CityBeat Blogs - Arts http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-37.html <![CDATA[Stage Door: A Girl Singer and Two Pairs of Twins]]> Many Cincinnati stages are momentarily paused, readying shows for the holidays. Last night the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park opened its production of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical. Susan Haefner does a remarkable job of channeling the "girl singer" from Maysville, Ky., who grew up in Greater Cincinnati. We learn how she became a star, rose to fame, almost lost it to pills and dissolute behavior, then battled back for a "flip side" to her singing career. All the other characters in her story — male and female, young and old, famous and unknown — are performed by Michael Marotta, who principally plays her counselor but is amusingly convincing as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Merv Griffin and many more. It's a thoroughly entertaining two hours on the Playhouse's Shelterhouse stage, and it's already appealing to audiences apparently, since the show's run has been extended from Dec. 28 to Jan. 4. Tickets ($30-$85): 513-421-3888

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company kicks off its next production of the 2014-2015 season tonight with The Comedy of Errors. The emphasis in this show, one of Shakespeare's earliest works, is definitely on the comedy, what with two pairs of twins whose adventures are hysterically compounded by mistaken identities when they end up in the same town on the same day. For this staging, it's set in a seaside resort in America of the 1930s in the midst of a classic carnival, adding to the story's hilarity. This one will only be onstage until Dec. 13, so this weekend is the perfect time to catch a performance, before holiday shows take center stage elsewhere. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273

One last treat I'll mention, which happens to be operatic rather than theatrical: It's Great Scott, a new work that Cincinnati Opera is nurturing in partnership with UC's College-Conservatory of Music. The production's creators have been in town all this week honing this brand new opera, the story of a struggling opera company and the hometown football team. They come into conflict when the team is to play in the Super Bowl on the same day the company has planned to premiere a long lost opera. To heighten the drama, the team's owner is married to the opera company's founder. The composer is Jake Heggie, who wrote the music for Dead Man Walking, a work produced by Cincinnati Opera at Music Hall in 2002, and Great Scott's script is by prize-winning playwright Terrence McNally. The week's work will culminate in a public reading on Tuesday evening. It's free, but you are asked to make a reservation by calling 513-241-2742 to see it at Memorial Hall (1225 Elm Street, next door to Music Hall; it's easy to park your car in the nearby Washington Park Garage).


Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[Rhinegeist Lights Up Tonight with Projected Video]]>

Another historic Cincinnati building is being artfully illuminated. This year's past LumenoCity light mapping to a live orchestra on Music Hall was more popular than ever, and tonight the NEAR*BY Curatorial Collective is doing something similar at Rhinegeist.

Rhinegeist brewery is housed in the skeleton of an old Moerlein bottling plant. And starting at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 20), 17 artists and collaboratives will be exhibiting projected video, sculptural and environmental installations in/on the structure's architecture. The interdisciplinary works will demonstrate how contemporary artists currently embrace the dematerialization of image and how that manifests in a non-traditional art space. The name Rhinegeist literally translates to "ghost of the Rhine," and according to the curatorial statement, "Though often intangible, light and art can likewise be said to haunt or inhabit space."

Participating artists include Brandon Abel, Jen Berter, Nicki Davis, DAAP Clay & Glazes, headed by Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis (featuring the work of Olutoba Akomolede, Christine Barron, Amanda Bialk, Michael Broderick, Linnea Campbell, Catherine Gilliam, Theresa Krosse, Sarah Maxwell, Megan Stevens, Christine Uebel, Allison Ventura & Victoria Wykoff), Lizzy Duquette, Sam Ferris-Morris, Mark Governanti, John Hancock, Joe Ianopollo, Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running, Andy Marko, Alice Pixley Young, Play Cincy, Lindsey Sahlin, Caroline Turner, Justin West, C. Jacqueline Wood and Charlie Woodman.

The one-night only exhibit kicks off at 7 p.m. and will go until 10 p.m. It's free and open to the public. Rhinegeist is located at 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Get more information about the event or NEAR*BY and their mission to create ephemeral and interdisciplinary exhibits that bypass the art institution here.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Broadway Here, Broadway There — It's Everywhere]]> If you're looking for good theater this weekend you have two great choices at downtown Cincinnati's Aronoff Center. It's your pick: Recent Broadway hit Once, in a touring production, or a past award-winner, Young Frankenstein, staged by one of Cincinnati's best community theaters.

The musical Once began life as an Academy Award-winning film in 2007; the song "Falling Slowly" won an Oscar. The film became an off-Broadway production as a musical in 2011 then a Broadway contender in 2012, where it won eight Tony Awards, including best musical. Since 2013 it's been a hit in London (the film is about musicians in Dublin, and the stage adaptation is set in an Irish pub) and on a national tour in the U.S. a year ago that's been much praised. It's that tour presently onstage at the Aronoff Center's big hall. It's a very contemporary love story that succeeds in part because it's unpredictable: Boy Meets Girl (yeah, that's a cliché) but despite their chemistry and potential for romance, it doesn't turn out as you might expect. Along the way, a great cast of actor/musicians play instruments onstage and sing their hearts out as the story unfolds. And it's fun: Arrive early enough and you can queue up to go onstage and order a pint from the bar there and mingle with some of the cast. If there's such a thing as a casual musical for contemporary music lovers, this is it. Through Nov. 23. Tickets ($33-$80): 513-621-2787.

Don't think that you'll see something less than professional if you choose to head to the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater to see Young Frankenstein, presented by Cincinnati Music Theatre through Sunday. This company of local theater junkies knows how to make big musicals work, and this jokey show by Mel Brooks (based on his equally jokey classic comedy from 1974) is a great vehicle for a talented cast and crew. There are great sets (designed by Rick Kramer) and visual effects (by Jeff Surber), and the talented performers milk every laugh line to the nth degree. Charlie Harper is lots of fun as the latter-day scientist Frankenstein, Alison Evans is his fetching lab assistant Inga and Kate Mock Elliott has great moments as his twitchy fiancee Elizabeth. Chuck Ingram's portrait of the Monster is spot on, and his delivery of the show's big number, "Puttin' on the Ritz," will stick that tune in your head for days in ways that Irving Berlin never imagined. Tickets ($20-$24): 513-621-2787.

