It’s been a few years since I was way out of my depth trying to write about “visual art” — by which I mean stuff that hangs on walls, that is, not cinema — but reviewing the documentary Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band for The Dissolve brought me right back. I enjoyed the visit.
Llyn Foulkes’ painting The Awakening, 1994-2012.
Crashonda Edwards and Julian Elijah Martinez
This week’s City Paper theater column was supposed to include reviews of Theater J’s new The Hampton Years and American Century Theater’s revived Biography. The Sunday matinee of Biography I attended was cancelled due to a power failure 30 minutes into the show, and there wasn’t another performance scheduled before my Monday-evening deadline, regrettably.
So I ended up with a few more hundred words of real estate in which to unpack what I consider be the very earnest and honorable Hampton Years’ very earnest and honorable shortcomings. And also the rather less honorable shortcoming of my published review, wherein I reported that the artist Elizabeth Catlett, a character in The Hampton Years, is still alive. In fact, Ms. Catlett died last year. I apologize for my stupid, sloppy error.
Art by Yasmina Reza; translated by Christopher Hampton
Mitchell Hébert and John Lescault / photo by Scott Suchman
Directed by Matt Gardiner
At Signature Theatre to May 22
To frame things as reductively as possible, Yasmina Reza’s Art and Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce are both about two guys reacting to the alarming behavior of a third.
Admittedly, it’s a pretty slim commonality. Dinny, the tyrannical patriarch who runs the show in Walworth, is violent, delusional, sadistic—the very model of a modern major depressive sociopath. Serge, the catalyst of Art, is merely pretentious, dropping 200,000 clams on a painting that appears to his pals, and to us, to be a blank white canvas. “The resonance of the monochromatic doesn’t really happen under artificial light,” he explains, like an emperor protesting that his new clothes need only be brought in a bit.
Serge is a dermatologist by trade. That a surface unperturbed by form or color would call out to his soul is one of the better jokes here, which is to say this is neither the funniest nor the most insightful work ever to win the Tony Award for best play, which it did, or to follow its denouement with a deflating coda, which it does. Continue reading
Noire et blanche by Man Ray, 1926
You there: Settle a bet. Would this be art imitating life, or life imitating art? Or life imitating art imitating life?
This is going to take some explaining, so please be patient.
Round House Theatre’s production of Thomas Gibbons’s Permanent Collection, about a racially charged struggle for control of a museum, doesn’t open for three weeks. But the Phillips Collection is hosting a preview of selected scenes this evening. Why the Phillips? Because it’s about to close Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens — a brilliant, unconventional exhibit that touches on many of the same issues vis-à-vis how race impacts art’s perceived value that Gibbons’s 2004 drama does. Continue reading
I chatted with artist and first-time documentary filmmaker Eileen Yaghoobian for a piece about this week’s DC premiere of Died Young, Stayed Pretty, her movie about gig poster artists. I’ve written about our local gig poster scene here in DC more than once, so it’s a subject close to my heart, and her flick is a lot of fun. It screens Thursday night at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Details here.
Late in 1995, National Gallery of Art curator Arthur K. Wheelock was looking forward to unveiling the exhibit of his career. Johannes Vermeer brought together 22 of the enigmatic Dutch genius’s 35 known paintings. Three centuries had passed since the last time so many Vermeers could be seen in one place.
“That was something nobody ever thought would be possible,” Wheelock, curator of northern baroque paintings, says from his office in the Gallery’s East Building, with a view of the Capitol Dome. “You couldn’t get the loans.” And yet, after eight years of negotiations with museums and private collectors throughout the U.S. and Europe, he was about to make it happen. It would be the apex of a career that began when he’d penned his dissertation on Vermeer more than 20 years earlier. Continue reading
Hendrick Ter Brugghen, Bagpipe player in Profile, 1624
When Arthur Wheelock came to the National Gallery of Art in 1973, its collection was a far cry from what it is today. Marine paintings were all but absent. There were no still lifes. Nothing from the group of Italian-influenced Dutch painters known as the Utrecht Carvaggisti.
Wheelock has spent much of his 34-year tenure as a curator filling those gaps. In the last two years, he’s scored major acquisitions of Dutch masterpieces by Salomon van Ruysdael and Hendrick ter Brugghen. Here he discusses some other favorites among the pieces he’s added to the nation’s art collection, all currently on view. Continue reading
Oh, like you’ve never taken a lady home and had second thoughts about it.
You know the Mona Lisa, yeah? A lot of smart people think a big reason why the half-millennia-old Renaissance masterpiece remains instantly recognizable to you, you Big Mac-eating, CW-watching, New York Times-ignoring philistine, is because in 1911, somebody stole it. Continue reading
Aw, Hell, it’s already gone.
It’s been six days since my NEA Fellowship wrapped up in Los Angeles with ace program director Sasha Anawalt dancing to U2’s “Beautiful Day” (twice) while making her closing remarks to me and my 22 new best friends from media outlets around the country. The program was a 11-day motion blur spent talking about the nature and purpose of Art, and criticism, with journalists and theatre artists; of sobering reports of arts journalists (including many of the ones in the room) losing their jobs; of experiencing theatre; of being schooled in writing, but also in dancing and acting; of critiquing each other’s written work; of being isolated in a fancy hotel together; eating together; being bussed everywhere together; and of drinking together every night, accumulated sleep-dep and looming deadlines be damned.