Thursday, June 25, 2009

The weekend and beyond

I’ve been worried about this “What’s going on this weekend (and slightly) beyond” stuff even though I’ve been dealing with it for 20 years one way or another.
Summer comes, things slow down.
As a reporter you gotta shift gears (but not like I did on my car recently – transmissions are way too expensive.)
And then, a bunch of stuff happens.

Discover a new artist
First we should all thank the Columbia Museum of Art for regularly opening shows during the summer and this one sounds good.
“Cleve Gray: Man and Nature” is composed of about 50 large abstract paintings by a guy you may not know much about but who did some tremendous paintings and was an interesting fella, too. Well-to-do, married to a great writer, lived most of his life in the house where he grew up, Jewish, a big opponent of the Vietnam war, worked like mad and played a mean tennis game.
It opens Friday, June 26.
You can read my full story about the show in the Free Times on paper or at
Oh, and the City of Columbia should also thank the museum by increasing its slice of the hospitality tax pie rather than decreasing it or leaving it flat. Based on nothing more than all the people who came from all over to see the “Turner to Cezanne” exhibition, I’d say the museum has been the hospitality hit of the year. But I’m sure City Council has some pet project or pavilion they want to build with that money.

Rocky Horr
or – the horror, the horror
I wouldn’t suggest it unless things have gotten much better since last week, but you’re going to or not going to see “The Rocky Horror Show” at Trustus regardless of what I say. Thursdays through Saturdays. If you sit on stage, Frank might sit on your lap.
I have asked Columbia artist Virginia Scotchie to visit the sculpture of
Richard O'Brien as the RHS character Riff Raff (left) in Hamilton, New Zealand. O'Brien, who also wrote the musical, grew up nearby. Scotchie is visiting Hamilton and other places on a tough teaching mission.

The young and not so young – in concert

The Sterling Chamber Players is doing its annual concert showcasing young musicians they’ve been working with.
“The Mentoring Project” Friday night at 8 features young players Caroline Cross and Alex Fricker, oboes, Ryan Knott, cello, Dalton Lugo, viola, and Jenna Wolfe, violin, joining the Sterling regulars.
The group will play Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E flat, the first movement from W.A. Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G Minor, A movement from Franz Schubert’s "Death and the Maiden.” And Suite for Two Oboes and English Horn by Jean-Baptiste Pergolese.
Tickets are $12 in advance and $15; $5 for students. (803) 252-200l.

Fire in the belly
Belly dancing, fire eating, fire dancing, belly eating.
Delirum Tribal and the Columbia Alternacirque do their things at the Art Bar Friday night. Shows are at 9:30 and 10:30. No cover, but bring cash for the hat.

Old Idea - new music

What to me sounds like the best thing isn’t until Tuesday, June 30, and takes us back to the art museum.
John Berman’s Old Idea is one of about a dozen jazz bands Berman juggles around Chicago. The group’s first recording was just released last month, so we’re getting them while they’re hot. Berman doesn’t go for the big blare of the coronet, which is what he plays, and there’s improvisation, not just noodling.

“Neither raucous nor randomly improvised, Berman's music is built on carefully conceived compositions, gently expressed gestures and a transparent ensemble sound,” the Chicago Tribute wrote of his work.
The group consists of Berman, Keefe Jackson on tenor sax,
Jason Adasiewicz playing vibraphone, bassist Anton Hatwich and
Marc Riordan on drums.
The music starts at 7. It’s $8 for museum members, $10 for others.

Book signings

Brian Ray of Columbia is signing copies of his book "Behind the Pale Door," winner of the South Carolina First Novel Award, at the Barnes and Noble on Forest Drive. 2 p.m. Saturday, June 27.
Columbia writer Janna McMahan will be signing copies of her new novel, "The Ocean Inside" at Java Nook Books in Blythewood from 2 to 4 Saturday, June 27.
If you're down at the coast (and don't we all wish we were), artist Brian Rutenberg, a South Carolina native, will be signing copies of the big book about his work. You'll find him at Litchfield Books Friday, June 26 at 2.

Planning ahead

The Columbia City Ballet is pitching its next season and like most arts groups, could probably use your money now. If you buy a season ticket by the end of June, you get a free ticket to one of the performances. Prices are $80 to $160.
And of course buying a season membership is a ton cheaper than buying individual tickets – that goes for all performing arts groups.
Like the S.C. Philharmonic, which is also in full swing of selling season tickets, $72 to $250. And you really need to check out the hilarious and scary photos on the Philharmonic’s web site.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nude Wednesday!

Nude study by Michael Dwyer of Columbia.

Dwyer is exhibition designer and preparator at at the the Columbia Museum of Art. He studied at the University of South Carolina.
(We need nudes! Send them to Carolina Culture.)

Cleve Gray exhibition of abstract painting at Columbia Museum of Art
Read Jeffrey Day's story on the Cleve Gray exhibition in the purple
boxes or at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ceramic sculptor Scotchie working down under

