Get Your Quick And Dirty Arts Education With Haiku Reviews

Get Your Quick And Dirty Arts Education With Haiku Reviews

HuffPost Arts&Culture's Haiku Reviews is a monthly feature where invited critics review exhibitions and performances in short form. Some will be in the traditional haiku form of 5x7x5 syllables, others might be a sonnet and some might be more free-form. This month, Laurence Vittes and Peter Frank give their quick takes on performing and visual arts.

Is there an exhibition or performance that you think people should know about? Write your own "haiku" with a link and shine a light on something you think is noteworthy in the comments section below.

Eve Aschheim doesn’t simply paint abstractly; she argues, almost polemically, for the inherent power and presence of abstraction by producing work that seems deliberately to summarize abstract practice over the last hundred years. At once geometric and gestural, rich in color and tonal in treatment, driven by a mark-making impulse and yet struggling to inhere an oblique imagery, Aschheim’s approach proves broadly syncretic, deft in its careful but fluid conflation of what were once considered mutually exclusive methods and aims. Aschheim’s inherent painterliness would be self-evident at the large scale we expect of our abstractions. But the sequence she exhibited comprises myriad works all under two feet in length or height – a size at which no line, no color combination, can be incidental, lest the painting dissolve into the tentativeness of a sketch. Everything already counts in these card-like paintings, so Aschheim has to make everything work – and does. (Lori Bookstein, 138 10th Ave., NY. – Peter Frank

EVE ASCHHEIM, Red Chance, 2014, Oil and charcoal on canvas on panel, 16 1/8 x 12 inches
Telemann Double Concertos. Rebel conducted by Jörg-Michael Schwarz. Bridge CDBy Laurence Vittes

Rebel have jumped on the Telemann bandwagon with a new CD for Bridge that is alive with the prolific composer's unique energy and flair. The results are magical throughout, as in the slow movement of an E Minor Concerto where the flute and violin solo lines are accompanied by the backing strings playing pizzicato—an enchanting effect. There are also two magnificent, Handelian double violin concertos. Bach himself, when Kapellmeister in Weimar, made a copy of one of them. If you like their Telemann, try their Vivaldi: Venetian Dreams, including the complete op. 10 flute concertos, also on Bridge.
Tameka Norris works in several media, even disciplines, but in all of them focuses on memory, loss, and cultural identity. These tropes have been mined almost to exhaustion by two generations of American artists, but the country keeps sundering at these points, so their message remains acute. Norris, in particular, enlivens the stream of commentary with a keen aesthetic and dramatic sense, as well as a finely honed, if also broadly comic, sense of place. A New Orleanian through and through, Norris seeks to recapture – and, failing that, re-invent – a childhood whose markers were obliterated in Katrina’s wake. Her exhibition consisted primarily of “quilts” sewn together from diverse materials and diverse sources. They resemble similar work of Rauschenberg’s at first, in spirit as well as form – fair enough, given his own roots in the region. But Norris intervenes in the imagery as well as composition of her textiles, evoking associations with the Deep South whose implications – certainly for African-Americans – are mixed. As if to answer back to this compromised patchwork heritage and render it “whole,” Norris has invented an alter ego, rap sistah Meka Jean, who projects a streetwise toughness and confidence tinged with deconstructive wit, even self-mockery. Born during Norris’ MFA work at Yale, Meka Jean presents herself through a music video that inverts the tropes of hip-hop, glorifying the life and the ‘hood in mundane settings such as a Laundromat and a bathroom. Norris’ video projects an impressive sass, right down to her moves, that at once contradicts and lightens the poignant gravity of her quiltworks. It also promises that a Star is being born, so watch for the feature film. (Lombard Freid, 518 West 19th St., NY. – Peter Frank

TAMEKA NORRIS, 12 Times Table, 2013, Acrylic and oil on fabric, 60 x 100 inches
Music of the French Baroque: A film by Paul Fenkart. Arthaus DVDBy Laurence Vittes

The musicians featured in Paul Fenkart's captivating film are Giovanni Antonini, Enrico Onofri, Vittorio Ghielmi, Luca Pianca and Ottavio Dantone, and seeing them in such intimate detail (particularly Antonini's embouchure on his recorder) can be initially unsettling, but once the entertainment gets underway, including Antoine Forqueray's Le Couperin, a chaconne from one of Telemann's Paris Quartets and some bits from Rameau's Pieces de clavecin en concerts and a wonderful pair of "tambourins" danced by a small but delectable mixed corps de ballet, It is like the dreams of the early music pioneers like Arnold Dolmetsch and Louise Dyer realized. Salzburg's magnificent Mannerist pleasure palace at Hellbrunn provides evocative settings for brilliant performances of rarely-performed works from the French-style baroque repertoire. Nothing like hearing Robert de Visée's Overture for the Grotto of Versailles in a grotto. And what's with the chairs with fountains photographed in the accompanying booklet?
Nancy Brooks Brody conflates two still-radical-seeming practices, the dance of Merce Cunningham and the intimate post-minimalism of artists such as Richard Tuttle and Robert Mangold. Brody finds the formal language of the one in that of the other, taking photographs of Cunningham and his dancers in motion and describing perimeters around their captured positions. The seemingly dumb gambit captures the eccentric but powerful architecture that underscores Cunningham’s elegant, self-possessed choreography and also manages to translate it into an eccentric notation. Frequently, the lines Brody inscribes around the figures in the photos seem to bound their actions, as if they were dancing with black elastic bands circumventing them. In a parallel series, Brody further translates the contours she has found in the Cunningham pictures (and/or other inscriptions) into single-color shapes, enamel on lead, embedded in the exhibition space’s drywall. Thus, she maintains a single vocabulary across two markedly different object-languages. (Andrew Kreps, 535 West 22nd St., NY. – Peter Frank

NANCY BROOKS BRODY, Merce Drawing, 2013, Ink on newsprint paper, 8½ x 11 inches
Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-63) Sonate Da Camera 3. ATMA Classique CDBy Laurence Vittes

Just when you think you knew every obscure Baroque figure, alongs come a guy named Janitsch to throw your universe into disarray. His music has been described in the French press as "Velours pour l'oreille," which sounds like something very nice. From the engaging liner notes: "Among Frederick the Great's carefully chosen retinue of court musicians, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, contraviolonist in the Royal Orchestra of the Court of Prussia is survived by a large number of complex, sonically rewarding chamber pieces." Christopher Palameta leads the original instrument ensemble called Notturna on their Janitsch mission and quest. This collaboration with ATMA Classique and the Scottish publishing house, Prima la musica! means you can play the music yourself if you have the instruments and the chops.
John Newman’s egregiously eccentric sculptures each comprise several discrete segments whose shapes and colors argue aggressively between themselves. Newman maintains a surprising harmony among this recipe for visual cacophony, however, turning the arguments between what look like jewels, lamps, screens, stones, body organs, and all other manner of object into a vibrant, logical, and, yes, loud chorus of daft forms and formal combinations. Newman’s work is nothing if not baroque, but it has been assembled with a Rube Goldberg sense of modernist dynamism, every element knocking against and further agitating every other already active element – no matter that all these components are fabricated from wood, aluminum, foamcore, resin, papier maché, and just about any other rigid material you might imagine (plus a few, like felt and nylon, not necessarily so rigid). The sculptures, all tabletop-size (and exhibited here on table-like surfaces rather than pedestals), suggest utilitarian objects – or even creatures – from another world, part machine and part organism. It is easy to imagine these three to five times as large and resting on the floor or even occupying stretches of public lawn, and Newman has worked on that scale. But by keeping things relatively intimate with this series of works, he has removed the sculptures’ potential for jungle-gym-amusement-park-ride thrill; they’re much more peculiar, and ominous, at these grippable sizes. (Tibor de Nagy, 724 5th Ave., NY. – Peter Frank

JOHN NEWMAN, installation, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Photo: Alan Wiener
Scarlatti Recreated: Transcriptions & Hommages. Sandro Russo. Musical Concepts CD By Laurence Vittes

