In 2014, New York–based Japanese teacher, dancer, and visual artist Eiko Otake brought her “Body in Places” solo project to Fukushima, site of the devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. On March 11, Eiko, the current Dignity Initiative Artist in Residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the tragedy with a special memorial program at the church, held in conjunction with the closing of the exhibition “The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies,” which Eiko cocurated and includes William Johnston’s photographs of Eiko in Fukushima. “Remembering Fukushima” will feature William Johnston, Marilyn Ivy, Thomas Looser, Mark McCloughan, Alexis Moh, Nora Thompson, Megu Tagami, John Kelly, Carol Lipnik, DonChristian Jones, Geo Wyeth, Ronald Ebrecht, Ralph Samuelson, Elizabeth Brown, Jake Price, Katja Kolcio, and NYC iSCHOOL and is dedicated to writer Kyoko Hayashi, who was scheduled to participate but passed away on February 19 at the age of eighty-six. Writing about a “practice run” of the program, Eiko explained in a statement, “I found myself speaking not only of how this artmaking was a way for me to personally empathize with the destruction caused by nuclear energy but also about how much it meant to me to be a part of this larger event with so many intelligent and creative people. I felt (and feel) honored to be one of many figuring out how to empathize with, speak truth of, and remember the Fukushima disaster.” Conceived and directed by Eiko, “Remembering Fukushima,” presented in association with Asia Society and Danspace Project, will take place from 1:00 to 5:00; admission is free with advance RSVP.
Who: Lee Ufan, Michelle Yun
What: Discussion between artist Lee Ufan and curator Michelle Yun
Where: Rose Conference Hall, Asia Society, 725 Park Ave. at 70th St., 212-288-6400
When: Wednesday, March 8, free with advance registration, 6:30
Why: In conjunction with Asia Week New York, Korean-born conceptual artist and philosopher Lee Ufan will sit down with Michelle Yun, Asia Society Museum senior curator of modern and contemporary art, for “Touching Infinity: A Conversation with Lee Ufan.” A painter, sculptor, and leader of the Mono-ha (“School of Things”) movement, Lee had a dazzling exhibition in 2011 at the Guggenheim, “Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity,” about which we wrote, “Lee emphasizes how experiencing his work is built on the concept of relationship, between humans and nature, the artist and the object, the viewer and the installation, different objects within a piece, and even the exhibition and the museum itself.” The talk will focus on the eighty-year-old Lee’s recent residency at famed porcelain company Manufacture de Sèvres and his work in clay.
725 Park Ave. at 70th St.
Daily through January 8, $7-$12 (free Friday nights from 6:00 to 9:00)
“I like people to be able to stroll in my works, as I do when creating them,” Chinese-French painter Zao Wou-Ki said in 1967. Visitors can continue strolling in Zao’s works at Asia Society’s “No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki” exhibition through January 8, his first museum retrospective in the United States. The show consists of more than four dozen works, from oil paintings and ink drawings to watercolors and etchings. The extremely popular artist — his 1958 painting “Abstraction” sold at auction in December 2013 for nearly $15 million — pushed physical, geographic, psychological, and artistic boundaries through his long career, combining historical and contemporary methods and themes throughout his oeuvre. The Asia Society show is divided into three sections: “Calligraphy Is the Starting Point,” “To Learn Is to Create,” and “A Place to Wander,” each offering its own delights. Postwar abstraction master Zao, who died in 2013 at the age of ninety-three, displayed a unique color sense, contributing to a sense of mysterious welcome in his works. Paintings such as “Homage to Chu Yun — 05.05.55,” “Red Pavilion,” “Chestnut,” and “Water Music” look alive on the canvas, as if tantalizingly drifting through the viewer’s mind. Zao’s influences are often apparent, from Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Paul Cézanne to Marc Chagall, Jean Dubuffet, and Sam Francis, some of whom he got to know during his travels. Born in Beijing, he left Shanghai for Paris in 1948 to immerse himself in art. “His intended two-year adventure turned into a lifetime abroad and culminated in an artistic reputation that defies easy categorization,” cocurators Dr. Ankeney Weitz and Dr. Melissa Walt write in their catalog introduction. “Painter, printmaker, master of brush and ink, Zao was a pioneer who fused disparate influences and techniques and moved easily between the worlds in which he lived, learned, and created.” (The show is also cocurated by Edith K. Jetté and Michelle Yun.) Not everything is so captivating; his later works tend to be more inconsistent, the color schemes not as thrilling. His heyday was clearly from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, a creative epiphany. “It’s that it is not easy to break free,” Zao, the Picasso of China, said in 1964. “Everybody is bound by a tradition — I, by two. To make a good painting, you have to understand.” Thanks to this exhibit, we now do.