While one might want Virginia Scotchie’s career, they might not want her travel schedule. Or maybe they would.
The Columbia artist spent the spring traveling around the county, either delivering shows or workshops and lectures in California, North Carolina, Georgia and other places. Recently, she was to have been in the studio at the University of South Carolina where she is a professor, but instead had to go pick up a show that had just closed in Augusta.
Once back she continued working on a commission for a new building going up in downtown Charlotte which will be installed in the fall. She also recently finished a commission for the Lowe’s headquarters in North Carolina. An exhibition of her ceramic sculptures is at the Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville through the end of June.
The artist just headed down under for five weeks working and teaching in New Zealand and Australia. Such world travel isn’t new for her – she’s taught in Australia, Hawaii, Taiwan (where she also did a major commission for the national ceramics museum), China, the Netherlands and other places. She’ll be one of the primary speakers at the Australian Ceramics Triennial in Sydney after leading workshops and talks in Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand.
The Charlotte commission - 30 spheres which will be displayed in lobby is one of her largest ever – is mostly done. Her studio is lined with unglazed balls she’ll glaze and fire when she returns.
It wasn’t all that easy to get away. She went to the Columbia airport to catch a 2 p.m. flight, but the first leg of her trip – to Washington D.C. – was canceled. She was put in a van and driven to Charlotte to catch another flight, but missed it. At 8 p.m. one of her students was driving to Charlotte to bring her back to Columbia where she’d have to start the trip all over the next day. But she made it to Sydney last weekend.
(This is the first of a series of articles on artists that will run during the next week or so.)

Rocky Horror review

But not by me. I agree with the review by James Harley, but I might not have been as kind.
Go read it at Onstage Columbia. To do that I'm going to make you find the Onstage Columbia link on this site - down and to the right. There's you'll also find a list of other sites worth checking out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The weekend and beyond

Ready for “Rocky?”

This isn’t, as Trustus Theatre artistic director Jim Thigpen will tell you, a show that needs much attention. It's a show he seems to love to hate doing, but here it is and there it is where it will sell a lot of tickets.

Trustus certainly should be ready for “The Rocky Horror Show” – it has mounted the sci-fi, rock ‘n’ roll, gender-bending, cross-dressing, audience-participation, toast-tossing show four times during the past decade and a half.

Those who are fans of the show centered on the transvestite and mad scientist Frank-N- Furter (terrible name for a great characte
r) will be getting a somewhat different show this time around with director Chad Henderson. He has never even seen a production of the musical so with luck he'll bring some fresh ideas to it. Although he’s now a big fan of the 1975 movie version he refused to go with friends to midnight screenings of it when he was growing up in Spartanburg. Now they’re teasing him about directing it.

“I have f
riends who are big fans of the show and asked them what they wanted to see,” Henderson said. “They said they wanted it to be a big party every night.”

Well, that might be up to the audience. Henderson has enlisted a new choreographer, Terrance Henderson (no relation) to pump up the dance, a catwalk will run out into the audience and the show will be lighting-design intensive. Caroline Weidner is musical director.

The one constant since
the first time at Trustus is Scott Blanks in the role of the Frank. Blanks said in 2004 he wouldn’t do it again, but he said the same thing in 1999. He said he was getting a little old for heels and women’s undies. I guess we’ll see.

I happen to be a big fan of the show (which I saw staged many times by friends when I was in college) and its child “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” These are REAL rock musicals. As is “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” Rocky mania starts tonight and runs through July 25.

Tickets are $25. For those with more money then sense, you can sit on stage for $40.

Playing after Dark

If you missed the puppet shows

“Junk Palace” and “The Crane Wife” (left) last weekend there’s another chance to see them tonight at the Marionette Theatre (and they’re well worth seeing.)

The shows are part of an evening called “Playing After Dark” that will include music, art and, get this, a mini golf course. Organizer Aaron Pelzek hopes to turn this isn’t a regular every other Friday night event.

It’s at 8 and it’s only $3. (The theater is near the Riverfront Park near the water treatment plant.)

Irish music at the museum

For the third year, Corner House Music is holding a batch of workshop for musicians as well as a couple of concerts in Columbia. Most of the events during the Irish Music Weekend place at the Columbia Museum of Art are for players.

The Rince na h’Eireann Dancers perform at 6:15 Friday evening followed at 7 p.m. by a concert by workshop instructors. (That’s $12). Then starting at 11:30 and running until around 5 p.m. Saturday are a series of short concerts on everything from banjo to uilleann pipes – so bring your cruel banjo and bagpipe jokes

Why do bagpipers march when they're playing?

They're trying to get away from the noise.

$5 each or $15 for a pass to as many as you want to hear.

Cut paper art

I’ve been trying for two weeks to find out who Joan Podd is and why she has a show at the USC art gallery. I guess we’ll all just have to go and find out. (According to a USC web site she’s an art education instructor in the art department, but I wouldn’t trust that since it lists a bunch of faculty member who no longer work there.)

“Sophisticated Whimsy” is made up of cut paper collages of landscapes. The show opens with a reception Thursday, June 18 from 5-7 p.m. The show continues through July 17

Love and art in a S.C. steel mill

Beyond the weekend, a launch party for Brian Ray’s novel “Through the Pale Door” takes place at 7 p.m. Wedneday, June 24 at if Art Galery in Columbia. The story is

set in South Carolina where a young woman has returned to work in a steel mill . There she falls for another worker who is an aspiring and driven mural painter. The book won the first South Carolina First Novel Competition and has a very cool cover.

Ray grew up in Georgia and then moved to South Carolina, where he spent summers working at a steel plant so he knows of what he writes. He finished his master of fine arts at USC in 2007 and is working on his doctorate in North Carolina. The fi

rst novel contest is a project of Hub City Writers in Spartanburg and the S.C. Arts Commission, Humanities Council and State Library.

Miles of music

If you're the stay at home kind listen to the chamber music from the Spoleto Festival USA Thursday night at 7 on S.C. ETV Radio. It's hosted by Miles Hoffman, dean of the music school at Converse College for the past two years. Hoffman will also be the guest on "Walter Edgar's Journal" Friday, June 19 at noon when they will have, according to ETV, a "delightful conversation."

