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David St.-Lascaux

MARIE PONSOT is one of America's most esteemed poets and recipient of the 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Her most recent collection is the National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Easy (Knopf, 2009). Except as noted, excerpts are from her poems.

DAVID ST.-LASCAUX is a poet, critic and author of the cultural/epicurean/erotic New York diary My Adventures with la Femme Charmee. His website is Interrupting Infinity.


It’s an occasion to celebrate, even in New York, when heavy, fragile cultural treasures arrive from the other side of the world—especially from a culture with which we have little exchange. Current case in point: the multi-millennial cultural and religious artwork from Viet Nam at the Asia Society.

BILL ALBERTINI Space Frame Redux

Question: What’s beige, 216 cubic inches, sits on a table, defies you to try to describe it in words, scares the hell out of you, and your corpus callosum wants to take out on a date to a sci-fi film festival in another dimension? Answer: One of Bill Albertini’s futuristic numbered “Space Frame” sculptures, at the Martos Gallery through April 24, 2010.

GEORGE CONDO Mental States

mWatchers of stock markets and world governments these days well understand the word “volatile.” Increasingly, patrons of the New York arts must patiently apply this term to the ever-inconsistent New Museum.

JUDY LINN 69-76 Photographs of Patti Smith

Picture this: It’s 1969, you’re just out of art school, and you’re with two friends, born under a star. Of the two, your girlfriend is ambitious and hardworking. Both definitely like to have their pictures taken, which is good, because you’re an aspiring photographer.

ANDREW MOORE Detroit Disassembled: Photographs

Fact: You will not be able to view Detroit Disassembled without being impressed with—and depressed by—the extent of America’s humiliating, elite-inflicted decline.


Jungen’s latest show at Casey Kaplan Gallery represents an evolution of his anti-consumerist message. The works themselves comprise two variations: sculptures and flat-ish wall art.

NAN GOLDIN Scopophilia

Scopophilia, a sumptuous, three-course banquet, is Goldin’s first foray into empathic socialization and positive humanity.

Algorithmic Unconscious

Despite the long-established and pervasive presence of the digital computer, computer art—untouched by human hands, if not by human minds—has somehow failed to gain traction, except in circles of affinity, while abstract and conceptual art have been thoroughly integrated into the art-cultural canon.

BILL JACKLIN Recent Work, New York

British artist Bill Jacklin, who moved to New York in 1985, has been making dynamic-atmospheric paintings of New York life ever since. His subject matter in these colorful, “moving” pictures includes people eating pizza, mid-bite, in Little Italy; ice skating in a massively larger-than-real-life Rockefeller Center; populating Times Square; sunbathing in Battery Park; and standing in the surf, a pair in starlight.

TALK TO ME: Design and the Communication between People and Objects

Talk to Me teems with the usual suspects: games and toys, urban planning, ergonomics, and random creativity. It’s a strange, small show whose interest—and commonality—seems to be that it represents mostly experimental art school work from a wide range of First World Western societies, including the Western satellite nation of Japan.

Winter Break

It would be nice to be able to write a story’s worth of criticism—or encouragement—about a four-person group show by underexhibited artists. But first there has to be a there there. Case in point: Winter Break at Momenta Art in Brooklyn, featuring either 11 or 25 works (depending on how one counts a set) by Marina Adams, Peter Hopkins, Robert Janitz, and Brooke Moyse.

Nose Bleed

Having just arrived from Mars, I found myself woefully out of depth visiting Nose Bleed, a group show curated by Erik Foss at Fuse Gallery. The show, featuring over 40 works by mainly Lower East Side and Brooklyn artists.


Taylor Davis’s show at Dodge Gallery features two- and three-dimensional works, most incorporating text.

Hey, Ho, Let's Go: YOSHITOMO NARA at the Asia Society

Yoshitomo Nara is pumped, and it shows. Ascending the wall-clinging stairs of the Asia Society with a billboard-sized, captioned “Nara Girl” above and to your side, you enter the Mall of Childhood Malaise, followed by the auto showroom, shiny Disney dog (“Don’t touch me!” chirps the sign on its posterior), and then the music room, with recent ceramics resembling Matryoshka nesting dolls with black babushkas, reverse Buddhist swastikas and Ramones lyrics.

Nueva York (1613–1945)

For those willing to venture to the end of New York’s “museum mile,” El Museo del Barrio offers an education in local Hispanic cultural history with its groundbreaking exhibition, Nueva York: 1613 – 1945. To say this show is eye-opening would be an understatement.


Resister Camus on the streets of Paris in 1944. Gandhi’s ashes on a train. China in transition, 1948-1958. The military in Iran in 1950. A non-judgmental camera, maybe, but a trenchant triggerman.

ELLEN HARVEY in Dust to Settle

Around the time Goethe wrote his first bestseller, The Sorrows of Young Werther (and Thomas Paine Common Sense), a bizarre device became popular among tourists in the natural world: William Gilpin’s “Claude glass,” or black mirror.


