Mona Lisa and Ko-Omote, both masks by Bidou Yamaguchi
Bidou Yamaguchi is a mask-maker hoping to revolutionize a six-centuries old tradition.
Yamaguchi, whose work is on display at Carleton College's art gallery as part of larger exhibition on Japanese theater, is a master in his field. He creates masks for the Hōshō school of Noh theater in Tokyom, one of five such schools in the nation, each with it's own very distinctive styles and traditions.
The history of Japanese Noh theater goes back six centuries, and yet in that time, very little has changed. The rules of performance are strict, with archetypal characters; attending a Noh performance is considered a past-time for the upper class, similar to opera in the United States.
Noh performances traditionally incorporate masks into costumes of the different characters, with exaggerated faces depicting old men, young beauties, and evil demons. They're made from cypress wood, seashell, lacquer and sometimes hemp and horse hair.
As the theater has remained virtually unchanged, so has its masks. Yamaguchi, speaking through a translater (a Carleton art history major, Ziliang Liu) says while he's considered a great artist in his country, he feels like he and his contemporaries have been forced into being little more than technicians.
The Noh mask makers, what we do today, we're copying originals from other periods. Every one would say the best mask is the original, and each maker will say they can never achieve the brilliance of the original artist.
As a member of the Hōshō schoolm Yamaguchi has exclusive access to the school's original masks.
O-Beshimi, by Bidou Yamaguchi
While Yamaguchi's mastery of his art form is evident in his work, he felt called to challenge himself, to work with less traditional subject matter. And so he began making masks as sculptural pieces, drawing inspiration from iconic works of western art that date back to around the time Noh theater was taking form. He made masks of women pictured in paintings by Edvard Munch, Amadeo Modigliani, and Johannes Vermeer.
Yet while he's been making these masks for several years now, Yamaguchi has yet to show his work in Japan. That will happen this May, and he admits to being nervous about public reaction.
I'm speculating as to what the response will be. Tradition is very important in Japan, so I expect some people will reject the work, or be upset by it.
Jeanne, by Bidou Yamaguchi, after a painting by Amadeo Modigliani
While Yamaguchi doesn't have much freedom to pursue his own work, he believes that a recent shift in power at the Hōshō school may present an opportunity for change.
Tradition should not be just a matter of copying the past, but to add something before passing it on to the next generation. It's up to the next generation to decide whether they want to keep it or not.
Yamaguchi says he feels in some sense as though he's the only artist in the field of Noh mask-making. He wishes he and other mask-makers felt free to incorporate their own style and ideas into their work:
Okina, by Bidou Yamaguchi
Yamaguchi's masks are part of the Carleton College's The Art of Sight, Sound and Heart, which runs through March 9. Yamaguchi will be in Minneapolis on Monday, February 21 to give a talk at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
This week's hounds dig up a play about the relationship which grew into Alcoholics Anonymous, an art exhibit exploring urban landscapes literally from the ground up, and the state's premier indie hip hop group's statewide tour.
(Want to be an art hound? Sign up!)
"Bill W. and Dr. Bob" is back on stage at Illusion Theater and Twin Cities actor and writer Shanan Custer couldn't be happier. Shanan says the show was her favorite production of 2010. The remount portrays how A.A. founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith used their friendship to cope with and overcome their addiction to alcohol. You can see it at Illusion through March 13.
Atmosphere is coming to Bemidji, which means long-time fan and rapper Junior Jourdain of Red Lake won't have to drive for hours to see them. Junior calls Atmosphere the most influential act in indie hip hop. Atmosphere is getting ready to launch its first ever statewide tour, called "Welcome to Minnesota." The tour stops in Mankato on Feb. 22, Bemidji on Feb. 23, St. Cloud on the 24th, Rochester on the 25th, and Duluth on the 26th.
And you can get an early sneak peek at the Art Hounds' picks every week by texting the word ART to 677-677.(2 Comments)
Posted at 10:47 AM on February 17, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Walker: Puck is out, D'Amico is in
The art museum's Asian-influenced 20.21 is being replaced by D'Amico team's Gather, which will feature American food.
- RICK NELSON, Star Tribune
'You are Not a Dinosaur' at Vine Arts Center
Bruce Holland Rogers's Dinosaur is a short story that begins at the point in a small boy's life when he must let go of his dream of being a dinosaur. "You Are Not A Dinosaur" is the newest art exhibition at the Vine Arts Center, and was inspired by Rogers's story.
- Coco Mault, City Pages
Borders turns to a new chapter: 11
The long-troubled bookstore chain will close about 200 stores across the country, including four of its seven Twin Cities stores.