I know, I know, it's Scarlatti on the piano, but the 19 brilliant tracks are either transcriptions of Scarlatti's own keyboard sonatas or works inspired by and in the style of Scarlatti including Carl Tausig's Capriccio and Sonata, Czerny's Sonata in the Style of Domenico Scarlatti, Marc-Andre Hamelin's Etude VI: Omaggio a Domenico Scarlatti, Jean Francaix's Hommage a Scarlatti and Raymond Lewenthal's Toccata alla Scarlatti. The playing is so beautiful that you almost forget how anachronistic it is.
Eleanor Antin was seen in microspect with a relatively small range of works going back to the mid-1960s – that is, farther back than other surveys of this veteran post-conceptualist have gone. The lovely pair of collages dating from 1967 anticipate Antin’s subsequent fascination with narrative and the relationship of subjective viewpoint to historical condition in an almost Joseph Cornell-ish manner. Antin herself cast her wildly varied show, ranging from photography to drawing to video to paper cutout) as an experience of passage, passage through time and space, setting down here in 1920s Paris, there in Graeco-Roman times, here in 1970s suburban San Diego, there in the Crimean War. At the time, however, each series documented a process of fantasizing, of projecting herself into fabled, or at least fabulated, circumstances. The show sampled some of Antin’s best known bodies of work, including the “100 Boots” series and the pulp-fiction-feminist “Adventures of Nurse Eleanor,” but also provided a “behind-the-scenes” look at studies for “Before the Revolution,” for instance, or the little known “Dance of Death.” Even such a spare selection of Antin’s supposedly post-modern works (under 30 in all) demonstrated her powerful formal sense and other aspects of her late-modernist ethos: Antin’s interest is less in the invention of fictions than in the process of fictive elaboration, making her a storyteller enchanted by the telling at least as much as by the story. (Diane Rosenstein, 831 N. Highland Ave., LA. – Peter Frank

ELEANOR ANTIN, Death and the Maiden 2, from “Dance of Death”, 1974-75, Pastel on paper, 20 1/8 x 11 1/8 inches
Purcell Musitians Of Grope Lane: Music Of Brothels And Bawdy Houses Of Purcell's England. The City Waites. United Classics CDBy Laurence Vittes

Silliest CD of the year but who's counting? Broadside ballads were everyday musical fare, whistled and hummed in all walks of life; they were primitive precursors of social media, as likely to be bought for domestic amusement as pinned up on a tavern wall. The songs on this recording served another purpose: "To complement a lewd scene in a theatre, to cozen a marketplace gathering, or 'stir up unchaste thoughts' in taverns and bawdy-houses." With a riot of period instruments, voices and attitudes, Lucie and Roddy Skeaping's City Waites perform with so much exuberance and enthusiasm that you may forget just what it is they are singing about—and advertising.
Lisi Raskin assembles her collages not out of pasted papers, but out of painted, carpentered chips and other elements. Raskin seems to have collected such elements collected from her studio floor or even from construction sites, fitting the pieces together as if jigsaw puzzles. In doing so, she has found the perfect midpoint between dada and post-minimalism, her cheerily random sense of accumulation evoking Hausmann, Höch, and especially Schwitters, and her equally nonchalant abjection and compactness admitting to the examples of Tuttle, Heilmann, and Nozkowski (among others). Raskin’s crunchy little painting-collage-objects not only bespeak such impressive bloodlines but honor them with an infectiously witty sensuality. Nothing is visually out of place, but any number of jagged edges dare you to caress them or try to push them “back” into their slots. Yet more provocative is the backstory to these beguiling structures. They arise, apparently, from the artist’s recent visit to Afghanistan, where she visited museums, palaces, and other sites imbued with the frissons of ancient and recent history alike. The artworks do not document her visits or build on the information she gleaned but improvise, quite freely, on photographs she took. Knowing this explains, or at least contextualizes, the fraught nature of these aggressively but compellingly built paint-things, and perhaps color our apprehension of them with an urgency and historical gravity; but they stand on their own, grabbing the eye on first glance and not letting it go. (Churner and Churner, 205 10th Ave., NY. – Peter Frank

LILI RASKIN, Untitled (for DN 3), 2014, Acrylic paint on wood, 1 5/8 x 1¼ inches
Agostino Steffani (1654-1728). Stabat Mater & Overtures et Dances Cecilia Bartoli, I Barocchisti/ Diego Fasolis. 2 Decca CDs, sold separately By Laurence Vittes

Cecilia Bartoli's exploration of Agostino Steffani continues with an album of a Stabat Mater, even more beautiful and ecstatically radiant than you might expect, completed shortly before the composer died in 1728. In pursuit of her passion, Bartoli leads an array of internationally celebrated singers while Diego Fasolis conducts the authentic instrument forces of I Barocchisti and the chorus of RSI Lugano for all they are worth (which means let Bartoli's trademark sound take it away). The album is completed by six world premiere recordings of Steffani's remaining sacred music scored for orchestra, chorus and soloists, including a seven-minute solo motet for Cecilia Bartoli. On a separate disc, Fasolis conducts 43 great tracks of enchanting early-baroque music, colorfully orchestrated, opening with seven pieces from his celebrated Orlando and including preludes, gavottes, gigues and airs.
Allan D’Arcangelo was at one point as prominent a Pop artist as James Rosenquist or Robert Indiana, his stylized conjurations of the American highway as vivid and gorgeous as they were easily and universally comprehensible. This survey, bringing together many of D’Arcangelo’s roadscapes (including several of his best known), also highlighted his earliest Pop works, arch – and rather prescient – commentaries on women’s social roles and representation in mass media. These modified cartoon treatments parallel the work of Tom Wesselmann, Marjorie Strider, and John Wesley, among others, but didn’t last long; once he found the American Highway motif, he never gave it up. D’Arcangelo clearly thought of himself as a landscape painter, although in this case he indulged as much in the signage of the road as in its wide open space. He treated both with brittle, brilliantly colored formality; taking his cue from the stark contrasts and notational shorthand of directional arrows, lane markers, and gas station motifs, he wrought variation upon variation on the bright, eye-filling shapes. Approaching the 70s D’Arcangelo became more minimal (in motif if not in composition), employing the repeated depiction of a single thing, the diagonally striped traffic barrier, in an often elaborate, almost architectural structure (and, slightly later, arranging the barriers into pinwheels). A little D’Arcangelo goes a long way, both because his idée fixe was so readily grasped and his treatment of it was so flat and uninflected. But any one work maintains its powerful brilliance and elegance, and surprising humor, to this day. Especially droll are the multiples D’Arcangelo realized based on a bus’s prominent rear-view mirror. (Hollis Taggart, 958 Madison Ave., NY. – Peter Frank

ALLAN D’ARCANGELO, Landscape on Bus Mirror, 1970, Assembled mixed-media multiple, 18½ x 22 x 18¾ inches
Bach 3 Gamba Sonatas. Nicholas Altstaedt, cello. Jonathan Cohen, harpsichord. Genuin CDBy Laurence Vittes

In 2010, cellist Nicolas Altstaedt played the Schumann concerto with Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic in Lucerne. In 2011, at the suggestion of Gidon Kremer, the 29-year old Altstaedt was named Artistic Director of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival. In 2012, playing an 1821 Nicolas Lupot fitted with steel strings tuned to 415 and partnered by rising star Jonathan Cohen on a modern copy of a 1754 French harpsichord, Altstaedt's suave capture of Bach's Three Cello Sonatas' elusive beauty could spark a reevaluation of where they lie relative to the 6 Solo Suites. The most dramatic revelation is how big a piece BWV 1029 in G minor is, with Altstaedt and Cohen giving it a splendid virtuoso flair in the opening movement and, in the fugal last movement, seeming to prophesy the last movement of Beethoven's Cello Sonata Op. 102 No. 2. Similarly, in the last movement of BWV 1027, the normally choppy lines are revealed as being long-limbed with a lyrical attitude that enhances the music's flow and momentum. Throughout, the engineers at Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin insure that there is balance between the two instruments, acoustically as well as musically.
Richard Nonas and Joel Shapiro, sculptors who emerged in the wake of Minimalism, practice two sides of a common aesthetic, addressing issues of scale and material in complementary manners. Theirs is an integrative sensibility, bridging nature and architecture. Nonas emphasizes natural forms and substances, minimally and yet clearly (and artfully) manipulated as much to inhabit space as to arrogate attention to themselves as object. Shapiro’s sculptures inhabit space as well, but by assuming shapes referent to clearly recognizable, usually manmade things (often dwellings or simple tools), he provokes sensations of scalar dysmorphia; in particular, very small house shapes get lost in very large sheds – as here. Nonas’ work integrates with rough-hewn, time-worn places like the Knockdown Center, while Shapiro’s are swallowed by their cavernousness. Both bodies of work reappear gradually, depending on situation, light, and even relative texture: at least one of Shapiro’s wood pieces had been burnt to charcoal while retaining its structure, and its coarse blackness made it glisten in the sunlight and disappear into shadow. Meanwhile, the march of Nonas’ bisected boulders across the floor of the Center seemed to animate the space, bringing to life its rigid but weathered wooden vertical beams and its stained floor. (Clocktower at Knockdown Center, 5219 Flushing Ave., Maspeth NY. – Peter Frank

JOEL SHAPIRO and RICHARD NONAS installation, Clocktower at Knockdown Center, Photo: Richard Nonas
Sol Gabetta. Il Progetto Vivaldi 3. Cappella Gabetta, Andreas Gabetta. Sony Classical CDBy Laurence Vittes

