Monday, December 21, 2009

Objects with mass attract one another.

I have a feeling that Charlotte Boye-Christensen is responsible for a lot of bruises and friction burns on a lot of dancers. I've always thought her choreography was physical, but experiencing Ririe-Woodbury's most recent performance forced me to understand what Charlotte requires from her dancers. The performance was titled Gravity. And I'm pretty sure the dancers now understand the principle like very few others.

The show was in the black box theater and we sat on the front row. That means our seats were basically on stage, and we regularly felt the impact of the dancers as they hit the floors with impact that rattled our chairs.

Choreography is only as good as the dancers who perform it and I'm sure Boye-Christensen is proud of her dancers. I've seen several of these works before. And they just seem to get better. Take Interiors (2008), which features video art from local Utah artist Trent Call. The first time I saw this work it was just OK. But the most recent performance was riveting. Part of it may be due to editing by the choreographer which she talked about after the performance. But I also think it's a result of the dancers having the opportunity to live with the choreography.

I've also seen Turf (2009) before. I liked it then. And I liked it even more now. I have to give a shout out to one of the newest dancers in the company. Prentice Whitlow absolutely shines in this work. Yes, you can tell he's new to the company. He certainly doesn't have the effortless precision of veterans like Erin Lehua Brown and Caine Keenan, both of whom are stunning. But it's been a long time since I've seen drama and power on a Utah dance stage like that brought by Prentice. You can't take your eyes off him. I can hardly wait to see what he brings in the future.

I should probably focus on the centerpiece of the evening, the world premiere of Charlotte Boye-Christensen's Gravity performed with live music provided by the Danish new music group Figura. This is a work I hope to see again. Because there was a lot to watch. And when you're in the tight confines of the Rose Wagner black box theatre, it's hard to take it all in. Figura demands attention, particularly the percussionist who is almost a dancer in his own right. I loved the use of the plastic office water bottle as instrument. But watching the musicians means you frequently forget the dancers. However, they regularly remind you of their presence as gravity forces their bodies to crash into the stage with extreme force. Gravity felt frenetic. But that might be the point. Hopefully, I'll see this work again, possibly on a bigger stage, so I can offer a more informed opinion.

One last note on Figura. The group also performed two works without dancers. The first, Hit Upon by composer Steingrimur Rohloff was performed by Jesper Egelund. I didn't like this piece. Oh go ahead, tell me I just don't get new, academic music. But let me remind you that I spent much of my college career performing the newest of music. I've performed works for vacuum cleaner and microphone feedback. What I didn't like about this work is that it was so processed. I'm pretty sure there were a bunch of Intel processors working at least as hard as the musician. Contrast that with Thracian Sketches by composer Derek Bermel and performed by Anna Klett. This work drew "a connection between Bulgarian fold music and a cosmopolitan, modern sensibility." It was spectacular. And Klett gave a clarinet performance that absolutely dazzled.

All in all, Ririe-Woodbury, under the creative direction of Charlotte Boye-Christensen continues to bring a fresh, challenging viewpoint to contemporary dance in Salt Lake City. And as long as they do that, I plan to be there supporting and watching some of the best art in town.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's bath time.

OK, the door isn't installed and I still need to finish a few details, but my new bathroom is so spectacular that I can't wait any longer to post a few pictures.

Let's start with the before pictures. I have to say, these photos don't really do justice to just how bad my bathroom was. You can't see the mold. Nor can you enjoy the wobbly toilet. But hopefully you get the idea. Here are a few of the before photos:

And now for the transformation. Here's my new shower clad in sexy glass tile.

And how about this sink, hanging seductively on the wall.

I absolutely love my new medicine cabinet. It's worthy of a Damien Hirst exhibit.

The new dual flush, water conserving toilet is so sleek it almost cleans itself. I'm so glad I'll never have to try and clean my old toilet again.

Mmmmmm. Hansa. Turning on the shower has never been so fun.

And if I'm late to work, it's probably because I couldn't drag myself out from under this amazing shower head.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

If I can make it there.

Wait a minute. Do I know that guy up there on the huge NASDAQ screen right in the middle of Times Square? Why yes I do know that guy—it’s me.

How did I end up on a giant screen in Times Square? Well, Verisign is one of our office’s clients. And when clients have limited production budgets, we regularly avoid hiring professional talent and instead give agency employees a $20 gift card if they’ll sign a release form. So, last summer I signed on the dotted line and somehow made it into the final cut of a VeriSign.

