Wandering in Prospect Heights

Walking in a westerly direction from my current apartment at Franklin and Park Pl. I was amazed by the number of new buildings that have popped up in recent years. Some are certainly ugly concrete blocks with ‘artful’ triangular windows, but others manage to blend and add character in equal measure. The neighborhood is changing. NYC is always in a state of flux. The longer I live here (it’s been almost 11 years now) the more tempting it is to feel nostalgic about how it was when I moved. I remember when anything east of Washington was ‘scary’ (for a white girl from Buffalo). I remember when Grand Space (the hippie colony on Bergen and Grand) was the only place with lights on for blocks. Now there’s a condo building down the street. Progress can make long time residents feel shut out, left behind. Who are all these yuppies with strollers? Why are there so many men with absurd beards and ironic tattoos? This is the way of the city. I wouldn’t have 1970s NYC back for all the cocaine fueled parties in the world. I’m glad that the city is safer, that new housing stock is being built, that organic produce can be purchased at Bob & Betty’s Market. I will admit that I wish brunch for one at Dean St. Cafe didn’t cost me $25 and that the line at Ample Hills Creamery was less than 25 minutes in duration, but I’m happy that they both exist. The rent is too damn high but I don’t believe that NYC is less vibrant, less artistic, less surprising than it was ten years ago, or twenty, or fifty. The city changes. The artists change.

This amazing and totally crazy piece of art by Swoon, which memorializes Red Hook after Sandy, is on display at the Brooklyn Museum. During a recent visit there were Caribbean immigrants, yuppies with strollers, old Jewish ladies and Hispanic families wandering through.

Currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum, Swoon: Submerged Motherlands.

Currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum, Swoon: Submerged Motherlands.

Is this piece of art less meaningful because it’s displayed at a museum? Rather than see it as overly establishment I would like to see the Brooklyn Museum as a vital and interesting venue because of their choice to display this piece of art. Where else would it find such a diverse audience? I don’t believe that art is only important when only a few people know about it; art is meant to be exposed to the public. NYC has always been a place where a vast variety of people have access to a vast variety of art. This is what makes it vital and exciting as a place and I don’t believe that this quality has disappeared. NYC is just as full of wonder as it ever was (but now you can take the subway at 2am and not be mugged).

Outdoor Film Screenings

Summer in NYC is a hot, sticky time full of free outdoor events. There are yoga classes, bubble wars, wandering Shakespeare, Shakespeare in a Parking Lot, countless concerts of all musical varieties and, my favorite part of the summer- outdoor film screenings! There’s something about sitting on the grass, eating picnic food and watching a movie that makes me positively glowy. I suppose it’s because I love the group experience of seeing a movie with hundreds of strangers, but I hate paying the $12.50 to do so in a theater. The outdoor film screening gives NYC back its raucous movie going adventures. The New York Parks Dept. has a pretty exhaustive list of the screenings happening this summer, but I’d like to spotlight the ones I think are particularly exciting!

The Bryant Park film series is one of the best known and therefore one of the most crowded. You need to get there when the lawn opens (5pm) and be prepared to use all your New Yorker bitchiness to get a spot. This year they’ve saved the best movie for last: Bonnie and Clyde on Monday Aug. 23rd. Watch this trailer and consider if watching in a group is worth the hassle for you.

The only really exciting film (for me at least) at Summerscreen this summer is the Labyrinth. God I love David Bowie. Sigh. Lucky for you the screening was postponed by rain and will be happening Aug. 18th, so you still have time to figure out what to wear when on hipster home turf!

On Wed. July 21st take a trip up to Van Cortland Park in the Bronx for a screening of one of the most romantic movies ever released- Casablanca. You and your significant other will be so wrapped up in the romance you’ll almost forget how long it will take you to get home.

The Summer on the Hudson film screenings on Pier 1 in Riverside Park South offer a lovely view of the water and free chairs (if you show up early enough). My two picks are Big Fish on Aug. 4th and Stranger than Fiction on Aug. 11th. Here’s the trailer for the latter; imagine watching it with the Hudson River in the background (sigh, I love summer in NYC).

The Rooftop Film Noir Screenings are new (at least to me) this summer. I find the idea of watching film noir from a rooftop in the W. Village extremely compelling. My pick is Sunset Boulevard on July 22nd.

Hudson River Park’s River Flicks provide cool breezes off the water as well as free popcorn! There’s only one film in the lineup I’d want to see this summer- Julie and Julia (Aug 4th). I’ve already seen it and I can assure you it’s nice light summery fare but be sure to bring a substantial picnic- all the cooking will make you hungry!

