Photo: Courtesy Team Gallery
Each of the seven videos in Tabor Robak’s third solo exhibition at Team Gallery are living beings, animated in real time by imagery generated from custom-made computer boards. Floating in infinite space, the iconography — some of it resembling faux social-media icons or corporate logos — meanders through pools of colors and shapes while leaving behind smearing marks akin to shooting stars. Robak’s compositions burst with color, form, and vibrancy; their soundlessness further elevates their affinity with painting (each slash of computer-delivered residue like a fresh brushstroke), distinguishing them from the looping patterns familiar to today’s digital art. Each video produces a distinct ocular effect in which the unrestricted possibilities of digital technology coalesce with the artful, archaic yearn for mimesis.
—Osman Can Yerebakan
A hundred years ago, Marsden Hartley was a much more recognizable name. Back then, this American modernist was deeply respected for his early and quick digestion of Paul Cézanne, and especially for his ability to integrate abstraction into his naturalistic style. But Cézanne’s Parisian milieu was not necessarily at the forefront of Hartley’s mind; often, he was thinking first of Maine, his home state, which his work refers to often. This important exhibition, which should go a long way in reestablishing his name, specifically looks at his perennial fascination with the Pine Tree State — and his inability to escape it. (He died in Maine in 1943.) It contains around ninety paintings and drawings, including works by artists who influenced Hartley, like Cézanne, the Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, and the American painters Winslow Homer and Albert Pinkham Ryder.
The twice-a-year, month-long event from UrbanSpace and the Madison Square Park Conservancy kicks off this week, bringing a slew of restaurants and food vendors to the area. It’s a refreshing way to sample a variety of nearby lunch options while enjoying some time out in the sun. With more than twenty participating vendors, there will be some hard decisions to make, but we’re looking forward to trying jiangbing, the Beijing-style crepes from 2016 Vendy Awards Rookie of the Year Mr. Bing; the meat- and veg-stuffed creations of a former Bark Hot Dogs honcho at Make Sandwich; and the salteñas from Bolivian Llama Party, which are sort of like empanadas, but better. The pop-up market runs daily through June 9, then returns in the fall with a new lineup.
The storm of Suzan-Lori Parks plays continues with this rarely performed tragicomedy, another from her pre-Pulitzer, postmodern, carnivalesque repertoire. Your ears should still be ringing from last year’s thunderclap: the revival of her The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, which is 25 years old but felt new as fresh paint. In the 1997 Venus, Parks turns her cool and furious eye to the currency of the black female body, dramatizing the story of Saartjie Baartman — known to nineteenth-century freakshow audiences as the Hottentot Venus — who traveled from the African Cape to London to be displayed to thrill-seeking Victorian crowds.
Photo: Lions Love (...and Lies). Courtesy Janus Films.
In a line from Agnès Varda’s 1969 Lions Love (…and Lies) that defines the French essayist extraordinaire’s work abroad in California, actress and director Shirley Clarke states that Varda “never know[s] whether [she is] in a movie or making one.” Both are one and the same; the real and cinematic worlds melt into a nearly indivisible whole animated by Varda’s foreigner’s curiosity. For Varda, opportunity lies everywhere: tracing her own far-off family connections in Sausalito (1967’s Uncle Yanco); navigating the margins of Los Angeles’s loneliness-breeding urban sprawl (1981’s Documenteur); traveling to Oakland for a Black Panther demonstration (1968’s Black Panthers); meditating on the color, culture, and diversity of L.A. murals (1980’s Mur Murs); and, perhaps most poignantly, sending up the era-appropriate excess and counterculture of the Hollywood Hills, all while breaking the fourth wall to achieve something as exquisite and simple as a shared breath (Lions Love). All these works feature in BAMcinématek’s two-week survey of Agnès Varda’s California.
