On July 14, 1789, a Parisian mob stormed the Bastille prison, a symbolic victory that kicked off the French Revolution and the establishment of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Ever since, July 14 has been a national holiday celebrating liberté, égalité, and fraternité. In New York City, the Bastille Day festivities are set for Sunday, July 14, along Sixtieth St., where the French Institute Alliance Française hosts its annual daylong party of food and drink, music and dance, and other special activities. The celebration is highlighted by the free live performance “Gérard Chambre: Si on chantait l’Amour” in Florence Gould Hall at 3:00 and a screening of C’est la vie! (Le sens de la fête) (Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, 2017) in the hall at 5:30 ($16). The elegant Champagne, Cocktail, and Jazz Party takes place at 1:30 and 3:30 in the Skyroom ($75), with live music by the Avalon Jazz Band, five different Champagnes, cocktails by Giffard, chocolates from Jacques Torres, macarons from Ladurée, and hors d’oeuvres from Maman Bakery, while a Summer in Provence tasting occurs in Tinker Auditorium from 12:00 to 4:30, with three wines, one beer, one Ricard cocktail, and cheese and charcuterie ($30).
The French Garden between Madison and Fifth Aves. includes booths from Atelier Paulin, French Wink (Atelier Novo, Calisson Inc, Emma & Chloé, Merci Bisous, Môme Care, Tissage Moutet), Ladurée, Strasbourg Tourism Office, and Saint James, while Market Booths between Lexington and Madison features Hanami Designs, Katia Lambey Expressions, Alhambra Lifestyle, Barraca / the Shack Collective, Brasserie Cognac, Epicerie Boulud & Bar Boulud, Financier Pâtisserie, Harmless Harvest, Le Bec Fin, Lelo Fine Foods, Macaron Café, MAD Foods, Maman Bakery, Meska Sweets, Mille-Feuille Bakery Café, Miss Madeleine NYC, Oliviers & Co, Perrier, Pistache NYC, Sel Magique, Simply Gourmand, Sud de France, the Crepe Escape, the American Association of French Speaking Health Pro, BZH New York, Canal +, Exploria Resorts, France Amerique, Green Mountain Energy, Sheridan Fencing Academy, and TV5 Monde / Sling TV.
There will also be a bevy of free outside performances and events, beginning at 12:35 with Joanna Wronska doing the Can-Can, followed by Chloé Perrier & French Heart Jazz Band (12:40), live Art with COCOVAN (12:50), mime with Catherine Gasta (12:50), music by the Love Show (1:10, 2:15, 3:15), a feather dance wby Joanna Wronska (1:25), music by the Blue Dahlia (1:30), Les P’tites Ouvreuses (2:30), the Hungry March Band (3:00), and Rodeo Joe (3:30), a Zouk dance lesson with Franck Muhel, and the Citroën Car Show (12:55 – 5:00). And for the kids, the FIAF Library hosts a trio of Fly Away with Books workshops: “Geometry of Animals with Lucie Brunelli” at 1:00, “Full Speed Ahead! with Cruschiform” at 2:00, and “Pop-up Art with Anouck Boisrobert & Louis Rigaud” at 3:00.
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Ave. at 67th St.
Through July 21, $20
“Spare no expense to make war beautiful,” historian Anna Duensing says in Drill, referring to military history. Drill, a three-channel, twenty-one-minute video, is the centerpiece of German artist Hito Steyerl’s site-specific, wide-ranging multimedia installation of the same name at Park Ave. Armory, where it continues through July 21. Projected on both sides of three large screens in the fifty-five-thousand-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall, Steyerl’s film delves into the history of the armory, from its time as the headquarters of the Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, known as a silk-stocking regiment, to its exclusive use by the wealthy and its direct relationship to the founding of the National Rifle Association. Steyerl goes to the armory basement, formerly a shooting range, where bullet holes can still be seen in the walls; includes clips of speeches by antigun activists at a Washington, DC, rally; and follows the Yale University Precision Marching Band as it makes its way through the drill hall, playing music by Jules Laplace based on data sonification from casualty statistics of AR-15 violence and mass shootings, with choreography by Thomas C. Duffy. Among the participants are Nurah Abdulhaqq of National Die-In, Kareem Nelson of Wheelchairs Against Guns, retired school principal and proud gun owner Judith Pearson, and gun violence prevention activist Abbey Clements. A series of interconnected bulbs on the floor occasionally light up in white and red, linking the viewer to what is happening onscreen.
