Week of October 31 to November 6, 2011


This past week, lots of Local Children were putting on Garish Masks to go Trick or Treating--some accompanied by their Parents, also masked & costumed--with the presumed object of Getting Something for Nothing.

But, even before Hallowe'en, Ricky's & other Party Costume establishments were offering Price Slashings of up to 50%!

It's the Economy, Stupid…

Bergdorf Goodman also got into the Holiday Spirit by filling its 58th Street windows--opposite the Plaza Hotel--with scores of different Fright Masks. Was one of them Joan Rivers

In Bergdorf's Fifth Avenue windows, the Masks were larger, fronted by Witches in High Styles!

In Our Nation's Capital, however, Republican Leaders--determined to destroy President Obama's chances for a Second Term--did not need Horrific Masks: Their own Natural Hate Filled Expressions required no help from a Costume Shop.

But--now that Halloween is written without the eliding apostrophe--have most of us forgotten what this word used to mean?

Originally written as Hallow Even, it is the Eve of All Hallows, that fateful midnight when all the graves open to let the Dead Walk Among Us!

No, No! That cannot be Right.

The Morally Dead are regularly walking among us: they are the Un indicted Criminals who gave us Vietnam, Iraq, & Afghanistan

Traditionally, All Hallows--or All Saints Day--is the Day for the Vatican Sanctioned Holy to stroll among us, scattering Blessings as they pass by…

In Mexico, however, if you are a Muchacho or Muchacha, you may be given a Sugar Skull, to remind you of the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead!

Ay, Papi! This sugar jaw bone really tastes good!



•In the Depths of The Great Depression, Lefty Lenses at Work in the NY Photo League

•Which Is Worse: To Be a Foster Child or To Be Adopted? How About A Charity Case?

•Stunning Auction Catalogues at Phillips de Pury: Own Your Own Art Gallery for Only $35!

Giant White Ghosts on Chicken Footed Stilts Save Shackleton Puppets at BAM!

Swedenborgian Angels Dance Once Again: Not at BAM, But at LaMaMa's Ellen Stewart

•Print Fair at Park Ave Armory: Penny Plain/Tuppence Colored Not So Cheap Anymore!

•The Good Old Days at Judson Hall Live Again: Queen of the Mist Subtly Sings…

Sam Waterston Bravely Climbs That Final Actors Mountain: KING LEAR.

•Around the Corner from Ladurée/Paris: Mental Earth Growths & Smears at Knoedler!

Other Desert Cities, Reborn from Lincoln Center, Now in the Tiny Little Booth Theatre!

•Brits Off Broadway at 59E59: Hop on Over To See Bunny!


End of Week Rambles Summary:

Evocative Depression & War Era Photos at Jewish Museum: Red Scare Destroys Photo League!

Great Depression Era Photographers like Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Aaron Siskind & even the Legendary On the Spot Tabloid Lensman Weegee were not working in a vacuum.

They were all members of the Photo League, whose varied members rejoiced in chronicling the daily lives of Ordinary New Yorkers.

Initially, many of their often stark black & white photos captured the fabric of City Life with an almost Documentary Clarity. Later, images became more Suggestive, implying, perhaps, rather than Showing.

But, long before there was such a Politically Charged term as Class Warfare being used by the Rich & Powerful, it was clear from many Photo Leaguer images that there was much in the City that was not Right & not Fair.

This, in itself, was disturbing to Keepers of the Public Morals, but the often openly avowed interest of some Photo League members in serious Social Reforms made them targets for Red Hunters.

Finally, the Witch Hunts of HUAC & Joseph McCarthy did them in. The Photo League was forced to disband in 1951…

If you want to see what "Commie Photos" looked like, visit the Jewish Museum before 25 March 2012!


Abandoned by Birth Mother, It's No Fun To Be a Charity Case Adoption Either…

Your Roving Arts Reporter knows what it is to be Adopted.

Especially if you were chosen, not because you were loved & filled an Empty Place in someone's Heart & Home, but because you could Work on the Farm & take care of Your Parents when they were Old

Wendy Beckett's Charity Case tells a different tale…

A sensitive young Girl, coming of age, is trapped in a small apartment with a lonely, alcoholic, & randy dress maker Adoptive Mother.

Her Birth Mother was a Hippie, who could not take responsibility.

Eventually, the three come together…

Well. OK. I guess the Girl will be all right?

