Best of 2015: Visual Art

“God, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day –
I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.

Executioners near the woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.

The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayer
fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.

And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee.
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.”
-Agha Shahid Ali, “Tonight”

This year was so soaked enough in death you almost had to wring it out. There was a lot to be sick over. Personally: the other Grandfather, a dear friend Valerie, friends’ parents and lovers and best friends. And that’s all before the camera pulls back to look at the larger world – the larger world where terror hit closer to home than usual, people gunned down going to a show or the recent vandalism and suicide at the Wexner Center causing the After Picasso show to close early. That, of course, speaks to privilege because for much of the world death is never as far away as it, luckily, is for me, and my grey year doesn’t even move the needle on a larger scale.

For me, visual art has always been linked with the act of memory and the act of bearing witness. Its permanence (and in some cases, its deliberate eschewing of that permanence) gives it some of its meditative quality. My heart breaks for anyone there when the event happened in December and anyone who might have been there and, of course, the person who chose that place to end it. Even before the most recent event, the art that drew me to it, that made me want to tell somebody, that made me want to argue with it and wrestle with it, played right into the preoccupation with death I didn’t consciously realize I had this year. But more than that, it was a balm. It was fuck it, this matters. It was this is still standing. It was fight to rememberIt’s a reminder to keep trying.

As with all of my Year End summations, everything is in Columbus unless stated otherwise.

  1. Doris Salcedo, s/t (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago) – On a grey, unseasonably cold day in Chicago in the middle of a great trip, this Colombian artist made me feel like someone was standing on my chest in a room full of knives. From the opening piece, Plegaria Muda, with its wooden tables the audience has to squeeze between and growths of vegetation coming out of the tables like a field of gravestones but still shot through with fragile life, on, this took my breath away. Sculptures using silk and human hair, abandoned doors concrete. It was a death mask for the world and a shrine, apocalyptic and very, very beautiful.
  2. Alberto Burri, The Trauma of Painting (Guggenheim, NYC) – This was the kind of show that left me kicking myself I didn’t know Burri’s artwork better beforehand. It gave me the same feeling as Giuseppe Ungaretti’s poetry, though his poet countryman is an earlier war, with its use of the surreal to crack open your chest and its fantasies about shipwrecks instead of the way you see you friends die. Molten plastic, welded metal leaving the seams obvious enough they look like blisters, burlap sacks as an indictment of capitalism. Everywhere I turned my mouth got dry and tears came to my eyes.
  3. Jack Whitten, Five Decades of Painting (Wexner Center for the Arts) – There’s been a lot of talk about the Wexner not having a permanent curator in a while (they still have curator-at-large Bill Horrigan) but I have to say they’ve done a great job working around those limitations this year. This Jack Whitten retrospective showed a singular voice working through, challenging, and recombining every interesting art trend of the 20th century and stripping away what didn’t apply to what he wanted to say. My favorite pieces were the portraits/tributes that combined painting and mosaic and found objects in a way that made blood hot in my veins, especially the tribute to Amiri Baraka (a flawed, complicated guiding light for me, always). Memory writ appropriately large.
  4. Elaine de Kooning, Portraits (National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC) – Knowing Elaine de Kooning’s work more by reputation (and a couple examples at MoMA), this series of portraits was revelatory. Obviously, especially for being at the National Portrait Gallery, this retrospective moved in tighter and tighter circles toward the famous JFK portrait but that gleams with sunlight and the way a beautiful sunny day throws the greens and yellows of the garden you’re in all around, fracturing what you see and what you can’t quite make out. These, all of them, are full of mystery and secrets and magic that gets closer, you think, to who the people being depicted were than maybe they’d ever shown.
  5. Shirin Neshat, Facing History (Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC) – I’ve been a fan of Neshat’s work for a long time so this retrospective was like gorging myself on something almost too rich to consume. The way she grasps the macro elements of history, history’s pain and the way it disfigures people with the twinned fires of love and hate but also it’s beauty, and the way she understands people is a marvel. Gorgeous works you can get lost in, a lot to say about the way the world gets created with our creation of language (this theme also resonated with me in several things on my theatre list coming soon). This was a series of varying punches that left me staggered.
  6. Walid Raad, s/t (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) – Walid Raad’s collections of photographs, videos, sculpture and fictional histories, gobsmacked me and left me babbling. It made me think a lot about the horrific situations in Lebanon over the years and how someone around my age would have processed that, and, weirdly, it made me think of the recent controversy in science fiction. This is a brilliant example of how fictionalizing and fabulism (for the latter, Raad’s “merged” sculptures from the middle east transported to the Louvre) can been tools (scalpels or daggers or stilettos or garrotes) to slice into your heart. And an example of how many stories those tools can be good for telling with emotional maturity and an eye to how big and fantastic (and sometimes fantastically horrible) the world really is.
  7. Various Artists, Sitter: Portraiture in Contemporary Photography (CCAD Contemporary Arts Space) – The CCAD space has been killing it the last few years and this year, with this (before the renovation) and the work after the renovation to create a better flow for the galleries has made it a force to be reckoned with for modern art in Columbus. This group show of 27 photographers really dug deep into what portraiture means now and was full of alive, striking, political, rich, sexy, intense work.
  8. Pablo Picasso, Picasso Sculpture (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) – I’m on the record as not being the biggest Picasso fan. All credit to his craft and his influence but most of his work I just don’t love. This was an exception. Seeing this many of his sculptures together had a delirious, vertiginous effect that actually made me want to go deeper and stay longer and talk about it more. This was also, by far, the best arranged and curated exhibit I saw, Ann Temkin and Anne Umland made this arrangement of sculpture both feel excavated and timeless and flow in a way that felt intensely personal and real.
  9. Catherine Opie, Portraits and Landscapes (Wexner Center for the Arts) – Opie, long a favorite of mine (who also had work in Sitter), took a step into something almost resembling Renaissance painting with her photographs here. These rich, dark portraits of her social circle, often naked or half naked but with expressions and clean lines that summoned a deep distance encouraged me to look again and again. Just as intriguing are the blurred-almost-to-abstraction landscapes that break up the intensity of the gazes like a note of sensual dissonance. She’s not here to comment on the souls of these people and she’s not here to pass any judgment. There are no easy answers, no pat summations, in this body of her work and we’re richer having it.
  10. Charles Atlas, The Waning of Justice (CCAD Contemporary Arts Space) – Atlas is another perennial for me but this doomsday clock over gorgeous landscapes and abstract concepts leading into a room where the larger-than-life figure of Lady Bunny gave a moving, hilarious monologue across a whole wall that periodically dropped out to silence was astonishing. Concern with a disappearing world turned into an aching dance.
  11. Various, Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Brian Byrne (OSU Urban Arts Space) – In general I agree with the concerns about single-collector exhibitions. That said, my understanding was this was already donated to its final destination and I was blown away by this collection of art that wasn’t just blue-chip but was also violent, intense, irreverent and wise. The curation was really stunning with pictures about race facing off against each other, corners about death. This wasn’t easily digestible and with all the big names it didn’t make concessions to being palatable and we were all the better for it.
  12. Archibald Motley, Jazz-Age Modernist (Whitney Museum, NYC) – Motley’s fascinating mix seems to obviously point toward Thomas Hart Benton, Hopper, and Toulouse-Lautrec. What I saw most was Chagall, with an assured willingness to discard any piece of a tradition he didn’t need and use exactly what of it he wanted. But his work’s in no way derivative, it shimmers and vibrates with an electricity that’s all his own and these portraits and large scenes got better and better seeing in a large group. Any fine artist working with the black experience, especially in those days, is to be considered seriously but beyond those serious concerns this was sensual, intense work, looking at an era as it started to tip over.
  13. Anonymous, Mingering Mike’s Supersonic Greatest Hits (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) – As with most good things I see, this was a suggestion of A., and it was astonishing. If you grew up a record nerd and a comic book nerd like me, this was an extra delight. Using the medium of painted record covers and show fliers, this fictional universe the artist known only as Mingering Mike created where the same songwriting credits popped up again and again and various musicians played with other groups fit together and was just off enough to have an interesting tension. Similarly to the Walid Raad, this secret history pointed toward an unknown pain with notes vaguely intimating draft dodging and the work drying up after the pardon when the artist could find a job, the characters going away when they aren’t needed anymore.
  14. Louise Fishman, s/t (Cheim and Read Gallery, NYC) – This selection of paintings was the best thing I saw in a long day wandering around Chelsea. Vibrant and full of sensuous dissonance, like a landscape run through a distortion pedal on these big canvases.
  15. Various, Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present (Wexner Center for the Arts) – This exhibit that came to the Wex after a run at Boston’s ICA opened my eyes to a whole new medium in a way that doesn’t happen much anymore. I marveled at seeing the way textile work embraces and pulls against easy connotations of domesticity and explodes into something political and angry, totemic and erotic; seeing the way it enfolds history and points toward the future. I visited this maybe a dozen times and I could have done a dozen more.
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“Hey, Fred!” 09/21/15-09/27/15 A biased and idiosyncratic Top Five