For the third installment of her Vivaldi Project, Sol Gabetta salutes a cello-playing 18th century German count whose remarkable library in the first half of the 18th century included cello concertos by Giovanni Benedetto Platti, Andrea Zani, Fortunato Chelleri and Vivaldi. In fact, Platti, Zani and Chelleri wrote numerous concertos for Rudolf Franz Erwin (1677-1754) and their energy and beauty combine with individual touches to provide an enormous amount of listening pleasure similar to Vivaldi, more sophisticated perhaps; except for a few moments in the last movement of Zani’s concerto, however, there are few moments of technical derring do. Gabetta's excellent selection of four Vivaldi concertos includes a delicious concoction in the form of an adaptation of Vivaldi’s iconic Mandolin Concerto RV 532 as a concerto for violin and cello. The outer movements are pleasant if forgettable; in the middle movement, however, when Gabetta and her brother Andreas play pizz throughout along with the backing orchestra, the effect is definitely unforgettable, like the Koto Vivaldi recording which was a big hit for Japanese EMI decades ago. Playing on a Baroque cello by Ferdinando Gagliano (Naples, 1781), and backed by the smooth, original instrument Cappella Gabetta, Gabetta circumvents the extremes of the leading-edge authentic performance movement with her intimate knowledge of Baroque style and her commitment to making gorgeous, sumptuous sounds. The recordings themselves are a perfect marriage of sound and beauty, and Matthias Hengelbrock's elliptical program notes, featuring five fetching photos of the soloist, tell a fascinating story.
Jeff Koegel paints paintings that seem to toggle between graffiti art, video gaming, expressionist (not to mention futurist) conceptions of architecture, color field painting, comic strips (especially but not only the underground kind), surrealism (at least the abstract organic kind), and any number of other sources, influences, parallels, and accidental reflections. But these factors reflect fleetingly in Koegel’s painting, facets of its rapidly shifting, yet visually solid, nature. Koegel doesn’t so much compose his paintings as build them, compiling elements and moving them around so that they seem to grow out of one another in an articulated process of improvisation – not naturally so much as logically, this shape emerging and leading toward this other shape, this reference hiding itself behind that one, this textural suggestion pointing at that arabesque, and so forth. Koegel composes as if doodling, going for a walk, Klee-like, with a line in many instances, but always within and in relation to the bounds of the picture. In this regard his pictorial thinking reacts more to the screen than to the canvas: Koegel could be working on a computer or on an Etch-a-Sketch; he could be inventing a television cartoon or a video arcade machine. Whatever his imagined medium, he transfers the aesthetics of the early digital age to canvas with an uncommon and winning facility. (Launch, 170 S. La Brea Ave., LA. – Peter Frank

JEFF KOEGEL, Termite Economics, 2013, Acrylic, polymer, pumice, linen, canvas, wood, 20½ x 32½ inches
Sergey Malov: 13 Strings, Vol. 1: Bach by Sergey Malov. EaSonus CDBy Laurence Vittes

From Russian-Hungarian violoncello da spalla (the cello you play on your shoulder) virtuoso Sergey Malov comes a first installment of the Bach Solo Suites, 1007 and 1012. The ease and felicity with which Malov and his largely hypothetical instrument (made by Dmitry Badiarov) handle the challenges of Bach's writing have a justification in just being able to listen to such familiar music on such unfamiliar grounds. Beautiful sound and presentation. (Since Malov is also a virtuoso violinist, in between the Bach he plays Bela Bartok’s Sonata for Solo Violin!)
Noah Erenberg paints with a spontaneity and refreshing lack of self-consciousness, especially in the most varied of the three groups of paintings exhibited. The pictures in this group take off on the observed world, on faces and places, but abstract them to such a degree that only formal considerations remain; they may be spiced with sly references to figure or landscape, but their vivid color and structure, loose and assured, are their most compelling characteristics. Erenberg’s more overt “portraits,” expressionistic fantasy-visages that burgeon within the canvas, share that painterly, color-drunk brio, but take on a worried intensity that ultimately possesses the brushwork. The third group lets the formal mastery dissolve into obsessive notation, at the expense of pictorial qualities but not of presence: they comprised a wild wall-ful of spinning numbers. A diversity of approaches here couldn’t mask a unity of spirit or technical facility. Erenberg’s autism (the reason he was showing at a gallery dedicated to “outsider art”) frames his painterly pursuits and skills, but does not define them; the son of accomplished artists, he has a natural facility for paint and for visual logic. (Good Luck, 945 Chung King Rd., LA. – Peter Frank

NOAH ERENBERG, Red Board, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches
Bach Christmas Oratorio. RIAS Chamber Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Karl Ristenpart. Audite 2 CDsBy Laurence Vittes

Audite continues its series of historic recordings from the archives of RIAS Berlin with a complete performance of the Christmas Oratorio from 1950 that recalls simpler, more innocent times when performance practice was mostly a dream, and it was with relatively forward-thinking conductors like Karl Ristenpart in whom many placed their faith, using modern instruments with a sense of style and expressive content that was aligned with the RIAS Chamber Choir (as opposed to the heavier, amateur choruses which usually sang most major performances of the big choral pieces before the war, and continued to do so after). As soloists, Ristenpart engaged leading Bach singers of the time, thus ensuring that the recitatives of the Evangelist, the arias and ensembles were of particularly high quality. Excellent sound for the time. Deep emotional impact for some.
Pamela Davis Kivelson has not only painted but assembled a series of portraits of collectors, enhancing their rendered depictions with photographs and objects documenting their obsessions. Some possess Important Artworks; others collect rugs, books, all sorts of artifacture – even children’s art, displayed on the refrigerator. Kivelson’s series does not dwell on what people have so much as how they have it, not what the stuff they have means to them but what it means to collect in the first place. Lest this sound like a sociological exercise enhanced with (smallish) portrait paintings, it has a lot more blood running through it than that. Kivelson – who paints, quite skillfully, what’s collected as well as who collects (so that she can include a “Pollock” painting, or detail thereof) – practices a kind of “live conceptualism,” where direct contact with the subjects not only dictate content and method but impel narrative and texture. This is a collection itself, of personalities. It’s no surprise that Kivelson’s mother turns up in the midst of the medley, and that personal friends and professional acquaintances rub elbows and seemingly exchange interests. (Mark Miller, 92 Orchard St., NY. – Peter Frank

PAMELA DAVIS KIVELSON, Installation, “A Gentle Madness,” at Mark Miller, Photo: Mark Miller
Bacharcades. Lautten Compagney and the Calmus Ensemble. Carus CDBy Laurence Vittes

The Calmus Ensemble and Lautten Compagney present an exciting program of music from the Renaissance to the present day conveyed and linked through Bach chorales, as if under and through arcades formed by Bach's music. Spectacular, stunningly lifelike sound, especially a breathtaking arrangement of Arvo Pärt's Fratres.
Maura Bendett once produced elaborate, curlicuing sculpture, dripping with resin, part plant and part rococo wall fixture. Bendett’s new work, coarse, gnarled, and blanched, seems light years away from the degenerate grace of her previous stuff, but her formal reasoning remains practically unchanged. She combines the manufactured with the organic, only now the references to things, man-made and natural, are far more diffuse, less about structure and more about spirit. The free-standing confabulations, often placed on idiosyncratic pedestals, no longer seem like parodies of extant things but like new things entirely, invented precisely to close the gap between living and inert. Laboriously fashioned from museum board, cement, wood, and other construction materials, the sculptures twist awkwardly back in on themselves, agitated even while inanimate. It’s tempting to think of these ghostly, subtly colored apparitions as Bizarro versions of late-Renaissance marble figures, but they don’t really play off given models: they define a whole new species. Paul Gillis’s representational references are far more apparent, but most he reduces to a few very simple lines or contours and sets these up as simple, decorous patterns – a condition enhanced by the exaggerated weave of the burlap on which he has applied his near-colorless paint and graphite. Gillis’ silhouettes and diagrams suggest everything from early tintypes to Paul Klee’s heraldic shorthand imagery, but his distinctive method transports whatever he renders into a separate visual world, one of shadow and faint breath. (Edward Cella, 6018 Wilshire Blvd., LA. – Peter Frank

MAURA BENDETT, Sea Foam, 2013, Museum board, acrylic, hot glue, cement, steel, and glass, 59 x 27 x 25 inches
Handel Six Piano Concertos op. 4. Matthias Kirschnereit (piano), Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss conducted by Lavbard Skou Larsen. CPO CDBy Laurence Vittes

