Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tiny Furniture

I saw Tiny Furniture this afternoon at BAM.

It is a very smart, bittersweet film about a girl who just graduated college coming home to her successful mother in Tribeca and trying to figure things out.

She is pudgy, and kind of schlubby, yet charmingly self-possessed in an oddly insecure way. I know that doesn't make sense, self-possession and insecurity, but this character has both, which endeared her to me and helped me respect her, even as she endured humiliation.

The dialogue was fabulous, very funny and awkward, and the characters were drawn with a delicious and observant wit -- everything felt real and true and was never boring.

Weirdly, there was a not unpleasant and vaguely intimate stiltedness to the acting which took some getting used to. When I came home I read this article on the filmmaker Lena Dunham (who wrote, directed and stars in the movie). Suddenly the woodenness made sense: Dunham is not an actress, and her real life mother and sister play themselves. Tiny Furniture is very personal to begin with, and has a very touching way of portraying this somewhat unique family. The personal quality takes on an entirely new resonance, however, when you realize that the family is being played by actual family members and the piece is largely autobiographical...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stacy Szymaszek and Eileen Myles at Dia Chelsea

An awesome reading last night! Stacy Szymaszek and Eileen Myles read at Dia Chelsea.

Stacy read a beautiful and complex prose piece reflecting on the life and work of Hart Crane. The piece had a nuanced emotional texture because the poet interwove her own history. The piece was clearly written by a poet, someone drawn to and living within language. A few days ago her book Hyperglossia arrived, and I can't wait to bite into it this weekend.

Eileen is always a great reader, bringing her personality and charisma to the work in a easy-going way that invites the audience into a conversation with the work. Her poems always contain a mixture of poetic observation and uniquely personal engagement that gives a push and pull to poems. A quality of attention, a gesture or moment of authentic communication -- communication in the sense of communion, artistic, literary and social.

Julie Schenkelberg at Asya Geisberg Gallery

Yesterday I stopped by Asya Geisberg Gallery and the current exhibition is fucking fabulous. Julie Schenkelberg: Bad Blood features four evocative and provocative installation pieces that have an overwhelming emotional and tactile quality.

These works are made mostly of plaster, construction materials, and dinnerware. They are intricate and overflowing with a kind of destructive excess. A quaint wedding party lost and subsumed in wreckage that hints and disaster and the passing of time. (In fact, I was reminded of the Keats poem, Ozymandias, which I had to memorize in 6th grade...)

Each piece has so many tiny details, little surprises to be discovered, like a cognac glass filled with buttons spied deep in a decaying cabinet. A shoe resting behind the sculpture, containing small orange light bulbs...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Throne of Blood

Last night a friend took me to see Throne of Blood at BAM. Directed by Ping Chong, this play is an adaptation of Kurosawa's film that represents the story of Macbeth set in feudal Japan.

The stage production was fucking amazing. The sets and lighting were both austere and majestic at the same time. A screen across the top of the stage was used with filmed images that were beautiful and dramatic and which added a depth to action, making it larger in scale and more layered in meaning.

The actors moved and spoke in a slow, choreographed, stylized way that heightened the drama and created a sense of suspended tension. Particularly adept at this was the woman who played the "Lady Macbeth" character (I don't recall the Japanese name"). Her restrained and methodical speech was chilling.

The high concept drama was a little cold and impersonal, however. This made one moment stand out for me: during the prolonged segment where "Macbeth" accepts the spear from his wife, just before taking it, he touches her cheek. This was exquisitely poignant, especially in the context of the stark, militaristic atmosphere of the whole play.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


The other week I had a real treat: I got to see a reading of Crawlspace, a play by Moira Cutler.

The play centers around a relationship between two women, both artists from the South, who are struggling to understand and articulate their issues around intimacy, love, and art. There were extended moments in their dialogue where I was riveted by the emotional tension.

The invitation I received to the event describes the play as "a Southern Gothic noir and New York Story. A thriller with a lesbian interracial love story at it's heart... Crawlspace spans space and time, taking us back to the backwoods of Appalachia, New Orleans, and New York City of the past, present and future."

Crawlspace is rich with beautifully written and evocative monologues. In fact, I was most struck by the poetry of the playwright's language and felt that this was a very special artistic project.

The reading took place at the Wow Cafe, an all women and trans-inclusive theater collective. I can't wait to see it when it is finished and fully staged!

Jim Hall Quartet

Last night I saw The Jim Hall Quartet at Birdland. The music was very beautiful and soothing but rich and complex.

It's so rare for me to go see jazz, and I definitely need to do it more often. I sometimes feel inadequate because I am not a sophisticated listener, and I can tell that I am missing a lot of what is happening. But I enjoy the total effect very much; I very much enjoy taking in the experience as a whole.

The performance was for Jim Hall's 80th birthday and he was so sweet and humble seeming; you could see how much he loved the musicians he was playing with (Greg Osby, alto sax; Steve Laspina, bass; Joey Baron, drums).

All in all an excellent evening.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Provisions at the Nathan Cummings Foundation

A fascinating and rich group show is now on view at The Nathan Cummings Foundation. Provisions, curated by Meridith McNeal and produced by the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation explores food from an intimate yet global and very 21st-century perspective.

The show features 18 contemporary artists, and each work has a complexity and depth that exceeds the theme of "food". Capitalism is implicated in the production and distribution of food, the chasm between abundance and deprivation. But none of these works moralizes; they all work on the viewer through naunced beauty.

I was most gripped by two installation pieces: Flower Eaters, by Claudia Alvarez, is a painfully beautiful sculpture of small children and scattered clay flowers. April Banks' The Price of Rice: Tomorrow I wake Up Hungry is a pile of rice that has been molded into simple bowls, with an image of rice production flickering over the mound. These were haunting, powerful, and richly narrative at the same time that they were aesthetically simple and elegant.

The image here is of a work by Cecile Chong. Several of her pieces were featured in Provisions, and I'm not sure of the technique she uses, but the texture of these paintings reminded me of icing and confection...

Help Me: Found Photos from the Collection of Gillian McCain

Last night I went to an amazing photography show. Help Me: Found Photos from the Collection of Gillian McCain is a beautifully curated exhibition of lost pictures now on view at the Camera Club of New York. The show is co-curated by Gillian McCain and Megan Cump.

These are snapshots, Polaroids, etc, that have been bought, found or stolen by the collector. Her eye for the disturbing and haunted is just uncanny. Every image has a mysterious poignancy. Every image is narratively rich, with so much going on outside the frame, so much depth to the people looking in to the camera.

From a 1960s era woman on the toilet, to a mug shot of "Kathy D. Stoner" what is perhaps most powerful about the photographs in this collection is that they got lost. They are private and personal items that meant something, at some point in time, in some way or another, to someone. And somehow over the years they scattered and found their way into an ebay lot or a flea market shoebox...

This is great show, and the collector has an incredible, distinctive eye.