NYC-ARTS

S2020 E490 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: April 30, 2020

Curator Joan Cummins speaks to NYC-ARTS about some of the works on display in the Arts of Japan gallery at Brooklyn Museum. Followed by a profile of Claire Chase, an award-winning flutist and a champion of contemporary classical music. And a look at the art of Faith Ringgold, on view as part of the MTA’s “Arts for Transit” Program.

AIRED: May 01, 2020 | 0:28:16
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Coming up on "NYC-Arts,"

a visit to the Brooklyn Museum

for a look at its newly

renovated Arts of Japan gallery.

>> One of the great highlights

in the new gallery

is a pair of folding screens

that date from about 1610.

These were made

for the interior of a castle,

and they have

largely gold backgrounds,

which would have helped to

reflect light in the dark

interior of the castle

and made the room

sort of more warm and glowing.

>> And a profile of flutist

Claire Chase, who has had

a remarkable career in the world

of contemporary classical music.

>> Density 2036 is the farthest

thing from your grandmother's

flute recital that I hope you

can imagine.

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership

with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

>> And by Swann

Auction Galleries.

>> Swann Auction galleries.

We have a different way

of looking at auctions,

offering vintage books

and fine art since 1941,

working to combine knowledge

with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong

collector, a first-time buyer,

or looking to sell, information

at swanngalleries.com.

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome

to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn

at the Tisch WNET Studios

at Lincoln Center.

We'll begin our program tonight

with a trip

to the Brooklyn Museum

to visit its newly renovated

Arts of Japan gallery.

The objects on view trace

over 2,000 years of innovation

in Japanese art,

including Buddhist temple

sculptures, paintings,

textiles, and woodblock prints.

Also on view are ceramics

that reveal Japan's 10,000 year

history of craftsmanship

in this medium.

Here's a look now at some of the

highlights of this exhibition.

♪♪

>> We've been closed for

about six years,

and we are so excited to finally

bring out these galleries

with all of our beautiful

treasures and to tell new

and interesting stories

that we've never told

with the collection before.

The Brooklyn Museum is quite

unusual in its large

holdings of material

from the Ainu culture

of Northern Japan.

We are very fortunate

to have roughly 1,000 artifacts

in the collection

from the Ainu people,

and that ranges from carved wood

objects to personal ornaments

to costumes,

what they actually wore

usually in a ceremonial setting.

And we have a number of robes

from the Ainu people

that were probably

special occasion attire.

Most of the robes made by

the Ainu costume makers

were made of an

indigenous fabric called attush,

which was made of bark cloth.

And it has a texture

kind of like burlap.

The robe that we're showing

right now is unusual because

it's made entirely of cotton.

And cotton was something

that they had to trade for

because they couldn't grow

cotton up in the northern climes

of Hokkaido Island.

So cotton as a trade good

would have been a luxury item.

The robes that were made

entirely of cotton

were very much status objects.

This wonderful oversized

green head

of a Buddhist guardian figure

dates from the 1200s,

from the Kamakura period,

which is a moment

when sculpture in Japan

became much livelier,

much more expressive.

The head is much larger

than life-size

and would have stood atop

a figure about 12 feet high.

And it would have been

one of four figures marking

the four corners of a platform

around an even larger

seated Buddha at the center.

And they would have been

really dramatic figures

in the dark, sort of dim light

of the temple.

You would have looked way up

toward the ceiling

and seen the figures'

glinting eyes and white teeth,

and they would have been quite

intimidating and quite dramatic.

The eyes are, in fact,

made out of rock crystal

that's been painted

on the reverse and then

inserted into the wood head.

So a fierce figure like this

to a Western audience

often can be mistaken

for a demonic or evil presence.

But in fact, in this Buddhist

tradition, these were good guys.

They're fierce,

but they're on our side.

They are fighting

for the right things.

One of the great highlights

in the new gallery

is a pair of folding screens

that date from about 1610.

These were made for

the interior of a castle,

and they have

largely gold backgrounds

which would have helped

to reflect light in the dark

interior of the castle

and made the room

sort of more warm and glowing.

