Tag Archives: new york city

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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Executing a site-specific “intervention” in New York City

Jennifer Marman Daniel Borins Maria Kucinski Photo: Joe Leavenworth

Final adjustments to Pavilion of the Blind with Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins. Photo: Joe Leavenworth.

I recently had the amazing opportunity to work with two very talented artists, Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins on their debut New York exhibition, Pavilion of the Blind on view at the Tierney Gardarin Gallery through October 26th. In addition to working with the artists to prepare and install their stellar exhibition, I was tasked with executing a site-specific intervention.

Tenth Ave and 29th Street ChelseaAmongst all the development going on in West Chelsea and Hudson Yards, there are businesses that continue to operate. The gallery is one of those storefront businesses with demolition and construction affecting daily life. In talks to beautify the block and perhaps subtly notify the passersby of our existence in the outpost that is 29th Street, we decided to do an intervention on the construction hoarding.

Tenth Avenue and 29th StreetWet posters to be wheat pasted proved to be too costly. Next best option? Painting vertical stripes in the style of of Marman + Borins latest works, utilizing the color palette they have developed for the past five years. Daniel and I picked out the exact colors and finish. We thought “Daredevil” red was a suitable choice. There were five colors in total with one vertical stripe to be left blank – a commentary on the site and its existing artwork.

Nick Hugh Schmidt

Malcolm BarrettI hired two fantastic artists, Nick Hugh Schmidt and Malcolm Barrett to execute the stripes. They began at 10th Avenue between 28th and 29th Street and wrapped around the corner of 29th Street towards 11th Avenue. In a couple hours, they had made an unsightly construction site into something worth looking at, something worth noticing.

Nick Hugh Schmidt Malcolm Barret 10th Ave and 29th St

Jennifer Marman Daniel Borins 10th Ave 29th StreetAll in all, I think the piece is a stunning tribute to what a little paint and a sharp aesthetic can add to a city block.Tenth Ave 29th Street

Jennifer Marman Daniel Borins

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Filed under Art, Graffiti/Street Art, Painting and Sculpture

Morphoses: WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) at the Joyce

Morphoses: WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) by Pontus Lidberg is a dramatic dance-narrative that tells the story of interconnected lovers with film segments that intertwine with live dance to create a piece that is pure sex.

With composer David Lang, cinematographer Martin Nisser, and costume designer Karen Young, Lidberg expresses heightened emotions through high-contact partnering that is elegant yet deeply weighted. This emotional tension is carried throughout the interplay between the film and the live dancers as they mirror and respond to each other.

The set design, styling, and lighting in the film were perfection- subtle yet striking. It was as if Eve Sussman and Wim Wenders had come together to make a dance film. I loved the unerring continuity and the attention to detail throughout (including the coat racks in each scene). New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan is exquisite with the contemporary choreography and acting. Plus, Morphoses probably has the best looking male dancers I have ever seen.

All in all, I enjoyed this piece with its use of film integration, technical execution, and intense emotion.

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29th Street and 10th Avenue after Sandy

A view of 29th Street from 10th Avenue on Tuesday, October 30, 2012.

What a mess. And I wasn’t even badly affected. Here is my story:

In preparation for the “Frankenstorm” as the media was calling it, I stocked up on the necessities to last me at least five days. Water, canned food, granola bars, Halloween candy, batteries, and chipotle Triscuits (because the grocery store was out of the normal kinds of food, leading me to get wheat Wonder Bread). But this preparation for the storm took place on Sunday. The most important preparation took place on Saturday, at the Cristin Tierney Gallery on West 29th Street in Chelsea, where I work.

Given the proximity to the Hudson River and the warnings about the storm surge, the art handler and I prepared the gallery based on the traditional insurance guidelines. Our insurance broker had even called to ensure that we were ready for the storm, alerting us to raise everything 6 to 8 inches off the ground. We did that. Unplugged our office area, moved things out of harm’s way, and hoped that if water did come into the gallery, the drain inside would save us – the building being an old taxi garage that has a sloping floor and drain in the front.