Hoffman is music commentator on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" (although I have heard him on it in ages) and is the author of "The NPR Classical Music Companion."

A week until (part of) museum reopens

Don’t try going to the Columbia Museum of Art for another week. It’s shut down completely for reinstallation of the permanent collection. But before the new look of the second floor is unveiled, an exhibition by the abstract painter Cleve Gray opens (but not until the end of next week.) Also, once the entire museum reopens the admission price will be DOUBLED going from $5 to $10. All the more reason for you to be a member.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nude Wednesday!

"Woman" by Alex Powers of Myrtle Beach.
Powers has been a painter and self-employed art teacher since 1970.
“I attempt to deal with issues such as human origins, religion, philosophy, economic inequality, etc. These overwhelming issues are difficult to deal with, but they are what interest me. And, since I believe in the singularity of life and art, these issues are the content of my life and my current work.”

(Carolina Culture is looking for your nudes to use in coming Nude Wednesdays. Ship them to the email contact to the right.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The (art) year that was

This morning (both too early and too late) while out picking blackberries (damn it’s already hot and now I’m bleeding) the wonderful mix of pleasure and pain (don’t get any ideas) naturally made me think of the art year that just ended.
Frankly, it’s a little hazy, but I’ve been out in the sun and I’ve been through a couple decades of these art years. (It has also been a very strange spring, having lost my job and broken my car.)
Let’s see what I can dredge up with only three cups of coffee. If you’re had more coffee than this and want to add to my list or take me to task please do. (There’s a place for comments at the end of this.)
The two big deals this year were about the big deals in Columbia: The Columbia Museum of Art and the S.C. Philharmonic. Both entered this dismal economic year with big plans. The museum was spending a half a million on the exhibition “Turner to C├ęzanne” and the Philharmonic had a new music director, Morihiko Nakahara, (left) leading his first season.
The museum set all- time attendance and membership records and attracted a ton of new people. (You may already know that I don’t think the show was very good, but I have to say it here for the record. You can find full of it in archives of The State newspaper. It ran March 10.) That wasn't the only thing the museum did either - it put together a beautiful exhibition of its recently expanded Asian art collection.
The philharmonic was energized to say the least. The concerts were mostly very good, with some of the rough spots to be expected as a new conductor and the other musicians learning about one another. What really counted though was the final concert when the orchestra played Gustav Mahler and Philip Glass and played both very well. But for me what almost exciting as the music was that I ran into a lot of younger people (say 30s and younger) who were at the Philharmonic for the first time – and they loved the concert.
The S.C. State Museum has put together another great retrospective by the South Carolina a native. The show covers 55 years of the career of Robert Courtright, a native of Sumter who has spent most of his life in France, New York and Edisto Island. The show is a tremendous tribute to the artist who has too long been overlooked.
A couple other great visual arts shows popped up recently in Charleston.
“Contemporary Charleston” focuses on five fairly young artists in depth. The art is good, the show well thought out and displayed.
Another is “Prop Master” (left) at the Gibbes Museum of Art. This installation by Juan Logan and Susan Harbidge Page uses the museum collection to explore issues of class, gender and race. My favorite part is the long line of portraits of people with famous Charleston names like Manigault, Pinckney and Middleton. All the people are black.
One of the biggest events this year was opening of the 701 Center for the Contemporary Art with an exhibition based on textiles, appropriate since it is in the former community center for the Olympia Mill Village.
The center has so had three exhibitions, including two by artists who spent several months living and working in the center. While the opening show by a group of artists was strong, I’ve been under whelmed by the exhibitions that followed.
The center suffers from a few problems, most of which aren’t its fault.
This is a tough time to start any kind of art endeavor. (Don’t I know it.)
The center is in a building that once housed the doomed 701 Gallery and many people still think of it in those terms. The 701 Center for Contemporary Art is also not 701 Whaley although it is in that building. Just because an art-related event takes place in the building doesn’t mean it is part of the center’s art program. While the center might benefit from some of those events downstairs (and they've attracted many people) when those events include an erotic art show that isn’t very erotic and a drunken MC at a fashion show that doesn’t help the center (or 701 Whaley) much.
I wish I could say there were all kinds of smaller exhibitions, at commercial galleries, at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, the USC Art Department Gallery and so on that I was jazzed about, but I can’t.
The best exhibitions at the art department gallery continue to be those by graduate students and are only up for three to five days, jammed in at the end of the year.
Of all the grad student shows the best one was not at the department, but at Gallery 80808 by Leslie Hinton and her crazy, colorful, happy and sad world. (That's me, knocked out by it.)
“Perceptual Painters” at City Art Gallery is the only show at a commercial gallery I can remember.

If I can barely remember any plays I saw this year, what does that mean? Did I not see all that much? True. Were the plays and productions just not that memorable? True. Is my memory failing? I don’t recall.
Elephant’s Graveyard,” the most recently play at Trustus, was a unique work director with his usual good eye and hand by Robert Richmond. Still, the cast was uneven and it’s a very short show.
The season at Theatre South Carolina at USC was a bit underwhelming to me, but I really loved “Fen,” set on British farms in the 1970s, but feeling more like medieval times.

