Best Of 2017 – Visual Art

“That is, all time
Reduces to no special time. No one
Alludes to the change; to do so might
Involve calling attention to oneself
Which would augment the dread of not getting out
Before having seen the whole collection
(Except for the sculptures in the basement:
They are where they belong).
Our time gets to be veiled, compromised
By the portrait’s will to endure. It hints at
Our own, which we were hoping to keep hidden.
We don’t need paintings or
Doggerel written by mature poets when
The explosion is so precise, so fine.
Is there any point even in acknowledging
The existence of all that? Does it
Exist? ”
-John Ashbery, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”

Visual art is a key part of my cultural diet. One I’ve come to a little later. Even when I’m with someone at a gallery and discussing what we’re seeing, there’s a particular being-alone with a piece that lends itself to introspection and takes me to the same places as poetry.

That said, there are exhibits I gleaned the most pleasure from sitting around talking about after the fact – this year’s Whitney Biennial, for instance. I wouldn’t trade the hour dissecting it with Anne at the Corner Bistro or the hour talking about it with Tutti Jackson and Jeff Regensburger at Ace of Cups for anything, but those conversations and negotiations stuck with me long after any aesthetic charge.

These are the opposite, these 15 shows nagged at me and wouldn’t let me go.Trying to add in some photographs – what has a picture doesn’t correlate to liking it more than other work, but I’m far more likely to experiment with snapping a picture in an empty gallery than a full museum where I might be in somebody’s way. Unless noted, everything here is in Columbus.