Also new to me this summer is the Red Hook Summer Movies festival. From their website it looks like the view behind the screen will be phenomenal- Lady Liberty is the guest star of every film! The films are mostly new to me as well so I can’t give any solid recommendations, though Splash looks ridiculous enough to be fun:

I’m not too keen on any of the movies screening at Socrates Sculpture Park in July, but the August schedule isn’t up yet so you should definitely check the site again later this month to see what comes up!

Rooftop Films, though generally not free, is one of my favorite summer institutions. The screenings take place in a variety of locations, not all on rooftops. My favorite venue by far is the Old American Can Factory, so if one of the screenings happening there appeals to you definitely go! I generally favor the programs of short films. July 21st they’re showing a program of Swedish short films, which I might skip were it not that I’ve seen one of the films (INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA) and it was marvelous! I would also strongly recommend Animation Block Party (July 30th)- a wonderful night of animated shorts that I’ve attended 2 years running.

Last but certainly not least, my all time favorite venue for film screenings- Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is nothing more magical than sitting between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges watching a wonderful film with your friends. It is a truly New York experience. The film selection this year isn’t that great but I would say The Blues Brothers on Aug. 19th is the best of the bunch.

Happy watching!!

Nude with a Goose Strikes Again!

Nude with a Goose, the fledgling curatorial partnership of Berit Hoff and Shannon McEneaney, recently had their second exhibition. If you didn’t read my post about their first show you should check it out for all the background info… These lovely ladies have taken it upon themselves to singlehandedly bring to light the strange, beautiful and thought provoking art that is hiding in the studio apartments of young artists all over the city. At the same time they are creating opportunities to curate instead of waiting for the art world to give them their dream jobs.

Their latest exhibit, Exposure, brought together 60 artists for a one-night-only event that was part exhibit and part nightclub, with Essential (a 12 year old party/event organization) handling the second part. The works shown ranged from oil paintings to sculptures made with unrecognizable materials. I will just tell you a bit about a few of my favorites.

Elisa Garcia de la Huerta’s brilliant photography addressed the theme in a more subtle way than some of the other works. The vibrant colors exposed details of her images in such a way that the viewer was continually drawn back to them from far corners of the room. I haven’t been able to find them online but if I do I’ll provide a link- check back.

Carlton Sturgill‘s work connects to the theme in a more direct way; the semi-nude woman in his painting is faceless and inviting.

Carlton Scott Sturgill

Emily Johnson’s charcoal drawing is more disturbing the longer you look at it. At first it appears to be people stacked up in a formation like cheerleaders performing, but as you look closer you see that instead of torsos each figure has a second set of legs, making the structure a tower of legs alone. To me this plays with the idea of exposure in a unique way- the exposure of the viewer’s first impression as false. I have failed to find a website for Ms. Johnson but I will appeal to Nude with a Goose- check back.

Marisa DeMarco‘s painting of a face in black and white, framed by pink headphones, is lovely. The chord to the headphones is unplugged and pointing straight to the left, as though waiting for the right music to color in the person, to expose them, or perhaps to show that when we are unplugged we are exposed as colorless. The style feels very Pop Art and while thought provoking the piece doesn’t feel overly combative.

Finally, while I cannot explain how Abdolreza Aminlari‘s piece deals with the theme, I can tell you that I found it compelling. It reminds me of Etch a Sketch in a strange way, but also of experiments with magnets in my High School physics class.

Abdolreza Aminlari

I am looking forward to seeing the next show by Nude with a Goose and I encourage you to keep tabs on them in the future!

Pushy by Discovery

Everyone has certain music that immediately brings them back to a particular place and time. On New Year’s Eve 2009 K and I found ourselves, somewhat by accident and somewhat by design, listening to a band we had never heard of in Cameo Gallery in Wburg. The singer was wearing these absurd sequin covered pants (or was it a dress? I’ll admit parts of the evening are blurry) and she was rocking them. I mean this woman had serious style and the music was exactly right for that moment. We felt energized and empowered. My photos of that show are even blurrier than my memories but when I hear Broke by Discovery I instantly get that rush of excitement.

I have got to find some peace

I can’t afford to go

but I can’t afford to love you anymore…

Can I walk the night alone?