Music


September 21: Russian Tsarlag and Secret Boyfriend. Skylab Gallery, 57 E Gay St. 

Carlos Gonzalez, who records under the name Russian Tsarlag, makes a kind of narcotized, melted bedroom pop. Tsarlag rises above the vast morass of that genre with a keen ear for detail, a respect for the sensuality of noise, and a commitment to an emotional reality. His work reminds of me of looking at a Lucio Fontana canvas, peering through rough slash marks into a barely glimpsed world you need to fill in the details of yourself. Gonzalez has also been gaining more and more notice for his comic book work, there’s a terrific interview about that with him here: http://www.tcj.com/let-your-dreams-touch-air-an-interview-with-carlos-gonzalez/

His tour partner here is Ryan Martin, Carrboro-based singer-songwriter who makes beguiling work under the name Secret Boyfriend. Local openers include Mark Van Fleet, whose now-infrequent shows are always a treat and worth investigating, and Swen.

Doors at 8:00pm. $5 cover.

September 23: Rafael Toral and Ryan Jewell. MINT, 42 W Jenkins St. 

I wrote this up for JazzColumbus. Please see preview there including video, highly recommended.

Show starts at 9:00pm. $8 cover.


September 24: Sheer Mag. Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St.

Philadelphia’s Sheer Mag are at the forefront of the new riff-rock revival. Merging singer Christine Halliday’s punky howl with overlapping guitar riffs reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick and a throbbing rhythm section, they make everything you grew up loving sound brand new again without ever getting too shiny.

Locals Worries and Cochina open.

Doors at 8:00pm. $7 cover.


September 25: EZTV and Shilpa Ray. Rumba Cafe, 2507 Summit St.

I’ve been a big fan of Shilpa Ray since her band Beat the Devil came through town regularly 10ish years ago. She’s never made a bad record but her new album, Last Year’s Savage, is one of my records of the year so far and might be the best thing she’s made. A melange of raw rock and roll, grim Patsy Cline-style torch balladry and even flecks of mutant disco, it’s the best series of musical settings for her torrent-of-lava voice. Never miss an opportunity to see her come through live.