My own Mother--who used to threaten to send me back to the Orphanage or to actually put me out on California's Tahoe Ukiah Highway: "See if anyone wants a little Adopted Boy who doesn't know how to behave!"--when very old, said to me: "Your Father & I have always been very grateful that you never tried to find your Real Mother."

Having one Mother like her was quite enough for me, I told her.

Wendy Beckett's Charity Case was presented in Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre, just across the lobby from the Beckett Theatre

Alison Fraser, Alysia Reiner, & Jill Shackner were the anguished women in this Case.


Guggenheim Gala, Contemporary Art, & More: Have It All in Phillips de Pury Catalogues!


The Auction Catalogues of Phillips de Pury are so handsomely designed that they could well be the most striking additions to your Coffee Table Collection!

Quite unlike the business like auction catalogues of Sotheby's, Christies, Bonham's, & Heritage, those of Phillips de Pury are presented in Large Format, with such excellent photographs of the Art Works on offer, that they often make the Actual Works look better, more striking, more interesting than they really are, just hanging there on the bare, sterile, white walls of the Galleries at 450 Park Avenue @ 57th.

The Cover of the 7 November Auction Catalogue for the 2011 Guggenheim International Gala Contemporary Art Benefit Auction shows a row of black/blue Pigeons roosting on a lower level of the Guggenheim Rotunda, with the spirals of this Frank Lloyd Wright Masterpiece rising above them to the great Atrium Window above…

Details of the Art Works, so sharply photographed, seem even more arresting than the larger works themselves.

The two Contemporary Art Catalogues--much larger than the Guggenheim Extravaganza--even have two fold pages, opening out to reveal even more sharp details. For some works, these details often seem more powerful than the Artists' Original Conceptions!

For Important Nordic Design--a 17 November Auction in London--Details of the Joinery in outstanding furniture designs are also minor artworks…

But not all the photos depict Objects or Artworks on sale: Some feature Major Architectural Achievements in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, & Finland.

Here's the gleaming, glowing white Modernist rotundity of Gunnar Asplund's Public Library in Stockholm.

In Finland, what was Jugendstil in Germany & Austria, emerged as a kind of "Nationalist Style," celebrating distinctive Finnish Themes & Images.

If you are in London, at this auction, you won't be able to bid on the Façade of Helsinki's Central Railroad Station, designed by Eliel Saarinen. But it is wonderfully presented, in details, in this handsome catalogue.

What is almost more amazing than the stunning design & photography in the Phillips de Pury catalogues is the fact that each costs only $35!

Auctions & Catalogues are divided into six categories: Themes, Design, Photographs, Jewelry, Contemporary Art, & Editions.

If you cannot come to the Park Avenue Galleries to view artworks & buy catalogues there, you can Subscribe Annually.

Annual Prices vary, as you may choose only New York Auctions. Or only London

Or Both! Some categories cost more than others: More Auctions in that category? Or thicker catalogues?

My favorite category is Design. This is because, for some years, I created, wrote, & edited The Art Deco News & its successor, The Modernist.

An Annual Subscription to New York Design Auctions is $190. London Auction catalogues cost $75.

Combined New York/London Subscriptions cost $240 annually…

A Subscription might be a welcome Holiday Gift for a Collector Friend!

For more Info:


Additional Catalogue Info:

Heritage Auctions also has handsome catalogues, although on smaller scale than Phillips de Pury.

Occasionally, they will have exhibitions of Auction Goodies in Manhattan at the Ukrainian Institute, but their Auctions are also in Dallas--where they are HQed--as well as in Beverly Hills & On Line.

They keep me posted about future auctions via E Mail, but they do have catalogues available in New York. In fact, just across the Avenue from Phillips de Pury!

In Dallas, on 5 November, Art of the American West was on offer. The catalogue is a Keeper!

As is the Illustration Art catalogue for the October Auction in New York. Lots of semi nude Lovelies


Antarctica Research Adds Depth To Phantom Limb's Evocation of Shackleton & Crew's Survival!

The Horrific Epic of the Survival of Ernest Shackleton & his Crew--after their Expedition Ship, the Endurance, sank in Antarctic Waters--fascinated Jessica Grindstaff, of Phantom Limb.

She began to dream about that Icy Continent & her Dreams became the Visual Content of 69ºS--where the Endurance dove down to icy watery Death--recently at BAM.