In her 2013 e-flux article “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?,” Steyerl wrote, “Data, sounds, and images are now routinely transitioning beyond screens into a different state of matter. They surpass the boundaries of data channels and manifest materially. They incarnate as riots or products, as lens flares, high-rises, or pixelated tanks. Images become unplugged and unhinged and start crowding off-screen space. They invade cities, transforming spaces into sites, and reality into realty. They materialize as junkspace, military invasion, and botched plastic surgery. They spread through and beyond networks, they contract and expand, they stall and stumble, they vie, they vile, they wow and woo.” That statement relates to several of the other works in the show, spread throughout the armory’s period rooms and hallway.
In the Parlor, Is the Museum a Battlefield? is an illustrated lecture projected on two screens and a box of white sand as Steyerl investigates the fascinating relationship between art museums and war, starting with a bullet that killed a friend of hers. The audience sits on sandbags, immersed in the narrative that involves the Louvre, the Hermitage, and other arts institutions. “Museums are of course battlefields. They have been throughout history,” she says. “They have been torture chambers, sites of war crimes, civil war, and also revolution.” Although the illustrated lecture was produced for the thirteenth Istanbul Biennial, it feels right at home at the armory, a building initially constructed for the military that now is an arts institution itself. That is followed by Duty Free Art, in which Steyerl delves into income inequality through art, business, and war via freeports, where collectors store their art holdings without having to pay taxes, impacting the global economy.
In the Veterans Room and Library, Hell Yeah We Fuck Die, named for the five most-used English words in songs on the Billboard charts, features concrete and neon sculptures of those words along with video of product testing on robots, while Robots Today ties together narration from Muslim polymath Al-Jazari’s 1205 Automata with shots of a Kurdish city destroyed by the Turkish military in 2016.
Broken Windows is shown at both ends of the central hallway; one end depicts Chris Toepfer and other community activists painting canvases and placing them over broken windows in abandoned buildings in Camden, New Jersey, while at the other end researchers in London test the sound of breaking glass for artificial intelligence. The title of the video takes on added meaning here in New York City given the NYPD’s controversial use of broken windows policing, which believes that targeting smaller crimes will prevent bigger ones.
The show also includes The Tower in the Mary Divver Room and ExtraSpaceCraft in the Board of Officers Room, which are like watching virtual reality video games, while Prototype 1.0 and 1.1 in the Field and Staff Room is a pair of blue robots made of foam-and-aluminum, one standing, the other lying on the floor, as if they had come out of Hell Yeah We Fuck Die after undergoing brutal testing. And in the Colonels Reception Room, Freeplots offers hope for the future amid all the technological mayhem, a collaboration with El Catano Community Garden in East Harlem that consists of flowers blooming in wooden planters filled with horse-manure compost, turning the crates that store art in the freeports into something positive for everyone. The exhibition requires a significant investment of time and concentration; the works are complex, and the videos run more than two hours in total, but Steyerl has a lot to say that is worth paying attention to, even if some of the delivery is less inspiring than others. On July 20 at 3:00 and 5:00 ($10), there will be a performance lecture by Anton Vidokle, Adam Khalil, and Bayley Sweitzer, “The Dead Walk into a Bar,” which promises: “As a staff of identical ushers draws back layers of confusion and pain, the freshly resurrected gradually become aware of the reality of their corporeal reinsertion: perhaps the world of the living is not a world at all; to be alive in this place may merely be an exhibit.”
