On streets and in parks all around New York City, tourists pay to get their portraits or caricatures drawn. Puerto Rican sculptor and performance artist Jesús “Bubu” Negrón turns that around, literally and figuratively, in “The Back Portrait,” an ongoing project he conceived in San Juan in 2000 and is coming to the High Line July 25-27. From two o’clock to seven o’clock each day, Negrón will draw, using color markers and crayons, people sitting down with their backs to him. Negrón will give the sitter the original drawing, keeping a photocopy for himself to put on display, calling into question original works of art versus copies. Participation is free and first come, first served. Negrón’s previous work, which often equates “artists” with “artisans,” includes “[Standard memes (campaign for the awareness and activation of the neighborhood)],” in which local residents in San Juan helped revive derelict buildings in their communities via memes, “Honoris Causa,” in which Negrón invited two street vendors to set up their carts inside the Whitney lobby for the 2006 biennial, merging art with a different kind of commerce, and “Banco Marímbula,” a public square bench turned into a musical instrument using parts from a 1957 Victrola.
(SOMA)TIC POETRY RITUALS
Madison Square Park Oval Lawn
Twenty-Fourth St. between Madison & Fifth Aves.
Through July 23, free, 12 noon – 5:00 pm (workshops nightly at 6:00)
“Every single human being is creative. When we commit ourselves to nurturing our artistic capacities we improve our ability to more deeply discern the world around us and make the constructive decisions needed in order to thrive in this world,” fifty-one-year-old poet CAConrad writes in his (Soma)tic Manifesto. Through July 23, Conrad will be performing “(Soma)tic Poetry Rituals” in Madison Square Park, under one of American artist and MacArthur Fellow Josiah McElheny’s three sculptures that comprise “Prismatic Park,” a collaborative public art project that is hosting free dance, music, and poetry through October 8, sponsored by Danspace Project, Blank Forms, and Poets House. Born in Kansas and raised in Pennsylvania, Conrad is the author of such books as The City Real & Imagined, ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, and the upcoming While Standing in Line for Death. In 1998, Conrad’s boyfriend, AIDS activist Earth (Mark Holmes), was brutally raped, tortured, and murdered in Tennessee at the age of thirty-six. In order to break out of his subsequent depression and his inability to break away from a factorylike existence that had been with him since childhood when his family ran a casket company, Conrad developed rituals that helped respark his creative energy and his life in general. He is currently in the midst of a six-day residency in Madison Square Park, sitting (in the shade) at a small table under McElheny’s open red vaulted-roof pavilion (with red and yellow glass), where the public is invited to join him for approximately twenty minutes as Conrad develops a personalized (Soma)tic poetry ritual for each individual participant, involving crystals, liquids, and writing. The rituals are meant to help anyone seeking new ways to cope with today’s world; they are not limited to writers. The personalized rituals — bring pen and paper to take copious notes — are first come, first served, from 12 noon to 5:00, followed by workshops from 6:00 to 8:00; on July 22, Conrad delves into crystal trees, while on July 23 he will read tarot cards. “Prismatic Park,” which also features a blue sound wall and a reflective green dance floor, continues with concerts by Joe McPhee & Graham Lambkin (July 25-30), Shelley Hirsch (August 22-27), Matana Roberts (September 5-10), and Limpe Fuchs with poet Patrick Rosal (October 3-8), dance by Netta Yerushalmy (August 1-6) and Jodi Melnick (September 12-17, 19-24), and poetry by Joshua Bennett (August 15-20), Donna Masini (August 29 – September 3), and Mónica de la Torre (September 26 – October 1).
