You never quite know what to prepare for entering one of Israeli art star Guy Ben-Ner's shows as he's equally prone to shock value videos of cats eating mice or orgies of venomous, creepy, crawling creatures, as he is to film himself and his son re-enacting the entire narrative of Moby Dick in his kitchen. We're hoping for a mix of the two in his new show Second Nature at Postmasters (April 3-May 8).
Gregory de La Haba has been the artist in residence at Williamsburg gallery Jack the Pelican for a while, so if you've visited there in the past year you probably saw his epically garish taxidermy horse sex scene in their project room. For his show Dawn of a New Era at NY Studio Gallery (April 15-May 8) we're looking forward to more of these explicit and extreme scenes lit by dramatic spots and neons, and draped in lavish fabrics.
We're sort of expecting more surreal, spirally, abstract chandelier and mobile-like hanging contraptions when Korean sculptor and installation artist Lee Bul unveils her latest work in Lehmann Maupin's sufficiently tall Chrystie Street space (April 21-June 19), but her ominous abstract works are so unpredictable that we wouldn't be surprised to find ourselves in another of her giant leather-bound bunkers instead.
There's an appealing, clean, retro aesthetic to Ryan Mrozowski's bright, nostalgic acrylic paintings of rural and suburban Americana, but things are often literally upside down in his magical realist works. In his show of recent works at Pierogi (April 23-May 23), look for astronauts—waiting obediently in a barn or being baptized in a river—and maybe another birth scene of babies being delivered from the sliced bellies of giant beached sharks. Obviously.
Though we're still very much on the fence about Shepard Fairey and his posterizing of famous photographs, we won't miss his next show, May Day at Deitch Projects (May 1-29) since it will be the gallery's last. Said Soho art star-vetting institution is closing, you may recall, because founder Jeffrey Deitch is moving to LA to take over its Museum of Contemporary Art.
Gerald Finley, who made a name for himself in this town two years ago singing "Batter My Heart" as Oppenheimer in the Met's production of Doctor Atomic, comes to Carnegie Hall for a recital of songs and other vocal works by Schumann, Ravel, Barber, and Ives—and, thankfully, no Adams! (March 20)
Less than a week later, Michael Tilson-Thomas, one of Leonard Bernstein's torch-bearers, brings his Carnegie HallSan Francisco Symphony to the same venue for two nights: one will feature a new piece by Victor Kissine, accompanied by Tchaikovsky, Ravel and Liszt works; the other will be devoted to Mahler, one of Bernstein's pet causes, and his second symphony. Way to stand in your master's shadow, Tilson-Thomas. (March 25-26)
April promises to be an exciting month for classical music, thanks to the New York Philharmonic. Pop-culture favorite Joshua Bell, one of the classical world's pretty people, arrives at Avery Fisher for a weekend early in the month to lead the orchestra in a violin concerto by Max Bruch, a program otherwise bookended by repertoire stalwarts: Mozart's Thirty-First, Brahms' Fourth. (April 8-10)
The following week, the Contact! series highlights world premieres of three new orchestra commissions by Sean Shepherd, Matthias Pintscher and up-and-comer Nico Muhly. Baritone Thomas Hampson, also the orchestra's current artist-in-residence, will appear, and music director Alan Gilbert himself will conduct the performances at Symphony Space, followed by an encore at the Met[ropolitan Museum of Art]. (April 16, 17)
The remainder of the month, and even some of May, finds conductor Valery Gergiev in town—after leading Shostakovich's The Nose at the Met in March—commanding the orchestra in a six-part Stravinsky festival that will tackle classics like The Firebird as well as many less frequently heard pieces. The Rite of Spring won't be heard, presumably to prevent rioting. (Honestly, Lorin Maazel lead the Phil in a performance so revelatory in 2007 that we kinda never want to hear the piece again.) (April 21-May 8)
Otherwise in April, Signal, an ensemble of young NY musicians, will play several Philip Glass pieces, including the NY debut of Glassworks, at (Le) Poisson Rouge. Which means, essentially, they're playing one Philip Glass piece, since they all sound the same. (April 11)
The following week, that venue partners with Carnegie Hall to celebrate composer Louis Andriessen, Carnegie's composer-in-residence this year, with a program of chamber works performed by pianist Eric Huebner and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. (April 18)
The Brooklyn Philharmonic, like many non-profit arts organizations, was hit hard by the economic crisis and canceled much of its season. But members of its string section will perform string quartets by Russia's Big Five composers—Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin—at two public libraries in Brooklyn on a Sunday afternoon in May. Libraries? Classical? Dress your nerdiest. (May 2)
Two weeks later, the orchestra's composer-fellow, Ryan Brown, offers a program called 2010, featuring art and music created in the last decade, including the world premiere of Brown's Extended Family, for electric guitar and amplified string quartet. At the end of its season, The Metropolitan Opera sneaks in three performances of Alban Berg's four-hour Lulu, considered a "modernist masterpiece," which might not be a good thing. (May 8, 12, 15)
In June, work by the Philharmonic's composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg features in two of the orchestra's programs: his Arena can be heard with works by Sibelius and Brahms (June 10-15), while a new work will premiere on a season-ending program with Beethoven's Missa solemnis mass. (June 23-26)
In late May, the Grand Street Community Band takes the auditorium at Grand Street Campus High School for its seasonal concert, which will include, incidentally, two of our favorite pieces: Jupiter, from Holst's The Planets (basically the ur text for every film score ever) and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. (Oh please let it include "Mambo"!) Oh, and some other stuff. (May 23)
Wait, wait, wait: how is it that the Neue Galerie's recently opened survey Otto Dix (through August 30) is the first ever solo museum show of the essential German artist's work in North America? With their unusual mixture of Renaissance perspective, Art Nouveau ornament, grotesque Expressionist gloom and sly humor, the over 100 paintings in this show, spanning the early 20s to the 60s, make abundantly clear how essential Dix is to your understanding of modern art.