- Megan Nicolai, Star Tribune
Books & Bars selection "One Day" by David Nicholls: A most unconventional romance
Despite great superficial evidence to the contrary (the film adaptation is going to star Anne Hathaway, if you know what I mean), the 19-year relationship between Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley is not particularly one of romance. It is one of character discovery through perspective...with a little romance thrown in.
- Courtney Davison, TC Daily Planet
'Devotion' takes the stage at the Walker
Poetry-inspired dance by renowned choreographer Sarah Michelson will hit the stage this Thursday evening at the Walker Art Center's McGuire Theater.
- Shelby Meyers. City Pages
Cowles Center director named
The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts (the former Shubert Theater and Hennepin Center for the Arts in downtown Minneapolis) has named Frank Sonntag as executive director.
- Pioneer Press
Surreal printmaking at MIA; blue Britons in 'The Eagle'
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Shooting the 'Rapids'
Two guys with Minnesota ties who are behind the movie are pleased with the characters, the casting and the Midwestern vibe.
- Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
The sound of Americana, North and South
Two guitar greats - one from Brazil, the other from Seattle - will showcase their beautiful new album in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
- Britt Robson, Special to the Star Tribune
Grammy winners spent time in St. PaulIt seems a little time in Minnesota is good for the career. The Parker Quartet, artists-in-residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons and artists-in-residence with Minnesota Public Radio during the 2009-10 season, took home a Grammy Award on Sunday.
- Pioneer Press
Kronos Quartet surprise, unsurprisingly, at the Walker Art Center
For over 30 years Kronos have been pushing the definition of classical music with astounding success, having commissioned over 700 works and arrangements and released more than 45 recordings.
- Kate Gallagher, TC Daily Planet
Owl City sends Taylor Swift a Valentine's letter
Adam Young of Owl City fame issued a new song on his website for Valentine's Day that proves he's enchanted by Taylor Swift.
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Justin Townes Earle at First Avenue: "I know better, but sometimes I just don't care"
Justin Townes Earle's Valentines Day show at First Avenue was not sold out. It was not outrageously hot, or too packed to move. The crowd was pleasant and comfortable. But it shouldn't have been so calm, really, when you take into account the caliber of the performance that Earle put forth.
- Natalie Gallagher, TC Daily Planet
Motörhead in spades again at First Ave
"Are you all right? Well, we'll fix that." That's how Lemmy Kilmister greeted to the sold-out crowd for Motörhead's last night at First Avenue, and it wasn't just cocky rock talk.
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Motörhead at First Avenue, 2/15/11
Motörhead have not changed all that much since 1977, mostly because it seems stupid to try to fix what's not broken.
- Pat O'Brien, City Pages
Deerhoof's John Dieterich talks about his band's new album
Art-rock quartet Deerhoof have made a semi-brilliant career out of atom-smashing together genres, gene-splicing musical tropes, and generally just being way more interesting than most of their peers.
- Ray Cummings, City Pages
'Agnes Under the Big Top' author readies world premiere
The piece explores immigrant experience in the United States through the eyes of a number of recent arrivals, from a Liberian homecare worker to a Bulgarian ringmaster and his wife.
- Ed Huyck, City Pages
Ma Rainey sings with the cathartic essence of the blues
Divas don't come any more high maintenance than the title character of playwright August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
- Brad Richason, Examiner.com
Iranian playwright premieres innovative take on ancient text
On February 24, Mohammad B. Ghaffari will be premiering his new work, Journey, a theater piece using storytelling, music, and dance in an adaptation of Havy ibn Yagzan ("Alive, son of Awake" in Arabic), a philosophical novel written by Ibn Tufayl, an Andalusian Muslim who was both a philosopher and physician in the 12th century.
- Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet
Fargo students' publicity stunt for play about Matthew Shepard's murder backfires
North Dakota high school students trying to create publicity for their school play sent messages to a Kansas-based fundamentalist church known for its anti-gay protests, hoping Westboro Baptist Church members would announce plans to picket the production. They got the publicity. But it put police on alert and sparked plans for a counter-protest, and might have gotten the students in trouble.
- Associated Press
Two strong plays about kids facing supreme challenges: Youth Performance Company's "MEAN" and SteppingStone Theatre's "Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963
As an adult who has quite a number of young people in my life, it's a hideous and frightful thought that any child I know would go through these experiences.
- Betsy Gabler, TC Daily Planet
Panel will examine multicultural/ multethnic casting
The issue of multicultural/ multiethnic casting in local theater, which surfaced during a recent production titled "WTF" that was staged by Mu Performing Arts, will be discussed from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Ave E., St. Paul.
- Pioneer Press
Love, war and gays in the military
"Leave" shows how U.S. policy affects one couple.