Discovery recently released a new record, Pushy, (available on iTunes), and it’s full of Kathleen Cholewka’s intense personal style, together with the impressive musical additions of her bandmates. I particularly enjoy Lex Marsh’s sax. It’s the sort of sound that makes you want to be in a crowd of people, toasting to new experiences with your very closest friends. You can check them out in June at Goodbye Blue Monday.

Discovery

Culture High & Low

If you’re feeling a bit blue, stuck in NYC while your friends are rocking out at SXSW, you should be reminded of some of the amazing cultural events happening in our fine city- both High and Low.

This past weekend G and I attended, among other diversions (he met my mother for the first time this weekend! It went well!) Franco Zeffirelli’s legendary production of La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. More than perhaps any other opera La Bohème has captured the imagination of generations of artists. Its compelling story was the basis for the musical Rent. Baz Luhrmann’s version also spent time on Broadway. Recently there was even a production without music.  As G said after the performance, the characters are much more familiar than most characters in opera; these are people you can imagine knowing. Anna Netrebko was an incredible Mimi; both her acting and her singing were intensely evocative. I cried (of course) when she died but I also felt that the story had a message for the audience, much more so than the melodramatic plots of Aida or Tosca. If you haven’t seen this classic I highly recommend finding a way to do so.

Anna Netrebko

Anna Netrebko

I will be seeing a much less classic opera next week- The Nose is a surrealist opera based on a short story by Gogol.

Artist William Kentridge defies genres with Shostakovich’s adaptation of Gogol’s story. “The opera is about the terrors of hierarchy,” Kentridge says. “There’s a mixture of anarchy and the absurd that interests me. I love in this opera the sense that anything is possible.” The new production is conducted by definitive Shostakovich interpreter Valery Gergiev. Acclaimed baritone Paulo Szot, who won a Tony Award® for South Pacific, makes his Met debut as the man who wakes up to discover that his nose has disappeared.

You can get a taste of Kentridge’s work at the MOMA, which is currently hosting a retrospective.

Best known for animated films based on charcoal drawings, he also works in prints, books, collage, sculpture, and the performing arts. This exhibition explores five primary themes in Kentridge’s art from the 1980s to the present, and underscores the inter relatedness of his mediums and disciplines, particularly through a selection of works from the Museum’s collection. Included are works related to the artist’s staging and design of Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose.

I haven’t visited the Kentridge exhibit yet but G and I did take a look at Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present, which just opened to the public on Sunday. The exhibit documents her various performance pieces, both through video and photographs of the original performances, and through recreations by actors. The most interesting, and disturbing, of the latter was a pair of naked actors- one female, one male- standing within a narrow archway; you had to pass between them to get into the next room. It was impossible not to touch the naked pair and this was hugely unnerving but, simply because it was unnerving, forced you as the viewer to think further about the piece. I am thrilled that the MOMA has chosen to showcase such challenging work. The exhibit is a triumph for the curator, Klaus Biesenbach, who has succeeded in creating a retrospective of performance art, something never done in the MOMA, and possibly never done as successfully in any other major museum.

You can see some less established artists in the Jonathan LeVine Gallery’s Five Year Anniversary Exhibition.

Since 2005, Jonathan LeVine Gallery has been an important venue for Street Art (ephemeral work placed in public urban environments) and Pop Surrealism (work influenced by illustration, comic book art, and pop culture imagery). As such, the pieces in this exhibition—comprised of paintings, drawings, and sculptures—will be primarily figurative with a strong sense of narration.

I am quite a fan of this image (Ray Caesar, Arabesque):

Ray Caesar, Arabesque

Ray Caesar, Arabesque

On the lower end of the culture spectrum, this Thursday you can attend a retrospective of a rather different sort- a burlesque tribute to Dolly Parton! I expect The Queen of Country Music would be thrilled!

P.S. Best way to spend St. Patty’s Day- Benefit Concert for City Reliquary at the Knitting Factory!

Please follow myself and Miss Scorpio on twitter for the latest and be sure to sign up for the G&S listserve so you can benefit from the editing that eats up so much of my time… Enjoy!

Purim NY-style!

As one of the few Jews in my elementary school I was often called upon to explain the strange holidays that peppered the Jewish calendar. Generally I was not envied, except when it was time for Purim. Purim is sort of like Mardi Gras but with a plot line. Observing the holiday involves telling the story, making a lot of noise, eating a lot, drinking, dressing up in costume, wearing masks, dancing and merry making long into the night, etc. Where better to learn about these important traditions than in the Big Apple? Here is a selection of exciting Purim events designed for the Jew and the goy alike.

