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


(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

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.


van morrison

Who: Brian Fallon, Shawn Colvin, the Secret Sisters, Richard Marx, Marc Cohn, Bettye LaVette, Josh Ritter, Glen Hansard, Anderson East, the Resistance Revival Chorus, Lee Fields, David Johansen, Blind Boys of Alabama, Robert Earl Keen, William Elliott Whitmore, John Paul White, Darlene Love, Low Cut Connie, Valerie June, Patti Smith, and the house band of Tony Garnier, Steve Jordan, Smokey Hormel, and Leon Pendarvis, with more to be announced
What: Fundraising tribute to Van Morrison benefiting music programs for kids
Where: Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, 57th St. & Seventh Ave., 212-247-7800
When: Thursday, March 21, $48-$175 (VIP packages $325-$10,000), 8:00
Why: Since 2006, City Winery has been staging “Music of” benefit tribute shows to legendary performers at Carnegie Hall, from David Bowie, Prince, Aretha Franklin, and Bruce Springsteen to Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Webb, and the Who. This year City Winery owner Michael Dorf turns to Irish troubadour Van Morrison, the seventy-three-year-old Belfast-born genius who has made such albums as Astral Weeks, Moondance, Into the Music, Beautiful Vision, The Healing Game, and Pay the Devil. Equally adept at jazz, blues, R&B, rock, and soul, Morrison started with Them in 1964 and has released forty records as a solo artist, including six since 2015. In addition to being one of the great songwriters of all time and boasting one of the most gorgeous voices in the business, Morrison is a master at reinterpreting the work of others, so it should be fascinating to see how a group of fellow musicians cover his tunes March 21 at Carnegie Hall; the impressive roster is listed above. There will also be a rehearsal show at City Winery the night before ($45-$65, 8:00). All proceeds will benefit Midori & Friends, the Center for Arts Education, Little Kids Rock, the Grammy Music Education Coaliton, Fixing Instruments for Kids in Schools, the Orchestra Now, Jazz House Kids, the D’Addario Foundation, the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, Sonic Arts for All, and the Church Street School for Music & Art.


(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

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.


Angie Thomas will be at Symphony Space on February 6 for the launch of her second novel, On the Come Up

Angie Thomas will be at Symphony Space on February 6 for the launch of her second novel, On the Come Up (photo by Anissa Hidouk)

Who: Angie Thomas, radio host Angela Yee, actress Dominique Fishback
What: Book talk, Q&A, signing, live performance
Where: Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, 2537 Broadway at 95th St., 212-864-5400
When: Wednesday, February 6, $10-$45, 6:30
Why: In a different side of my life, I have the privilege of working on many wonderful book projects for kids of all ages. Two years ago, it was absolutely thrilling to be part of the publisher’s team on The Hate U Give, the debut novel by Angie Thomas that has spent one hundred weeks at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and was turned into a movie by 20th Century Fox. More recently it’s been thoroughly exciting to work on Thomas’s second book, On the Come Up (HarperCollins Children’s Books, $18.99), which goes on sale on Tuesday, February 5. The Jackson, Mississippi, native will celebrate the publication with a special event at Symphony Space’s Peter Jay Sharp Theatre the next night, February 6, featuring Thomas in conversation with radio host Angela Yee, an audience Q&A, and a book signing; in addition, actress Dominique Fishback (The Deuce), who portrayed Kenya in The Hate U Give, will perform an excerpt from the novel, which is about an aspiring teenage rapper. Tickets are $30 to $40 and include a copy of On the Come Up; a limited number of companion tickets are available for $10 (without the novel).


tibet house benefit

Who: Artistic director Philip Glass, Stephen Colbert, Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff, Jon Batiste, New Order’s Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham, Tom Chapman & Joe Duddell, Debbie Harry, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Angélique Kidjo, Laurie Anderson with cellist Rubin Kodheli, Tenzin Choegyal, the Patti Smith Band and the Scorchio Quartet, and an invocation by monks, with honorary chairs Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman, and Arden Wohl
What: Thirty-second annual concert raising funds for the nonprofit Tibet House US, celebrating the Year of the Pig and Tibetan New Year (Losar)
Where: Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, 881 Seventh Ave. at 57th St., 212-247-7800
When: Thursday, February 7, $35-$200 (special packages with the concert, party, and more start at $500), 7:30
Why: Tibet House US was founded in 1987 at the request of the Dalai Lama, “dedicated to preserving Tibet’s unique culture at a time when it is confronted with extinction on its own soil”; the annual benefit concert is always one of the cultural highlights of the year in New York City, with an eclectic roster of performers paying tribute to the historic nation.


