NYC-ARTS

S2019 E429 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: February 7, 2019

A profile of photographer and video artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, whose work follows in the social documentary tradition of Walker Evans and Gordon Parks. A visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art for a conversation with curator Donna De Salvo about the landmark exhibition “Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again.” And a profile of StreetMule, a member of the MTA’s Music Under New York Program.

AIRED: February 07, 2019 | 0:27:46
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TRANSCRIPT

Coming up on NYC-ARTS...

a profile of photographer and

video artist LaToya Ruby

Frazier, whose work follows in

the social documentary tradition

of Walker Evans and Gordon

Parks...

It is a duty, a privilege and an

honor to be able to use these

cameras to serve others and to

bring a real human story forward

in a complex situation.

and a visit to the Whitney

Museum of American Art for a

look at the landmark exhibition

"Andy Warhol - From A to B and

Back Again"...

This exhibition really looks at

his career with examples from

really every aspect of his

production: of course paintings,

sculpture, prints, drawings,

photography but also his forays

into publishing

FUNDING FOR NYC-ARTS IS MADE

POSSIBLE BY

ROSALIND P.

WALTER

Thea Petschek Iervolino

Foundation

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD

Kate W.

Cassidy Foundation

Ellen and James S.

Marcus

The Lewis "Sonny" Turner Fund

for Dance

ELISE JAFFE AND JEFFREY BROWN

Estate of Cecile Fox

Jean Dubinsky Appleton Estate

THE MILTON AND SALLY AVERY ARTS

FOUNDATION

AND ELROY AND TERRY KRUMHOLZ

FOUNDATION

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.

Good evening and welcome to

NYC-ARTS.

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET

Studios at Lincoln Center.

On tonight's program we'll meet

photographer and video artist

LaToya Ruby Frazier.

Frazier grew up in Braddock,

Pennsylvania, where she began

photographing her family and

hometown at the age of 16.

Her work is steeped in the

social documentary tradition of

Walker Evans and Gordon Parks.

Frazier's photographs tell the

stories of people who are

usually forgotten, giving them

visibility through her images.

Her project with residents of

Flint, Michigan, documenting the

effects of the ongoing water

crisis there, appeared in Elle

Magazine in 2016.

Her work addressing

environmental justice,

healthcare inequity and racism

has recently appeared in The New

York Times Magazine, the New

Yorker, and other major

publications.

NYC-ARTS spoke with Frazier last

year at a retrospective of her

work at Gavin Brown's enterprise

in Harlem.

LaToya Ruby Frazier: My work

gives a framework to what it's

like being a working-class

person and family from

Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Andrew Carnegie created and

established his first steel mill

in Braddock: The Edgar Thompson

plant.

It's been operating since 1875.

Braddock, it's located 9 miles

outside of Pittsburgh, along the

Monongahela River, when you talk

about America and who built

America and the fact that

America is built by steel, even

if we look at the

infrastructure, in the space

that we're in today, everything

is anchored in steel.

I was raised between these two

very strong women: my

grandmother, Ruby, and my

mother, Cynthia.

My grandmother grew up there in

the thirties, and this would

have been when Braddock was

prosperous, very diverse.

It had a lot of wealth.

My mother grew up there in the

sixties; she was someone who

witnessed the segregation and

the racism.

And I grew up there in the '80s

which would be after they closed

all the surrounding factories

and the unions were broken up,

and uh the war on drugs breaks

out in the community.

So I was coming of age when that

was happening and I was a

witness to that.

Just looking at them, is what

pushed me to kind of create a

family album that most Americans

wouldn't want, right?

I think all Americans know the

kind of images that are inThe

Notion Of Family.

It's just socially and

culturally we're taught never to

talk about those.

Once I started coming home with

my camera, my mother became

immersed and engaged.

She was a collaborator from the

very moment.

And I think that a lot of this

comes out of my understanding of

the Maysles brothers and their

documentary films.

They believed if a person who's

overlooked and ignored by

society all of a sudden has this

camera turned on them, that

they'll engage.

Because otherwise they would be

invisible and voiceless.

