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MTC’s The Collaboration Makes Disposable Sellable Art for Consumption

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It’s a formulation that we are supposed to buy into right away. Like the art world and the two artists being played with an almost all-too-knowing nod straight to the audience. In Anthony McCarten’s provocative but ultimately tiring play, The Collaboration, the historic icons on display leap at us, in a way, demanding to be taken in through an artful lens. We do want to believe, as we do in theatre, and we try, but, as directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah (Donmar’s One Night in Miami), the Artistic Director of the Young Vic in London, the painted strokes are too forced, and much too obvious to be taken for anything deep or meaningful. It shines, but in a way that doesn’t register, becoming an artifice of pop commercial culture, prepared and presented with purpose, not for anything but the market. Which may be as apropos of the product as anything up on that stage.

Recognizable mainly because of the wig, courtesy of Karicean “Karen” Dick (“Michael Jackson: Searching…“) and Carol Robinson (“Burlesque“), Paul Bettany (“A Very British Scandal“; West End’s An Inspector Calls), the wig designers for the show, the play cryptically fashions an Andy Warhol characterization that is appealing to watch and easy to engage with, but I’m not quite sure it registers as authentic. The first scene finds him being convinced by his art dealer, Bruno Bischofberger, played pleasantly by Erik Jensen (LCT’s Disgraced), to collaborate with Basquiat, for a purpose that feels artfully inauthentic, or at least, superficial. It’s money and fame, that is at the heart of this pressuring, and there is lots of ego in the arm twisting. I guess we are to accept that as enough, even when history tells us this isn’t exactly how it went down. But in McCarten’s play, the two punch plot formulation is presented basically to power this Collaboration through to the end. It’s like watching an up-and-coming boxer coming into the ring with an already famous one standing there already, reluctantly lacing up his gloves for the sole reason of trying to hold on to some of the glory he has amassed. But the stakes aren’t high enough emotionally in this formulation to care, so I’m not sure I understood the point, beyond that the world is forever fascinated by these two artists, even when they aren’t doing anything all that interesting.

But it is the over-the-top dramatization of Jean-Michel Basquiat, by the usually solid Jeremy Pope (Broadway’s Choir Boy; Ain’t Too Proud…), that pulls the play sideways. He gives us a tortured artist, full of dynamic twitches and some hypnotic gazing out into the audience, that feels as authentic as a poorly drawn cartoon. It consistently feels like Pope is playing to the crowd, giving us a cutout wax figure full of despair and troubled angst, wrapped in addiction and trauma-fueled delusion. I can’t say I know enough about the man to really say if that is an accurate portrayal, but it did feel performative as if the fourth wall kept being pulled down just so we, the audience, could get a good look at the damaged famous man that we are so drawn to, rather than trust our understanding of the creation and its subtlety.

Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope in MTC’s The Collaboration. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

The music is pumped up and DJ’d in as we walk into MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre before The Collaboration has even begun, giving energy and the air of the period and place we are partaking in, thanks to the compelling images that take us back in time, courtesy of projection designer Duncan McLean (Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at City Center). It elevates the crowd, bringing them to their feet to dance to the music and feel the rhythm of the rhyme. With a compelling set and exacting costumes designed by Anna Fleischle (Broadway/West End/Young Vic’s Death of a Salesman) with lighting by Ben Staton (Broadway’s A Christmas Carol) and a sound design by Emma Laxton (Young Vic’s Blood Wedding), the piece has all the elements of fine art in the making, but flounders in the splash of obvious choices by writer McCarten, who is also the book writer for A Beautiful Noise, another paint-by-the-numbers jukebox show on Broadway, that one about the life and legend of Neil Diamond. Another by the books engagement.

The Collaboration focuses our gaze in on these two influential and culturally important figures that blew apart the art world and reformulated it in very distinct and compelling ways. But the play fails to find a bridge to cross from one space to another, even as we watch them try to unpack the process before them through bickering, complaining, disengaging, and filming. It never feels organic, especially the dialogue, and it doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go. Assistance to given by the inclusion of Krysta Rodriguez (MCC’s Seared) as one of Basquiat’s more engaging girlfriends, but even with her ragtag representation, her inclusion never truly registers beyond being the bearer of bad news and complications. Had she not entered the space, the play would not require too much more to stay on track.

