The email I received promised a performance of “vocal runs” at the Park Avenue Armory that would evoke “an abstract portrait of soul,” but what Rashaad Newsome was trying to do with his piece “Running,” I think, was nudge the audience towards transcendence. You might not know what vocal runs are. I didn’t. I did some research and found I had been hearing them most of my adult life — when I listened to R&B and gospel music. It’s described as an athletic vocal embellishment of a melody, rhythm or chord. Contemporary singers often use this vocal ornamentation to show off their skills, to prove their talent. (You can hear an exquisitely lovely example on Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’bout A Thing.”) Significantly, his rendition shows that this mode of singing is not just about demonstrating virtuosity. It’s about leaving the structure of the song behind to venture out, searching for something with rigor and sometimes desperation — out loud.
I start off in the dark with the piece, wearing a blindfold as required and being led to my seat by an usher who placed my hands on her shoulders and told me to follow her. I sit. Eventually, the talking voices quiet and I’m told I can remove the blindfold. It’s almost jet black. A red light appears high above a man dressed in a dark robe like a choir singer. He starts singing, he runs up and around a scale in slow meandering fashion, crooning, aching, sometimes yelling. Over the next hour red, green and yellow lights wink on and off over the three vocalists (Kyron El, Aaron Marcellus, and Devin Michael). They seek something that might be in the room, in or around themselves, maybe in us in the audience. They search with some feeling of celebration and some anguish. I don’t know what they are looking for, but I can’t help but hold onto them as I also navigate the dark.
You might not know what transcendence is. I thought I did. My tendency is to imagine a state of psychically taking leave of my physical body as a kind of motion upwards, towards what might be a heaven. But this experience was more like sinking beneath successive swells of sound until I was interred underneath them, to discover I wasn’t going to drown but could breathe more deeply down there.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Xaviera Simmons, Cristina Iglesias, Mire Lee, and more.
With explosions of color and materiality, Cave has his own enigmatic ways to funnel the funk through histories of adversity.
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Kapwani Kiwanga invites viewers to look with only the quiet glow of natural light seeping in through the skylights, illuminating a nuanced way of seeing race.
This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.
I inserted the text from five press releases into DALL-E and this is what it churned out.
As protests rage across the country following the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, Iranian and Kurdish artists are creating work in support of freedom.
Funding options at UB include full-tuition scholarships for MFA students, the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program, and additional opportunities for MA students.
In the shadow of a planned $150 million cultural center designed by Frank Gehry, a number of grassroots arts organizations are thriving in the predominantly Latino region.
Union members called for salary increases and pledged to hold the museum accountable to “its lip-service to social justice.”
The museum offered some workers the option to forgo pay raises in exchange for keeping their jobs, union members told Hyperallergic.