In preparation for the end of 2007, former Arts Editor Steven Robert Allen and I sat down to talk art over hot bowls of phở. Between slurps, we traded memories of our favorite events from the past year—gallery openings, theater productions, book launches and poetry readings. After chewing on hot noodles and waning memories, we narrowed our picks down to 10. Here they are, the Alibi's top 10 art happenings for 2007, in no particular order.
Tom Kempinski's Duet for One opened early in 2007 and set the tone for professional-quality theater in the Duke City. The ever-talented Paul Ford directed actors Ray Orley (as Dr. Feldmann) and Kristen Loree (as Stephanie Abrahams) in this play about a once-famous violinist whose battle with multiple sclerosis forced her off the stage and into a wheelchair. Many things about this production were excellent, but Loree stole the show by connecting with the character to deliver a blistering performance, including some mean wheelchair maneuvering. Another nod to the folks at Sol Arts for holding a benefit performance for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society during the run of Duet for One.
The body of work produced by the artists in the University of New Mexico's MFA program continues to impress. Each year the art department offers an exhibit of juried works to represent its best and brightest. 2007's installation was juried by SITE Santa Fe's director and curator, Laura Steward Heon, and was split into two venues, UNM's Jonson Gallery and Downtown's 516 Arts. Both displays reaffirmed the greatness being pumped out from behind the walls of the UNM Fine Arts Department.
The Albuquerque Museum has hosted some funky little exhibits (like Human Volcano and Other Amazing Wonders, currently on display) that are worth the price of admission alone. Extraordinary Bodies featured modern-art photographs and images from Philadelphia's Mütter Museum depicting disconcerting—
The Vortex Theatre specializes in the deranged, and Bug is one disturbing play. The Vortex has tackled playwright Tracy Letts' work before (Killer Joe graced its versatile stage a few years back), and Letts fits the daring community theater well. Director Aaron Worley did an especially noteworthy job of pulling all the chaos together to strengthen an already able script and coaxing the talented cast into an incredible state of paranoia. Steven Robert Allen swears it gave him welts.
Transforming ugly utility buildings into aesthetically-
The first-ever New Mexico Book Awards debuted this year with much success. The New Mexico Book Co-op called for submissions of any book with a connection to New Mexico or the Southwest with a July 1, 2007, deadline. When it came time for judging, there were more than 300 submissions, and it already looks like next year will yield even more. The New Mexico Book Awards is a fine way for local authors and publishers to be recognized for their hard work—recognition that is regrettably lacking in our literary community.
The FUSION Theatre Company unleashed another exceptional season in 2007, offering a versatile lineup of high-quality productions. The company's staging of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, however, garnered an unusual amount of buzz. The professional cast (Laurie Thomas, Rachel Tatum, Ross Kelly and Angela Littleton) performed the Pulitzer Prize-winning script with sharp tongues and precise delivery to sold-out crowds every night of Doubt’s run—a tremendous success.
When Gorilla Tango Comedy Theatre closed its doors in early 2007, former managers Doug Montoya and Kristin Berg opened another space quickly to fill the void. The Box Performance Space has been going strong since it opened in March in a small building on the corner of Lomas and 11th Street. The Box offers comedic improv, children's theater classes and a place for the likes of Eat, Drink and Be Larry, and the Pajama Men to let loose. We love The Box.
The National Hispanic Cultural Center's educational (and well-attended) exhibit The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present showcased historical artifacts and artwork documenting Afro-Mexican culture. The artifacts depicted the life of Africans and their descendants in Mexico, many of whom came to Mexico as slaves with the Spaniards. The African Presence in Mexico was a powerful exhibit that offered a historic perspective on Mexican history not often explored.
The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra hit a major milestone this year, opening its 75th season in September with a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. On Nov. 13, 1932, the Albuquerque Civic Symphony performed for an audience of nearly 2,000 in UNM's Carlisle Gymnasium. Seventy-five years later, NMSO performs for more than 130,000 people a year and strives to keep classical music alive and flourishing in New Mexico. Here's to 75 more, NMSO!