In an interesting paring, she arrives opening for Captured Tracks’ EZTV whose clipped, soaring, hooky pop will be great in its own right and should be a terrific palate cleanser after Ray. Columbus’ finest raw pop proponents, Connections, open.

September 26: Obody. The Summit, 2210 Summit St.

Obody, percussionist Sarah Hennies’ new chamber-derived project, works with sensuous distortion and disjunction in as beautiful a way as I’ve ever heard it done. Rich tempos you can get lost in and tones that won’t let you be.

The local support is also a who’s who of people who can plumb the fissures in what we know and what we think and come up with gold like you’ve never seen. Faster Island who I haven’t seen yet but have been on my list and I’ve heard nothing but raves. Mike Shiflet whose records like Sufferers and Llanos come closest to a fusion of noise and classical as anything I can think of and he’s collaborated and toured with Hennies many times. Envenomist, the beautiful, brooding electronics project of David Reed (who also records as Luasa Raelon and collaborates with people like Larry Marotta and Rocco DiPetro) doing a rare live set. If you have adventurous tastes, this might be the sleeper best show of this great, great week.

Doors at 9:00pm. $5 cover.

“Hey, Fred!” 09/14/15-09/20/15 A biased and idiosyncratic Top Fiveart

As I settle back in to my hometown and the routines of work and life, there is no rest for the wicked this week. I could have easily filled a Top Ten and still had to leave interesting, valuable stuff off – all this recommended in addition to three plays I’m reviewing and probably a record or two.

Visual Art

After Picasso: 80 Contemporary Artists. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1847 N High St.  

This has been one of the strongest years for the Wexner Center’s visual arts exhibitions in recent memory. The group show Fiber, the new Catherine Opie work, and the Jack Whitten retrospective all astonished me. From all accounts, they’re ending on another high note.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a 20th century without the hand of Pablo Picasso – through his long career, his wide-ranging stylistic experiments, and his constant devotion to the truth, Picasso created the template almost all artists have to deal with either for or against to this day. After Picasso, organized by Dirk Lucknow, general director of the Diechtorhallen in Hamburg, attempts to show the breadth and depth of responses to Picasso’s work. It includes 80 artists as diverse as Cindy Sherman, Maria Lassnig, Khaled Hourani, Robert Longo, and Wolfe von Lenkiewicz.

Opening Reception Friday September 18 kicks off with a curator’s talk by Dirk Lucknow at 5:00pm and goes until 9:00pm. Free to the public. The exhibit runs through December 27.


Us Is Them
. Pizzuti Collection, 632 N Park St. 

One of the most important things an artist can be is an articulate canary in the coal mine. If an artist has their receptors tuned and ready to receive, they know when the air’s rotten and they know when there’s not enough oxygen to breathe. Even better than that canary in a mineshaft, they have the tools and the empathy to explain on an emotional level why things are fucked and do it in a way that continues to resonate into other times.

The new exhibition at the Pizzuti is the kind of who’s who of the artists making the biggest splash on the global scale we expect but with an eye toward how their work intersects with and delineates the million spiderweb-crack crises threatening to blow our world apart. Names like El Anatsui, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, Aminah Robinson, Kehinde Wiley, and Carrie Mae Weems have given me some of my most moving experiences with visual arts and there are at least 10 artists I haven’t investigated yet at all. One of the things I most look forward to this fall.

Opens to the public Saturday September 19 and runs through April 2, 2016.

Conception and Reduction: Recent Landscapes by Eric Barth / Line and the Landscape: Recent Drawings by Marc Lincewicz. Keny Galleries, 300 E Beck St.

Keny Galleries is one of our steadiest, most consistent commercial galleries with terrific retrospective shows and classic artists represented but also with an eye toward people making timeless work now. Their September-October show reunites Eric Barth and Marc Lincewicz who have an interest looking back but doing it with sharp, clear eyes.

Lincewicz’s recent work has seen himself delving deeper and deeper into a deliberately raw line that makes his new landscape investigations incredibly moving. I have a hard time looking away from his work, it’s always something I can get lost in. Barth’s work I don’t quite as well, this will be probably the third exhibition of his I’ve seen, but it feels like color is more important in his newer pieces and with his jaw-dropping compositions I truly look forward to seeing these in person.

Opening reception 5:30pm Friday September 18. Exhibition runs through October 30.

Music

September 17: Chuck Prophet. Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

Chuck Prophet, since leaving Green on Red at the vanguard of the paisley underground wave of cowpunk, has quietly built up one of the most impressive catalogs of songs of anyone working today. He’s made a bigger splash on the mainstream with his collaborations with longtime friend Alejandro Escovedo on Escovedo’s Real Animal and Street Songs of Love records, but under his own name he makes smart, literate, soulful rock and roll with deep grooves and huge hooks.

His new record, Night Surfer, is a complicated, thorny rock rock record with the same care for arrangements and thick, twangy guitar he always brings to the table. Expect that to be hit heavily but in this rare solo acoustic show (leaving his crack band The Mission Express at home) look for a diverse set list that hits all periods of his career including favorites of mine Age of Miracles and his big-hearted paean to San Francisco, Temple Beautiful.

September 20: OBN IIIs. Cafe Bourbon Street, 2216 Summit St. 

For meat and potatoes rock lined with all the best parts of punk, there isn’t a better band working today than OBN IIIs. I first saw Orville B. Neeley’s eponymous group at Gonerfest 8 when they stole the whole damn festival – saying something since I also got my lid flipped by Royal Headache, Straight Arrows, Deaf Wish, Shannon and the Clams, Reverend John Wilkins, and early sets by Ex-Cult and The Fuzz (still called Sex Cult and Aquafuzz, respectively) that same weekend.

