Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NYTimes.com: 'Art, Ancestry, Africa: Letting It All Bleed'

Kara Walker performing in “Bleed,” by Alicia Hall Moran and Jason Moran, at the Whitney Museum on Friday. 
Alicia Hall Moran is an operatic mezzo-soprano, and Jason Moran is a jazz pianist. They met at the Manhattan School of Music and married in 2003. Since then they’ve made a lot of their work separately. Mr. Moran has toured and recorded for 12 years with his trio, the Bandwagon. Ms. Moran has performed as a singer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and is now the understudy to Audra McDonald in the role of Bess in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” on Broadway. But they have worked together steadily, too, more than many people know.
From last Wednesday to Sunday on the fourth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, from late morning to evening each day, the Morans unspooled an extended collaboration, called “Bleed,” as a limited residency that was part of the museum’s Biennial. (Ms. Moran left every afternoon to report to the Richard Rodgers Theater, as she does six days a week.)

“Bleed” was neither about jazz nor about opera, per se, though it contained some of both, and much else: film, video, dance, poetry, lecture, diary, journalism and alternative medicine. It offered 26 performances, including Ms. Moran’s doing a version of Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls),” with Japanese taiko drummers, and singing operatic arrangements of Motown songs backed by harp, piano, guitar and percussion; a talk on “phenomenal listening” by the scholar Radiclani Clytus, who’s working on a film about the Morans; a series of voice-and-piano art songs dedicated to visual-artist friends; an open rehearsal by the Bandwagon, with each musician miked so the audience could hear the conversation; a solo-bass performance by Esperanza Spalding; Charles Blow, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, reading a recent column he wrote on bullying; and Ms. Moran’s receiving acupuncture while talking, sometimes tearfully, about why she makes art. (“I’m looking for the story of me and you,” she said, supine, both to the acupuncturist and by extension to everyone in the room.)         

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