That's right, it's Handel's Opus 4 Organ Concertos arranged for piano and chamber orchestra. And surprise, surprise, it works brilliantly. The cool tones of the piano fit the music's clean lines and provide a wonderful companion to the music's stimulating melodic and harmonic adventures. The ensemble is immaculate and Matthias Kirschnereit, while not a poet in the mold of Glenn Gould, brings out a depth and beauty that makes you wonder about the pros and cons of authenticity.
Maja Ruznic and Yevgeniya Mikhailik exhibit well together, as both limn a realm of intimate fantasy, generating sprightly imagery with fluid but precise marks on small pieces of paper or panel. There is a certain parallel with comic-book drawing, but both Ruznic and Mikhailik avoid the self-conscious stylizations and amplified narratives characteristic of cartooning. Rather, their models are evidently Sino-Japanese. Mikhailik clearly takes inspiration from Asian landscape painting in her craggy, atmospheric, and eerily animate views of imaginary places, while Ruznic’s figures, conjured with an aqueous brush, seem the almost liquid descendants of Japanese illustrative calligraphy. Neither Ruznic’s approach nor Mikhailik’s orients itself to storytelling, but each proposes the conditions for a story to emerge. (Bustamante Gill, 2675 S. La Cienega Blvd., LA. – Peter Frank

YEVGENIYA MIKHAILIK, The Quiet Aftermath, 2014, Watercolor, ink, graphite on clayboard, 12 x 12 inches
Terry Winters, always a persuasive painter, has become a transcendent one in his recent paintings, certainly to judge from those comprising this exhibition. Built of myriad discrete sections, so many of which mirror or at least echo one another, these paintings do not become preoccupied with their patterning, their sense of motion, or even their color – although all these factors are remarkable in and of themselves – but instead harmonize such elements, and others beside, into breathtaking images, glowing, burgeoning, even breathing apparitions that seem imbued with some sort of living spirit. The paintings warrant such hyperbolic description, as they reward the eye with an optical ecstasy whose intensity, you feel, must be functioning at the service, or as the result, of an unseen force. Even the non-symmetric paintings, which were in the minority, arguably function as mandalas, their lines and forms serving to draw the eye into endlessly restless vortices. Even when one resists this mystic gravity, pulling the eye back for an “objective” regard, the paintings reward the gaze with surprising compositions, luminous colors, and sensuous painting. Small and contemplative, the early-1970s photographs of the late Luigi Ghirri have a different effect, coolly tactile and almost dreamy even at their most agitated, somewhere between the photos of William Eggleston and the objects and collages of the Nouveaux Réalistes (especially “déchiristes” such as Raymond Hains and Mimmo Rotella). Ghirri’s conceptualist captures, however, are hardly less captivating than Winters’ painterly excursions, driven as they are by an instinctual opticality that delights in architecture, montage, and the textures and rhythms of urban life. In this, Ghirri brought together two powerful strains in modern Italian art, De Chirico’s light-filled melancholy and the busy stimulation of the Futurist environment. He was also unusually attuned to the visual conditions provided by the photographic color of his day, and in this he paralleled Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and others in America and elsewhere who were seeking to legitimize and fully exploit color by strategically pointing their cameras at the world and delighting in its delirious banality. (Matthew Marks, 1062 N. Orange Grove Ave. and 7818 Santa Monica Blvd., LA. – Peter Frank

TERRY WINTERS, patterns in a chromatic field (3), 2013, Oil on linen, 40 x 32 inches
Rameau Les Surprises de l'Amour. Soloists and Les Nouveaux Caractères conducted by Sébastien d’Hérin. Glossa 3 CDsBy Laurence Vittes

Sébastien d’Hérin and the recently-formed, Lyon-based Les Nouveaux Caract\'e8res debut on Glossa with Rameau's opéra-ballet, first performed in 1748 when the composer had finally made it as a court composer. It's a familiar story: Three tales of love struggling against aggression (L’Enlèvement d’Adonis), indifference (La Lyre enchantée) and drink (Anacréon) come alive in a melange of vocal airs, dialogues and duets enhanced by the emerging palette of Rameaus orchestral physicality and color, including battle and sleep scenes, dances and thunder effects. The whole shebang, as they used to say in Paris. Not.
Allison Stewart’s new paintings, as always, abstract plant forms – or, more to the point, abstract from plant forms. The forms themselves tend to retain their recognizability; indeed, Stewart renders them with particular care and precision, bringing out their natural color and textures even when rendered with painterly brio. Around these botanical renderings, building off their humid colors, bent or straight stems, and almost comical flowers, the New Orleans-based artist strews painterly marks and drips and atmospheric scumblings. These areas of abstract elucidation ultimately predominate in Stewart’s pictures, but they inhere so much of their sources’ natural vitality that the whole canvas is charged with an energy that bridges the “real” and the “painted.” There is finally no real distinction between those two states – a condition many organic abstractionists seek but only a few achieve as regularly, and as deftly, as Stewart. (Mark Gallery, 11 Grand Ave., Englewood NJ. – Peter Frank

ALLISON STEWART, Over the River #7, 2014, Mixed media on canvas, 48 x 60 inches
Bach Brandenburg Concertos Nos.1-6. Freiburger Barockorchester. Harmonia Mundi 2 CDs By Laurence Vittes

Brandenburgs may come and go but when one of exceptional merit shows up it is time to remember the many glories of the music and the times that were spent in listening to them, again and again. For some unaccountable reason, thanks for to my pioneering father, I grew up listening to a chamber orchestra version by the Cento Soli of Paris with a real harpsichord, conducted by Hermann Scherchen on an obscure French label named Omega. It was sturdy and colorful and chugged affectionately along. This new set from the leading edge Baroque Orchestra of Freiburg is considerably more expert, more au courant in terms of the sophistication and knowledge that backs the way they play their instruments and put the music together interpretively. It is a light, fleet-fingered, bowed and bow-on reading which has enough plasticity in its phrase shaping and enough at least occasional uncertainties about what will happen next (including a wonderful harpsichord cadenza in the Fifth) that the music comes to life even if after listening for the whole two CDs worth it begins to sound suspiciously like one long, admittedly delicious Bachian fabric rather than in any significant sense except the outward, six different concertos. Playing these splendid performance/recordings loud helps avoid this side effect (perhaps more accurately put, a side affect).
While “Quality of Life” featured art that “whether directly or obliquely, reflect, challenge, or illuminate the way we measure or choose to define the quality of life,” the exhibition’s real strength lay in the vast stylistic breadth it was able to arrogate from the work of five artists (well, six, as two work as a team). All are winners of emerging artist grants from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, which organized the show. Besides artists, the foundation also gives grants to cancer patients – people for whom the “quality of life” issue is immediate and actual. Artists have the relative luxury of considering that elusive “quality” from a more theoretical or poetic standpoint, and that is what the artists here do. From Aliza Nisenbaum’s rough-hewn portraits of immigrants to the plants Ethan Breckenridge imprisons in tinted glass, from the fantasies Reka Reisinger concocts out of real places to the objects Claudia Cortinez+Carlos Vela-Prado wrest from the details of real (if man-made) landscape, “Quality of Life” looked at various metrics taken, imposed, and imagined upon life as it is lived. Daniel Bejar’s graphic declarations almost sent up the whole concept of “quality of life,” treating it as a slogan no less than a concept: his seemingly revolutionary rallying cries – “Now more than ever,” “A breath of fresh air,” “Demand truth” – are taken verbatim, right down to their sans-serif type, from campaign posters of a more hopeful (and perhaps foolish) era, one already dependent on Mad Ave branding. (Bosi Contemporary, 48 Orchard St., NY. – Peter Frank

DANIEL BEJAR, Rec-Elections (We’ve been misled too often. Demand truth.), 2014, Archival pigment print on dibond, 22 x 13½ inches
Lully Phaëton. Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques. Aparté 2 CDsBy Laurence Vittes

Lully may not be a formally forbidden pleasure, but I have never met a Lullian or even discussed Lully seriously except at summer festival parties when the mention of his name raises eyebrows and knowing snickers. Not a problem. It is just conceivable that if a concerted effort is made now on his behalf, and a vogue created for the forms in which he principally wrote (sacred music, court ballets, theatrical music and quasi-operatic grand tragic tableaux), a vogue for Lully, if not a rage much less a commemorative rave, cannot be entirely ruled out for the 400th anniversary of his birthday in 2032. With only 18 years to go, getting to know him and his music should be put on the front burner. Luckily, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques, perhaps smelling the scent, and having dispatched Bellerophon for the same label in 2011, are on the spot with their new Phaeton, the eighth tragédie lyrique Lully wrote with his pal the librettist Philippe Quinault. First performed in 1683, Phaeton proved so popular that it was referred to as the ''opera of the people.'' As Christophe Rousset puts it, "Its airs were whistled at Versailles and on the bridges of Paris." And the final terrible scene retains its spectacular power. The brilliant cast headed by Emiliano Gonzalez Toro as Phaeton, Cyril Auvity singing three roles including Phaeton's father, the wonderful playing of the Talens lyriques and singing of the Chœur de chambre de Namur together rise to the level of Lully's grand inspiration and create a riveting thread of outwardly formal, inwardly deeply personal and affecting human drama. The sumptuous book-style packaging includes many lavish full-color illustrations!
Christian Haub’s vertical-horizontal arrangements of cast transparent acrylic sheets follow a format as rigid and circumspect as Mondrian’s – and yet they are fanciful, light, and light-filled, a gentle concretization of the geniality and transcendent spirit that animates Mondrian’s own work. They benefit from natural illumination, but glow under any circumstances. They also play with our apprehensions, pretending upon first glance to be lock-down symmetrical but opening up into elegant yet dynamic choreographies in which color enlivens color and erect elements support and seem to move along the elements lying down. By allowing the structures to conjure devices as familiar as blinds and louvers, Haub encourages us to read a window metaphor into his lightplays. But the gambit is ultimately formal, not poetic; the poetry comes from light itself. (Kathryn Markel, 2418 Montauk Hwy, Bridgehampton NY. – Peter Frank