The theme of these two

folding screens

is drying fishnets,

which is not something

that we in the modern world

see a lot of.

But back in the days

when fish nets were made

of natural materials,

there was concern

that they would get moldy.

And of course,

if you're a fisherman,

you'd need to throw them.

So you need your fishing net

to be lighter, not so wet.

So it was a common sight

in fishing villages

throughout the world

to see nets hanging out to dry.

And that was considered

extremely scenic,

picturesque by artists

and poets in East Asia.

And so they became a famous

kind of romantic trope

that you see over and over again

in East-Asian art.

The fishing nets

are, on the surface,

the subject matter

of the screen.

But as you look

carefully at the screen,

we see that it also represents

the four seasons.

So we're going to read it

from right to left,

which is how Japanese is read.

So if you start at the far right

end, you see that there

are grasses growing

around the fishing nets,

and they're relatively short.

Then as you move to the left,

you have taller grasses.

So you've gone

from spring to summer.

The next screen,

the grasses are a little

bit brown around the edges,

and they've gone to seed.

That's fall.

And then in the far left,

we have grasses that are

completely desiccated and dusted

with a light dusting of snow.

And that's winter.

The Brooklyn Museum houses

a wonderful collection

of Japanese prints,

many of which have not been out

on view in decades.

Now, this is from the same

series as "The Great Wave,"

the image by the great Japanese

print designer Hokusai.

And it's a series that focuses

on Mount Fuji.

The mountain is so large that

you can have sunny blue skies

on one side of the mountain and

thunderstorms on the other side.

And that is, in fact,

what we're seeing here --

lightning and dark clouds

on the front,

while there are blue skies

off in the distance.

The Brooklyn Museum's

Arts of Japan gallery is a space

that we will be changing

many times over the course

of the next several years

in order to show more

and more of our treasures.

And we encourage people

to come in and make discoveries

of their own.

♪♪

>> Claire Chase became

enchanted with the flute

at the age of 3.

Her love of the instrument

inspired a remarkable career

in contemporary classical music.

A founding member

of the International

Contemporary Ensemble,

she has been a champion

of new music around the world.

She's also in great demand

as a soloist.

Chase was named a MacArthur

Fellow in 2012 and awarded

the Avery Fisher Prize in 2017.

She is currently in the middle

of a 23-year commissioning

and performance cycle

called Density 2036.

Begun in 2013,

the project's goal

is to create an entirely

new repertoire for the flute,

one that pushes both audiences'

perceptions and the limits

of the instrument itself.

Each year brings an ambitious

new batch of music

to the Kitchen,

a contemporary and experimental

art space in Chelsea.

The cycle will conclude in 2036

with a 24-hour marathon of all

of the previous commissions.

"NYC-Arts" spoke with Chase

about four of 2019's

new compositions.

♪♪

>> Density 2036 was an idea

that I had in 2012,

inspired by Edgar Varèse's

seminal 1936 flute solo

called "Density 21.5."

And my personal story with this

piece is that my teacher,

when I was 12 or 13 years old,

a wonderful, wonderful man

named John Fonville

came into my flute lesson.

And he put these two pages

of music on the music stand.

And I said, "This is weird.

What is this?"

And he said, "Don't judge.

Do you want to hear it?"

And I said, "Of course

I want to hear it."

So he said, "Okay, kiddo,

stand back."

I was like, "I've never

heard that before a flute

performance before."

And he proceeded over

the next 4 1/2 minutes

to completely blow my mind.

I had never experienced music

and had never experienced

the flute and never experienced

resonance that way.

Like whatever music that is,

I don't know what we call

that music.

But I want to do that music.

And I want to learn to

transmit that kind of experience

that John transmitted for me.

And the piece itself, I like

to think of it as an anthem.

It is brash at times.

There are screeching,

wailing sounds.

It's incredibly intimate

and poetic and tender.

♪♪

♪♪

That was written in '36.

What are we going to be

doing in 2036?

What will that piece be

or what will that collection

of pieces be

that will take the flute

from its previous identity

and hurl it into the future?

