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Free Will Astrology: April 10-16, 2013

ARIES [March 21-April 19] German theologian Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a central figure in the Protestant Reformation. You’ll never guess where he was when he was struck by the epiphany that became the core axiom of his new religion: sitting on the toilet in the Wittenberg Monastery. The Holy Spirit gave him the crucial knowledge then and there, or so he testified. In this spirit, keep an open mind when your illuminations arrive this week.

TAURUS [April 20-May 20] Your task is to uncover the semi-happy ending that was hidden back in the story’s beginning. Then you may be able to create a graceful and honorable climax. In fact, I don’t think you will be able to bring it about any other way. It’s crucial that you return to the original flash of inspiration—the time when all the plot lines that eventually developed were first germinating. You need to remember fate’s primal promise. You’ve got to read the signs you missed in the early going.

GEMINI [May 21-June 20] If you play poker, the odds are one in 649,740 that you will get a royal flush. As for drawing a straight flush, the odds are one in 72,192. Judging from the current astrological omens, your chance of getting one of those hands is far better than usual, but still not great. On the other hand, getting a flush is normally one in 509, but these days it’s pretty likely for you. The moral of the story, not just for when you’re playing cards, but in whatever you do: Expect really good luck, but not miraculous, out-of-this-world luck.

CANCER [June 21-July 22] “Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place,” wrote Rumi. This is excellent advice for you. You are nearing the peak of your power to express yourself with beautiful accuracy. As a result, you’re in a position to wield extra influence. People are receptive to being moved by you. So please do more than simply push for greater efficiency, order, and discipline. Those things are good, but I hope you will also be a radiant role model who exemplifies what it means to be soulful.

LEO [July 23-Aug. 22] Golden Rock is a Buddhist holy site in Burma. It’s a small pagoda built on top of a giant boulder that in turn seems to be precariously balanced at the edge of a down-sloping bed of rock. Legend says that it’s held in place by a single strand of hair from the Buddha’s head. I suspect that many of you will soon have access to a tricky asset with resemblances to that magic strand. True, it might be merely metaphorical. But if used correctly, it could become a key element in a future foundation.

VIRGO [Aug. 23-Sept. 22] It’s soul-searching season. To aid your quest, I’ll offer a few lines from Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. “We have a soul at times,” she says. “No one’s got it non-stop, for keeps. Day after day, year after year may pass without it. For every thousand conversations, it participates in one, if even that, since it prefers silence. Joy and sorrow aren’t two different feelings for it. It attends us only when the two are joined. We can count on it when we’re sure of nothing and curious about everything.” [Translation by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. Read the whole poem here: tinyurl.com/SearchSoul.]

LIBRA [Sept. 23-Oct. 22] “I do not believe in God,” said Mexican painter Diego Rivera, “but I believe in Picasso.” My friend Tanya has a similar philosophy. “I don’t believe in God, or even Goddess, for that matter,” she says. “But I do believe in Patti Smith.” Do you have a God-substitute? Or, if you have faith, is there also a more approachable, second-tier source of divinity you love? You would benefit from feeling an intimate kind of reverence for something higher and brighter that awakens your lust for life.

SCORPIO [Oct. 23-Nov. 21] This would be an excellent time to stage staring contests with yourself in the mirror. I think you’ll also have great success whenever you try to read your own mind. You’ve got an uncanny knack for plucking buried secrets and self-deceptions out of their hiding places. One more thing: Have you ever considered how fun it might be to wash your own brain and kick your own butt? Experiment with those radical acts of healing.

SAGITTARIUS [Nov. 22-Dec. 21] “It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness,” writes novelist Chuck Palahniuk. “We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” Your assignment in the coming days is to prove him wrong. As the sweetness flows through you and secret joy ripens into bright blooming bliss, vow to remember the sensations for the rest of your life.

CAPRICORN [Dec. 22-Jan. 19] Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had his priorities straight: “In philosophy the race is won by the one who can run slowest—the one who crosses the finish line last.” A similar rule should apply to you in the coming days, no matter what project you’re working on or goal you’re trying to accomplish. Be absolutely thorough, meticulous, and conscientious. As you make your way to the finish line, be as deep as you dare.

