State of the Arts 2004
Good flicks, hot tix, and our picks.
Fall Arts Preview
This fall, there are reasons galore to
stay right here in the county—
we’ll tell you where to see the
coolest art, hear the hottest music
and catch the latest flicks
By Nancy Claus Giles
Two years ago, we touted the burgeoning arts renaissance in Peekskill, perhaps a wee bit prematurely. Fast forward to today.
While still a work in progress (with an occasional glitch or two along the way), Peekskill is definitely undergoing something—both exciting and worth checking out. Not only has the number of new galleries grown dramatically (among them The Casola, The Sycamore, 25N, Maxwell Fine Arts), but the number of artists living in town (now close to 150) has, too, thanks in part to a new town edict requiring artist loft space to be incorporated into the top floor of any new renovation. Along with great river views and an artsy ambience, Peekskill boasts a number of intriguing eateries (notably JK Restaurant & Bar, Division Street Grill and Ravena Diner). The Paramount Center For the Arts continues to bring in very cool acts. And finally, three months ago, the eagerly anticipated Hudson Valley Museum for Contemporary Art opened its doors.
It was well worth the wait. Weird, wild and woolly things by young, cutting-edge artists reside in this 12,500-square-foot white box. Among them: Chen Zhen’s “healing” drums made of yak skin; Mona Hatoum’s seemingly innocuous kitchen utensils buzzing with a live current (warning of the dark underbelly of domesticity?); Helene Aylon’s Earth Ambulance with flashing lights; Jason Rhoades’s interpretation of Sutter’s Mill, the California gold rush town with its river of discarded clothes (looking uncannily like a teen’s bedroom floor).
In one corner, art was happily making itself; powder filtered out onto the wall as a motorized hammer hit a pigment-filled net. A so-called process piece, Rebecca Horn’s The Pigment of a Whole Ocean Stored on a Sponge, recreates itself each time it is installed. Works by other trendy young artists, including Gregor Schneider and Tom Friedman, are on display as well.
“This space gave us a challenge,” admits Livia Straus, who, with her husband, oncologist and poet Marc Straus, is the driving force behind the center, housed in the former Panelrama building on Main Street. “Our vision was for it to be educational, because art impacts who we are and what we do. There are different ways to make a statement, and this art will affect people in different ways.”
The Strauses, who reside in Chappaqua have been collecting art for 35 years. They conceived of the center to house their ever-increasing collection of contemporary art, some by relatively unknown artists, others already considered contemporary classics, like Frank Stella’s Zolder and Dan Flavin’s cool white fluorescent tube sculptures.
“Westchester—and Peekskill, in particular—should be thrilled to have access to such a wide range of contemporary art,” says Dede Young, curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Neuberger Museum. “The site is really terrific, and I particularly like their way of drawing out a theme of continuity that encourages viewers to spend time considering connections among disparate works of art.”
The current exhibit explores two themes: symbolic space and repetition. Entering the main gallery—a brightly lit, big white box with soaring 25-foot ceilings—you effortlessly progress from one display to another. Symbolic Space is a study of the influence of architecture on the work of 43 artists from 17 countries. “Each work has an underlying architectural element,” Straus explains, “which is a powerful symbol and metaphor.” Those yak-skin drums, for instance, link health with drum (read: heart) beats. One drum is framed with a homey headboard, the other a hospital bed. And yes, you are allowed to gently beat on them while joining in a ritual mantra. Feel better?
Upstairs on the mezzanine level, the process of repetition is explored—over and over again—in a series of exhibits that includes Richard Long’s Cornwall Circle, consisting of 172 pieces of artfully arranged Cornish slate; Magdalena Abakanowicz’s 5 Figures from the Cycle Crowd and Jeff Koon’s famed Two Balls 50/50 Tank.
Straus admits that not everyone will “get” the art. You may, in fact, be disturbed by some of it. Maria Marshall’s video of a toddler appearing to drag on a cigarette, then disappearing in a cloud of smoke (it’s just an illusion), can be disconcerting, as can the Laundrette installation by Thomas Hirschhorn, with its video images of firing squads, mutilation and decomposing bodies set in a seemingly benign laundromat. Bruce Nauman’s video of a clown jumping up and down screaming “No! No! No!” is oddly reminiscent of a toddler’s temper tantrum. While there is nothing here to offend on the scale of the notorious Andres Serrano Piss Christ print, or Damien Hirst’s sharks and cows preserved in formaldehyde, which caused an uproar when exhibited in Brooklyn, the work of the same artists is on exhibit here.
