Arts

The current cabaret production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! directed by Daniel Fish at Bard’s Luma Theater is more countrified than urbanized, casting a glance backward and gazing into the probing present. More cerebral than jolly, this version weights the dark underbelly of the script, which musical productions often gloss over. The result is closer to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath than “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” 

June 27 - The New York Botanical Gardens is celebrating the life and garden of Frida Kahlo in a megahit exhibition.  

Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life is a tribute to Khalo’s love of plants expressed in her paintings, hairstyles and in her own garden at her home in Mexico City, Casa Azul, where she lived with husband and artist Diego Rivera from 1930-1954. 

The Haupt Conservatory building at the botanical gardens has been transformed into an interpretation of the original Casa Azul. Horticulturists and scientists studied archived photographs of Kahlo and Rivera’s home to create a display using the same plants that Khalo used in her paintings, plants that grew in her garden. 

1001 Casa Azul recreated at the New York Botanical Gardens

On walking into the exhibition you feel as though you are at Casa Azul, which is Spanish for Blue House. The cement walls on each side of the entrance are painted a royal blue. 

Vassar Powerhouse performance kicks off this July 2 at 6 pm. with Soundpainting, a series of improvisational performances featuring music, dance, and acting with members of the Powerhouse Apprentice company and the Brooklyn Soundpainting company in ensemble performance; then Keith Bunin’s The Unbuilt City and Desire, six new plays based upon the short stories of Tennessee Williams, at 8 pm. Bunin’s new play, set in Brooklyn, explores the world of secret painting and backroom museum history. Williams often turned his short stories into plays and this new production of these stories has been awaited with great anticipation. Both of these dramatic productions are sure to play subsequently on Off-Broadway, but you may see them now.

On July 3 at 7 pm a unique film workshop, Oh My Palimpest by Maggie Namulyanga and directed by Emily Mendelsohn , with a focus on Kampala in Uganda will offer in-process film essays on the urban development of Kampala as compared to San Francisco with music, stories, and incantation.  

Robert Irwin’s compelling installation, Excursus: Homage to the Square3, has opened to the public at Dia Beacon, where it can be seen until 2017. First presented at Dia:Chelsea in New York between 1998 and 2000, it was inspired in part by the work of the painter Josef Albers and his experiments with color. 

Irwin, a minimalist artist and one of the pioneers of the “Light and Space” movement in California in the 1960s, began his artistic career as an expressionistic painter in the ’50s.  For a time he produced abstract wall pieces. He then moved on to creating interior spaces that are partly real and partly optical illusions using nothing but light and translucent nylon scrim. 

Eventually, Mr. Irwin transcended traditional art altogether. His works now focus on the whole environment of a place -- the interior as well as the outdoor spaces. He was directly involved in the planning of the Dia Beacon Museum. He advised on the arrangement of gallery spaces and their vast expanses of windows that provide natural light throughout the museum. 

990 Irwin's window treatment brings the outdoors into the galleries - photo by Carola Lott

The Wassaic Project’s June 13 exhibition preview event gathered artists, collectors, gallery owners and supporters to mark the opening of the eighth summer show in the Maxon Mills in Wassaic.  The show will be open every weekend.  

The summer exhibit is called Deep End.  Artists were asked to explore what it means  to be “at the end.”  Walking through the Maxon Mills, I found art that begs for interaction, that peeks into holes, that discovers the unknown.

I saw a shelf filled with pickled vegetables in Mason jars. Each row had a different pickled vegetable. Carrots, green beans, pickles, and beets were color coordinated.  Another shelf was filled with empty Mason jars.  Kelli Rae Adams calls the piece Salt for Salt/Sugar for Salt. She says she uses materials that aren’t permanent but that also are not wasteful.

988 Kelli Rae Adams's Salt for Salt/Sugar for Salt

986 Inside a Light Cube by Mike Reamy

Amelia Biewald created a wall of antique mirrors whose lighting fixtures—candles—have drooped to the floor. The effect is that of a room in a haunted house. The installation is called The Thirteen Bad Habits. 

Judith Pfaff and Gillian Jagger’s work have been put together in an exhibit that seems to have sprung from the endless intriguing forms of the natural world.  Pfaff’s organic sculptures use mutable honey comb-like protrusions, some set upon digitally-printed backgrounds with distorted garden motifs.  And Jagger’s with moving spiral swirls of horse-hair and lava-like cast pieces reminiscent of the skin of the elephants.  