We are traditionally taught, uh,

in the history of art and the

history of photography, that the

photographers never relinquish

their power to the subjects.

And so I was also trying to

bring the same type of

vulnerability and transparency

out and prove that this has

always been a part of that

legacy of photographing family

and making photographs with

social commentary about America

- laying that bear to the viewer

was essential for me, right?

I'm just as much a part of, of

this situation and this crisis.

I consider myself an advocate

and not so much an activist.

I think that's very different.

I'm an advocate and a

storyteller.

You think about Gordon Parks in

"A Harlem Family", which was

published in LIFE Magazine, or

you think about his

collaboration with Ralph Ellison

-- a collaboration between black

artists, black photographers,

black poets, and writers trying

to tell another story and

narrative from the inside to the

American public, so they can see

it clear for what it is.

It is the everyday person, the

everyday man, woman, and child

that are experiencing the

brutality and the pitfalls of

capitalism, of inequality, of

living in these small towns that

have been abandoned by the

state.

They're the ones - these

individuals and families are the

ones - that can express it and

articulate it the best.

When you think about water you

don't consider government.

In fact you don't consider

people at all.

Even though we've built plants

and machines to alkanize and

purify.

When you think about it, you

only in your most remote mind

if

at all think about God.

Something nature intended.

When you think about water you

don't consider poison.

Cause poison isn't something

you

consider for yourself, you

don't

think about murder.

The water crisis became public

knowledge in April of 2014.

Because Obama came on May 4th in

2016 andthey had that image of

him sipping the water, which was

supposedly Flint River water,

the American consciousness and

psyche, believed that the water

crisis was over.

It was in 2016 that I received a

phone call from Elle Magazine, a

magazine about women, health,

and beauty.

To actually have inside of it,

before you got to the fashion

spreads, ten pages uninterrupted

of a photo-essay talking about

the water crisis.

It was important for me to, kind

of, just pivot slightly out of

the generational connection

between my grandmother, mother,

and me,tothis other generation

of three women, which was Renee

Cobb, her daughter, Shea Cobb,

and Shea's daughter, Zion.

What it's like now for them to

have to figure out their

relationship to water and how to

live with contaminated and

poisoned water.

Shea, she's a school bus driver.

And she was also very active in

organizing and public protest as

well.

She's a singer, she is a poet.

She had so much charisma and

hope and faith, and just such a

positive outlook, regardless of

this circumstance.

That is completely created.

A man-made disaster because of

inequality and racism.

Why not collaborate with her and

get her voice and her words and

her perspective?

She made it very clear to Hearst

corporation andElle magazine.

She said, you know, "Don't come

here expecting to see a victim.

That's not who we are."

She understands how the media

shapes stereotypes and discourse

around black women, black

families, and black communities.

And so I really relied on Shea

being my eyes, I was simply

being an empathic witness, being

led by her through this town.

It is a duty, a privilege and an

honor to be able to use these

cameras to serve others and to

bring a real human story forward

in a complex situation.

Next we'll travel downtown to

the Whitney Museum of American

Art, for a look at the

exhibition "Andy Warhol-From A

to B and Back Again."

Few American artists are as

instantly recognizable as

Warhol.

Through his carefully cultivated

persona and willingness to

experiment, he understood the

growing power of images in

contemporary life and helped to

expand the role of the artist in

society.

With more than 350 works of art

on view -- many assembled

together for the first time --

the exhibition builds on a

wealth of new materials,

research and scholarship that

has emerged since the artist's

untimely death in 1987.

It reveals new complexities

about the Warhol we think we

know.

Curator Donna De Salvo is our

guide to this landmark

exhibition.

I think that one of the things

that often is missed with Warhol

is understanding where he came

from and where he was going

after the 1960s.

So this exhibition really takes

his foundational, the period of

time he spent as a commercial

illustrator working in New York,

and his experiences of that

time, and how much of what he

was doing in the 1950s, and

particularly working with

different reproductive

techniques within the magazine

format, was instructive for him.