CHRISTIAN HAUB, Float for Juan Gris, 2014, Cast acrylic, 36 x 36 x 3½ inches
Bach The Well-Tempered Clavier Vol.2. Christophe Rousset. Aparté 2 CDsBy Laurence Vittes

Over the course of his career, Christophe Rousset has consistently excelled in the integrity of his explorations, first as a harpsichordist and then as director of Les Talens Lyriques. Now firmly established on the Aparté label, after having been a Decca mainstay for many years, Rousset moves into the big leagues with the second book of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Written 20 years after the more well-known first book, and "stretching the limits of the possible," as Rousset writes in his booklet-note, WTC 2 is never really jolly music, and listening to performances as introspective as this is a reminder of how much there is in its musical depths combined with a kind of wonder at how Bach was able to comprehend and convey so much with such ordinary means. Playing on a 1628 Ruckers harpsichord which has been preserved in the Chateau de Versailles since 1946, Rousset links the ordinary to the sublime in what deserves being called an Everest of its time. He is master of the diversity of styles which Bach calls forth, and of the miraculous touch needed to create the miraculous sounds. In the interstices of the preludes and fugues, Bach is taking obvious joy mixed with humility at being able to command the forces of music; at some level Bach must have realized that he was a Prospero and the instruments man plays and even their poor voices (in the service of the Lord, which was Bach's constant preoccupation) were Calibans. It is of course that every composer, right down to the garage band around the corner, hears vastly more and deeper than the notes they write on the score. The depths which lie under Bach's notes, perhaps because of their self-conscious rigor and formality, prevent us from having an actual convincing idea of what he expected to hear, despite the increasingly sophisticated, ultra knowledgeable state of our expertise. But performances like these, which are often very touching and grand, and foursquare at times too, as if plotting time, do convince us Bach was speaking profoundly to our musical souls.
Medardo Rosso is known as an innovative follower of Rodin’s (which he wasn’t really), but his significance as an “impressionist sculptor” – and a forerunner of Futurism in his native Italy – has been only fitfully acknowledged, perhaps because his oeuvre is relatively small. This examination of a single work, Bambino ebreo, in its many formulations, from plaster to wax to bronze, revealed Rosso’s preoccupation with production and reproduction (he did his own casting, unusual for the time, and reproduced this sculpture over and over again), but also the range of mystery with which he was able to imbue a single subject – indeed, a single object, across its many iterations. In wax, it means – and feels like – one thing; in bronze, another. `, in wax the sculpture – nominally a portrait of a boy from the Rothschild family – becomes fugitive and translucent, almost like skin, while in plaster it becomes brittle and prematurely aged, and in bronze glistening and tragic. Not simply sculpting with light, Rosso sculpted with emotion, his blurred detail speaking volumes. Contrast that approach to the human condition with Alex Hay’s, who is far more clinical and abstracting and yet powerfully affecting in his own way. Hay has depicted the grain of wood scraps or of linoleum tile, in close-up as so many fields of pure texture – not through any process of frottage or direct image transfer but through painstaking handiwork, “the old-fashioned way,” touchingly anachronistic and, of course, frighteningly obsessive. When he takes the same approach – actually, a yet more complex one – to imprints of his face, Hay’s method takes on something of Rosso’s insistent re-examination. Furthermore, while Hays’ are self portraits, their abstraction of a human visage into a ghostly presence echoes what happened in Bambino ebreo. (Peter Freeman,140 Grand St., NY. – Peter Frank

MEDARDO ROSSO, Bambino ebreo, c. 1892-93 (cast c. 1896), Dark wax over plaster, 9¼ x 7 x 6½ inches
Musik der Einsamkeit: Ein Melopoem. Ambitus 2 CDsBy Laurence Vittes

Musik der Einsamkeit: Ein Melopoem, is an impressively auteur-ish, post modern film noir excursion into the lonely mysteries of Bach's unfinished last iconic work, The Art of Fugue. The musical performances are stylistically brilliant, dynamic and passionate, on the cutting edge of where Bach in the 21st century is heading. The sense of timelessness is compounded by NeoBarock's superb mix of new and old instruments including strings by Leopold Widhalm, Nürnberg 1769, and Roger G. Hargrave, Meyenburg 1998, and a brand-new harpsichord (after the great French builders Blanchet) by the renowned Bruce Kennedy direct from his workshop in Tuscany. NeoBarock's performance art apparatus, which is integral to the purpose of the concept, was conceived and developed with Austrian writer Robert Schneider whose 1995 novel Brother of Sleep had already raised questions of genius and identity. In the novel's case, the questions were of Schubertian grandeur and tragedy about the life of a forgotten 19th century genius. In Musik der Einsamkeit the intent is less overtly melodramatic and more reverential, due in part to Schneider's use of the "Melopoem," a conceit in which strands of texts and music assume an expressive equilibrium without reaching complete fusion. Reading his own prose and poetry in grey tones which contrast sharply with the brilliant musical performances, Schneider reflects on life and Bach in a contemplative scheme from which a fictional Bach is "born from the desire of a journey of the dreaming ego." It might be all too pretentious if not for the presence in Schneider's dialogue of Bach's ironically/comically earthbound son-in-law Johann Christoph Altnikol who wrote the composer, “What do you want to prove with your Canons? The fact that there is no gravity?" German label Ambitus's beautifully designed, limited edition package contains two CDs, Schneider's German texts, introductory texts in German and English, and color photos.The experience is raised to a higher degree if you first watch the 2-minute trailer on YouTube. Or you can just wait and see NeoBarock and Schneider play out the events live on August 16 at the hilltop Castle overlooking the 600-year old university town of Marburg.
Carlos Cruz-Diez was one of the leading lights of Op art some fifty years ago, and he’s still going strong past 90 in Venezuela. Several interrelated groupings, some familiar and some not, were featured in this exhibition of recent works. Cruz-Diez’s best known group of work, his Physichromies, comprise wall-hung structures bristling with vertical struts colored differently on their two sides, so that walking past the panels causes profound color shifts. The composition is similar but the material, size, and thus effect is very different in the large, free-standing transparent Transchromies; although these are among Cruz-Diez’s most conventional work, their scale allows them to a level of engagement and even magic. There were examples from other bodies of work, all more or less ongoing throughout Cruz-Diez’s long career. One such grouping, the Chromatic Inductions, proved at least a bit of a surprise: harder in appearance than most other pieces, they produced color shifts and destabilizations not in front of the eye, but in it, a result of the tendency of the retina to record “post-images” complementary in color to the original. (Louis Stern, 9002 Melrose Ave., W. Hollywood CA. – Peter Frank

CARLOS CRUZ-DIEZ, Induccion del Amarillo Tataito, 2012, Mixed media, 47¼ x 23 5/8 inches
Hildegard of Bingen: Celestial Hierarchy. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CDBy Laurence Vittes

A work of love has reached its final conclusion with the release of Celestial Hierarchy. It is the last of Sequentia's recordings of Hildegard's music and is devoted to her hymns to the angels, patriarchs, prophets and the Virgin Mary. All of the songs on the album have been newly-transcribed by Benjamin Bagby, who co-founded Sequentia in 1977 with Barbara Thornton. Also celebrating Hildegard's elevation to sainthood and magistra ecclesiae in 2012, the multi-generational ensemble of women's voices plus flutist Norbert Rodenkirchen recorded this unique final album in St. Remigius, Franc-Wâret, Belgium. If you have never been attentive to Hildegard's charms, consider the rapture it recently occasioned from BBC Magazine critic Barry Witherden: "Her melodic lines hover, dip and glide like some supernaturally graceful bird, and those vertiginous scoops in pitch, executed to perfection by the seven-voice female choir, never fail to thrill."
Martin Lubner has always been a painter of rough facility, producing empty, mournful still lifes and compact, busy figure compositions with the same meaty palette, muscular line, and rich, sensuous brush. Compelling as his work tends to be from a formal or humanistic standpoint, his exhibitions have rarely featured the level of pictorial ambition seen here. The still lifes are still as tender and simple as Morandi’s, if rather more metallic in color and coarse in touch; but the figure paintings, small or (especially) large, have taken on a density and intricacy, both in their depiction of space and in their depiction of event. Lubner has clearly been looking at R. B. Kitaj and possibly Max Beckmann, but even so, he fills a picture differently than do either of them, fitting figures and objects together almost as if they were pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, but with plenty of overlap, transparency, and impossible spatial relationships. It is as if Lubner is beginning to unfold Beckmann’s collapsed spaces and fill out Kitaj’s shadowy figures, all the while retaining their sense of multiple, even simultaneous events. He also dampens the storytelling, or at least literary, aspect found in the work of the other men, favoring instead a more purely pictorial sense of moment – and, partly as a result, a heightened sense of possible reality. Lubner seems more to have found rather than invented his pictures, drawing, it would seem, on snapshots both actual and remembered. (FIG, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., S. Monica CA. – Peter Frank

