Culture: January 2004 Archives

Tyson and his parents

His first solo show in New York was an attraction both for the work and for the smart, beautiful crowd Tyson Reeder was able to attract to the Daniel Reich Gallery on one of the coldest nights of the winter.

Reed's show and his current home are both called "Milwaukee". His parents are at home in the somewhat less zany precincts of eastern Michigan.

Because of my parents' history, and my own childhood, I thought I knew a little about Milwaukee, but this was something very new. The paintings on canvas and the drawings do not really open up in reproduction, but save most of their textural beauty for a visit with the naked eye.


[the drawing in this image is not part of the current show]


Clarabel died on Friday!

Most of the people reading this won't even remember Captain Kangaroo, but for me Bob Keeshan will always be most important as the mischievous and arch Clarabel the Clown on the Howdy Doody Show.

Keeshan seems to have been a very nice man, and he had a fine sense of priorities, perhaps surprising in a television star.

Asked on one occasion how he could star in his own show, engage in lecturing, volunteer, study French and still spend time with his family and his hobbies of photography, fishing and sailing, Mr. Keeshan replied, "One of the big secrets of finding time is not to watch television."
More than likely he'd lose his job if he were to say this while working in commercial television today.

[image from the Clown Museum]

Becky Smith

Friday's NYTimes "Weekend/Fine Arts" section has some great pleasures, almost without any guilt, for those of us who can't just surround ourselves with enough stuff about art.

In two long, illustrated front-page articles on the newer New York visual arts scene, one about the youth driving it, the other about its Brooklyn incubator, even those not yet a part of this dynamic can share in its enthusiasms and its delights.

My favorite quotes from the "Youthscape" piece come from Bellwether's Becky Smith in Brooklyn and from Daniel Reich, who runs his eponymous space in Chelsea. Becky seems to think that the gallery business doesn't have to be run like the Coke-Pepsi thing.

"We tend to look at our businesses in a different way from another generation of dealers," said Becky Smith, the owner and director of the Bellwether Gallery in Williamsburg. "We don't see the art market as one big pie that we all have to fight over, but as something that is endlessly expandable. If we can make people excited about our galleries and the kind of art and artists we show, then we figure this will benefit us all."
No one would ever expect to find Daniel Reich in a corporate office either.
Mr. Reich says that for the younger dealers the art business is less about making money than about expressing the values and experiences of his generation. "It's all about being happy about whatever you can be happy about," he said. "My generation grew up in a time when we didn't have heroes. You grew up believing you were being hoodwinked and manipulated — and knowing you were, but learning to enjoy it because it came in fun colors or was on MTV.

"The bottom line," he added, "was that I really wanted to have a gallery, and sometimes you just have to start doing something with whatever you have at your disposal."

We love you guys.

Daniel Reich

[images by Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times]

Yeaaa! I've just heard that Target Margin has extended the run of "These Very Serious Jokes".

New, additional, dates:

On Sunday there is a performance at 7pm and from Tuesday, Jan 27, until Saturday, Jan 31, the shows will begin at 8:30 pm. There will be matinees on Saturday, Jan 31 and Sun, Feb 1, at 4pm.

Faust (Will Badgett) studies Mephistopheles (David Greenspan)

Goethe's back, and Faust is with him.

Ok, they never really left, except that some of us thought we could ignore them now. David Herskovits, Douglas Langworthy and Target Margin Theater are going to make that very difficult for some time.

They have taken upon themselves the enormous task of translating and staging the complete text of Goethe's iconic play, "Faust", the entire project to be spread over at least several years time.

This week we saw the product of their initial engagement with the material, a dramatization of the first part of the first part, which they have dubbed, "These Very Serious Jokes". The title comes from a reference Goethe himself once made to his magnificent 12,000 line verse-play. Target Margin begins with a completely faithful revival of the first 2,600 lines, in addition to the inclusion of the author's dedicatory poem and two introductory scenes.

Both of us were a bit rusty on "Faust" [actually Barry was rusty, I was literately virginal] and we going into the show we welcomed the opportunity of seeing an intimate modern representation of one of the great monuments in European culture. Even with my experience of TMT's wonderful production history I hadn't expected that we would be in for so much more than brilliant entertainment and a provocative staging.

It was hilarious, seriously. And very very smart. Some of that is Goethe, but if I think I'm already able to talk [back?] to Faust, Mephistophes, and even The Lord, although the story has barely begun, I'll credit the company. Anyone who can take advantage of this great theatrical opportunity is in for a wonderful ride. David and the company plan eventully to present their sections of the play as an integrated piece, but in the meantime we will have the great pleasure of participating in a new creation as we see the parts follow each other to their conclusion.

I hurried home Tuesday night to check our copies of the "Faust" printed text. Surely not every bit of what we heard was Goethe? But it was. We were both astounded. The translation is that magnificent. On the other hand, not everything we saw was in the original. Target Margin's contemporary inventions in twisted genious, together with Doug Langwothy's translation, is what makes the story our own, right now.