—Samuel B. Prime
When Ellsworth Kelly died in December 2015, at age 92, he left hanging in his studio ten paintings, nine of which were finished. Among them was a two-part, monochrome diptych — one green panel, one blue — that bears a remarkable likeness to another work he painted in 1962. It was no accident: Kelly often looked back to favored ideas from times past as a way into something new. His final nine completed paintings are now the subject of a show at Matthew Marks; next door, the gallery is also presenting a suite of sixteen of Kelly’s plant drawings, from between 1949 and 2008. Like his larger abstract paintings, these are remarkably consistent; it would be difficult, based on style alone, to date any one of them, a fact that’s a tribute to the clarity of Kelly’s vision.
Through the mid–twentieth century, before cameras became portable enough for remote fieldwork, wildlife researchers with the New York Zoological Society were still relying on a cadre of illustrators to record what they saw. Collected during expeditions to the tropics, these exquisitely detailed drawings of flora and fauna — including the stomach contents of a blackfin tuna — showcase a notable partnership between art and science. The pictures are all the more impressive for having been completed on location, in jungle or beachside shacks that artist Mark Dion will re-create for the exhibit.
Le Poisson Rouge’s “We Resist” series puts jazz improvisers on point to drop their political P.O.V.s along with their musical ideas, which often go hand-in-hand. This month’s show uses guitars as a bulwark against deceit. The roiling action of Harriet Tubman’s new album, Araminta, sounds like it could turn things around with a single power chord. The trio, with Brandon Ross’s strings up front, tilts toward a mix of Jimi’s Gypsies and Vesuvius erupting. The James Brandon Lewis trio, one of the most combustible tenor sax outfits in action right now, hashtags #punkrock and #energy when they’re ‘Gramming, and best of all live up to the insurgence those terms conjure. Special guest Anthony Pirog joins them to throw in some reliably keen guitar notions. Proceeds go to the artists’ fave charities.
Billed as “an American modern dance company with a European sensibility,” Pascal Rioult’s troupe leads off this season — just in time, before Britain exits Europe — with a new piece to four songs by the English prog-rock/heavy metal band Deep Purple. Fire in the Sky, with costumes by Patricia Field and David Dalrymple, is the French-born Rioult’s first stab at choreographing to rock music. A longtime principal with the Martha Graham Dance Company, Rioult formed his own ensemble in 1994, dedicating his energies to choreography; sharing this bill is his restaging of his 21-year-old Te Deum, to an eponymous score by Arvo Pärt — the first time he has allowed another dancer to perform it. Mondo, whose style merges urban fashion with dancewear, is designing the costume.
Photo: Keen (Part 1). Andy Romer.
Three of the city’s premier dance presenters — the Joyce, Abrons Arts Center, and the Chocolate Factory Theater — combine forces and resources to bring us Ivy Baldwin’s Keen [Part 2], a meditation on loss and ritual provoked, perhaps, by the 2015 death of dancer Lawrence Cassella. (The troupe showed the first part last year, at the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.) Baldwin, Eleanor Smith, and Katie Workum are joined by a corps of eight other women in an exploration of the contours of grief, moving within an installation of stark white paper constructed by artists Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen. The keening sound design, partly produced by the dancers themselves, is the work of Minneapolis-based Justin Jones; Chloe Z. Brown designs the lights and Mindy Nelson the costumes.
Larry Clark is best known for a body of films that pierce perceptions of youth and youth culture. Ever since capturing himself and his friends fighting, fucking, and shooting up in his book Tulsa (1971), Clark has also been taking photographs of teens and young adults enmeshed in various subcultures. It’s little wonder, then, that the artwork he likes is bold, brash, and all sorts of intense. The current exhibition “White Trash” features treasures from Clark’s personal art collection, which he stores in his Tribeca loft. A text-based piece by Jenny Holzer, pop art by Warhol, and drawings by Jason Polan all make appearances. More heavy-hitters include Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Chris Burden, Robert Frank, Sigmar Polke, and David Wojnarowicz. There are also original theatrical posters for two John Cassavetes titles, Shadows (1959) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), both of which have influenced Clark’s own movies.
