Cultural Ins and Outs

March 11, 2015

IN – Textile Museum

After nearly 90 years in Kalorama, the Textile Museum will open March 21 in a new Foggy Bottom facility as the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum. The largest exhibition in the museum’s history, “Unraveling Identity: Our Textiles, Our Stories,” will display more than 1,000 pieces through Aug. 24. On the grand opening weekend, there will be free activities at the new museum, 701 21st St. NW, as well as a textile symposium on Saturday at the School of Media and Public Affairs, 805 21st St. NW.

The design, by Hartman-Cox Architects, links a new 35,000-square-foot structure with the former university police headquarters, Woodhull House, which will become the home of a collection of Washingtoniana – rare maps, drawings, documents and correspondence – donated to the university by Albert H. Small in 2011. The director of the two museums, also an associate professor of Museum Studies, is John Wetenhall, a historian of modern art who got his Ph.D. at Stanford and was executive director of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla., among others.

The origins of the Textile Museum were similar to those of the nearby Phillips Collection. It opened in 1925 in the S Street mansion of George Hewitt Myers (a collector of what were then known as Oriental rugs) and grew to be one of the major collections of non-Western textiles in the United States. The struggling museum was taken over by George Washington University a few years after a plan to open an annex in Penn Quarter was canceled in 2008. The university is also building a conservation and resource center on its Loudoun County, Va., campus.

OUT – Franklin School

On Feb. 9, Mayor Muriel Bowser abruptly announced the de-selection of the Institute for Contemporary Expression as the developer, with Anthony Lanier’s East Banc, of the landmark Franklin School at 13th and K Streets NW. A new Request for Qualifications, due March 23, has been issued, with a Request for Proposals to follow in the fall.

ICE’s plan to create a space for the presentation of cutting-edge art, especially large installation and multimedia works – along with education programs, a bookstore and a restaurant by José Andrés – was chosen by then Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration in February 2014. The building, designed in 1865 by Adolph Cluss, the architect of the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, became vacant when it ceased to be a homeless shelter in 2008. Several plans since then for its reuse went nowhere.

Collector Dani Levinas, executive director of ICE, has said that he was not consulted and his plan is solid. (Cost estimates vary from Levinas’s $13.2 million to more than $20 million.) It is not known if ICE will respond to the RFQ. In the meantime, there have been calls for revisiting the decision, with a letter circulating asking the mayor to “Please take this moment of public appeal to bring this matter back before the City Council.”

Back to the Latin Playground?

January 29, 2015

Born March 2, 1917, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III became the symbol of America’s love affair with Cuba, the country from which his wealthy and prominent family fled in 1934.

Ironically, the original TV run of “I Love Lucy,” in which Desi Arnaz played bandleader Ricky Ricardo, nearly coincided with the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who led the revolt that sent Arnaz’s family – and many others – into exile in Miami.
During the Desilu decade of the 1950s, Cuba was the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics,” 90 miles from Key West. Havana was the Latin Las Vegas.

An earlier wave of Cuba tourism lasted from the 1920s through the early 1930s, the Prohibition years, when famous and infamous Americans went to Cuba to drink, gamble, golf, fish and perhaps sin. After a few visits, Ernest Hemingway bought his winter retreat, Finca Vigía, in 1940. It is now a museum, a mandatory stop along with his favorite Havana bars, La Floridita (for daiquiris) and La Bodeguita del Medio (for mojitos).

But since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro – now aged 88 and ailing, having stepped down from Communist Party leadership in 2011 – Cuba became known as a police state rather than a vacation paradise. Along with others, the politically powerful Cuban exile community in the United States made sure that economic sanctions, including a travel embargo, remained in effect.

Then, on Dec. 17, President Obama announced a move to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, following negotiations (with the assistance of Pope Francis) that led to the release of American Alan Gross, imprisoned since Dec. 2009, in exchange for three Cuban agents.

Unimpeded travel to Cuba from the U. S. will require Congressional approval. However, several regulatory changes will make things easier. For instance, U.S.-based credit and debit cards will now be accepted in Cuba, and U.S. travelers will be able to bring home up to $400 worth of Cuban goods.