  1. Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Unknown Notebooks (Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland) – Basquiat is an artist perpetually extending the limits of what we know and how we understand. Just when I believe I’ve gone to that well more than enough times, I’m lucky enough to see a show or some scholarship that explodes those parameters. This was the best example in recent memory. His young notebooks as a nascent flowering of his work’s complicated relationship to text and typography, every few steps my hair stood on end.
  2. Various Artists, Gray Matters (Wexner Center for the Arts) – This shot across the bow from the Wex’s new Senior Curator Michael Goodson beguiled and staggered me. The varieties of gray gave the galleries an uncanny calm, drawing the audience into the kaleidoscopic approaches and perspectives. I made it to this almost 10 times and still didn’t get my fill. Suzanne McClelland’s Rank (Billionaires) resonated the Mike Ladd lyric “We are the size of constellations in the path of wrathful idiots” in my head whenever I wandered through it. Mickalene Thomas’ “Hair Portrait (20)” used her signature rhinestones to look at black glamor and black women in the world. Roni Horn’s “Opposites of White” like two looking pools but with concrete and glass. So much to see and breathe in and grapple with.
  3. Various Artists, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-1985 (Brooklyn Museum, NYC) – The Brooklyn Museum has one of the most engaging, challenging programs of any of the New York institutions. This exposed me to artists I should have known, and I didn’t, along with favorites of mine like Carrie Mae Weems. The strain of revolutionary work in this fraught period in American history was intoxicating, from Dingda McCammon’s totemic mixed-media myth-making to Emma Amos’ work on paper which put the interrogation of the image in the foreground… every medium represented and not in the way you’d necessarily expect. Ephemera from collectives like the Weusi provided context and connective tissue between the diverse artists.
  4. Alice Neel, Alice Neel, Uptown (David Zwirner, NYC) – I knew Alice Neel’s work pretty well but this collection of her time living uptown in New York burned cataracts off my eyes. An equanimity marks Neel’s work here. We feel her real desire to understand everyone she’s painting, from a “random” person down the street to more famous subjects like Alice Childress. My high off the clear-eyed and razor-edged empathy here lasted the rest of this (terrific) New York trip.
  5. Carmen Herrera, Line of Sight (Wexner Center for the Arts) – Columbus is lucky to have gotten this first exhibition of Herrera’s in 20 years right after the Whitney. This is the perfect example of someone drilling ever deeper into a language and, by the same token, language itself. Precarious and impossibly strong, how much can you say with two colors and how much can you hide? Exquisite.
  6. Hope Gangloff, S/T (Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC) – My favorite new painter. This exhibition caught my eye from the street and grabbed me by the collar. An intense desire to know her subjects that resonated with the Alice Neel mentioned above but with a perpetual-motion jangle in tune with today. Colors at play reminded me of Seurat but also the Hernandez Brothers. I loved the use of blurring. In the painting shown here, there’s a tattoo not indistinct because it doesn’t matter but drawn in the blur redolent of memory.IMG_20170421_140444.jpg
  7. Various Artists, Making Space: Women Artists and Post-War Abstraction (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) – This was the big-ticket, bursting at the seams show MoMA does better than any museum I’ve ever visited. A glimpse into the depth and breadth of that amazing collection, featuring work not hung often enough. Big, bold work by Joan Mitchell and Lee Bontecou, more austere abstractions from Agnes Martin. This was an embarrassment of riches there would never be enough time for.
  8. Honore Sharrer, A Dangerous Woman (Columbus Museum of Art) – My favorite show at the revitalized Columbus Museum of Art since the new wing opened a couple years ago, and there have been doozies. This was a remarkable look at one of the great American surrealist painters who was not on my radar at all. If this touring show comes anywhere near you, please check it out.
  9. Nina Chanel Abney, Seized the Imagination (Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC) –  This show was a tightly clenched fist and an explosion. Pop art and street art iconography in riveting compositions. I couldn’t get enough of these paintings. The fuck-you our time needs, not blunted or weakened, but with a formal rigor that lent itself to diving deep and fighting to unpack it.IMG_20171109_132750.jpg
  10. Josephine Halvorson, As I Went Walking (Sikkema Jenkins, NYC) – Josephine Halvorson’s paintings remind me of Annie Baker’s plays in her attention to perfect details and dedication to turning up the realism until its surreal nature won’t be ignored. This walk her new work guided us on was full of the dread, strangeness, and wonder we should all stay in touch with. This magical, horrifying world.IMG_20171109_142249.jpg
  11. Jane Hammond, Search Light (Galerie Lelong, NYC) – Jane Hammond’s work was new to me and this gallery show blew me away. These mystical, terrifying encaustics highlighted the magic and the secret languages laid over seemingly mundane, everyday events.IMG_20170421_134508.jpg
  12. Suzanne Silver, Codes and Contingences (Beeler Gallery) – I wish I could have shown this gallery exhibit to every genre writer of my acquaintance. It summed up the fevered mind, the paranoid state, that might be the only sane approach to the current moment. The intense, desperation to control in the meticulously cataloged pieces removed from the ever sparser gallery? So much to unpack but everything suffused with sensation.IMG_20171208_144057.jpg
  13. Richard Serra, Sculpture and Drawings (David Zwirner, NYC) – Any time I get to see new Richard Serra, it’s a good month/year for me. His work is like a sauna for the soul; I feel myself sweating out toxins and anxieties buried down deep. A holy, purifying thing.IMG_20171109_132011.jpg
  14. Various Artists, Visions of India (Pizzuti Collection) – The Pizzuti Collection grows into itself and finds its niche in the Columbus market. This look at contemporary Indian art featured well-known-in-the-US blue-chip artists like Anish Kapoor and Vibha Galhorta alongside stunning work from people unknown to me like Sheila Makhijani and Jitish Kallat. I could have gone to this three more times and not absorbed it all.IMG_20170923_122438.jpg
  15. Roxy Paine, Seronin Reuptake Inhibitor (Beeler Gallery) – Back on the feelings of dread, these empty, perfect-until-you-notice-the-perspective dioramas behind glass pounded the breath right out of my lungs.

Best of 2016: Visual Art

“Red is only black remembering.”
-Ocean Vuong, “Daily Bread”

Visual art gets more important to me every year. It makes its mediation between the idea and the finished product impossible to ignore. It freezes memory in all its unreliable-ness in a static form forever or it deliberately stays ephemeral. Engaging with a painting or a sculpture or an installation requires going up to it alone and letting it inside you. Even if you’re talking about the piece with someone else, the work has to be grappled with alone and you’ll never adequately explain what you see.

Got waylaid by illness and obligation so I’m both late and this is going up without blurbs but please know how much each of these struck me.

As with all of my end of year lists, everything is in Columbus unless otherwise stated.