David Gordon’s Live Archiveography, a fusion of scripted storytelling, video and photo collage, and live performance by former members of his Pick Up Performance Co(s) and guest artists, kicks off the second season of Manhattan productions by Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts. (Formerly of Maryland, Lumberyard is now building a performing-arts retreat in Catskill, New York, that’s slated to open next year.) This first of Lumberyard’s five Chelsea weekends brings to fascinating, rhythmic life the five decades of archives Gordon, a post-modern pioneer, recently deposited in the New York Public Library. Born and raised in the city, Gordon dedicates the ninety-minute show to his remarkable families: the one he was born into; the one he made with Valda Setterfield and their son, Ain Gordon; the Grand Union in which he improvised through the Seventies; and subsequent troupes.
Rock star–turned–safe streets advocate David Byrne adapts his challenging 2012 book How Music Works into an evening-length salon, using dance, theater, comedy, and, of course, music to illustrate his far-ranging ideas. Re-released the day of the show with a new chapter, the meandering nonfiction screed is hard to pin down and includes not just recollections of the Talking Heads’ career but also dissections of birdsong, psychoacoustic theory, and how the U.S. treats music from other countries (not well, he concludes). The additional section extends another of Byrne’s explorations, the machinery of the music industry, examining the rise of discovery services like Spotify and how they affect the business, the artists, and the songs themselves. Helping him to explain this ambitious project are choreographer Paul Lazar, magician Noah Levine, actors from UCB, and many more guests to be revealed when they walk onstage.
In an attempt to save Grand Billiards from going out of business in 2012, three friends banded together to host a series of events to help the Brooklyn poolhall stay afloat. These gatherings, which included zine fairs, parties, and screenings, gradually morphed into a nonprofit organization called 8-Ball Community Inc. Since then, 8-Ball has expanded; now working out of a space in lower Manhattan, the group’s objective is to build a support network for artists and activists through “open-access platforms and events,” including radio, art-oriented workshops, public-access television, and a self-publishing fair. However, after years in their rent-free Manhattan headquarters, 8-Ball has been asked to move. Hoping to raise money to finance a new community space, 8-Ball is putting on a weeklong string of events: a fundraising dinner at Mission Chinese (on Tuesday), a live-streamed talent show at Urban Stages (Thursday), a zine fest at Space Billiards (Saturday and Sunday), and a dance party (Saturday, location TBD). Join the fun so 8-Ball can once again have a place to organize.
Photo: Hadas Di
The music of the Los Angeles–based Ho99o9 (pronounced horror) mirrors that of its name. The duo, originally from New Jersey, bring the essence of a gory, B-grade slasher flick to their tracks. Their sound is heavy and industrial, topped with gritty rap and laced with an obscene, dark lyricism. It hits you hard — like any good crafter of jump-scares, Ho99o9 work to shock and scare listeners. Their live shows are an experience, and have attracted a cult following of fans seeking their signature thrills and spontaneity. Ho99o9’s rapper and DJ, TheOGM, often dressed in a mask and absurd clothing (if any at all), moves frantically about the stage, occasionally letting out a manic scream or groan in between verses. These concerts are notorious for initiating aggressive moshing; it’s not unlikely you’ll have a beer thrown on you or receive a shove to the back. But they’re a singular trip — don’t miss the angst and ruckus during the band’s return to the East Coast.
In 1957, shortly after moving to San Francisco and settling amongst Beatniks, Bruce Conner formed the Rat Bastard Protective Association, a serious if satirically minded attempt to unify and promote the artistic efforts of his fellow provocateurs, who included Jay DeFeo, Wallace Berman, and George Herms. Curator Anastasia Aukeman, an authority on the RBPA, has gathered gallery ephemera, photographic portraits, and forty works of art for this survey of a free-spirited, proudly defiant collective that helped usher in (among other practices) found-object assemblage.
