The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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    A two-person show at Popps Packing in Detroit creates a conceptual 'Chimera'

    Feb. 9, 2016, 10:49 a.m., Posted by Rosie Sharp

    Above: “Untitled” (2014) by Adrian Hatfield. Photos by Rosie Sharp.

    The most thematically powerful aspect of “Chimera,” a two-person show featuring work by Adrian Hatfield and Amy Sacksteder, is not the way each artist amalgamates media or imagery, but the rather seamless and literal blending together of these two separate bodies of work, creating a chimera in and of itself. The show opened at Detroit’s Popps Packing gallery, a two-time Knight Arts grantee, on Jan. 23. As the title would suggest, it trades heavily on the blending of organic imagery into something imaginary or mythic.

    The majority of Hatfield’s work aligns with the origins of the chimera, a creature from Greek mythology comprised of a fire-breathing lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail. But his spare and disturbing oil-on-linen paintings showcase subjects that are the melding of the back ends of animals–a kangaroo with the head of a lion’s hindquarters; the undercarriage of an octopus fused with the wing of a parrot; a lamb morphing into the hind legs of a rabbit. Adding to the alienating nature of these images, the creatures are pinioned or hung in abstract space–with at least one leg literally tethered or hanging from hooks, while the other set of legs sprawls or tries to run free. The backgrounds are vibrant fields of color, some with discernible imagery, like flowers or outer space, some that are abstracted ombre washes of peach, pink or red, with high-contrast black patches that give them landscape-like depth, even in abstraction.

    This interplay between finely rendered subject and volatile background ties Hatfield’s work together strongly with Sacksteder’s. More than once, I found myself trying to decide, without the aid of gallery materials, which artist was responsible for a given piece (and in seeking clarity, found that I was mistaken).

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    Alvin Ailey's Robert Battle returns to Miami with new choreographic work

    Feb. 9, 2016, 9:54 a.m., Posted by Neil de la Flor

    Above: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Robert Battle's “Awakening.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

    If you haven't experienced Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, it's time. The company's performances and community outreach programs are excellent ways to introduce your children, nieces and nephews, grandkids and the neighbors' kids, to the splendor of Ailey. It may change their lives.

    In his new book, “My Story, My Dance,” Miami native Robert Battle reveals just how important Ailey was to his career, and how it led to his current position as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As a boy, Battle wore leg braces, but overcame this challenge to pursue ballet. Ailey inspired Battle to step into his dreams regardless of the challenges ahead, and today, Battle leads one of America's most storied dance companies.

    That company is returning to Miami for a series of five performances at the Arsht Center as part of the Knight Masterworks Dance series. Taking place from Feb. 18-21, the performances will include “Revelations,” the Alvin Ailey company's signature choreographic work, as well as the premiere of “Awakening,” Battle’s first original choreographic work since taking the helm of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

    Robert Battle. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

    What was it like balancing your role as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with choreographing “Awakening”—your first new work since assuming your current leadership position in 2011?
    I waited five years before I choreographed “Awakening.” The role of artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as you can imagine, is a huge, not only responsibility, but honor. Waiting five years gave me time to at least adapt to this new place in my life and in my career, so that when I went back to choreographing, I was ready to choreograph. It was almost a relief being in the studio as a choreographer again. It was like greeting an old friend being in the studio with the dancers, and I think for the dancers, it was also this rite of passage making a brand new work. It was a lot of fun, actually. It was kind of seamless in that way.

    As someone who grew up in Liberty City, you must be very familiar with the racial divide that splits our city and schools into worlds of haves and have-nots. What tangible impact can art, especially dance, play in the lives of all kids growing up in the world of have-nots?
    I think dance has a huge role, and certainly Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater does its part in helping to achieve that. For me, growing up in Liberty City, the notion of being able to go and see an Ailey performance, being bused there to see a mini performance was huge, obviously, for a kid like me. But having the performing arts in schools or having programs like AileyCamp for at-risk youth is extremely important. We have to constantly do more to expose young people, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, to dance and to the performing arts so they not only feed their bellies, but feed their souls. It feeds the imagination, and the imagination defies place, time and circumstance. So it’s extremely important to young people.

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    Seraphic Fire explores the African-American concert spiritual in new recording

    Feb. 9, 2016, 9:49 a.m., Posted by Sebastian Spreng

    “Steal Away,” a new recording by Seraphic Fire.

    The voice of the African-American spiritual is incomparable. A fascinating, unequivocally American fusion, it is at once searing and soothing. And whether sung in church or in a concert hall, it occupies a select place in the history of music.

    In the text that accompanies a newly released album, “Steal Away,” Patrick Dupré Quigley explains the spiritual briefly but with impressive clarity. As the founder and director of Seraphic Fire, the New Orleans native knows the subject matter well–to the point that it was practically necessary for the vocal ensemble (a Knight Arts Challenge winner) to record one of the many successful concerts it has devoted to spirituals. Making this record proved to be an excellent decision, as it beautifully highlights the Miami-based group’s continued growth and success.

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