NYC-ARTS

S2020 E500 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: October 15, 2020

A profile of the Martha Graham Dance Company, which continues to celebrate the independent spirit of its legendary founder. Then a tour of The Met's collection of modern and contemporary art, paying particular attention to works by Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson and Joan Snyder.

AIRED: October 15, 2020 | 0:27:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

(bright music)

(soft, classical music)

- [Paula] Coming up on NYC-Arts,

a behind-the-scenes visit,

with the Martha Graham Dance Company

which carries on the innovative spirit,

of one of the most influential artists

of the 20th century.

(classical music)

- Graham's work requires sort of the perfect marriage

of the physical and the emotional.

Her movement, is designed to reveal the inner landscape

and really finding that balance

between the physicality and the emotional journey,

without becoming melodramatic is the constant battle.

- [Paula] And a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

for a look at painting and sculpture

from its collection of post-war and contemporary art.

- The painting serves as a kind

of inventory or catalog of painter strokes.

Some thick, some thin, some stable, some strong,

others fluid, others weak.

[NYC-Arts Advertiser] Funding for NYC-Arts is made possible

by Thea Petschek Lervolino Foundation,

the Lewis "Sonny" Turner Fund for Dance,

Jody and John Arnhold,

Rosalind P Walter,

Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown,

Charles and Valerie Diker,

The Nancy Sidewater Foundation,

Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation,

The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation,

and Ellen and James S. Marcus.

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.

- [Bank Advertiser] 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 submission, from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.

- [NYC-Arts Advertiser] And by Swann Auction Galleries.

- [Swann Advertiser] Swann Auction Galleries,

we have a different way of looking at auctions,

offering vintage books and fine arts 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.

(bright, classical music)

- Good evening and welcome to NYC-Arts.

I'm Paula's Zahn.

Tonight, we go behind the scenes with a truly groundbreaking

and original dance company.

Founded by one of the most influential artists

of the 20th century.

The Martha Graham Dance Company,

celebrates its 95th anniversary, this season.

Unable to rehearse or perform together due to the pandemic,

the company is bringing Martha Graham's legacy online.

Presenting Graham's iconic works to audiences

around the world, in different ways.

(classical music)

It also continues to foster her innovative spirit,

reaching out to a new generation of artists,

inspired by her vision.

(soft classical music)

Now a look, at the Martha Graham Dance Company.

(classical cello music)

- I started as a dancer with the company in 1972

and came back to the company as artistic director in 2005.

Martha from the very first rehearsal I had with her

taught me life lessons.

And the theme that runs throughout her entire career

is the empowerment of the individual,

being true to your own unique power,

that it is unique and yours alone to develop.

For example, when she directed us in her roles,

it didn't cross her mind, that we might dance the role

exactly as she had.

I had a different dynamic, a different personal aura,

and she expected me to tap those things.

Use my own unique qualities as powerfully as possible.

- My artistic director, Janet Eilber, has taken the approach

of allowing me to find my way into a role,

to create my own interpretation

within the choreography, within the structure, of course.

I didn't know Martha Graham, don't have the pressure

of what that personality meant to me, but I can work

from the philosophy and the teachings

and the technique of the work.

(soft, classical music)

- Night Journey is, Martha Graham's take

on the Oedipus story..

Oedipus and Jocasta, his wife-mother.

And it's one of the greatest examples,

of how Martha revolutionized the use of time on stage.

Her dance begins where the play ends.

Jocasta understands the truth, and is about to end her life.

And the dance takes place

as if we see her life flashing before her eyes.

So we travel back in her memories,

we see her meeting Oedipus as a young man,

their courtship, their marriage,

and the end of the ballet is, we returned to the rope

and she ends it all.

Stepping into Jocasta and her psyche,

what is she thinking?

That is a difficult question.

And as she goes back in time, that relives her bad choices.

We realize that, she's an innocent in this,

she hasn't done anything, willingly,

but she hasn't followed her instinct.

So all of those nuances that as Jocasta,

one must portray for the audience,

and the energies that the dancer must evoke

to get that across, that is a great dramatic challenge.