Broadway star Faith Prince is making a local appearance at Memorial Hall for an 8 p.m. concert tonight. It's part of a series of "Libations & Lite Bites," this one titled "Broadway & Bordeaux." The evening begins at 6:30 with hors d'oeuvres from local restaurants, wine and cocktails and concludes with dessert and more. Tickets ($47-$57): cincinnatimemorialhall.com.

If you've got Broadway on the brain and you're on Cincinnati's West Side, you should definitely check out the Covedale Center's production of Stephen Sondheim's fairytale musical Into the Woods, finishing up its run on Sunday. It's an entertaining classic (in December it will be on movie screens everywhere in a new film version featuring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp), and the Covedale has a great cast to put it across. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.

You still have a chance to catch one of our great local actresses, Dale Hodges, in Driving Miss Daisy at Covington's Carnegie through Sunday. She's playing haughty, elderly Daisy Wertham, unwillingly partnered with Hoke, an African-American chauffeur (Reggie Williams) hired by her solicitous son Boolie (Randy Lee Bailey). It's a solid ensemble and a very entertaining production. Tickets ($18-$25): 859-957-1940.

And if you're looking for something that's brand new and edgy, check out All New People by contemporary writer Zach Braff. It's onstage at Clifton Performance Theatre, staged by Untethered Theatre through Nov. 30. It starts with a suicide attempt on Charlie's birthday and spirals from there. I'm going to see it this weekend. Maybe I'll see you there. Tickets ($20): 513-939-0599.

Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here
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<![CDATA[At FotoFocus Show, Michael Keating Remembers His Elderly Neighbor]]>

I wish the “sunroom installation” that is part of Michael Keating’s current Shadow & Light exhibition at Kennedy Heights Arts Center (through Saturday) could move straight into a museum afterward.

It could serve to anchor a fuller, larger look at the noble project this veteran Cincinnati photojournalist (formerly with Cincinnati Enquirer) undertook to chronicle the final year in the life of an elderly neighbor, Clyde N. Day. Day, of Lakeside Park, Ky., died in 2011 at age 104. It deserves the widest possible audience.

Keating had long known Day, and the project was both a way to honor Day’s life and also show just how difficult life can be for the elderly. After Day’s first wife died, he remarried. His second wife preceded him in death by several months. 

In the installation, which is in the former sunroom of the building at 6546 Montgomery Road that houses the arts center, Keating has placed Day’s dresser with memorabilia from his long life. And on the walls are photographs from the project.

Two black-and-white images really capture Day’s final months, in their quiet way. One, reproduced as a wall-sized, mural-like adhesive print (in two sections), shows Day painstakingly making his bed. Light seeps through the windows’ curtains, spotlighting the stand-up crutch he has left in the room to have hands free for this task.

It’s a mundane task, but the photograph conveys the sense of heroism, a sense of determination, with which he does it. And our perspective — we seem to be in the distance, looking slightly downward — makes us feel we’re watching something profound.

Other, smaller photographs are on another wall, ink-jet prints mounted on thick gator board. In one, a companion to the mural, we see Day in this same bedroom, sleeping on a small hospital bed with railings. The headboard of his other bed is propped against a wall — the mattress gone.

It’s a melancholy image when compared with the other, since you can see how one’s choices shrink as old age moves to its inevitable conclusion. Still, the room itself is comforting with its floral-print wallpaper. It’s a touch of the familiar and the secure.

Since Day’s death, Keating has helped start the Clyde N. Day Foundation to contribute to causes related to child safety, education and the arts. You can learn more about it, and also find more of his photos, at clydendayfoundation.org. This work is important.

 

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: What You Can Learn at the Theater]]> Most of us go to the theater to be entertained. But we are often subtly educated and sometimes changed by the stories we witness. Take Driving Miss Daisy, for instance, Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play from 1987, currently onstage at the Carnegie in Covington. It has just three characters, all from different points on the personality compass. There's the feisty Daisy Werthan, an elderly, wealthy Jewish woman in Atlanta, fiercely independent but actually in need of assistance for daily life; her rather patronizing son, Boolie, a businessman trying to ensure her safety; and Hoke Coburn, the African-American chauffeur who Boolie hires to keep his mother from risking life and limb by driving herself. Things don't go well initially, but over the course of a quarter-century Miss Daisy and Hoke become best friends, and we learn how people can connect across vast divides. Featuring three very capable local stage veterans — the brilliant Dale Hodges as Daisy, Reggie Willis as Hoke and Randy Lee Baily as Boolie — this swift play (about 90 minutes) is a story about understanding and caring for someone whose life experience is vastly different. It's done with a lot of gentle humor and insightful moments. Staged by Mark Lutwak, whose day job is at the Cincinnati Playhouse, this very satisfying production is a great choice for theater this weekend. Through Nov. 16. Tickets ($18-$25): 859-957-1940

At the Cincinnati Playhouse, the world premiere of Safe House (CityBeat review here) connects because it's a story about family dynamics that aren't all that unusual — a pair of brothers with opposing perspectives who are on a collision course — but it's made interesting because it's set in Northern Kentucky in 1843, and the characters are "free people of color" — not slaves but not exactly free. Addison is a hardworking, itinerant cobbler, dreaming of opening his own shop, while his younger brother Frank is impetuous and chafing at restrictions imposed on them despite their freedom. They're caught up in the chaos of helping others escape bondage via the Underground Railroad. Playwright Keith Josef Adkins based his new play on his own family's history, and this meticulously crafted production will keep you guessing about the outcome and leave you with a sense of how some things evolve and some never change. Through Nov. 15. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.

