Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Having Conquered Los Angeles, Polish Artists Invade Brooklyn

Thursday night, while the Komeda Project provided murkily beautiful ambience, the art show at the Polish/Slavic Center at 177 Kent St. in Greenpoint was similarly intense and intelligent – and covered a vastly wider emotional spectrum. Two Los Angeles-based groups, Krak Art and the Emotionalists joined in the exhibit – it wasn’t clear who was who, but pretty much everyone on display made an impact. Janusz Skowron, who seemed to be the ringleader, explained how their initial LA show “proved the critics wrong” – it was a smashing success. As this one ought to be as well. He brought his own oils, including both intricately textured, allusive portraiture and lushly layered geometric work, one a study in horizontality and the other the opposite.

Anna Zatorska’s haunting, intense housefront tableaux followed specific color themes: pensively autumnal red, hypnotic nightmare scarlet, wistful blue/grey with a clothesline in the background. Arthur Skowron evoked Arthur Robins with ominous, fire-licked, stormy waterfall and whirlpool scenes, while Kinga Czerska’s abstract, fun work playfully juxtaposed casually colorful curves against linear astringency. That playfulness took on added irony with Artur Popek’s genial overhead views of a strangely industrial resort in the offseason, as well as a main-street scene offering an understatedly pointed contrast between the bustle of technology and older, less worldly comforts.

The textural star of the show was a vividly composed, intensely layered acrylic work by Kasia Czerpak-Weglinski making striking use of both enamel and tile accents. Zbigniew Nowosadzki’s paintings also made use of rich background layers, most notably in a hazy view of birds above a ship. And the most evocative work of all was by Piotr Betlej, whose portraits’ finely drawn, minutely nuanced expressions emerged, worn and weary, out of an ominous, chaotic morass. Some, possibly many of these artists will be famous well beyond their own Polish-American community: get to know them before that happens and your life will be enriched.

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April 14, 2010 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: The Spiritual and the Simian at the Jewish Museum

There are two strikingly different but captivating new exhibits up at the Jewish Museum (1109 5th Ave., enter on 92nd St.) for you to enjoy. The more serious one exhibits three iconic poststructuralists’ works rarely seen outside the space for which they were commissioned, the Congregation B’nai Israel Synagogue in Millburn, New Jersey. In 1951, Robert Motherwell, Herbert Ferber and Adolph Gottlieb were called on to deliver A) a rather striking, symbolically-charged wall-size painting, B) a vividly optimistic, ur-1950s lead-on-copper sculpture that foreshadows Frank Stella and C) a floor-to-ceiling quilt designed by Gottlieb, woven with respect to tradition by the women of the congregation. These were all cutting-edge then and it’s fascinating to see them here today, out of context.

Now for the fun, family-friendly part. For those of us who grew up with Curious George and retain happy memories of his misadventures, the exhibit on H.A. Rey and his wife Margaret is pure nirvana – and it’ll resonate with curious kids a little older than Curious George age who haven’t come to the point where they consider those books babyish. And it wasn’t Hector Aquiles Rey from Mexico or the Dominican who wrote them – it was the former Hans Augusto Reyersbach, a German Jewish emigrant who narrowly escaped the Nazi invasion of Paris with his wife, making the thousand-mile trek to Lisbon via bicycle before embarking for Brazil and then New York. As it turns out, he’s the model for the Man in the Yellow Hat (Reyersbach hispanicized his name while working in Brazil); Margaret was the inspiration for Fifi, later renamed Curious George by an American editor. Very interestingly, she was the mastermind behind the stories. There are sketches, original illustrations and rare photos by Margaret along with an especially poignant exchange of correspondence between H.A. Rey and his editor in London, carried on from stops along the way (the Reys never stopped writing and working on stories, and evidence of this actually saved them from suspicion by the authorities on several occasions).It’s truly an exhibit for the H.A. Rey completist – the museum has their passports, their visas, their address books, everything but their luggage (much of that, sadly, was lost somewhere between Paris and Lisbon). There’s also a cozy nook for little ones to play, with copies of the books in question. The whole thing adds an entirely new dimension to a Curious George style “narrow escape.”