(fast, classical music)

- Jocasta I think is probably the most complex role.

So, as an actress and a dancer, the many different facets

and elements that you can add into that role,

it's endless, it's infinite.

(soft, classical music)

- I'm definitely trying to find my own Jocasta,

'cause I can never be like Martha Graham,

or anybody in the past.

We've done that piece.

And I'll add a little bit my cultural background

into that role.

It's a little bit like Asian, or even like Chinese

with Japanese Kabuki gesture.

Emotional wise is about using a technique to communicate

to bring a story on stage, to talk with your body.

It's the most challenging part for the dancer.

(fast, classical music)

- The elements of the Graham technique,

have remained constant, that the torso is driving movement.

The torso being the center of emotion is also so intimate

and descriptive of the emotional journey,

that famous Martha Graham contraction

and release is so visceral.

- The contraction, it's not a shape.

The contraction is a lift and a movement in space.

It's a way to move through space.

That takes extreme depths of muscle control

to access and to achieve.

So, that really is the most difficult part for any of us.

We have to train in it continuously.

(fast, classical music)

- Graham's work requires sort of the perfect marriage

of the physical and the emotional.

Her movement is designed to reveal the inner landscape,

as she used to say, and really finding that balance

between the physicality and the emotional journey

without becoming melodramatic, is the constant battle.

Cave of the Heart is Martha Graham's take

on the story of Medea.

- People think the Medea, that role it's, is evil role.

It's violent, it's dark.

But for me, it isn't. It's a woman.

It's human emotion that naturally comes out

if somebody hurts you, somebody betrays you.

Eventually you wanna do something to confront your anger,

by revenge.

I enjoy a lot 'cause it's, for me the way I could

really release myself.

This side that never came out in a normal life.

(chuckles).

(fast, classical music)

- Lamentation in 1930 ,of course,

was the shot heard round the world,

for modern dance, to do something that was so stark,

so modernist.

There's no decoration, there's no escapism.

It really is the thing itself.

- Lamentation.

It's one of my favorite role, work of Martha.

It's four minutes.

It's short.

And it's very hard, 'cause the fabric is resistant.

As Martha says,

stretching the fabric, is stretching your skin.

You're trying to break through a certain

pressure to relieve the sadness.

- The Lamentation variations, started in 2007.

We asked young choreographers to create short works

for the company, inspired

by a film of Martha dancing, her iconic solo, Lamentation.

The commissioning of new work

for the company is really part of a much larger initiative.

Finding new points of audience access

for these gram works.

- With new choreographers,

a dancer learns a tremendous amount about who they are.

I learned a lot about who I am creatively.

That really helped me bring this very vital energy

to my repertoire work.

For me, Appalachian Spring is a perennial favorite.

I was able to play the followers, and eventually the bride.

Martha Graham's role of the bride.

And I was privileged to be coached

by the subsequent brides after Martha Graham.

So there was a wonderful lineage and transference

of knowledge through the generations that I received.

And I have some beautiful dancers who are coming

into the work as it should be.

It's cyclical.

(fast, classical music)

There are many different ways to appreciate Graham

and to connect with her work,

whether it's the Greek myths, or the Bible,

or whether it's simply understanding that her language,

her dance vocabulary,

was born out of natural human gesture.

So, it's a very personal and intimate experience,

for audiences, and they recognize human beings

on the stage.

(classical music)

(bright music)

- For more information on cultural events in our area,

please sign up for our free weekly email

at NYC-ARTS.org/email.

Top five picks will keep you up to date all year round.

And be sure to connect with NYC- Arts on Facebook, Instagram

and Twitter.

(bright music)

Coming up next, a tour of the Met's collection

of post-war and contemporary art,

"Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera"

explores large scale abstract painting, sculpture

and other works of art.

The exhibits seeks to broaden the narrative of abstraction,

bringing together some 50 works from the Met's Collection.

Represented here are such iconic artists

as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Isamu Noguchi,

Carmen Herrera and Mark Bradford.

Randall Griffey, curator of modern and contemporary art

at the Met, is our guide for this tour tape, last year.

Time tickets and maskls are now required for all visitors.