Then there are the totally accessible, totally fun exhibits. It’s hard not to
smile at artist-in-residence Sandra Tomboloni’s fantasy furnishings. A native of Florence, Italy, Tomboloni forages Peekskill’s streets and garbage dumps for cast-off furniture pieces, then covers them with plastiline, a Play Doh-like substance. The result? A
purple crib loaded with many multi-colored mattresses (like the Princess and the Pea’s bedding on LSD) or an upside-down dollhouse with the whimsical dolls hiding inside.
Think of Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art as Dia:Beacon’s little sibling: same concept sharing similar DNA, but in a much smaller space. You’ll be glad you came.
exhibitions: our picks
John Cohen: There Is No Eye
October 17, 2004 – January 2, 2005
At The Neuberger Museum, Purchase
Looking for a blast from the past? You’ll get a virtual lesson in the Bohemian New York art and music scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s through John Cohen’s 133 gelatin and silver print photographs of the era’s icons: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Franz Kline, Red Grooms, Philip Guston, Alan Kaprow, Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson and an extremely young Bob Dylan, among others. In fact, the exhibition title is taken from Dylan’s liner notes to his 1965 album, Highway 61 Revisited. Cohen, a musician (he inspired the Grateful Dead song “Uncle John’s Band”) and former visual arts professor at Purchase College, was part of the urban folk revival of the 1960s. And now he’s come home again.
(Paintings and Drawings)
August 29, 2004 – February 13, 2005
At The Neuberger Museum, Purchase
One look at her cool, contemporary landscapes tells you why April Gornick is considered one of the most prominent landscape painters today. Her work often has been linked to the famed Hudson River School. But, whereas the 19th-century painters recorded images exactly as they saw them, Gornick is more interested in capturing the “experience” of the landscape, combining romantic landscape painting with her own distinct vision. Gornick’s works have been on view at the Danese and Edward Thorp Galleries in New York City and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among other galleries and museums. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the world though Gornick’s eyes: approaching storms at sea, sunlit Umbrian fields, dramatic cloud formations with lightning strikes, trees at sunset on the Palatine Hill. More than 40 paintings and drawings, both large- and small-scale, from the past 24 years are on display.
Eternal Presence: Handprints and Footprints in Buddhist Art
October 17, 2004 - January 9, 2005
At The Katonah Museum of Art Katonah
The Eternal Presence exhibition explores handprints and footprints in Buddhist art. Approximately 60 objects, sculptures and paintings made in Tibet, India, China, Pakistan, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand and Japan, from the 2nd century B.C. through the 20th century, will be on display, many for the first time.
Shahzia Sikander: NemesisBottle: Contemporary Art and Vernacular Tradition
September 19, 2004 - January 2, 2005
At The Aldrich Museum of
Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT
A recent $9 million renovation doubled the size of the original Aldrich Museum to 25,000 square feet, allowing it to accommodate a wide range of artwork of all types and sizes. Sol LeWitt’s wall drawing, for example, covers a whopping 1,800 square feet of wall space. Pakistani Shahzia Sikander’s new show consists of recent animations, drawings and a site-specific installation of drawings on the Museum’s new 16-square-foot art wall in the atrium. Also opening is an exploration of how bottles are used in art today and what they mean as archetypal objects in our culture. Participating artists include Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst and Charles Ray, among others. The outdoor sculpture garden will be completed in the spring. Tip: Through September 5, membership to the Aldrich is also good for visits to the Katonah Museum of Art and The Bruce Museum in Greenwich—and vice versa.
Think back, way back, to the Golden Age of Cinema: when going out for a movie was a big deal, when theaters had glamorous names like The Palace or The Ritz, with ritzy, glitzy interiors to match—lush velvet drapes, plush leather seats and intricate murals painted on the walls and ceilings; indeed, the very antithesis of cookie-cutter multiplexes with their sticky concrete floors and lackluster lobbies. The latest grand dame to be brought back to glory is The Tarrytown Music Hall, one of the oldest movie theaters in Westchester. It has now come full circle and (applause, applause) will once again show films in its spacious 840-seat art deco space. It’s come a long way since the late ’70s when, shuttered and in disrepair, it was threatened by the wrecking ball.
Built in 1885 and considered among the finest examples of Queen Anne-style decorative brick work in the country, the Music Hall was one of the first theaters to show silent films in 1901 and continued screening films until the 1970s. “Then, it almost became a parking lot,” says Karina Ringeisen, who together with Bjorn ölsson, manages the theater. In the late 1970s, a proposal was presented to the village to actually tear it down and put up a parking lot (Joni Mitchell, are you listening?). Concerned local residents calling themselves The Friends of the Mozartina didn’t think this was progress. They stepped in to save the day—and the theater. Ironically, this group was headed by Ringeisen’s parents—talk about having theater in your blood! “My parents couldn’t imagine letting this place be destroyed,” Ringeisen says. “And even though they both had full-time jobs—my dad was a teacher at Fordham and my mom taught piano—they ran this place in their spare time for free. I basically grew up here.”