Going to local dance performances isn’t at the top of my list and I’ll try to do better next year. Some of the smaller things, like the performances at 701 CCA, I heard good thing about. One thing that kept me away from those were the high ticket prices.
I saw a terrible show (well half a show since I didn’t last past intermission) by the Power Company and then a pretty good show that needed some editing. The annual Life Chance evening by the Columbia Classical Ballet was a of old and new(er) works. I’m a fan of modern and contemporary dance (and was have been pleasantly surprised at the Classical Ballets offerings in this area), but the excerpts from the old works, danced as well as they were, may eventually convert me.
As usual, I didn’t make it to the Columbia City Ballet’s various entertainments, but promise to do better next year. Depending on who you talked to the “Hootie” ballet was either fun and pretty good or a disaster. The City Ballet has a tendency to split folks right down the middle.
The USC Dance Company did a great program in the spring. The highlight for me was the new work "Metastasis" by choreographer Ivan Pulinkala. For the first time ever (on vacation) I missed the visit by the dancers from the New York City Ballet.
One thing that has greatly improved is the quality of the student-dominated audiences at the performances. On the other hand, I’m still trying to figure out the exact function of the USC dance program. The key word being "exact."

The Spoleto Festival didn’t completely bowl me over this year. Maybe with 17 performances in six days I didn’t do enough. Still some very good concerts, and the chamber music was better than usual, one great play and a few other things. I’ve written so much about the festival I don’t want to bore you. If you want more details you can find them in the May stories on this site.
(left, retiring chamber music series director Charles Wadsworth and his replacement Geoff Nuttall.)

I go to so many concerts, it’s kind of hard to keep them all straight. And so many of them are so good (or maybe I just understand classical music so little) that it’s hard to pick favorites.
The name and aim of the Chamber Innovista series at the USC School of Music is all too unclear, but when the concerts are like the last one, with works by Andre Mehmari, Silvestre Revultas and John Cheetham played expertly, it doesn’t matter.
The Southern Exposure series was abbreviated this year with three concerts, all good, but the late one by Music From Copland House playing music by Sebastian Currier, Derek Bermel and of course, Aaron Copland, was way up there.
I was also blow away (bad pun intended) by new music school faculty member Jennifer Parker-Harley’s concert. And I don’t really like flutes. Well, didn’t anyway. And way up on my list was USC faculty member Charles Fugo performing Beethoven’s "Diabelli Variations."
Last week Christopher Taylor played “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated” by Frederic Rzewski (complex, beautiful at times, stirring) back to back with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” Thursday night at the Southeastern Piano Festival: an stunning way to wrap up the arts season.

Since we’re on USC here, one of the most important art developments of the year was Harris Pastides becoming president. He and his wife Patricia have been involved in the arts here and both their children work in the arts. If he can ever get out from under this economy that’s crushing the university (and the rest of us) I think we can hope for great things.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Marina Lomazov becomes a Steinway artist - and gets the piano to go with the title

Wrapping up the Southeastern Piano Festival Saturday night, director Marina Lomazov noted that Rice Music House was having a piano sale in the music school basement.
"I'm thinking of going down there and getting one myself," she said.
Little did she know.
After the winning students played someone had a gift for Lomazov: a Steinway grand piano. And maybe more important, certification as a Steinway Artist.
The secret plan to purchase a Steinway for Lomazov, who is on the USC music faculty, was hatched three years ago.
The idea originated with Robert Schaeffer, sales manager of Rice Music House, and he took it to Ralph Rynes, a Columbia doctor, music fan and big fan of Lomazov since she moved here in 2002.
“I really wasn’t familiar with the artists program, but it sounded like a good idea,” Rynes said. He recruited Alan Conway (at right showing some paperwork to the pianist), another Lomazov fan, to help raise the $60,000 needed. The first $30,000 came in quickly, the second half took a while. They also realized that Lomazov and her husband the pianist Joseph Rackers would have to pay taxes on the gift so that added some change to the bill.
Getting the Steinway certification usually involves the artists filling out various forms and answering questions, but Rackers was able to do most of that.
“It was very unusual and the people at Steinway worked with us on it,” said Jyotindra M. Parekh, owner of Rice Music House.
Because of her certification as a Steinway Artist (there are about 1,500 worldwide) this is about more getting a piano. Rackers, also a music school faculty member, will be eligible for certification after another year or so of doing concerts.That will make them one of only two husband-and-wife Steinway Artist duos. The basic criteria for being named a Steinway artist is the musician must have a solid record of quality and quantity concertizing.
And of course they have to own a Steinway.
“It really adds credibility to Columbia to have Steinway artists here,” Conway said.
Steinway Artists are a diverse lot, ranging from pop songster Billy Joel to French pianist classical pianist and Spoleto Festival regular Jean-Yves Thibaudet to classical phenom Lang Lang to jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall.
A native of Ukraine, Lomazov studied at the Kiev Conservatory before her family emigrated to the United States in 1990. She earned advanced degrees from the Juilliard School and the Eastman School of Music and has performed throughout the United States, Japan, France, Austria, Germany and Ukraine. For the past two years she has played at the Keys to the Future festival for new piano music in New York. She and her husband also perform together as the Lomazov/Rackers Duo.
The piano the duo are getting was built in 1976 and was owned locally. During the past several months it has been refurbished.
“Our tech guys has been working on it day and night,” Parekh said.
It will be ready in about two weeks.
Lomazov mostly held back the tears, although her supporters and students didn't, but otherwise was almost at a loss for words.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Puppets, pianos and not many paintings this weekend

During the past decade or so puppetry has really come into its own. Oh sure, there were the occasional odd ducks doing serious adult art with puppetry, but they lived in the basements of Milwaukee and West Hollywood. (Or they were movie characters who took over the body of John Malkovich who played a character named John Malkovich in the movie “Being John Malkovich.”)

While Columbia is one of the few cities that has its own puppetry theater (the Columbia Marionette Theatre) it’s mainly for kids. A couple of the people who work there are among the most talented theater artists in the area and this week are mounting an independent show of two puppet plays, “The Crane Wife” and “Junk Place” aimed at adults.