  1. Agnes Martin, s/t (Guggenheim Museum, NYC) 
  2. Kerry James Marshall, Mastry (Met Breuer, NYC) 
  3. Melvin Edwards, Five Decades (Columbus Museum of Art) 
  4. Pipilotti Rist, Pixel Forest (New Museum, NYC) 
  5. Noah Purifoy, Junk Dada (Wexner Center)
  6. Alexandria Eregbu, The Shadow on the Ground (The Luminary, St Louis) 
  7. Martin Wong, Human Instamatic (Wexner Center) 
  8. Toyin Odjih Odutola, Of Context and Without (Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC) 
  9. Various Artists, The Sun Placed in the Abyss (Columbus Museum of Art) 
  10. Various Artists, Utopia Banished (Angela Meleca Gallery) 
  11. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Indelible Memories (sepiaEYE Gallery, NYC) 
  12. Aaron Fowler, Tough Love (CCAD Beehler Gallery) 
  13. Shambauvi Kaul, Modes of Faltering (UT – Downtown Gallery, Knoxville) 
  14. Dennison W. Griffith, Another World (CCAD Beehler Gallery) 
  15. Richard Myers, Aberrations/Mark Mothersbaugh, Myopia (Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland)

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.

“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.


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!” 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.


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

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

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.

“Hey, Fred!” 07/13/15-07/19/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

This is a stacked week befitting the beginning of the hottiest, stickiest parts of summer. A big chunk of the word-count here is dedicated to Columbus’s best-rebounded festival, the Jazz and Ribs Fest. Growing up, I saw amazing things at this fest including David Murray and Oliver Lake, but there was a long period where it basically cratered, locked into a morass of midtempo, smoothed-out mediocrity. I’m happy to say it’s come back to the point where – while not on the level of Detroit or Chicago – it’s a damn fine festival again that brings in interesting acts we wouldn’t likely see otherwise and provides a fantastic showcase for our local talent.

Visual Art

July 18-19: SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo). Northland Performing Arts Center. 4411 Tamarack Blvd.

Bob Corby (Back Porch Comics) is one of those not-sung-enough heroes in town whose names I try to make sure I call out. He saw a gap and a way to capitalize on all the independent comics creators in the region and he saw a market for another comics show that wasn’t beholden to superheroes and non-comics-celebrities, a lower-key Midwestern riff on MoCCA, SPX, and APE and by God he did it. One of my favorite events in town where I’m constantly inspired by the talent and the plethora of voices making vital work.

This year’s going to be a little bittersweet for many of us in the local arts – and particularly comics – community because we’ve so recently lost Valerie Starr (referred to last week). She and Talcott sold their whimsical, funny, wise work at the show every year. So that should be an extra reason to go out and spend some money. Find something new. Talk to someone you might otherwise not have.

10:00am-6:00pm Saturday. 10:00am-5:00pm Sunday. $5 per day, $8 for the weekend. Exhibitor List and more information available at 

July 18: A Celebration of Life: Aminah Robinson. Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E Broad St.

Aminah Robinson was one of the finest artists to ever call Columbus home. Work that was striking in its first blush but kept revealing new information and new sensual pleasure. Soulful, rich, intense, and thoughtful paintings, murals, and other media.

Columbus Museum of Art has a strong collection of her work and it’s only fitting they’re hosting a celebration of her life on this Saturday. Her work is on display in their Forum gallery and a presentation including speeches and music by Columbus institution Arnett Howard starts in the Cardinal Health Auditorium at 3:00pm.


July 15: Kate Wakefield and Rural Carrier. Used Kids Records, 1980 N High St.

Kate Wakefield, opera singer and cellist from Cincinnati, has been amassing a strong critical buzz. She builds songs from loops but in a way that reminds me more of William Basinski and Antony and the Johnsons with elements of early Owen Pallett than the showy way that kind of technique often comes across. It’s haunting, gripping work and should be a wonder in Used Kids who have really stepped up their show game over the last few years.

Wakefield’s on tour with Rural Carrier, Jacob Koestler from Cleveland’s project built around shaky, unstable tones and drones rising up through the cracks. It’s beautiful, meditative work.

