Culture: April 2004 Archives

Go see SplitStream (April 30-May 1 at 7pm) at Dance Theater Workshop. It includes Ann Liv Young, of whom I've written before, Jonathan Berger, and Antonio Ramos. File under the theater side of "dance theater", with a heavy emphasis on ''Lordy, what was that all about?'' We loved it.

Go to Momenta's benefit, held at White Columns, on Saturday, May 1. It's one of the great art bargains in the city - a raffle of great art works for a $175 ticket. We'll be there, so don't pick any of our favorites if your number gets drawn sooner than ours.

Go see Joe Ovelman at Oliver Kamm, closing tomorrow. Check out the review by Holland Cotter in today's NY Times. It sounds like he's wondering what Joe's up to, but whatever it is, he likes it.

We just got a mailing about two shows at Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Los Angeles curated by Simon Watson/Scenic.

The first is a show of works by Paul P. We're big fans of Paul's work and own a painting plus a couple of works on paper. The second is a group show that includes the likes of Christian Holstad, Terence Koh, Ann Craven, Wangechi Mutu, Scott Treleaven, and Joe Ovelman.

Both open May 1 (6-8pm) and run through June 19.

Newsday has a nice essay today by Matthew Shenoda on Arab culture and literature. An excerpt:

A survey of any of the major forces in contemporary Arab literature teaches us that while U.S. media have painted Arabs as villains of humanity, the truth is that dignity and a connection to place are central to Arab identity. We learn that the preservation of a peaceful life in one's home is a major theme in Arab literature. We learn that resistance as an innate part of people who deeply love their home and their humanity comes second to a celebration of life. We learn a reverence for nature.

In the midst of the horror of a U.S.-led war, we can look to Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef to understand that in his Basra, a child learns, "that when rain falls in mist/there will be no lightning at the end/of the horizon,/no thunder in the heart,/no wave on the river." Is this child now grown to be a "thug," as Rumsfeld claims, or is he a person yearning to reconnect with his land, to provide a place for his family to live and grow, a place in which to gaze out on a horizon that will not be dotted by missiles?

In Darwish's monumental memoir "Memory of Forgetfulness," which chronicles his experience being exiled in Beirut during the 1982 war, he writes, "They can aim sea, sky, and earth at me, but they cannot root the aroma of coffee out of me." Here we see coffee being used as an ancient symbol with roots in Abyssinia and Arabia to reflect a part of the very being of Darwish, a symbol rooted in the land, an aroma that cannot be erased by any amount of force.

Syrian poet Adonis, too, speaks of his connections to place in his poem "Remembering the First Century," when he writes, "A mountain speaks its name/to me./ After all, I have/some credentials." His credentials are roots tracing back beyond written record - his credentials are centuries of lineage in that place.

What many citizens of the United States do not have the opportunity to witness is the beauty of the Arab world, the way olive groves grace the landscape, the way children sit at the feet of their grandmothers, the way an ancient way of life has survived despite centuries of foreign occupation. And so perhaps the greatest understanding is for the people of the United States to see that Arabs are an ancient people, that the bombs over Iraq and the siege of Palestine are seeking to wipe out memory, the memory of history, of ancient and revered places, places we are all in some ways linked to.

Perhaps we need to learn that if we wipe out and erase Iraq and Palestine, we will, as Qabbani has learned, see that we are striking out half our own lives. Think of the beauty, as Darwish does, next time you smell the aroma of coffee.



Handel's Tamerlano at 2003 Spoleto Festival U.S.A.
photos by Lenore Doxsee

Our good friend David Zinn, costume and set designer extraordinaire, has a new web site. We first saw his work as a little baby designer with Target Margin, with whom he continues to work, in addition to more famous venues such as New York City Opera and Santa Fe Opera.

When we saw his Flavio at New York City Opera, the audience applauded the set changes.

Tamerlano is an opera by Handel loosely based on the life of Timur, a conqueror and ruler in 14th century Central Asia. Suitably for an opera set in that region of the world, being produced last summer at an American music festival, David didn't ignore what was going on at the time.

In Handel's rarely mounted Tamerlano, the defeated Bajazet...wore traditional sultan's robes, while his corporate conquerors, barking orders and gleefully dividing the spoils, sported snazzy business suits. Mixing sexual and power politics, the libretto is nearly incomprehensible, but its centre--Bajazet losing his culture, his dignity and his daughter--is tragically clear. David Zinn's cunning set was littered with ancient books and other looted treasures at the front of the stage, and endless, empty bookshelves at the rear.
-- Jack Sullivan, Opera Magazine

Triple Creme

There I was, reading an article on queercore bands in Newsday. I thought I recognized the woman on the left of the main photo before I saw a caption. Oh my goodness! It's Christina Mazzalupo! I didn't recognize her at first because I've never seen her look so serious.

Here is her web site, and her page on Mixed Greens.

Head over to James's site. He just put up several posts on recent art we've seen, with images. has an interview with the brilliant Deb Margolin. Her wondeful book "Of All The Nerve" is really expensive, since it's from an academic press. Go see if Powell's has a used copy.