Sure I only get about four seconds of screen time. But it’s still Times Square! And they played those four seconds over and over and over again. I’m guessing some famous director noticed the brilliant acting and is now frantically searching for my true identity. Broadway, here I come!

Here are a few photos. And you might be able to watch the video here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jeff the old lady: Toy train edition.

In my never-ending quest to do all things “old lady” I visited the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This is one of those Victorian-style greenhouses filled with amazing plants and flowers from all over the world.

The highlight of the Conservatory was less “old lady” and more “six-year-old-boy.” That’s because we were lucky enough to be there for the Second Annual Golden Gate Express Garden Railway. This miniature railroad features many San Francisco landmarks created using recycled materials including old computer parts, wine corks, even cheese graters. All this handiwork is then set within a lush landscape of appropriately small plants.

This exhibit was wildly popular with the young boys—many of whom came wearing their striped railroad caps and overalls. One even brought his Thomas the Tank Engine backpack. And I don’t blame the kids for getting so excited. I was totally swept away by the sheer, kid-like delight of the whole ordeal. We were even there at just the right time to see one of this year’s new features: Twice daily, set to the sounds of foghorns, the famous San Francisco fog rolls in.

So to all you old ladies out there, if you’re looking to spend a great afternoon with the grandsons, don’t miss the Golden Gate Express Garden Railway, which can be seen now through April 18.

A miniature San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers inside the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.
It's the Castro Theater appropriately showing Sean Penn in Milk.

The Transamerica building created from 600 discarded computer keys.

Look closely and you can see the fog rolling in.

Me, doing my best old-lady pose amid the lovely orchids.

In celebration of real.

My favorite art experience from our recent San Francisco visit was the Richard Avedon show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). OK, let me start by saying that I’m fully aware that much of Avedon’s career is about fashion photography—and there’s very little real about fashion photography.
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But. There is something real about photographs that capture real people in real moments. People with freckles and pimples. People who express emotions. People with bags under their eyes or wrinkles that say something about experience. Even the fashion models in Avedon’s photographs seem happy to reveal flaws.

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There are a lot of great photos at this exhibit. Like the visually arresting self portrait of Avedon that was photographed in, of all places, Provo, Utah. Or the working Americans including a teenage Texas Rattlesnake skinner or a carnival worker in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
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My favorite work in the entire show was a massive print of Andy Warhol and members of The Factory. I love the fact that Andy Warhol seems like a side note in the photograph. I also love the crazy characters, like Candy Darling. In response to Candy Darling, we overheard a mother explaining to her daughter that the photographer had Photoshopped the head of woman onto the body of man and that’s why she has a penis. Is it just me or does this totally prove my point: no one believes photos are real anymore, even if the image was created long before Photoshop.

Installation view of Richard Avedon's Andy Warhol and members of The Factory: Paul Morrissey, director; Joe Dallesandro, actor; Candy Darling, actor; Eric Emerson, actor; Jay Johnson, actor; Tom Hompertz, actor; Gerard Melanga, poet; Viva, actor; Paul Morrissey; Taylor Mead, actor; Brigid Polk, actor; Joe Dallesandro; Andy Warhol, artist; New York, October 30, 1969.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Supperclub San Francisco.

If you're in San Francisco for a friend's birthday, I figure you better find someplace interesting to have dinner. So Felix and I headed to Supperclub. This import from Amsterdam is part bar, part restaurant, part bedroom, part nightclub, and part performance art.

We were greeted at the door by our gender-bending host for the evening Miss V. (S)He asked how our day was going and after explaining that our original flight had been canceled so we were routed through LA meaning a total travel day of about 9 hours, Miss V took pity on us and arranged for complimentary champagne at the bar. She also offered us a delicious amuse-bouche.

When it was time for dinner, our server escorted us into a white room and took us to our bed. This restaurant doesn't really have tables. Rather, there are beds with small eating surfaces. Here we enjoyed a four course meal all of which was decided by the chef. No ordering, the food just arrives. While you enjoy dinner, a DJ spins dance music and the staff entertain with presentations that are closer to performance art than to performance.

One of the best parts of the evening was the lighting. It's amazing what a great lighting designer can do with a completely white canvas. And if you want to stay late, Supperclub transforms into a full-fledged night club as the evening wears on.
But enough talking about it, why not just show you a few pictures.

You have to be rejected before you can get into Supperclub.