- John Townsend, Star Tribune
'Drakul' and 'Vampire Lesbian of Sodom': theater that drips redYou wouldn't know it to look at us, but we Minnesotans are fairly accomplished monster hunters.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Letter from a young theater artist to Charles Mee, re: "erased bobrauschenbergamerica" at 1419
When I look at this production, it's essentially student work.
- Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet
"Our Town" by Yellow Tree Theatre: Excellent "community" theaterYellow Tree Theatre's latest is a winning effort that throws the gauntlet down to its metropolitan cousins.
- Christopher Kehoe, TC Daily Planet
Sam Green's "Utopia in Four Movements" asks a big question, but gives a wrong answer
The most perplexing, and frustrating, thing about Sam Green's Utopia in Four Movements is that it offers some Big Ideas about society and supports them with provocative examples, while ignoring the obvious discrepancies between the ideas and the examples and making no mention of the idea that considering data more systematically might yield more satisfying answers.
- Jay Gabler, TC Daily Planet
Posted at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Museums
Image courtesy Walker Art Center
So long pork pot-stickers... the Walker Art Center has announced that it's not renewing its contract with Wolfgang Puck when it expires. Instead, after six years, the museum is switching to the locally based D'Amico and Partners, who will take over the space in April under the name "Gather." 20.21's Asian-fusion will be replaced with fresh and locally sourced American fare.
According to a release, the restaurant will "offer a casual and convivial dining experience, with the look, feel and flavor of a world class restaurant."
The switch takes effect April 18.
Posted at 12:37 PM on February 17, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Events
This shabti, or funerary figure, is one of 100 artifacts from Tut's tomb and other notable ancient sites on display in "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Credit: Sandro Vannini
Evidently the ancient Egyptians believed you can take it with you. The artifacts and treasures found beside the boy king in Egypt pay their first visit to the Twin Cities in "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibition opens tomorrow and runs through September 5.
Speaking of well-preserved, songster Randy Newman brings his wry lyrics and beautiful tunes to the stage of the Guthrie Theater Monday night. While more recently he's known for his movie soundtracks, I love him for his old songs "Political Science."
Speaking of politics (I'm just on a roll with segues), Teatro Del Pueblo presents its annual Political Theater Festival featuring two works by guest playwrights. This weekend there's "Aliens, Immigrants, & Other Evildoers," a sci-fi Latino noir and multimedia solo by José Torres-Tama, followed next weekend by ¡Gaytino!, Dan Guerrero's autobiographical, one-man show about his Chicano and gay identities. All performances are at Gremlin Theater in St. Paul.
In a follow-up to its exhibition "The Art of Conflict", the Iraqi/American Reconciliation Project presents "Navigating the Aftermath" at the University of Minnesota's Regis Center for the Arts. The goal of the show is to "take a step back, look at the collective and long-term effects of the war, and consider how both countries might start to move forward toward reconciliation and a more peaceful future."
Do you ever feel like a tragic martyr for your love? THE JOANS, part rock-and-roll concert, part-theater, riffs on facts and fictions surrounding Joan of Arc. Starring Annie Enneking, THE JOANS combines the strange pleasure of religious hysteria, the sanctity of rock-and-roll aggression, and the melancholy of total sexual satisfaction. "Love burns," as they say.
Performances run this weekend and next at Bryant Lake Bowl.
And if you're looking for some fun family fare, you can't beat Rock the Cradle at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Children's Theatre in Minneapolis. Hosted by 89.3 The Current, kids get to pet the instruments, dance in the disco, listen to radio hosts read storybooks, and just basically go crazy while their parents enjoy the tunes. The event runs Sunday from 11am - 5pm.
So, what are you doing this weekend?
Jevetta Steele is Ma Rainey
Photo by Michal Daniel
Penumbra Theatre presents "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" at the Guthrie Theater through March 6. The August Wilson play, set in the late 1920s, depicts blues singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey as she prepares to lay down a new record in a South Side Chicago studio, and how even the most legendary singer of her day had to fight for every scrap of respect she could get.
Thinking of seeing the show? Check out these review excerpts - follow the links to read them in their entirety.
Divas don't come any more high maintenance than the title character of playwright August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Unyielding in her demands and prone to volatile outbursts at the slightest resistance, Ma Rainey would be insufferable were it not for her enormously gifted (and equally profitable) vocal ability. And yet Ma Rainey's exacting stipulations, whether as sensible as approving her musical arrangements or as superfluous as having Coca-Cola on hand at every recording session, do not merely reflect an out of control ego. No, there's a pragmatic rationale to Ma's every demand, a justification sown under social oppression. Expressed through the cathartic essence of the blues, Penumbra Theatre Company's production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, now running at the Guthrie, provocatively uncovers the disfiguring scars of bigotry and racism.