She will be doing work from her new "performance novel" as part of the Dixon Place Veterans Series in May and early June. I recommend going!

A sample:

Q: When is solo performance effective and when is it self indulgent?

Self-indulgence... I’m very careful about that word because I feel like that’s a word we can use to shut ourselves down. That’s the word that the inner critic uses. Sentimental that’s another one, see there is no art without sentiment. As soon as you can drop down and reveal something about your own humanity, the minute you reveal something truthful about your own humanity, you shed light on the entire spectrum of human experience. That’s why we go to the theater for the revelation, that’s why I go. I go to stare at people!

You can’t do it in the subway you can’t do it on a bus. You go to the theater, you pay your money and you just stare at these people. That’s what you do and no one is going to arrest you. It’s very exciting. The more specific you are with your character the more generally we see the whole human condition. And so I feel the only way to get at that could be labeled, in advance of finding the jewel of revelation, self indulgent.

I don’t worry about self indulgence. I don’t worry that my work is self indulgent. I feel the need to step up and take responsibility for how my work signifies politically and I feel the need to be responsible for a passionate and articulate desire to speak. Those are my responsibilities. I don’t say anything that I’m not dying to say onstage. I say the things that I cannot die without having spoken about. And you know, that’s going to reveal something weird about my humanity and in so doing it will reveal something about the entire human condition. I trust that chain of events the way I trust I’m wearing this jacket. I know that to be true I know very few things and that’s one of them. So I live my artistic life by that principle. I’m not afraid of self indulgence as long as I am passionate to speak. I know that I will be revealing something important about humanity through my own humanity. Once you find your passion for speech, and your prerogative to speak, you are unstoppable.

Openings we're going to tomorrow:

Eyewash @ Boreas - group show that includes Joan Linder

Jennifer Dalton at Plus Ultra

Tim Laun at Parker's Box

Yun-Fei Ji at Pierogi 2000

Eve Sussman at Roebling Hall

James and I went to the "new and improved" Brooklyn Museum on Sunday. I don't know if I like the new glass entrance, but I wasn't totally offended by it either. The vibe was so good, with all kinds of people you might not always see at a museum, it was hard to be grumpy. I really enjoyed the Open House: Working in Brooklyn show. Because the variety of artists working in Brooklyn is so large, in a way it felt more diverse than the Whitney Biennial. It was fun to see all kinds of people walking through that show and commenting on the contempary work. Where else would I see an Orthodox Jewish family with kids watching an Anthony Goicolea video? While you're there, don't miss the Patrick Kelly show either. I loved it. I hadn't realized Bette Davis had been such a fan of his.

Tom Moody wrote about the Paper Rad show. Go read him.

Carlos de Villasante organized a show in Miami that looks great. Franklin has photos.

We saw two shows worth recommending in Chelsea today, before heading to the Paper Rad opening -- which is definitely recommended!

The first is Paper Chase at Axel Raben, curated by Renee Riccardo. Jon Rosenbaum's little paper sculptures are magnificent, as are many other works in the show.

The second is Joseph Maida at Wallspace. We realized after looking at his web site that we had seen one of his park images in a group show at the gallery. Also, he did the photo of Christian Holstad that appeared in the New York Times Magazine last October.

Two camera phone photos from tonight's opening of Paper Rad at Foxy Production:


Cool. A small art fair in a small new hotel (a Sheraton Four Points!) in Chelsea.

Pool Art Addict, May 13-16, see the web site.

Pool Art Addict: A New York Underground Art Fair, May 13-16, 2004, is set to premiere at the new Four Points Hotel, a needle-thin 22-story structure that went up last fall on a former parking lot at 160 West 25th Street in Manhattan's Chelsea district. The fair is organized by Frére Independent (headed by Thierry Alet, an artist and co-founder of NYArts Magazine), which has taken the top four floors of the hotel and lined up 20 independent exhibitors. Designed to bring little-known artists to public attention during the spring contemporary art auctions, Pool Art Addict includes exhibitors such as the Nigerian Embassy, which is showing works by Ibiyinka Olufemi Alao; curator Amy Davila, who has organized an installation by Emily Lutzker; Le Triage Art Center from Paris, which is sponsoring Florent Mattei; and the Art & Culture/Anne-Marie Melster Gallery from Germany. General admission is $7; tickets to the opening night gala on May 13 are $30.
[via Artnet]

Here is your "last chance" reminder on a couple of things.


The Civilians: Gone Missing
(Back: Jennifer Morris, Maria Dizzia, Trey Lyford; Front: Damian Baldet, Michael Esper, Alison Weller)

First, think about joining us for The Civilians' benefit on Friday in Chinatown. I already wrote about it here.


I Miss You Alreaday, 2004
Tracey Baran

Second, April 17 is the last day of Tracey Baran's brilliant show at Leslie Tonkonow.

At ease: Hou Bo's portrait of Mao and family at the seaside

When Mao Zedong proclaimed his new Socialist China in October 1949 from the great gate of Tiananmen, he walked to the balcony's edge, looked over to the cheering crowds, and called out: "Long live the people!" Moments later, he was captured by the photographer Hou Bo, in that now-famous image, as he declared into the microphone: "The Chinese people have stood up."

