Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three old white guys, Haydn death day, drums and violins, a play about a man with no head - for starters

This week’s format is slightly different because things going on during the next several days are better organized by connections rather than dates. To make life easier (for all of us, because even through I write this stuff I also use it to keep track of what’s going on) here’s a highlight list. The bigger stuff is expounded upon below that.

Thursday, Oct. 15
Poet Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate, and a guy who most of us would like to have a drink with, will give a reading at 6 p.m. at the USC Business School Auditorium.
How can you pass up a reading by a poet who wrote a book called The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems? It’s free. Call (803) 777-3142.

Opening reception for “Paintings and Drawings of the Last 20 Years” by Alex Powers of Myrtle Beach. City Art Gallery, 6 – 8 p.m. 1224 Lincoln St. (803) 252-1830.

A panel discussion in conjunction with the exhibition “Ceramics: Southeast” at the USC art department with artists Don Davis, Scott Meyer and Gay Smith moderated by USC professor Virginia Scotchie. At 4 p.m. followed by a reception from 5 to 7. Senate and Pickens Streets. Call (803) 777-4236.

The annual production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” starts at 8 tonight at the West Columbia riverfront park amphitheater. Through Oct. 31. $12 and $10 for kids.

Friday, Oct. 16
Philip Morsberger ("Blithe Spirit #2" pictured) and David Yaghjian exhibitions open at Gallery 80808. Reception 5 – 9. 808 Lady St. (803) 238-2351

Eleanor Heartney, curator of “The State Art Collection: Contemporary Conversations,” gives a talk at 6 p.m. at 701 Center for Contemporary Art. “The Biennial Paradox” is the talk title and for those who keep up with the every two-year gnashing of teeth in contemporary art circles, this will make sense. For others, come and find out. You can see the exhibition too. Free. 701 Whaley St. (803) 779-4571. (See Monday for another Heartney talk.)

"Hunchback of Notre Dame" by the Columbia Classical Ballet, Oct. 16 at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Koger Center. (803) 251-2222 or

Saturday, Oct. 17
S.C. Philharmonic, 7:30 p.m. Koger Center. (Same ticket contacts as for “Hunchback.)

Monday, Oct. 19
Art Today - Tales of Plastic Surgery, Genetically Altered Rabbits, and Other Acts of Art a discussion about contemporary art, followed by a book signing by curator Eleanor Heartney. 6 p.m. 701 Center for Contemporary Art. (See Friday's list for details.)

Tuesday, Oct. 20
USC Symphony, 7:30 p.m. Koger Center. (Same ticket contacts as for the S.C. Phil.)

Wednesday, Oct. 21
The literary series "Caught in the Creative Act" starts with a visit from novelist and poet Ron Rash. The native of Chester Springs, S.C. is the author of the novels Saints at the River, The World Made Straight and Serena. 5:45 p.m. Gambrell Auditorium, USC. Free. Limited seating. Go to

"Tap Dogs,” a dancing musical, making a tour stop at the Koger Center. 7:30 p.m. Same ticket contacts as for the USC Symphony.

Art shows by three old white guys

I mean that in the best possible way.
The three are Alex Powers, Philip Morseberger and David Yaghjian. (That's Yaghjian's "Back Bend" is at the top of the page and at 60, he isn’t really old.)

The art scene is often about the young and the reckless, but all these artists provide an insight and approach only discovered during decades of making art and living life.

The three are technically quite accomplished, use the human figure in their art and have a lot to say. All take
an introspective look at the human condition, all of it kind of personal, but also universal.

I am a little biased in their favor because I’ve written about and have sort of known all of them for quite a few years. Being a middle-aged white guy, their art also speaks to many of my own concerns. And I really like their art.
We’re lucky to have three artists with overlapping interests and approaches all showing at once.

Alex Powers has long been a presence in the Palmetto State. Many people know him for his work as a teacher, leading watercolor workshops all over. He's also won tons of awards in national watercolor society shows and been featured in various watercolor-oriented magazines and books.