Beyond some facts and figures that are thrown in for history’s sake, as if I was speed-reading Wikipedia about the two influencial artists, I waited and waited for a dramatic arc that would take me to a place of deeper understanding and engagement. It never really comes, beyond superficial ramblings about beauty, fame, drug addiction, and the idea around an artist’s ambition and drive. But nothing beyond the skin deep. It left me with the feeling one gets when one opens up an old box of postcards from fantastic and famed art shows seen in the past. We remember the idea and a few of the visuals, but sometimes, not much more. That’s about as complicated or deep as the thought and the memory gets from the postcard image of art made into a product. And we will place it back in the box and move on with our life, not really able to take in the image that was manufactured for our consumption on a postcard that was never sent. It’s a pleasant enough memory, but not one that enlightens or deepens the understanding. Unfortunately.

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Art

Times Square Chronicles Presents Artist and Innovator Roger Sichel

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Photographer, artist and festival producer, Roger Sichel’s prolific creative experience spans generations and genres. From creating one of New York’s first erotic film festivals with judges Andy Warhol, Gore Vidal and Milos Forman to producing rock concerts with the Doors, Four Seasons and Isaac Hayes nationwide, Roger identifies most as a cultural observer and photographic journalist. His work is at this years Coachella and on the Moon.

T2C had a chance to talk to this prolific artist.

Sichel has now entered the next phase of his artistic career and is choosing to explore neo-pop mixed media, inspired by his own life, as well as current events, while simultaneously preserving the legacy of his work in photojournalism.

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

 

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Bonnie Comley, ART TO WARE and ChaShaMa Present Nothing to Wear

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Until April 30th Bonnie Comley, ART TO WARE and ChaShaMa Present Nothing to Wear in Port Authority’s 41st Street building.

Bonnie Comley and Anita Durst

Bonnie is a three-time Tony Award-winning producer. She has, also, won an Olivier Award and two Drama Desk Awards for her stage productions. She is on the Board President of The Drama League as well as a full member of The Broadway League and the Audience Engagement and Education Committee.

Nothing to Wear

Comley has produced over 40 films, winning five Telly Awards and one W3 Award. She is the founder and CEO of BroadwayHD, the world’s premier online streaming platform delivering over 300 premium live productions to theatre fans globally. Now she is an artist presenting her work at ART TO WARE (A2W) a wearable Art Gallery that curates up-cycled, hand-made, one-of-a-kind statement pieces to be seen, loved and taken home!

Bonnie Comley and Lelie Ware

Founded in 2021 by Lesley Ware, this Black-owned and women-run small business carries small-batch, socially conscious, up-cycled, and locally-made wearables and gifts. A2W curates an environment of creativity, acceptance, and collaboration within a dynamic retail setting that showcases the work of artists, designers, and creative visionaries.

Making this all happen is ChaShaMa and Anita Durst who helps create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate. Currently, they present 150 events a year, have workspace for 120 artists, and have developed 80 workshops in under served communities. They award 11 million worth of real estate to artists, subsidizes 300 artist work spaces, provide over 215 free art classes, gives 200 artists free space to present and upport over 75 businesses with free space.

Nothing to Wear is a provocative look at our relationship with our clothing choices as it pertains to our self image, fast fashion and textile waste. It challenges the fashion industry to create an alternative to current business models and the global appetite for consumption and asks viewers to question dress codes like the current policing of women in political office.

Jose Febrillet from Port Authority

 

 

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16 Year Old Artist Henri Reed’s Debut Exhibition at Lux Contemporary

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Lux Contemporary, the newest Chelsea gallery adjacent to Rolls Royce New York, will launch “Henri’s World,” a new solo exhibition by 16-year-old LA-based emerging artist, Henri Reed, on view from Friday, April 19th –  Sunday, May 19th at 270 11th Avenue in New York.