The widow and the estranged son of a once-celebrated African-American artist clash during Master, a new work created by W. David Hancock (The Convention of Cartography), whose imaginative environmental dramas have netted him two Obie awards. Produced by the ever-enterprising Foundry Theatre, the confrontations within Master are staged amid a walk-through installation of fragmented artwork and artifacts relating to Mark Twain, whose The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn inspired the deceased artist in question. Notable scenic designer Marsha Ginsberg, visual artist Wardell Milan, and director Taibi Magar collaborate with Hancock on the premiere, which transforms the Irondale Theatre Center into an abnormal performance space.
Twelve new pieces, many of them sharply political, make up the 2017 La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival, which displays seventeen troupes in four different theaters over eighteen days, as well as outdoors and online (with the crowdsourced project “#Here to Dance”). This week, on the Ellen Stewart mainstage, Patricia Hoffbauer’s Getting Away With Murder premieres (June 2–4).
“Shot-on-video” may sound like a pejorative term for amateurish, low-budget filmmaking, but for a generation of motivated, enormously creative, movie-obsessed Hollywood outsiders, the Eighties brought with it an economical means to realize an imaginative dream: video recording equipment both accessible and affordable to the average consumer. Suddenly, just about anyone with a vision, tenacity, and a few bucks to spare could make a feature with a few friends in their backyard and, in many cases, produce a home-video release on VHS. On Fridays at midnight throughout the summer, the “Nitehawk Nasties” series presents a run of straight-to-video oddities, starting with the jailbait-cum-jailbreak tape Blonde Death by James Robert Baker (a/k/a James Dillinger), screening this week, and including all the blood, guts, and iridescent ooze of Zombie Bloodbath by Todd Sheets. Though not exactly catnip for the average movie- goer, these unique films are earnest in the absolute extreme and are — above anything else — parties waiting to happen.
—Samuel B. Prime
Photo: Mr. Robot star Rami Malek. Courtesy USA Network.
When the Cannes Film Festival announced its slate this year, some critics were shocked that, in addition to new features by such formidable auteurs as Todd Haynes, Sofia Coppola, and Michael Haneke, the lineup included screenings of new episodes of Twin Peaks and Top of the Lake. This was the first time Cannes had shown television, and it was a sign of the times — all boundaries between what defined TV and what defined cinema be damned. This week, Matt Zoller Seitz, New York magazine’s TV critic and RogerEbert.com’s editor-in-chief, will curate and stage the first edition of the Split Screens Festival, which is devoted entirely to “the art of television.” Episodes of Netflix’s The Get Down and TBS’s Search Party will be screened alongside discussions with the stars of Mr. Robot, Orphan Black, and Better Call Saul. Among the most anticipated events of the fest is the world premiere of the pilot of The Deuce, David Simon’s HBO drama about the New York porn industry in the Seventies.
The ultimate sign of spring in New York City isn’t cherry blossoms or allergy attacks, but rather the re-emergence of outdoor eating. Just as bar backyards reopen and sidewalk seating returns, so does the alfresco behemoth Smorgasburg bring its tents and grills to the hungry, vitamin D–deficient masses. Around a hundred local vendors will set up at both locations: Saturdays in Williamsburg, and Sundays in Prospect Park. Smorgasburg was previously responsible for the Ramen Burger and Wowfulls, so as you wander, be on the lookout for the next weird food craze.
The apex of John Woo’s Hollywood residency, Face/Off (1997) now feels partly burdened by its overtures to near-futurism and high-tech gloss (an electro-magnetic prison, 100MB zip drives, “the new anti-inflammatories”), and overdressed in its truckloads of shattered movie glass and bendy Panavision widescreen. It’s also too serious by half. These distractions brushed away, Face/Off reverts to the mean of its own outlandish premise, accented by doves and Catholic paraphernalia. And while John Travolta relishes playing the villain, Nicolas Cage is the true, twitching heart, explaining the plot in a third-act monologue so silly he has to slap himself to get through it. Littered with motifs of duality, fluid binaries, and layers of disguise, this thriller might have profited more handsomely with Brian De Palma at the helm, but there’s vitality in Travolta’s swagger, Cage’s contortions, and the cackling ballyhoo of the director’s big production numbers.