The U.S. government will also issue what are called general licenses, for citizens who wish to travel for humanitarian reasons, to perform or compete and for other specific purposes. Currently, only special licenses, requiring an arduous application process, are available. Americans who travel to Cuba without a license or through a travel provider that is not licensed by the Department of the Treasury are breaking the law and risk substantial fines.

The regulatory amendments putting these changes into effect are supposed to be issued “in the coming weeks.” More information may be found online at, where there is a link to sign up for Cuba Sanctions email updates.

In the meantime, the easiest, if expensive, legal option to visit Cuba is through a “people-to-people” group tour organized by an authorized travel provider, either open to the public or under the auspices of a university, a museum or another nonprofit.

The Cuban government has been investing in tourism since the 1990s, restoring sections of Old Havana and building resort hotels with foreign, but not American, partners. Capacity is limited, and most facilities have not been modernized.

By far the largest source of international visitors to Cuba – nearly a million per year – is Canada, whose citizens tend to go to Varadero, about 14 miles east of Havana, for inexpensive beach and nature vacations. While around 650,000 U.S. citizens visit annually, the vast majority are Cuban Americans with visas to visit family members.

Over the next few years, there will be a strong curiosity factor. Americans will seek to feel the aura of Capone, Hemingway and Sinatra, gawk at the vintage cars, visit unfamiliar beaches and see for themselves what the country and the people are like.

After a few years of opening to America, and, presumably, a surge when the ban is finally lifted, the place that Cuba will come to occupy in the panoply of Caribbean destinations is unknown.

But wouldn’t it be nice to toast Desi’s 100th birthday with rum and cigars in Santiago de Cuba, where both his father and grandfather were mayor?

‘TIP’ and Lots of Play at Carnegie Museum

January 16, 2015

In 1974, the stark exterior of the Sarah Mellon Scaife Galleries became the new gateway to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art. Forty years later, it is still bracing to come upon this brutalist addition, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, to the Carnegie Institute’s neoclassical buildings.

It was an inspired notion, then, last fall, to install “TIP,” a chaotic exhibit of wooden poles wrapped in steel mesh and colorful strips of fabric. “TIP” is the work of British sculptor Phyllida Barlow. It runs 131 feet from the Forbes Avenue sidewalk to the museum entrance, welcoming visitors to the 2013 Carnegie International, the world’s second oldest international survey of contemporary art (the oldest, the Venice Biennale, began a year earlier, in 1895).

The 2013 Carnegie International, curated by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers and Tina Kukielski, kicked off last October and continues through Mar. 16. Since the next Carnegie International is at least three years away, it would do well to get yourself to Pittsburgh as soon as you can.

As the Barlow piece suggests, this Carnegie International is serious about play.

One of the largest sections of the show, filling the museum’s Heinz Architectural Center, is called “The Playground Project.” An immersive environment by Tezuka Architects, it combines projects by students in the museum’s summer camps with documentation of innovative 20th-century playgrounds from the United States, Europe and Japan. There is also a playground-themed “sci-fi road movie” by Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl and – what else? – an actual playground.

Though there is plenty to see, with 35 artists from 19 countries represented, the show is more manageable than most survey exhibitions. However, with the decision to disperse the pieces throughout the museum – even in the attached Carnegie Museum of Natural History, past the dinosaur bones – visitors have to do some navigating. Wear comfortable shoes.

In some cases, the pieces are site-specific. But more generally this approach enables the curators to provide art-historical context and show off the permanent collection, including works from earlier Carnegie Internationals. It also adds a DIY sense of involvement and discovery.

Two of the most captivating installations are in the Hall of Sculpture, viewable both from “ground level” and a perimeter balcony. “The Bidoun Library,” by Negar Azimi, Nelson Harst, Babak Radboy and Ghazaal Vojdani, is an extensive, mobile display of books, magazines, comics and posters, most in Arabic, dealing with “that vast, vexed, nefarious construct known as ‘the Middle East.’”