♪♪

What if I just decided to create

an entirely new program of music

every year between 2013 and 2036

with the idea that we would

have one and one only one rule,

and that is that each year

the cycle needs to be a complete

departure from the last?

I've never imposed a theme.

It's very important to me

that we're giving platforms

to people from many different

career stages,

who come from many different

musical backgrounds,

who identify differently,

and most importantly, who are

pushing the art form forward.

It's a big team of people that

work collaboratively on this.

We really care for

every sound

and every action that we hope

will give the audience

an immersive experience that is

the farthest thing from your

grandmother's flute recital

that I hope you can imagine.

♪♪

The show opener, it's called

"Magic Flu-idity"

by Olga Neuwirth,

an Austrian composer.

♪♪

My duo partner is Nathan Davis,

who is an extraordinary

percussionist, also a composer

and sound artist.

Yes.

So, the piece is reduced

from a flute concerto

that Olga wrote for me

last year based on Bach's

4th Brandenburg Concerto.

And so people who are familiar

with the Brandenburg 4th

will probably hear little nods

and winks to the original Bach.

♪♪

And so if you can imagine

an orchestral force

winnowing down

to just one little desktop.

So Nathan has quite

a complex job.

♪♪

It's devilishly difficult,

but playing with Nathan

is just a joy.

♪♪

One more time.

♪♪

♪♪

So, Pamela Z is an absolutely

phenomenal performer,

electronic pioneer, composer,

just hydra-headed woman

of so many trades.

I was nervous when I asked her,

but I was so delighted

that she accepted.

8, 8, 11, 12, 15, 18, 36.

I visited her over the summer

in her studio in San Francisco.

We improvised a little bit.

I made some sounds.

She had me record some things.

And then she said,

"I want to put you

in my little recording booth

and just interview you."

And I thought, "Okay,

maybe she's going to use this

for a podcast

or something like that."

8, 8, 11, 12, 15, 18, 36.

5,800. 2000. 2001.

And 2000. And 2000.

And 2000.

Then I got the piece,

and the entire taped part

is my voice.

But she constructed

little melodies

with fragments of my voice,

and the flute part musicalizes

those naturally

musical elements.

And 2001.

And -- And --

Maybe, like, I was, uh --

And -- And --

It is just one --

I've also coached with

this wonderful theater artist,

Saori Tsukada, who has helped me

with the placement

of the different stations.

You see the different flutes

on stage.

Big Bertha, the contrabass

flute, has her own bed.

So Saori has worked with me

on telling this

non-narrative story.

I mean, there are stories that

I'm telling myself in my head,

but the audience isn't supposed

to, you know, follow things

from A to B and B to C.

[Speaking indistinctly in

slow-motion on recording ]

♪♪

It's more like little vignettes

that I think of as dialogs

with your previous selves.

And some of it's humorous,

and some of it is kind of

demonic and dark.

[Laughter repeating on

recording ]

♪♪

Phyllis Chen is another

composer, performer,

electronic musician,

instrument inventor.

♪♪

And so she wrote this piece

based on my heartbeat.

She strapped a stethoscope

to my chest

and used that sound to construct

the electronic part.

[Erratic heartbeat ]

♪♪

♪♪

And then that part drops out

about halfway through the piece.

A person comes up on stage

and fixes a stethoscope

to my live heartbeat.

And I play the remainder

of the piece

with whatever hummingbird heart

is coming through.

[Heartbeat ]

♪♪

To hear it pumped through a

sound system and on subwoofers,

it's quite

a humbling experience.

♪♪

♪♪

Sara Hennies is another

absolutely incredible artist

who works at the intersection of

lots of different disciplines.

She's a beautiful percussionist

in her own right

and sound artist and composer.

And, so, this piece

that she's written is part of a

series that she's working on

called the Reservoir Series

that deals with the idea

of our unconscious as

a kind of reservoir of feelings,

many of which are unwanted

and some of which

are traumatic memories.

♪♪

♪♪

The piece for us, it's called

"Reservoir 2: Intrusion,"

involves the flutist

in the middle of the space

and five or more voices

that move in and around.