—Jaime N. Christley
Jamaican native Nari Ward, winner of this year’s $100,000 Vilcek Prize for immigrant artists, takes his large-scale, culturally pointed sculpture outdoors. Riffing on black experience (virility myths, exclusion, the Greatest of All Time moniker), the show focuses, humorously, on the goat motif: in lawn ornaments, in a monumentalized child’s toy, and in a big copper-plated bell, shaped and textured to resemble a billy goat’s gonads. On Saturday, June 3, an opening reception will be held at the park.
Since any Tom Zé fan will already know to catch this precious BAM show, anyone who hasn’t yet joined us had best stream the Brazil Classics 4 comp David Byrne got behind in 1990. A shop owner’s son born before electricity came to his remote Bahia town, a schooled twelve-tone avant-gardist who long composed advertising jingles, the eighty-year-old Zé is looked up to by such slightly younger tropicália giants as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. But he’s always been spikier, punchier, and more dissonant than the tropicália norm, remaining miraculously fresh and prolific as he released seven remarkable albums in this century, the latest the puckish, philosophical, candidly sexual Canções Eróticas de Ninar. This will be his third recent New York appearance.
Fans of Australian master-samplers the Avalanches had to wait sixteen years for a follow-up to the group’s landmark 2000 debut, Since I Left You, a one-of-a-kind kaleidoscopic dance album. Not only did the Avalanches deliver with 2016’s Wildflower — another bright, sample-heavy patchwork of influences (yes, that is a Rodgers and Hammerstein snippet on “Frankie Sinatra”) — but the group is also embarking on its first-ever North American headlining tour. The momentous event brings them to Brooklyn Bowl on June 3, as part of the “Governors Ball After Dark” series.
Photo: Courtesy Film Forum
Michael Ritchie’s The Bad News Bears (1976) hasn’t got any time for the feel-good crud of the underdog-sports genre. It presents as a losers-make-good narrative, laced with profanity and slurs, but a wiser and more cynical film emerges, in perfect harmony with Walter Matthau’s statesmanlike performance as the alcoholic has-been Buttermaker. The movie gets most of its mileage from the spectacle of little kids talking trash, but it never forgets they’re just kids, often casually damaged by the mendacity of insecure adults. With unexpected power, The Bad News Bears is punctuated by glimpses of their young faces, shocked and confused as adult-borne psychological shrapnel connects with their unguarded psyches. Ultimately the film celebrates as its paragon the antiauthoritarianism that grows unbidden from the mysterious soil of the young mind. By the end, Matthau’s “Don’t worry about it” comes to seem less like a habitual utterance than the movie’s essential philosophy.
—Jaime N. Christley
Too frequently in our tricky theatrical climate, playwrights limit their scope to a meek ninety minutes — not so Mfoniso Udofia, who has boldly embarked on “The Ufot Cycle,” a nine-play saga that is already six works in. Sojourners begins the epic, introducing us to Abasiama, a young Nigerian woman in an arranged marriage who emigrates to Houston; Her Portmanteau shows us Abasiama’s later struggle to maintain bonds across generations. New York Theater Workshop has Ed Sylvanus Iskandar (These Seven Sicknesses) direct the rotating pair of plays with casts that include Chinasa Ogbuagu, Jenny Jules, and the always delightful Herbert Point-du-Jour.
