Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Red Is Back... and Coming Soon!

Next week, Red will be in town, the two-man play portraying abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko after he's just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art, a series of murals for New York’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant. Two feverish years of work follow with the whole experience putting him face to face with the meaning of his life. Pre-show publicity notes might go something like this:

Winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play, RED is a muscular, explosive and searing portrait of artist ambition, hubris and vulnerability. A powerhouse show featuring a mere cast of two, it is live theater at its most compelling, honest and raw. A fascinating and visceral examination of the fine line between being a visionary and being a sell-out, it pulls you into the work and troubled mind of one of the art world’s most legendary figures, desperate to create something permanent in a fleeting life.

Local visual artist, actor, writer and director Andy Frye (who was recently in "Next To Normal" at Renegade, is a co-creator of the "Take It With You" Live monthly radio show at the Underground and who will have an exhibit of his own works up in our Teatro lobby this month) is creating replicas of the Rothko murals for our production, as well as instructing the cast on proper painting and canvas priming techniques.

Opening is a week from today.

When I first heard about this show opening on Broadway, I'd very much desired to see it. Though never a color field painter myself I identified with Rothko philosophically, and thought the show might create an opportunity for an artist of his ilk to externalize all the internal struggles -- and demons -- that many artists wrestle with.

So let's throw ourselves into the blog entry I wrote on October 20, 2011 when I wrote about the Broadway play, and when Red was the theme of our own Phantom Galleries Superior show titled Red Interactive.

Red Is The Color 

In 2010 the color of the year was red. Or rather, the color that created the most buzz was red, as in the multiple-award-winning play that hit Broadway on the life and work of Mark Rothko, titled Red. As it turns out, the two-man Broadway show has been sweeping the theater scene and capturing audiences across the country.

A September NYTimes article, When The Color Is Primary, focuses on the artwork used to promote these various performances. Whether by means of illustrations, paintings or photographs, artists used imagination in as many variations as there are shades of red, from cherry, magenta and rose to auburn, burgundy and rust. The variety is fascinating, and more so if you're familiar with the abstract color fields Rothko poured his soul into.

While looking for this article online I came across a review of the play, which in some ways reminded me of My Dinner With Andre, another two-man play that got strong reviews from critics. I myself enjoyed both the book and film based on that particular play, but your head has to be in the right place. It's an intellectual stroll quite different from Transformers, Reservoir Dogs or Kill Bill.

The 2010 Times review begins like this:

Even before you see his eyes, you’re aware of the force of his gaze. Portraying the artist Mark Rothko, Alfred Molina sits with his back to the audience at the beginning of “Red,” John Logan’s intense and exciting two-character bio-drama, which opened on Thursday night at the Golden Theater. Yet the set of his neck and shoulders makes it clear that he is staring hard and hungrily, locked in visual communion with the object before him.

Ben Brantley's Primary Colors and Abstract Appetites makes for a good intro to John Logan's two-man drama. For even more drama, read the readers' reviews.

* * * *

Carla Hamilton at Washington Gallery

Right this moment I am very much looking forward to Carla Hamilton's opening reception for Durch Wasser Rennen, which will be tomorrow evening from 6-9 pm at Washington Gallery. Hamilton's work captured my attention last summer in a show titled Euphoric Recall. Very looking forward to what's in store in this show.

Hamilton, who lived in Stuttgart, Germany for nearly eighteen years, brings a serious sensibility to her work. The title Durch Wasser Rennen, translates to ‘running through water,’ which she says is a metaphor for how she's been feeling both in regards to her personal life and with taking into account the world’s ongoing environmental crisis. “Life is like running through water” says Hamilton, “it is difficult but mostly worth it.” Both the physical environment and the people in her life have always played a huge role in her artwork, which is constantly evolving.

According to the show's publicity announcement, Hamilton’s artwork typically employs a varied ensemble of techniques from traditional paint on canvas to the repurposing of objects including glass, sand, wire, and string. That aside, she says that her current show will have a more ‘organic’ feel in comparison to her prior show and will feature a focus on woman in her portraits. Hamilton’s artwork is an intensely personal endeavor for her and it would be unusual for her to go into any type of thorough discourse regarding her creative process - she is always quick to offer the disclaimer, “I enjoy making art, not explaining it!”

All I know is I found her last show engaging, and see her presence in Duluth as just one more reason to be enthusiastic about the burgeoning local art scene.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Embrace it.

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