In the photograph, we don't see the Chinese people themselves, listening in the square below. Mention of them - and even the greeting Mao had used - would soon become subversive. The next time Tiananmen Square would hear "Long live the people!" was 40 years later, when it was shouted by students calling for democracy, shortly before the tanks moved in.

The photograph of Mao on the balcony can now be seen in a fascinating and disturbing exhibition at the Photographers' Gallery, London, that is largely devoted to the work of Hou Bo and Xu Xiaobing, the husband-and-wife team who became Mao's official photographers.

- Monster at the Beach, The Guardian, April 10, 2004

However, not everyone is impressed with Williamsburg's economic potential. Some, like Bellwether Gallery's director, Rebecca Smith, see more limitations than possibilities. "A lot of people think Williamsburg is cutting edge," Smith says. "It's not, it's just low risk, without being particularly experimental."

Frustrated with her inability to get Manhattan collectors to travel across the bridge, Smith is relocating to Chelsea, even though she runs one of the better-known galleries in the neighborhood.

Not surprisingly, many disagree with both her claims of poor foot traffic and her opinion of Williamsburg.

"She's going where the money is, and the power," artist Powhida says. "I don't blame her for wanting to sell her artists, but how good they are is up for debate. She's not all that cutting edge either."

Newsday/AP - Williamsburg comes of age

detail of installation of C-prints

Joe Ovelman has a solo show at Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery.

James has a post up about the show.

It's now listed as a pick on the Village Voice web site, plus Paige West (Art Addict) and the art weblog have mentioned him.

Go see it! We have already decided to buy a few works in the show.

[photo from James's write-up]

... he might have done something like this. Actually, that's not fair to Speer. He was a pretty good architect.


A look at the World War II Memorial from atop the Washington Monument as it nears the end of construction. (Ricky Carioti - The Washington Post)

Adam Cvijanovic's mural of Osage Avenue in "Ideal City" at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

We have seen every almost every show in New York of Adam Cvijanovic's work since Richard Anderson first showed him in the early 90s. I think he is a very smart artist and great painter, and, like so many artists we know, is a sweet person who has managed to not be chewed up by the Art World. He has a show at the Academy of Find Arts in Philadelphia titled "Ideal City."

Roberta Fallon, of artblog fame, has a great interview with him on

His choice of thematic material for the show is interesting, playing off two aspects of Utopian thinking in Phildelphia history: the Quakers and MOVE.

[photo from]

Tim Hailand, Untitled (SLUT) 1996

¡Mira, mira! I didn't know Tim Hailand had a website!

I want to be like the Horts when I'm a grown-up collector. We own a few artists in common, and I like the fact that while they obviously have money, they're spending it mostly on younger, emerging artists like Paul P. and Christian Holstad.


Marge Laszlo

Well, sort of. Our friend Conrad Cummings, one of the most thoughtful and politically aware composers I have ever met, was part of a concert in January of sports-oriented music given by the Avian Orchestra in the 6th floor gym of the University Settlement on the Lower East Side. His piece, titled In Memorium Marge Laszlo is an hommage to the roller derby champion. She isn't dead, just "retired" by the forces of capitalism. This is how Conrad describes the piece:

Marge Laszlo was one of Roller Derby’s great players. The game was born on the West Coast and grew up with the early days of television. During its heyday in the 1960s a dozen teams bused all over the country. It was one of the first sports that women as well as men could make a living playing, and it provided a home and a livelihood for any number of outsiders.

Roller Derby looked anarchic. Players smashed into each other, collided into huge heaps of bodies, threw each other over the ropes into the audience, screamed at each other constantly, pulled hair, and whenever possible beat up the umpires. The highlight move was the Whip, where five or six players would link wrists to propel the player at the end into the opposing team like a projectile. Bodies would fly everywhere.

But behind all the chaos and apparent violence was actually a big extended family of players who lived and traveled together and worked out every pile-up, Whip, hair-pull, and fight sequence ahead of time. Despite the drama, athleticism, and the passionate loyalty of fans to individual teams and players, it came down to a companionable bunch of people gliding round and round the same oval track. My piece goes around its track four times.

Marge Laszlo herself is alive and well, but the game, alas, is no more. It started to lose TV viewers in the early 70s and was done in by the energy crisis when the teams couldn’t afford gas for the buses taking them from city to city. But Roller Derby lives on happily in my memory, and I’d like to think that the end of my piece is Marge’s farewell lap on her last game. Skate on, Marge!

You can hear this work, plus all of the others on the program, via New Music Box through April 15.

Go buy his CD Photo-Op. After hearing it we tracked him down and became friends with him. It is brilliant politically-aware music.

My recommended openings for the next few days, all in Chelsea:

Today (Thursday):

Stuart Hawkins at LFL Gallery
Paper Chase (group show curated by Renee Riccardo/Arena) at Axel Raben


Joe Ovelman at 5BE Gallery


David Humphrey at Brent Sikkema


Also, the Skyscraper Museum is now open in Battery Park City, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from April 2004.

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