Jim Nutt is back in New York, sans straightjacket. Once a wildman, he was part of Chicago’s Imagist/Hairy Who movement, back in ’66 when Hairy meant huge, when Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was customizing petroleum-powered hot rods with giant ratfinks, chrome pipes, metalflake paint jobs and two-tone flames, shortly after which S. Clay Wilson introduced the maniacal Checkered Demon and the ravishing Star-Eyed Stella.

THE DAWN OF MODERNISM: Early Twentieth-Century Mexican Photography

Given today’s death-dealing, drug war headlines about life south of the border, it’s strange to recall that there was a similarly lethal revolution going on in Mexico one hundred years ago (1910 – 1917, and well beyond).


First, there’s the tank, lying upside down in the gravel. Then there’s the architrave: STATI UNITI D’AMERICA, in Trajan column capitals. And then there’s the 7’6” copy of the U.S. Capitol’s crowning Statue of Freedom, in blackened bronze, lying inside the “Solaris 442 sun bed.”

New! Improved! Mainstream! Conservative!

It takes courage, or perhaps pure foolhardiness, for a dilettante to review Philip Glass, his Avant-Garde Establishment Gray Eminence, especially in the realm of the classical.

Fluid Improvisation

There is a certain kind of music that not only takes the listener to new places, but also produces a night of intense and lucid dreaming. That’s the kind of music one hears at the Stone,  John Zorn’s intimate Lower East Side avant-garde house of aural thaumaturgy.

Third Stream Symphony: Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica at Barbès

The Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical-instrument classification includes four types: idiophones (struck), chordophones (strings), membranophones (drums), and aerophones (winds). (Moderns will also note the later-added electrophones, including synthesizers.) Many ensembles include three types, presumably to present listeners with a pleasingly complex acoustic range and solo sonic diversity.

An Auspicious Beginning for Elliott Sharp's Seventh Decade

Let’s be clear: To say that Elliott Sharp “plays” guitar is akin to saying that Bach wrote down some notes. Whatever it is that Elliott Sharp does to and with guitars while we, mere mortals, gape in stupefaction, is truly transcendental, and profoundly stimulating, and pleasurable beyond words.

Spacewalking Together, Under the Vault

In a world where unpredictability and chaos seem overwhelming, it’s reassuring to have moments of coherence and community. John Luther Adams’s brilliant 2009 Inuksuit, which had its New York premiere at the New York Armory’s recent Tune-In Music Festival, provided an ironic oasis of noise, “cancellation,” and serenity.

Synaptic Virginity, Lost

With so many genres represented, it’s not possible to say anything coherent about the 2011 Unsound Festival, the annual conclave of experimental, electronic, and otherwise avant-garde music and ancillary media.

Quince Vocal Ensemble and Parias Ensemble

Avant-garde music continues to be a source of delight, especially when performed by talented new voices. In the Contagious Sound Series, curated by Vicky Chow and presented by Neke Carson at the Gershwin Hotel, a recent program of vocal music by Quince Vocal Ensemble

Shamanic Rites on Wall Street

The curious nomad’s wanderings are frequently rewarded: Exotic trumpet flowers bloom behind deserted streets, in darkness. The trick—and luck—is finding them.

The Thunder Sheet, the Zither, and the Mousepad

I’m not deaf yet, but I’m working on it. Having attended “Oceans of Noise,” a segment of the Unsound Festival at Littlefield in Brooklyn this spring, my expectations were set by White Out with Ikue Mori, a trio participating in the Stone’s summer No Fun Fest, curated by Unsound organizer and musician Carlos Giffoni.


That emerging composers are recognizing and incorporating voice and video is hugely encouraging, given the emotive power of the human voice and the potential for interweaving visual imagery and music in pure art in an age when music is routinely used to disingenuously manipulate viewers of cinema and broadcast “content.”

Riffing On Schoenberg: Fieldwork's Hypnotic Virtuosity

The celebration of the John Cage centennial in 2012 will certainly owe a debt to Cage’s mentor, Arnold Schoenberg, one of the most influential innovators of modern music. Schoenberg said (and Cage repeatedly recounted) that Cage was “not a composer, but … an inventor—of genius.”

A Stageful of Toys

Just as it’s pointless to list the accomplishments of the Kronos Quartet, which is approaching its 40th anniversary, it’s impossible to describe the diversity of its repertoire, which has included far-reaching collaborations with everyone from Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq to sound artist Walter Kitundu to Noam Chomsky, Allen Ginsberg, and David Bowie.

Music of the Sphere

The utopian world of New York music continues to amaze. All over town free—free—concerts of world-class and emerging talent are to be found, one of which is the Friday Tri-Institutional Noon Recitals series at Rockefeller University, which regularly plays to a packed and enthusiastic house.

Previously Unreleased Footage of Boulez–Cage Tennis Match Discovered

Given the Googlanche of words elicited by the John Cage centennial, I knew I’d need a ruse to get you to read even the first sentence of this review.