Back then they struck me as a young Eric Davidson fronting the Dictators – controlled rawness and intersecting edges and exploding, angry pop hooks. They’ve subtly evolved to incorporate Neeley’s terrific guitar playing and to cast a wider net over rock and roll history, making muscular record and a coiled, ferocious show that incorporates elements of The Stooges, The Saints, Thin Lizzy, and even in the one song on WFMU I’ve heard so far from the new record Worth a Lot of Money, Cheap Trick circa In Color. Not to be missed if you want to remember how fresh and exciting rock and roll can still sound.

I have not found anything out about start time or who’s opening or how much cover is about this show – if I find that information before I’m traveling, I’ll try to update this.

“Hey, Fred!” 09/07/15-09/13/15 A biased and idiosyncratic Top Five

Back on the horse, my friends and (like we talked about last week, emotionally if not by the hands of the clock or the pages of the calendar) my favorite season, Fall, is upon us. Going to Raleigh the week of this entry for the Hopscotch Music Festival and to see one of my oldest and dearest friends who had a profound influence on me over the years, both of which I’m incredibly excited about, but there’s lots I’m gutted to miss – get out and see some shit, mes amies.

Theatre

September 8: New Works Lab: Cold Read – Baltimore by Kirsten Greenidge. 

Since I do so much writing about theatre in other, more widely-distributed venues I’m going to cover less of it in “Hey Fred” and what I do write about here will be things that wouldn’t fit the manifest of other places. Mainly, one-offs or things I couldn’t see until the last shows. While OSU’s always had a strong theatre school, it’s really come into its own the last few years and one of my favorite parts is their New Works Lab. The Lab series is a combination of student work given a shot in front of an audience for the first time and a chance to delve into professionally produced plays from elsewhere that might never have a full production in Columbus. As a friend said, “It’s surprising how much value you can get just reading a great play out loud in front of people. If you strip away sets, lights, etc, you can get 85% of the charge with 20% of the cost.”

Kirsten Greenidge, based in Boston, is one of the brightest lights in the US right now with an incisive, distinctive voice. Baltimore, the work being read here, was developed with assistance by Michigan State University in the Big Ten New Plays Initiative and looks at loss of innocence and the still-fractious subject of race viewed through the prism of an incident on a college campus.

Starts at 7:00pm. Free.

Music


September 9-13: Kate Schulte Tribute featuring Hamiet Bluiett and Kidd Jordan with the Jazz Poetry Ensemble. Various locations.

Michael Vander Does has long been one of Columbus’s shining lights as a booker, a writer, and a musician (leading his Jazz Poetry Ensemble). Since his wife – known civil rights attorney and advocate for good in the world, Kate Schulte – passed away in 2011, through a fund in her memory, he’s been bringing the great Kidd Jordan (as artist-in-residence) and usually at least one other legendary jazz musician into town for a concert at Hot Times Festival and satellite shows. These are always fantastic but this year looks extra special because the additional act is the great Hamiet Bluiett.

The baritone sax – Bluiett’s principal axe – is the lifeblood of rock and roll and R&B. From Heywood Henry and Paul Williams through Floyd Newman and Red Tyler and Mike Terry all the way up to Dana Colley from Morphine and Steve Berlin from The Blasters and Los Lobos, the sweet growl of a bari adds a depth of field and a propulsion to anything blessed by it. In jazz, Harry Carney’s bari defined the sound of those classic early Duke Ellington records and Gerry Mulligan helped shape the West Coast “cool” sound in the ’60s. But, and with all due respect to the great Peter Brotzmann and Ken Vandermark, no one’s done a better job of fusing the different strains of the bari – the snarl, the sadness, and the sweetness – and putting it into an avant-garde context than Hamiet Bluiett.

Coming out of St. Louis’ still-under-recognized Black Artists’ Group, along with Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, Bobo Shaw, and Joseph Bowie, Bluiett’s unmistakable tone can crack your chest open from a hundred yards away. Arguably, his run in the ’70s was better than any other reed player working, From his work with Mingus at the beginning of the decade, through the phenomenal World Saxophone Quartet records on Black Saint, and his solo albums (I’m particularly fond of Resolution, maybe the best free jazz record of all time) you can’t find a bum note or an ill-conceived move. As a sideman he held down Julius Hemphill’s two best records – Dogon AD and Coon Bid’ness – and lent key color to classics by Abdullah Ibrahim, Don Cherry, and Anthony Braxton. I think Bluiett’s last appearance in Columbus was with the World Saxophone Quartet backed by the Promusica Orchestra, and before that was with David Murray I think when I was still in college.

Kidd Jordan’s no slouch either – massive understatement alert. A eminence grise of American music, one of the few people who can say they played with Big Joe Turner, Larry Williams, Clifton Chenier, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and REM (on Out of Time). I still remember the first time I heard his collaborative record with Fred Anderson, Two Days in April, and the way it cracked my mind open. Jordan’s still playing at the top of his game by accounts and video from his 80th birthday celebration at this year’s New Orleans Jazzfest this spring. There aren’t many chances to see two people who shaped the vocabulary of American music, especially in intimate venues with a crack rhythm section (Vander Does, Brett Burleson, Roger Myers, and Roger Hines). This is the thing I’m sorriest to miss this week.

For a better writeup and details on the three shows happening this week, see Andrew Patton’s article in JazzColumbus.


