Category Archives: Art

Maks & Val: Our Way

Maks and Val

Dancing With the Stars is a great show because above all of the glitz and kicks, it conveys how anything is possible through hard work and commitment. I had the pleasure of seeing two of the show’s stars express this theme in their own live performance, Maks & Val: Our Way, which detailed the Chmerkovskiy brothers’ journey from the Ukraine into the hearts of Americans.

Accompanied by a cast of six dancers, Maks and Val told their story through dance vignettes highlighting transformative moments in their lives along with video montages and onstage interludes in which the brothers would poke fun at each other.

The show began with a video of Maks and Val’s father discussing the decision to send Maks to dance school at age four and the reason for leaving Ukraine ten years later in 1994. In preparation for their move to the US, their father wrote inspirational quotes on their kitchen wall such as, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail,” and, “We wil surviv.”

It was evident that Maks and Val were grateful to their parents for giving them the opportunity to dance and to move to the US. To make the best of their opportunity, they dedicated themselves to dancing and lived by the philosophy that it takes doing something 1,000 times in order to do it well. Maks started teaching dance in New Jersey and dancing at restaurants on the weekends to help support his family, and Val trained to win the first-ever world junior championship for the US team in 2001.

My favorite part of the show featured Maks as a dance instructor attempting to teach a group of unruly three year-olds to do the salsa. Eventually, under Maks’ direction, the students successfully worked their way through all of the dance styles. I loved how it showcased Maks’ discipline, patience, and drive.

I also enjoyed Val’s dramatic interpretation of love in the second act. The fusion of dance styles – in which the female dancers were portrayed as violins – conveyed the intensity and intricacies of love. Val also played the violin during the show.

Our Way also featured some comic relief revealing more about the Chmerkovskiy’s relationship. At one point, the brothers found themselves dancing together, prompting Maks to correct Val’s hold. During Drake’s “One Dance,” Maks executed a few booty-shaking solos, causing Val to role his eyes. They even brought a woman – from my hometown – onstage to be Maks’ prom date for a cute skit in which they were crowned prom king and queen.

All in all, Maks & Val: Our Way was an entertaining and heartwarming show underscoring the importance of hard work. Not only did I come away with a greater understanding of the Chmerkovskiy brothers, but with inspiration to keep working toward my goals. As Maks and Val took their final bow to Justin Timberlake’s new song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Val remarked, “Thank you for supporting the arts.” Amen to that.

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Thomas Lendvai

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

Thomas Lendvai: 10 at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. (c) John Muggenborg.

Thomas Lendvai is a meticulous, thoughtful, and talented artist who transforms everyday construction materials into large-scale sculptural experiences. His works celebrate the intrinsic and elemental value of the materials he utilizes while simultaneously exploring the notion of self. Through his work, he explores modernist and post-modernist theory of sculpture that is informed by a knowledge of carpentry, taught to him by his father at an early age.

Lendvai’s site-responsive installations make use of fundamental geometric forms to address concepts of space and time, and to engage audiences through experiential installations that break down the boundary between the art object and the subject and question the notions art, design, and architecture. His work encourages movement and a continuous awareness of a series of nows, allowing for audiences to experience a more tactile engagement with space and self.

His exhibition, 10 at Odetta Gallery in Brooklyn, exemplifies his artistic practice and is the culmination of years of study, exploration, and contemplation. It is also an impressive, monumental sculpture that is surreptitiously balanced, forcing the viewer to accept and at the same time question the idea of here and now. The sculpture transcends gravity by breaking the plane of the floor while the crux is simultaneously elevated. A feat that some might call “magic.” I would call it artistic mastery.

no distibution of images

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

(c) John Muggenborg

no distibution of images

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

Thomas Lendvai at Odetta Gallery, August 2015. (c) John Muggenborg.

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Goldberg at the Park Avenue Armory

Igor Levit

At the performance of Goldberg at the Park Avenue Armory, starring Igor Levit with direction from Marina Abramovic and lighting by Urs Schonebaum, I was entranced by the commingling of artistic voices and how they translated into a pure expression of music for the audience to experience.

We were asked to lock up our belongings and we were then given a score and noise-canceling headphones. We found lounge chairs in which we were to sit, facing the center of the Drill Hall, which was illuminated by four screens of bright, white light (reminiscent of the productions of Robert Wilson).