Roy DeCarava, Couple Walking, gelatin silver print on paper, 1979 (© 2017 estate of Roy DeCarava)

Roy DeCarava, “Couple Walking,” gelatin silver print on paper, 1979 (© 2017 estate of Roy DeCarava)

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, February 2, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00

The Brooklyn Museum honors Black History Month in the February edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Winard Harper, YahZarah (“I’m Taking You Back”), and Toshi Reagon with violinist Juliette Jones and bassist, guitarist, and vocalist Ganessa James; curator tours of “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room” with Ashley James; a Learning Lesson discussion with artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed inspired by Octavia Butler’s idea of “primitive hypertext”; pop-up gallery talks of “Soul of a Nation” with teen apprentices; a screening of Mr. Soul (Melissa Haizlip & Samuel D. Pollard, 2018), introduced by the directors; a hands-on workshop in which participants can create wearable activist patches inspired by the messages of the Guerrilla Girls and AfriCOBRA; an artist talk featuring Shani Jamila’s new podcast, Lineage, with photographers Ming Smith and Russell Fredrick of the Kamoinge collective; “Soul of a Nation”–inspired poetry with Karisma Price, Naomi Extra, and Stephanie Jean of Cave Canem; an “Archives as Raw History” tour with archivist Molly Seegers; and Black Gotham Experience’s immersive Magnetic Resonance, consisting of a photo studio by Kamau Ware with styling by Charles Johnson, video collage by Kearaha Bryant, and music by GoodWill, P.U.D.G.E., and Rimarkable. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room,” “One: Do Ho Suh,” “Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Rob Wynne: FLOAT,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” “Kwang Young Chun: Aggregations,” and more.


John Schaefer “Silent Films / Live Music” series returns to Brookfield Place this week

John Schaefer’s “Silent Films / Live Music” series returns to Brookfield Place this week

Brookfield Place
230 Vesey St.
January 30 - February 1, free, 7:30

In a 2011 twi-ny talk about his “Silent Films / Live Music” series at the World Financial Center Winter Garden, in which he selects silent movies to be accompanied by live scores, WNYC’s John Schaefer said, “The films seem less like period pieces themselves and more like a still-living art form.” After a hiatus, the program is back at Arts Brookfield, with Schaefer again running the show, reenergizing black-and-white silent cinema. On three successive nights, January 30 to February 1, Schaefer will present classic films with live accompaniment, beginning Wednesday with Marc Ribot performing to Charles Chaplin’s The Kid, followed Thursday by F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror with music by Irene and Linda Buckley, and concluding Friday with series favorite Alloy Orchestra playing to Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld. Each screening begins at 7:30; admission is free.


A Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and an abandoned child (Jackie Coogan) form a family in The Kid

THE KID (Charles Chaplin, 1921)
Wednesday, January 30, free, 7:30

Charlie Chaplin’s first feature, The Kid, was a breakthrough for the British-born silent-film star, a touching and tender sixty-eight-minute triumph about a poor soul getting a second chance at life. When a baby arrives at his doorstep, a Tramp (Chaplin) first tries to ditch the boy, but he ends up taking him to his ramshackle apartment and raising him as if he were his own flesh and blood. Although he has so little, the Tramp makes sure the child, eventually played by Jackie Coogan, has food to eat, clothes to wear, and books to read. Meanwhile, the mother (Edna Purviance, Chaplin’s former lover), who has become a big star, regrets her earlier decision and wonders where her son is, setting up a heartbreaking finale. In addition to playing the starring role, Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, and edited the film and composed the score for his company, First National, wonderfully blending slapstick comedy, including a hysterical street fight with an angry neighbor, with touching melodrama as he examines poverty in post-WWI America, especially as seen through the eyes of the orphan boy, played beautifully by Coogan, who went on to marry Betty Grable, among others, and star as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. Chaplin’s innate ability to tell a moving story primarily through images reveals his understanding of cinema’s possibilities, and The Kid holds up as one of his finest, alongside such other silent classics as 1925’s The Gold Rush and 1931’s City Lights. At Brookfield Place, Ribot will perform his 2010 score, which was commissioned for the New York Guitar Festival.