Who: Janet Biggs and Scott MacDonald
What: Panel discussion and book launch
Where: Cristin Tierney Gallery, 219 Bowery, second floor, 212-594-0550
When: Thursday, July 11, free with advance RSVP, 6:30
Why: In his new book, The Sublimity of Document: Cinema as Diorama (Oxford University Press, August 1, 2019, $125), author and film history professor Scott MacDonald writes of visual artist Janet Biggs, “I first became aware of Biggs when she visited Hamilton College in the spring of 2017 to present a talk about her work. As she showed stills and clips from recent videos, I was struck by the fact that Biggs had traveled to and filmed particular far-flung locations that I had been introduced to by other filmmakers. . . . I was interested not only that multiple artists would be drawn to these precise locations, but also that, in somewhat different ways, these locations can be dangerous to visit. As I became familiar with Biggs’s work, I came to wonder why an artist would go through the considerable difficulties of visiting distant, potentially dangerous locations, not in order to produce films that might have substantial audiences, but to offer relatively brief visual experiences to comparatively smaller audiences within gallery and museum spaces. I came to realize that my experiences with Biggs’s work offered an opportunity to explore, at least in a small way, the issue of installation cinema versus theatrical cinema.” The book continues with an interview between MacDonald and Biggs that was conducted online.
On July 11, MacDonald and Biggs will be together in person at the Cristin Tierney Gallery for a discussion on film and art in conjunction with the publication of The Sublimity of Document and Biggs’s most recent exhibition, “Overview Effect,” the second part of which, Seeing Constellations in the Darkness between Stars, continues at Cristin Tierney through August 2. MacDonald’s book features interviews with Biggs and more than two dozen other “avant-doc” filmmakers, including Ron Fricke, Laura Poitras, Frederick Wiseman, Bill Morrison, Abbas Kiarostami, and James Benning. Biggs has also contributed the article “Fragility Curve” to the current edition of the Brooklyn Rail, writing about her experiences making her latest films, which deal with Mars. “The earth will remake itself and survive the legacy of its human inhabitants, but will we?” she asks. The conversation with Biggs and MacDonald will be followed by a book signing; in addition, Biggs, who has participated in two twi-ny talks, will be presenting the multimedia performance piece How the Light Gets In July 18 at the New Museum.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, July 6, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum celebrates the 243rd birthday of the United States of America in the July edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Brooklyn Maqam musicians, Dj InO, Tunde Olaniran, Snips, and Cumbia River Band; a curator tour of “Garry Winogrand: Color” led by Drew Sawyer; a hands-on workshop in which participants can design wearable art inspired by “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall”; a book club discussion with Adreinne Waheed, author of the photo book Black Joy and Resistance, with artist Zun Lee and moderator Delphine Adama Fawundu; teen pop-up gallery talks in honor of the fortieth anniversary of The Dinner Party and creator Judy Chicago’s eightieth birthday; a screening of Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable (Sasha Waters Freyer, 2018), followed by a talkback with Sawyer and Susan Kismaric; Cave Canem poetry readings with JP Howard, Raven Jackson, and Trace DePass responding to “Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha”; and a community talk about the Lesbian Herstory Archives with Flavia Rando, Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, Ashley-Luisa Santangelo, and Elvis Bakaitis. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room,” “Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha,” “One: Egúngún,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Infinite Blue,” “Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper,” “Kwang Young Chun: Aggregations,” and more.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Ave. at 89th St.
Through July 10, $18-$25 (pay-what-you-wish Saturday 5:00-7:00)
Part 2 runs July 24 – January 5
There’s only one week left to see the first phase of the Guggenheim’s yearlong, two-part exhibition “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now,” a concise survey in conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of the death of visual artist Robert Mapplethorpe in 1989 at the age of forty-two. Mapplethorpe’s reputation has been growing since the January 2010 publication of Patti Smith’s award-winning book Just Kids, which details the punk rocker’s relationship with Mapplethorpe, from lovers to best friends and artistic collaborators in the late 1960s and 1970s. More recently, there was the 2016 documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures and the 2018 biopic Mapplethorpe as well as Bryce Dessner’s multimedia Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), which used music and images to focus on several of the controversies surrounding Mapplethorpe’s work, from obscenity charges to questions about racism and his photos of black bodies. “Implicit Tensions” circumvents all of that and concentrates on his immense skill in composition and his immeasurable artistic vision in his photographs of flowers, sadomasochism, male and female nudes, and, most notably, himself, although he’s no mere narcissistic selfie taker.