MARTIN LUBNER, Dread Dreamed, 2012-14, Oil on canvas, 59 x 84 inches
La bella piu bella: Songs from early baroque Italy. Roberta Invernizzi, Craig Marchitelli. Glossa CD By Laurence Vittes

Glossa’s new recording features Baroque music queen Roberta Invernizzi, who might be thought of herself as "La bella più bella," but not in her usual dazzling displays of Handel, Vivaldi and other Baroque opera composers. Instead, the Milanese singer presents the wonderful, intoxicating, life-enhancing art of the Italian song repertory from the early 17th century, a time when courtly and polyphonic expression were giving way to the “moving of the emotions” by a solo singer accompanied by a single instrument. It sounds so ravishing in Renato Dolcini's booklet essay, like a sumptuous musical travelogue, and so does Roberta Invernizzi. She sings songs by Kapsberger’s (his "Ninna nanna"), Giulio Caccini and Barbara Strozzi, as well as by Luigi Rossi whose dream-like piece provides the album with its title. Three of Claudio Monteverdi’s later works conclude this recital in which lutenist and theorbist Craig Marchitelli accompanies and also contributes a number of solo pieces by Kapsberger, Castaldi and Piccinini.
Robert De Niro, Sr. was one of the most remarkable painters of his particular time and place – which is saying a lot, considering that time and place was postwar New York. One of several artists who came out of abstract expressionism and returned early on to a painterly kind of figuration, De Niro went even further than many of his peers in allowing abstraction to continue to inform his style while never abandoning – rather, insisting on – the identifiability of his images. Indeed, he used not only the “loaded brush” of action painting, but also its sweep, its formal shorthand, and its lush sensitivity to color to another purpose altogether. He was committed equally to evident subject matter and the pleasures of paint, to the point where he could be said to have been drawing from life with oils, one step beyond plein air. De Niro favored still lifes, interiors, and figures, delighting in the Matissean pairing of nicely dressed people and the effects of well-appointed rooms. He treated such things – and, less often, landscapes – with Matissean flair, but his acidic palette was that of a New Yorker. A survey spanning four decades, this show not only displayed the consistencies in De Niro’s approach over four decades, but the variations he was able to wring from that approach, whether turning to outdoor subjects at particular times or turning to black and white at others, to sometimes startling effect. He painted in France for part of the 1960s and in San Francisco later that decade, but – for all his Matissean conceits and his notable similarity to members of the Bay Area Figurative school – he was a New York painter through and through, committed to painting and embracing its entire history and potential with unquenchable thirst. (D.C.Moore, 535 West 22nd St., NY. – Peter Frank

ROBERT DE NIRO, SR., Side View of Houses and Street, 1967-69, Oil on canvas, 17¾ x 20 inches
Hans Breder is one of those figures who straddle current and historical art practice, waiting to be recognized for their distinct and influential contribution. Breder’s best known contribution has been to “post-studio” education; he has championed video, performance, conceptual practices, photography, and even intermedia at the college level (specifically at the University of Iowa) since the 1960s. But he has also practiced it, as even this truncated little survey revealed. Anchored by two recent series of conceptual/perceptual works on paper – one playing with the avant garde of the last century by replicating and collaging examples, the other re-examining Op art through a digital lens – the survey zoomed in on several other series from the late 1960s and early ‘70s. These included most notably the “Ordered by Telephone” Plexiglas objects and the “Object/Sculpture” photos, documenting then-live performances by nude women interacting with mirrors in diverse landscapes so that their bodies become a kind of writhing, obliquely symmetric sculptural composition. These documents pointedly retain the performative feel of the events they have recorded; clearly Breder thought of them as the next step after Yves Klein’s “living paintbrushes,” among other things allowing the performers, like dancers, more agency in the formulation of the artwork itself. This mash-up of old and new Breder hinted how lively a much larger Breder retrospective would be. (Ethan Cohen, 251 West 19th St., NY. – Peter Frank

HANS BREDER, Body/Sculpture, Old Man’s Creek, 1971, Gelatin silver print, 14½ x 14½ inches
Chansonnettes frisquettes, joliettes & godinettes. Doulce Mémoire. Zig-Zag Térritoires CDBy Laurence Vittes

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Doulce Mémoire, this wonderful new CD from the aptly named (for their curiosity) Zig Zag label allows you to hear "what people hummed in the streets, the artisans' workshops, and the houses of 16th-century France, and what women were supposed to think about their male companions and their performances, and men about the 'jolly game of push-and-shove.'" It's the free-spirited, popular, cheeky chansons of the Renaissance. Founded in 1989 by Denis Raisin Dadre, Doulce Mémoire immediately established itself as one of the most inventive, original and creative early music ensembles with a particular genius for themed presentations and beautiful CD packaging. Their concerts, recordings and performances enable listeners and audiences to enjoy music of figures the early music world dreams about including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rabelais and François I (some of whom, Doulce Mémoire assure us in inviting us to their annual festival, "had a profound influence on the Loire Valley and its famous Renaissance chateaux"). This new release is one of their very best, offering Renaissance airs by Jehan Chardavoine, Clement Janequin, Pierre Certon, and more. (The "Chansonnettes" in the title refers to the encore Doulce Mémoire and Denis Raisin-Dadre play at their concerts.)
Milton Resnick, famed for his “all-over” approach, was at once one of abstract expressionism’s most stalwart and most extreme painters. His seven-decade career began and ended in figuration, but the time in between Resnick spent generating increasingly large, ambitious, and ultimately transcendent fields of painterly marks. Resnick achieved transcendence in his works postdating action painting’s heyday; in what could be interpreted as a subtle acceptance of minimalism, Resnick’s canvases of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and into the ‘80s, grew more and more vast and more and more monochromatic, until they constituted immense expanses of quietly churning pigment that hovered between a single (if often hard to describe) color and flickering forests of hidden light. It’s not as if Resnick’s postwar paintings weren’t expansive themselves, but they restrain their expanse and rely instead on the vigor of their more variegated gestures —especially in the De Kooningesque abstractions of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, but even in the more complicated figure-ground compositions of the later ‘50s. In the ‘90s, and until his death in 2004, Resnick seemed to revert to the easel-size figural expressionism of his youth. In fact, he became intrigued not simply with human presence within the welters of painterly mark, but with a whole array of cryptic signology and even narrative. These last works are mysteriously notational – just as engrossing as the huge canvases that preceded them but conveying a very different, no longer purely optical or physical, experience. (MANA Contemporary, 888 Newark Ave., Jersey City NJ. – Peter Frank

MILTON RESNICK, Y+R, 1958, Oil on canvas, 67 x 68 inches, ©2014 The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation, Courtesy of Cheim & Read.
Bach Six Partitas from the Clavier-Übung I. Rafael Puyana. Sanctus CDsBy Laurence Vittes