Designer & Ideationist Grindstaff & her co creator & Puppet Maker Erik Santo won a National Science Foundation Grant that took them to Antarctica, where they were able to Deepen Their Knowledge & Understanding of that White Continent:

"This was a Life Altering Experience that changed the Face of the Project Sonically, Aesthetically, & Thematically." [Emphases added…]

Sonically, at BAM's Harvey Theatre, we heard the Kronos Quartet on tape, augmented by two guitars & two sets of drums & other percussions.

There were black & white projections of moving Ice Masses & other Antarctic Artifacts, as well as three Glacial Ice Peaks that rose from the floor, as six Giant Ghostly Figures on chicken footed stilts manipulated Papier Maché Puppets representing Shackleton & his hapless, helpless Crew.

These were directly from Jessica's Dream!

Phantom Limb would have had quite a Different Story to tell, had they chosen Scott of the Antarctic! They ate their sled dogs, but they died anyway…

At least this was not Happy Feet II: Penguins on the March, again


Six Hundred Pounds of White Feathers! Heaven for Swedenborg's Angels in Ping Chong's Vision!

Celebrating Fifty Years of LaMaMa, the Late Ellen Stewart's Great Jones Repertory Theatre revived Ping Chong's Angels of Swedenborg in the newly re named Ellen Stewart Theatre. Formerly, the LaMaMa Annex

Your Roving Arts Reporter--who was working with & reporting on Ellen from the beginnings of LaMaMa--had the sense of Dejá Vu all over again, in seeing Swedenborg's Angels…

No Wonder! This was shown way back in 1986 over at BAM.

Ping Chong created Angels for Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art in 1985, after which it widely toured.

I saw it both in Chicago & on tour, as well as at BAM.

At that time, I was most transfixed by all those Angles moving so gracefully through that field of snowy white Feathers!

Six Hundred Pounds of them!

Just think of what Touring with all those feathers must have entailed: Cramming them into sacks again & again, just like stuffing Duvets in some French Goose Feather Bed Factory

I've never talked with any actual Swedenborgians--the Visionary Musings of Emanuel Swedenborg transformed themselves into a kind of Scandinavian Religio Philosophical Cult--to ascertain what they think of Ping Chong's re imaginings of Swedenborg's Visions of Heaven & Hell, to which he was transported & lived to write about those Journeys.

To see Swedenborg as a Troubled Handsome Young Blond Man, in an all white Modernist Office, drinking, phoning, & Having Visions is Ping Chong's way of illuminating Our Modern Dilemma.

My guest at this sedate LaMaMa production, the distinguished Artist/Designer, Peter Harvey--Balanchine's Jewels, Dames at Sea--thought the Repetitions of the Angelic Rituals went on way too long…

Nonetheless, it is good to remember how many famed avant garde artists--from Abroad & at Home--got their first New York Show Case at Ellen Stewart's LaMaMa:

Tadeuz Kantor, with his Krakovian Dead Class; Liviu Ciulei from Romania, Andreij Serban, Tom O'Horgan…

The List is almost Endless


Annual Park Avenue Armory Print Fair Offers Much More Than Mere Prints: How About Posters?

In the US Mail--not the E Mail--recently arrived a large, handsome card, with a misty image of a vintage walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge.

On the verso was an invitation from Chicago's Frederick Baker Galleries to attend The Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.

I assume this Keeper Card--which I certainly intend to preserve in my Album of Cards--was sent because I mentioned the attractive wares shown by Baker last year…

So I was looking forward to another round of admiring Prints, Engravings, Etchings, Lithographs, Posters, & even Photos--well, they are usually printed on paper--in various dealers' booths this year as well.

As a longtime Collector of historic wood block prints, 17th & 18th century engravings, & old maps--some of them hand colored--I don't need to acquire more of them.

But it is interesting to see what Dealers are now asking for rare & impressive works on paper, similar to those in my own holdings.

Alas, I had stapled this invitation to one from Sanford L. Smith--mistakenly thinking it was for the same show--which had Friday through Monday time span on it.

This last weekend was hectic, so I put off visiting the Print Fair until Monday. When I arrived at the Armory--whose façade is now being restored--I found the staff carting away all the booth structures…

The Print Fair had closed the day before.