The first gong rang and we obediently placed our headphones on as the instructions dictated. With my headphones on, I was immediately reminded of John Cage and his revelation that one could never be in complete silence because one always hears two sounds – the high pitch of the central nervous system and the low murmur of blood in circulation. Once I acknowledged this, I tried to focus on the experience of the Abramovic Method for Music and “embrace the unfamiliar sensation of doing nothing.”

But then, I saw Levit sitting at the piano on the platform, slowly making its way toward the center of the Drill Hall. I was captivated by his presence and his lack of stillness. He was clearly antsy, fidgety, maybe even nervous (in all fairness, it was the dress rehearsal). He had a long slow journey ahead of him and yet, he could not settle into the moment. I couldn’t tear my attention away. I had to keep watching as he continued toward the center, my own anxiety heightened by this spectacle. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Get it together!” But then again, who am I?

The second gong rang and we removed our headphones in order to listen, as the instructions stated. A horizontal line of white light appeared along the edges of the hall and above the piano keys, flooding Levit’s hands in light. “Framing the space using light, ” says Schonebaum, “gives a focus point for the audience and the freedom for the music to go beyond.”

Levit then began to play what Peter Laki describes as “nothing short of a complete encyclopedia of musical forms, styles, and keyboard techniques existing in Europe in Bach’s time.” Levit’s hands seemed disconnected to everything in the world as he played the 30 variations ranging from involved hand-crossing pieces to the “lavishly ornamented slow movements.” The platform on which Levit was seated slowly rotated in a circle, and as it did, the horizon line of light was reflected along the piano’s curves, creating an additional dynamic and subtly beautiful focal point.

The pianist finished by repeating the first variation and upon its completion, the audience broke into a thunderous applause. Finally free to do something other than listen. It was a transformative moment, like waking up from a nap in which everything in the world somehow becomes aligned and there is clarity where there wasn’t before.

After the performance, my friend and I were sharing our thoughts on the experience. I knew he had his eyes closed during the Abramovic Method part, and, not wanting to disturb his meditation, I didn’t nudge him to watch Levit’s journey to the center. He responded by saying, “Next time a musical prodigy is floating down the middle of a monumental art space in what appears to be an inexplicable moment of anxious freak out and tremendous build-up…And I have my eyes closed deep in nirvana…Wake me up!!!”

All in all, Goldberg is a masterwork in experiencing classical music, which Abramovic believes is the “most immaterial form of art.”

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Alejo Musich

Working in a contemporary art gallery in New York, I have the opportunity to meet many artists. Each artist is unique, but there is no one quite like Alejo Musich.

Alejo MusichI met Alejo serendipitously at the PINTA NY art fair in November 2013 through my other artist friend, Tomas Rivas. The unassuming, slight, and Argentinian Alejo would become a great friend instantly.

A native Spanish speaker with perfect English grammar and a penchant for idioms and colloquialisms, Alejo has the desire to utilize and stretch language to the maximum. Each thought is exquisitely executed through syntax, intonation and conciseness.

When I asked him about the impending ArteBA fair in Buenos Aires in which his paintings would be shown by Miau Miau Gallery, this was his response:

right now they may be in another galaxy, setting everything up and with their minds flirting with breakdown. today’s the pre opening and it has been raining mad for two days now. anticlimatic. I live something like ten blocks away from the pavilion where all takes place, and in this rain I won’t go walking. imagine if to attend you have to leave your house in a leisure set of mind, you are a vip and you can just stay home with netflix, vogue italia, your afghan dogs, and just wait, maybe for tomorrow or next year. “We’ll always have Basel”, and ask someone for another coffee, and another someone to take de dogs about for a pipi.

In addition to the his language skills, Alejo is a very talented painter. He paints scenes from nature, some informed from Russian fairy tales, and others from his imagination. His brush strokes are textural and intentional. His color palette is deep with accents of pastel and neon integrating beautifully into the canvas. His paintings are full of mystery and tension.

Alejo Musich Sin Titulo (Zorro I)

Alejo Musich All your glory

Alejo Musich Melville, or, The Whale

Alejo Musich Sin título (Bosque 2014)

All in all, I am happy to be able to call this talented and spirited artist my friend.