Here's Felix in bed and ready for dinner.

And me with new lighting.

Miss V offers Felix a complimentary birthday shot.

Not exactly sure what this was. And it only got weirder.

Here's the evening's Burlesque performer before the striptease.

And during the striptease.

Miss V with a friend and a performance that might best be described as Kabuki meets the Cockettes.

The performance ended with far fewer clothes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Welcome to the wreckage.

Finally, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to remodel my disaster of a bathroom. For me, this type of project does nothing but inspire stress. First on the list, is demolition and there was nothing in my bathroom worth saving. So the demolition has been fairly radical—currently it looks like something you’d find in a post-war ruin. Here are a few photos:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Is it just me, or is the Guggenheim totally OK with letting artists mess up the museum? Remember when Matthew Barney scaled the walls while Richard Serra ladled molten petroleum jelly into a gutter that ran down the entire length of the spiral walkway.

And then on my most recent visit, there was an untitled work by Kitty Kraus. It was made from, and I quote, “Ice, ink, light fixture, cable, and light bulb, dimensions variable.” Basically, Kraus freezes a light bulb attached to cord in a block of ice and ink. (There's got to be some risk of electrical shock, right?) Then, she places the block in the middle of a gallery, plugs it in, a lets the whole mess melt. The result, a big giant black mark on those beautiful Guggenheim terrazzo floors. I hope it doesn’t stain.

And there was one other piece of art. Behind the inkcicle was a nearly invisible glass work hanging high on the wall. But don’t get anywhere near it. The gallery attendant stopped me well short saying, “We’re afraid it might fall on someone.”

Oh don’t ask what it means. Who cares? I just love messy, dangerous museum visits.

Both photos: Kitty Kraus
Untitled, 2009
Ice, ink, light fixture, cable, and lightbulb, dimensions variable
Courtesy Galerie Neu, Berlin, and the artist
Installation view, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2009
Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome to Wonderland.

This last summer, I wrote a post about the SBDance performance, Drosselmeyer, Inc. After that review, SBDance founder Stephen Brown contacted me to ask if he could give my contact information to Jerry Rapier, the producing director for Plan B Theatre. I agreed and soon received an e-mail from Mr. Rapier saying he’d read my post and wanted to know if he could add me to his press list. Since almost no one takes my blog seriously (in fact is any body even reading this), I was flattered by the request. That means I intend to attend as many Plan B performances as possible and to write about every single one.
That said, I have to admit that Plan B has visited the pages of Viva Variety before. About a year ago, I wrote about Radio Hour Frankenstein. So it’s fitting that a year later, I’ve returned to the Rose Wagner for this year’s Radio Hour, Alice—an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first. This was a lot of story to cram into 60 minutes. Because of that, some moments in the show were confusing and hard to follow. But I’m not sure what I would have cut. It’s hard to present a version of Alice in Wonderland without all those classic characters like the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Chesire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the Caterpillar. That’s a lot of character to develop in 60 minutes.
On the flip side there was a lot of good. The story really got going with the arrival of the Queen of Cups. You forget how truly scary this story is. And the Queen of Cups brings on the horror. I loved the way the story built to demands for beheading just about everyone. And Mathew Ivan Bennett’s adaptation ended big, with chilling effect.
All the performers are to be commended but I’ll call out two in particular. David Evanoff’s music is fantastic. If you were to listen to this show on the radio, you’d swear there was a whole band of musicians performing the soundtrack. Sure Evanoff is using a lot of computers, but he’s still working hard. And it’s fun to see him perform live.
Even more fun than Evanoff’s performance is that of Foley artist Daisy Blake. The sound effects make the story more exciting, but watching how it’s done is well worth the price of admission. And sound engineers Mark and Eric Robinette get big kudos for the brilliant audio.
I’ve heard a rumor that this may be the last Radio Hour from Plan B. If it is, that will make me sad. All the more reason to see this show live. It runs through October 31. At the very least, you can hear it broadcast live on KUER (90.1) on October 30 at 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some serious paper cuts.

I went to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) to see Read My Pins but I was absolutely blown away by Slash: Paper Under the Knife. This is one of the coolest exhibitions I’ve seen in a while. Mainly because it pleases on a variety of levels—whether it’s the sheer craftsmanship, the whimsy and wonder, or the focus on human experience. And it features a cavalcade of today's hottest artists, all of whom regularly use paper in their work. If you’re in NYC between now and April 10, 2010 see this show.