Multiple locations on Fifth Ave. between 82nd & 105th Sts.
Tuesday, June 14, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, now known as the Met Fifth Avenue with the addition of the Met Breuer in the old Whitney space, is the host of the thirty-ninth annual Museum Mile Festival, in which seven arts institutions along Fifth Avenue between 82nd and 105th Sts. open their doors for free between 6:00 and 9:00. (Met prez Daniel H. Weiss will deliver his opening remarks at 5:45.) There will be live outdoor performances by Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre, DJ Mickey Perez, Sammie & Trudie’s Imagination Playhouse, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Silly Billy the Very Funny Clown, Miss 360, Alsarah and the Nubatones, Magic Brian, Kim David Smith, and Justin Weber Yo Yo in addition to face painting, art workshops, chalk drawing, and more. The participating museums (with at least one of their current shows listed here) are El Museo del Barrio (“Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion”), the Museum of the City of New York (“Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs”), the Jewish Museum (“Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History,” “The Television Project: Some of My Best Friends”), the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (“Beauty — Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” “Pixar: The Story of Design”), the Guggenheim (“Moholy-Nagy: Future Present”), the Neue Galerie (“Munch and Expressionism”), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” “Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs”), along with presentations by the New York Academy of Medicine, the 92nd St. Y, and Asia Society. Don’t try to do too much, because it can get rather crowded; just pick one or two exhibitions in one or two museums and enjoy.
UGETSU (UGETSU MONOGATARI) (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
725 Park Ave. at 70th St.
Friday, March 11, $10-$12, 6:30
Series continues through March 19
Asia Society’s “Of Ghosts, Samurai, and War: A Series of Classic Japanese Film” series heads into its second weekend with one of the most important and influential — and greatest — works to ever come from Japan. Winner of the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 1953 Venice Film Festival, Kenji Mizoguchi’s seventy-eighth film, Ugetsu, is a dazzling masterpiece steeped in Japanese storytelling tradition, especially ghost lore. Based on two tales by Ueda Akinari and Guy de Maupassant’s “How He Got the Legion of Honor,” Ugetsu unfolds like a scroll painting beginning with the credits, which run over artworks of nature scenes while Fumio Hayasaka’s urgent score starts setting the mood, and continues into the first three shots, pans of the vast countryside leading to Genjurō (Masayuki Mori) loading his cart to sell his pottery in nearby Nagahama, helped by his wife, Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka), clutching their small child, Genichi (Ikio Sawamura). Miyagi’s assistant, Tōbei (Sakae Ozawa), insists on coming along, despite the protestations of his nagging wife, Ohama (Mitsuko Mito), as he is determined to become a samurai even though he is more of a hapless fool. “I need to sell all this before the fighting starts,” Genjurō tells Miyagi, referring to a civil war that is making its way through the land. Tōbei adds, “I swear by the god of war: I’m tired of being poor.” After unexpected success with his wares, Genjurō furiously makes more pottery to sell at another market even as the soldiers are approaching and the rest of the villagers run for their lives. At the second market, an elegant woman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyō), and her nurse, Ukon (Kikue Mōri), ask him to bring a large amount of his merchandise to their mansion. Once he gets there, Lady Wakasa seduces him, and soon Genjurō, Miyagi, Genichi, Tōbei, and Ohama are facing very different fates.