But, and this is a big but, Powers paintings, if they can be called that, hardly seem to fit into what one could called the watercolor world of art.

“Paintings and Drawings of the Last 20 Years”
showcases about 20 large works on paper, most with a lot of drawing in charcoal, some watercolor washes, text (which can sometimes be read clearly, sometimes not) and introspective statements with each work.

(Pictured above is a detail of "I've Always Been Disappointed" and "Absolute Truth," left)

Powers, 69, often addresses social and political issues in his work and the movement and sketchy nature of his figures does as much to telling the story as the text. Well-known historical figures, Charles Darwin and Frederick Nietzche for example, sometimes appear in his work, but mostly the people who occupy his art are more likely to be the proverbial “everymman." His bent is decidedly liberal. Written across the top of one piece is “The richest 20 percent of American households claimed 91 percent of the increase in wealth between 1983 and 1998.”

And for those who may not want that much political content, he also does art about baseball.

The gallery has created a handsome installation for the show, putting up white wood panels on the brick walls and mounting the drawings simply beneath Plexiglas. It flows like a book.
The exhibition remains on display until Oct. 31. City Art, 1224 Lincoln St. (803) 252-3613

Philip Morsberger of Augusta and David Yaghjian of Columbia will share the space at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios in exhibitions by if Art Gallery. The show opens Friday from 5 to 9.

“Time Travelers” is Morsberger’s first exhibition in Columbia. It' composed of recent work, but when you look at the dates you'll see that he worked on some of these paintings for a decade or more.

Morsberger landed in our neighborhood when he became Williams S. Morris Eminent Scholar in Art at Augusta State University in the 1990s, after stints teaching at Harvard and Dartmoth and as Ruskin Master of Drawing at Oxford University from 1971 to 1984.

During the 1960s his paintings often addressed the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

So this might sound like a darn serious artist and he is that. But a good deal of his figurative work is in fact derived from cartoon images. They have a joyful character to them, but sometimes there’s a dark undercurrent. Morsberger, 76, himself is warm and friendly and I have a great photo of him wearing a Tin Tin T-shirt. (Pictured is his "Tick Tock." The show will also have some of his abstract paintings.)

I hadn't talked to Morsberger in about a year and when I called him the other day, I asked if he was painting as much as usual.

"Only seven days a week," he said.

The title of Yaghjian’s show “Dancing Man” is a little ironic. The "everyman" (that guy again) in these artworks does dance, but does so with a sort of grim determination and look of puzzlement at times.

They remind me a little of the writings in James Thurber’s book The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze, especially since Yaghjian has done a painting of a middle-aged man on the flying trapeze.

Yaghjian’s technical chops just keep getting better too and he's developing some new approachs as can be seen in "Floating." (above right)
A native of Columbia, Yaghjian studied at Amherst College, the Art Students League and the School of Visual Art. He lived in the Northeast and was in Atlanta for 15 years before returning to Columbia in 2000. “Dancing Man” is his first solo exhibition here since then.

An opening reception for the shows takes place Friday, Oct. 16 from 5 to 9. The shows remains up through Oct. 27.

USC musicians in spotlight on the big stage

USC music school faculty members share the spotlight with Columbia orchestras this week.
Bassoonist Peter Kolkay plays Wolfgang Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major with the S.C. Philharmonic Saturday night. Written in 1774 when the composer was only 18, the bassoon concerto was his first piece for wind instrument and the only one that’s survived. It’s also quite popular.

Kolkay, who joined the USC music school in 2006 and principal bassoonist with the Philharmonic, was the first bassoonist to win the top prize in the Concert Artists Guild International Competition and the Avery Fisher Career Grant. He was in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's program for young musicians and has performed at the chamber music series of the Spoleto Festival USA.

The orchestra will also play two works by Franz Joseph Haydn – “Te deum for the Empress Maria Therese,” with the Columbia Choral Society and Coker College Singers and the Symphony No. 94 in G major.

