My 10 favorite arty & cultural things from 2015

In no particular order:

1. After whiffing on this for many years, I finally got to see publictheatre.org’s Shakespeare in the Park  not once, but twice this summer. The production of Cymbeline was better than The Tempest, but there’s probably no better way to spend a summer night in Central Park – after waiting for nearly 5 hours in line the same morning to get tickets, of course.

shakespeare

2. After whiffing on this for many, many years, I finally got to see U2 play live for the first time, at Madison Square Garden. Once they became megastars (after The Joshua Tree, a zillion years ago) I basically gave up on seeing them, because I don’t really enjoy paying $200 to see musicians at a football stadium. But this year I was feeling like “mmmm… I just have to, just this once.” I still wasn’t happy about the money, but it was definitely worth it. I got goosebumps during the intro to Where the Streets Have No Name, and this surprise Springsteen appearance was perfect.

3. Marilynne Robinson’s trilogy-completing novel Lila (even though it technically came out in late 2014). Also, after whiffing on this for many years, I finally discovered David Foster Wallace. I stopped whiffing on a lot of things this year, is the point.

4. Jamie xx’s sparkling electronic album In Colour, featuring the sublime single Loud Places. As my friend said, the first album I’ve heard that actually makes steel drums sound tolerable.

jamiexx

5. Courtney Barnett’s brilliant debut-ish album and massive live performances.

6. In September I got to see the first large-scale exhibition of the work of Corita Kent at the Pasadena Museum of Art. It was a revelation. Corita was a socially-engaged nun, working outside of the mainstream art world, who deconstructed print advertising and the stylistic possibilities of letters themselves to create Pop Art that was powerful, poetic, ecumenical, and which feels utterly fresh: a pre-Photoshop graphic design hipster. The middle period of her work, roughly 1964-68, is especially compelling, and culminates in her two printed alphabets – the circus alphabet and the signal alphabet – which are inventive, witty, and layered with meaning. It’s hard to believe that her work has stayed under the radar for so long (or, because of her humble circumstances, it’s probably not). Expect a MoMA show soon?

corita1alphacorita3

7. The Juan Maclean‘s sold-out six-night residency at Cameo Gallery and Union Pool.

maclean1

8. Puros Cubanos, this exhibit of poster art from six Cuban graphic designers which proved that there may be a lack of resources in that country, but no lack of creativity.

cuba6

9. John Singer Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, at the Met.

sargent

10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, duh.

And I didn’t “officially” put this on the list, just because I’m in it ever-so-briefly, but Leah Wolchok’s documentary Very Semi-Serious about the cartoonists of The New Yorker is a crisp, funny and occasionally poignant film, and skillfully made. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and is now available on HBO, and is well worth watching.

very-semi-serious

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