Kimi Maeda’s “The Crane Wife” is based on a Japanese fable. “Junk Place,’ by Marionette Theatre artistic director Lyon Hill is inspired by the lives of two brothers in New York who filled their apartment floor to ceiling with stuff.

“The Crane Wife” tells the story of a farmer who saves a crane. Not long after he free the bird from a trap, he falls in love with a beautiful woman who weaves beautiful cloth. But she insists that he never watch her weave.

Maeda, an award-winning theater designer who studied at USC, has brought the story up the today, setting part of it in an airport and using the old story to examine new complications of love. She does all the puppetry and voices, mostly from inside a confessional-like contraption using shadow puppetry. The show starts with Maeda writing across a screen “This is a story your grandmother carried in her suitcase when she flew away from home.”

The first part of the play “is pretty much told as I heard it from my mom,” said Maeda who is of Japanese heritage.

”I’ve been working on this story for about eight years now – call it an obsession,” she said.

Hill’s wife Jennifer stumbled upon the New York brothers story while reading about the Georgia crematorium operator who never managed to get around to cremating bodies.

“The story stuck with me and I’ve been developing it off and on since then,” said Hill, who holds a degree from the USC art department.

It was created for a puppetry festival in Savannah last year and he’s developing a video version which will be done by the years’ end.

Performances are at the USC Lab Theatre, on Wheat Street between Main and Bull streets, Thursday, June 11 and Friday, June 12 at 7 and 9. $10.

I wish I could tell you what Larry Hembree told me while we were driving to Union, S.C., a few years ago to see a play. (That’s another story I’ll spare you.) It would probably offend you, Larry and all the mobile home dwellers in Winnsboro.

But you can hear some stories about Hembree, director of the Nickelodeon theater (and formerly with the various other arts organizations and a theater director) at Larry’s Family Reunion.

The event, complete with covered dishes involving canned vegetables, lots of salt and a sprinkling of marshmallows is a fund raiser for the Nickelodeon. It will involve various local talents singing and acting the fool and Hembree may even show how he won the title of Hula Hoop Champion of Ware Shoals.

Such entertainment does not come cheap, but neither does renovating an old Main Street theater for a new home for the Nick. Its $25 and takes place Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13 at the future home of the theater.

The Southeastern Piano Festival concerts continues tonight (Thursday) with Christopher Taylor playing Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” a 1976 work by Frederic Rzewski.

In 1993, Taylor won the bronze medal in the Van Cliburn competition, the first American to do so since 1981. The New York Times called him “a demonically intense artist with a stunning technique and searching intellect.”
If you’re really into the piano you can also spend the entire day and most of the night (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) Friday listening to the 20 students who have come here to learn and compete.

The three winners play Saturday night at 7:30.

Can’t say there’s much more going on. But if you haven’t been yet, head to City Art for “Perceptual Painters,” the Robert Courtright collage show and the historic ceramics show at the S.C. State Museum.

It might also be a good time to hit the road for art.

If you have the misfortune of being in Myrtle Beach, you can at least take in the last series that Georgia native Benny Andrews created. These collage/paintings are based on the life of John Lewis, the Civil Rights pioneer who has been a Congressman for two decades. The show is a tribute to two great men – and to the museum, which has done some amazing shows lately.

The show is at the Myrtle Beach Art Museum through Oct. 4.

Paintings by the late Larry Connatser, who lived in Georgia most of his life, can be seen at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta. Connatser created paintings with an intricate design composed of hundreds of tiny dots. It’s up through Aug. 16.

Connaster earned a degree in literature, but was a self-taught artist. The Morris Museum’s considerable holding of work by self-taught artists is on display in Stories to Tell, Memories to Keep: Folk Art in the South.” In the show are pieces by some of the giants: Lonnie Holley, Bessie Harvey, Nellie Mae Rowe and Bill Traylor.Through Aug. 30.

The Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte has borrowed a batch of works by the likes of Degas (at left "Dancer in Green"), Gauguin, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Matisse, Monet, O'Keeffe, Picasso, Pissarro, Rodin and others who need only one name from the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The show which covers a couple hundred years of European and American art is on display through June 21.

An exhibition of figurative wooden sculptures by North Carolina artist Bob Trotman are also at the museum. He’s a really remarkable craftsman who does some very strange things with old trees and people. This is also a timely show titled “Business As Usual Takes On Corporate Culture.” Perfect for the home of Bank of America, or as I always call it, Big Ass Bank. Through Nov. 14.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Piano festival a musical oasis

I woke up last night and realized we have are lucky dogs when it comes to music.This was at the intermission of the Ran Dank concert at the Southeastern Piano Festival at the USC music school.

It’s not like I was asleep during the concert – that would have been impossible listening Dank’s powerful playing of “Douze Notations” by Pierre Boulez and Beethoven’s “Fantasia in E-flat Major.” (He's deep in that crowd of students at left.)

The festival concert lineup has grown slowly since starting in 2003 so it’s one of those things, like a receding hairline, that moves one doesn’t immediately notice. The major thrust of the festival is teaching high

school students (who come here from all over) the concerts have looked from a distance as a supplement to this.

Although the festival has been bringing in really good players from the start, the importance became more apparent when Olga Kern performed at the festival twice last year.

The festival has turned the summer musical scene from desert to oasis and it provides the city with outside classical artists that have been missing too long from Columbia at any time of the year.

