Culture Shock: Matisse’s Cut-Outs + Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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Fall is finally here in NYC! ‘Tis the season for chills and thrills, and I am not referring to the weather. This past weekend was one full of intense yet unforgettable art and entertainment. Thankfully, both of the events that defined Saturday October 18th provided color and happiness amid the windy streets of New York. An artist’s relationship with paper and scissors started our day, which ended with a performance of lost love and struggled identity.

A New Yorker always knows that sustenance and hydration before a cultural immersion is a priority. Naturally, such instinctual knowledge drove my crew to quickly fetch a filling lunch at the comfortable Brooklyn Diner in Midtown Manhattan, which consisted of some perfect pastrami sammies. Such a leisurely lunch led to a meandering down to the renowned MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), where we were set to see the anticipated exhibit, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, a collaboration with London’s Tate Modern. We had booked timed tickets this past summer, so we were especially excited to venture into this world of the cut-outs.

To give you a little background, during the 1940s, the legendary artist, Henri Matisse, turned to colored paper as his main medium. Many of these elaborate cut-outs were modest in size in his initial exploration. As his ambitions grew, these vast colored shapes and collages became mural sized endeavors. A main reason for excitement on this day was that this was also the first time since 1961, that the largest showcase of Matisse’s cut-outs were going to be available for public viewing! New Yorkers rejoice!

Key elements of this exhibition were the supported conceptual designs, videos and doodles that revealed the simple yet detailed process of Matisse’s work. Every wall of the exhibit included the final pieces surrounded by the step-by-step samples that led to that completed artwork. That was the most fascinating part of the exhibit to me. I loved being able to see a glimpse of the brainpower and creativity that had circled through this master’s mind as his scissors began to cut. Matisse’s Acrobats (1952) provided excellent examples of the trial and error that went into his exploration of the human form. Whether it was a look into a specific pose or gesture, the human body was redrawn over and over again. Simple contour pencil sketches and paintings lead us to see the various human and abstract shapes that eventually lead to his final vibrant blue cut-outs that spanned the walls.

The highlight of the exhibition was the popular cut-out, The Swimming Pool (1952), acquired by MoMA in 1975. The extensive piece had been newly restored and hung to match the exact proportions of the room in which it had resided, Matisse’s dining room in Nice, France. Walking around the room, one can immediately feel the movement and pleasure that embodies this piece; no wonder Matisse decorated his home with such life. It was late afternoon, and already I was feeling inspired, despite the various, ‘close lookers,’ who felt the need to go right up to the art and block everyone’s view. Way to keep it classy folks! If you have the chance, please represent the art elite with proper viewing, and check this exhibit out. Hurry though; this exhibit will close on February 8th, 2015!

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Night came with even more excitement! Again, a luxurious dinner at Quality Italian prepared us for an evening on Broadway. I enter the Belasco Theatre to the sight of an elaborate backdrop of a car explosion frozen in time. Already, the show had me interested. All summer long I had heard folks raving about this show featuring the man, the legend, Mr. Neil Patrick Harris. Did I mention that the key attraction here was that the man was in drag for most of the show and sang his heart out? Who can complain about that?! Hedwig and the Angry Inch, written by John Cameron Mitchell with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, tells the weird yet lovely tale of a rocker, Hedwig, who regales us all of a journey filled with lost love and self-acceptance. Of course, her epic band The Angry Inch, complete with ear candy and great characters, supports her along the way. In this fall showing Hedwig is played by the amazing, Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame, who stuns us all with an extremely touching and passionate performance. I knew I was in for a spectacular musical adventure before arriving, but I was not prepared for the intensity and emotion that this show would unveil.

The show is built upon Hedwig who leads us all via a direct monologue about her upbringing in Germany, her discovery of her transgender self and her many love interests that made her who she is today. All this is told via humorous interactions with the audience and with The Angry Inch, who regrettably are under the whim of Hedwig’s leadership. My favorite part of the show was the beautiful song, performed by Hedwig and The Angry Inch, titled, The Origin of Love. Not only was the song unbelievably touching, but it was presented with animation showing the belief that beings all having pre-destined soul mates. The essence of the song builds upon Hedwig’s constant search for hers. It was beautifully sung and the animated art was paired perfectly with it. We were all captivated. Hedwig’s story resolves around this love struggle as well as the difficulty of staying true to herself.

I loved this show for so many reasons. The main thing was that you were on a wild ride from the second you are introduced to the whole band onstage. The show is filled with raging music that gets you pumped and may even cause you widen your eyes as the strength of the power grows throughout. Michael C. Hall is full of life and is jumping on the audience, blowing us kisses and actively keeping us on the edge of our seats as we begin to grow curious of what Hedwig’s life is about. After such a long whirlwind of crazy antics and sex driven ambitions, we can quickly see the struggles our hero is going through. A broken heart is one that is felt forever. It can be healed but many times the scars remain. As for Hedwig, we all felt her pain as she told us her story. At the end, her strongest supporter, played by the impeccable Lena Hall, revels his true colors and gets us all on our feet to raise our hands and fall in love again.

Please go see this, you will not regret it.


Jam On.


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1 Comment

  1. I have not yet experienced the Matisse cut out but I am desperate to now after reading your review!Thank you for the wonderful insight !

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