When I was in Bogotá in 2013 for its outrageous Beethoven festival (55 concerts in 3 days), Colombian pianist Blanca Uribe played a lovely recital and when her adoring audience demanded an encore, she responded with a kind and courageous gesture, meant to heal wounds and bring together old friends. In honor of the great Colombian harpsichordist Rafael Puyana, who had died only a month earlier in Paris, estranged from his native country, Uribe played a sonata by his favorite composer, Domenico Scarlatti. The moving tribute was sensed as such by the audience, even though she did not announce it as being so. Now Sanctus Recordings has released previously unpublished recordings of Puyana playing Bach's Six Partitas for Harpsichord BMW 825-830 on the famed three-manual harpsichord of 1740 by Hieronymus Albrecht Hass. Besides Puyana's magisterial, inevitably anachronistic performances, the 150-page booklet includes color pictures of the magnificent German instrument.
Nick Cave’s bodies of work, new and not-quite, comprised the first one-person show at The School, a decommissioned elementary school building taken over by Jack Shainman as an upstate extension of his New York gallery spaces. Cave’s expansive sculptures and assemblages filled both elegantly finished downstairs and still-raw upstairs spaces with dramatic flair and urgency – some of that urgency born of Cave’s ever-more-sharply-honed social awareness. While Cave’s elegant and complex costume-sculptures (shown to smashing effect in the downstairs spaces) elaborate on the ceremonial clothing of various African peoples, his newest assemblages and installations build around the African-American experience. And they are as harsh as was their unfinished upstairs setting, serving essentially as reliquaries for early and mid-20th-century objects that denigrate Blacks. We’re not talking Blackamoor garden statuary or lamp bases, but inarguably offensive, pointedly demeaning utilitarian things like a spittoon. It is acutely embarrassing, and infuriating, to behold some of these Jim Crow apparitions, but it is not Cave’s purpose to thrust them in our faces or, as Fred Wilson might, display them with studied dispassion. Instead, he “domesticates” most of them with handsome, ornate additions, reclaiming them for his own aesthetic – an aesthetic, as noted, derived in great part from African practice. In this way, Cave is able to mitigate, even tame, the racist beast (if, alas, only for a while, as current events remind us). Other, more formal and yet no less glorious multipartite objects by Cave festooned various walls. Most if not all the works shown at The School go on view in both Shainman’s Chelsea spaces in September. (Jack Shainman at The School, Kinderhook NY. – Peter Frank

NICK CAVE, installation at The School, Photo: Jeremy Lawson
Mozart for Winds. Zefiro Baroque Band conducted by Alfredo Bernardini. Arcana CDBy Laurence Vittes

Mozart For Winds is oboist and fearless leader Alfredo Bernardini's Mozartian concoction of 22 arrangements for pairs of oboes, clarinets, basset horns and bassoons, 4 horns and one 1 double bass (just like the Gran Partita K. 361) from the best parts of The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte. The drop dead gorgeous sound with which Zefiro's gurgling clarinets, carousing bassoons, noble French horns and amorous oboes state their case makes you wonder what a revelation it might be if a real production with voices and everything tried to take the tempos Zefiro and Bernardini take. Check out, for instance, their preposterously but wonderfully dashing "Ah guarda, sorella" from Cosi. The recordings were made at the 14th century Abbey of San Martino delle Scale, 10 miles west of Palermo (the original Abbey building was built around 600, burnt down by Moors in 829 and built anew over the ruins in 1346). Bernardini's liner notes aren't much but there are seven pages of unforgettable color photographs of Zefiro dressed in period costumes with their instruments, hanging around the Abbey's marble statues while looking themselves like mannequins who wandered in from a Star Trek episode.
JJ Manford and Max Razdow each practice a lush, expansive, almost hallucinatory kind of picture-making; exhibited together, their distinct but mutually resonant bodies of work suggest that visionary pictoriality has returned to the vocabulary of younger painters (and draughtspeople). This new visionary art not only accepts but goes beyond the illustrative macabre of Pop Surrealism, allowing for both naïve figuration and neo-art nouveau, painterly abstraction and psychedelic bedazzlement. Manford and Razdow have developed highly sophisticated, extremely aware and even syncretic styles, but have determined those styles specifically to serve the description of ecstatic, impossible conditions. Manford conflates the earthly with the cosmic, exploding the former and putting the latter within human reach. His spiraling, deeply colored landscapes and skyscapes, one part Mexican surrealism, one part Pollock, one part Bill Jensen, one part Sharon Ellis, one part Viennese Magic Realism, and so forth, zoom in and out of focus, moving effortlessly between botanical detail and astronomical immensity. While never losing reference to the observed world, Manford makes sure to re-propose that world as a site of wonder. By comparison, Max Razdow is more purely earthbound – but his is the “earthbound” of William Blake, Andre Masson, or Anselm Kiefer. Razdow engages in fantastic rhapsodies about topographies and fauna, especially undersea creatures, described with a remarkably fine – almost an etcher’s – line and limpid, appropriately aqueous color. There is an eventfulness, a sense of dramatic moment, to Razdow’s images, tempting the viewer to try to draw narratives from them. But, while clearly influenced by graphic novels and fantasy comic strips, right down to the angular stylizations of human figures and monsters, even the smallest of Razdow’s pictures achieve the monumentality, not to mention the bravado, of Delacroix and Géricault, Matta and, yes, Dalì. (Freight & Volume, 530 West 24th St., NY. – Peter Frank

JJ MANFORD and MAX RAZDOW, installation at Freight+Volume
Genevieve Chua, working in Singapore, has produced a series of shaped paintings that take their spare iconography – and, indeed, their shapes – from a single animal, in fact an insect. Chua is fascinated by the remarkable life cycle of the cicada, with its 17-year-long gestation, its explosive moment of maturity, and the aural assault its process of reproduction entails. Chua filled the gallery with that distinctive clangor (although not at its natural, often intolerable volume), so as to drive home the insect nature of the odd shapes mounted on the wall. That said, those shapes are emphatically stylized, most of them suggesting the insect’s body parts or even sound. The canvases themselves are more or less monochrome, but their surfaces have also been “tattooed” with indistinct markings that sometimes suggest bug swarms, other times the translucency of the cicada’s wings and body. It’s hard to determine which is more curious, Chua’s obsession with cicadas or the extreme abstraction to which she subjects her representation of them. Happily, the works themselves maintain, even exude, this aura of curiousness; their eccentricity has its own appeal, freeing them from the narrative that engendered them without suppressing that oddly compelling narrative. (Gusford, 7016 Melrose Ave., LA. – Peter Frank

GENEVIEVE CHUA, Cicadas #2, 2014, Acrylic and screenprint with enamel on canvas, 88½ x 88½ x 2 inches
Arabic lettering, one of the world’s most fluid and ornate, famously lends itself to calligraphic elaboration. Indeed, calligraphy is central to the arts of Arab peoples – and no less to that of Persians. From exquisite renditions of the Qur’an to modernists practicing “calligraphic expressionism,” calligraphy situates itself at the heart of art in the Middle East – and its diasporas. “Local/Not Local”brought together the work of ten artists and designers working in California (especially, but not exclusively, in the Los Angeles area), producing posters, computer graphics, sculptures, and even fashion accessories, ceramics, and money for both local consumption and circulation back in Iran and the Arab countries. In posters, especially, designers are able to exploit the suppleness of Arabic script – even in its blocky, Kufic style(s) – to create images that function almost like concrete poetry, telegraphing their meaning even before they’re read. Or, conversely, they hide the words behind their artistic exaggerations, allowing for a strategic slippage of meaning between what is depicted and what is notated. Such poetic elision has long served Middle Eastern writers and polemicists, who have had so often to work under oppressive regimes – and “Local/Not Local” imparted the sense that these artists of Carabifornia and Tehrangeles are motivated no less by wrenching events in their homelands than by the history and enduring aesthetic potential of their alphabet. They are equally impelled, reasonably enough, by their dual cultural allegiances, and several of them combine Arabic and Latin lettering with sometimes virtuosic deftness. The artists comprising “Local/Not Local” were Yusef al-Ahmad (from Saudi Arabia), Sam Anvari (from Iran), Kourosh Beigpour (also Irani), Milka Broukhim (Irani as well, responsible for a fascinating series of post-partisan banknotes), Reem Hammad (a Syrian-Lebanese ceramist), Ebrahim Poustinchi (Irani), Paymon Pojhan (known in Iran for his sculptures), Shilla Shakoori (from Iran, responsible for wall installations of canvas letters printed with contrasting English words), and exhibition organizers Pouya Jahanshahi (Iran) and Maece Seirafi (Syria). (Levantine Center, 5998 Pico Blvd., LA, through Sept. 16. – Peter Frank

KOUROSH BEIGPOUR, Scientific Meeting of the Iranian Theatre Posters, 2013, Screenprint, 36 x 24 inches
Joe Goode was once regarded as a Pop artist, but the conceptual and perceptual concerns that have always driven his work have all but dispelled that classification (as they have, in fact, for most of his Pop compeers in southern California). “It seems every image I have used since completing school,” Goode has written, “has to do with seeing through something, whether it is glass, water, skies, fires, trees…” As such, Goode has emphasized and exploited the materiality of his subjects, subjecting them to physical manipulation at the same time that he poses them as devices for altering, even thwarting sight. In these new “Flat Screen Nature” series, Goode – returning to motifs and treatments limned in works on paper as far back as forty years ago – builds fiberglass panels on a mostly vast (eight feet square) scale. Each panel would seem to be built out of two vertically stacked segments; especially pronounced tears and erosions at the joining point emphasize this diptychal appearance, illusory as it turns out to be. The blue-black, gray-blue, or blue-blue color combinations, divided along such a central horizon, give the paintings the appearance of seascapes or nighttime landscapes – but those tears, and other breakages along the edges of each work, argue with the pictorial suggestions. Like most of Goode’s paintings, the “Flat Screen Nature” works at once imply and defy subject matter. In this manner Goode is able to have his cake and eat it, too, producing objects that lure us into them, only to reveal to us that they have no interior to enter. We turn instead to the sensual pleasures of the degraded material itself, but, in their casualness and studied inelegance, these prove elusive as well. The side gallery’s display of paperworks from the ‘70s, including some “models” for these new paintings, provided a separate consideration of Goode’s concerns with perception and material – although in these, instead of “wounding” the paper itself into some sort of image, he has drawn images of damaged paper on otherwise untouched paper. (Michael Kohn, 1227 N. Highland Ave., LA. www. – Peter Frank