Musicals are often at the far end of the lightweight entertainment spectrum, but if composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim's name is attached, you can be sure there will be twists on stories and music that goes well beyond toe-tapping numbers. That's certainly the case with Into the Woods (CityBeat review here), currently onstage at the Covedale through Nov. 16. It's a mash-up of familiar fairy tales — Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and more — that get entangled but seem to wrap up with happy endings by intermission. Then Act II comes along, and reality sets in. It's a show that's ultimately about understanding, caring and building community. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.

Other productions worth checking out this weekend include Conor McPherson's adaptation of the psychological thriller The Birds (CityBeat review here) at Cincinnati Shakespeare (through Saturday; tickets, $22-$36: 513-381-2273); a creative stage adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby Dick (CityBeat review here) at Know Theatre (through Saturday; tickets: $20, 513-300-5669); Stephen Karam's comedy Speech and Debate about a trio of misfit teens (CCM Drama on the UC campus, through Saturday; free, but reservations required: 513-556-4183); and Zach Braff's All New People about a disrupted suicide (Untethered Theater at Clifton Performance Theatre through Nov. 30; $25: 513-939-0599). And Cincinnati Music Theatre, a community group that is both ambitioius and successful with musicals, takes on the silly but entertaining Young Frankenstein at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theatre (through Nov. 15; tickets, $20-$24; 513-621-2787).

Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[Corbett Foundation's Final Gift Goes to CCM's Opera Department ]]>

In August, the Corbett Foundation announced it was closing shop, ending one of the city's most generous streams of philanthropy. It turns out that there was still one more gift in the hopper.

On Tuesday, The University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music's J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera received the final award of $1 million, a gift that will provide additional support for scholarships, touring productions, an archive and partial support of the named professorship currently held by Robin Guarino.

CCM's Opera Department is one of the nation's finest. Two of its recent graduates were winners in the Metropolitan Opera's national auditions, and its alumni perform in theaters all over the world.

Robin Guarino is one of the most sought-after directors and has staged productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Indiana University, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music. 

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<![CDATA[Manifest Gallery's FotoFocus Shows Were Powerful]]>

So many FotoFocus-related shows overlap and then close in October that it’s hard to get to them all or even write about in a timely fashion those that I do get to see. But I didn’t want to let Manifest Gallery’s Neither Here Nor There juried group show of photography and video work and its separate but related Leigh Merrill video installation, both of which closed Oct. 24, to go unrecognized. For Neither Here Nor There, the quality was overall quite high and some of the work has stayed with me now for several weeks long after I’ve forgotten other shows.

New York-based artist Gloria Houng won the $1,000 Best of Show prize for her “Standard Double (Feet),” one of a series of eerie shots made in a bedroom that in some way incorporate images of an apparently absent person’s presence into the scene. The results cause a double-take among viewers, but the work is too elegant to be jokey or gimmicky. She infuses the commonplace with mystery.

The London-based Emma Charles, whose short films explore “the dialogue between time and the city,” contributed the mesmerizing, 17-minute Fragments on Machines. Short sequences, some with poetic narration, take us out on the streets and sidewalks of the city and up close to the exteriors and (most ominously) interior infrastructure of buildings. There is beauty and alienation, especially as we look closely at the rows of servers that power modern office buildings. You can watch it here.

And Leigh Merrill’s video installation Drive Thru is a deadpan looping look at the flat barren architecture of suburban sprawl, except the places were created by her digitally assembly of parts from individual photographs and images. The result highlights the strangeness — and questions what draws us as people to seek or support such development in the first place.

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<![CDATA[BLDG Adds to Covington's Murals with Art Collective FAILE]]>

Adding to the ever-growing number of public art murals in Covington, Ky., BLDG welcomed the Brooklyn-based street art collective, FAILE in October to complete a massive painted Pop art installation in their torn collage style that spans three walls and either side of Sixth Street.

BLDG, the locally grown art gallery/branding firm, is responsible for numerous murals around Covington including (but not limited to) 10 recognizable black and white characters done by The London Police on notable Covington landmarks and businesses, as well as the current COV200 mural project for the city’s bicentennial celebration, which will involve more than 20 murals by the time it’s completed. 

FAILE artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller sent a crew of two studio assistants to begin the initial layout for the piece, which involved pouncing an outline of the design onto walls with cheesecloth bags filled with powdered pigment. Unfortunately for their studio assistants who had come to do the initial legwork, whenever it would rain (and before they could trace a more permanent outline with Sharpie), a storm shower would come and wash it all away. 

Despite some less than ideal weather conditions during the two-week installation process, the artists themselves came into town the final two days of painting and were able to finish the grand installation by Oct. 23, when I met up with them at Arnold’s amidst a full table of BLDG employees, headed by Lesley Amann. 

Amann recently stepped in as partner at BLDG after the founder — her husband, and the driving force behind BLDG’s commitment to public art — passed away a year ago this month. Lesley said that the FAILE mural was one of the last projects Mike began before he got sick and when I asked Miller and McNeil, “Why Covington?” McNeil echoed that sentiment. 

According to the artist, a large factor in FAILE’s involvement was due to, “getting to know these guys and wanting to pull through for them and represent.”

Project leaders unveiled the new three-wall piece to the public on Oct. 23 and the mural included such iconography as the FAILE dog and a cat burglar on the opposing wall, as well as a visual reference to some of the collaborative’s newer works, which depict classic American muscle cars.

Patrick Miller puts their artistic approach in simple terms.

“Our work has always been about making images that people can find their own narrative in and relate to in their own way. It’s always more fun for us to see the way people react to the work — the kind of stories they make up about it. Whenever you’re doing public work, that’s the beauty of it: It’s meant for anyone to come see.”

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<![CDATA[Claire Wesselmann Discusses Husband Tom's Art]]>

Beyond Pop: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective opens to the general public today at Cincinnati Art Museum, with an Art After Dark Halloween costume party from 5-9 p.m. part of the celebrations for the late native-Cincinnatian, New York-based Pop artist.

But last night, members of the museum’s Founders Society level ($1,500-$50,000) got a special opening that included Wesselmann’s widow (and frequent model) Claire discussing her husband’s work with Jeffrey Sturges, studio manager for the Tom Wesselmann Estate.

The presentation started with Matt Distel, the museum’s adjunct curator for Contemporary art, praising the exhibit’s installation — especially the work of chief perparator Kim Flora. “You would hardly know how difficult and heavy those pieces are — they look like they float off the wall,” he said.

I would agree — some of Wesselmann’s complex pieces as gigantic canvases, some are shaped canvases with three-dimensional elements, some are assemblages with sculptural elements, and he did a series of “metal paintings” (oil or enamel on cut-out aluminum) that had to be difficult to handle and mount. None looks graceless or awkward in the gallery spaces.

Next, Claire presented the museum with a gift — one of Wesselmann’s metal paintings, “Barn Near Hilltop Airport.” And she explained how much her husband wanted a U.S. museum retrospective while he was alive, revealing that he saved important works for such an occasion and even prepared a speech in his diary.

She read an excerpt: “I loved being alive even though I buried myself alive in my work.”

(He died in 2004 at age 73. While he had European retrospectives, this is the first in the U.S./Canada. It has already been in Montreal, Richmond, Va., and Denver — this is the last stop. Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts with the Estate’s assistance organized the first two stops; Cincinnati the last two.)

During her conversation with Sturges, Claire offered some insights into her husband’s work. One of his great early Pop innovations, the use of cutout images from billboard advertising posters as collage elements in his paintings, came about for practical reasons.

As a poor artist, he could get those for the asking — he wrote to companies to send them. And he knew how to get them free, too. “At that time, they took down subway posters and threw them in the can,” she said. “So then Tom came along and took them.”

She also revealed that Tom loved the Abstract Expressionist art in vogue in the mid- to-late 1950s, when they were attending New York’s Cooper Union college together. But he knew he needed to do something new. “Abstraction was the thing he really wanted to do, but he took another path,” she said. “But he came back to it.”

As Tom moved through different themes in his work, in the 1990s he started turning to abstraction in his metal paintings. A picture of one, 1993’s “Claire’s Thigh,” was shown at the presentation. “I like this very much, minus the title,” Claire said.

During the question-and-answer period, there was also discussion of Tom’s infatuation with Country and Western music. He wrote more than 400 songs and some were recorded. One, “I Love Doing Texas With You,” was played softly in the film Brokeback Mountain. The retrospective has a small display devoted to his music, although no way to hear any of it.

Claire said when she and Tom would visit his parents in Cincinnati from New York he’d listen to country music on the radio. “He’d take the car and we’d go driving and he’d flip on the country stations,” she said. He’d say, ‘I like the stories.’”

Visit www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org for exhibit details. ]]>
<![CDATA[Cincinnati Ballet to Bring 'Peter Pan' to Children's Hospital]]>

Cincinnati Ballet will be spreading their wish to inspire hope and enchantment in the community by broadcasting the 2 p.m. performance of Peter Pan on Nov. 8 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital live from the Aronoff Center. Patients and their families who might otherwise miss the magic will now be able to experience the spectacular tale of the flying boy who never grows up — straight from their hospital room.

The Ballet recently came together again with The Cure Starts Now, a cancer research and awareness foundation they’ve been working with since 2009, to bring oncology patients at Children’s the third year of “Ballerina for a Day.” In this behind-the-scenes event, children and their families were offered a chance to see the background of the ballet world with makeovers, crafts, dancing and costumes. With the show streaming right to the comfort and safety of their rooms, they can now complete the full circle of the ballet experience by enjoying a live show.

Cincinnati Ballet has also invited Leah Still — the dance-loving daughter of Devon Still battling stage 4 neuroblastoma and who has brought a plethora of attention to organizations like The Cure Starts Now — to perform in the show with a walk-on role. If her parents and doctor give the go ahead, this would mark 4-year-old Leah’s debut in a professional stage performance.

This wondrous benefit for dozens of children marks an incredible collaboration by various members of the regional community. Unions have waived fees, Children’s has cooperated in arranging the broadcast and camera operators have donated the use of their time, talent and gear in order for this to be possible, according to Victoria Morgan, artistic director and CEO of Cincinnati Ballet.

Peter Pan hits the stage Nov. 7-9, with performances 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Look out for an interview with composer and music director Carmon DeLeone in next week’s issue.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: No Tricks, All Treats – Theater Choices for Halloween Weekend]]> Don't be scared. Just because it's Halloween, you don't have to miss out on good theater. In fact, there are some great deals available. For instance, this weekend is your last chance to see Ensemble Theatre's production of An Iliad (CityBeat review here), a one-man retelling of Homer's epic tale of the Trojan War. (The final performance is Sunday at 2 p.m.) Bruce Cromer has been turning in one of the best acting performances seen locally in years as "The Poet" who narrates the story of the tragic conflict — as well as about a dozen of the story's central characters. Several of the weekend's performances are sold out, but seats do remain tonight at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and if you use the coupon code SPOOKY to order tickets for either one, you'll get them for $25 each (they're usually $44). Box office: 513-421-3555.

This is also the final weekend for Falcon Theater's staging of The Woman in Black in Newport's tiny Monmouth Theater (which the group recently purchased, so it now has a permanent home, renamed "Falcon Theater"). The final performance on Saturday is sold out, but if you attend the classic ghost story tonight at 8 p.m. in costume, you'll get a $2 discount on your ticket (normally $19; $17 for students and seniors): 513-479-6783.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of The Birds (CityBeat review here) is also intended to give you the creeps, so it's another good choice for Halloween weekend. If that title sounds familiar, it's because Alfred Hitchcock adapted Daphne Du Maurier's short story into a classic thriller back in 1963. Cincy Shakes is presenting a more recent stage adaptation, this one by Irish playwright Conor McPherson (who has his own reputation as a storyteller who knows how to scare an audience, with past hits like The Weir and The Seafarer). It's an evening of psychological twists and turns with a cast featuring four of the company's best actors. This one will be around for another week, but if you're celebrating Halloween, you'll have fun with this one. Tickets ($22-$36): 513-381-2273, x1.

Also onstage through Nov. 8 is Know Theatre's production of Moby Dick (CityBeat review here.) It's not exactly a ghost story, but the obsessive Captain Ahab is certainly haunted by the specter of the great white whale, and Know's retelling of Herman Melville's great American novel is inventive and engaging. Tickets ($18): 513-300-5669.

Other good choices onstage are Covedale Center's Into the Woods (CityBeat review here) and the Cincinnati Playhouse's Safe House (CityBeat review here.) The former (tickets, $21-$24: 513-241-6550) is Stephen Sondheim's classic musical that's a mash-up of fairytales; the Playhouse show is a world premiere of a play by native Cincinnatian Keith Josef Adkins about people like his ancestors, free people of color in 19th-century Kentucky (tickets, $30-$75: 513-421-3888).

Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[The Search for a "Holy Grail" Photo at a FotoFocus Show]]>

Brian Powers, the Cincinnati librarian who has done exhaustive work researching King Records history, thought he had found a “Holy Grail” photo — of the West End record store that Syd Nathan owned before starting King.

He knew it had been on Central Avenue, but didn’t know what it looked like.

It was in the Hebrew Union College/Skirball Museum FotoFocus-connected exhibit Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods, which features George Rosenthal’s photographs, taken in the late 1950s, of the West End before I-75 construction would dramatically alter it. Rosenthal’s photographs, owned by Cincinnati Museum Center, hadn’t been shown at least in 50 years, if ever.

Visiting on the exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 22, Powers saw one Rosenthal photo of a Central Avenue record store at 1567 Central Ave. Just a small storefront with a homey screen-door, it had what looked like neon signs that announced “Records All Speeds” and then listed the choices: Spirituals, Classics, Pops, Rhythm-Blues, Bop, Hillbilly & Western.

You can also partially see some letters and the initials “CO” at the top of the signs. Some additional written information was on a window, and another sign offered television sets for $29. Nathan wouldn’t have still owned such a store in this time period — he started King in 1943 — but might it have carried on the same location, more or less unchanged, with someone else in charge?

Powers told Henry Rosenthal, the late George’s son, about his hunch. And in his opening remarks, Henry mentioned it. Henry was particularly proud because he owns the desk that James Brown kept at King Records’ headquarters in Evanston. “It’s my prize possession,” he said.

Among the Rosenthal family members at the opening, besides Henry, were Jean Rosenthal Bloch, George’s wife; daughter Julie Baker; George S. Rosenthal and Roger Baker, George’s grandsons; great-grandson Clay Baker, and cousin Ed Rosenthal. With several hundred in attendance, it was an important moment in recognizing Rosenthal’s work.

Alas, when Powers (who didn’t attend the reception) later started researching, he saw the record store in this photo wasn’t where Nathan’s was located.

“Syd’s shop was at 1351 Central Ave.,” he said via E-mail. “The shop in the photo is at 1567 Central. It was called Mo-F-A Co. It’s listed as a TV repair shop. It was owned by a guy named Ted Savage, who seemed to have lived there with his wife.

“It looks like Syd handed over his store to Ike Klayman around 1945 to 1946. I don’t see 1351 Central listed after 1949. It may have been torn down by then. It’s where Taft football field is now.”

Powers added that he has seen a photo of a record store owned by Klayman, but believes it is at a different location

So the search for a photo of Nathan’s record store goes on, but meanwhile this very evocative one is now — finally — available to be seen.

The exhibit, which looks at what life in Cincinnati was like in the West End and Downtown before much was torn down for controversial “urban renewal” from the 1960s to 1980s, both in terms of their architecture and the conditions of the poor, also features powerful photos by Daniel Ransohoff and Ben Rosen.

It is up through Dec. 21 at the Skirball and Jacob Rader Marcus Center on the HUC campus, 3010 Clifton Ave. Go here for details.

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<![CDATA[Lectures Highlight CAM's 'Eyes on the Street' Show]]>

Last night, British photographer Paul Graham presented his FotoFocus-sponsored lecture at Cincinnati Art Museum. Graham’s work is in two of FotoFocus’ featured exhibitions — the museum’s Eyes on the Street and the Stills show at Downtown’s Michael Lowe Gallery. Eyes on the Street is up until Jan. 4; Stills closes Nov. 1.

Graham’s work is related to but updates classic street photography in that, based on what he said last night, he seeks out subtle shots rather than what he calls “clichéd” or obviously dramatic images. He tries to build haiku-like, enigmatic visual sequences that in their small details cumulatively provide insight. (That said, he did show slides from a recent series that features rainbows.)

It’s a difficult task not always easily evident to the viewer, but he expressed his purpose eloquently last night and repeatedly mentioned those whose work inspired him — Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand. For those moved by his work, there’s a Where’s Waldo quality to “reading” the smallest details — the color of a tie or T-shirt, the positioning of a pedestrian on a street, the relationship of the camera angle to a storefront sign, the choices in focus.

This is particularly noticeable in his recent The Present series of New York street life, from which the Cincinnati-displayed photos come. “It’s the theater of the street, the theater of life coming at you,” he said. He also prefers that his framed prints be mounted on a gallery wall close to the floor, to approximate sidewalk level. But he acknowledged last night that the Stills show did not do that, and he enjoyed being able to see his photos at more normal eye level.

His The Present photos in Eyes on the Street capture the results of bold action or drama, a rarity for him, in that a woman has fallen on the sidewalk while others move toward her.

Meanwhile last night, the museum’s associate curator of photography, Brian Sholis, distributed announcements of two additional events connected to the current Eyes on the Street show: a Nov. 5 panel discussion at 7 p.m. about Eyes on the Street at Niehoff Urban Studio, University of Cincinnati, 2728 (Short) Vine St.; and a Nov. 19 conversation at 7 p.m. on “Art and Privacy” featuring Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and civil-rights lawyer Alphonse Gerhardstein. It’s at the museum’s Fath Auditorium.

Go here for more information.

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<![CDATA[Tyler Shields Returns to Cincinnati for Miller Gallery Show]]>

American photographer and firebrand Tyler Shields makes his return to Cincinnati for a Miller Gallery exhibition as part of the ongoing FotoFocus Biennial.

This is Shields’ second appearance at the Miller Gallery in conjunction with FotoFocus, first appearing in 2012 with Controlled Chaos. This year's exhibit – Provocateur — opens tonight and he’s been shooting in various locations locally throughout the week.

Of all the superlatives to describe Shields and his work, “provocateur” might be most suitable of all. He’s gained a level of notoriety for his past exhibits and photo shoots, including a 2011 exhibit that substituted paint for the fresh blood of 25 rich and famous celebrities.

Shields has successfully merged the world of art with celebrity, similar to fellow rebel-rouser Andy Warhol. He’s taken racy and playful photos of Lindsay Lohan, Kathy Griffin, Abigail Breslin and the entire cast of Revenge.

His work can also be seen as a companion to Jay Z and Kanye Wests’s Watch the Throne, using the medium of photography to exhibit grandeur, fame and the excesses of materialism. His works have seen the destruction of a $100,000 Hermès Birkin bag and the detonation of a vintage Rolls Royce — all in the name of art, of course.


His latest Cincinnati exhibit yet again pushes his subjects and the limits of what photography can be. His exhibit takes risks, but also presents the germination for pensive and reflective thought.

But of all the superlatives and excessive descriptors for his work, nothing beats seeing the real thing. Make sure Provocateur is a part of your 2014 FotoFocus experience.

The opening party takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. at Miller Gallery (2715 Erie Ave., Hyde Park) and continues through Nov. 8. Go here for more information.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Safe House and Spooky Performances]]> Last night I was at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park for the opening of Keith Josef Adkins' new play, Safe House, the 71st world premiere staged by our Tony Award-winning regional theater. (CityBeat feature story here.)

It's a fascinating piece that's about the little-known circumstances of "free people of color" in 19th-century America — not slaves but not exactly free. They're put into complex and stressful situations, personified here by a pair of very different brothers: Addison is a hardworking, aspiring entrepreneur, dreaming of become a cobbler with his own store, while younger brother Frank is impetuous and chafing at the restrictions imposed on them. The heat gets turned up when runaway slaves through their Northern Kentucky county need shelter and perhaps passage to Liberia, something their Aunt Dorcas has quietly supported. The story is based on Adkins' family history in this region, and it comes to life in this provocative drama. Through Nov. 15. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.

UC's College-Conservatory of Music only rarely gives more than one weekend to musical theater productions. This fall's privileged show is the very commercial Legally Blonde (a hit movie with Reese Witherspoon from 2001 that became a Broadway property in 2007). It's a genuinely entertaining show that actually has a meaningful message about living up to potential and not judging people by their exteriors. It also has a ton of dancing, so it's great news that this production is both being staged by veteran CCM choreographer Diane, who I profiled in my Curtain Call column this week. The production is happening at UC's Patricia Corbett Theater through Nov. 2. Tickets ($31-$35): 513-556-4183.

It's fairytale time at the Covedale Center with a production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. But proceed with caution: The first act takes more or less traditional stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and more, and mixes them into one happy stew. But in Act II, well, things aren't so "happily every after" when reality sets in. Big cast, great tunes, lots of humor — but some thoughtfulness, too. Through Nov. 16. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.

The chance to see Bruce Cromer's one-man performance in An Iliad at Ensemble Theatre is an absolute must for anyone who's serious about theater. (CityBeat review here.) It's quite astonishing that one man can do so much and hold an audience's attention for 100 minutes in this retelling of the savagery of the Trojan War. It's all the more powerful because it's a condemnation of war across the ages. Don't miss this one. Through Nov. 2, and no chance that it will be extended, so call now for your tickets. Here's a tip, thanks to friendly relations with Know Theatre, just around the corner from ETC: Use the coupon code MOBY20 to get 20 percent off the price of two tickets for any remaining performances. Tickets ($28-$44): 513-421-3555.

With Halloween just a week away, several theaters are offering shows that will make your heart pound. There's creepy ghost in Falcon Theatre's production of The Woman in Black ($17-$19, 513-479-6783), and the characters in Conor McPherson's The Birds are under attack in ways that don't bode to well for human interaction ($22-$36, 513-381-2273). (CityBeat review here.) And while it's not exactly a Halloween story, Moby Dick at Know Theatre has some scary oddballs and a gargantuan villain out to murder everyone, so that qualifies, too. (CityBeat review here.) It's onstage through Nov. 8 ($18; 513-300-5669).

This weekend is last call for I loved, I lost, I Made Spaghetti at the Cincinnati Playhouse. (CityBeat review here.) Actress Antoinette LaVecchia spins some great stories about writer Giulia Melucci's bad taste in men, all the while making an aromatic Italian dinner — antipasti, wine, spaghetti Bolognese (homemade pasta and fresh sauce) — for a few lucky audience members. This is a totally charming show, great for weekend entertainment. Final performance is Sunday. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-2418-3888.

Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[FAILE Mural Unveiled in Covington Tonight]]>

Covington’s collection of high-end street art expands today with the unveiling of a vibrant mural created by Brooklyn-based artists FAILE. The mural will cover the rear walls of the adjacent Republic Bank and Donna Salyer’s Fabulous Bridal buildings on the corners of Sixth Street and Madison Avenue.

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, collectively known as FAILE, create multimedia installations and collage, incorporating an experimental style and popular cultural references. Although FAILE has exhibited art in traditional gallery spaces, their work on city walls across the globe has put them on the innovative edge of the street art community. Amsterdam, New York, London, Bethlehem, Palestine and Vienna are just a few of the cities where FAILE’s work can be found.

The Covington collage-style mural was inspired by the artists’ “rip style painting.” It features classic FAILE motifs along with suggestions of Kentucky culture. The placement of the mural on two adjacent buildings allows the split images to visually converse with each other through space. The mural’s high contrast and dramatic aesthetic references FAILE’s inspiration from screen printing along with urban contemporary art. The humorous overtone of the mural’s imagery makes a strong visual connection to pop art and comic book illustrations.

Covington’s BLDG, a cooperative arts organization working to “foster inspiration, the visionary and the uncommon” will host the unveiling of the mural. BLDG nurtures creativity by providing branding, gallery space, publicity and refuge for artists and innovative thinkers. Their unique team brings internationally celebrated artists to the Covington area, placing the city on the list of artistically progressive areas. BLDGs projects have included collaborations with the London Police and Prefab77.

The unveiling will take place from 5-7 p.m. tonight at the mural site. Drinks and food will be provided by Rhinegeist, Arnolds, Tito’s Vodka and The Gruff (a pizza shop/deli coming soon to Covington). Go here for more info.

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<![CDATA[REVIEW: concert:nova's 'Gothic Halloween']]>

Before Anne Rice and Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe set the standard for gothic creepiness. He's the inspiration for Gothic Halloween, a terrific program of music and Poe's classic stories guaranteed to chill the blood temperatures to appropriate Halloween levels, performed with wicked glee by the adventurous ensemble concert:nova. It's an evening of music from the dark side seamlessly interwoven with equally scary stories and songs.

Performed on the stage of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's production of The Birds, it's the perfect setting for an evening of macabre and mayhem. Many of the musicians sported black capes but harpist Gillian Sella takes the prize —more on her later.

Bach's "Toccata" from the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" is a horror standard and that's what starts the evening, performed with gusto by local treasure, keyboardist Julie Spangler. It's so familiar that the opening three-note sequence evoked laughter, which was quickly silenced by Spangler's artistry. She makes the small electric keyboard resonate with the power of a cathedral instrument.

The "Psycho Suite" features three pieces from the classic film score by Bernard Herrmann, performed by a string sextet — Eric Bates (no relation to Norman), Gerald Itzkoff, Mari Thomas, Rebe Barnes, Margaret Dyer and Theodore Nelson. There were also a few chuckles which quickly subsided. Those screeching string swipes don't need film to convey the murder in the shower scene or the ominous mood at the Bates Motel.

Baritone Edward Nelson gave a powerful performance of Schubert's setting of German poet Heinrich Heine's "Die Doppelganger," a song about a frightening encounter with one's alter-ego. Spangler accompanied and segued into Part II of Gyorgy Ligeti's "Musica ricercata," ("Researched music"). Entitled "Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale," (Sad, rigid and ceremonial), the music is a series of repeated notes, restless and menacing.

Sections of Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1 accompany a reading of Poe's "The Cask of the Amontillado," performed by Jason Podplesky and Edward Nelson. Podplesky seemed uneasy at first, stumbling over mispronunciations, but he recovered to bring the story to its macabre finale. Nelson did a fine job as the hapless victim. He remained onstage, joined by a string quartet for a performance of Samuel Barber's setting of Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach." Nelson conveyed the longing, passion and terror with elegant tone and flawless diction. The string quartet delivered an appropriately moody reading.

The second half opened with violists Barnes and Dyer slinking out on stage to perform "Viola Zombie," Michael Daugherty's duet that's a mashup of horror themes and plucked strings. You gotta love a piece with movements entitled "Jerks of Rigor Mortis" and "Zombie revivus." Barnes and Dyer clearly do.

The evening closed with Poe's ultimate horror classic, "The Masque of the Red Death," read by Podplesky, accompanied by French composer Andre Caplet's  "Conte Fantastique: Masque of the Red Death" for string quartet and harp. In spite of a few mispronunciations here and there, Podplesky rendered the story with ghoulish delight. Caplet's score meshes fantasy and foreboding, and the harp glissandos add to the eerie atmosphere. Willowy harpist Gillian Sella nearly stole the show when she entered, garbed in a white satin cape and pointed hat.

c:n Artistic Director and clarinetist Ixi Chen doesn't perform in this concert but her creative mark is all over this terrific program.

You have one more opportunity to up your scare quotient on Monday evening, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. A party follows the performance. You go, ghouls. Tickets and more info here.

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<![CDATA[FotoFocus Talk Spotlights Lexington's Photographic Heritage]]>

If the assault of Mitch McConnell ads has you thinking Kentucky must be the most hopelessly unprogressive state ever, a FotoFocus Biennial-related lecture last Sunday provided another take on the Bluegrass State.

The speaker, who also presented slides, was the veteran Lexington photographer Guy Mendes, who with Carey Gough has the exhibition Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth: The Kentucky Photographs at Over-the-Rhine’s Iris BookCafe, 1331 Main St., through Jan. 25. His presentation, organized by Iris’ photography curator William Messer, was at Mr. Pitiful’s bar, close to Iris.

Mendes, active in Kentucky arts, public television production and higher education since the late 1960s, has been collected by Ashley Judd, Willie Nelson, Maker’s Mark (he’s very proud of that) and the New Orleans and Cincinnati art museums, among others. At Mr. Pitiful’s, he made a compelling case for Lexington as a center for progressive creative thought — in photography, especially — that has had a broad influence on our times.

As a college town (University of Kentucky), Lexington maybe has been better known for its basketball than its radicalism, but Mendes made it seem like it could hold its own with Berkeley, Calif., Ann Arbor, Mich., or Madison, Wis., in any history of counter-cultural hotspots.