When you head to the galleries, don’t take the stairs. Take the elevator to the fourth floor. Because the effect when the elevator opens onto Andreas Kocks' black-splattered Paperwork #9356 (2009) is spectacular. And if that isn’t enough, you’re also confronted by The Triumph of Good and Evil (2009) by Chris Gilmour. It’s obvious that this sculpture is made from cardboard. But it’s so monolithic, that it defies the quotidian nature of the material.

While much of this show is jaw-droppingly fun, there’s plenty of work that is more subtle and just as interesting. Nava Lubelski’s Crush (2008) is a paper terrain created from cut and shredded love letters received while the artist was coming to grips with his homosexuality. Or how about the strangely beautiful Placebos (2008-09). This work was created by Celio Braga using the prescription-medicine instructions of friends and family.

Thomas Demand’s Shed (2006) was a three dimensional paper recreation of a found photograph, which was then photographed. Olafur Elisson offered Your House (2006), an editioned work of laser-cut, blank pages that created an architectural void inside the pages of a book. Tom Friedman gave us Quaker Oats (2009), which featured hundreds of Quaker Oats boxes. It looked like a frozen, digital effect from the breakfast scene in some sci-fi film.

My pick for best work in the show is Oliver Herring’s Alex (2009). Herring’s meticulous, existential works approach human experience in thoughtful, startling ways. Alex is a haunting work that stares deep into your eyes, searching for secrets.

As the ultimate museum-photography killjoys, MAD doesn’t even allow you to take pictures in the lobby. Which is too bad because the lobby featured Andrea’s Mastrovito’s Nothing Left to Do But Cry (2009), a paper, storm-driven ocean complete with sinking pirate ship all hanging upside down from the ceiling. Amazing.

Oh I know the real art critics like to trash shows like this as too friendly, too forced, too haphazard, too something. But I say critics be damned. Because sometimes, you want to be reminded that art isn’t just for the critics or the billionaire collectors. It’s also for people who want to spend an afternoon at a museum and walk away feeling inspired.

I also say museum photography bans be damned. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I can still show photographs of works from Slash: Paper Under the Knife. Well at least until I get a cease and desist order.

MAD's new building which opened in September 2008 at 2 Columbus Circle.

Me trying to take a self portrait in front of the building.

Andreas Kocks, Paper work #9356, 2009
Graphite on Hahnemuhle Cornwall paper

Chris Gilmour, The Triumph of Good and Evil, 2009
Cardboard, glue

Celio Braga, Placebos, 2008-09
Medicine instructions, clear tape, paper, c-print cutouts

Olafur Eliasson, Your House, 2006,
Laser cut and hand-bound book, edition of 225

Tom Friedman, Quaker Oats, 2009
Quaker Oats boxes, Quaker Oats, glue

Oliver Herring creating Alex, 2009
Digital c-prints, museum board, foamcore, polystyrene

Politically pinned.

There’s been a lot of press recently about Madeleine Albright’s new book, Read My Pins. And although it may add fuel to the argument that I’m really an old lady (because if there was ever museum show created for old ladies, this is it), I was intrigued. So I stopped by New York City’s Museum of Arts and Design to take a look and the corresponding exhibition.

Although located in a smallish gallery, there was plenty to see with hundreds of pins and brooches on display, many of which were inexpensive costume jewelry. However, there’s more to this show than just a bunch a pins. That’s because Albright used pins as a communication device during diplomatic meetings. It all started a long time ago when Seddam Hussein called Albright a snake. So Albright showed up at her next diplomatic meeting with Iraq sporting an antique gold snake pin (see inset photo).

After that, Albright made a habit of wearing brooches meant to communicate something about her diplomatic intensions. When Albright felt Russian officials were ignoring human-rights violation in Chechnya, she wore a trio of monkeys in classic hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, see-no-evil poses. When she needed to convey a tough message, she often wore wasp pins to deliver an extra sting. There were pins made from chunks of the Berlin Wall. Pins designed to appeal to children. Pins given to Albright by diplomats and world leaders. Suffragette pins. Crude ceramic heart pins made by Albriht’s young daughter. Even a giant lobster pin that (if I’d been allowed to take pictures) would have inspired a post entitled Art Lobster: Old Lady Edition.