On the other side of the court is “Disarm” by Pedro Reyes: seven bizarre, self-playing musical instruments making an oval around a sort of drum set, all of which he assembled using 6,700 weapons repurposed from the Mexican drug wars. As visitors wander among them, they go off (so to speak), sounding like electric bagpipes, a xylophone, a rock bass and temple blocks.
The Carnegie Museum of Art is open daily except Tuesdays, with extended evening hours on Thursdays.

‘Picturing Mary’: Ambitious Show at Museum of Women in the Arts

December 17, 2014

Virgin Most Prudent, Mirror of Justice, Ark of the Covenant, Queen of the Confessors. These are a few of the 50 titles of Mary in the Litany of Loreto, stenciled on a wall in the exhibition “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea.”

One of the most ambitious projects in the 27-year history of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Picturing Mary” arranges in six thematic sections more than 60 paintings, sculptures and works in other media. Curated by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, director of Florence’s Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the show is on view through April 12.

It is largely an Old Masters show, with household names such as Botticelli (the captivating “Madonna of the Book”), Dürer (six etchings), Michelangelo (two drawings, one arriving in late January) and Rembrandt (an etching).

Perhaps the most compelling work by a famous artist is Caravaggio’s “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” of 1594-96, from the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. A big, beautiful puzzle of a painting, it depicts, on its right half, Mary cradling baby Jesus in an arcadian setting and, on its left half, St. Joseph and a brown ox in a barren clearing. Dividing the canvas nearly from top to bottom is a mostly naked angel, back and wings to the viewer, playing a Marian motet on the violin from music that Joseph holds up, every note clearly shown.

This being the National Museum of Women in the Arts, there are works by four women artists: Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532-1625), Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), Orsola Maddalena Caccia (1596-1676) and Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665).

The museum has exhibited Anguissola’s “Self-Portrait at the Easel” of 1556, from Lancut Castle in Poland, once before, but it is an ideal choice for this show, with the artist gazing out as she finishes a painting of Mary nose-to-nose with a young, standing Jesus, Mary’s fingers tenderly touching his cheek and the back of his blond-haired head.

Six paintings by Caccia, an Ursuline nun from Moncalvo (about 30 miles east of Turin) whose father Guglielmo was a painter, are displayed, three of them nine feet in height. The first the visitor encounters, “St. Luke the Evangelist in the Studio” of c. 1625, is probably the finest and most interesting. Modeled on her father, the Evangelist – said to have been an icon painter – is shown working on a sculpture of the Madonna and Child, a painting of them on an easel nearby. The complex composition also includes putti, books, a high window, an ox (Luke’s symbol), a little dog and roses (the symbol of the Virgin) on the floor.

In the gallery titled Mother of the Crucified is a passage from the Gospel of Luke in which Simeon tells Mary that “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The stenciled excerpt is between a polychromed terracotta, “Madonna and Child” of c. 1430 by Luca della Robbia, and a stained-glass window, “Deposition and Entombment” of 1526 by Guillaume de Marcillat. In the two works, a resigned woman stares out or away, not at her son.

‘Russian Kaleidoscope’ Gala

October 23, 2014

How often does one get to hear an electric guitarist improvise on famous themes from Russian music?

“We have upped the ante for the upcoming season,” says Vera Danchenko-Stern, artistic director of the Russian Chamber Art Society, which she founded nine years ago to bring a rarely heard repertoire to Washington.

That repertoire includes not only solo jazz guitar—played in this instance by Serge Khrichenko, a classically trained musician based in Silver Spring—but also arias and art songs by Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff.

The opening gala concert of the Russian Chamber Art Society’s 2014-2015 season will take place Friday, Oct. 10, at the Embassy of Austria. Titled “Russian Kaleidoscope,” the program features Khrichenko’s jazz, contemporary works for clarinet and piano performed by Julian Milkis and Danchenko-Stern, and vocal selections sung in Russian by two emerging talents: soprano Yana Eminova and mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wor.

Is the Society’s audience made up primarily of Russian speakers? “Absolutely not,” says Danchenko-Stern. Many patrons are opera aficionados who welcome the opportunity to hear and learn more about Russian vocal music, a tradition as worthy of international admiration as that of Russian literature.

