Sunday, October 4, 2009

A busy weekend

I pride myself on how much stuff I go to: concerts, plays, art shows, dance performances.
This weekend, because there was so much going on, I decided to jam in as much as art I could.
Here’s most of it. If you were there, hello, again. If not, here’s what you missed.

Seeing old friends

The first installment of “The State Art Collection: Contemporary Conversations” opened Thursday night at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. The show is made up of about 60 pieces done by 45 artists during the past 50 years.

Some of this art I had seen when it was made in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and seeing it again was like visiting old friends who had been away too long.

While it was good to see the artworks I had met many years ago, seeing some I’d never laid eyes upon was even better. Some works, like Dave Appleman’s “Quatrafoil #1” from 1973 would have looked really old-fashioned and out of date in the early ‘90s. It’s a geometric, abstract work on a clover-shape canvas. Now, nearly 40 years later, it looks good.

The late J. Bardin was one of the better known artists to come out of Columbia, but his glowing abstract paintings are inconsistent. The one in this show “Aegean Night” from 1965 has to be one of his best.

Then there's something big and black and white and out of the blue like Rose Anne Featherston's "AJX"from 1982. (right)

Late in the evening someone noticed that because of a reflection in the glass gallery doors it looked like those entering the gallery were walking through – like ghosts – B.J. Zhang’s sculpture “Doors of the Forbidden.” (top)

The turnout for the opening was good, but I had hoped to see more artists from around the state who have work in
the show. And it was surprising how many artists who live in Columbia where not there either.

This first installment is on display until Nov. 1 and the next opens a few days later. 701 Whaley St. (You can read a more in-depth piece about the exhibition by checking out my Sept. 26 story below. And I plan to review it soon.)

Out of the face
Before heading to that show I stopped briefly at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios to see the third show in about three weeks by the About Face art group. The group, which focuses on figure and portrait art done from life, has a show of figurative pieces in the Columbia Museum of Art education gallery. The show is OK. Then About Face did a landscape show at 808 which was, ironically, stronger.

The current offering is “Out of the Box,” for which the artists were supposed to do something they don’t normally do. That generally would mean non-figurative works. Since the group just did a landscape show, it wouldn’t make sense to put landscape art in “Out of the Box.” There are a lot of figure and landscape works in this show.

But some artists got the idea.
Dan Greshel created a sculpture of an overnight travel case filled with Styrofoam cups, plastic utensils and other junk and dubbed it “White Trash Reliquary.”

Taryn Shekitka's piece is figurative, but the lines of the figure are made from a few strands of human hair, so it really does fall “Out of the Box - Changing Faces.”

Hannah Liv Tvedten has on display a lineup of lovely hand-made books with multicolor leather covers. But her real contribution is a set up where you can make your own collage out of blocks of colored paper. (Above right) You make one, you take one that’s already been done, and leave the one you made. It was fun and engaging, simple enough that anyone could do it and simple enough to provide a challenge to artists as well.

The show is up through Tuesday, Oct. 6.

A great concert - but no world premiere

The first Southern Exposure concert of the year was Friday and I got an early start because I needed to meet friends who don’t have reserved seats. So I was there at 45 mintues before the concert started and we got three seats together. That’s not easy even coming that early. Southern Exposure has a lot of reserved seats and a big turnout.

The group Real Quiet played an incredible concert with music by Mark Mellits, Lou Harrison, Jacob ter Veldhuis and others. There were some issues – but more on that later.

The group is an unusual combination – cello, piano and percussion. Percussionist David Cossin played everything from a little jazz drum kit to brake drums (that’s an automobile part, not a type of drum) and rice bowls. Pianist Andrew Russo does a good bit of playing inside the piano as well as beating, but not too hard, on the piano case. Most of the music doesn’t call for cellist Felix Fan to abuse his instrument much.

All of them showed off various “extended techniques” in “Wild Pitch” by Annie Gosfield, the first piece every written for the group. The group also showed its range in Harrison’s “Varied Trio” that includes the aforementioned rice bowls and other strong Asian influences as well as a movement that’s homage to the mid-18th century Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard in the style of music of his time.

When at the start of the concert the audience was told the program had been somewhat changed, I had my suspicions about what was going to happen. I was right. The group was supposed to do the world premiere of “Things Like That’ by ter Veldhuis. It didn’t.

It turns out Real Quiet received the piece only that day and wasn’t ready to perform it. An apologetic Russo told me later that it would have sounded terrible if they had.