September 9: Tigue. Garden Theater, 1187 N High St.

New Amsterdam is one of my favorite record labels right now – documenting and influencing the new breed of chamber music composers and their give and take with interesting rock and roll. They’re one of a handful of labels right now I’m checking for anything they put out and I’ve never been disappointed.

NYC’s Tigue is a percussion trio comprised of OSU alums Matt Evans, Amy Garapic, and Carson Moody. They work in long forms with looping, overlapping cells, that don’t neglect that frisson that’s supposed to shoot up your spine. It’s a physical, body music, with lots of thematic complexity and intellectual weight. There’s plenty to chew on – I’d recommend this to fans of Steve Reich, Man Forever, So Percussion, and even the Boredoms’ multi-drum days. This show, in advance of their first record on New Amsterdam, is highly, highly recommended.

Starts at 7:00pm. Free.

September 10: Tyondai Braxton with Clark. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St.

There are very few composers working today more exciting and surprising than Tyondai Braxton. First coming to my attention with his solo cut-up and processed guitar work and exploding onto the national scene in the first iteration of math-rock groove specialsts Battles, his frenzied post-Battles creativity has consistently sated me and left me hungry for more. His first solo record for Warp, Central Market (2009), is my favorite chamber music record of the last 10 years and getting to see him play that live with Wordless Music Orchestra in 2011 at Lincoln Center poured me out onto Broadway floating but unable to speak. And I wasn’t alone there, looking down from the balcony I saw no less than David Byrne lead a standing ovation.

Braxton said, in a terrific interview with Ben Vida for BOMB Magazine, that “The artist’s role is to be in dialogue with their times, whatever that means, and to translate complicated ideas simply.” He achieves that in spades – he’s writing music that makes me look at the world differently. I was blessed to see his new piece, HIVE, at Big Ears Festival in March (so taking the sting out of missing this a little) – on a handmade installation of pods and colored lights Braxton and four classical percussionists wove exploding webs of sticky synthesizer through shifting tectonic plates of rhythm. It was the first thing I saw that last day and I had that same just-stuck-my-finger-in-a-light-socket feeling. The record based on that piece – originally commissioned for the Guggenheim – HIVE1 came out this year on Nonesuch and I’m still finding my way into and learning more about the stuttering, cracked, wrigglingly alive forms. But this rare – these days and not in NYC or London – solo show should not be missed by anyone who misses the days the Wexner’s music booking was as adventurous as their film and visual art.

Clark (full name Chris Clark), Braxton’s Warp labelmate, also played Big Ears but I couldn’t make that set – hoping to catch him at Hopscotch. His electronic dance work is informed by a sensuality of stopping – the way sounds degrade and beats that don’t continue to their logical point – and his new EP Flame Rave is an intoxicating listen. These two on the best soundsystem in town will be a massive treat.

Starts at 8:00pm. For more info and $18 tickets, visit http://wexarts.org/performing-arts/tyondai-braxton-clark

September 12-13: Aaron Diehl and Cecile McLorin Salvant. King Arts Complex, 867 Mt Vernon Avenue.

At all of 29, Aaron Diehl is one of Columbus’ proudest exports to the jazz world. Since going to Julliard he’s played with Wynton Marsalis, music directed series at Jazz at Lincoln Center, premiered Philip Glass etudes, and has made two fantastic studio albums as a leader – Bespoke Man’s Narrative, a polished tribute to the Modern Jazz Quartet, and this year’s Space, Time, Continuum, which features legendary tenor player Benny Golson.

Any time Diehl has a homecoming show, it’s an event and this two-night stand at the King Arts Complex is doubly special because it’s a duo performance with vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant one of the rising stars in jazz singing. Salvant also has a new record out which includes fresh takes on standards like “The Trolley Song” and the West Side Story classic “Something’s Coming,” and co-wrote a song on the Diehl record.

Saturday at 7:00pm and Sunday at 4:00pm. $25 tickets available at https://aarondiehl-cecilemclorinsalvant-912.eventbrite.com/

“Hey, Fred!” 08/31/15-09/06/15 A biased and idiosyncratic Top Five [FeMMe Fest Edition)

We’re at the moment when, emotionally if not tracked on the calendar, summer’s just about over with one last spam, one last exhalation: Labor Day. Along with cookouts and family gatherings, days off (I mean, one hopes), that holiday is the home of one of my favorite new traditions in Columbus – FeMMe Fest. While it rose in opposition to a larger festival, in its inaugural year it was a fascinating showcase for everything I love about our town’s music scene. This year’s looks even bigger, better, and more diverse.

Time and other responsibilities got away from me so not doing a whole “Hey, Fred!” this week but here are some things I want to draw attention to at FeMMe Fest this week. We’ll get back to a wide lens next week but if you did nothing other than events around FeMMe Fest this week, you’d have a full damn week in every sense of that word.

FeMMe Fest

FeMMe Fest runs September 3-September 6 and benefits BRAVO, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization. Below are personal recommendations, not a list of all acts playing. For the full schedule please visit http://femmefest.net

Film and Visual Art

Friday, September 4:

400 W Rich, 400 W Rich St. 6:30pm-8:30pm, $5 suggested donation.

Cinema Outsider. This film program is curated by Columbus multi-media artist and filmmaker Alexis McCrimmon which should make it a must-see; her work is vibrant, surprising, and striking and her connection and commitment to the society and the art world in Columbus and at large is fantastic. A list of films was not available when I wrote this but we’re promised work that will “challenge existing cinematic and cultural conventions, addressing issues of concern to queer, trans, and non-binary people of color and our communities.”

