Hand, offering different perspectives of the value and legacy of her her work. Lending more personal insight are Ulla af Klint, the widow of Hilma’s nephew Erik (from a 2001 interview); Johan af Klint, Ulla’s son, who ran the Hilma af Klint Foundation, which oversees the artist’s 1,500 paintings and 26,000 pages in notebooks; and Marie Cassel and Brigitta Giertta, descendants of two of Hilma’s closest friends. Together they paint a compelling portrait of the iconoclastic af Klint, who filled her work with cutting-edge and fringe philosophy and science. But you don’t have to agree with her offbeat world view to fall in love with her gorgeous canvases, many of which are displayed in the film.
Curator Iris Müller-Westermann explains, “Never in her lifetime did she put any of her abstract work on show. Hilma af Klint’s project was something much grander than what we today call ‘art.’ It was all about seeing the world we live in in a larger context, to understand who we really are in a cosmic perspective.”
Cinematographers Alicja Pahl and Luana Knipfer often let the camera linger on peaceful shots of water, flowers, the sky, and other natural elements that morph into Klint’s paintings and reenactments of af Klint working on a large-scale painting on the floor of her studio. Petra van der Voort reads excerpts from af Klint’s writings in voice-over, narrating from books that we can follow along with, zooming in on her penmanship, while Damian Scholl supplies a wide-ranging, eclectic score.
“She was well educated, she had a mind of her own, and she painted like nobody else,” Johan af Klint says. McElheny points out, “In order to tell the history of abstraction now, you have to rewrite it.” Beyond the Visible confirms that it’s time for a new history.
Who: Jerry Saltz, Barbara Pollack, Anne Verhallen
What: Book and art talk with Jerry Saltz
Where: Livestream (email info@artatatimelikethis for password)
When: Friday, April 17, free, 4:00
Why: Rock star art critic Jerry Saltz’s latest book has come along at just the right moment. How to Be an Artist (Riverhead Books, March 2020, $22) guides you through the creation of art — by anyone, regardless of talent and skill — espousing a dedicated work ethic, something that many of us are paradoxically demonstrating more than ever now that we’re stuck at home. “I have tried every way in the world to stop work-block or fear of working, of failure. There is only one method that works: work. And keep working,” Saltz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning senior art critic for New York magazine, writes in the book. “Every artist and writer I know claims to work in their sleep. I do all the time. Jasper Johns famously said, ‘One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag, and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.’ How many times have you been given a whole career in your dreams and not heeded it? It doesn’t matter how scared you are; everyone is scared. Work. Work is the only thing that takes the curse of fear away.”
On March 17, Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen launched Art at a Time Like This, a website that features the work of a different artist every weekday, focusing on the question “How can you think of art at a time like this?” Among the participating artists are Ai Weiwei, Mickalene Thomas, Jacolby Satterwhite, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Dread Scott & Jenny Pollak, Marilyn Minter, and Dan Perjovschi, presenting new and older paintings, photographs, and videos, all of which illuminate in some way the crisis we are facing together, the onslaught of Covid-19, which has shut down galleries and museums around the world.
A social media icon, Saltz will join Pollack and Verhallen on April 17 at 4:00 for a live online conversation about the state of art on a planet in lockdown. “Jerry Saltz is a natural for livestream because he is the completely accessible art critic, dedicated to reaching all kinds of art lovers, from the aficionado to the art-curious,” Pollack told twi-ny. “His new book puts forth the insane idea that anyone can be an artist, or at least artistic. Of course, people love him for this!”
As someone who has been writing about art for nearly twenty years, I’ve been forced to reconsider how we all experience art during this pandemic, looking at it onscreen, right next to Facebook, Google, and my day-job site. Obviously it’s not the same, and I have to admit I at first had trouble adjusting, but I’m getting more used to it every day. But can you critique a work of art you’ve seen only online, not in person? When viewed in real life, you can sense a painting’s texture, its physical presence; a photograph can envelop you and shake your surroundings loose; and videos can beam out from unique sculptural installations. But when is the next time any of us is likely to step foot in a gallery or museum in the five boroughs (or elsewhere)? What will things be like once they do reopen? Will crowds descend on MoMA and the Met like they did before corona?
In his October review of the new MoMA for New York magazine, a piece entitled, “What Does the New MoMA Mean for Modernism? And What Was Modernism Anyway?,” Saltz wrote, “Here’s how art has already moved on. Modernism is now just part of art history to artists, and not even the only or best part.” How will art move on after Covid-19? What will become part of art history? I can’t wait to hear what Saltz has to say about what will become of art’s future.
“It is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich,” American abolitionist, orator, minister, and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher said. The eminently quotable Connecticut native and longtime Brooklynite would most likely have a lot to say about the novel coronavirus, particularly this Easter weekend as many churches around the country remain open, declining suggestions and even local regulations regarding social distancing.
“To array a man’s will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine.”
Beecher first served as a Presbyterian minister in Indiana before moving to Plymouth Church in Brooklyn in 1847. He advocated for evolution, science, and woman suffrage and against slavery while also generating a spectacular sexual scandal. Beecher was a celebrity preacher, and he got a lot of press; he was even popularized in limericks, such as this fine one from English writer and artist Oliver Herford: “Said a great congregational preacher / To a hen, ‘You’re a beautiful creature.’ / And the hen, just for that, / Laid an egg in his hat, / And thus did the Hen reward Beecher.”