JOE GOODE, installation at Michael Kohn, Photo: Karl Puchlik
“Digital Latin America” proved a relatively modest but still spectacular display of new media put to the service of art with great and intricate imagination. In other words, pretty much every work in the show beguiled because its creator(s) sought a more wondrous level of artmaking through the use of contemporary technology than they did a mere demonstration of the neat things technology itself could do. To be sure, many works exploited interactive electronic tools, but engaged them – and, as a result, the viewer – as means to aesthetic and/or didactic ends. The most memorable works proved to be the simplest: Rafael Lozano-Hammer’s screen-filling eye that literally followed passersby around the room; Javier Villegas’ marvelous interactive video showing a tree whose branches conform to the face of the person standing before the monitor; Paola Gaetano-Adi’s documentation of herself eating English words out of an English/Spanish dictionary in an obvious (and obviously futile) attempt to gain a vocabulary useful in the US; and, most stunningly, Jessica Angel’s entire room painted to resemble – no, to become – a computer-generated space, bristling with pixelation and bright details, engulfing viewers and turning them into the video-game figures they otherwise control. Note that Angel’s and Gaetano-Adi’s works, at least, do not incorporate digital media in their physical manifestations, but serve as analogs to the digital experience, “actual” spaces or events that parallel “virtual” conditions. Indeed, such display of “digitality,” more than the engagement of technology itself, seemed to be the impetus the artists in “Digital Latin America” share. (516 Arts, 516 Central Ave. SW, Albuquerque NM; thru Aug. 30. – Peter Frank

JAVIER VILLEGAS, Herbaceous, 2012, Interactive video
Lilly Fenichel has compiled a varied oeuvre over her six-decade career, but the Albuquerque-based painter has maintained a consistent sensibility, as this microspective demonstrated. Fenichel has always worked out of, but at cross purposes to, abstract expressionism, as ready to compose with geometric or even figural forms as with gestural, and always surprisingly sparing, even strategic, in her use of color. Further, her stylistic evolution, especially in the latter part of her career, often finds her exploring formal languages and media precisely at the moments they have been out of favor – minimalism in the 1980s, for instance, or gestural abstraction in the early 2000s. This bespeaks a keenly aware intellect and ornery spirit, characteristics that drive even the simplest, and most playful, of Fenichel’s works. To be sure, Fenichel tends to work in series, and to explore consistent formal reasoning within each, so that the small, complex collages she realized in the mid-60s relate to the more gestural painting she was doing simultaneously but also anticipate the geometric structures that show up in her paintings a few years later. Similarly, the near-architectural oil-painted fiberglass wall structures she produced in the early and mid-80s anticipate the similarly icon-like paintings of the early 2000s, even though the latter are as loose, flat, and painterly as the earlier works are tight, minimal, and sculptural. Fenichel, always interested in exploring new modalities, has never cultivated a brand-like “look,” but she can’t help but propagate a consistent “feel,” no matter what she’s doing. The logic is always there, and so is the personality. (David Richard, 544 S. Guadelupe St., Santa Fe NM; thru Sept. 6. – Peter Frank

LILLY FENICHEL, Civil War, 1968, Acrylic on canvas, 73 x 61¼ inches
Raymond Jonson, key figure in the New Mexico-based Transcendental Painting movement, practiced a kind of attenuated geometric abstraction that responded less to artistic ideologies and more to extra-visual stimuli, whether philosophy, landscape, or music. Such fluid responsivity trusted an artist’s intuition to generate that artist’s formal language, and, resultingly, Jonson was particularly bold in his development of a free-flowing manner whose extravagant color and line rooted itself in hearing and seeing, even though, after the mid-30s, little if anything of the “real world” appeared in Jonson’s work. This approach actually fit right into – indeed, emerged out of – the kind of modernism to which painters in northern New Mexico were already dedicated; the Transcendentalists – inspired by Kandinsky rather than Cézanne – simply brought this spiritually impelled experimentalism to the point of pure form. This is not to say Jonson’s work lacks reference to the real world; ironically, in its responsivity to the sensed rather than only the thought, his painting, even at its most seemingly non-objective, maintains reference to, even dependence on, the light and space of his surroundings. His use of frequently hyper-intense, even electric, colors, for instance, conjure New Mexico skies, and his more intricate compositions – and many of his simpler ones (such as many of the smaller paintings from the 1960s) – reflect an awareness of Native American crafts. Jonson’s was a romantic, not to say eccentric, sensibility, and his geometric-organic stylizations convey that with a kind of disciplined ecstasy. This small but rich and varied survey, hampered only by the fact that it can’t be hung chronologically, includes early landscapes, witty and surprising mid-career oils brimming with coloristic gusto, luminous icons from the end of his career, and a notable transitional painting from 1932, an Art Deco-inspired urban subject that serves as a kind of guide into Jonson’s subsequent abstract thinking. (Addison Rowe, 229 E. Marcy St., Santa Fe NM; thru Sept. 12. – Peter Frank

RAYMOND JONSON, Chromatic Contrasts No. 20, 1945, Oil on canvas, 24 x 32 inches
For those still laboring under the misconception of American modernism as a spotty affair before Abstract Expressionism, a show such as “Reimagining Pictorial Space: Abstraction of the 1930s-1940s” should prove revelatory. It may even to aficionados of American inter-war abstraction, not so much for its surprises (although a 1950 Rolph Scarlett drip painting reminds us that Pollock was not alone) as for the consistently strong quality of its selections. Even less dependable painters such as Albert Gallatin and Irene Rice Pereira are seen at their best here, and examples by Ilya Bolotowsky, Werner Drewes, Alice Trumbull Mason, and Burgoyne Diller, in particular, are museum quality. “Park Avenue Cubists” (Gallatin, George L. K. Morris, Charles Shaw), New Mexico Transcendentalists (Emil Bisttram, Ed Garman), and various artists under the thrall of Native American art and Kandinsky (Scarlett, John Sennhauser, Maude Kerns) are also well represented. Non-objective abstraction was serious business in New York and beyond by the 1930s – the American Abstract Artists association was founded in 1936 – and certainly set the stage for a very different but no more vital kind of abstraction after the War. In fact, the vitality of many works here, including some of the most purely geometric, argues that this kind of abstraction – which was practiced by Gorky, De Kooning, and others – left its DNA in subsequent American painting no less than did surrealism. (Wigmore, 730 5th Ave., NY; thru Sept. 20. – Peter Frank

ILYA BOLOTOWSKY, Blue Structure, c. 1945, Oil on canvas, 38 x 48 inches
Larry Bell, known for light-and-space boxes, is in fact an artist of many ideas, directions, and talents. Even within a given method or series, Bell is capable of great variation. For example, the myriad collages and “drawings” he has produced in his uniqiue vacuum chamber – a device that allows him to fuse color and collage elements into seamless structures with uniform surfaces – have ranged over a wide array of styles and approaches, from the minimal to the painterly. Those familiar with Bell’s reductivist Vapor Drawings, for instance, would be hard-pressed to identify the vacuum-chamber-produced pieces currently on view as by the same hand, much less mind. But Bell is their author as well, and his sensibility – a kind of “hot coolness” that revels in the emotional impact of minimal, even elusive effects – clearly carries over into these “drawings.” As well they should: they were produced in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The “9/11” series features drippy lines, yawning dark areas, molten and jagged forms, bright-hot orange grounds, and the distinct sense that all these macabre elements are coalescing into masks of rage and pain. They are certainly visceral and explosive, at once hard to look at and hard to turn away from – much as images of the World Trade Center were on that fateful day. As if to cool the blood, Bell has placed a very different work, his Time Machine, in the center of the gallery. Two seats – Bell’s own elegantly space-age design – are separated by an oval glass. Though that glass is mostly reflective, it allows some transparency at eye level; as a result, it seems to the sitters to transpose their heads. Mirror and window at once, the device is actually less time machine than soul-fuser. (David Anthony, 132 Kit Carson Rd., Taos NM; thru Sept. 21. – Peter Frank

LARRY BELL, XTTHOJ 25, 2001, Mixed media, 42 x 42 inches
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