Saturday, September 5:

“Girls to the Front!” What the Rock?!, 1194 N High St. 12:00pm-8:00pm.

This is the art show I know the least about but I have the utmost faith in co-owner of What the Rock?! Heather Ziegler’s curation and anything named after Sara Marcus’s phenomenal history of Riot Grrl I’m 100% in favor of. Beyond a portion of proceeds from art sales going to BRAVO, 15% of all retail sales at WTR will be donated.

Emanate. Girl & Guy Republic, 32 W 5th Ave. Opening reception September 5 at 5:30pm, runs through Oct 24.

Laura Kuenzli of Rivet has turned her niche, fascinating toy store into one of the more consistently interesting, delightful galleries in town. For Emanate, she’s working on a larger scale with a cross-section of some of our best artists including Lisa Ragland, Kent Grosswiler, Taylor Hicks, and Lexie Holliday. A portion of art sales will be donated to BRAVO.

The Art of Meagan Alwood Karcic and Cassie Phillips. St. James Tavern, 1057 N 4th. 8:00pm-2:00am.

Michelle Hill, owner of the St. James, is one of Columbus’s treasures – running a terrific bar that’s immune to fads and nonsense, a rock even as the neighborhood changes around them, and one of the proudest supporters of great causes. The art show her bar is hosting features two phenomenal painters. Meagan Alwood Karcic, also of the bands Alwood Sisters and Velveteen, works in a variety of styles from watercolor to collage, but with an unflinching eye and unmistakable line – her work cracks open the world’s chest and lets you see its heart a little clearer. Cassie Philips is a commercial photographer who’s moved into painting and it’s gripping, dramatic work I really look forward to seeing in person.

Workshops Kafe Kerouac, 2250 N High St. Register here: http://www.femmefest.net/workshops.php

Saturday, September 5:

2:30pm: LGBTQI Culture and Community Conversation. 

The introduction of workshops is one of the most interesting twists in this year’s Fest and I hope it continues and even expands. This session is a discussion led by BRAVO about how bias, even subconscious, can infect language and action and about the difficulties inherent in the LGBTQI community of reporting and getting help for partner violence.

1:00pm: Walking the Talk: Allyship and Accountability.

New Voices Cleveland leads this workshop about community accountability and challenges with allies. It can be hard to figure out how to be an ally without defensiveness and it can be hard to hold allies accountable when you see them step out of line – this workshop will offer tools and springboards for more discussion.

Sunday, September 6: 

2:30pm: Beyond Betty and Veronica: Women and Inclusivity in Modern Comics.

Elissa and Tracy who lead The Circle here in Columbus talk about how gender representation has changed in comics over the years, how in many ways it hasn’t, and possible futures for the medium and related art forms.

1:00pm: Concepts in Intersectional Feminism.

If intersectionality isn’t at the forefront of our thoughts, we’re barely having half the conversation. This workshop, led by Bailey Laverty and Sarah Mamo, Co-Presidents/Co-Founders of the Intersectional Feminists Organization (at OSU), gives an overview of the underpinnings and concepts of intersectionality and discusses how to use these concepts in the real world.

Music

A handful of bands I have no intention of missing but I, again, encourage you to see the whole lineup linked above. Like usual, bandcamp/soundcloud if I could find it, apologies if I couldn’t.

Time and Temperature. I’ve seen Val Glenn’s singer-songwriter project, sometimes with a band, Time and Temperature fully silence a loud bar on a drunk Friday night without ever raising her voice. Her evocative voice, crystalline guitar, and imagistic songs are one of the best things to ever come out of Columbus musically. (Ace of Cups, Friday, 11:30pm)

Cherry Chrome. It’s no surprise that Xenia Holm, daughter of two of Columbus’s finest – David Holm and Melanie Bleveans Holm – would have a leg up on people her age. It was a surprise how incredibly good her songwriting and vocals are and how great her band, Cherry Chrome – also featuring Mick Martinez on guitar and Amina Adesiji on bass along with Dave Holm on drums – already is. One of the bands I look forward to seeing most in town rich with hooks that will stick in your head and your heart, and still in High School. Already on their way to supernova status. (Ace of Cups, Friday, 9:30pm)

Funerals. Mollie Wells (formerly of the much-missed Cinema Eye) and Casey Immel-Brown make an atmospheric brand of noirish techno that effortlessly conjures moods and changes the vibration and temperature of a room. With Spacebar’s recently upped sound game this should be perfect for a Friday night. (Spacebar, Friday, 10:30pm)

Marlena Bowen. Bowen very recently hit my radar but she’s doing beguiling work I can’t wait to see translated live. Lo-fi tape effects and a love of drone merge to create something mysterious and fascinating, well-crafted songs that make you chase them. (Lost Weekend Records, Saturday, 6:30pm)

Dominique Larue. I write her up a lot here but it’s because she’s one of the best voices in local rap I’ve heard in a long time and an electrifying show. Whatever you’re doing on Saturday night, end up here. (Spacebar, Saturday, 1:00am).

Thunder Thighs. A singer-songwriter with a taste for the avant-garde filling that sweet spot for me better than anyone else in town since Jerry DeCicca left. Circular structures, gorgeous, raw, guitar and violin playing and incisive lyrics. The transition from this to The Girls! is the kind of whiplash that makes FeMMeFest so consistently terrific.

Melted Man. Surging, damaged electronic noise that still feels like it’s about the world, not a hermetic exercise. (Cafe Bourbon Street, Sunday, 10:30pm)

Cosmic Moon. One of the most interesting songwriting voices in Columbus music right now. Long, icy, tense songs backed by a harmonium and a rotating cast of other musicians (Cafe Bourbon Street, Sunday, 9:30pm).