And then, you know, as much as

the show of course highlights

many of the great works from the

1960s, I've felt that many

exhibitions had not made sense

of what he did after that

period, so this exhibition

really presents the work as a

continuum, looks at his career

more holistically, with examples

from really every aspect of his

production: of course paintings,

sculpture, prints, drawings,

photography, but also his forays

into publishing with Interview

Magazine, the books that he

published, as well as his video

work that he was doing.

I mean, no exhibition could

capture it all.

But I would say one of the key

things of this show is really

following Warhol's process as a

maker of art.

Some of the themes of the

exhibition are looking at the

duality of...

or the multiplicity of meaning

that he can bring to a single

image, that the images that he

would choose, that he selects,

can be read at face value, and

then they have many other

meanings to them, which I think

you can see more clearly by

looking at the work of the

1950s.

So the 50s is positioned as a

very foundational decade in this

exhibition.

Warhol gets a job as the sole

illustrator for the I.

Miller Shoe company from '55 to

'57, where he is drawing these

incredible shoes.

So his public side is to do the

shoes.

The private side, and these are

works that were not shown at

all, are of these very erotic

drawings of men's feet.

So here's this duality.

When you look at the breadth of

his career and the just

extraordinary number of images

he made, you really begin to see

how he really destabilizes the

image or questions what it is

we're actually looking at, which

is something that's accomplished

really through the photo silk

screen.

Once he brings the silkscreen

and the photograph and painting

together, you know, you have an

image that is articulated

through the very means through

which it's distributed in the

culture.

So that's really the radical

paradigm shift in Warhol's work,

when he gets to the silkscreen

in 1962.

Now normally that's used within

a commercial setting to create

things that are identical.

But he interprets them in ways

that are, are actually much more

nuanced.

So you see differences from one

image to the next in one

painting.

So, if you think about it, he

takes a technique that really

should be about conformity and

he uses it in a very innovative

way.

Warhol emerged in a post-war

culture where there was this

feeling of optimism, aspiration.

America as a world leader.

Capitalism certainly as the sort

of greatest expression let's say

after the war.

His commentary seems to be a

kind of celebration of

consumerism.

But I think there's something,

also a dark side of Warhol, that

is somewhat about the dangers of

consumption.

And I think the ambiguity of it

is where its power lies, like

with any great work of art.

Warhol's very topical, he

chooses images that really have

a currency in the world and in,

especially in American culture,

which is a little bit the ad man

part of him.

You know, Mona Lisa which he

makes when the painting comes

from the Louvre to the National

Gallery and then the Met.

So it's in the news a lot.

You know, it's called "30 Are

Better Than One," a little bit

of a kind of dig, if you will,

at our obsession with the

original.

He was commissioned to do a

painting of the most famous man

in the world.

And it was Albert Einstein was

who was suggested.

But Nixon had gone to China, so

it was a very important moment.

And Mao Zedong's image was in

newspapers, on the news.

It's '72.

It's an epic year: the first

time a sitting president goes to

the People's Republic of China.

So Warhol decides to do Mao.

And of course, you know, he's a

bit irreverent because he gives

Mao, you know, eye shadow and

lipstick and, you know, makes

Mao into an American version of

a celebrity.

In the last room of the

exhibition, which also includes

his "Camouflage Last Supper" and

two Rorschach paintings,

suggests, you know, within the

'79 to '86 period, just some of

the ideas that Warhol was

exploring, and then, sadly, he

dies in February of 1987.

His premature death at the age

of 58, you know, leaves us in a

place of not knowing where he

might have gone--we have what we

have...

I don't think Warhol ever, you

know, went out of style to an

extent.

But there's certainly now a far

more receptive audience to his

work.

And, you know, he was prescient

in certainly understanding the

ubiquitous nature of images and

that we live in an image world,

and we live in one now, you

know, on steroids.

I mean to think about social

media or Instagram, Warhol was

just ahead of the curve.

So I'd like to invite everyone

to come to the Whitney and visit

the exhibition "Andy Warhol-From

A to B and Back Again."

And, you know, really learn

something about Andy Warhol.

And even ask yourself why, why

is this artist as important as

he is?

Because any exhibition should

invite questioning, as much as

confirm, hopefully, some

answers.