AQUARIUS [Jan. 20-Feb. 18] In Samuel Beckett’s novel Molloy, the main character talks about a journey he took on foot and by bicycle. Before the trip, he had read somewhere that when people are lost in a forest, they often imagine they’re moving in a straight line when in fact they’re going in a circle, so during his own travels, he walked in a circle, hoping to go straight. I think it will make sense for you to adopt this strategy in the coming week. Your apparent path may be very different than your actual path.

PISCES [Feb. 19-March 20] Are you competing with someone who is doing mediocre work? Do you find it incomprehensible that anyone would pay attention to them instead of flocking to your beautiful vibe? Withdraw your attention from your inferior opponent. Don’t waste a minute feeling jealous or resentful or incredulous. Instead, concentrate your energy on making your production stronger and smarter and more irresistible than your rival’s.

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The Return of Lencho

When its title protagonist isn’t defined by hagiographic narrative contrivance, The Return of Lencho is a semi-thoughtful character study about a politically motivated graffiti artist. Right after Lorenzo “Lencho” Aguilar (Mario Lanz) returns to his native Guatemala from New York City, he’s placed under police surveillance. Along with recurring flashbacks to the car crash that killed Lencho’s father, a muckraking journalist, scenes where mustache-twirling cops survey and then mercilessly beat Lencho patly confirm the rebellious value of Lencho’s art. But Lencho is much more interesting as an idealistic catalyst for change than as an downtrodden martyr. Writer/director Mario Rosales thankfully avoids the classist assumption that Lencho is a graffiti artist because he’s passionate but unfamiliar with the philosophers, economic theorists, and artists that preceded him. Scenes where Lencho admires photos of Diego Rivera’s murals say more about Lencho’s character than any scene in which he defines himself in opposition to one-dimensional oppressors. Sound-bite-friendly dialogue, like when Lencho explains that he uses graffiti to “take art out of the gallery . . . so the people can have access to art” is only so enlightening. As far as agitprop goes, The Return of Lencho is not totally generic, but its subject is mostly undistinguished.

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THE MIGHTY RIVERA

“Here it is—the might, the power, the energy, the sadness, the glory, the youthfulness of our land,” Diego Rivera said when his ship docked in New York City in 1931. Almost 80 years since Rivera was commissioned to work and exhibit his large-scale murals at MOMA, which set new attendance records during its five-week run, the museum revisits this massive work by the iconic Mexican artist for the first time in Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition consist of eight murals—large blocks of frescoed plaster, slaked lime, and wood—and smaller drawings, archival materials related to the commission and production of these works, and designs for Rivera’s famous Rockefeller Center mural, which he also produced while he was working at the museum.

Mondays-Sundays, 10 a.m. Starts: Nov. 13. Continues through May 14, 2011

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FRIDA’S MEXICO

Frida Kahlo’s traditional Mexican attire, which she made all her own—from the long skirts to the ribbon-laced braids—spoke volumes about the Mexican resurgence in art and experimentation that took place in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, once the country’s bloody revolution had ended. Renowned photographers from around the world flocked to Mexico to capture this new era, and, of course, the colorful Kahlo was one of their favorite subjects. In Frida Kahlo and the Mexican Renaissance, Throckmorton Fine Art exhibits a series of these photos and images, including shots of Kahlo and her husband, artist Diego Rivera, at a peace march, and several taken by Hungarian photographer Nickolas Muray, including one of Kahlo that was used for the cover for Vogue. Other photographers featured in the exhibit include Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and Tina Modotti.

Aug. 9-Sept. 14, 2008

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Theater

Ricky Jay’s Stem-Winder



If ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are to be believed, conjurers in 3000 B.C. could part seas, summon alligators, and reanimate the decapitated long before cryogenics. Magicians aren’t so powerful these days, but New York still enjoys its illusionists: David Blaine, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, the affable crew of “Monday Night Magic,” and an eerie fellow named Igor who bases his routine on Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. But Ricky Jay outclasses them all.