(soft, classical music)

We're looking at Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm, from 1950.

The painting came into the collection

in 1957 and it's one of the treasures

of the Met's Modern collection.

Pollock is most remembered

as a key figure in American art of the 20th century

for these large scale so-called drip paintings;

which he started to do

in the late 1940s and into the early 1950s.

These works have a great sense

of immediacy, for a range of reasons.

One is that they're large, which relative

to your own scale makes you feel a little bit small

by comparison.

One of the ways in which Pollock played a key role

in changing, the very concept of painting

is that he moved the canvas from the easel to the floor.

And he also began working

with common household enamel paint.

He liked this paint because it was very viscous.

And so it's the kind of paint that you can throw

and it creates these dynamic drips and dribbles

and these whips of paint that seems to be captured

in space on the picture plane.

In the case of Autumn Rhythm,

some of the paints is thin and elegant and quite graceful.

Whereas other passages are dense,

and more aggressive and thicker.

And there are passages also of impasto,

where he's used parts of the enamel paint that have dried

and created a kind of skin,

a three dimensionality on the surface of the picture,

even as the paint registers is flat.

When people first encounter Pollock's work,

they perceive it as fully intuitive, improvisational,

without any kind of plan or guiding principle.

But in fact,

as you look at multiple works by Pollock, you can see

that each canvas is distinct and different from another.

If you look closely at Autumn Rhythm to the right of center

and toward the bottom, as we see it on the wall

there's a little flick of red paint.

There's a little drop of red paint.

Once you see it you can't unsee it

because it seems so anomalous.

One wonderful thing about Pollock's technique

is his embrace of accident,

and embrace of the effects of chance.

The title Autumn Rhythm.

The word "rhythm" really wonderfully ties

to the sense of rhythm and cadence,

that's part and parcel of his gestural painting style.

And what I love about this work

is that this great sense of growth

and evolution in a way ties to the change of seasons,

and the ebbs and flows of nature in the course of a year.

(soft, classical music)

This spectacular sculpture behind me,

is titled Mrs. N's Palace.

And it's one of the great works

by the American sculptor Louise Nevelson.

It's actually composed

of pieces that date back in time

to as early as 1964,

though, it was assembled as a unique work in 1977.

Mrs. N's Palace is one of Nevelson's greatest works,

but it hasn't been seen at the Met for many years.

Installing it here on the second floor

of the Met's Modern Wing

took quite an effort, but it was well worth it.

The work itself is comprised

of about 130 individual sculptural collages.

These relief collages that then are attached to a large box.

The sculpture is comprised

of scraps of detritus that she collected

all across the city, creating these abstract,

the many cases relief sculptures,

which she then treats primarily by painting in black.

Nevelson, described her materials

as the skin that New York has shed

and that she is scavenging

and then giving new life making art;

that's both in a way about New York, but also of New York.

(soft, classical music)

In many instances,

her original source material

is discernible without much effort.

There are boxes from filing cabinets and from staircases

and balustrades where she's repurposed

architectural salvage parts are quite heavy in appearance

and even sort of aggressive in effect

but other parts are lyrical, elegant, thin,

whimsical even.

In other instances, her materials are really difficult

or impossible to discern and register really

as unique abstract sculpture.

The title derives from a couple of sources.

One is that her nickname

in the neighborhood where she lived,

was Mrs. N and Palace is evocative.

She intended this work to be per ideal habitat

or a kind of shrine to herself.

This is Nevelson creating her own universe.

An environment that's based entirely

on her own sculptural practice

and her vision as an artist, which in a way tied wonderfully

to her desire to live her own life on her own terms.

(soft, jazz music)

The colorful and attractive painting behind me is,

Smashed Strokes Hope from 1971 by Joan Snyder.

Snyder is one of the contemporary artists featured

in Epic Abstraction Pollock to Herrera.

The exuberant color, and the sense of experimentation breaks

from the intense formalism of minimalism,

specifically the minimalist grid

that

was considered to be the most desirable template

or touchstone for composition and design

for so many artists, painters and sculptors coming of age

in the late 1960s and 70s.