August Wilson's engrossing script follows one particularly chaotic recording session in the life of Ma Rainey, popularly known as the Mother of the Blues. As Ma Rainey's white producer and white manager fret over the infamously unpredictable singer's late arrival, the backing band passes the time with an initially easygoing banter that grows progressively tense. Three of the band members are musical journeymen, session players employed to follow direction. The fourth, however, is an outspoken trumpet player named Levee who nurses aspirations of artistic innovation. Fueled by his own impassioned vision of the blues, Levee stands in direct opposition to Ma Rainey's uncompromising will, assuring a showdown that will make this recording session anything but harmonious.
A marvel of tuneful composition, director Lou Bellamy plays August Wilson's script like the blues, steering the prevailing mood through each intuitively timed note. Much of the first act's charm rests with a group of men shooting the breeze, only occasionally allowing a glimpse of deeper meaning. A conversation about shoes, for example, speaks volumes about these characters' sense of position and pride. And these four men bust each other's chops mercilessly, only pausing when the subject cuts too close to the bone. Wilson's dialogue possesses a sculpture's exactitude coupled with a poet's sense of rhythm, molding an everyday vernacular to each character's unique personality.
...Though Ma Rainey and Levee clash over control of the music, neither has an exclusive claim to ownership. As Ma Rainey's Black Bottom so resoundingly demonstrates, the blues belong to anyone moved to feel deep emotion, a characteristic certain to include those fortunate enough to witness this remarkable production.
We're a half-decade beyond the death of August Wilson. That's long enough so that every production of one of his plays no longer feels like an elegy, but not long enough for him to feel like a historical figure. It's a peculiar, liminal time for devotees of his work, and that sense of reflection permeates Penumbra Theatre Company's lovely but sometimes disjointed production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" at the Guthrie Theater.
Set in a Chicago recording studio in 1927 and centered on the eponymous diva and her back-up band, "Ma Rainey" interweaves themes of power and race, talent and desire, approach and avoidance. It was the second script Wilson wrote in his 10-play cycle chronicling the black experience in America during the 20th century, and within its pages, Wilson begins to show the mastery of image and language that would bring him two Pulitzer Prizes and a high place in the lexicon of American playwrights.
But there is a price to be paid for all of these gorgeous words. The play can sometimes feel like a loosely connected series of jaw-dropping, galvanizing set pieces than an event with a single, coherent through-line. Piano man and philosopher Toledo's ruminations about the black man eating society's leftovers is rendered with a clear-eyed sense of frustration and reality by Abdul Salaam El Razzac.
James T. Alfred plays up-and-coming trumpeter Levee, and his tale of his mother's assault by a gang of white men is rendered with the kind of horrific realism that brings the bile to the back of your throat. But the connective bridges among these stories and the countless other riffs told in "Ma Rainey" aren't consistently present, and the final, wrenching scene has a whiff of deus ex machina.
Penumbra artistic director and Wilson intimate Lou Bellamy thus cannot forge all of the connections, but he does give his cast -- many of whom have long associations with Wilson's work -- room to maneuver and invent in a production that pulses with the varying divertimenti of jazz without straying too far from the essential themes.
...Bellamy's staging of this jazz-and-blues-suffused drama unfolds with inspiring lucidity and lyricism.
Actor Jevetta Steele is wondrous as the title character, the mother of the blues who prefers to be called Madame. The character is larger than life, arriving in hullabaloo with an entourage that includes a police officer who is trying to arrest her.
Steele, best known for her singing -- her one sassy, soulful song is worth the "Ma" admission -- shows off powerful dramatic chops . She commands the stage with volatility and danger. Her Ma is more Greek goddess than diva.
Alfred, dressed in red by costume designer Mathew LeFebvre, has the cockiness of a prize fighter with a gift for gab. He bounces around the stage like a Muhammad Ali, ready to rumble. And as he shows us his ambition, we want to root for him.
Bellamy has cast only top-shelf winners in this play, which takes place on Vicki Smith's three-zone set. Wilson veteran Abdul Salaam El Razzac imbues Toledo with sagacity and cool.
Phil Kilbourne depicts Irvin, Ma's white manager, as if he were a water balloon being squeezed between two strong hands. And, in his delivery, he takes the sting out of "boys," which is what he calls the men. Tezla's Sturdyvant is unctuous, but he does not ooze too much oil. He comes across as a cold businessman, profiting from the sounds of suffering that he traps in a box.
James Craven, who plays trombone player Cutler, and William John Hall, who plays bassist Slow Drag, perform in the show the way they do in a band: as strong, solid ensemble players.
Even the smaller roles in "Ma" are notable. Lerea Carter drips eroticism as Dussie Mae, Ma's gorgeously endowed girlfriend, while Ahanti Young's Sylvester, Ma's stuttering nephew, is delivered with touching tenderness in a production that is superlative.
So have you seen "Ma Rainey?" If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.