The Museum of the Moving Image’s cleverly named series provides a selection of James Caan’s chameleonic performances that make internal tensions brim with a steely coolness. Thief (1981) and The Gambler (1974), the latter of which screens on Sunday, June 4, remain the eternal classics, with Caan disappearing into characters who attempt to control their untenable addictions. Caan’s later roles in movies like Bottle Rocket (1996), his face and voice grizzled through age, put forth a funnier sensibility. Caan has also provided weight to slighter films: Kathy Bates may have won an Oscar as the overbearing villain of the Stephen King adaptation Misery (1990), but her antics wouldn’t be as terrifying without Caan’s pleading and squealing to anchor them in genuine psychological terror.
Recently back from a European tour that was supposed to include the canceled Safe as Milk Festival in Wales, Horse Lords will perform in New York for the first time following the release of May’s Mixtape IV, featuring the Baltimore quartet’s relatively disco-fied version of queer African-American — and newly rediscovered — composer Julius Eastman’s 1973 piece “Stay On It.” Anyone unaware of the work’s provenance couldn’t be blamed for hearing it as a Horse Lords original: It perfectly suits the group’s predilection for the sort of rocking and dissonant minimalism that began to crystallize culturally during Downtown’s late-Seventies No Wave offensive. The band’s own angular music — a droning, pulsing paean to the joys of just intonation — is no less challenging and fun. Two composing performers, bass clarinetist Lea Bertucci and percussionist Angus Tarnawsky, will also perform solo, extending their respective instruments with electronics, tape equipment, and other sonic magic.
Anish Kapoor, to his enormous credit, is the rare contemporary artist who begins not with concepts, but with style. Whatever ideas emerge from his art come later, from the look of the thing, the way it feels and how it hits the senses. Although Kapoor tends toward a clean, spare, graceful style, there is often something overwhelming to his work. That’s certainly the case with “Descension,” an endless whirlpool that disappears into the earth, now installed at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Much of its power comes from the tremendous and ominous hum it generates, which most people will notice before they even lay eyes on it. If there is a drawback, it’s the location: Brooklyn Bridge Park is anodyne and clean, which blunts some of Kapoor’s force. Still, the installation introduces a dose of aesthetic anxiety into any visitor’s day, which alone is commendable.
For the month of May, the windows girding the entrance to Battery Park’s Museum of Jewish Heritage will be graced with superimposed black-and-white images of aged, spotlighted faces — smiling, forbidding, bemused. These photos belong to “Eyewitness,” a series of 31 portraits of Holocaust survivors living in New York City, taken by photojournalist B.A. Van Sise over the past year, that collectively constitute the center’s first large-scale public photography installation. Van Sise also conducted interviews with his subjects, and text from those conversations was selected to accompany each image in the interior of the museum, as they flash upon monitors strewn about the first floor. Van Sise, who has photographed for the Voice, told us that his intention with the show was to compose a story that represents “what happens when America actually shows compassion to a bunch of Semitic refugees coming from war-torn places.”
Admirers of the philosopher Walter Benjamin have reason to celebrate this summer: His unfinished magnum opus, The Arcades Project, forms the centerpiece of an exhibition at the Jewish Museum that explores the stamp of his legacy across today’s visual-arts landscape. The Arcades Project analyzed modernity by focusing on the shopping passages of nineteenth-century Paris: labyrinthine avenues stretched between streets, roofed with iron and glass, lined with storefronts to attract passersby — all a bit reminiscent of modern-day Chelsea Market. The exhibition features an idiosyncratic collection of artists (such as Milena Bonilla, Voluspa Jarpa, Cindy Sherman, and Chris Burden), each of whose work appears as a response to one of the thematic sections, or “convolutes,” of Benjamin’s text. (Kenneth Goldsmith’s poetic annotations also make an appearance.) It’s a tiny exhibit, but you’ll want to take your time idling through these jam-packed rooms. Imitate Benjamin’s beloved figure of the flâneur — that leisurely saunterer of sidewalks, caught up in a reverie of browsing — and bring a turtle on a leash.