Danchenko-Stern, a graduate of Moscow’s Gnessin Institute of Music was a faculty artist there and at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto where she and her family moved in 1978, says she “immigrated for the second time” this time to the United States in 1990 when she married her second husband Lev Stern. She has coached singers for Washington National Opera productions and taught “Singing in Russian” for more than 20 years at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, one of the few music schools in the country to regularly offer such training.

Two of Danchenko-Stern’s colleagues on the Peabody faculty, violinist (and brother) Victor Danchenko, and pianist Alexander Shtarkman, will perform at the Russian Chamber Art Society’s holiday concert, “Tchaikovsky is Forever,” on Friday, Dec. 5. They will perform alongside her former student, soprano Natalia Conte, mezzo-soprano Elena Bocharova and tenor Viktor Antipenko.

At the Oct. 10 gala, which also includes a buffet dinner, open bar and dessert, the concert begins with the duet between Tatyana and Olga from “Eugene Onegin.” Tchaikovsky specified that the singers should be young and beautiful—Tatyana is supposed to be just 14 years old—and, while not in their teens, Eminova and Wor qualify by age and appearance as well as by vocal ability.

Wor, born in Poland, is an alumna of Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco.
Some of the pieces for clarinet and piano on the Oct. 10 program were heard in D.C. a few years ago when Danchenko-Stern gave a concert of works by Russian Jewish composers in honor of Rabbi Howard S. White, longtime Jewish Chaplain at Georgetown University. Others are Washington premieres.

Referring to the champagne reception for VIP ticket holders, the dinner and other festivities, Danchenko-Stern calls the gala concert “a chance for a whole event.”

More information about RCAS and online ticketing are available at

Paul Strand in Philadelphia

Two of the 20th century’s greatest photographers were born in 1890 and died in 1976: Man Ray and Paul Strand. Man Ray was a man of the avant-garde. His stone in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris reads (in English): “unconcerned but not indifferent.”
Paul Strand could never be called unconcerned. He learned photography in his teens from social reformer Lewis Hine, made leftist films during the Depression and—distressed by the country’s feverish anti-Communism—moved permanently to France in 1950.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new retrospective, curated by Peter Barberie, seeks to place Strand as much in the modernist camp as that mad scientist Man Ray. “Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography,” on view through Jan. 4, deepens our understanding of modernism as it traces Strand’s six-decade career.

Two of Strand’s most famous images—“Wall Street, New York” of 1915, in which shadows stretch from tiny figures passing under the House of Morgan’s pharaonic facade; and “Blind Woman, New York” of 1916, a portrait of a peddler, her right eye half-shut, her left open and aimed farther left, the word BLIND on a sign on her chest—achieve a perfect balance of compositional power and social message.

The image of the blind woman is one of eight striking portraits hung near some of Strand’s photographic experiments with cubism, also from 1916. “Abstraction, Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut,” a composition of four ceramic bowls shot close up in soft focus, is as abstract as Strand’s work ever got.

Photographer Alfred Stieglitz showed Strand’s work at 291, his Fifth Avenue gallery, and published it in his journal, “Camera Work.” Several paintings by other members of the Stieglitz circle—Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe—are included in the show. (O’Keeffe, who married Stieglitz in 1924, was also a romantic interest of Strand’s. Stieglitz was more than 20 years her senior and Strand was three years her junior.)

In 1922, Strand married Rebecca Salsbury and purchased a hand-cranked Akeley motion picture camera. Perhaps representing the two sides of the photographer’s aesthetic, five tight close-ups of each—woman and camera—are displayed on one wall.
In the early 1930s, having separated from both his wife and his mentor Stieglitz, Strand moved to Mexico for two years, drawn by the socialist government and related artistic activity. He photographed people in town squares, among other subjects then dropped still photography to make films.

One of the exhibition’s two screening rooms presents a nine-minute segment from “Redes,” his 1936 film about a fictional Mexican fishing village, alternating with a segment from “Native Land,” his documentary about union busting, released in 1942.
Several galleries are devoted to Strand’s travels, which resulted in a number of collaborative “portraits of place.” Three that became books receive special attention: “Time in New England”; “Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village,” about Luzzara, the hometown of Cesare Zavattini, screenwriter of the Vittorio De Sica film “The Bicycle Thief”; and “Ghana: An African Portrait.”
The three books, none still in print, have been digitized for browsing on computer kiosks.