The locals on the bill I’m honestly not familiar with – Field Sleeper and Slime Scapes – but if the bookers were confident to put them on this bill I’m in.

6:00pm-9:00pm. Donations encouraged.

July 16: Wolf Eyes. Mint, 42 W Jenkins Ave.

Wolf Eyes are a shining example of a band not burning out and giving in after their moment of mainstream attention – epitomized by two records on Sub Pop – and at the forefront of what felt like a new American noise zeitgeist has passed. These Detroit heroes doubled down on their blend of cathartic, ritualistic throb and continue to make some of the best records to come out of this amorphous scene. Their dubbed-out, narcotized abstractions over the years have made one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

The rest of the bill is nothing to ignore, either. Rev//Rev is a new industrial project from members of Lafayette’s TV Ghost, one of the most exciting rock bands of the last several years, and people I trust have been raving since their last trip through town. Muscle Puzzle and Melted Man are two sides of the still-vital Columbus noise scene.

Doors at 9:00pm. $10 cover.

July 17-19: Jazz and Rib Fest. North Bank Park.

As stated above, this has reclaimed its place as one of my favorite summer festivals in Columbus. This year’s particularly special since it’s the first time – I think – Red Baraat have ever played Columbus. They played after my pal Mike Gamble’s wedding in Hudson, New York, and I can’t wait to see them again. Below is a smattering of personalized – as is the wont of this column, I won’t talk up what I can’t get behind – recommendations:


1:00, North Bank Park: Keigo Hirakawa Trio. Dayton’s Keigo Hirakawa has an interesting approach to the piano that is clearly coming out of the post-Monk school and in the same vein as Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson, there’s also an appealingly rough rhythmic touch that reminds me a little of Borah Bergman. If you have the day off or if you work downtown, take a late lunch and see this.

3:30, AEP: James Gaiters’ Muv-Ment. Anyone who’s read this blog at all knows I think Gaiters might be the best drummer in town. Muv-Ment is still the best vehicle for his soulful, fascinating compositions. We haven’t seen a lot of Muv-Ment shows in town since the release of his great record Exodus last year partly because Lovell Bradford no longer lives in town so this is a reunion you should do everything in your power to check out. Also playing Natalie’s Saturday night with special guest Pharez Whited.

5:00, AEP: Rad Trads. NYC’s Rad Trads are a party band who are part of the same scene with Hot Sardines, Bria Skonberg, and Bombay Rickey, younger folks carrying the torch of institutions like the Nighthawks. The best writeup on them in town is friend Andrew Patton’s writing for Jazz Columbus. They fuse classic small-group territory orchestra swing with ’60s and ’70s growling soul and funk a la The Meters and the JBs. Get your weekend started right with this set. Also playing Brothers Drake Saturday night.

7:00, North Bank Park: Pharez Whitted Sextet. Pharez Whited was the first local jazz player – other than people who already had a national/historical rep like Gene Walker or Hank Marr – whose playing I ever loved. His sharp, metallic, post-bop trumpet tone cut through a smoky bar, a fine restaurant, or a concert hall like nothing I’d ever heard before. Beyond that, his writing was top notch and he played with the most exquisite players (including a young James Gaiters). It was fire every time he got on a bandstand and the crowds went crazy. He’s gone on to greener pastures in Chicago now but it’s always a treat when he comes back through town and this might be one of the highlights of the whole festival.

9:30, AEP: Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet. Eddie Palmieri is one of the absolute legends of Latin jazz. From his ’60s work with Cal Tjader to his soul-salsa blends of the ’70s and ’80s to his hard driving work today there’s never a bum note or a bad choice when Palmieri’s behind the piano and his bands are never less than excellent. One of the cultural highlights, not just music, of the year.


11:00a, Jazz Cafe: Tom Davis Quartet. Tom Davis might be my favorite jazz/classical guitarist in town right now, certainly my favorite guitarist on the rise – so no slight to Brett Burleson or Larry Marotta. He’s got a mastery of tone that most people would envy, you can tell it’s Davis on stage within three notes even if you’re between two loud barflies trying to order a drink and on the far other side of the bar. His trio work’s great but when he adds another melodic voice, whoever it is, it’s seismic, stratopheric, and enthralling.