Equal parts prestidigitator and professor, Jay’s legerdemain is rivaled only by his scholarship, from popular histories of singular performers to esoteric studies of conjuring literature and card magic. His latest show, Ricky Jay: On the Stem (Second Stage), combines both his strengths. “On the stem” refers, of course, to Broadway, that street where three roads meet, and Jay sprinkles his performance with reminiscences and researches of the thieves and thespians who worked it. As a painted panorama of the strip—from the 1850s to the 1940s—unrolls behind him, Jay takes the audience on a stroll of burlesque houses and street gangs, cardsharps and sideshow freaks, flea circuses and Yiddish theaters.

A big-bellied, avuncular figure in natty suits and shiny ties, Jay has a dynamic and relaxed stage presence. He can somberly perform a Bret Harte recitation, then chuckle with unaffected jollity when he finds himself with egg quite literally on his face after a juggling turn goes awry. Yolk-stained mishaps aside, he’s undoubtedly a polymath—as he demonstrates in one routine by solving chess problems, reciting Shakespeare, computing cube roots, and bellowing field hollers of the “Black Betty” variety simultaneously.

Jay might have taken more care, though, to match his demonstrations to his lecture. Often there’s precious little to link the trick with the anecdote that introduces it. He might also have kept himself more tightly focused on the New York milieu. But then the audience might have missed a re-creation of Parisian Robert-Houdin’s justly celebrated orange tree illusion.

The citrus fruits of that act aren’t the only tang in the show. Much of the piquancy comes from Jay’s ability to make magic mysterious again. In linking conjurers to faro bankers, pickpockets, and other members of the demimonde who thrived on sleight of hand and smooth patter, he renders the magic act dangerous and clever. Should his stage career ever founder, Jay could set up as a confidence man with barely a change of costume. He certainly had the confidence of the audience. Just ask that feckless spectator who bought the Brooklyn Bridge. —Alexis Soloski


An Off-the-Wall Communist

Detroit boasts limited charms, but the few it does have are pretty impressive: the Red Wings, the four-story John King used-book warehouse, the MC5 (some might say the White Stripes), and the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The 27-panel fresco, titled Detroit Industry, covers all four walls of the museum’s Garden Court and depicts a churning, throbbing panorama of auto workers, machines, and sultans of business. It’s easily my favorite piece of 20th-century art.

Rivera completed the massive project in 1932. Shortly afterward he moved on to New York, where he’d been commissioned by the Rockefeller family to create a mural inside the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. Rivera began the piece, which he titled Man at the Crossroads Looking With Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future. Work on the mural continued until the big hitch: The Rockefellers discovered that Rivera had surreptitiously inserted a portrait of Lenin into the piece. When they asked him to remove the “offending” image, Rivera refused, writing: “Rather than mutilate the conception, I should prefer the physical destruction of the conception in its entirety, but preserving, at least, its integrity.” Rockefeller Center obliged and famously trashed the mural, much to the art community’s horror.

In The Murals of Rockefeller Center (TNC), the Irondale Ensemble tries to recapture this traumatic art episode, as well as the larger 1934 scene. In addition to the mural dustup, the play weaves in the exploits of John Dillinger and the travails of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Irondale wants to re-create a cultural moment when politics, art, capitalism, and crime all seemed intimately bound up with one another, and populist heroes ruled the day. Pablo Picasso, George Gershwin, Will Rogers, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge, and Clark Gable, among many others, all pop up in Irondale’s sepia-toned landscape.

Created by the company and directed by Jim Niesen, the piece is decidedly agitprop, but the troupe pulls it off with more ambition and skill than your usual lefty theater outing. Ken Rothchild assembles a clever, metal-scaffolding set; the Walter Thompson trio provides pleasing live accompaniment. While the collisions and collusions of the historical characters in the script stretch credulity, and while some of the cast lean on shrill caricature—John D. Rockefeller Jr. was not a manic buffoon—a number of the actors offer up nicely nuanced performances, especially Josh Bacher as the troubled Lindbergh, Jack Lush as the insouciant Dillinger, and Sven Miller as the semi-revolutionary Rivera. (Except that Miller is much too thin for the role; Rivera’s girth seems one with the scale of his murals.)

Despite my love of Rivera’s work, I confess to an impolitic, grudging respect for the Rockefellers here. Rivera tried to put one over on them, and they busted him on it. What did he expect, trying to paint Communists in a temple to capitalism? Happily we have many of his other works to admire, even if you have to brave Northwest Airlines and Ted Nugent to see them. —Brian Parks