Seen: Cool Shows for Hot Weather

With temperatures rising on the East Coast, Seen & Heard has largely retreated indoors for summer. For entertainment technology enthusiasts, there are a number of diverting museum and gallery shows to be enjoyed in Manhattan, and the best of the bunch has the added advantage of being free of charge.

That would be Ace Gallery’s Hiro Yamagata: NGC6093, an absolute must for lovers of lasers and lighting. Said to have cost $3 million to mount, this marks the Japan-born artist’s first major New York installation, and it’s a stunner: arranged around a solar system theme, the rooms of the expansive gallery shake, rattle, and roll with illumination of all kinds (hint: yes, do put on the protective glasses handed out at the entranceway—there’s some primal strobing going on. You get a pair of 3D glasses for one of the rooms as well).

At the grand opening of the show, which has been enthusiastically received, LD Paul Dexter, of North Hollywood, CA-based ELS, told Seen & Heard that he and Yamagata strolled the show floor at LDI2000, picking and choosing instruments that might best help convey the artist’s galactic concepts (some came from American DJ, Martin Professional, and Clay Paky). Lighting Dimensions plans to cover this breath-taker in a fall issue, but in the meantime we send you over to www.hiroyamagata.comfor a quick look. If you’re in Manhattan, see for yourself: We hear the show, originally scheduled to close July 28, has been extended till year-end, with “satellite” mini-versions scheduled to orbit other US galleries besides.

One of Yamagata’s admirers is architect Frank O. Gehry, who has won a few fans himself over the years with his awe-inspiring swoops and spirals of metallic materials, most famously employed at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain. Frank Gehry, Architect, a career retrospective at the New York Guggenheim through August 26, celebrates his unique vision through a mixture of fascinating scale models and video clips that explore his creative process in depth. What must it be like to live and work in the crazily angled Nationale-Nederlanden Building in Prague, we wonder.

If pondering matters like these makes your head hurt as you snake your way up the Guggenheim (its rotunda itself draped in metal mesh), relax and put your feet up—some of Gehry’s cardboard chairs, made in the 70s, are there for visitors to recline in. They’re comfy and no doubt recyclable after use. Here’s hoping some of the architect’s long-gestating projects, like LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, Chicago’s Millennium Park, and the thrilling-looking Guggenheim earmarked for Lower Manhattan get off the ground in the way Gehry intended. The museum and its international wings are at www.guggenheim.org.. Seen & Heard hopped on the subway and made its way to Creative Time’s exhibition Massless Media: Explorations in Sensory Immersion. The highlight is the space itself: the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, a cool, damp grotto carved out from beneath the landmark, only open a few months out of the year. Seven international artists display their site-specific installations, which are on view through July 29.

Architect Andreas Angelidakis's installation My Anchorage gives a projected tour of the Anchorage as a virtual “non-place.” At Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Moeslinger's exhibit Firefly, we were able to see different effects through infrared “beaming” by holding a Palm OS over each piece. The collection of simple, illuminated skeletal objects was scattered throughout the Anchorage. Erwin Redl creates an illusory space with a grid of thousands of red and blue LEDs. By changing perspectives, it was possible to change the picture we were seeing. Standing in one place, the entire grid was red, but in another, a smattering of blue lights that resembled a frozen waterfall appeared.

Marco Brambilla, director of the treasurably silly Demolition Man a few years back, has morphed into a new artform and displayed Arcadia, two towers with plasma screens that showed the Millennium Force rollercoaster in Ohio in combination with mechanical sounds and riders’ screams. Anney Bonney and Liz Phillips' interactive video and sound installation drew a crowd eager to groove with the artwork. We were able to trigger different video and sound combinations, all themed after the host bridge, with our movements. Loud, eerie static came from Francisco López's Buildings [New York], a sound installation composed of recordings of white noise in New York City buildings (there’s a lot to record). Leo Villareal's Firmament beckoned us to recline (and relax) on zero gravity foam couches while looking at strobe lights flickering on a ceiling light fixture. Which, after all this hopscotching around museums and galleries, we did, gratefully. Creative Time is on the web at www.creativetime.org.

Contributed by Robert Cashill and Natalie Zmuda

Seen at the Movies: Rubber and Romance

Have you ever wondered what a condom factory looks like? For Francis Veber's The Closet, which Miramax Zoe is releasing Friday, June 29, art director Hugues Tissandier used a Japanese plant that manufactures rubber products as the design model for his chief set. The film is a French farce about a colorless accountant (Daniel Auteuil) who pretends to be gay in order to hold onto his job at the plant. Though based in reality, the factory setting proves to be a witty backdrop for the comedy—the clear glass walls of the protagonist's office ensure his lack of privacy at the same time that they provide a constant view of the condom-making machinery, which seems to mock his failure with women. Large vertical wheels arrayed with a series of phallic molds are the most intriguing elements on the factory floor; the color scheme, appropriately enough, is shades of blue. The movie's major disappointment is that we never get to see these machines in action. If The Closet seems slightly dated in its depiction of sexual politics, it's still a briskly paced and amusing summer time-killer. It also gives American audiences another opportunity to become acquainted with Auteuil, a great portrayer of ordinary men. An added highlight: Gerard Depardieu's very funny supporting performance as Auteuil's homophobic workmate.

Also opening Friday is crazy/beautiful, a comparatively intelligent teen romance starring Kirsten Dunst and Jay Hernandez. She's the privileged yet troubled daughter of a U.S. Congressman, he's a studious Latino from East L.A. who takes a two-hour bus ride every morning to attend prestigious Pacific High School. In his feature directorial debut, former actor John Stockwell, who won praise for his HBO movie Cheaters, makes good use of Los Angeles locations, including the Boyle Heights and Chinatown neighborhoods, the Santa Monica Pier, and a rather bizarre glass-walled Malibu house that stands in for the Dunst character's Pacific Palisades home. Production designer Maia Javan and DP Shane Hurlbut, both veterans of many commercials and music videos in addition to features, help give the film an atmospheric texture, and costume designer Susan Matheson, who got her start designing clothes for Barbie and other toys, finds the perfect, calculatedly distressed look for Dunst's costumes. The movie cops out at the end, but it's definitely a cut or two above the recent norm for this genre.

Also opening Friday: Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which Seen & Heard will report on next week. John Calhoun

Heard on the Street:

Biongiorno Hizzoner: LD Valerio Maiolirecently presented a copy of the May issue of Lighting Dimensions, featuring the designer’s work on the revivification of Naples’ Piazza del Plebiscito, to the mayor of that Italian city, who was delighted by the coverage…Shakespeare’s Measure for Measurereceives a good production at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, though its simple steel-girded set, adorned with clusters of fixtures, reminded at least one viewer of a booth at the Lightfair trade show…LD Howard Ungerleider, of Production Design International in Ontario, Canada, barnstorms through North America on a month-long jaunt beginning July 11 with Moby’s Area: One festival, headlined by the performer and also featuring Outkast, The Roots, Incubus, and others. The LD’s other credits these days lean toward the cinematic—designing a King Tut-themed light and laser show for the lobby of Alberta’s Famous Players Theatre (oft-featured in the pages of Lighting Dimensions, these multiplexes make American ones look positively shabby by comparison), and lighting for sequences of Danny DeVito’s upcoming black comedy Death to Smoochy, starring DeVito, Robin Williams, and Edward Norton…Men in Black 2 has been shooting around New York, with Chelsea's Empire Diner used as the site of an alien spaceship crash. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, production designer Bo Welch, and makeup designer Rick Baker encore from the first film; Gregory Gardiner is DP.