Then the warnings came that this storm was going to be serious. More serious. More powerful. More destructive than Irene.

Then the storm came, and as I sat on my couch, glued to the news, catching up on my reading, and praying that the tree outside wouldn’t knock into my apartment, breaking windows and taking the power lines with it, I worried about the gallery. Had we done enough?

As the reports came in from Battery Park City, Queens, the Rockaways, Staten Island, the Jersey Shore, Connecticut on the Long Island Sound, we heard nothing of Chelsea. Friends in Stuyvesant Town were under three feet of water. Then lower Manhattan lost power. Still no word about Chelsea.

Tuesday morning came and reports of utter destruction flooded the news. Lower Manhattan was badly hit. The storm surge had ravaged the city, causing transformers to explode and the subways to be inundated with salt water. I decided that I needed to get to the gallery to scope out the potential damage and thankfully, a good friend of mine, Ali Osborn, offered to give me a ride. He works at the South Street Seaport Museum, which suffered from flooding from the storm surge. The entire print shop was ravaged.

And as I was about to get into the car to drive to Manhattan, I received a call from Cristin reporting that galleries on 24th Street had been hit with four feet of water. Panic set in.

Manhattan was a ghost town. No power, no traffic lights, people not sure what they should do with themselves, people using payphones(!), it was something out of an apocalyptic movie.

The drive down 29th Street was hopeful but strange as all the metal gates were down and there were no signs of people. As we pulled up in front of the gallery, I was shocked to see our vinyl sign still attached to the front of the building. I opened up the metal gate to the gallery, trying to see through the darkness if there had been any water and as I walked inside, I was shocked again to see absolutely no traces of water. None. It was a miracle. Our office, our library, and our artwork were all safe.

After I thanked my lucky stars, I walked down to 24th Street to see how they fared. What I saw was a disaster zone. I saw people carrying 8 foot paintings sopping wet and putting them on box trucks while they tried to clear the water out of their space. I heard about multi-million dollar deals that were now off because the works had been destroyed. Unbelievable.

Then I walked home six miles through the apocalyptic downtown, over the crowded Williamsburg bridge, and through the relatively untouched but unable to actually do anything Williamsburg.

When I arrived back at my apartment, it was then that I was able to process and realize the kind of meltdown I probably would have had had our situation at the gallery been any different. The cleanup, the repairs, the insurance claims, the calls to artists about their work. Thankfully, our artists reported that none of their studios had sustained any damage from the storm. So lucky.

On Wednesday, Cristin asked that we meet at the gallery to reconvene and see if our neighbors needed anything. Melanie Baker was so kind to give me a ride into Manhattan, my other carpool buddy being Leonard Lopate. Surreal. A pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts with power revealed that my normal guys at 25th and 9th Ave had relocated temporarily. My dependence on Dunkin’ Donuts  is somewhat embarrassing.

We inspected the gallery one more time and then decided to check on our neighbors. The taxi garage and the fish market were operating on a generator but our neighborhood deli was closed. On the chilly day, we saw the continued cleanup and restoration efforts from 27th Street’s Winkleman Gallery to 19th Street’s David Zwirner. An absolute mess. Basements flooded, exhibitions destroyed, libraries decimated, offices incapacitated. Millions of dollars worth of art, libraries, office equipment, property damage, not to mention archives that were wiped out including Printed Matter and Martha Graham farther south at WestBeth.

And so, as we checked in with our neighbors, we again realized just how lucky we were. As I walked over the Williamsburg bridge again, amidst even more people, I thought about the impact that this storm has had on the city and the art community as a whole. This city is resilient and I know it will bounce back, but in some cases the physical and economic damage is irreversible.

On Thursday, I spent the day reading about the extent of the damage in Chelsea as reported by all the major art critics (listed below). Each story heartbreaking and grounding.