The pins were fun to look at. But the best part of the exhibit was the accompanying stories, many of which were surprisingly emotional. Take the story of a young man who lost his mother in hurricane Katrina. He approached Albright and told her that his mother was a big fan of the secretary of state and that she knew Albright loved and wore pins. In tribute to his mother, he gave Albright a diamond and jewel pin that was given to his mother by his father as an anniversary gift.

Yes, I spent an hour surrounded by women, most of whom were older. But I’m happy to embrace my inner old lady. Because Read My Pins offered a strange mix of whimsy, history, and emotion that made me happy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gold and the Guggenheim.

Just this past week, I made my first visit to the Guggenheim New York. I went specifically to see the exhibit Paired, Gold: Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Roni Horn.

But before I get to that, let’s talk about museum lines. Because it always amazes me how many people show up to New York museums. I arrived at the Guggenheim ten minutes before it was set to open and already there was a line around the block.

But at least waiting in line gave me a chance to enjoy the museum's architecture.

Even as I left the museum an hour later, there was a still a long line of people waiting to get in.

I don’t think the people in line were there to see Paired, Gold based on the reaction I got from the audio tour attendants when I asked if the audio tour included information about the gold show. (It didn’t, by the way.) Everyone was there to see the big Kandinsky exhibit (and it was big). I was on a tight schedule with less than a full day to hit several museum shows. So I skipped the Kandinsky and headed to the farthest reaches of the Guggenheim to see the Felix Gonzalez-Torres works.

I have to say, the publicity for Paired, Gold made it seem like this was a fairly big show. In reality, it was two works, one by Gonzalez-Torres and the other by Roni Horn. These works were shown together because Horn influenced the work of Gonzalez-Torres and vice versa. I’d recently seen the same Gonzalez-Torres work on display at SFMOMA. So I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to see some of the artist’s work that I hadn’t seen before. But it’s still a dang cool work of art and it offered all the magic and intrusiveness that you expect from Gonzalez-Torres.

This was the first time I’d seen any art by Roni Horn. Her work, Gold Field consists of two pounds of gold (and we're talking the real stuff) pressed into a mat. I’d read about the work but had never even seen pictures of it. It wasn’t what I expected. I thought two pounds of gold would feel dense and weighty. But surprisingly, two pounds of gold pressed into a shape roughly the size of a door mat looks fragile and ethereal, almost translucent.

The Guggenheim doesn’t allow photography anywhere in the museum except the lobby (killjoys). But fortunately, they do offer press photos on their Web site. You can use the photos as long give the provided photo credit. So here’s the photo followed by the credit.

Installation view: Paired, Gold: Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Roni Horn, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 2, 2009–January 6, 2010 Works shown, foreground: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Golden), 1995; background: Roni Horn, Gold Field, 1980–82 
Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Welcome to the new neighborhood.

After years of planning, rezoning, and what seems like endless starts and stops, the new condos next to my house are finally nearing completion. And this is what it now looks like next door.

With such a fancy dancy building next door, my house is looking a little tired. So I’m working on fixing things up. First fix was a new fence. Sure I’m still waiting for my gate even though I ordered it three months ago. But with the landscaping in next door, the new fence is looking great.

I also had my crumbly chimneys repaired and they’ve never looked better.

Next up, a new paint job.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kiss today goodbye.

Wow. Who knew a regional production of an American musical could overwhelm me with so many memories and emotions. But Pioneer Theater Company’s production of A Chorus Line did just that.
On the way to the theater I remembered how much I wanted the original cast recording when I was in high school. That was 1976 and I lived in Worland, Wyoming. Not only could you not download the album on iTunes. You couldn’t even find the LP anywhere near my home town. But that’s what I wanted for Christmas and my mom is all about delivering on what one wants for Christmas. So she called my aunt in Denver and asked her to buy the album. My aunt bought the album and sent it to my mother with a warning that A Chorus Line was immoral and featured all kinds of objectionable material. To my mom’s credit, she still gave me the album.
During Pioneer Theater Company’s performance, I was also reminded how much I love the songs, maybe because as a member of the Polyphonics (Worland High School’s answer to Glee), one of my favorite Polyphonic performances was a medley from the show.
Thank god PTC delivered. This was a great cast. With spectacular dancing, great singing, and some powerfully emotional performances, this was a production that hit me hard. Probably because A Chorus Line presented so many great gay characters at a time when being a gay teenager was just plain impossible.
“The sweetness and the sorrow.” I couldn’t agree more.

My original cast recording (on vinyl no less) of A Chorus Line.