The Museum of Arts and Design is really stinking up its new Columbus Circle space, which we mean in the best of ways, because we'll be front and center when their show of artworks made from growing, rotting, pulverized, living and organic materials Dead Or Alive (April 27-October 24) opens with a weeklong preview (starting April 22) during which visitors can see the gooey installation coming to life.
We cannot wait to climb all over Mike + Doug Starn's giant bamboo jungle gym Big Bambu (April 27-October 31), which will tower fifty feet above the Metropolitan Museum's rooftop garden, affording adventurous visitors incredible vistas across Central Park and vertiginous vertical views of the itty bitty ants below. Come early on and you can even help the twins and their crew put the tidal wave-shaped thing together.
Julie Mehretu's massive ink and acrylic canvases, in which abstract forms swirl, swoop, decompose and recombine into mutated bodies, might represent a city being reshaped by a building boom, or battalions mobilizing during a vast land war, or even the dematerialized bits of data whose circulation increasingly dictates how our lives are lived. We look forward to tracking her latest movements in Grey Area at the Guggenheim (May 14-October 6).
Sort of like Dali, we have this image of Warhol just scrawling his signature on whatever his studio assistants brought him during the last years of his life, but the Brooklyn Museum's Andy Warhol: The Last Decade (June 18-September 12) makes the case for the importance of works from that period, which were of a much larger scale than his earlier output, and included collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, and Keith Haring.
Peter Brook is one of our Top 3 Royal Shakespeare Company alums (the other two being Professor X and Magneto, obvs), and so even if the idea of seeing 29 Shakespeare sonnets performed on stage doesn't exactly strike us as something we absolutely have to see, we will absolutely go see Love Is My Sin at the Duke on 42nd Street (March 25-April 17), in which Brook directs his wife Natasha Parry and frequent collaborator Bruce Myers through stage adaptations of said sonnets.
Partly an adaptation of Samuel R. Delany's dystopic Cold War sci-fi novel Dhalgren, but also an updating and augmenting with live video and dance, Jay Scheib's Bellona, Destroyer of Cities at the Kitchen (April 1-10) takes us to a bombed out city in ruins where architectures, bodies and psyches are constantly shifting, crumbling and reappearing.
Alan Rickman (you know, Severus Snape) brings his London production of David Greig's adaptation of August Strindberg's 1888 domestic tragedy Creditors to BAM (April 13-May 16) after a sold-out run at Donmar Warehouse. Rickman directs his godson Tom Burke in the lead alongside Anna Chancellor and Owen Teale.
Though it hasn't been produced in New York since 1928, the Mint Theater's revival of Dr. Knock, Or The Triumph of Medicine (April 14-May 30) couldn't come at a more appropriate time. French playwright Jules Romains's pastoral comedy concerns Doc Knock's efforts to set up a lucrative private practice in a rural area with all his modern gadgets from the city.
When August Wilson's Fences was first produced on Broadway in 1987, it earned him a Pulitzer and star James Earl Jones a Best Actor Tony, so Denzel Washington will have some big shoes to fill stepping into the role of Troy Maxson for this revival at the Cort Theater (performances begin April 14).
We were pretty disappointed when Sarah Ruhl's outstanding Vibrator Play closed shortly after its Broadway premiere in the winter, but we'll get our fill of her feminist comedy in Passion Play's New York premiere at the Irondale Center (April 27-May 30). Director Mark Wing-Davey will re-work his Yale Rep production of this time-skipping period piece that skips from 16th-century England to Nazi Germany and Reagan America.
One of our favorite spring traditions, the International Toy Theater Festival at St. Ann's Warehouse (May 30-June 13), always makes us wish that we had never stopped playing with action figures. Now in its ninth edition, the festival's major addition to the lineup is the Dutch group Hotel Modern, who will stage a WWII drama in which thousands of puppets move around a scale model of Auschwitz.