This year is the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death so he's getting a lot of attention. He was not only a long-lived and prolific composer, he greatly advanced the symphony and string quartet forms - his music is the very definition of "classical." He was a mentor to both Mozart and Beethoven and apparently a nice guy as well.

“Te Deum” was completed in 1800 in honor of Marie Therese, the wife of Austria’s Holy Roman Emperor Francis II.

And yes, I double-checked that Symphony No. 94 – The number is correct. He wrote 104 as well as 68 string quartets. This from 1791 work is one of his 12 “London symphonies” written while he was living in England. The “Surprise” is because of a sudden fortissimo chord during the opening theme of the quiet second movement. That's a bit of a misnomer since Haydn’s music contained frequent surprises.

The orchestra will also play “Perpetuum mobile” a complex polka by Johann Strauss Jr. and H.K. Gruber’s comic deconstruction of it “Charivari.” Music director Morihiko Nakahara seems to think the later will drive everyone slightly mad.

The whole concert is launched by Antonio Salieri’s Overture to ‘Cublai, gran kan’ de Tartari.”

Actually the whole night starts with beer and brats. For $10, guests can load up on sausage with sauerkraut, peppers and onions, German potato salad, dessert and a beer. Humm, I’ll make not comment about the extra brass this might add to the concert.

Eating starts at 6 and you should buy an advance ticket for it by calling (803) 254-PHIL.

Nakahara will give a pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. No doubt with his mouth full.

Tickets for the 7:30 concert range in price from $12 to $42 and are available by going to or calling (803) 251-2222.

Scott Herringis on the USC Music School faculty and a member of the Shiraz Trio, a percussion group that will perform “The Glory and the Grandeur,” a 1988 composition by Russell Peck with the USC Symphony Orchestra Tuesday.

“This is the first time we have played this piece, and the first time we have appeared as a group with the orchestra,” said Herring, pictured in the center of the group. "The piece is very audience friendly and visually captivating, blending elements of traditional percussion ensemble with an orchestra accompaniment that is decidedly influenced by popular music and jazz. The group plays two xylophones, vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, crotales, several Chinese opera gongs, multiple tom-toms, bass drums, snare drums, cymbals, and a variety of small hand percussion instruments. At times, two of us will be playing on one vibraphone and all three of us on one marimba!”

The other two members of the trio are Susan Powell, director of percussion studies at Ohio State University and Joseph Krygier, who is also with Ohio State.

That night, you can also hear Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1887 'Capriccio Espagnol," which also features a large percussion section and, as the title suggests, Spanish melodies.

Last, but not least is Alexander Borodin’s (left) Symphony No. 2, completed in 1876, and his most important large-scale work. It took him about eight years to write – after all, his full time job was as a chemistry professor. Some people are just really, really smart.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert are $25 and available through the same sources as the S.C. Philharmonic.

The world comes to Sumter
I’ll have to admit I’ve been a little out of the loop on Sumter’s annual installation art show “Accessibility” during the past few years. This year’s event, opening Friday, Oct. 16 from 6 to 9, sounds really terrific.
“Accessibility 2009: Cross Currents” focuses on film, video and new media from artists coming to Sumter from Taiwan, Israel, Buenos Aires, New York California and Manitoba, Canada.
A quick run down of some of the artists and art:
Jarod Charzewski’s art examines landscapes and people, man-made structures among nature. He’s done two large-scale pieces working with the people of Sumter.
Yaron Lapid is an Israeli artist who lives in London. “The New Zero plays on the photography and history.
Clint Enns of Winnipeg has created a movie from film footage found in thrift shops.
Blu is a graffiti artist and muralist from Bologna, Italy.
Robert Fraher’s “No Horse In Particular” combines photography, digital illustration, interactivity, and custom software development.
“OM” by Jen-Kuang Chang’s is an audiovisual piece, which explores the universal sacred syllable used in Eastern religions.
Magsamen & Hillerbrand is a collaborative team, creating video installations.
“The Ambient Medium” by Bill Domonkos is created of manipulated film footage, special effects and animation inspired by 19th century spirit photography.
For information call (803) 775-0543 or go to

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