Hell, Set to Music

Dies iræ! Dies illa. So begins the brimstone Sequentia proper of the Requiem Mass.If you find this, or America’s current sociopolitical state, unfathomable, you may be in denial that, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, 92 percent of Americans “believe in God.”

A Chance Meeting of Words and Music

We all know what happens when poets can sing or play an instrument. The enterprising ones—Chuck Berry, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Kanye West—become superstar troubadours, modally rhyming about youth or sex or status.

Just Add Rain

May—which, unlike March, isn’t famous for going out like anything—went out in warm weather and raindrops, which provided a fitting atmosphere for pianist and impresaria Vicky Chow’s performance at the Stone. Chow, who recently curated an avant-garde series at the Gershwin Hotel, played a ranging, mostly minimalist set by ten mostly contemporary composers.

Musical Dissonance, Cognitive Strain

After brash beginnings as a precocious student, Sergei Prokofiev left Russia shortly after the revolution for America. Bad timing and too-ambitious projects there forced him to depart, luckless, for Paris, where he fared better.

A Night at the Opera

While we have many tangible examples of early visual and literary arts, our knowledge of vocal and instrumental music begins rather late. It seems that early cave-painting and female fetish-carving artists were pragmatic, creating representational art; authors were more creative, writing rhyming poetry—an inherently musical form—early on, alongside now-forgotten quotidian prose.

REALLY GOOD VIBRATIONS: Harry Bertoia's Sonambient Sound Sculptures

Harry Bertoia first gained fame as an industrial designer, creating the wireframe “diamond chair” for Knoll in 1952. Its success enabled Bertoia to pursue his passion as an artist, which took an immediate turn with his creation of sound sculptures, which he named Sonambient.

The New York Philharmonic’s Concerts in the Parks

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s free Concerts in the Parks, a sometime summer feature of city life, has returned for its 47th season to appreciative applause and literal éclat.


And then we awoke. As from one of Regina Nejman’s friend’s vivid dreams, the ones she had after she was abandonée after a lifelong relationship. The ones she related to Regina, her friend the dancer.

The Balletomane, Slaked: EIDOLON’S DECOLOGY

My favorite muscle in sixth grade was the gastrocnemius. A cohort of boys had become interested in sex, and I purchased a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, which had a complete catalog of images of human musculature, including the ischiocavernosus and bulbocavernosus...

Traveling in Time, to the Pear Garden: HAN-TANG YUEFU ENSEMBLE’S THE FEAST OF HAN XIZAI AT THE JOYCE THEATER, November 3-8

Early in his epistolary romance The Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe paints a scene in which the doomed, noble hero encounters a servant girl at a well. The year was 1774, a mere two centuries or so ago. But that bucolic, pre-industrial scene is as unimaginable to our modern minds as the day before e-mail.

East Meets East Meets West: A MODERN DANCE MASHUP

Synchronized gangstas catapult into your mind’s living room á là Michael, Britney, or Madonna. A surreal table set for four evokes Magritte cum Chaplin.


It doesn’t get much more personal than this. Dancer/choreographers Judith Sánchez Ruiz and Souleymane Badolo performing solos at St. Marks Church, low lit, spotlit, and minimally, yet poignantly accompanied.


Energy, we are told, equals mass times the speed of light squared. Watching Backhausdance at Joyce SoHo in March, the audience encountered a convincing demonstration of this formula, with emphasis on energy and speed.


i>Mad in me is Driscoll’s latest work, purporting to “investigate the physical [i.e., dance] and theatrical narratives that drive our misplaced need to be seen.”


Anyone looking for a simple answer to the question “What is South Asian dance?” would be overwhelmed by Tongues Untied, a sprawling showcase recently performed at Symphony Space.

Dancing Dulce Et Decorum Est

On October 17, 1967, an American battalion marched into decimation at Ong Thanh, Vietnam. Almost 40 years later, American journalist David Maraniss wrote They Marched into Sunlight, a record of the event as recalled by its participants. Now, choreographer Robin Becker is turning the tragic lessons, seemingly unlearned, into a different kind of educational event

Lost in Space

There is a sector in the microverse of contemporary choreography in which the kids aren’t alright. It’s not that they can’t dance (they can), but rather that they are aggressive and dissociative. Choreographers Juliana F. May and Natalie Green illustrated two aspects of this phenomenon in their recent split bill at Dance Theater Workshop

Unto the House of Words

If one loves poetry in New York, St. Mark’s Church is the place to be on New Year’s Day. Even if, as lead-off poet-impresario Bob Holman observed (echoing a recent Daylight Savings poem by U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin), measured time is an arbitrary arrangement, it’s good to know that so many New York poets will show up and read on this “date certain.”

TINA CHANG with David St.-Lascaux

Tina Chang is the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn. Her new collection, Of Gods and Strangers, is slated for release in the Fall of 2011 by Four Way Books.

In Conversation

MARIE PONSOT with David St.-Lascaux

In which Marie Ponsot tells David St.-Lascaux about the good world, the utility of idleness, language and fable, the sacred, the doing of things, and the pleasure principle of life.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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