Those who heard Ran Dank play Tuesday night can have little doubt about the quality of the musicians who appear during the festival. Dank was one of 12 semi-finalist in the Van Cliburn piano competition and although he didn’t make the final cut (piano festival director Marina Lomazov said she’s going to have a few words with the Cliburn judges), it’s obvious that he’s a major talent. Lomazov met him at the Hilton Head piano competition of which she was a judge and which he won.

His concert was pretty much a flawless and breath-taking.

One person who kind of lost their breath was student Naomi Causby of Columbia, who gave him flowers and got a hug. It looked like she might need to be carried off stage. (Dank looks like a slightly more rugged version of Elijah Wood, who played the hobbit Frodo in “Lord of the Rings,” although Dank does have Frodo’s hair.)

The only downside was that loudly buzzing cell phone (at least it didn’t ring, but it did take forever to be shut off) and that not every seat was filled.

The opening concert a couple of days earlier gave local audiences a chance hear Lomazov perform something she’d done in New York a few weeks ago at a new music for piano festival.

She played Carter Pann’s dicey “Six Strokes,” which she suggested was the composer’s way of taking out his frustrations on pianists. (Penn was also a pianist and a classmate of hers at the Eastman School).

But the great fun was watching Lomazov tackle William Bolcom’s “Serpent’s Kiss”’ from his 1969 “Garden of Eden Suite” It calls for the performer to play the piano in the ragtime-influenced work, but also stomp feet, use the top of the piano as a drum and make clicking sounds. She had great fun – as did the audience.

Students at the festival rightfully get the best seats where they can really see the pianists’ hands and most were on the edge of their seats during Dank’s concert. He’s obviously someone they can related to being only about a decade older than most of them.

All the female students seem to have the same jewelry accessory – a blue anklet. Actually it’s just their USC ID wristband, but they’ve all chosen to wear it around their ankles, which is amusing since they’re all pretty dressed up.

The students showed remarkable discipline during the first concert, even if their hosts didn’t show enough foresight. They were all given gift baskets wrapped in extremely crinkly paper. There wasn’t a single rustle from the wrapping during the concert.

Concerts continue with Yakov Kasman, 1997 silver medal winner at the Van Cliburn, Wednesday; Christopher Taylor, who is seen as some kind of musical genius, Thursday, and all days Friday you can hear the students compete.

(Scroll down to the June 3 story for details.)

Nude Wednesday!

Figure study in pen and wash by John Quirk of Columbia.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Courtright and collage

Robert Courtright has long been a kind of stealth artist not only in his home state of South Carolina but the rest of the world too. Coming of age in the 1950s – the time of Abstract Expressionism and New York as the center of the art world – the Sumter native made mostly small, mostly quiet collages and distributed his life among the south of France, New York and Edisto Island, S.C.

While those in the know know that Courtright, 82, is one of the most important artists the state has produced, his art hasn’t been that easy to find even for those who know about it. His U.S. gallery presence has been low-key, the rise of the internet hasn’t provided much information about his art, and he hasn’t shown much in the Southeast. USC’s McKissick Museum mounted a decent, but hardly definitive, exhibition of his work in the early 1990s.

Things have changed, or at least one hopes they have, with Robert Courtright: Collages, Collage Constructions and Masks 1953-2008" at the S.C. State Museum. This is an almost-definitive exhibition of Courtright’s art.

Few familiar with Courtright’s art doubted his skills– they just hadn’t seen enough of his art to fully appreciate or judge it. The State Museum exhibition finally gives the public and the artist an overdue view.

The bulk of the 90 works are grid-like collages; rectangles of color lined up and stacked usually in the form of a rectangle.

But he got there by looking at another kind of building blocks. During the 1950s, Courtright was spending most of his time in Southern Europe and the earliest collages are almost pictures of old Roman buildings, but soon he was abstracting these places more and more and incorporating old paper, newspaper with prints and sometimes a little paint. (Left, "Antibes," from 1953) With age, the artworks are now, like the buildings that inspired them, looking a bit weathered (which is wonderful as long as they’re well taken care of by conservators from now on.)

These recognizable images gave way in the 1960s to more abstract work, which has been the core of his art ever since. Since the 1990s, Courtright has also been making mask-like sculptures made of paper, bronze or ceramic.

During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Courtright did a body of relief sculptures covered with collage materials that feel closely connected to the of art of Lee Bontecou and have become some of his most recognizable images – although few people have seen many of them because many were lost when the artists shipped them to the other side of the world and couldn’t afford to have them shipped back. Looking at the handful on display it’s easy to see why everyone was and is so taken with these delicate but powerful images.

The dominant form in all his collages is deceptively simple: grids of colored paper. These have been what he’s done with variations for most of the past 30 years. Each nearly identically sized piece of paper is floats slightly between above the support rather than overlapping as in traditional collage. Although these pieces are monochromatic, each piece of paper has color and texture variations.

As with the early building collages, some of these are made of recycled paper, the text of images bleached out, but at times giving glimpses of their previous incarnations. Some newer works involve heavier, high-grade paper that has been painted, sanded and painted again.

Collage is often thought of as a small, intimate art form. Courtright’s small pieces, especially those which incorporate beautiful quite hues, makes one again think, “Yes, collages are best when small.”

Then one turns around and sees something like his 1983 “Blue Tondo,” a round piece about five-feet across and that theory goes right out the window.

In between and belong the small regular rectangles within rectangle and the large round things are more found works, long and narrow pieces (4-inches wide and 4-feet tall), works split in two (one side blue, the other gray in a work from 1998), a triptych in splattered browns and blacks; back with red burning around the edges; white with lots of surface action, mostly shown in shadows. A few have text on them usually disembodied letters or portions of letters like some kind of arcane crossword puzzle (these are part of a series he did using text from James Joyce’s writings.)Some pieces are massive and architonic, like granite blocks, other wisps delicate as butterfly wings.