The Guggenheim show consists of more than fifty photographs and unique objects from the museum’s collection, gifts from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation between 1993 and 1998 that led to the Guggenheim developing and expanding its photography collection and forming its Photography Council. The wholly satisfying exhibit is somewhat of a greatest hits display, with iconic photos as well as pictures of such well-known figures as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Anderson, Candy Darling, Philip Glass with Robert Wilson, David Hockney with Henry Gelzahler, and Smith. Mapplethorpe treated all his subjects equally, whether a celebrity, a lover, a flower, an S&M scene, or himself. “My interest was to open people’s eyes, get them to realize anything can be acceptable,” he said in an interview. “It’s not what it is, it’s the way it’s photographed.”
Using Polaroid and Hasselblad cameras, among others, Mapplethorpe captured a bold intimacy in his work, which, in 2019, seems more revolutionary than shocking, although some photos are still daring and outrageous. Early on, he created such collages as Black Bag, Green Bag, and Red Bag, made of clippings from gay porn magazines arranged behind a mesh screen, placing homosexuality tantalizingly out of reach (and seemingly imprisoned). In Dominick and Elliot, a bound and naked Dominick is upside down, as if in a reverse crucifixion pose, next to the shirtless Elliot, who has a cigarette in one hand, Elliot’s testicles in the other. In Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, Moody’s and Sherman’s heads are seen sideways as they look seriously off into the distance, the former’s blackness and the latter’s whiteness almost blending together. It’s a visual companion piece to Ken and Tyler, with Moody’s and Tyler’s nude bodies — their heads are out of the frame — right behind each other, facing the same direction as Ken’s and Robert’s heads.
This theme of dichotomy is central to the bisexual Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre and is fully evident at the Guggenheim. Two of the most telling photos are a pair of 1977 works titled Pictures/Self Portrait, which were invitations to a gallery show. In both, Mapplethorpe’s hand is writing the word “Pictures”; in one, the hand is shown in a conventional man’s shirt and watch, while in the other the hand wears a black leather glove and a brash metal bracelet, equalizing and contrasting so-called normal and S&M costuming. In one gelatin silver print of bodybuilder Lisa Lyon, she is dressed in black, as if at a funeral, while in another she is nude except for a white sheet over her face that falls like the train of a wedding dress to the floor.
The implicit tension is also on display in Mapplethorpe’s numerous self-portraits, which range from the angelic to the demonic; he has evil horns in one and holds a skull-topped cane in another, while in a third he is elegant in a lush fur and wearing lipstick. In two 1980 self-portraits, he is shirtless and androgynous in one, smoking a cigarette and wearing a leather jacket in the other, comparing sensitivity with toughness as he addresses gender identity and societal ideas of maleness. And then there’s American Flag, a photograph of a ratty, torn flag that speaks volumes. Mapplethorpe had a very personal way of depicting both the private and the public, and thirty years after his death from HIV/AIDS complications, his pictures still get under your skin, the man behind the camera — and in front of it — as elusive as ever, and just as beautiful and beguiling. The second phase of “Implicit Tensions” opens July 24 and will examine Mapplethorpe’s legacy and influence, combining his works with those of Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Lyle Ashton Harris, Glenn Ligon, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya.