Written by longtime Mizoguchi collaborator Yoshitaka Yoda and Matsutaro Kawaguchi, Ugetsu might be set in the sixteenth century, but it is also very much about the aftereffects of World War II. “The war drove us mad with ambition,” Tōbei says at one point. Photographed in lush, shadowy black-and-white by Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Floating Weeds, Yojimbo), the film features several gorgeous set pieces, including one that takes place on a foggy lake and another in a hot spring, heightening the ominous atmosphere that pervades throughout. Ugetsu ends very much as it began, emphasizing that it is but one postwar allegory among many. Kyō (Gate of Hell, The Face of Another) is magical as the temptress Lady Wakasa, while Mori (The Bad Sleep Well, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs) excels as the everyman who follows his dreams no matter the cost; the two previously played husband and wife in Rashomon, which kicked off the Asia Society series. Mizoguchi, who made such other unforgettable classics as The 47 Ronin, The Life of Oharu, Sansho the Bailiff, and Street of Shame, passed away in 1956 at the age of fifty-eight, having left behind a stunning legacy, of which Ugetsu might be the best. “Of Ghosts, Samurai, and War: A Series of Classic Japanese Film,” being held in conjunction with the exhibition “Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan,” continues March 18 with Keisuke Kinoshita’s Fuefuki River and concludes March 19 with Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba.
January 5-17, $20 unless otherwise noted
Every January, New York City is home to a handful of performance festivals that feature cutting-edge and experimental theater, dance, music, and installation art. PS122’s home at 150 First Ave. is scheduled to reopen this summer following a major renovation, but in the meantime you can experience its innovative programming at COIL 2016, taking place at various venues in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. “COIL 2016 attacks the very concept of boundaries and of limits. The boundaries between ideologies, life and death, the contemporary and historic, human and machine, light and darkness, audience and performer,” PS122 artistic director Vallejo Gantner explains on the event website. “Limitations of time, identity, age, and geography disappear. The work we will see this year deals with evolutionary transformation — personal, social, and artistic.” COIL begins on January 5 with Ranters Theatre’s Song (January 5-8), a sixty-minute immersive sound and visual installation at the New Ohio Theatre in which the audience can sit or lie down on the floor. Composer and vocalist Samita Sinha collaborates with Red Baarat percussionist Sunny Jain, guitarist and sound designer Greg Mcmurray, lighting designer Devin Cameron, visual artist Dani Leventhal, and director Ain Gordon on bewilderment and other queer lions (January 6-10, Invisible Dog Art Center), an intimate investigation of ritual and mythology through music, text, and image. Choreographer Jillian Peña’s Panopticon (January 9-17, Abrons Arts Center), a copresentation with American Realness, uses reflections to give a kaleidoscopic effect to a duet by Alexandra Albrecht and Andrew Champlin.
At the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Australians Helen Herbertson and Ben Cobham team up for Morphia Series (January 12-16), an eighteen-minute phantasmal environment for twelve audience members at a time. Annie Dorsen, whose Magical with Anne Juren was a highlight of COIL 2013, is back with Yesterday Tomorrow (January 13-16, La MaMa), in which Hai-Ting Chinn, Jeffrey Gavett, and Natalie Raybould go on a multimedia musical journey from the Beatles’ “Yesterday” to Annie’s “Tomorrow.” Asia Society will be hosting Xi Ban and Po Huang Club’s one-night only Shanghai / New York: Future Histories 2 (January 13, free with RSVP, 7:00 & 9:30), which melds Peking Opera with southern blues. The festival also includes niv Acosta’s Discotropic (January 6-10, Westbeth Artists Community), Frank Boyd’s The Holler Sessions (January 6-17, Paradise Factory), Kaneza Schaal’s Go Forth (January 7-12, Westbeth), David Neumann’s I Understand Everything Better (January 10-16, the Chocolate Factory), Ranters Theatre’s Intimacy (January 11-16, New Ohio Theatre), Chris Thorpe and Rachel Chavkin’s Confirmation (January 13-17, Invisible Dog), Jonathan Capdevielle’s Adishatz / Adieu (January 15-17, Abrons Arts Center), and Michael Kliën’s Excavation Site: Martha Graham U.S.A. (January 15, Martha Graham Studios, 3:00 – 7:00).