The exhibits run concurrently through August 1. Museum hours are Saturday-Tuesday 11 AM-5:45 PM, Thursday 11 AM-8 PM and Friday 11 AM-4 PM. Free day is Saturday.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Albert Maysles: Photographs and Cinemagraphs, at the Steven Kasher Gallery

Albert Maysles, along with his late brother David, is one of the great pioneers in documentary filmmaking. Their most famous works include the groundbreaking Salesman (1968), the immortal Rolling Stones movie Gimme Shelter (1970) and the cult classic Grey Gardens (1976). Albert Maysles’ latest documentary, The Gates, chronicling the notorious Christo installation in Central Park two years ago, premieres on HBO this coming February 26. The shots on display here, from the just-published A Maysles Scrapbook: Photographs/Cinemagraphs/Documents fill four walls of the gallery, beginning with over two dozen from the Soviet bloc in 1955. In one black-and-white photo, Albert Maysles casually leans against the bumper of an old World War II surplus truck somewhere in Czechoslovakia, beer in hand, as the locals have just offered him as much as he can drink and as much gas as his scooter will hold. It’s an indelible moment, and sadly, unlike the vast majority of what’s on display here, it’s not for sale.

Other black-and-white shots from the Maysles’ trip behind the Iron Curtain that year include several of inmates at a mental institution, including one particularly scary character posing up against his hospital’s marble steps. Others are alternately troubling and lighthearted: a series depicts weary, clearly out-of-sorts travelers in the Moscow airport, including a family sleeping huddled together, as well as some amusingly sarcastic portrayals of Soviet-era women’s fashions, or what posed for fashion in a society that denied its citizens the right to express any esthetic sensibility that could conceivably be considered individualistic.

The stars of this show occupy the final wall, several large color montages from Grey Gardens. Popular in the gay community because of its camp factor, it’s actually a harrowing look at the effects of mental illness, tracing the twisted, symbiotic relationship between the aging, reclusive septuagenarian Kennedy clan member “Big” Edith Beale and her equally crazy wannabe-chanteuse daughter, fiftysomething “Little Edie” Beale over the course of several months in the duo’s rotting, rodent-infested Long Island mansion. Grey Gardens (which was adapted into a popular musical last year) is an incredibly funny movie, but the humor is completely unintentional, as far as its subjects are concerned. “Al Maysles is a great artist. He’s also a great photographer. He is also of Russian descent. My best friends were all Russian, but they were royalty,” Little Edie is quoted as saying, which speaks volumes.

Several of the most classic scenes from the film are here: a series of six shots of Little Edie cavorting with an American flag, as well as larger shots showing her doing sit-ups in her bathing suit on the decaying back porch, posing in the dunes, perusing an astrology book through a magnifying glass, demonstrating how to wear pantyhose underneath a dress and reclining on a bed while gazing at herself in a mirror with considerable trepidation. What may be the film’s most immortal scene is included here, where Big Edie, sitting bloblike and practically falling out of her dingy green dress, reprimands Little Edie to stop her incessant singing, threatening to leave the room and go hang out with the cats instead. The show’s scariest moment is the final shot, a black-and-white photo of Little Edie posed on the porch in a short skirt, dark scarf around her waist, pulled up to show her thigh. But there’s no seduction here. The frightened bewilderment on her face stops just short of complete self-awareness: only a crazy person would let someone take a picture like that. And as you leave the gallery, thinking you’re seen it all, there’s another black-and-white shot just to the left of the elevator, this time showing a smiling Little Edie shooting with Albert Maysles’ camera. This is a must-see exhibit whether you are a fan of the Maysles’ work or not yet a convert. The show runs through March 15 at the Steven Kasher Gallery, 521 W 23rd St. just west of 10th Ave., second floor, 11 AM – 6 PM Tues-Sat.

February 21, 2008 Posted by | Art, Film, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment