Some of the words that kept coming to mind when I visited the new Deana Lawson exhibit at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City were “majesty” and “dignity”† Born in 1979 in Rochester, New York, Lawson’s work focuses primarily on rejecting and subverting conventional forms of black representation through photography. The MoMA PS1 show, Lawson’s first-ever solo museum exhibition, has just arrived from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
One of the most appealing things about the show is the way it messes with your expectation that photos are simply documenting reality. Lawson poses black men and women in casual clothes – or sometimes no clothes at all – in everyday settings such as kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. Her models unashamedly take up space, like dignitaries in a grand portrait painted by an old master.
But then you start to notice the small details Lawson uses to complicate her stories. You may wonder about the hidden meanings in the clutter she scatters over a table, the curtains she hangs on an unfinished wall, or the ankle monitor that adorns one of her more majestic models. The longer you linger, the more you get sucked into the delicious complexity of the images Lawson creates. Until September 5; moma.org/ps1
Film director David Lynch has specialized in surreal mysteries and suspense from the start of his career, creating quirky classics like “Eraserhead”, “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive” – not to mention his cult classic TV. series “Twin Peaks”, whose surprising revival in 2017 is one of the most recent works of the director. Certainly a testament to his continued popularity, there was a big buzz on Twitter about a month ago, when sources insisted he has a secret new screening at the Cannes Film Festival (starting next week), and that it’s one of his most persuasive collaborators, Laura Dern.
While everyone waits, possibly in vain, for another Lynch film, the latest he completed is back on the screen: “Inland Empire,” a three-hour mystery composed without a script and shot on a handheld digital camera. The film takes an oblique and relentless look at the way women are treated in Hollywood. It’s terrifying and mind-boggling, even by Lynch’s enigmatic standard, and it features an extraordinary performance by Dern.
Recently, a 4K restoration has been going around, allowing everyone to see “Inland Empire” for the first time. It will be screened at the IFC Center this weekend, but a special one-off Wednesday screening at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater has the added benefit of a live talk by the New York film critic Melissa Andersonwho has written a brilliant little book about the film and, more generally, about the creative spark between Lynch and Dern. May 11 at 7 p.m.; filmlinc.org
Jazz icon Ron Carter is the most recorded bassist of all time, with over 2,200 credits to his name. He has worked with everyone from Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson and Miles Davis to Roberta Flack and A Tribe Called Quest. He even came to Radio City Music Hall in April to jam with Grateful Dead veteran Bob Weir. (You can check out a recent NPR feature on Carter here and watch his new Tiny Desk Concert here.)
This Tuesday night, Carnegie Hall is Ron’s home as he takes over the big stage in Isaac Stern Auditorium to celebrate his 85th birthday. He plays with three of his own groups: his Golden Striker Trio with pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone, a quartet with saxophonist Jimmy Greene and an eight-piece group with four cellos. Fellow bassist Stanley Clarke and Buster Williams will be on hand to pay tribute, and the program includes jazz standards and original Carter. May 10 at 8 p.m.; carnegiehall.org