If you want to connect with Israeli pop culture go to le Poisson Rouge, where Hadag Nahash will be pouring forth their provocative political hip-hop. Check out this video for a taste:

For a more, ahem, participatory celebration, make your way out to 3rd Ward for Heeb Magazine’s Pour ‘em Party!

Pour ‘em for Purim! Dust off your costumes, shine your dancing shoes and get ready to guzzle. Ever been caught in traffic while the Chassids of South W’burg crowd the streets in costume in February? They are celebrating Purim. When the Jews of ancient Persia avoided extinction, God commanded them to celebrate by getting so drunk they couldn’t tell their friends from their enemies. Sounds good to us! Jewish or not, put on a costume and join us!

JDub Records is also throwing a Purim party, this one of the dancing variety, with excellent DJs throughout the night and $2 beers from Brooklyn Brewery to keep you moving.

As long as you have an appropriate costume in your closet, The Purim Party is free (I used to use a crocheted tablecloth as a veil when I dressed up as Queen Esther). They created this adorable poster so I trust that this party will be one of the more creative events.

The Purim Party

The Purim Party

I’m sure you’re aware that many NY comedians are Jewish, with that understanding I’m sure you realize that there simply has to be a Purim comedy show. There is! And it’s at 92Y Tribeca and features spoofs of Jersey Shore, online dating, Glenn Beck, Jay and Conan (including a very special surprise message from a Tonight Show w/Conan star), Glee, and more. Here’s the promo video:

And finally, if you’re still on your feet by Sunday evening check out the CRAZYKINKYPURIM Variety Show; it’ll be packed with crazy comedy, sexy song and dance, and steamy burlesque acts (not for the weak of heart!). Any event thrown by KinkyJews is sure to be, umm… kinky.

Have a very happy Purim! Follow me and Miss Scorpio on twitter for the latest and be sure to sign up for the Gemini & Scorpio weekly events list if you haven’t done so already.

A Film Student Comes to Town

First of all please pardon me for a second while I sing my own praises… Gemini & Scorpio, the lovely event entrepreneurs who I have been working for these last few months (to the detriment of this blog I am afraid), have been featured in an article in the New York Times. My name is actually included! My grandmother is less excited about this than you might expect but I for one am pretty thrilled.

Setup for G&S Party; image from the NYTimes

Setup for G&S Party, image from the NYTimes

Ok, moving on… I have a friend coming to town this weekend who went to film school at NYU and is taking some sort of test to try to get into a film apprenticeship program in the city. As per usual when I have a visitor I have drafted a list of all sorts of wonderful events taking place and I thought I would share them with you!

Friday night the Mad Breaks Tea Party is sure to be a riotous good time, of the G&S/underground/alt-events variety. There will be aerialists, a tea garden (of course), sculptural installations, fire spinners, a hookah lounge and all sorts of other madness.

On Saturday at Galapagos Art Space, Floating Kabarette takes burlesque to the air in a gravity defying weekly show only to be found in the Big Apple.

Also on Saturday, for a much more G-rated (and more film centered) evening, you can head to 92Y Tribeca for a sing-along with Fieval and friends! An American Tail is one of those Spielberg movies that you associate much more with childhood than with Spielberg. If you remember the songs get ready to belt them with other fans! Here’s a clip to refresh your memory:

On Sunday, another film related event, my favorite comedians are making fun of one of the most ridiculous things to hit the cinema in recent years- Twilight! Head to the Knitting Factory to see the Raspberry Brothers make a comedy out of this mess.

Since this is a film-centric weekend I also advised my visiting friend to check out the offerings at

I advise you to do the same, anytime you want to check out new foreign/independent film or see classics on the big screen! Enjoy!

Follow me and Miss Scorpio on Twitter for the latest event listings and be sure to sign up for the G&S weekly event list- everything you need to know about alt-events in NYC!

1/28: A Concert for Everyone

There are three fantastic concerts taking place tonight, and I suspect everyone will find at least one of them appealing.

For something folksy and slow, with plenty of strumming and melancholy, go to The Living Room, where Dare Dukes will be singing about his current home town of Savannah, Georgia as well as our fine urban jungle. In this video Dare is playing with Savannah accordionist, Rose Lifschutz:

Also this evening, one of my favorite rock bands will be hitting the stage at Bowery Ballroom. Black Taxi always put on an excellent live show and they’re catchy numbers, like Pretty Mama, get the whole crowd moving. Watch it here then go out and see it live:

Finally, B is very excited to see Hooray for Earth at Union Hall. Watch this (rather odd but cool) music video and I’m sure you’ll see why:

I am saved from having to make a choice between these three concerts by a prior commitment- tickets to Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera. I hope you are able to make a choice! Enjoy!

Shenanigans to Save Haiti!

Who said New Yorkers were heartless?! On the contrary the creative community of NYC has come out in full force to present amazing events to benefit the people of Haiti. As I’ve browsed events, and worked on G&S listings this week I have been struck by the number of performances, parties and restaurants who are giving their profits to organizations like The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Here are a selection of such events…

Tonight I Am Ayiti (Haiti) at the Caribbean Cultural Center will feature DJ Laylo on the 1s and 2s, Kalunga Neg Mawon, Tiga Jean-Baptiste & T’Chaka and Jhon Clarke (formerly of Black Parents). The CCCADI is a drop off location for supplies; you can donate first aid supplies and hygiene items.

Saturday night at Lab 24/7 there will a very hot concert to benefit Doctors Without Borders. The event, called Kombit, meaning ‘to come together for the good of the community’ in Haitian creole, will feature Mr. REO, the consummate Haitian via Brooklyn rapper; Ayanna Witter-Johnson, a unique young composer, song-writer, vocalist, cellist and pianist; and Akua Taylor, a singer with soulful African influences.

Also on Saturday, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, you can enjoy a night of comedy to benefit Haiti relief efforts. Zach Galifianakis, Britt Daniel (of Spoon), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), St. Vincent, Janeane Garofalo, Wyatt Cenac (of the Daily Show) and others will be making you laugh, all the name of charity.

My pick of the bunch is the concert titled Horns for Haiti, happening at The Living Theater on Sunday; the Hungry March Band, Raya Brass Band, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra are performing for a night of badass brass, haitian drumming, and ample dancing. I have seen all three of these bands perform and each one individually is enough to make your night truly fantastic. Check out this picture of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra at Coney Island:

Rude Mechanical Orchestra

Also on Sunday, you are morally obligated to eat out! To be specific, you are morally obligated to eat out at one of the 40+ restaurants in NYC who are donating 10% of their profits on Sunday to Haitian relief efforts. Check out the list of participating restaurants and make your reservations today; it’s luxury for a good cause!

On Wednesday Music vs. Hunger is doing a special show to benefit Haiti (their shows usually benefit the food banks of NYC). Go to Bruar Falls for performances by Breakfast in Fur, No Eye Contact, El Medio and  Drew Citron.

Stay tuned for updates, follow me on twitter for the latest, and if you can’t make any of these events please consider making a donation to The Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders (or some other organization of your choice).

PopRally, Singing with the Muppets and more!

It’s great to be back in the city and I’m super excited about all the events coming up! PopRally tonight is sold out but if you can figure out a way to get in it’s sure to be worth the effort! This is the premiere of “SCRYING, a non-narrative performance ballet conceived and directed by New York-based artist Jen DeNike and choreographed by Melissa Barak.” There will also be a live performance of “tribal/electronic/ambient anthems” by Soft Circle.

Also tonight you can learn the gritty details of the work of undercover cops in the tenements of the LES at the start of the twentieth century. This lecture, at the Tenement Museum, will be full of stories of prostitutes, immigrants, anarchists and other questionable characters.

LES Tenements around 1900

LES Tenements around 1900

If you’ve never heard of Alaina Hammond, now is the time to discover the work of this talented writer; the series “Here We Go Again: More Plays by Alaina Hammond” is playing at Manhattan Theater Source several nights this week. It’s not terribly questionable theater but the tickets are cheap enough ($15) that even if you find it questionable it’s not an unreasonable expense.

It’s been some time since I’ve gotten a shot of burlesque and I may get my fix on Wednesday at Skits ‘n’ Tits:

Outrageous monthly variety show presents NYC’s best burlesque beauties, comedians, sketch, variety acts, and music. Produced by and starring Diane O’Debra (formerly of the O’Debra Twins), Steph Sabelli (absurd characters, improvisational comedian), and Jessica Delfino (award winning dirty folk rocker publicly denounced by the US Catholic League). Starring celebrity guests, amazing giveaways, drink specials and more, including a super secret surprise celeb comedian. A wild, dirty little show.

On Saturday you can sing-along with the Muppets when they Take Manhattan at 92Y Tribeca. Check out the trailer and be prepared to join in with your favorite fuzzy friends.

There are lots of other awesome things coming up so stay tuned for more updates!