His presentation focused on a group he became part of in the late 1960s, the Lexington Camera Club, active from the 1950s to the early 1970s (and recently revived). While, like other camera clubs it attracted its share of hobbyists, it also had stalwart support from open-minded professionals with an experimentalist bent.

Mendes mentioned and showed slides of work from the Camera Club’s first golden era. The accomplishments of these now-deceased members was impressive — Van Deren Coke (who went on to become director of the George Eastman House); Robert May, who specialized in multiple exposures; James Baker Hall, a poet (and former state Poet Laureate) and photographer whose haunting series of images featuring collaged family photos may have been a way to deal with his mother’s suicide when he was a child.

One Camera Club photographer, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, has become recognized since his 1972 death as one of America’s most memorable — and spookiest. His black-and-white shots of children and adults wearing masks in strange settings are still unsettling.

Lexington was restive in the anti-Vietnam War days, and Mendes published an underground newspaper called Blue-Tail Fly and was involved in protests. And as he became friends with local writers Wendell Berry and Ed McClanahan, his literary and photographic worlds began to merge. (Both still are active today.)

In Mendes’ show at Iris, those two figures are in probably the two most striking photographs. One is a 2012 portrait of Berry, on a farm in Henry County, with his horses Nip and Jed grazing behind him. It’s sheer happenstance, but the horses’ placement is such as to create the illusion is that their heads extend from his shoulders. Messer refers to them as “horse angel wings,” and it’s a great tribute to Berry, an environmentalist as well as a writer. The photo gives the elderly man a heavenly glow.

McClanahan is involved in the weirdest photograph in the show — 1972’s “The Fabulous Little Enis & Go Go Girls of Boots Bar.” This photo (in a tarted-up version) accompanied McClanahan’s article about this colorful musician in Playboy. It depicts the left-handed, backwards-holding guitarist Little Enis and a chorus line of scantily clad women outside the bar.

The late Carlos Toadvine’s stage name “Enis,” Mendes told his audience, was a play on the nickname given to Elvis Presley as “Elvis the Pelvis” — you get the point. Mendes said Enis was a fabulous guitarist but the working-class Boots Bar was a tough place for scruffy, hippy-looking artists like McClanahan and himself in 1972. On their first visit there, McClanahan and Mendes, were greeted by a flying beer bottle. (On the Internet, there is a photo of long-haired college-age young men admiring Little Enis’ act, so maybe the bar got a little safer with time.)

The Iris show also features color photographs of Kentucky music-related sites by Gough, who considers Mendes a mentor.

Lexington’s impact on the arts is fascinating in other ways, too. The writer Bobbie Ann Mason attended UK, as did the great character actor Harry Dean Stanton. (There is now a film festival there in his honor.) Walter Tevis based his novel The Hustler on a pool hall there. Punk icon Richard Hell was born and raised there, as was Cincinnati artist/composer Jay Bolotin.

There must be something in the bluegrass. It’s captured in Mendes’ photographs.

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<![CDATA[New Art World Documentary has Strong Cincinnati Connection]]> Next Friday, the documentary Art and Craft is opening at the Mariemont Theater. It's the story of an art forger, Mark Landis, who gave his work away to museums and colleges.

He was exposed by Matthew Leininger, before the latter became a Cincinnati Art Museum registrar. While in Cincinnati, in 2012 Leininger and Aaron Cowan, curator of UC-DAAP galleries, organized an exhibit about Landis, which was covered in CityBeat at the time.

Landis even came to the opening. The film, which is being nationally distributed and has done good business elsewhere, uses footage and information from that show. So for the Cincinnati opening, Leininger and Cowan both will participate in an audience discussion after the 7:30 p.m. showings next Friday and Saturday (Oct. 24 and 25). This poster, with a certain Saul Bass-like suspense-movie vibe, has just been released.

Watch for a full article in next week's CityBeat by Movie Critic tt stern-ezi.
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<![CDATA[Two FotoFocus Shows Not to Miss]]> Hard to believe, but we’re halfway through October, the main month of the FotoFocus Biennial. (Some FotoFocus-related shows run longer.)

So this weekend is really a great time to get out and see some of the shows — fotofocusbiennial.org has a full list. Find CityBeat's full FotoFocus preview here.

Two that I highly recommend, and that I’m afraid might be overlooked because of bigger museum shows, are Emily Hanako Momohara’s Heirloom — at Downtown’s Weston Art Gallery — and David Benjamin Sherry’s Western Romance at a temporary space at 1500 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine. Momohara’s show is up through Nov. 30 but Sherry’s ends Nov. 1.

Both use color wonderfully to make you focus on objects and/or landscapes close-up — so close-up they have a transporting, transcendent effect if you can spend enough time with them.

Sherry, an L.A. artist recently featured on The New York Times Magazine’s cover, uses color in a psychedelic way, achieving the effect he wants during processing. It gives his Western mountain and desert landscapes a glaze — a “purple haze,” in the case of “Putting Grapes Back on the Vine” — that turns physical geography into a state of mind. There are also in the show black-and-white prints by masters of Western photography — Ansel Adams, Carleton Watkins — to acknowledge Sherry’s debt and also proclaim a change.

Momohara, who taught photography at the Art Academy of Cincinnati but now is relocating to China, is using Heirloom to explore ideas about her Okinawan and Japanese ancestry. These distinctive still photographs and photograph-like videos isolate and deeply contemplate objects related to or inspired by that.

The vertically formatted pieces — like the fantastic “Gathering” video, which looks at luminescent, open-mouthed koi as they crowd around the water’s surface — seem to be moving forward a grand narrative, like scrollwork. And the more horizontal pieces, like “Mask #1,” revel in mystery through the way illuminated objects occupy space in an otherwise dark ground.

To me, these two shows are among FotoFocus’ very best — and I especially hope Momohara returns at some point with something much more extensive.

 

 

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