Some of the words that came to mind over and over again when I visited the new Deana Lawson exhibition at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City were "majesty" and "dignity". Lawson was born in Rochester, New York, in 1979, and her work focuses primarily on rejecting and subverting conventional modes of Black representation through photography. The MoMA PS1 show, Lawson’s first-ever solo museum exhibition, just arrived from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
One of the most appealing things about the show is the way it messes around with your anticipation that photographs simply document reality. Lawson poses Black men and women in casual clothes – or in no clothes at all, sometimes – in mundane settings like kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. Her models occupy space unapologetically, like dignitaries in some grand portrait painted by an Old Master.
But then you start to notice the tiny details Lawson uses to complicate her narratives. You might wonder about the hidden meanings in the clutter she strews across a table, the curtains she hangs on an unfinished wall or the ankle monitor adorning one of her more majestic models. The longer you linger, the more you’re sucked into the delicious complexity of the images Lawson creates. Through September 5th; moma.org/ps1
The film director David Lynch has specialized in surreal mystery and suspense from the very start of his career, turning out idiosyncratic classics like “Eraserhead,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Mulholland Drive” – to say nothing of his cult-classic TV series "Twin Peaks," whose surprising revival in 2017 is among the director’s most recent works. It surely attests to his lingering popularity that a major buzz flared up on Twitter around a month ago, when sources insisted that he’s got a secret new film screening at the Cannes Film Festival (which starts next week), and that it features one of his most compelling collaborators, Laura Dern.
While everyone waits around, possibly in vain, for a new Lynch film, the last one he completed is on screens again: “Inland Empire,” a three-hour mystery assembled without a script and shot with a handheld digital camera. The film deals obliquely and ruthlessly with the way women are treated in Hollywood. It’s terrifying and baffling even by Lynch’s enigmatic standard, and it features an extraordinary performance by Dern.
A 4K restoration has been making the rounds just lately, allowing everyone to see "Inland Empire" as if for the first time. It’s showing this weekend at the IFC Center, but a special one-off screening Wednesday at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater has the added benefit of a live talk by New York film critic Melissa Anderson, who’s written a brilliant little book about the film and, more broadly, about the creative spark between Lynch and Dern. May 11th at 7 p.m.; filmlinc.org
Jazz icon Ron Carter is the most-recorded bass player of all time, with more than 2,200 credits to his name. He’s worked with everyone from Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson and Miles Davis to Roberta Flack and A Tribe Called Quest. He even popped into Radio City Music Hall in April to jam with Grateful Dead veteran Bob Weir. (You can catch a recent NPR feature about Carter here, and check out his new Tiny Desk Concert here.)
This coming Tuesday night, Carnegie Hall is Ron’s house, when he takes over the big stage in Isaac Stern Auditorium to celebrate his 85th birthday. He’ll play with three of his own groups: his Golden Striker Trio with pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone, a quartet featuring saxophonist Jimmy Greene and an eight-piece group including four cellos. Fellow bassist Stanley Clarke and Buster Williams will be on hand to pay tribute, and the program includes jazz standards and Carter originals. May 10th at 8 p.m.; carnegiehall.org