On February 8 singer/conductor

Barbara Hannigan will make her

New York conducting debut with

the Juilliard Orchestra in works

by

Strauss,

Haydn,

Debussy,

Sibelius,

and Bartók

at Alice Tully Hall.

The program will also feature

flutist Emma Resmini and soprano

Meghan Kasanders.

For complete details please

visit juilliard.edu/calendar

Next, we continue our series on

musicians who are members of the

MTA's Music Under New York

program.

Every year, the MTA holds

auditions to select the next

group of diverse musicians, who

are then given access to the

best performance locations

throughout the subway system.

The program currently has more

than 350 registered musicians

and groups.

As a result, you never know what

music might greet you on your

commute.

Marc Mueller, known as

StreetMule, works as an

architect by trade, but has a

long history as a musician and

subway performer.

He joined the program three

years ago as a solo act, and has

been performing many times a

week throughout the city ever

since.

With his playing of a

didgeridoo, an Aboriginal

Australian wind instrument, as

well as his unique collection of

percussion instruments,

StreetMule is hard to miss.

When I was a little kid I would

drum myself to sleep by putting

my ear to the mattress and

playing the mattress and then I

would hum to it.

What I'm doing now is not really

much different.

I came up with the name

StreetMule because I play some

much on the street and in the

subway and it is in a sense a

shortened version of my last

name.

I decided to audition for my

solo act because I wanted to be

able to express myself on my own

time.

It's very difficult, because

there's maybe 300 acts that will

apply each year.

They'll take 75 to audition at

Grand Central.

I actually failed my first time.

I went back the next year and

then got a standing ovation and

was accepted.

This program speaks of love and

diversity and expression for

being whoever and whatever you

want to be.

And the New Yorkers eat it up.

I love New York for that and I

love the program for that.

People ask me all the time what

this music is and I tell them

it's sweaty.

What I'm trying to do is provide

the people that see me with

fifteen seconds of energy.

The sound is more of an idea of

the New York City diaspora of

people coming together from all

over the world and finding

something new.

I consider reallyeverything an

instrument.

There is hand drums, like the

middle-eastern hand room which

is a darbuka or doumbek.

And then a Cajon which is a

Peruvian rhythm box that I sit

on.

And then I play a plastic wind

tube - that could be a PVC pipe,

a fiberglass tube, or an actual

didgeridoo.

And then percussion on my in my

hands, as far as bells or

shakers, and then on my feet as

well.

It's a whole balancing act.

Atlantic/Pacific in Brooklyn is

a great spot for all my local

people.

It sounds really great.

It kind of looks like a trumpet

and the dimensions are such that

the sound is compressed a bit

but then it opens up, and so for

my sound it just kind of billows

out like that.

I play to the pulse of the

location that I'm playing in.

I find that my creativity is

best in the moment.

In the subway, the moment to

entice somebody to come by and

stop even, or just slow down, is

so short that I've learned to

slide and in and out of

different time signatures and

moods, so I'm flexible as far as

what I'm doing and that has, I

think, helped my rhythm

experience because I've become

more agile with my gear,

basically.

The best thing for me is when I

see a child and because they are

so much in the moment the people

that are watching, or the

adults, they'll realize that

that's the point of playing

street music.

Put down the technology and just

dance.

Connect, that's all!

I hope you've enjoyed our

program.

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET

Studios at Lincoln Center.

Good night, and see you next

time.

NEXT WEEK ON NYC-ARTS...

a profile of artist Jeffrey

Gibson, whose beadwork,

ceramics, sculptures and

paintings are inspired by his

cultural heritage as well as

minimalism and abstraction...

FUNDING FOR NYC-ARTS IS MADE

POSSIBLE BY

ROSALIND P.

WALTER

Thea Petschek Iervolino

Foundation

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD

Kate W.

Cassidy Foundation

Ellen and James S.

Marcus

The Lewis "Sonny" Turner Fund

for Dance

ELISE JAFFE AND JEFFREY BROWN

Estate of Cecile Fox

Jean Dubinsky Appleton Estate

THE MILTON AND SALLY AVERY ARTS

FOUNDATION

AND ELROY AND TERRY KRUMHOLZ

FOUNDATION

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.

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