2:30, North Bank Park: B Jazz and the Jazzhop Movement. B Jazz (real name Brandon Scott) is a keyboardist and songwriter with a gift for infectious R&B melodies. He first hit my radar through the Liquid Crystal Project (with J Rawls) and really got my attention through his work with Talisha Holmes. I’ve never heard a bum note he’s played and his writing is astonishing.

3:00, Jazz Cafe: Zakk Jones’ Screeching Owl. Zakk Jones is one of the fastest-rising guitarists in town and he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the couple years he’s been on my radar. His main project, Screeching Owl, put out a fantastic album earlier this year with bouncy melodies and harmonies – especially among the horns and vibes – that just glisten. Great review of this record by Andrew Patton here:

5:00, AEP: fo/mo/deep. Fo/mo/deep inhabit a rich, funky fusion that’s melodic enough for the smooth jazz fans but can shake the walls on a regular basis. Their Headhunters vibe is big and intense like a summer thunderstorm, this is the perfect bridge between day and night.

5:00, North Bank Park: Carsie Blanton Trio. Carsie Blanton has a rootsy torch song quality with a voice steeped in history but a fresh voice that flashes like a hidden stiletto. If you like Eleni Mandell or Cassandra Wilson like I do, this is a set definitely worth checking out.

7:00, North Bank Park: Willie Jones III Quintet. Willie Jones III is one of the finest bebop drummers in that classic style, having played with Horace Silver on late tours and Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as well as on a couple fantastic Cedar Walton records and recently with tenor revivalist Javon Jackson. His bringing his own quintet which recently has included Eric Reed, Jeremy Pelt and Dezron Douglas so don’t sleep on this.

9:00, Jazz Cafe: The Admirables. The Admirables are one of the most buzzed-about Cleveland funk bands right now. A righteous live show with great songs both original and repertory. Going to be a drenched, funky good time on a Saturday night.

9:30, North Bank Park: Red Baraat. This is my personal highlight of the festival. Sunny Jain’s ragtag virtuoso A-team Red Baraat played the afterparty for my great friend Mike Gamble’s wedding to Devin Febboriello in Hudson, NY, a couple years ago. It was the kind of sweaty, righteous party to finally cracked the shell of my hangover and made me feel gloriously, hummingly alive again. They’re touring behind their best record yet, Gaadi of Truth, which at this midpoint is a strong contender for my records of the year and while Columbus expat Jon Lampley isn’t joining them on this set word is he’ll be in the house and so should you. If you love world rhythms, catch call and response, and music that reminds you how good it is to be alive, don’t miss this no matter what else you do.


“Hey, Fred!” 06/08/2015-06/14/2015 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

Visual Art

The Work of Sara Adrian. Urban Scrawl Pop-Up Gallery, 480 W Town St. 

Sara Adrian’s painting combines a rich, flowing line with deep investigations of myth and the subconscious. Her work with both oils and acrylics is striking, I still remember the first time I saw her pieces in a group show. This is the first solo show of hers that’s hit my radar in a while and I think it’s a must-see.


June 10: Shifted. The Summit, 2210 Summit St. 

Kevin DeBroux and Albert Gray are doing some of the most interesting booking in town right now at the Summit/Bobo complex and this has all the hallmarks of being another winner. I don’t keep up on electronic music that well these days but slowly more and more of it is creeping back into my diet. One of my favorite records in this rediscovery of the last few years is Under a Single Banner by UK artist Shifted. Shifted’s music is full of left angles and surprises. His love of juxtaposition with glossy snare sounds and thick bass rumbles laced with almost pure static used like an additional percussion track is intoxicating. The tracks work on the dancefloor but they also work as landscapes, as action painting.

The rest of the lineup is stacked as well. Cleveland’s Prostitutes make use of similar jolting juxtapositions in a way that shocks the listener but coheres into total sense, rewiring your brain and perception. Locals The Fallen – the new project from Columbus house legend FBK – and Funerals are no slouches either, the kind of gritty, dark and uplifting techno that puts your more in the moment and more in your own body.

Doors at 9:00pm. $8 cover.

For a great interview with Shifted, check out

June 12-13: What You Will Fest. Old World Stone Carving, 4820 Beard Rd, Sunbury, OH.