On Friday, I got another ride with Melanie and Leonard. We were able to hook up to a generator to catch up, although we froze a bit in the dark gallery. I walked to the east side to catch the ferry to Williamsburg, waiting an hour before boarding the ship. Lower Manhattan was still without power when I arrived on the Brooklyn shore but I am happy to report that our power came back on Friday night, so we can now, luckily, resume business as usual starting on Monday.

I cannot reiterate enough just how lucky we were in all of this. My thoughts go out to those were not so fortunate and who have been working tirelessly throughout the week to rebuild. This has been a challenging time for everyone and everyone has their own story to share. Thanks for reading mine.

Further reading
Chelsea Galleries Hit Hard by Storm Sandy, by Brian Boucher, Art in America.
Chelsea Art Galleries Struggle to Restore and Reopen, by Roberta Smith, The New York Times.
Saltz’ Devastating Tour through Chelsea’s Ruined Art Galleries, By Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine.
After the Flood: How Will Hurricane Sandy Change New York’s Art World? By Ben Davis, Artinfo.


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Einstein on the Beach at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Somehow I feel like I spent the past three years waiting for the opportunity to see Einstein on the Beach by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass with choreography by Lucinda Childs. That opportunity came the other night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

I say that I have been waiting that long because I was first introduced to Robert Wilson when I started my career working at the Watermill Center, “Bob’s” experimental theater residency program in the Hamptons.

Einstein on the Beach was a huge cultural success when it premiered in 1976 but a commercial disaster, sinking Wilson into debt and essentially running him out of New York. Since then, he has hailed critical success for his avant-garde theater and made his gradual return to New York.

Einstein on the Beach, Knee Play 1

Knee Play 1.

Einstein on the Beach is an enormous undertaking with a large cast, live, layered music, intricate dance numbers, massive mechanical sets, and a 4 hour, 15 minute running time with no intermission. Utilizing repetition, the opera is at once incredibly complex and incredibly simple.

I found myself actively – and exhaustively – looking for changes throughout the four plus hours. What I found was that at a certain moment, one must surrender to the fact that there will be no conflict, climax or resolution. The opera will merely continue at the same tempo, with the same lighting, with the same dialogue, with the same lyrics, with the same movement with only subtle changes.

Einstein on the Beach Act I, Scene 2A Trial (Bed)

Act I, Scene 2A Trial (Bed).

The lack of change, that persistence of sameness, was absolutely amazing. The talent of the performers had me in awe. They must possess such discipline and hone incredible skills of voice, acting, and movement.

My favorite example of this was in Act II, Scene 1B, “Train” when two performers sang a song of love in the form of counting the beats, “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3,” which changed rapidly to “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4” to 5’s to 6’s and then back down without every catching a breath. Incredible.

Einstein on the Beach, Act III, Scene 3B, Field (Space Machine)

Act III, Scene 3B, Field (Space Machine).

And the Lucinda Childs choreography where the dancers chassé and leap and chaînés in spirals around each other was dizzying in a good way. How these dancers could keep track of where they were, was one thing. The other thing, was their precision and enduring rhythm even after 20 minutes of nonstop motion. Again, incredible.

Einstein on the Beach, Act IV, Scene C, Building.

Act IV, Scene C, Building.

Then of course, there were the marvelous tableaus that Wilson created with the outlandish sets, simple costumes, lots of smoke, and focused lighting plus the standard Wilsonian gestures with the hands.

The music by Philip Glass was a classical circular melody that pulsated. Driving the sameness with subtle changes throughout.

Einstein the Beach 2012. Robert Wilson, Philip Glass, Lucinda Childs. Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Philip Glass, Lucinda Childs, and Robert Wilson on stage for the curtain call.

All in all, the whole opera was totally bizarre but somehow I found myself relating to it. I was so happy to see such a seminal work, and to see it in New York.

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