Raw Pony. Another band I write up a lot but probably the best rock band in town right now. I saw them play with Memphis’ Nots a couple weeks ago for their 7″ release and they’ve broken through to a whole other level of taut telepathy. Muscular and finely tuned but without forsaking that beautiful rawness. If you love rock and roll in this town do not sleep on Raw Pony. (The Summit, Sunday, 10:00pm).

“Hey, Fred!” 08/24/15-08/30/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

Theatre

August 29: Feed Your Soul ’15. Riffe Center Theatres, 77 S High St.

I don’t think it’s any surprise how hard I rep for Available Light – the single theatre company that reignited my taste for local theatre six-seven years ago. They’re not only doing the most consistently inspiring and invigorating work in town but they’ve been a vanguard, helping raise everyone’s game.

I’m really looking forward to the plans for this new season (which I detailed in an article for Columbus Underground) and the kickoff for their seasons are always the most fun gala I’ve ever attended – Feed Your Soul. Great, hand-chosen items for silent auction, terrific small plates food, fascinating conversations with awesome people, and most importantly some one-night-only entertainment. In past years sometimes it’s been previews of the next season, sometimes greatest hits, always a few brand new exciting collaborations not to be duplicated, and while no details have been revealed to me, I have been told this year will be very, very special.

Starts at 6:00pm. $50 and up tickets and more info are available at http://avltheatre.com/fys15/

August 29: A Little Night Gala. Garden Theatre, 1187 N High St.

Also impressing me consistently this past year has Short North Stage who have really grown into fulfulling their promise. They’re doing a fantastic job of balancing the big-budget musicals they’re known for with quirkier small plays and musicals, making excellent use of their smaller green room stage.

Friends who’ve gone to their gala in past years say it’s a blast. Expectations are particularly high for this season which kicks off in earnest with Sondheim’s masterpiece A Little Night Music so expect a preview of that along with great food and a silent auction.

VIP begins at 6:30pm, general admission 7:30pm. $50 Patron and $75 VIP tickets along with more info are available at http://www.shortnorthstage.org/calendar/v/481

Music

August 27: Orgone. Woodlands Tavern, 1200 W 3rd Ave.

Funky ground zero to soundtrack your late Summer comes to Woodlands this week. Orgone’s one of the most purely entertaining, vibrant, monstrous bands I’ve ever seen live. I’ve seen them leave a pound of sweat on the stage even when they were playing to maybe 5 people (an ill-starred last minute show at Ravari Room) and I’ve seen them make the floor buckle with a strong crowd. Promoting their new record, the terrific Beyond the Sun, this LA band’s show at Woodlands is a can’t miss.

Opening are Chicago’s The Heard, one of the country’s fastest rising, hottest funk machines. They’ve been recording with Orgone and this double bill is a match made in funk heaven.

Show starts at 9:00pm. $10 tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=6020365

August 28: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

Still one of the finest, most unmistakable screams in rock and roll. The great Barrence Whitfield’s second act with a reconstituted Savages, currently including original member Peter Greenberg of DMZ and The Lyres (one of the great vocalist and guitarist pairings) is a wonder and a joy to watch.

Whitfield’s putting out records that stand tall alongside his classics like Dig Yourself and Ow! Ow! Ow!. His tribute to the King Records catalogue, Savage Kings, and Dig Thy Savage Soul are grimy, soul-soaked classics and advance word is the new record Beneath a Savage Sky they’re touring on this trip through town is the best one yet. Soul-punk fusion that’s never been bettered.

Show starts at 10:00pm. $15 tickets available at https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=624796105164aa050fcdc6b9f305fa89

August 30: Loveless Family Reunion. Columbus Commons.

Sometimes you see a band that has that x-factor, that je ne sais quoi, that sticks with you for a long time. For me, one of those bands was Carson Drew who I first saw at my lifelong pal Ryan Vile’s birthday at Bernie’s. After I got past the shock of seeing a band of teenage girls with their father on drums in that bar I associated with filthy ebullience and hazy debauchery, I was enraptured by the songs’ attempt to grapple with the seamy underbelly of ’60s pop. They didn’t last long enough to quite fulfill their inherent promise but a couple years after the breakup, offshoot bands started to emerge that took different aspects of Carson Drew – and other interests and life experience picked up along the way – in other directions. Columbus Alive is presenting a family reunion of sorts, bringing the prodigal bands back under the same tent to Columbus Commons.

Most famous in the world at large is Lydia Loveless, the new rising star of Bloodshot Records with my record of the year last year (and a lot of other folks). I’ve gushed about her at length many times but she just gets better and stronger and more nuanced and her band continues to be among the best bands in town, even better now that they’ve added George Houndroulis on drums. She closes the evening at 5:10.

Immediately before Lydia, at 4:20, The Girls! (featuring Jessica Wabbit as well as Ryan Vile mentioned earlier) return to where they rightfully belong – the stage – to continue bashing out the best damn power-pop in town. Sugary hooks, acidic lyrical detail, and plenty of the power in the first half of that term.

Prior to The Girls!, Dead Girlfriends play at 3:10. Dead Girlfriends, led by Eleanor (and also featuring Reaghan Buchanan from The Girls!), takes the darker, moodier song-forms of Carson Drew into a punkier, more abrasive place. One of my favorite bands in town who don’t play nearly often enough for my liking.

Opening is their brother Nate Akrom’s (on drums) up and coming death metal band, Shores of Elysium, at 2:00.

Doors at 1:00pm. Free show.