Next weekend, Sanford L. Smith is presenting Pavilion of Art & Design New York at the Armory. It will run from Friday, 11 November, through Monday, 14 November. From 11 am to 8 pm…


Not Quite a Judson Church Happening, But Queen of the Mist Certainly Recalls Better Days…

Once upon a 1960s time, Judson Memorial Church was the scene of the most Avant Garde of new Theatre Experimentation.

Think of Happenings… Think of the Rev. Al Carmines… Think of Robert Rauschenberg

Now, in the Church's Basement Gym, the Past is being Renewed!

Queen of the Mist--the new musical by Michael John Lachiusa--is an ingenious Work of Genius!

Using the standard set pieces of old fashioned Broadway Musicals, Queen tells the sad story of Annie Edson Taylor, the only person to go over Niagara Falls in a Barrel & live to tell the tale.

Wonderfully embodied by Mary Testa, the proud & self destructive Annie tells her tale, however, to ever decreasing audiences. Postcard & Pamphlet sales lag…

The Buffalo World's Fair was a Bust & the Assassination of President McKinley didn't help…

The late Lehman Engel--who founded the BMI Workshop for creating new Musicals--would certainly admire what Lachiusa has wrought!

Quite aside from the brilliance of Lachiusa's theatrical organization & orchestration of the Saga of Annie, the Research he has done--not only about Annie & those around her, but also about the Challenge of the Falls & all those who fatally failed--is astonishing, especially in the artful way he has interwoven this History into the dramatic fabric, without making Queen of the Mist seem some kind of Historical Exercise.

In a way, by making Queen a kind of fast paced Revue, he allies it with the concept of telling the story of the Scottsboro Boys as a Minstrel Show.

Queen is not a happy story. There is no Happy Ending.

But, at the last, Annie has a kind of ennobling Tragic Recognition of what her Life meant. Of what she missed… Of what she might have done

Wisdom Through Suffering, as Aristotle might have told her.

Mary Testa is surrounded & ably supported by a charming & very talented Cast. [Ably staged by Jack Cummings III!]

All of them should soon be transported to a handsome Off Broadway Venue where this excellent show can move many more spectators than can be squeezed into the stands down in the Judson Church Gym!


Every Aspiring Actor Has To Climb the Shakespeare Mountains: Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear!

The Public Theatre's new mounting of King Lear, starring Sam Waterston, is set into a kind of Peter Brookian White Box "Empty Space."

The Problem about Empty Spaces--as Brook knew all too well--is that, on stage, they Need To Be Filled.

The Problem--or at least a Major Problem, as there is more than one with this very difficult, extremely challenging drama--is the Premise of the Initial Scene.

King Lear is not going to Die With His Boots On, as Ruler of Britain, but is going into Retirement, dividing his Kingdom among his three daughters.

Their Shares will, supposedly, depend on their Declarations of Love for their Father.

Lear's Favorite, Cordelia, balks at such a demand & Loses All

Many a Shakespeare Director--with whom your Roving Arts Reporter has talked--has said that the best way to deal with this Scene is to get through it as rapidly as possible, before the Audience has really taken it in.

At the outset of the current production, it was clear that some of the actors were speaking their lines very clearly, but also very rapidly. Even so, it was a Long Evening.

Even in Previews, Waterston's voice already sounded abraded: this was not part of his Character Conception, but a technical problem in using his Vocal Resources effectively.

The result of his Giving His All to the role was that it seemed, while a Noble Effort, also Effortful.

Indeed, some of his pained Grimaces came close to Comic Parody.

As Horror piled on Horror--in the best tradition of Jacobean Tragedy--at times the Audience was moved to uneasy giggles.

Although this Major Drama contains some of Shakespeare's Most Oft Quoted Lines--EVERY INCH A KING!--it veers toward Melodrama

In an uneven cast, Master Clown Bill Irwin's Fool stood out. How could he not, costumed in bright lemon yellow, in a flaired skirt over pantaloons, with a jaunty Yellow Cockscomb?

Considering the relentless metal & leather drabness of most of the costumes, this Design Choice seemed strange.

Nonetheless, Irwin's sensitive Clowning for his Doomed Master was one of he most touching elements in this effortful production…


Feet of Clay? No! Charles Simonds Has Clay on His Hands, Evoking Mental Earth.