The New York Botanical Garden
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx
Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, June 30, $12 children two to twelve, $28 adults, 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
For the third time in four years, one of the New York Botanical Garden’s rare corpse flowers has bloomed, aerating its funky aroma (rotting garbage!) in an honored position at one end of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. It’s a special privilege to be able to see (and smell!) the titan-arum (Amorphophallus titanum) in person, whether in its full glory — it started flowering on Thursday, was at its peak on Friday, and will fade away on Saturday and Sunday — so get over to the NYBG as soon as you can (remember, it’s only twenty-two minutes from Grand Central via Metro-North) to watch the tall, central spadix fall over as the lovely, colorful spathe surrounding it withers. You can follow the progress of the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant world — well, now its demise — on the garden’s livestream here. The NYBG is also home to the excellent current exhibition “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx,” so the trip will be well worth it.
A BIGGER SPLASH (Jack Hazan, 1974)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Opens Friday, June 21
Just in time to coincide with Pride celebrations throughout New York City in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Metrograph is premiering a 4K restoration of Jack Hazan’s pivotal 1974 A Bigger Splash, a fiction-nonfiction hybrid that was a breakthrough work for its depiction of gay culture as well as its inside look at the fashionable and chic Los Angeles art scene of the early 1970s. This past November, David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold at auction for $90.3 million, the most ever paid for a work by a living artist. A Bigger Splash, named after another of Hockney’s paintings — both are part of a series of canvases set around pools in ritzy Los Angeles — takes place over three years, as the British artist, based in California at the time, hangs out with friends, checks out a fashion show, prepares for a gallery exhibition, and works on Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) in the wake of a painful breakup with his boyfriend, model, and muse, Peter Schlesinger, who is a key figure in the painting.
It’s often hard to know which scenes are pure documentary and which are staged for the camera as Hazan and his then-parter, David Mingay, who served as director of photography, tag along with Hockney, who rides around in his small, dirty BMW, meeting up with textile designer Celia Birtwell, fashion designer Ossie Clark, curator Henry Geldzahler, gallerist John Kasmin, artist Patrick Procktor, and others, who are identified only at the beginning, in black-and-white sketches during the opening credits. The film features copious amounts of male nudity, including a long sex scene between two men, a group of beautiful boys diving into a pool in a fantasy sequence, and Hockney disrobing and taking a shower. Hockney’s assistant, Mo McDermott, contributes occasional voice-overs; he also poses as the man standing on the deck in Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), only to be replaced by Schlesinger later. There are several surreal moments involving Hockney’s work: He cuts up one painting; Geldzahler gazes long and hard at himself in the double portrait of him and Christopher Scott; and Hockney tries to light the cigarette Procktor is holding in a painting as Procktor watches, cigarette in hand, mimicking his pose on canvas. At one point Hockney is photographing Schlesinger in Kensington Gardens, reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, which questions the very nature of capturing reality on film.
Hockney was so upset when he first saw A Bigger Splash, which Hazan made for about twenty thousand dollars, that he offered to buy it back from Hazan in order to destroy it; Hazan refused, and Hockney went into a deep depression. His friends ultimately convinced him that it was a worthwhile movie and he eventually accepted it. It’s a one-of-a-kind film, a wild journey that goes far beyond the creative process as an artist makes his masterpiece. Hockney, who will turn eighty-two next month, has been on quite a roll of late. He was the subject of a 2016 documentary by Randall Wright, was widely hailed for his 2018 Met retrospective, saw one of his paintings set an auction record, and is scheduled to have a major drawing show at the National Portrait Gallery next year. In addition, Catherine Cusset’s novel, Life of David Hockney, was just published in English, a fictionalized tale that conceptionally recalls A Bigger Splash, which opens June 21 at Metrograph, with various Q&As and introductions by Hazan, Richard Haines and Alexander Olch, Nick McCarthy, Ryan McNamara, Matt Wolf, and Cusset from June 21 to 30. And if you can’t get enough of Hockney, Anita Rogers is showing “Films by James Scott, Etchings by David Hockney” through July 27, consisting of Hockney’s 1966 series “Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy” and Scott’s 1966 documentary short about the series, Love’s Presentation.