Gerard Cox is one of the unsung heroes of music in Columbus and I’m going to keep saying that until his praises are adequately sung in both tenor and volume. For many years he’s booked artists that might never have played Columbus otherwise – including Mary Halvorson, about whom more below – and as he’s turned more attention to local and regional in the last few years he’s kept that same standard of quality and discernment. Cox is someone who believes in improvisation as one of the highest standards of music but also as a healing practice without getting too esoteric about it.

His fifth What You Will festival in Sunbury is the event of the summer for anyone interested in jazz or free improvisation. Friday night’s set with Rent Romus from the bay leading a septet of Cleveland and Columbus improvisers – including LA Jenkins on guitar, Dan Wenninger on reeds, and Chris Weldon on cello – is bookended by a duo of Adam Smith on drums and Wenninger on reeds and Nicole Sherburne’s Auriculum Quartet with Phil Maneri, Smith, and Jason Branscum.

Saturday is full of highlights – what I’m most looking forward to include Detroit’s James Cornish on cornet in duo with percussionist Curtis Glatter; a different septet of Rent Romus, Jayve Montgomery, Tony Zilinick, James Cornish, Chris Weldon, Bryan Stewart, and Ryan Jewell; a quartet of the great Hasan Abdur-Razzaq, Adam Smith, Michael Goecke, and Willie Smart; and so much more. A chance to see phenomenal music in a gorgeous setting barely an hour from town. Even if you have the same aversion to camping I do, this should not be missed.

7:00pm Friday through midnight Saturday. Suggested donation of $10-20. The full schedule is here:

June 14: Second Annual Mark Flugge Memorial Concert. Mees Hall, Capital University, 1 College Ave, Bexley, OH.

I talked quite a bit in my year end wrap ups about what a loss the death of Mark Flugge was to this town last year. The tribute concert at Capital University where he worked for so long, and had such an amazing impact on so many musicians over the years, was one of the most moving afternoons I had.

Flugge is still being remembered and paid tribute to – I just a smoking version of his “The Borderland” by the John Allen Trio at Dick’s Den on Wednesday – and I’m happy to say everyone involved is making good on their promise to make that formal concert hall tribute an annual event. This year’s memorial features the Vaughan Wiester Famous Jazz Orchestra going specially commissioned arrangements of Flugge’s work along with smaller combos, chamber music groups, and soloists. This also marks the release of Mark Flugge Remembered: Jazz Originals and Standards which is a compilation of previously-unreleased tracks designed to give a taste of the width and breadth of one of the finest careers in Columbus music. From early word, the record should be an essential document of Columbus jazz and classical music.

Show starts at 2:00pm. Free event.

June 14: Secret Keeper (Mary Halvorson and Stephan Crump). Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

Mary Halvorson’s probably my favorite jazz/avant-garde guitarist working right now. I was blown away the first time I saw her in duos with viola player Jessica Pavone at a show booked by Gerard Cox – see above – and I’ve been blown away every single time since, seeing her with Ingrid Laubrock in both Laubrock’s quintet at Barbes and an improvised trio with Tom Rainey at Issue Project Room, playing duets at The Stone, with Marc Ribot in Sun Ship, with Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant at Bowery Poetry Club and Travis Laplante’s quartet at Shapeshifter Lab, and of course her own groups which I’ve seen from the Jazz Gallery to the Wexner Center for the Arts. So it’s a big deal to me she’s coming back to town.

Her unique writing and guitar vocabulary can conjure everything from her longtime teacher Anthony Braxton to Derek Bailey to Horace Silver to Mingus. Over the years she’s developed a way of working with space and the decay of notes that almost puts me in mind of Eliane Radigue and Feldman. Her singular tone and attack haven’t changed so much as over the years they’ve had flash and excess stripped away. The renewed depth and spaciousness of her playing is most apparent in her new project, Secret Keeper, and she’s found a perfect foil in bassist Stephan Crump – this is dancing on air without a net.

I’m very glad to see Natalie’s – one of my favorite listening rooms in town – booking something like this and it’s the show I’m most excited for this week.

Show starts at 8:00pm. $10 tickets available at