Artistic theory, practice converge in Artspeaks fellows’ appearancesBy Josh Schonwald
Three pioneering, interdisciplinary artists—performance artist and writer Guillermo Gómez-Peña, pianist Leon Fleisher and visual artist Kara Walker—have been named University Artspeaks fellows for the 2008-2009 season.
Artspeaks, a five-year-old presentation and residency series developed in conjunction with the Court Theatre, the University of Chicago Presents and the Smart Museum of Art, showcases the University’s vision of converging artistic theory and practice.
During the Winter and Spring quarters, the artists will come to campus to present a series of public and student-focused events and workshops.
The Artspeaks series is designed to give the campus community a chance to not only experience the work of some of the art world’s brightest creators, but also to engage in intimate conversations with the artists about their work.
Several of the 2008-2009 events are open to the public, beginning with Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s presentation of El Mexorcist 4: An Evening of Spoken Word Roulette at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17 in Mandel Hall.
In this performance, Gómez-Peña denounces the anti-immigration hysteria and assaults the demonized construction of the U.S.-Mexican border. Using acid, Chicano humor, hybrid literary genres, multilingualism and activist theory, Gómez-Peña reflects on identity, race, sexuality, pop culture and the impact of new technologies in the post-9/11 era. His performance moves cultural borders to the center, marginalizes the alleged mainstream and redefines his audience as “foreigners” or “minorities.”
Pianist Leon Fleisher will perform works by J.S. Bach and speak at a post-concert Q&A session at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 31 in Mandel Hall. Thomas Christensen, Professor in Music and Associate Dean and Master of the Collegiate Humanities Division, will host the Q&A session.
As the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition in 1952, at the age of 24, Fleisher went on to concertize throughout the world with every major orchestra and conductor and released numerous touchstone recordings with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.
At age 37, Fleisher was forced to “retire” from performance when two of his fingers became immobilized due to focal dystonia. For the next 40 years, he pursued a successful career as a conductor and teacher, in addition to performing left-handed works. Recent Botox injections have successfully treated the neurological affliction in his fingers, and Fleisher is, once again, able to brilliantly play the piano with two hands. He has recently released his first, two-handed performance recording in 40 years, aptly titled Two Hands. Its repertoire includes the works of J.S. Bach. For more information, visit http://franksalomon.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=36.
Amy Dru Stanley, Associate Professor in History and the College, will moderate a conversation with the visual artist Kara Walker at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 13 in Room 107, Kent Hall.
Known for exploring the raw intersection of race, gender and sexuality, Walker unleashes the traditionally proper Victorian medium of the silhouetted figure. Her installations create a theatrical space in which her unruly cut-paper characters fornicate and inflict violent acts upon one another.
With one foot in the historical realism of slavery and the other in the fantastical space of the romance novel, Walker’s nightmarish fictions simultaneously seduce and implicate its audience.
A 1997 recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award and a 2008 United States Artists fellowship, Walker’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Walker lives in New York where she is on the faculty of the MFA program at Columbia University. For more information, visit http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/walker/index.html.
Tickets for the Artspeaks series may be purchased by calling (773) 702-8080. A subscription to all three events is $50 or $12 for students with a valid ID. Single tickets also may be purchased for $20 or $5 for students.
Previous Artspeaks seasons have included visits by photographers, painters, musicians, authors and filmmakers, including Neil Gaiman, John Zorn, Bill Jones, Atom Egoyan, Uri Caine and Peter Sellars. To get a taste of these artists’ work, visit: http://arts.uchicago.edu/performing_arts.shtml.