Oscar- and Emmy-winning director Kirk Simon’s The Pulitzer at 100 boasts a remarkable cast and some of the best lines ever written in the history of American arts and letters. It’s also a self-congratulatory bore. Simon celebrates the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize, first awarded by Columbia University in four categories in 1917, by speaking with a vast array of winners from the worlds of journalism (Carl Bernstein, Martin Baron, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, Sheri Fink, David Remnick), fiction (Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Jeffrey Eugenides), drama (Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Ayad Akhtar), music (Wynton Marsalis, John Adams), biography (Robert A. Caro), poetry (Yusef Komunyakaa), photography (John Filo, Nick Ut), and more. He also films Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, John Lithgow, and Yara Shahidi performing selections from the works of some of their favorite writers, including Philip Roth, Harper Lee, and Eugene O’Neill. Interspersed between all of the literary lathering are interesting tidbits — delivered by such historians as Cyrus Patell, Theodore L. Glasser, Roy Harris, and James McGrath Morris — from the life and times of one Joseph Pulitzer, an Austro-Hungarian merchant’s son who came to America as a mercenary to fight in the Civil War. Pulitzer eventually got involved in newspaper publishing, had yellow-journalism battles with William Randolph Hearst, and left money for Columbia to start the Graduate School of Journalism.
Simon lets the prize winners glory in their success, explaining what winning the award meant for their careers; the journalism awardees also delve into the stories they covered to win the trophy, including Kent State, Watergate, Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnam War, Tiananmen Square, and 9/11. While there are some fascinating revelations — particularly by Ut, describing how he took the famous photo of young Vietnamese girl Kim Phuc running from a napalm blast, then poured water over her back to help her (Kim also appears in the film) — most of the news stories are already overly familiar to the viewer, with not enough time to really tackle the subjects properly here. Of course, that’s not really what the film is centrally about, anyway. And it gets especially glib when several of the winners poke fun at the physical award itself, as if it’s really no big deal. Meanwhile, the performances by the stellar actors are far too serious and feel like their readings are just time fillers. Simon (Chimps: So Like Us, Strangers No More) can’t seem to decide what kind of film he’s making. It would have been more interesting learning further about Pulitzer himself rather than listening to terrific writers lavish praise on themselves, their colleagues, and their forebears. Oh, the film, which has no voice-over narration, does put to rest one important part of the Pulitzer legacy: Only one of the speakers says “Pyew-litzer,” while all the others pronounce Joseph’s last name as “Pull-itzer.” The Pulitzer at 100 opens July 21 at Lincoln Plaza, with Simon participating in Q&As at the 7:00 shows on Friday and Saturday night.
TALKING PICTURES: THE CINEMA OF YVONNE RAINER
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Amphitheater, Francesca Beale Theater
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Monday, July 24, free, 7:00
Series runs July 21-27
In 1965, Yvonne Rainer wrote the “No Manifesto,” publicly saying no to “spectacle, virtuosity, transformations and magic and make-believe, the glamour and transcendency of the star image, the heroic, the anti-heroic, trash imagery, involvement of performer or spectator, style, camp, seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer, eccentricity, and moving or being moved.” It will be difficult, if not impossible, for audiences to maintain many of those ideals when the legendary eighty-two-year-old dancer, choreographer, actor, director, performance artist, and writer comes to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a week-long celebration of her celluloid career. “Talking Pictures: The Cinema of Yvonne Rainer” runs July 21-27 at the Francesca Beale Theater, with shorts and features made by and/or starring Rainer, along with works that inspired and influenced her. The roster includes Rainer’s Lives of Performers, Film About a Woman Who . . . , Journeys from Berlin/1971, The Man Who Envied Women, and Privilege, among others, along with her collaborations with Maya Deren, Hollis Frampton, and Charles Atlas (who will introduce Trio A/Rainer Variations) in addition to Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, Andy Warhol’s Paul Swan, Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Naked Spaces — Living Is Round, and Ulrike Ottinger’s Madame X: An Absolute Ruler. On July 24 at 7:00, the California-born Rainer will sit down with novelist, cultural critic, and Woodmere native Lynne Tillman (Haunted Houses, What Would Lynne Tillman Do?) in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater in a discussion focusing on Rainer’s film career; admission is free and first-come, first-served. It’s a real treat to see Rainer’s work and to listen to her in person, so don’t miss this very special opportunity.
ENDLESS POETRY (POESIA SIN FIN) (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2016)
Landmark Sunshine Cinema
143 East Houston St. between First & Second Aves.
Opens Friday, July 14
Eccentric auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky, the mastermind behind such midnight-movie classics as 1971’s El Topo and 1973’s The Holy Mountain, once again turns his magical realist eye on his own life as a young poet in Chile in the 1940s in Endless Poetry, picking up where he left off in the autobiographical saga he began in 2013’s The Dance of Reality, his first film in more than two decades. Starting with his family’s departure from the village of Tocopilla for the big city of Santiago, where Jodorowsky’s father, Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky), opened a clothing shop, the film quickly dispenses with any pretense of realist narrative as it explodes into a phantasmagoric bildungsroman, shot in eye-popping color by master Hong Kong cinematographer Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Last Life in the Universe). With one son, Brontis, playing his father; another son, musician Adan, playing Alejandro as a young man (he also composed the score); his grandson, Jeremías Herskovits, portraying him as a boy (Alejandrito); and occasional appearances by himself as . . . himself, interacting with his onscreen/offscreen family, Alejandro mixes time, space, and storytelling with a strong dose of the psychotherapeutic and shamanic blend he calls Psychomagic. To further the incestuous casting, Sara, his mother, and Stella Díaz Varín, his muse and lover, are played by the same actress, opera singer Pamela Flores, while his circle of friends, most of whom went on to become respected poets (Leandro Taub as the wild and crazy Enrique Lihn, Flores as Diaz Varín, Felipe Rios as Nicanor Parra), clowns, near-döppelgangers, little people (Julia Avendaño is a stand-out as Pequeñita), masked skeletons and devils, sex and nudity, and exuberant tarot card readers tumble off the screen in this disturbing, often surreal, but somehow endearing and engaging tale of the artist as a young man, searching for the meaning of his life as well as life in general.
Reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s semiautobiographical Oscar-winning Amarcord, Endless Poetryis one of Jodorowsky’s most approachable works, centering on the familiar Romantic struggle of a young male artist coming-of-age against his petit bourgeois family and oppressive society, represented here by the rise of real-life dictator Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (Bastián Bodenhofer). A sly sense of humor and fondness for his youthful follies and friends brighten the proceedings, as does the spectacular production design by Alejandro himself. The final scenes of young Jodorowsky’s departure for Paris demonstrate that this old master still has the power to move an audience with strange and beautiful images that shock and unsettle — especially if one knows exactly how intertwined the relationships of the actors are with the characters they play. Endless Poetry opens July 14 at the Landmark Sunshine, with Alejandro participating in Q&As after the 7:00 show and before the 10:00 show on opening night and with Adan following the 7:00 show on July 15.
Rubin Museum of Art
West 17th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Sunday, July 16, free (including free museum admission all day), 1:00 - 4:00
The Rubin Museum plans to make some noise at its annual block party, taking place July 16 from 1:00 to 4:00 on West Seventeenth St. This year’s fête is inspired by the new exhibition “The World Is Sound,” which explores the impact of sound in Tibetan Buddhism in the creation / death / rebirth cycle, with ritual music, immersive installations, and the largest “Om” ever, recorded by visitors to the Om Lab. The block party will have spaces for meditation, hands-on art activities for adults and children, a silent disco with Nepali pop curated by Dorjee Dolma, Himalayan snacks, bubble painting, the Wheel of Sounds and the Wheel of Feelings, and live performances by the New York Suwa Taiko Association, the Blue Angels Drumline, poets John Giorno and Tenzin Dickyi, MSHR (Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy), and Dana Flynn of Laughing Lotus Yoga in addition to a Kirtan concert with the Bhakti Center. Partyers can also stop by “Drawing Sound,” a live painting and sound collaboration curated and hosted by Rhiannon Catalyst, and check out presentations by ACHA Himalayan Sisterhood (music selections), Adhikaar (oral histories), Grassroots Movement in Nepal (Nepali children’s songs), India Home (Garba dance), Tibetan Community of NY/NJ (musical instruments demos), and the United Sherpa Association (translating English names into Tibetan). As a bonus, the museum will be open for free all day long (11:00 am - 6:00 pm), so you can experience such exhibits as “Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame,” “Masterworks of Himalayan Art,” and “Sacred Spaces” asw well as “The World Is Sound.”