Both women are seasoned  artists, who have a long list of awards and fellowships, MacArthur  awards and Guggenheim fellowships, and who have taught at Pratt and Bard.  Both women are also British.

Pfaff’s large multi-media assemblages seem to have sprung from the woodland floor, with horn-like protrusions of wood, carapace-like containers made from squished Japanese lanterns and imagery inspired by her garden.   The pieces celebrate the endless patterns, shapes and sizes of natural forms.   The point of view might be that of what an insect might see from the hollow of a tree or on a woodland floor.

972 "Belafonte" by Judith Pfaff

 My Fair Lady opens this Thursday at the Tri-Arts Playhouse in Sharon, CT. This is the famous Lerner and Loewe musical based upon George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” where instead of a statue coming alive linguist Henry Higgins attempts to turn a lower-class Cockney girl, Liza Doolittle, into the perfect high society English lady. This comic musical took Broadway by storm in 1956. Despite the fact that most Americans have a diminished idea of what constitutes a perfect English lady in these times, the humor remains timeless. I recall attending a Manhattan production of “Pygmalion” in 1987 with actor Peter O’Toole and loved every moment of the play. Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, the play stars Lee Hamilton as Eliza Doolittle . The play will run weekends through July 5. Tickets and info at 860-364-7469,ext. 201 or go to website: http://www.sharonplayhouse.org.

The first major exhibition at James Barron Art in Kent is devoted to an historical survey of work by Sol LeWitt, whom Barron considerers one of the major artists of the last 50 years. “Unless you’re involved with thinking about what you’re doing,” LeWitt once said, “you end up doing the same thing over and over, and that becomes tedious and, in the end, defeating.”  LeWitt was certainly never tedious.

On the ground floor of the gallery is Wall Drawing #701 on consignment from The Estate of Sol LeWitt via Paula Cooper Gallery. Consisting of two large panels – one in subtle shades of blue and green the other in reds and browns - they were executed over a period of two weeks by installers from the LeWitt Estate, Hidemi Nomura and Karen Tepaz. 

LeWitt once said, “I wanted to emphasize the primacy of the idea in making art.” He believed the work itself was much less important than the directions for its execution. For LeWitt, an artist was similar to an architect who designs the blueprint then delegates the construction to builders. No one expects him to dig the foundation and lay the bricks himself. 

964 "Figures in a landscape" 1960 - by Sol LeWitt

Morgan Rollins paintings can be seen at the Gallery at the Millbrook Library throughout the month of June. Morgan, the daughter of Matthew and Erin Rollins, graduated last year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from The University of Montana in Missoula. Morgan has a K-12 Art endorsement for the state of Montana. 

Morgan returned to the Hudson Valley to fulfill her student teaching and is currently the enriched art teacher at a local preschool. She expects to receive her New York Art endorsement in the autumn of 2015.

951 "Burghal" by Morgan Rollins

In her paintings Morgan says she “explores concepts of repetition and abstract pieces that relate to concrete emotion.”  Her pieces at the library are done in fluid acrylic on either canvas or board. These misty abstractions are distinguished by the artist’s sure sense of color. Even her pastels have an underlying power and a sense of mystery. One cannot help but wonder what might be going on behind the surface of the images.

952 "Antre" by Morgan Rollins

Ten days ago Rob Ober opened his second gallery in Kent. New Digs, as he calls it, is located in three rooms above House of Books at 11 North Main Street. Ober says at the moment the gallery is focusing on “young and middle aged Brooklyn artists who still believe in painting.”

The current group show features ten artists including such established painters as Peter Acheson, Donald Baechler and Katherine Bradford who came into their own in the 80’s and early 90’s in New York. These veterans share space with what Ober calls “a younger unrestrained generation,” that includes Ted Gahl, Jason Stopa and Russell Tyler.

Peter Acheson creates primitive abstractions in a variety of media including wood, bark, and burlap as well as canvas. Brightly colored lines, both straight and curved, are inscribed upon more neutral backgrounds. In one painting a green star-like shape (or perhaps it is a fir tree) sits above four arching lines three in darker colors that contrast with the bright red upper line. 

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