“Hey, Fred!” 08/17/15-08/23/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

Visual Art

August 21: NSATSAT&A. MINT, 42 W Jenkins St. 

MINT’s one of the new loci for the experimental art and music community in Columbus. This new group exhibition, subtitled “surveillance + security + sexuality” has me incredibly intrigued. This feels like a show you don’t want to miss in your town.

Karen Azoulay, from Toronto now based in Brooklyn, works in a variety of media whose forms seem to hover around a sensuous, ecstatic, apocalypse. When Glenn Ligon wrote about a New York exhibition of hers he said, “Suffused with humor and melancholy her work reveals an interest in mythology, literature and alchemy as well as Las Vegas spectacles, the work of Yayoi Kusuma, opera and Renaissance painting.”

Angela Jann, returned to Columbus after getting an MFA at Pratt, is a painter who deals in a knives-out surrealism leavened with a winking pop art absurdity.

Ann Hirsch, based in Los Angeles, works in video and performance interrogating how technology shapes gender and human relations. What I’ve seen gives me a strong Laurel Nakadate vibe which is high praise, Nakadate’s made my visual art of the year list at least once and barely missed it a few other times. Maybe the artist I’m most interested in checking out.

Kathryn Shinko recently finished her MFA at Kent State and works in textiles which is a medium I’ve been ravenous for since the Wexner Center’s Fiber show finally opened up my half-dead eyes.

Beny Wagner is based in Berlin. His moody, intoxicating, textured work in video and installations has gotten heavy praise from Artforum, Kaleidoscope, and other sources.

Opening 7:00pm-10:00pm. Free.

Music

August 19: Alanna Royale. Rumba Cafe, 2507 Summit St. 

I doubt it’s a surprise to anyone who’s ever sat with me in a bar with a jukebox for 20 minutes, much less read this column for a week or three, that Alanna Royale’s right up my alley. Catchy, sultry, sweaty retro soul with an immediately identifiable voice and songs that hold their own against history.

If you like The Right Now, Robin McKelle, or I’d even wager to say JD McPherson or St. Paul and The Broken Bones, this is a must-see. The kind of Wednesday night that makes however much you hurt on Thursday worth every bit.

Local funk-inspired jam band The Floorwalkers close the night.

Doors at 8:00pm. $10 tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=6010225

August 21-23: VIVO Music Festival. Garden Theatre, 1871 N High St.

More than once I’ve lamented that the biggest gap in Columbus’s musical landscape is contemporary classical (new music, whatever term you feel you want to use). We’ve got decent symphony and chamber orchestras but despite two very fine music schools Columbus doesn’t get the same kind of flood of young, excited players doing exciting, new programming out of the classical realm as we do with jazz.

So I’m very excited by the prospect of this first year of the VIVO Music Festival. Organized by violinist Siwoo Kim and violist John Stultz this has the potential to be the exact kind of antidote I (and at least a few others I could name) have been hungry for. Partnering with the Johnstone New Music Fund they’re putting on three shows at the Garden Theatre.

Friday, 8:00pm: 8 Strings, 9 Tails. This program presents Dvorak’s Terzetto, Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings and John Zorn’s Cat O’ Nine Tails (Tex Avery Directs the Marquis De Sade), the latter of which was a massively formative experience for me. I remember the day I bought Zorn’s String Quartets at Shake It Records and put it on my friend’s stereo in college. I was hooked, my friends.

Saturday, 8:00pm: In the DarkPerformed in the Garden’s smaller Green Room space, this program features Georg Friedrich Haas’s String Quartet #3, “In iij, Noct,” played in complete darkness.

Sunday, 4:00pm: Unstrung. This program experiments with a conductorless chamber orchestra of some of the most promising classical musicians in town. The repertoire includes Bach’s Third Brandenberg Concerto and one of my favorites, Astor Piazolla’s  Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

A terrific interview with the artistic directors is available at WOSU and $15 reserved tickets for Friday and Sunday (Saturday is free) as well as more info are available at http://www.vivofestival.org/

August 22: Dave Holland Tribute. Dick’s Den, 2417 N High St.

A quartet of our finest younger jazz players including maybe our hottest rhythm section – Max Button (drums), John Allen (bass), Zakk Jones (guitar), and Danny Bauer (piano) team up to take on the oeuvre of maybe the finest straight-ahead jazz composer since the ’70s, bassist/bandleader Dave Holland.

Holland’s one of the few artists of any stripe I think I can literally say I’ve never heard a bad record by. He writes ballads that will make your wine taste sweeter and you fall in love more with the world, uptempo ragers that will make you bounce off the wall or ruin your pants, and abstractions you can get lost in for days. And this is a perfect group to play those perfect songs. Watch summer start its fade over a nice glass of rye whiskey while the music takes you somewhere else and also plants you back in yourself.

Starts at 10:00pm. $4 cover.

August 23: Publicist UK with Young Widows. Spacebar, 2590 N High St. 

Publicist UK hit my radar when I saw they had guitarist David Obuchowski from Goes Cube who I loved. Fronted by Zachary Lipez of Freshkills with a rhythm section held down by David Witte (Municipal Waste) on drums they merge a young Nick Cave delivery to pummeling almost metal drums and bass for charcoal drawings of a scorched Earth I find intoxicating.

Rounding out the bill are Louisville’s Young Widows who plow the fields of a clench-jawed shadowy ecstasy that reminds me most of Swans. If you dread Mondays anyway, come to this show and let your darkness come out of your pores and join the vibes in the room. Locals Hadak Ura, with whom I’m not yet familiar, open.

Doors at 8:00pm. $12 cover.