This is a painting on canvas, but she's using a wide range

of paint, oil, acrylic, and spray anmol.

She's applying paint very traditionally

in certain instances with a sequence

of very clear brush strokes.

Most of those are with the oil paint.

But the other instances,

she's exploring mark-making in other ways.

Her process is both additive and subtractive.

She makes strokes by adding individual brush marks,

but she also execute strokes in a subtractive manner.

In some cases scraping into thick paint

to make an absence of a stroke.

Part of the appeal of Joan Snyder's painting

is that it almost, expands, blows up in scale,

what an artist's palette might look like.

Where you have globs of paint

and you get a sense of the paint being mixed,

and there's a sense of the full range

of an artist's palette that she's preparing to use.

The paint in certain instances, in certain passages,

is piled up,

it's thick and impastoed and coagulated.

But in another instances, she's experimenting

with the paint diluted and allowing the strokes to run

and to pour over white expenses of the painting.

The painting serves

as a kind of inventory or catalog of painter strokes;

some thick, some thin, some stable, some strong,

others fluid, others weak.

Snyder here walks a very fine line,

between experimentation and deliberation.

(classical jazz music)

(bright music)

- I hope you've enjoyed our program this evening.

I'm Paula Zahn.

Thank you so much for watching.

Have a good night!

Next week on NYC-Arts,

a profile, a photographer and video artist,

LaToya Ruby Frazier

whose work is steeped 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.

- [Paula] And to look at the exhibition,

Art of Native America,

The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection.

Now on to you at the Met.

- Native American Artists Foundational

through our cultural heritage.

Exhibitions like this are meant to move people outside

of that idea that all native peoples

are the same homogeneous.

They were not at any time, and they're certainly not today.

- [Paula] And a visit to the American Folk Art Museum.

- Jean-Marcel St. Jacques, gathered the detritus of his home

after Hurricane Katrina

and started fashioning what he calls wooden quilts,

paying homage to his great grandfather,

who was a Hoodoo Man and a junk collector,

and his great grandmother who was a quilt maker.

[Paula] To enjoy more of your favorite segments

on NYC-Arts,

please visit our website at, NYC-ARTS.org.

(fast, classical music)

- Good evening, and welcome to NYC-Arts.

I'm Paula Zahn.

- I'm Philippe de Montebello,

at the Tisch WNET Studios in Lincoln Center.

(fast, classical music)

- Leonard, what a privilege to be able on the sit-down,

talk with you.

- I love being here with you Paula.

- Where are we?

- We're at a moment to take nothing for granted.

- Well, it's a pleasure to be with Marci Raven,

the curator of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some

of the greatest sculptures by the iconic names.

- Classical and modern dance are extremely different.

And I have so much pour to learn

before I can really articulate the differences.

- And when I listened

to Yip Harburg's lyrics, and I suddenly thought,

that's what I wanna do with my life.

- My pictures reside in very intimate, very private moments.

- My primary way of playing the piano is by improvising.

- You are in some respects on sacred ground.

- The woman came to see me perform

and said, how would you like to play Billie Holiday?

- I think one of the essential things that we learned,

is that Mathias used pens to compose his work.

- You always are surprised when you were in Opera,

and you're doing a piece that's a hundred years ago

and you think, Oh my gosh, this could be now.

- The cardboard guitars,

the very first of that moment of realization.

- And suddenly you come and present something

and you get applause.

Great, you know.

(fast, classical music)

(bright music)

- [NYC-Arts Advertiser] Funding for NYC-Arts

is made possible

by Thea Petschek Lervolino Foundation.

The Lewis "Sonny" Turner Fund for Dance,

Jody and John Arnhold,

Rosalind P Walter,

Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown,

Charles and Valerie Diker,

The Nancy Sidewater Foundation,

Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation,

The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation,

and Ellen and James S. Marcus.

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.

- [Bank Advertiser] 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 submission

from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.

- [NYC-Arts Advertiser] And by Swann Auction Galleries.

- [Swann Advertiser] Swann Auction Galleries,

we have a different way of looking at auctions,

offering vintage books and fine arts 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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