Gōng xǐ fā cái! New York City is ready to celebrate the Year of the Wood Goat (aka the Year of the Ram and the Year of the Sheep) this month with special events all over town, in all five boroughs. The sixteenth New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival will explode in and around Sara D. Roosevelt Park on February 19 at 11:00 am, with live music and dance, speeches by politicians, drum groups, lion, dragon, and unicorn dancers making their way through local businesses, and more than half a million rounds of firecrackers warding off evil spirits and welcoming in a prosperous new year. The Flushing Lunar New Year Parade takes place February 21 at 10:00; following the parade, there will be a family festival at the Queens Botanical Garden ($2-$4, 1:00 - 4:00). Also on February 21 ($5-$12, 1:00 – 4:00), Asia Society will present its annual Family Day: Moon over Manhattan, featuring lion dance and kung-fu demonstrations, live music, and arts and crafts. The New York Chinese Cultural Center will present a Lunar New Year program with folk dances, paper cutting, calligraphy, and lion dances at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on February 21 (free, 2:00 - 4:00). One of our favorite restaurants, Xi’an Famous Foods, will be hosting a culinary Lunar New Year concert at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on February 21 with MC Jin, Wanting Qu, Clara C, Esther & Lara Veronin, the Shanghai Restoration Project, and Mree, benefiting Apex for Youth ($50-$165, 6:00). There will be a performance by Chinese Theater Works, a zodiac-themed scavenger hunt, and sheep meet-and-greets at the Prospect Park Zoo February 21-22 ($6-$8). The Museum of Chinese in America will give Lunar New Year walking tours on February 21-22 ($8-$15, 11:00 and 1:00), followed on February 28 ($10, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm) by its Lunar New Year Family Festival, with lion dances and workshops, food tastings and demonstrations, storytelling, calligraphy, balloon animals, arts and crafts, and the Red Silk Dancers. The sixteenth annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival will wind its way through Chinatown, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and Columbus Park on February 22 starting at 1:00, with cultural booths in the park and a parade with floats, antique cars, live performances, and much more from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and other nations.
On February 22 (free - $25, 11:00 – 3:00), the China Institute’s Chinese New Year Family Celebration boasts lion dance and kung-fu performances, gallery tours with receptions, and dumpling and lantern workshops. Dr. Hsing-Lih Chou has curated a Lunar New Year Dance Sampler at Flushing Town Hall on February 22 (free, 2:00). The New York Philharmonic gets into the party spirit with Yo-Yo Ma leading a Chinese New Year musical evening on February 24 at Avery Fisher Hall ($45-$115, 7:30); the program includes the U.S. premiere of Zhao Lin’s Duo concerto for cello, sheng, and orchestra, conducted by Long Yu. Earlier that day, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and students from the National Dance Institute will perform traditional dances on Josie Robertson Plaza (free, 4:30). The annual Lunar New Year Festival at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is set for February 28 (free with suggested museum admission, 12 noon – 5:00), with puppet shows, martial arts demonstrations, dances, storytelling, tea presentations and ceremonies in the Astor Chinese Garden Court, and activities inspired by the exhibition “The Art of the Chinese Album.” And the Queens Zoo will honor the goat/ram/sheep February 28 - March 1 with scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, live live performances, calligraphy workshops, and meet-the-sheep programs.