The most admirable thing about Courtright’s art and the show is how much they accomplish within what appears to be such strict limitations. Curator Paul Matheny knows just what to put in and leave out – working as he often does with the sensitivity of an artist. He’s a particularly good match for this art and this artist.

The show has a couple of shortcomings. The masks are not the most interesting of his works and the show has too many and it skips much of the later ‘60s when he was doing sand installations; at least one should have been in this exhibition.

The museum just published a fine catalog of the show, but it’s too bad the exhibition isn’t traveling, not just throughout the state, but throughout the Southeast and maybe beyond. The very good news for Courtright, and those who love his work, is that his first solo show at the Zoubok Gallery opened last month.

The museum exhibition is on display through Aug. 23.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New arts commission chairman; fellowship winners

Bud Ferillo, owner of Ferillo & Associates in Columbia, has been elected chairman of the S.C. Arts Commission. The commission, appointed by the governor, oversees operations of the state agency which provides funding and support to artists and arts groups.
Ferillo recently directed the movie "Corridor of Shame," which examines the terrible state of public schools in South Carolina. (How did he get on a state agency commission?) He also fought hard (including against some commission members) to give Charles Wadsworth, chamber music director for the Spoleto Festival, a Verner Award. (That's the biggest arts award the state gives, although sometimes it doesn't seem to mean much but when it goes to someone like Wadsworth its value increases.)
He's also, as one might imagine, quite a political player and served as deputy lieutenant governor and assistant to chief of staff to the S.C. House speaker. (We don't hold that against him, it was a long time ago. And his real name is Charles Ferillo Jr. and he's originally from Charleston, but that's OK too.)
Ferillo is someone you'll see at a lot of art events all over the state and he's a liberal.
One of his first task is to lead the commission is finding a new head for the agency, which like most, has been buffered by budget cuts. Long-time director Suzy Surkamer retired last month as 15 years as director and 35 with the agency. He replaces Linda Stern, also of Columbia, who has been chair for six years.

The commission also awarded fellowship to four artists: Terrance Henderson (left) of Columbia for dance performance; Jill Bahr of Charleston for choreography; Kim Keats of Beaufort for craft and Damond Howard for visual arts. The fellowship consists of an unrestricted $5,000 cash award - a big deal for nearly any artists.

Henderson has been artistic director of Vibrations Dance Company for a decade where he works as a choreographer as well as dancer (he's probably more active as a choreographer both for dances and lots of musical theater.)
Bahr is long-time choreographer for the Charleston Ballet Theatre.
Howard teaches at Claflin University in Orangeburg and previously taught at Benedict College in Columbia. (Right, one of his images which explore racial stereotypes.) He's lived in the state for four or five years and his work is impressive, but hasn't been shown very often - because it probably scares most places to death.
Keats has been an active artist in South Carolina for more than two decades and is best known for her wood sculptures. She's won tons of awards, but probably never gotten the kind of widespread recognition she deserves.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nude Wednesday! Piano fest! Weekend stuff!

Since the summer of 2003, Columbia has been a center of piano music thanks to the Southeastern Piano Festival. The festival at the University of South Carolina, directed by pianist and faculty member Marina Lomazov, (left) has brought to the hot summer some stellar musicians including Olga Kern, Jon Nakamatsu and Columbia resident Philip Bush.
For the public this year offers more of those including a concert by Ran Dank, who was one of 12 semi-finalists in the Van Cliburn piano competition (which is still going on although he got bumped earlier this week) and Christopher Taylor, described by the New York times as “a demonically intense artist with a stunning technique and searching intellect.”
For about 20 pianists between 12 and 18 it’s also a terrific training ground. What some of them learned can be seen in a concert by three previous winners of the festival’s competition.
“We’re trying to tell people it’s not an iconoclastic event with the same old thing every year,” Lomazov said. “It’s a living, breathing organization that’s responding to the needs of the next generation of pianist.”
One of that next generation is Leo Svirsky, 2005 winner of the piano festival competition. He and Olga Krayterman, 2003 winner, and Sonya Schumann, 2004 winner, will give a concert.
“Oh, I’m really excited about it,” said Svirsky, 19, while getting a haircut in Maryland this week. “I asked Marina if there was some way we could come back and participate.”
Svirsky has participated in five festivals and came last year just to watch. Back in '03, he a funny, baby-faced boy of 13. Now he looks like Bob Dylan, circa 1967. (That's him now and goofing at an early fest.)
And like Bob, he’s exploring a lot of different sorts of music. He's in the experimental music group Baby Killer Estelle and has been in another group that performed inside a giant octopus sculpture. Alas, he will not be bringing the beast to the piano fest but he will play a many armed program by Franz Liszt and
Gyorgy Ligeti.
“It’s been really exciting to see the festival grow and grow so quickly,” said Svirsky, who has performed at the Contemporary Music Forum, the Library of Congress and at the Kremlin.
“The piano festival is something unique for young musicians. It’s rare for young pianists to get such a high level of instruction and work with musicians of such a high caliber.”

