Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Art on the Right and Left Banks this Weekend

By Charles Kessler

Friday night was a good time to be in Bushwick if you wanted to see a wide variety of  Performance Art. At Agape Gallery I saw Variations, a performance by Elise Rasmussen. She directed two actors (Corey Tazmania and Niall Powderly) in various re-enactments of possible scenarios of the 1985 death of Ana Mendieta, the wife of the well-known minimal sculptor, Carl Andre. Andre was tried and acquitted of her murder, but the circumstances remain suspicious to a lot of people. 
Ana Mendieta and Carl Andre
(Medieta was less then five feet tall but went out a very high window to fall 33 stories to her death; she was phobic about heights and wouldn’t go near those windows; they had a history of drunken fights; and Andre had scratches on his face.) The performance got more interesting when the audience started to make suggestions, and it became pretty intense when a few people talked about the pain of their own phobias and experience with suicide. 

Next I went to Grace Exhibitions Space for the Performing Arts. Since 2006, Grace has been an important venue for performance artists from all over the world, and Friday night was no exception. There were performances by artists from Switzerland, Berlin, Estonia, France and, of all places, Kentucky. There was Beat Poetry by Ron Whitehead, an older poet from Kentucky; a chaotic, frankly silly, extravaganza by the Estonian group, Non Grata; 
Voluntarily Out of Focus performed by Non Grata Group from Estonia.
(This panoramic was taken with my nifty new iPhone 5 camera — click to enlarge.)

and the Swiss artist Saskia Edens did one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. She carried a thin sheet of ice around to about a dozen people, and she and they would blow on it, melting enough holes so it eventually fell apart. It was an elegant, beautiful, erotic and moving experience, and one that required extraordinary endurance. Why she didn’t pass out and/or get frostbite I can’t imagine.
Breath by Saskia Edens, Grace Exhibition Space.
The 22nd annual Jersey City Studio Tour took place this weekend (my how time flies!). It’s no longer a tour of artists' studios, at least not primarily — instead it’s a citywide series of art exhibitions and performances. Among the highlights was a group exhibition organized by Pro Arts in the Tenmarc building, an enormous space that was generously loaned to Pro Arts for the tour. 
Jersey City Studio Tour exhibition, Tenmarc Building
It’s nearly impossible for a group show like this to look good, but there was plenty of excellent work, and Nimbus Dance Works and Bollywood Funk presented some delightful dances. 
Nimbus at Tenmarc
(Later that day Nimbus invited the public to watch them rehearse for a rare staging of Charles Weidman’s 1936 classic dance, Lynchtown. The dance will be presented in several venues in New Jersey and New York. Don’t miss it — it's powerful stuff!)
Drawing Rooms — a former convent turned exhibition space in Downtown Jersey City
The Tour showcased a beautiful new exhibition venue, a three-story former convent in Downtown Jersey City (see photo above). Organized by Victory Arts Projects, each artist was given their own modest but nicely proportioned room. It’s an ideal space to experience intimate art, although I imagine it would be equally suitable for large installations. It has the potential to be one of the most important art spaces in New Jersey.
 Mazz Swift and Amelia Hollander Ames playing in an historic row house in Downtown Jersey City.
Sunday was a concert by Con Vivo to benefit the Embankment Preservation Coalition, an organization dedicated to preserving an imposing elevated stone railway structure.  Technically the event wasn't part of the tour, although the artists Jessica Dalrymple and Gregg Kreutz, owners of the historic row house where the benefit took place, were on the tour. The event was a warm, neighborly, civilized way to spend the afternoon — and for a good cause. 

The weekend ended with a crawl of trendy bars (the new Jersey City) and at Uta Brauser’s Fish with Braids gallery (a venue more typical of the funky old Jersey City I knew and loved).

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