The gallery’s owner and renowned celebrity art dealer, Emanuel Friedman, will host an Invite-only artist reception on Thursday, April 18th from 5pm – 8pm. Expected attendees will include a selection of celebrities and pro athletes, who are collectors of Henri’s works.

Henri, who has already created buzz across the country with collectors in L.A., N.Y., Chicago and Miami, including Babyface, will also make his New York City debut as the featured artist at the New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center, where he has created “Year of the Draggin.” More than a painting, the work serves as a tribute to the thrill of drag racing and the spirited culture surrounding it, set in the Year of the Dragon.

Named to honor the enduring appeal of drag racing, this piece captures the essence of a timeless passion. While it fits into a show centered around cars, its significance goes beyond any specific moment in time. Instead, it invites viewers to experience the exhilaration of speed and competition, regardless of when they encounter it. As one admires “Year of the Draggin,” they’re not just looking at a painting—they’re feeling the pulse of a culture that spans generations. And while its creation may be rooted in a particular year, its impact promises to resonate far into the future, leaving viewers to wonder which era of drag racing it truly represents. The work will be spotlighted at the Manhattan Motor Cars booth, spotlighting all the biggest exotic brands like Rimac, Koenigsegg, Bugatti, Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini and more.

The “Henri’s World” exhibit will take over Lux Contemporary’s gallery space, highlighting over a dozen impactful, large-scale canvases and wood works. The young artist’s highlighted works will include Completa, a work made of two weathered planks of wood that were lying around for weeks in Henri’s studio. He knew he wanted to use them and brought them together, aligning them side by side. With pencil in hand, he began to sketch, treating them not as separate entities but as a unified whole. This piece quickly became the artist’s favorite in the collection. Its significance extends beyond mere materiality, reflecting a profound truth about human connections. When we view others as individuals, we may see only their vulnerabilities. But when we come together, our collective strengths shine forth, overshadowing our weaknesses. “Completa” embodies this essence—the beauty of unity, the power of togetherness.

High on Heels, a depiction of the timeless bond between a loyal canine and its skeletal walker, going beyond life and death. The dog’s love and loyalty shine through, while the walker’s bones remind us of life’s fleeting nature. Yet, together, they show us that love can endure forever. One Million Dollar, a recreation of the dollar bill with a Henri spin pays homage to his brother with his favorite color being green and his birthday spotlighted within the piece. On April 17th, Henri will also be appearing as the featured artist at the New York Stock Exchange’s private gallery collection. He is the youngest artist to be shown in the gallery. The collection is curated by world-famous trader and extensive collector, the “Einstein of Wall Street”, Peter Tuchman. The NYSE’s gallery is seen by world leaders, business titans and foreign dignitaries.

“I paint with shadows and whispers, leaving clues for those who dare to decipher the riddles hidden in plain sight,” said Henri.

Henri’s artistic career began at the age of 14 when he found an old wooden crate in his family’s garage and asked his father if he could use it. Before his parents returned from their dinner that evening, Henri had dismantled the crate and finished an original piece using materials from around the house.  A local collector saw a photo of the piece on Henri’s Instagram and immediately commissioned Henri for a new piece for his own home.  Within the next week, Henri began selling artwork to collectors, including Hollywood celebrities, music stars, and business leaders.

In February 2024, Henri was signed by New York City’s Lux Contemporary Gallery, which has featured works by Banksy, KAWS, Daniel Arsham, Brendan Murphy, Mr. Brainwash, Enrique Cabrera, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jonty Hurwitz, Robert Indiana, Jeff Koons, Robert Longo, Takashi Murakami, King Saladeen and Hunt Slonem. Henri is the first emerging artist that the gallery has represented.

Henri’s World will be on view from Friday, April 19th – Sunday, May 19th at Lux Contemporary at 270 11th Avenue in NY, adjacent to Rolls Royce New York.