I had made a pretty big deal about the premiere last week so I was a bit put out. I want readers to know they can trust me to provide accurate information and I like to know that I can trust my sources to give me accurate information. But this was a real anomaly. The concert organizers really didn’t know until the last minute that it was off.

And there was an upside. Russo instead played ter Veldhuis’ “The Body of Your Dreams” for solo piano and manipulated voices from an infomercial for an abdominal exercise machine. Rarely have I heard such humor and beauty mesh so well.

A big Saturday
First stop: Friday Cottage, the place on Henderson Street downtown that’s been doing neat small shows in the rustic first floor. It was the perfect setting for Diana Farfan’s “We Human Marionettes,’’ a show of sculptures in puppet form made mostly of clay and found objects.

The pieces are lovely and disturbing – distressed looking figures controlled by wires and usually unseen hands. One figure flies through the air, manipulated by another in “I Trust Therefore I Fly.” Two male figures with thermometers embedded in their heads face off in “A Measured Love.” More simple, and more effective in its simplicity, is “Too Much Hope” – a figure with rusty wings sitting on a swing.
The show remains on display through Oct. 23. (803) 397-7686.

Then it was off to more figures moving, strings pulled by fine choreographers. This is a big and busy year for the burgeoning USC dance program and the first offering of the season was fine mix called “On the Edge: Classics to Contemporary.”

The night started with the second act of “Giselle,” with choreography from around 1900 by Marius Petipa and music by Adolph Adam, staged by Kyra Strasberg, a USC dance instructor and former member of the Boston Ballet. The 30 or so dancers did an admirable job, although anyone who has seen a professional company dance "Giselle" might have been under whelmed. USC is not a classical dance conservatory.

I had seen a sneak preview of “Stout Breakdown” choreographed by USC instructor Tanya Wideman-Davis and expected this to be very much a formal exercise. It wasn’t. It was an exciting, dynamic piece with very fine dancing and some really engaging sections especially when several dancers were tethered together with a long white rope. Great music too, heavy on the percussion.

Alan Hineline’s “Theresholds (v. 2.2)” for me was a wonderful way to end the night. The choreographer has stated that the work “pushes classical ballet to its edges” and I can’t ague with that. It was athletic and edgy and completely mesmerizing.

From there it was over to a run-down gymnasium on the USC campus. The gym, former home of the ROTC with the words “Tact,” “Decisiveness,” and “Initiative” stenciled on the all, has been taken over by the USC theater department and dubbed The Center for Performance Experiment.

Not too much experimental was going on with “Cosi,” a fairly mainstream play set in a mental hospital where a green young directors is strong-armed into helping the patients stage Mozart’s opera “Cosi Fan Tutte.” Funny and profound events transpire. It’s a well-made play that explores some serious social issues, set as it is in the 1970s against a background of the Vietnam war and feminism.

The space with its ugly paint job, torn up ceiling and steel mesh-covered windows made a good mental hospital. But one can only do so much with a batch of stock characters.
The first act ran 90 minutes, it was 11:30 p.m. I left.

Where's the nature out here?
I had a couple outings planned for Sunday, but life ran long and this thing had to be written at some point.

So I only made it to Saluda Shoals Park for “unearth.” The park on the Saluda River has been inviting artists to create art along the pathways of the park for several years. When I first heard about it, I was pretty excited having seen the incredible earth-based artworks at the S.C. Botanical Gardens in Clemson and other similar works in Charleston.

But that isn’t what the park had in mind – at least not for the most part. What it mostly offers isn’t very adventuresome or good. Artists sitting in the woods painting from photographs taken elsewhere doesn’t quiet cut if for me when it comes to nature-based artwork.

That said, a few artists were making art not only about the place, but from the place.
Susan Lenz used leaves gathered from the park to decorate fabric. Heidi Darr-Hope had created a huge mandala (above) from shells, pine straw, flowers. Jemes Davis was carving nearly life-sized figures from trees which folks in the city had chopped down.

A few painters were working from the nature of the area, but not many.

The park was also abuzz with motorized vehicles: a wagon and a train-like tram carried visitors who didn’t want to have too much contact with nature. Folks working at the park cut through the grass on four-wheel drive carts. They filled the fresh air with gas fumes and noise.

There are good nature-based art projects around the state and country and artists in this areas who have worked in that arena or would love to. The park might have come up with something really unique if it had made the effort. The project that is "unearth" looks little different than what one can find at various festival held on blocked-off streets of Irmo or Columbia.
But the weather was nice.

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