The last decades of Strand’s life were spent in France. He and his third wife, photographer Hazel Kingsbury, bought a house in Orgeval outside of Paris. The closing section of the exhibition shows photographs of the Strands in their garden and several of the still lifes of plants he grew there.

“Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography” is one of several good reasons for a trip to Philadelphia, also the home of the Barnes Foundation, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Upcoming auctions at Freeman’s, the oldest American auction house, include Modern & Contemporary Works of Art (Nov. 2), Jewelry & Watches (Nov. 3), American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts (Nov. 13) and American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists (Dec. 7).

Among the leading Philadelphia art galleries are Schwarz Gallery, next to Freeman’s on Chestnut Street, specializing in 19th- and early 20th-century paintings; Newman Galleries on Walnut Street, showing paintings by Eakins student Fred Wagner (Nov. 1-Dec. 31, reception Nov. 14); and contemporary gallery Locks Gallery on Washington Square, presenting “Thomas Chimes: The Body in Spirals” (Nov. 7-Dec. 13).
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Brandywine: Wyeth’s Other World

July 2, 2014

Andrew Wyeth’s “Wind from the Sea” – the centerpiece of the “Looking Out, Looking In” exhibition at the National Gallery of Art (reviewed in the May 7 issue of The Georgetowner) – was painted a year before and on the same Maine farm as his iconic “Christina’s World” of 1948.

Cushing, Maine, where Christina Olson lived, was the painter’s summer home. Andrew Wyeth’s roots were in Chadds Ford, Pa., where the Brandywine River Museum of Art offers scheduled tours of his studio and the Kuerner Farm, both portrayed in several works in “Looking Out, Looking In.”

“His art is all about sense of place – things that mean something to him, people that mean something to him,” says Virginia O’Hara, the Brandywine museum’s curator of collections.

Upon their marriage in 1940, Andrew and Betsy Wyeth made a 19th-century schoolhouse their home and Andrew’s studio. Restored to look as it did when they lived there, the modest building – white, inside and out – is filled with old furniture, artists’ materials (brushes, a carton of eggs for making tempera paints, large blocks of watercolor paper), books on art, ship models and armies of toy soldiers. The kitchen has “modern” appliances from the 1950s.

Part of the studio is set up as the studio of their son James, known as Jamie, as if he were working on his 1967 portrait of John F. Kennedy. A short distance away is the expansive, prop-filled studio of Andrew Wyeth’s father and teacher, famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth, who built it in 1911 with earnings from his work on Scribner’s edition of “Treasure Island.” (The museum also has scheduled tours of N.C. Wyeth’s studio.)

Even more evocative is the bleakly beautiful farm of German immigrant Karl Kuerner, designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011 along with the Olson House in Cushing. A square, stone trough in front of two windows in the ancient barn is clearly the motif of the painting “Spring Fed” in “Looking Out, Looking In.” Another work in the National Gallery show depicts the farmhouse attic, with iron hooks from which onions and potatoes were hung.

No portraits of Wyeth’s Chadds Ford muse, Helga Testorf, who was Karl Kuerner’s nurse, are part of “Looking Out, Looking In,” but the painter had a way of instilling a human presence in his still lifes (not just art-history talk: in some cases a figure in an initial version of a work was later removed).

Much of the credit for preserving the scenic and historic landscape that Wyeth painted goes to the Brandywine Conservancy, founded in 1967 to protect the watershed. Having created the museum in 1971, the organization – based in a former gristmill off U.S. 1 – recently renamed itself the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art.

A selection of Andrew Wyeth’s watercolors of Chadds Ford from the 1940s through the 2000s (he died in 2009) is on view at the museum through the end of September. “Exalted Nature: The Real and Fantastic World of Charles Burchfield,” an exhibition of more than 50 paintings by a very different American artist, opens Aug. 23.

The only name that looms larger than Wyeth in the Brandywine Valley is du Pont. DuPont, the chemical company, began in 1802 as Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours’s gunpowder mill on the Brandywine. His little family of Huguenot immigrants from Burgundy expanded in size and wealth in the 19th and 20th centuries to produce some of America’s greatest industrialists and philanthropists.