Alejo Musich Maria Kucinski

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Reject Dance Theatre presents The Territory Suites

My dream of becoming a professional dancer has finally come true with the opportunity to collaborate with Reject Dance Theatre. My dear friend, Rebecca Hite Teicheira (here’s a post from her MFA Thesis), invited me to be a part of RDT’s first evening length piece, The Territory Suites presented at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, NY.

Reject Dance Theatre Rebecca Hite Teicheira Maria KucinskiAlong with the directors, Rebecca Hite Teicheira, Stephen Ursprung and Stephanie Simpson, I worked with Bridget Cronin, Jermaine Ellis, Cara Hoover, Rachel Pritzlaff, and Larissa Ursprung to explore the idea of territory through three distinct perspectives.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesIt was amazing to get back to work in the studio – conditioning my body, learning unique choreography and creating new movement. I forgot just how much I enjoyed dancing and the process of creating dance.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesWorking through the many details – from the concrete ones like choreography, spacing, timing, costuming, hair, makeup, and lighting, to the more intangible ones such as presence, interaction, and intention – re-energized me artistically. My favorite part of the process was examining the intention of every step, every movement in the piece, ensuring that there was a reason behind every action.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesThrough those intentions, we explored the notion of “territory,” investigating themes of gender identity, human relationships, and animal interactions through choreographic means of collaboration, partnering, and synchronization. The artistic vision of the three choreographers was distinct but centralized along this universal theme.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesIt was truly an honor to be a part of something very special for Reject Dance Theatre and its collaborators. I found that I forgot how much I enjoyed performing and am grateful for the opportunity to be on stage once again.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory Suites Rachel Pritzlaff Rebecca Hite TeicheiraAll in all, it was an inspiring experience to work with so many talented artists.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory Suites Rachel Pritzlaff

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LADY GAGA artRAVE

Lady Gaga ArtraveIn a very last minute, last ditch opportunity, I found myself sailing for Lady Gaga’s artRAVE concert extravaganza to celebrate her album, ARTPOP at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.

Lady Gaga Jeff Koons Maria KucinskiArtist Jeff Koons co-hosted the event, showing off his larger-than-life sculpture of Lady Gaga – a breathtaking and hypnotizing piece of art. You can sense Lady Gaga’s aura through the work.

Lady Gaga ArtravePrior to the concert, there were extremely polished video projections of her new music video, her studies at the Marina Abramovic Insitute, and a 3-channel video projection of herself being tortured. Although difficult to watch, especially surrounded by the merriest “Little Monsters” in the world, it was very well done.

Art world royalty was also in attendance including Yoko Ono, Simon de Pury, and Klaus Biesenbach.

7 IMAG3961What I came away with from the event is that Lady Gaga is a true artist. She has surrounded herself with great artists and she has learned their craft. The most noticeable influence is that of Marina Abramovic, with whom Lady Gaga has been studying. There is a new focus, a new concentration to her. I also saw references to the Fluxus Movement and to Robert Wilson with his iconic gestures. She is wholly devoting herself to her craft, to her art, exposing her body and giving herself to the audience.

Lady Gaga ArtraveBut aside from the flawlessness of the evening, there was also an overall sense of peace and happiness and acceptance. Strangers were telling me that I was beautiful and I made friends with a few people around me.

How could you not be happy in Gaga’s world? And it is her world. She sits atop a throne, legs apart, commanding attention.

Jeff Koons Lady Gaga ArtraveAfter the concert ended, I shook Jeff Koons’ hand and told him that the sculpture was stunning.

And then I locked eyes with Darren Criss. A beautiful end to my memorable night.

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Come, and Back Again by David Dorfman Dance at BAM

David Dorfman Dance’s Come, and Back Again is a beautiful showcase of reflection through dance and multimedia.

A wall of stuff, fossilized in white frames the stage. A band, also in white, sits upstage, playing songs of “poetic rock and roll.” Four dancers and David energize the space with the weighted – but not heavy – and entangling choreography. Real-time projection, text, and the presence of David’s wife and son convey the powerful symbols of clutter, preservation, and what we leave behind.

All in all, the high intensity piece was a touching reminder that there are those moments in life, those emotions that are worth experiencing, worth feeling. But what I enjoyed the most about the piece was David’s ability to tell his story, so beautifully, so poignantly, so joyfully.

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