As Cultural Program Curator at Lévy Gorvy Gallery, Brett Sroka produces music and dance performances in dialogue with the gallery's regular exhibitions in New York, London and at selected art fairs. Finding historical connections and aesthetic affinities across disciplines, these events consider the presentation of art not only in terms of space but also sound, what is the timbre of the sculptor's materials, what is the melody of a painter's gesture, what is the resonance of an idea.



Meeting of Edgard Varèse and Charlie Parker
Willem de Kooning - Zao Wou-Ki



“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music, but man, there’s no boundary line to art.” – Charlie Parker

The exhibition Willem De Kooning and Zao Wou-Ki was a conversation between these two giants of abstract expressionism, and although they never met, the unlikely and historic meeting of avant-garde French composer Edgard Varese and revolutionary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker is an intersection of the music that inspired their lives and work.

Zao Wou-Ki befriended Edgard Varèse, the iconoclastic composer of Poeme Electronique, amidst the artistic circles of Paris in 1952, painting the monumental “Homage a Edgard Varèse” in tribute in 1964. De Kooning came to America at the age of 22 with an idealized image of freedom and excess epitomized by the jazz he loved. The New York School painters were known to hang out at the Five Spot Cafe in the east village where the great jazz musicians of the day performed nightly. De Kooning later said, “Miles Davis bends the notes, he doesn’t play the notes, he bends them. I bend the paint.” Davis’ mentor, Charlie Parker, was the brilliant innovator of be-bop, whose music would influence every generation of jazz musicians to follow.

In 1954, shortly before the end of Parker’s life, he learned that Varèse was living in Greenwich Village and sought him out with the aspiration of studying with him and composing orchestral works. Their brief encounter would resonate with Varèse as well, who spoke of Parker’s wide eyed enthusiasm and brilliance, and in 1957 he composed a graphic score for improvisation and gathered an ensemble, including de Kooning's friend Charles Mingus, to perform and record it.

To tell this story as a musical performance, we asked trumpeter Peter Evans to assemble an ensemble that could traverse the contrasting music of both Varèse and Parker, Evans being perfectly suited as both an internationally acclaimed jazz improvisor and a virtuosic classical musician (having played in Lincoln Center’s 2010 Varèse festival). The ensemble for this performance included jazz musicians, members of the International Contemporary Ensemble and eighty-two year old percussionist Warren Smith who had first performed Varèse' Ionisation in 1951 and recorded with Miles Davis in 1957.



Sandbox Percussion - The Shape of Rhythm
Joel Shapiro



To hear sculptor Joel Shapiro speak about his work as, “the projection of thought into space without the constraint of architecture,” that “unfolds in time and space,” he could almost be describing music. Considering material, the actual matter itself, its density, and its resonance, such is the elemental material of modern percussion music as well, that composers such as Steve Reich and Andy Akiho contend with in their work. Shapiro’s minimalist wood reliefs and suspended sculptures evoke a rhythmic repetition that alters depending on your perspective, their colors a timbral mood, and their placement in space a musical buoyancy. To celebrate these works and the feeling of material in both its visual and sonic sense, Sandbox Percussion performed an incredible program of Reich, Akiho, John Cage and David Crowell.



Motherwell Amour - Lucia Dlugoszewki and the Erick Hawkins Dance Company
Robert Motherwell: Elegy to the Spanish Republic


Composer Lucia Dlugoszewski moved to New York City in 1950, just as Robert Motherwell was embarking on his monumental series, Elegy to the Spanish Republic. Dlugoszewski began studying with Edgard Varese, and urged by him to seek new sonic possibilities she invented hundreds of instruments to realize her delicate, abstract music. Though an outlier in the music scene, she was welcomed into the circle of the New York School painters, such as Willem de Kooning, Ad Reinhardt and Robert Motherwell, who often invited her to perform in their studios. A dancer as well, she began collaborating with choreographer Erick Hawkins (the former husband of Martha Graham) in 1957, later marrying and eventually taking over his company after his death. Motherwell Amour was composed and choreographed by Dlugoszewski in homage to her friend, it was premiered in 2000, one day after she died. In only it’s second ever performance, one of the original dancers, Katherine Duke, led the revived Erick Hawkins Dance Company, and the Manhattan Brass Quintet was joined by the original player of Dlugoszewski’s invented percussion instruments, William Trigg.



