Month: April, 2007

What a doll

Monday, April 2nd, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats

Attended one of the “Brown Bag Lunch Lectures” at the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon.

It was my first look inside The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, which opened in late-November 2006. The eight-story, 63,000-square-foot building marks the final element of Yoshio Taniguchi’s redesign project, increasing MoMA’s educational and research space fivefold. The expanded Library and Archives occupy the top floors; the glass-encased lobby and sixth floor open-air terrace offer views into the museum’s Sculpture Garden.

MoMA Research Center

MoMA Research Center

The subject this afternoon was painter Armando Reverón’s then-current retrospective, the first North American exhibit to focus on the Venezuelan early modernist. (Listen to the MoMA podcast here.)

The exhibit, comprised of some 100 landscape and figural paintings and objects, focused on 30 years of Reverón’s life, during which he worked and resided in the Venezuelan fishing village/resort of Macuto, on the Caribbean coast. He and his wife (and sometime model), Juanita Ríos, entertained many visitors at their home; during his life, Reverón actively cultivated an “eccentric artist” persona — reinforced in a couple of films — and grew to become something of a local attraction, where he produced pieces for the tourists that would make their way to the Northern coast.

Reverón dubbed his residence and workshop El Castillete, or “Tiny Castle,” which seems a bit grand based on the slidehow photos we were shown of the crudely constructed, palm-frond walled huts. The compound remained an attraction after the artist’s death in 1954 (in a psychiatric clinic where he was under treatment for schizophrenia); Ríos continued to live there until her death decades later. Ultimately, the castle was destroyed by the mudslides of Venezuela’s Macuto region that claimed the lives of 5,000-20,000 and the homes of 100,000 more in 1999.

Also discussed: the life-size dolls (muñecas) that Reverón used as models for his dream-like figural paintings. Sewn from stuffed burlap sacks and garishly wigged and made up, the dolls (each of whom had a name) were regular fixtures in the Reverón-Ríos home, where they were were outfitted and posed to greet visitors or provide silent companionship and artistic inspiration.

Lunch at Menchanko-Tei — not the best ramen in a city full of great ramen joints, but one of the best above 14th Street, and a great bargain in expense-account rich Midtown. There are about a dozen different noodle soup varieties on the menu from which to choose; I went for the house-named Menchanko, which arrived in a very hot cast-iron bowl, topped with chicken, whole shrimp, a salmon ball, tofu, vegetables and a single gummy rice cake.

Menchanko Tei Ramen

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The play’s the thing

Sunday, April 1st, 2007 | All Things, Arts

Another visit to The Public Theater for the April installment of the 365 Days/365 Plays festival.

Public Theater

This time out, the four participating companies (Lightbox, New York Neo-Futurists, New Georges and the Epic Theatre Centre) were staging the Suzan-Lori Parks plays from March 2003, weeks 17-20. It was SYB and CS’s first time to 365 Days/365 Plays, and I wasn’t quite sure how to describe to them what I’d seen in February. Parks composing a play a day for an entire year: the feat alone is noteworthy, and the press has covered the project as if it were some kind of literary stunt. But would the gimmick factor be too high (and the entertainment value too low) to warrant the two hour investment?

Based on my last visit, I didn’t think so, but I was unsure how the other two would respond to the unorthodox theater production. (We’d had success here in the past, and though I didn’t think that either would actually hold me accountable for the show’s quality, I couldn’t help but feel some twinges of responsibility.) After being ushered in — to the Newman Theater this time — we sat through a short introduction describing the year-long project. The first set of young actors took the stage and launched into their assigned series of seven short plays. One after another, the four companies gave Parks’s words their own unique treatments, a synergy of creative effort, and a testament to the diversity of the theatrical interpretations.

Several of the plays were allegorical (complete with mythical beasts), some were domestic scenes, some snippets of a conversation or a song, one familiar tableau, and one just a laundry list of tasks, read against the ticking of a stopclock.

The sheer breadth of style is what one would expect from a playwright who when called upon by NPR to name her favorite scenes, selected the opening of The Sound of Music, along with an ordinary conversation between a cabbie and a 12-year old prosititute in Taxi Driver.

365 Days 365 Plays

Later, at the Astor Place Starbucks, we staved off the grey chill with chai and Rice Krispies treats (or as they’re labeled under the glass: “crispy marshmallow squares.”)

351. Be held.
352. Behold.
353. Be quiet.
354. Be yourself.
355. Be good.
356. Be nice.
357. Be.
358. Pass these tasks out to the audience.
359. Pass these tasks to others among you.
360. Take these tasks with you.
361. Do these tasks.
362. Free someone.
363. Offer an audible response to the performance you’ve just seen.
364. Bow.
365. Go home.

Astor Place

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