And I'm so privileged

to be working with this

phenomenal young group,

Constellation Chor.

They are a group of

philosophers, poets,

movement artists,

vocalists, theater artists.

♪♪

We are interconnected,

whether we're conscious of it

or not, so the more conscious

we are of how connected we are,

especially in a situation

of heightened awareness,

which our performance is,

the more interesting things get.

It's dangerous to be that open,

for the performer

and for the listener.

And it's especially risky

with so-called contemporary

music, because we've

never heard it before.

I love that high-wire act.

I totally live for it.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> So I said, "Oh, boy.

I want to do 125th Street.

Yeah, I'm going to do it because

125th Street is where all,

you know, the people are."

That's the center.

And I went in there and got it.

[ Laughs ]

That worked for me.

♪♪

These are people who I associate

with my life

growing up in Harlem --

the musicians,

the artists, the politicians,

all of these truly great people

who influenced my life

and made me know that

I could do anything I wanted

because they're doing it.

♪♪

125th Street was just the center

of culture in those days.

And I saw them all,

and we all lived together.

You know,

like, W.E.B. Du Bois lived

right up the street from me

and Thurgood Marshall.

Oh, my goodness.

We'd see those people

all the time.

I mean, those people were --

You know, they just

were neighborhood people.

We used to wait until 3:00

in the morning, and then

we would go up to 155th street

and catch Duke Ellington coming

out of the 155th Street subway.

And he would stop into a little

diner right there on the corner.

And we'd be in there waiting

for him, and he would come in

and he would order a pint

of ice cream to go.

And we would just sit there

and just drool over him.

But you couldn't run up to these

people and start yelling about,

you know,

"We need an autograph."

No. They don't do that.

Just, you know,

be cool, and we did,

but we also got to see him.

[ Laughs ]

He was so wonderful.

There's no law saying you can't

get rid of perspective.

There's no law saying you can't

get rid of chiaroscuro.

If you want things to be flat --

And I do.

I want to use the colors

and I want them seen.

I don't want the light

and the shade.

I levitate all of them.

Well, it's a certain kind

of freedom,

which I think is just the most

important thing in the world.

It's also an interesting way

to use the space.

You know, inject the people

in the space,

have them moving through it.

I had myself flying sometimes

somewhere, you know?

Please, I don't leave myself

out of anything.

[ Laughs ]

That's an idea.

I should have done that.

I should have put myself

over there with the artists.

Didn't give it a thought.

>> Next week on "NYC-Arts,"

we follow American Ballet

Theatre's James Whiteside.

>> So I was 9 years old

when I started dancing.

I did jazz, ballet, tap,

acrobatics at a local school

in Fairfield, Connecticut.

And I got into dancing because

I had tried everything else --

you know, football, baseball,

soccer.

And my mom one day threw me

a phone book and said, you know,

"You have to pick something.

You're driving me crazy,

you hyperactive monster."

♪♪

And so I found an ad for a dance

studio in the phone book,

and it was of a man

holding a woman over his head

with one hand,

and it just looked awesome, and

I said, "I want to try that."

>> And a look at the underground

career of electric cellist

Iain Forrest.

>> I'll play a bass part,

percussion part, a harmony part

on the cello.

And then I can loop that segment

over and over again.

I'm playing 9 or 10 different

cello parts at the same time.

♪♪

>> And a visit

to the American Folk Art Museum.

>> The center of the quilt

is emblazoned

with a large letter "L."

Also included is a musical

staff and notes.

When Clara and her family made

the journey by covered wagon,

included was her piano.

>> Thanks for joining us

this evening.

I'm Paula Zahn

at the Tisch WNET Studios

in Lincoln Center.

Good night.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs

in partnership

with the City Council.

Additional funding provided

by Members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority -- the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank

whose currency is service

in the form of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

>> And by Swann

Auction Galleries.

>> Swann Auction galleries.

We have a different way

of looking at auctions,

offering vintage books

and fine art since 1941,

working to combine knowledge

with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong

collector, a first-time buyer,

or looking to sell, information

at swanngalleries.com.

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