“Expedients are for the hour, but principles are for the ages.”
Master sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward, who designed statues of George Washington at Federal Hall, Horace Greeley in City Hall Park, William Earl Dodge in Bryant Park, Roscoe Conkling in Madison Square Park, and William Shakespeare, the Indian Hunter, and the Pilgrim in Central Park, honored Beecher with a monument dedicated at Borough Hall in 1891 and relocated to Columbus Park in 1959; the face was modeled after a death mask Ward made of Beecher on March 8, 1887, when the minister died at the age of seventy-three.
“Law represents the effort of man to organize society; governments, the efforts of selfishness to overthrow liberty.”
In a closed-off grassy area, Ward’s figure of Beecher stands proudly on a Barre granite plinth designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. Beecher is dressed in an Inverness cloak, arms at his side, staring off into the distance, his eyes on the future. To his right, a young black woman places a palm branch on the pedestal at his feet, while to his left a pair of white children offer a garland. The unpunctuated inscription on the back reads: “The grateful gift of the multitudes of all classes creeds and conditions at home and abroad to honor the great apostle of the brotherhood of man.” The sculpture was restored in 2017 and 2019 as part of the Municipal Art Society of New York’s Adopt-a-Monument/Mural program.
“There is no faculty of the human soul so persistent and universal as that of hatred.”
Beecher, the son of Presbyterian minister Lyman Beecher and brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, is surrounded by several other prominent works, including Anneta Duveen’s 1972 bust of Robert F. Kennedy, S. Hemming’s 1973 bas relief of Brooklyn Bridge builder Washington A. Roebling, a 1965 marker paying tribute to former Brooklyn borough president John Cashmore, and Emma Stebbins’s large-scale 1867 statue of park namesake Christopher Columbus, rising atop a giant plinth by architect Aymar Embury II.
“When a nation’s young men are conservative, its funeral bell is already rung.”
Beecher, who is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery, wrote such books as Notes from Plymouth Pulpit, Summer in the Soul, Yale Lectures on Preaching, Evolution and Religion, and the novel Norwood, or Village Life in New England. One can only wonder what he would say today about what is happening in Brooklyn and all over the world as a pandemic rages among the populace and divides people along political and religious lines.
“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.”
Most of us rarely see horses without a human on top of them or pulling a carriage. A jockey on a racehorse. A cowboy galloping across the plains. An equestrian jumping at Madison Square Garden. A cop at a parade. At Grand Army Plaza near the Sixtieth St. entrance to Central Park on Fifth Ave., William Tecumseh Sherman sits proudly on his horse Ontario in Augustus Saint Gaudens’s shimmering, gilded 1903 bronze monument of the Civil War hero, rising high on Charles McKim’s granite base, led by the figure of a crowned Victory. Nearby, hansom cab drivers line up to take lovers and families on carriage rides through the park, a controversial profession that continued to operate well into the coronavirus epidemic. “As we face an unprecedented crisis of contagion, it is shocking that carriage drivers still cram tourists into small carriages and give them shared, reused blankets, with the driver seated just inches ahead of them,” Alec Baldwin wrote in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio when they were still in business. “This reckless disregard may well fuel the spread of the coronavirus to both New Yorkers and unwitting visitors from across the country.” NYC Horse Carriage Rides ultimately announced they were shutting down on March 25.
Near the troublesome spectacle of the carriages and the majestic equestrian Sherman, French artist Jean Marie-Appriou has installed his first New York City public commission, The Horses at Scholars’ Gate on Doris C. Freedman Plaza, at the start of the path that leads to the zoo. The thirty-three-year-old Paris-based sculptor references multiple aspects of Equus ferus in the cast aluminum work, which consists of three parts that incorporate Symbolism, mythology, and a touch of alchemy.
The trio of silvery sculptures is centered by “Le Guerrier” (“The Warrior”), a sixteen-foot-high armored horse that has twisted its skinny body to form a gateway into and out of the park. On one side of it is “Les Amants au Bois” (“The Lovers in the Woods”), the bottom half of two horses, melded together, their flat tops like vacant plinths. On the other side is “Le Joueur” (“The Player”), relaxing on the ground like a caped Sphinx waiting to be worshiped. The detail on the horses is impressive, from their hooves to the shaffron and ribcage of horse heads of “Les Amants au Bois,” from the intricate leaves and bugs on “Le Joueur” to the bumps and thumbprints that reveal the hand of the artist and the casting process, which involved clay and foam models.
“The playful horse, the war horse, they are not horses as they are often represented in art history, as very brave,” Appriou, who has also installed outdoor works in France, Switzerland, and Miami, explains in a Public Art Fund video. “They are crouching, they are a bit scared, they hang their heads as they are approaching the spectator. It’s more like horses stepping down from the base, that do not radiate power, nor are they objects that valorize a soldier or a general.”
Passersby are encouraged to interact with the horses, even invited to sit on “Le Joueur,” although you should probably avoid that during the coronavirus pandemic. But you can walk under, through, and around them and glory in the sheer beauty and grandeur of the animals. It’s tempting to think about hopping on one of them and riding off into the sunset, like at the end of a Clint Eastwood Western, venturing into another world, far away from the myriad challenges of this one, amid echoes of Richard III crying out, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”