F. W. Murnau’s 1922 version of Nosferatu is a German expressionist classic

Thursday, January 31, free, 7:30

In F. W. Murnau’s classic horror film, Max Schreck stars as Count Orlok, a creepy, inhuman-looking Transylvanian who is meeting with real estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) in order to buy a house in Germany. Hutter soon learns that the count has a taste for blood, as well as lust for his wife, Ellen (Greta Schröder), whom he has left behind in Germany. When Count Orlok, a bunch of rats, and a group of coffins filled with Transylvanian earth head out on a ship bound for Wisborg, the race is on to save Ellen, and Germany. Murnau’s Nosferatu is set in an expressionist world of liminal shadows and fear, as he and cinematographers Fritz Arno Wagner and Günther Krampf continually place the menacing Orlok in oddly shaped doorways that help exaggerate his long, spiny fingers and pointed nose and ears. Unable to acquire the rights from Bram Stoker’s estate to adapt the Gothic horror novel Dracula into a film, writer Henrik Galeen (The Golem, The Student of Prague) and director Murnau (Sunrise, The Last Laugh) instead made Nosferatu, paring down the Dracula legend, changing the names of the characters, and tweaking the story in various parts. Upon its 1922 release, they were sued anyway, and all prints were destroyed except for one, ensuring the survival of what became a defining genre standard-bearer. In 1979, German auteur Werner Herzog (Woyzeck, Fitzcarraldo) paid tribute to the earlier film with Nosferatu the Vampyre, a near scene-by-scene homage to Murnau’s original but with Stoker’s character names restored, as the book was by then in the public domain. Hans Erdmann’s complete score no longer exists, so numerous musical compositions have accompanied screenings and DVD/VHS releases over the years; at Brookfield Place, Irene and Linda Buckley will present the US premiere of their score.


Bull Weed (George Bancroft) offers Rolls Royce (Clive Brook) a new life in Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld

UNDERWORLD (Josef von Sternberg, 1927)
Friday, February 1, free, 7:30

The 2019 edition of “Silent Films / Live Music” has a grand finale February 1 with Alloy Orchestra performing to Josef von Sternberg’s 1927 silent black-and-white Underworld, generally considered the first modern gangster picture and a major influence on such films as William A. Wellman’s The Public Enemy and Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar. Sternberg’s fourth film, Underworld is set in “a great city in the dead of night . . . streets lonely, moon-flooded . . . buildings empty as the cliff-dwellings of a forgotten age.” The opening shot is of a superimposed clock, emphasizing that it is two o’clock in the morning, a time when most are tucked safely in their bed at home. But not Bull Weed (George Bancroft), who has just pulled off a bank heist, only to be spotted by Rolls Royce (Clive Brook), a down-on-his-luck drunken bum. At Bull’s hangout, the Dreamland Café, his girl, Feathers (Evelyn Brent), enters, and a single strand from her extravagant getup floats down, the camera following it until it is grabbed by Rolls Royce, who is sweeping the floor. Bull’s main rival, Buck Mulligan (Fred Kohler), tries to get the attention of Feathers, upsetting his own moll, Meg (Helen Lynch). Walking out of the nightclub, Bull is greeted by an electronic billboard proclaiming, “The City Is Yours.” (Howard Hawks goes one better in his seminal 1932 film, Scarface, in which the title character, Antonio “Tony” Camonte, played by Paul Muni, is encouraged by an electronic sign that tells him, “The World Is Yours.”) Laughing, Bull playfully asks Feathers, “What’ll you have?” She scoffs at him, then Rolls Royce, a former lawyer, says, “Attila, the Hun, at the gates of Rome.” To which Bull replies, “Who’s Attila? The leader of some wop gang?” The stage has been set for the rest of the film, built around jealousy and envy as both Buck and Rolls Royce, who Bull decides to rehabilitate, fall hard for Feathers, but Bull is not about to just sit back and take it.


Bull Weed (George Bancroft) is protective of his moll, Feathers (Evelyn Brent), in classic gangster picture

Underworld is an expressionist noir melodrama that became the template for the gangster-film genre, launching many of the major tropes, from characterization to narrative development. It’s shot in shadowy glory by Bert Glennon (Lloyd’s of London, Rio Grande) from the dark streets to a glamorous annual armistice ball and a spectacular shootout finale. Journalist, novelist, and playwright Ben Hecht (Notorious, Wuthering Heights), who based Bull on real-life Chicago criminal “Terrible” Tommy O’Connor, won the Best Writing (Original Story) Academy Award at the first Oscars; Robert N. Lee wrote the screenplay, with the adaptation by Charles Furthmann and titles by George Marion Jr. Von Sternberg went on to make such classic sound films as The Blue Angel, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, and The Scarlett Empress with Marlene Dietrich. He directed only one full picture by himself after 1941, the 1953 Japanese war drama Anatahan; he died in Hollywood in 1969 at the age of seventy-five.