Culture Vulture

art NYCs

One–among many wonderful features–of living in NYC is the plethora of fascinating events. And when the Pope isn’t visiting and the UN isn’t in town you can even get to them.

Thanks to a friend who works at the Met, (Museum, not Opera), I went to one of the Friday evening events, a dance performance in the Mughal galleries by Astad Deboo who is well past the bloom of youth. Dressed in an elegant, floor-length black robe with lavish gold trim, Deboo displayed amazing muscle control in a series of poses and spun until most of us would have staggered to the floor/thrown up or both. The same pal also took me through the truly elegant John Singer Sargent exhibit with portraits of other celebrated artists of the period, (think Robert Louis Stevenson, Ellen Terry, Henry James and the like),

RLS by Sargent , 1887, Taft Museum of Cincinatti

RLS by Sargent , 1887, Taft Museum of Cincinatti

the works drawn from other collections as well as a group of the Met’s own watercolors. The entire show was dazzling including a simple charcoal drawing of W. B. Yeats that blew me away.

MOMA currently features Picasso’s sculpture, a show that the New York Times critic, Roberta Smith, rightly dubbed “staggering.” Check out her full review here. Crammed with loaned works, the exhibit takes up eleven galleries and includes series like the six “Glass of Absinthe” pieces from 1914, rarely all on view side by side (well, round by round as are many pieces in the show.) As you leave the last gallery ready for a breather you confront The Bathers, loaded with humor, made of bits of wood and standing on a bed of pebbles to reference a beach.

Whole lotta’ looking goin’ on so, for a change of pace, went to Habeas Corpus, an “installation” at the Park Avenue Armory by performance artist Laurie Anderson. To further enlighten audiences about the horrors of Guantanamo, Anderson brings us a live feed of Mohammed El Gharani, now free in West Africa after having been “detained” at Gitmo for seven years. By telepresence,  Mohammed sits in an “armchair” so that he and it resembled the Lincoln Memorial and talks about his prison experiences. The rest of the room is pitch dark except for dots of light thrown by a sort of disco ball that make the space appear to move–more than a little disorienting.

Mohammed El Gharani "at" the Armory

Mohammed El Gharani “at” the Armory

Finally, at one side of the huge drill hall, Anderson and other musicians play “immersive guitar feedback work” some composed by her late partner, Lou Reed. It’s loud, weird and sometimes annoying, particularly musician Merrill Garbus who fiddled with electric cords and provided technological banging and shrieks. Saving the best for last, the stage was taken over by a keyboard player and Omar Souleyman, clad in a gallibaya (or thobe) with a red-and-white checked keffiyah (headress) and large, black shades. Souleyman sang and clapped and soon the entire group of (mostly white, youngish, educated and very New Yorky) visitors were on their feet dancing. It was intensely hypnotic–I could have danced for hours.

More in a pacific vein from the mid-East:


1/2 cup fine bulgur
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup boiling-hot water
2 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from 3 bunches)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 seedless cucumber, (i.e., usually long and thin, sold in plastic wrap to protect the unwaxed skin), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (yes, you can cheat and use a regular cuke–it will make the end result a little wetter but compromise {ahem} is the secret to life, no?)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Stir together bulgur and 1 tablespoon oil in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve, pressing on bulgur to remove any excess liquid.

Transfer bulgur to a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients, including 2 tablespoons oil, (or a little less) until combined well.

You will probably not serve this with a glass of absinthe (although it’s legal once again)) but you could serve tabbouleh as a side dish, in place of a salad, as part of a mid-Eastern spread, etc. When I have it around I eat it as part of lunch.

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