I don't know why people persist in believing that The Little Prince is a children's book. To be fair, that is how it was intended by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who wrote it in 1942. And it looks like a children's book: large type, lots of pictures. The title character is a child. On the other hand, I don't know any children who actually like the book. The copy my daughter was given six years ago, when she was in first grade, remains pristine, opened only once, when I tried reading it to her at bedtime and was ordered—in the same commanding manner the Little Prince himself displays—to find something else. A worldwide best seller since its publication in 1943, the book remains very much a thing that adults give to children, rather than something many children would choose themselves. Continue reading >> $45-$75
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Taiko is remarkable for its emphasis on the entire body. Performers set their legs in wide stances to strike oversize drums, but even at rest they're tense, like human metronomes ticking on mute. This energetic physical engagement situates taiko as dance—and it's a key point of technique for the musician Tatsu Aoki and his group, Tsukasa Taiko, now in their tenth year of an annual showcase at the Museum for Contemporary Art. Gathering artists from Chicago, San Francisco, and Tokyo, Taiko Legacy 10 celebrates traditional Japanese forms—such as Melody Takata's kimono dancing, where a flickering fan might represent the moon reflecting on a lake—as well as newer dances based on ancient motifs. Reduction is a sampler of the Japanese fusion styles that bubbled up from postwar experimentation with jazz, blues, and swing; it also delves into avant-garde improvised forms, performed here by Ayako Kato. Aoki's ongoing project—combining Japanese music and Chicago jazz—is potentially ripe for incongruity, since Eastern and Western styles can elicit such varied emotional responses. Taiko was used in shrines to produce trance states; the repetition in jazz is more likely to make you bop to the beat. Yet once taiko drummer Eigen Aoki establishes a rhythmic pattern, jazz percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang skillfully transform the classical sound, loosening it up, speeding it along, and highlighting its flexibility and power. The result is surprisingly seamless, even once a larger group of taiko drummers join in, dancing around their drums and coordinating arm movements that make them look like wires on the circuit board of a meticulous machine. —Jena Cutie $15
A few years ago at a Portland performance festival, a couple of local guys, Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, dug two side-by-side graves for themselves, with a tunnel in between so that they could hold hands. Partners in marriage as well as art, the pair bring a real sex-death thing to work that often explores queer identity; in a public performance project this month at the Museum of Contemporary Art, they crochet opposite ends of a long pink tube they've been working on now for ten years. Miller and Shellabarger aren't the only artists bringing a legacy of grave digging to the MCA this season. Life, loss, and the possibility of early interment are in the air: See also "The Way of the Shovel," a new exhibition curated by Dieter Roelstraete, which sprung forth from Roelstraete's observation that contemporary artists rely increasingly on archival research and obsess increasingly over historical questions. They've even adopted the language of archivists and archaeologists, Roelstraete says, and begun to refer to what they do in terms of "digging," "mining," and "excavating." This show, then, is about excavation, conceptual and literal, and includes video from a 2007 piece in which Derek Brunen, like Miller and Shellabarger, digs his own grave. Continue reading >> $12
Comics have a fraught relationship with the gallery. High artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons have mined comic books for imagery and energy, demonstrating the genius (and bankability) of the genre by finding worthy subjects in even the lowliest pop detritus. Comics artists have reacted to this elevation with a mixture of resentment and self-loathing; creators like Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes first reject their own pulp roots in superheroes, then reject the high-art snobs condescending to them. When comic work does make it onto the gallery wall (as in the Clowes exhibit earlier this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art), the miasma of resentment, desire, and anxiety can overwhelm any other aesthetic effect. Lilli Carré is best known as a comics artist, but her current show of new work at the MCA is notably, even startlingly, free of anxiety. Most of the exhibit fits snugly into a single space about the size of a living room. The art itself is quiet and comfortable: abstract drawings on the wall, some ceramic tchotchkes on pedestals. The pulp vigor that attracted Koons, et al, is nowhere to be seen; instead of hyperbolic narrative contrivance, Carré has settled on a cozy domesticity—craft fair rather than mass art. Continue reading >>
Analysis of selected works on display.
Photographs by John Michael Rusnak. Reception Fri 9/20, 5-8 PM.