Jason Moran - SOLO
Drawing Then: Innovation and Influence in American Drawings of the Sixties


For Drawing Then, Jason Moran reprised his multimedia composition using the voice of artist Adrian Piper, as a point of departure for a rare solo concert by the acclaimed jazz pianist. Piper's works in the exhibition demonstrate her earliest development from a series of piercing illustrations into more conceptual approaches. Moran has professed that meeting Piper in 2003 changed his, "life and practice," foreshadowing the interdisciplinary thinking of the future MacArthur Fellow. Amidst works by Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin and Brice Marden, Moran's performance also drew on previous compositions inspired by Rauchenberg, Twombly and his long standing collaboration with Joan Jonas, in what would be a preview of his acclaimed Armory Concert.

 



Burnt Sugar / Black Beethoven
Terry Adkins - The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled


Greg Tate conducted the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber in a live score to Adkins’ video work Synapse — A Faustian portrait of Beethoven glacially transforming into a young black man and back, pondering the rumors of his Moorish ancestry, and celebrating his triumph over deafness.

Terry Adkins would stage interdisciplinary performances that he called recitals in the midst of his exhibitions in order to “activate” the materials. At Performa in 2013 Adkins dedicated his Sacred Order of the Twilight Brotherhood recital to his friend, the composer Butch Morris, who had just died of cancer, sadly about a year before Adkins would also succumb to the disease. Butch Morris was the type of iconoclastic, under-recognized figure that Adkins might’ve explored in his work. Morris invented a ground breaking form of improvisation called Conduction, using a highly refined language of gestures to shape the music of an entire ensemble spontaneously. Acclaimed musician, writer and cultural critic Greg Tate became friends with both Adkins and Morris as a teenager in Washington D.C. in the 1980’s. Calling Morris his “sensei” Tate was inspired to study and begin practicing Conduction, forming the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber in the late 1990’s. Their prismatic, organic integration of avant-garde jazz, electric funk, rock and contemporary composition was beautifully adapted for a live score to Adkins’ droning Synapse video, and to celebrate the lives and achievements of both Morris and Adkins.


Jen Shyu - Solo Rites: Seven Breaths
Chung Sang-Hwa


Chung Sang-Hwa has said that he doesn't listen to music while working, he listens to the wind, the trees and the river surrounding his studio in Korea. This same elemental connection is present in the richly performative work of Jen Shyu.

Chung is associated with Dansaekhwa, literally translated from Korean as “monochrome painting,” a loose movement of artists who took influence from Abstract Expressionism and Gutai, as well as Eastern philosophies such as Taoism, Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism. Scored, cut, folded, scraped, his monochrome grid paintings evoke the contemplative ritual of craft.

Shyu is a classically trained musician who has for many years played the intricate jazz of Steve Coleman and others, but in her own experimental work incorporates folk traditions from her extensive travels through Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and elsewhere. Her visceral Solo Rites: Seven Breaths follows a journey of loss and redemption expressed through multiple languages, eastern and western instruments, field recordings, ritual movement and dance.

Yves Klein - Monotone Silence Symphony


To celebrate the partnership of Dominique Levy and Brett Gorvy as Levy Gorvy gallery, we presented Yves Klein's Monotone-Silence Symphony at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco during the FOG Art Fair. Klein's iconic work, twenty minutes of a single chord followed by twenty minutes of silence, expressed, he said, "what I wished my life to be," existing "outside the phenomenology of time because it is neither born nor will it die." On this evening over fifteen hundred people sat inside the cavernous Grace Cathedral rapt in absolute silence, sharing the collective sensation of eternity.