In 1906, Pierre S. du Pont bought the historic arboretum in Kennett Square, Pa., known as Peirce’s Park, making it his private estate and expanding it to more than 1,000 acres of gardens, fountains and greenhouses. We know it today as Longwood Gardens, welcoming roughly a million visitors annually. The latest addition to Longwood is an 86-acre Meadow Garden. Among the upcoming events are Summer Soirées on July 18 and Aug. 22 (free with admission) and Patti LuPone on July 10 ($45-75) and Savion Glover on Aug. 14 ($36-56).

Winterthur, the Wilmington mansion of one of Pierre’s cousins, Henry Francis du Pont, is furnished with his exceptional collection of American antiques and surrounded by gardens. It is a suitable setting for an audience-broadening Winterthur exhibition, “Costumes of Downton Abbey,” displaying 40 historically inspired costumes from the PBS series (through Jan. 4).

Other Wilmington cultural attractions include the Hagley Museum and Nemours Mansion, both connected to du Ponts, and the Delaware Art Museum, which features works by the Pre-Raphaelites, John Sloan and illustrators such as Howard Pyle.

Good dining choices may be found on State Street in downtown Kennett Square, where there is a monthly First Friday Art Stroll. For a country inn ambiance, try Buckley’s Tavern in Centerville, Pa., on Kennett Pike between Kennett Square and Wilmington.

To make an overnight or a weekend of it, there are 11 B&Bs listed on the Brandywine Valley Bed and Breakfast Association website. The landmark 1913 Hotel du Pont in Wilmington displays works by N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth in its elegant public rooms. [gallery ids="116309,116312" nav="thumbs"]

D.C.’s ‘Experimental Orchestral Laboratory’ is Ten Years Old

June 30, 2014

“We’re radical subversives,” asserts Joe Horowitz, former New York Times music critic and author of eight books, including a 2005 history of classical music in America that the Economist named one of the best books of the year.

Horowitz is executive director of Post-Classical Ensemble, a D.C.-based “experimental orchestral laboratory” that has completed ten seasons of thematic, cross-disciplinary programming and educational collaboration, with another on the way.

On June 12, the Austrian Cultural Forum hosted an event announcing the ensemble’s 2014-15 season, which will include two of its signature immersion experiences: “Iberian Mystics: The Confluence of Faiths,” part of the Kennedy Center’s Iberian Festival in March, and “A Mahler Portrait.”

The event was also a launch party for Post-Classical’s new Naxos CD, “Dvorák and America,” featuring the “Hiawatha Melodrama,” a work for narrator and orchestra created by Horowitz and Dvorák scholar Michael Beckerman using excerpts from the “New World Symphony” and Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.”

The culminating event of next season’s Mahler programming will take place on April 28 at the Austrian Cultural Forum, when baritone Christoferen Nomura will sing “Songs of a Wayfarer” and the “Abschied” from “The Song of the Earth” with the ensemble. In between, the audience will watch a playlet about the marriage of Gustav and Alma.

Among the related events is a Nov. 23 performance at Georgetown University of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 4” and “Kindertotenlieder” by the Georgetown University Orchestra conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez.

Madrid-born Gil-Ordóñez is music director of both Post-Classical Ensemble – which he cofounded with Horowitz in 2003 – and the Georgetown University Orchestra. Former associate conductor of Spain’s National Symphony Orchestra, he studied with Pierre Boulez and Iannis Xenakis in France and worked closely with legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache in Germany.

Gil-Ordóñez, who met Post-Classical’s cofounder through a mutual friend in 1997, says that Horowitz “opened my eyes about the future of orchestras.” Horowitz immediate adds: “If there is to be a future.”

The two have created a unique model in which, first, a small orchestra of excellent musicians plays works that are in one way or another outside the standard classical repertoire; and, second, these works are put in context through film and other visual media, drama, dance and commentary. Post-Classical’s tenth season, for example, concluded with a bilingual multimedia presentation, songs of the Mexican Revolution and a screening of the 1936 film “Redes” accompanied by a live performance of the score, composed by Silvestre Revueltas.