The mus
Main concerts $20; $5 for college students; free for those under 18.
6 p.m. Sunday, June 7
Opening concert by Lomazov, Charles Fugo and Joseph Rackers (also USC and festival faculty).
Fugo opens with Mozart’s Rondo in A Minor, “Gnomenreigen” by Liszt and Barcarolle in F-sharp major by Chopin. Rackers follows with part of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and Rachmaninoff and Scriabin etudes. Lomazov is doing an unusual, for her, program of all contemporary works: “Serpent’s Kiss” a movement from the 1969 “Garden of Eden Suite” by William Bolcom (she played it in New York last month) and “Six Strokes” a 2000 piece by Carter Pann.

8 p.m. Tuesday, June 9
Ran Dank plays “Douze Notations” from 1985 by Pierre Boulez (first composed in 1945 and reworked between 1978 and 1985); Sonata quasi una Fantasia in E-flat major by Beethoven; Sonata No. 8 by Scriabin; “Reminiscences de Norma” by Liszt; and Sonata No. 6 in A Major by Prokofiev. The native of Israel, Dank won the 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions

8 p.m. Wednesday, June 10
Yakov Kasman performs Bach’s Largo (from Sonata for Organ in C Major); Tchaikovsky’s “Seasons;” Sonata No. 2 in D Minor by Prokofiev and ends with Rachmaninoff’s Sonta No. 1 in D Minor.
Kasman, a native of Russia, studied at the Moscow Conservatory, and teaches at the University of Alabama. He won the silver medal at Van Cliburn in 1997.

8 p.m. Thursday, Jun 11
Christopher Taylor couples Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” with “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” a 1976 work by Frederic Rzewski based on a liberation song from Chile and inspired in part by Bach’s variations.
Taylor is a champion of music written during the last 100 years and is well-known for his performances of demanding works by Olivier Messiaen, Gyorgy Ligeti and William Bolcom. He's played a 130-minute monument by Messiaen from memory. At another concert he took on Ligeti's s complete etudes,
In 1993, Taylor won the bronze medal in the Van Cliburn competition, the first American to do so since 1981. Along with his piano studies, he also earned a degree in math from Harvard. With highest honors.

8 p.m. Monday, June 8
Previous winners perform works by Brahms, Liszt, Schubert and Ligeti.

10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, July 12
Piano competition

7 p.m. Saturday, June 13
Winners concert
For a full schedule

That's not the only musical training program with something for the public coming up. The Conductor's Institute at the music school starts Monday and brings in 35 participants from as close as West Columbia and as far away as Taiwan and Manitoba. You can come and watch the fledgling conductors flap their wings Monday, June 8 through June 20 (except for June 14) from9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Koger Center. The young musicians from the piano festival will be taking part in some of the sessions as well. (803) 777-7500.

Nude Wednesday!
"Bath" by Eliana Perez

What's coming up
Poetry and plants and animals appear to be the theme of “The Art of Farming” at the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens. Zoo poet-in-residence Edward Madden will lead a workshop today (Thursday) from 6 to 8 p.m.
A reception with reading, a photo exhibition and food takes place at the same time Sunday.
It’s all free. Call (803) 777-1731.

Did you know that Joel Chandler Harris, who took African-American folktales and put his name on them, and Alice Walker were both from Eatonton, Ga? And that Walker wrote a scathing essay titled "Uncle Remus, No Friend of Mine." (It's north of Milledgeville, Georgia's Antebellum capital and south of I-20.)

A new version of the "Brer Rabbit" story, tying it more closely to its African roots, opens at Trustus Theatre opens Thursday, June 4 and continues on an off through June 13.

An art show by Kenneth Gutzler opens Thursday, June 4 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Frame of Mind on Main Street.
This is the first time he has shown his paintings which will be on display through June 30.

This is a show after my own heart: art that starts with coffee.
Eliana Perez (her art is at below left) is showing drawings that start with coffee stains on paper and grow from there. Titled “Brewing,” it opens at 7 p.m. Saturday at Friday Cottage, a great alternative space in what was once residential downtown Columbia.
Perez, a native of the other Colombia who lives in New York, has created a number of pieces this week since arriving in Columbia. 1830 Henderson St.

It’s amazing what high school students can do. The work of Brookland - Cayce High School advanced placement art students can be seen Friday, June 5 from 5-8 p.m. at 1329 State St. in Cayce.

A new exhibition on traditional pottery opens Friday, June 5 at the S.C. State Museum. "Tangible History: Stoneware from the Holcombe Family Collection" consists of 50 pieces of
pottery from Edgefield and the Upstate including rare pieces by many of the best-know pot makers.
And don't forget the excellent Robert Courtright collage show is still on display.

Janna McMahan will sign copies of her new novel "The Ocean Inside" at Barnes and Noble at noon Saturday, June 6. The second novel by the Columbia writer is set on the South Carolina Coast.

The 701 Center for the Contemporary Art continues its performance series with the jazz/rock/whatever group Your Bad Self. YBS is made up of the members of Charleston’s New Music Collective along with some Nu Yawk players.
8 p.m. Saturday, June 6. $10; $8 for center members; $5 for students.

This is also the final weekend for the Spoleto Festival in Charleston.
Best bets for the big festival: Noche Flamenca, flamenco music and dance Thursday, Friday and Saturday (June 4 - 6); “Good Cop, Bad Cop” by a Dutch theater company Thursday through Sunday (June 4 -7 ); chamber music at 11 and 1 daily; and the crazy fun sexy theater piece “Don John,” every day- if you can get a ticket.
If you're in Charleston Friday the French Quarter Art Walk takes place from 5 to 8 p.m.
Among the galleries taking part are the Corringan Gallery where you can see new works by Lynn Riding and Mary Walker; the Robert Lange Gallery, Ann Long Fine Art and many others.

And do not forget this is your last weekend to see “Turner to Cezanne” at the Columbia Museum of Art.