Have fun.

But you're going to have to hurry, since this section's run ends next Sunday. The location is the tiny downstairs theatre at HERE Arts center, 145 6th Avenue, near Spring. The time is 7pm on Friday and 2pm and 7pm on Saturday. On Sunday there is another performance at 7pm and from Tuesday, Jan 27, until Saturday, Jan 31, the shows will begin at 8:30 pm. There will be matinees on Saturday, Jan 31 and Sun, Feb 1, at 4pm.

The number to call is 718-398-3095.

* mumbled by one of the cast members while David Herkovits was delivering his prefatory notes in front of the audience

NOTE Something else that remains from Goethe's text is Auerbach's Keller. It's a great scene in the play, and its environment is familiar to anyone who's spent time in a tavern. The Keller too checks out perfectly. The real Auerbach's was founded in 1525, so it was already a couple of centuries old when Goethe immortalized it. It remains a tavern in Leipzig today more than two centuries later, having survived, like the legend of Faust itself, major plagues, the Reformation, the Religious Wars, the Peasant Rebellion, the 30 Years War, Napoleon's armies, the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars.

[image from Lighting Dimensions]

I've surprised even myself by not writing more about the various September 11 design proposals, now narrowed down to a mall dominated by a "Freedom Tower" and crying walls and wells "Reflecting Absence". But I'm not going to start now.

Real critics have described any number of reasons to be disgusted with re-building and memorial plans at the World Trade Center site. For myself however the most important reason is the evil purposes in support of which the September 11 tragedy has repeatedly been invoked, both in cynicism and in ignorance.

We already have our memorials to September 11, in the form of domestic tyranny and world war, and both have been designed for perpetuity. While these prevail, anything we are doing at the scene downtown is likely to be obscene, not just in execrable taste.

From a Deborah Solomon interview with Wallace Shawn in Sunday's NYTimes Magazine":

[The brilliant, solidly- Lefty author had just admitted that while he had no use for musicals, he was nevertheless very fond of "American popular songs in the cabaret tradition".] So you take some pride in American culture.

To be honest, I see myself as a citizen of the planet. Even as a child, I always found it mindless to root for your own team. I was puzzled by the fact that people said their own team was better than other teams simply because it was theirs.
Later in the article he described his delightful idea of utopia, and responded to his interviewer's odd introduction of the subject of marriage:
In an ideal world, people would be preoccupied with reading and writing poetry and having love affairs, as people were in the Japanese court in the 11th century, as described in ''The Tale of Genji.'' If people were involved in that type of life, maybe there would be no war.

But it wouldn't be great for sustaining marriages!

I was never married.

Don't you live with the writer Deborah Eisenberg?

Yes, we're having a love affair. If I wanted my personal life to be public, I would be married. Marriage is public. That's what it means.

Have you ever desired the comforts of marriage?

I would say it is hard enough to make a plan for how you are going to spend an evening with somebody else. So to make a plan for how you are going to behave in 25 years seems based on a view of life that is incomprehensible to me.

But you must have some hopes for yourself in the future.

We're in an emergency situation. The United States has become an absolutely terrifying country, and I would hope that I could participate in some way in stopping the horror and the brutality.

Good man.

Barry and I have tickets for Wednesday night's performance of the New Group's revival of Shawn's "Aunt Dan and Lemon". Somehow I missed it the first time around, in 1985, but I swore it wouldn't happen again.


A friend of ours, Lothar Albrecht, is opening a third branch of his very interesting Frankfurt art gallery in Beijing next month. Until we received the announcement in the mail today, we had understood the new venue was going to be in Japan. That was going to be exciting enough, since the only other location until now was Zurich. This latest development is totally unexpected and of an entirely different magnitude, for obvious political and cultural reasons.

The L.A. Galerie Beijing website is not yet fully operational, but the invitation reveals that the gallery will be showing the work of both Chinese and foreign artists. Great!

We wish Lothar, and everyone in China who makes art and who loves art, the very best.

UPDATE The gallery is to be located in a building constructed during the Ming Dynasty, but the interior will be the classic white cube.

[the image above, of Beijing opera figures, is from the Chinese website and unfortunately is not yet identified]

Except that it isn't old at all.

We went to the Metropolitan today to visit El Greco's work. This awesome unfinished late masterpiece was there:
El Greco, The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse (1608-1614)

This much earlier very provocative youth, unaccountably (except perhaps for its need of restoration) was not:
El Greco, St. Sebastian (1580)

Except for a very sweet and human Virgin, a Magdalen, and a few other ancient saints, there are virtually no portraits of women among his works, although there are a great number of beautiful ecstatic saintly males and contemporary handsome men of all ages, described as his intellectual friends. El Greco never married, although he lived in the Spain of the Counter-Reformation. He is said to have had one illegitimate child, Jorge Manuel, who is represented by his father as a beautiful aristocratic artist in a painting which is part of this wonderful show.

[the first image from Princeton, the second from romansonline]

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from January 2004.

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