Exhibition hours are Mondays -Saturday: 10 AM – 7 PM; Sunday: Closed and by appointment.

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Playwright Mario Fratti’s Art for Sale

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Paintings and illustrations from the art collection of the Broadway show “Nine’s” playwright and critic Mario Fratti is for sale at Jadite Gallery on 10th Avenue.

Fratti was not just a playwright, educator and theater critic with the OCC and Drama Desk, but an art collector.

Fratti was born in L’Aquila, Italy on July 5, 1927. In 1962, he presented his one-act play Suicido at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto and Lee Strasberg, a guest of the festival, was impressed by his work and invited him to stage it at the Actors Studio. He moved to New York in Hell’s Kitchen in 1963 and worked as a professor at Columbia University and Hunter College, where he was named Professor Emeritus of Italian Literature. Fratti is best known for writing the adaptation of Federico Fellini’s and further developing the musical NINE with Maury Yeston, that opened in 1982 and went on to win five Tony Awards.  Mario died last year at the age of 95.

The exhibit and sales at Jadite Gallery, follows the auction of some of Fratti’s collection. The most expensive piece is on diplay in the gallery’s window, Homage to Mario Fratti by Italian artist David Grazioso  $750. “Prices range from $75—the average is around $200. The sale of these pieces will fund the transposition and translation of newly discovered manuscripts.

Artwork from the Collection of Mario Fratti is on show at Jadite Gallery at 660 10th Avenue (between W46/47th St) until April 13. Opening hours are noon-6pm Tuesday to Saturday.

The art has been entrusted to trusted friend Roland Sainz and Jadite Gallery by renowned theater director and his daughter Valentina.

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Midnight Moment Presents Life Forms

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Each midnight this April, Times Square’s screens become a portal into New York-based artist Tricia McLaughlin’s Life Forms, a humorous fantasy world filled with hard working mutant creatures who toil around the clock constructing an endless city. As these glassy-eyed creatures called “Phantasmachina” mount buildings and scale sidewalks, a threatening figure starts to approach. Undeterred, the organisms continue their Sisyphean task.

Crafted through painting and  3D animations, these life forms are inspired by biotechnology, prosthetics and the exploration of mutation. Striving to anthropomorphize geometry, McLaughlin imbues her community with not only emotions but also a sense of social responsibility.

A recorded musical score by David B. Smith and Omar Zubair will accompany McLaughlin’s Midnight Moment presentation on April 5, 2024 on Duffy Square.

Life Forms is presented in conjunction with McLaughlin’s exhibition phantasmachina, showcasing drawings, paintings and animations sponsored by En Foco at WallWorks Gallery in the Bronx, NY, from April 6–30, 2024. In addition, TFLR Contemporary will present an online exhibition of McLaughlin’s work, Out of the Abyss, from April 1–30, 2024.

Tricia McLaughlin is a physical and digital media artist exploring the transformative effects of technology on nature with unexpected consequences. Mutant creations where function follows form stem from McLaughlin’s intuitive repurposing of robotics, biotechnology, and aeronautics. As McLaughlin explains her process, “each painting and drawing begins as a collection of random marks on a page, allowing my subconscious mind to guide the initial creation. As the artwork develops, I start to see patterns and shapes arranging the chaos. Then I refine and define these elements, gradually transforming the initial marks into living, mechanical beings and/or structures.” Paintings are inserted into animation, 3D-designed constructions inspire paintings.

TFLR CONTEMPORARY is a gallery dedicated to exhibiting emerging and mid-career artists, both in the US and abroad. Exhibitions and curatorial projects are planned throughout the year in various venues and online platforms.

En Foco, Inc. presents U.S.-based photographers and digital imaging artists, focusing on women and people of African, Asian, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander heritage. Through exhibitions, workshops, events, and publications, it provides professional recognition, honoraria, and assistance as they grow into different stages of their careers.

The phantasmachina exhibition is co-presented by En Foco, Inc. and WallWorks Gallery, South Bronx, NYC.

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