And she stayed. The Friends of the Mozartina is a non-profit organization which owns and operates the theater, and, for the past 20 years, the Music Hall has been run mostly by volunteers. In addition to covering the costs of running the theater, the Friends have made extensive renovations and capital improvements. It has not been easy. Ringeisen recalls: “Buckets of water used to pour through the leaks in the ceiling during performances.”
Now, with its new roof, spiffed-up exterior (including the new neon art deco marquee that went up two years ago) and upgraded plumbing and electricity, the Music Hall is once again ready for its close-up. And, though it hasn’t shown films in decades, its quirky, turn-of-the-last-century good looks have drawn a slew of movie scouts: The Preacher’s Wife with Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington, The Imposters with Stanley Tucci, Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts, and The Secret Lives of Dentists with Campbell Scott all had scenes shot in the Music Hall. “Broadway: The American Musical,” slated to air on PBS this fall, was filmed here in part as well.
“Movies have always been part of the tradition of the theater,” says Ölsson. “Here, we can offer the feeling and ambience of exactly how things were in 1901, rather than a black-box theater.” True, the old horsehair seats in the balcony actually do hearken back to that era, while the red leather seats in the orchestra section hail from the 1950s. The Music Hall hopes to make use of its full orchestra pit to show films with musical accompaniment. “Vaudeville is something we also plan to do,” says Ringeisen. “We hope to have other live events preceding the movies, such as speakers, music and entertainers. We are going to show movies the way they were originally shown. The Music Hall,” she continues, “is one of the few theaters that remains intact—a one-screen movie house versus a multiplex.” The plan is for movies—classics, foreign films (especially Spanish-language films), documentaries, independents, silent films and musicals—to become a regular feature alongside the theater’s ongoing schedule of live performances. Gone With the Wind, Sleepy Hollow, Stuart Little and Wallace and Gromit are scheduled to be shown this fall.
The Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase, the largest venue between New York City and Toronto, naturally reels in the biggest acts, so it’s not surprising that headlining its new season are Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers Gladys Knight (October 20) and James Brown “Godfather of Soul” (November 13).
Got a case of the blues? Then look to Dr. John and his band for the cure, along with Charlie Musselwhite and Shemeka Copeland, October 9. Into jazz? Even city folk make the pilgrimage north to hear their favorite artists perform in the acoustically superb Tarrytown Music Hall. (Those in the know note the acoustics are as good there as in Carnegie Hall.) Through a partnership with Jazz Forum Arts, the Music Hall brings to its stage such jazz all-stars as Spryo Gyra (on October 16); the Brad Mehldau Trio and the John Scofield Group (October 29), and the Chick Corea Elektric Band (November 6, 7).
Up the river in Peekskill, the Paramount upholds its rep as a top venue for all types of music, bringing back Michael Amante, “the American Tenor,” for the third time, and keyboardist Bob Baldwin, with his signature urban-funk jazz, for a repeat performance. Baldwin has shared the stage with jazz greats Roy Ayers and Chuck Loeb, and has composed material for the late Grover Washington, Jr., Marion Meadows and Eileen Ivers, considered a pioneer of the Celtic and world-music genres, will perform on November 6 with Immigrant Soul. This fusion performance will feature African and Latin percussion and bass, Irish instrumentalists, and soulful American vocals. Martin Sexton, who has shared the stage with pop-music star John Mayer, covers all the musical bases, mixing gospel, R&B, soul, country, rock and roll and blues (November 20).
Emelin’s the place to go for down-home, finger-pickin’, foot-stompin’ bluegrass tunes. The Osborne Brothers have more national chart records than any other bluegrass act and, throughout the years, they have been nominated for four Grammy awards. Catch their act on October 15. The Nashville Bluegrass Band—you heard them on the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou—will play on November 5.
For more information: The Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase (914) 251-6200).
Literature & Laughs
Do we ever tire of having someone read to us? And when that someone is a Pulitzer Prize-winner or a former U.S. poet laureate, so much the better (sorry Mom).
The Spoken Word Series at the Performing Arts Center will include former Poet Laureate Robert Hass on September 13, Pulitzer Prize-winner Charles Simic on October 18, former Poet Laureate Billy Collins on November 9, and New Yorker Poetry Editor Alice Quinn on November 29.
The Northern Westchester Center for the Arts poetry readings are now held at the Flying Pig Café in Mt. Kisco on most Monday nights at 7:30. Insider tip: Come early and, for just $10, you can snack on hors d’oeuvres, sip wine and, maybe, even get to chat with that night’s poet. An open mike follows each performance, so aspiring poets can read their works.
Acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley returns to the Emelin Theatre Wednesday, October 6, to discuss his new book, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. The book explores the presidential candidate's time of service in Vietnam and his odyssey from decorated war veteran to outspoken antiwar activist.
While Westchester still doesn’t have a regular comedy venue, here are five fine choices for a good laugh this fall.
Given current world events, laughter is sometimes the only antidote to despair. The political satire group Capitol Steps proves there can be humor in Washington, D.C., with its scathingly funny Who Put the Mock in Democracy, at the Performing Arts Center, November 13. The Emmy Award-winning News In Revue is another amusing way for audiences to keep up with current events. At the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck September 18 and 19.
The Tarrytown Music Hall presents comic Bobby Collins, who engages audiences with a clever blend of characterizations and hilarious observations, September 18. Comedian Lewis Black, who has been called “America’s foremost commentator on everything,” is a rising star whose “Back in Black” segment has been appearing regularly on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Here’s your opportunity to see what the ha-ha-ha is all about on October 2 at the Paramount.
If you’re looking for dinner with your laughs, head to the Westchester Broadway Theater and catch comedian Pat Cooper on October 11.
Ballet fans, you are in for a treat this fall. If you prefer classical ballet, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Company presents an all-Balanchine evening at the Performing Arts Center, October 8. Ballerina Farrell was muse to Balanchine, considered the finest ballet choreographer of the 20th century; her dance company carries on the tradition. Then, ballet with an African twist comes to the Performing Arts Center with the Ballet Folklorico da Bahia on October 31. The repertoire is based on African-inspired dances, such as samba and slave dances, martial arts and the celebration dances of Carnival. Ballet Folklorico De Vera Cruz storms the stage of the White Plains Performing Arts Center October 15, a whirl in brightly colored costumes, tapping toes and Mexican stringed instruments—a veritable fiesta of dance and music.
Then, for something completely different, see how the paths of prayer, art and healing come together in dance via the Buglisi/Foreman Dance Troupe at the Performing Arts Center, November 14.
Blueberry Pond Performing Arts Center is the county’s leading venue for developing and producing original works, and its members have repeatedly taken top honors in the prestigious Samuel French Festival, a playwright competition in New York City. This fall the center moves into new digs, the newly renovated Shine House at Cedar Lane Park in Ossining. Its inaugural main stage season will consist entirely of plays developed through the center, starting with Offspring by Jimmy Barden of Pleasantville and Eden’s End by Jean-Paul DeVellard of Croton-on-Hudson.
EM Forster’s classic A Passage to India, October 30 at the Performing Arts Center, is a visually stunning play that dramatically captures the tensions between cultures. The Three Sisters by Anton Chekov will be performed at the Purchase Repertory Theatre, October 29 to November 6. On a lighter note, Born Yesterday will be performed October 29 to November 7 at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.
If you can’t remember the last time you saw a pig race (or perhaps you never had the pleasure), then mosey on over to the country hoedown at the John Jay Homestead in Katonah, where visitors are just as likely to drop in on horseback as in cars. (Indeed, at last year’s John Jay Halloween party, neighbor Richard Gere rode up on his steed with young Gere in tow). There are pony and wagon rides, a petting zoo, storytellers, magicians, arts and crafts projects, live music and more, all on the lovely 62-acre site of the home of one of our country’s founding fathers.
Looking for a little more excitement? The Russian American Kids Circus is one of the most popular circus acts touring today, in part because the stars of the show are kids ages four through 17, who perform dazzling acrobatics, tightrope walking, juggling and more under the direction of Moscow Circus veterans. Perfect for audiences of all ages at the Paramount, October 9. And, the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats will perform at the White Plains Performing Arts Center October 9 in a dazzling production of dramatic acrobatics, feats of daring and balance, explosive Kung Fu, brilliant costumes and even some Chinese comedy.
For budding theater buffs, there’s a bumper crop of children’s shows to catch this fall. The Yorktown Stage will present The Magic Toyshop, a narrated ballet about toys coming to life, October 10, and The Wizard of Oz from November 12 through 28. Puck’s Playhouse at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts will bring Amelia Bedelia and Beauty and the Beast to the stage on October 2 and November 6, respectively.
The Emelin doesn’t disappoint with its presentations of The Adventures of Curious George (October 2) and Pinocchio (October 16). Celebrate the holidays with Charlie, Lucy, Sally and the rest of the Peanuts gang in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a musical based on the beloved comic strip by Charles M. Schulz (November 26 through December 5).
The Performing Arts Center in Purchase divides its children’s theater offerings by age. The Mermaid The