The great hanging Centerpiece of Charles Simonds' new show at Knoedler looks a bit like Surges of Lava have engulfed the Brick Towers & Walls of Prehistoric Cities in the Great American West, with sheaths of Schist laid bare:

Beyond Monument Valley, into the Valley of Geological Destruction & No Return…

In several of Simonds' fired clay eruptions, tiny tiny bricks ooze out of sagging brick walls, endangered by Natural Disasters.

The Mini Brick Towers that seem to be melting--or flattened by some Unseen Force--suggest that Simonds might have been a Master Mason. Or at the very least, a brilliant Brick Maker

But Mental Earth is not a miniature vision of Global Melt down: It is a ceramic fantasy of Surreal proportions…

The excellent photographs in the Knoedler brochure cannot substitute for the actual experience of seeing this grayish brownish orange colored work--as well as smaller, similarly inspired pieces--in 3 D: from Every Angle…

There are two handsome bone white spiny evocations of Tumbleweed. These were fashioned & fired at the Sèvres Factory in France: Multi tendrilled thorny snakes of Kaolin

You have until 14 January to study these impressive works. Knoedler is at 19 East 70th Street, just a door or two down from the Frick Collection. For more Info:


Linda Lavin Has Left Other Desert Cities, But Judith Light More Than Fills Her Shoes!

When Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities opened last season at Lincoln Center, Linda Lavin was devastating as the formerly alcoholic sister of Stockard Channing's resolutely Fascist/Republican Country Club Matron.

Lavin is now transformed into the Jewish Mother from Hell in Nicky Silver's indictment of The Family, down at the Vineyard.

But Judith Light--recently Mrs. Lombardi on Broadway--has now made this tricky role her very own. She is nothing like Lavin, but the character now has resonances that were not apparent before.

In fact, all the Characters gain from the transfer to the Booth, because they were initially seen, in the Newhouse Theatre, at the bottom of amphitheatre seating.

This was rather like looking down at--but not connected to--a well dressed & apparently prosperous Family living in a handsome stone & glass house in Neo Conservative Palm Springs.

At the intimate Booth Theatre, however, the living room floor of their home pushes out right into the faces of the Front Row Spectators.

Thus, the rages of the WASPified ex Texas Jewish Girl, Polly Wyatt [Channing] are really not only in the faces of her Sister [Light], her Son [Thomas Sadowski], & her Depressive Daughter Brooke Wyeth [the excellent Rachel Griffiths], but also in Our Faces as well.

Brooke--seemingly a one book novelist--has just completed a new work: It bares all, including the Dreadful Family Secret which no one really wants to discuss.

As the Reagan style ex Western Movie Star & former Republican Ambassador--now golfing & lunching in Palm Springs, Stacy Keach is amazing as a Stuffed Shirt who actually has a Heart underneath all the Arch Conservative Blather.

Watching his ultimate breakdown, his tears freely flowing, I was moved by his pain as I never was up at Lincoln Center.

In fact, the entire Power & Meaning of the play resonates at the Booth as it never could farther up on Broadway.

Do Not Miss It!

Joe Mantello has deftly, feistily, staged this Totentanz of Family Skeletons, rudely ripped from a Metaphoric Closet.


Brit Bunny Way Off Broadway at 59E59…

Rosie Wyatt is amazing!

As the sexy teen age Bunny, she offers a rattling rap of a non stop, often non sequitur, Monologue about her Life & Times.

She spares us no detail of her casual sexual intimacies, snap judgment character readings, & dysfunctional view of Life in general.

Considering her general ditziness, it was astonishing that she even considered applying for admission to the London School of Economics, or LSE.

In the event, she was selected for Essex, which she seemed to regard as a kind of Uni for Retards.

Prime Minister David Cameron--cluelessly responding to the recent Summer Riots by disaffected & unemployed Teens & Twenties around Britain--attributed their discontent to a general Moral Decline.

Well, if Bunny is any example, all is not well in that Sceptred Isle

Bunny is one of three Brit Monologues at 59E59, featuring solo performers dealing with current Malaise: Felix Scott, in The Maddening Rain; Jonny Collis Scurll, in Shadowboxing, & Rosie as Bunny…



This Week's Rational Ratings--

Wendy Beckett's A CHARITY CASE [**]

Phantom Limb's 69ºS [***]


Michael John LaChiusa's QUEEN OF THE MIST [*****]

Anonymous, Marlowe or Shakespeare's KING LEAR [***]

Jon Robin Baitz's OTHER DESERT CITIES [****]

Jack Thorne's BUNNY [***]


Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.

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