Next season is also Post-Classical’s second as ensemble in residence for Dumbarton Concerts at Georgetown’s Dumbarton Church. The ensemble performs in the center of the church, and Gil-Ordóñez praises the acoustics, especially in the lower range: “This octave between cello and bass is extraordinary.”

*Post-Classical will present a program called “Bach and the Divine” at Dumbarton Church on Nov. 15, when bass-baritone Kevin Deas will sing the solo cantata “Ich habe genug” with the ensemble. Another work, “Nun ist das Heill,” will be performed with audience members singing along. Georgetowner readers who like to sing are encouraged to sign up for the optional rehearsals by emailing*

With Warhol & Carnegie

February 15, 2014

Paul Warhola, Andy Warhol’s older brother, died last month at age 91.

On Pennsylvania Avenue in Pittsburgh, painted on the side of a garage-like building of buff-colored brick, are the words: “PAUL WARHOLA – WE BUY SCRAP METAL.”

That a hometown junk dealer and a world-famous artist were brothers says a lot about the city of their birth, which a recent book calls “the Paris of Appalachia.” Soaking up immigrant labor and smoking up a picturesque landscape of rivers and hills, Pittsburgh’s industries made fortunes for Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Phipps and Heinz, who became the city’s cultural benefactors.
Carnegie – Pittsburgh’s other Andy – launched an international art exhibition in 1896 (see article on page 28) and founded the Carnegie Technical Schools a few years later. The schools evolved into the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University), where a coal miner’s son, Andy Warhol, studied commercial art.

In 1949, this shy, church-going gay man with prematurely white hair moved to Manhattan. (His widowed mother joined him and stayed for two eye-opening decades.) Shoe ads and record album covers somehow led to paintings of Campbell’s soup cans, vivid silkscreened portraits of Marilyn and Jackie and an approach to art far ahead of its time.

The Warhol Museum – seven floors of paintings, ephemera, movies and taxidermy, entered through a hallway of cowhead wallpaper – opened 20 years ago on the north side of the Allegheny River. The largest single-artist museum in the country, it symbolizes the city’s pride in its contemporary art scene.

“Over the past 20 years, Pittsburgh has purposefully replaced its industrial smog with creativity in the form of world-class museums and festivals, coupled with neighborhoods infused with the arts,” explains Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

The downtown cultural district’s 14 square blocks are home to seven theaters, including the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Heinz Hall, and a dozen galleries, notably Wood Street Galleries and SPACE. The Agnes R. Katz Plaza, located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, is nicknamed “Eyeball Park” for the three pairs of eye-shaped granite benches by sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who also designed a mini-mountain of a fountain.

In a once abandoned Sterns & Foster warehouse on the city’s Northside (not far from the Warhol Museum and the National Aviary) is the Mattress Factory, dedicated to installation art. Three light installations by James Turrell, who has been carving out an Arizona crater for more than 30 years, are encountered in disorientingly dark galleries. On another floor of the main building are two pop-inspired walk-ins by Yayoi Kusama, titled, “Infinity Dots Mirrored Room” and “Repetitive Vision.”

Across town at the Frick Art & Historical Center is “An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Painting,” with works by Gilbert Stuart, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam and others. It’s on view from March 1 through May 25.

Two hotels provide glimpses into Pittsburgh’s Gilded Age: The Inn on the Mexican War Streets, built in 1888 for department store baron Russell H. Boggs; and the Mansions on Fifth, built in 1906 for Frick’s lawyer, Willis McCook. The Mansions on Fifth is a Historic Hotel of America, as is the landmark Omni William Penn downtown, built in 1916.

Near the Warhol Museum is the Priory Hotel, originally a Benedictine monastery. The city’s newest luxury hotel is the Fairmont Pittsburgh, which opened in 2010 in the Three PNC Plaza office building.

Several resorts and inns are located near Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, the two former residences designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands, about 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh.

Fallingwater is open for tours on March 1 to 2 and March 8 to 9, then daily, except Wednesdays starting March 15. [gallery ids="101631,146093" nav="thumbs"]