Pablo Helguera at Julia Friedman

Haydn, still fully-staffed

oops there goes another one

"Well, Julia Friedman Gallery has definitely upped the ante on art openings," Barry said to me as we walked along 10th Avenue to the second of two sites dedicated to yesterday's opening of the art of Pablo Helguera.

To be sure.

This was no ordinary gallery reception; First there was the opening performance and then the opening reception. It worked, at least for these two music nuts. I don't remember what the calendar looked like yesterday, but this was the only Chelsea event we hit before heading downtown for the LMCC open studios reception.

Helguera's exhibition, "Swan Song," can be seen in the gallery space on West 22nd Street through may 28th. Last night however, in a loft space in the Starret-Lehigh Building four blocks north, there was also a performance by a 23-member symphony orchestra of work related to the show. The short program included a minimal theatrical element attached to a beautiful composition by the artist himself, "Endingness," and to the last movement of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony which actually ended the event, somewhat definitively.

On the floor below the musicians was outlined in wide masking tape the renaisance-era ceiling design which is integral to an important work installed in the gallery; As the individual players completed their parts in the Haydn piece, each rose one by one to extinguish a single wax candle supported on a clear lucite base near his or her music stand and then quietly exited the room.

The ensemble was the Mexican-American Orchestra, conducted by Alondra de la Parra. If I may be excused for doing so, I'll add here that it did no harm to its appreciation of the performance that this largely visual arts-oriented audience was listening to players who were led by the most beautiful conductor I have ever seen.

The works you'll find in the gallery each relate to the artist's theory about finitude, and the relationship between history, legacy, culture and language. In the midst of a crowded opening reception I found the most beautiful, and potentially "resonant," piece to be "Conservatory of Dead Languages." Resting on the shelves of a lighted vitrine built into a wall of the gallery are dozens of pale variously-colored wax cylinders, each of which documents a dying language.

On the ceiling in the front room is "Acolman." It is a sculpture in wood and wax repeating the design some of us had first seen earlier in the performance loft. It and the sound recording which is a part of it relate to a local belief that the voices of long-dead monks who sang in a Mexican monastery built almost 400 years ago can still be heard under the ceiling of its chapel.

Pablo Helguera Dead Languages Conservatory (Conservatorio de Lenguas Muertas) 2005 recordings on 30 wax cylinders 43" x 30" large detail of installation

Pablo Helguera Acolman (#1: Play) 2005 wood, wax and sound recordings 8' x 8' large detail of installation

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Published on April 23, 2005 4:21 PM.

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