FIRST FRIDAY RAMBLES
By MIKE DUNHAM
The Ramble started early Friday afternoon, with the Sneak Peak opening reception for the Salvation Army's "Transformed Treasures" fundraiser at the BP Energy Center. A good throng came to see odds and ends found in Anchorage area Thrift Stores turned into practical or decorative items by creative local people. The turnout bodes well for the fundraiser itself next Saturday. For tickets, contact Diana Justus at 276-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With around 100 artists participating, the recycle-rama took up two sizeable areas at the Energy Center. By the time I got to the University of Alaska Student Union Gallery for the 3 Dimensional Student Invitational Show's First Friday reception, it was already 6:30 and the space had been locked up. A helpful guy cleaning up what remained of the refreshments found the key to let me back in, though. Some of the pieces were clearly classroom work, but much of it surmounted the expectations one usually has about "student" work.
I particularly liked the acerbic "Marriage," a board full of hex screws by Namhee Hwang, Meg Fowler's symbol-laden body form titled "The Muse" and a ceramic fantasy by Irina Danielson named "Apartment #65."
This show will be on display through April 10. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri. Which is awfully inconvenient since UAA charges for parking during all of those hours.
Student art on display at APU was amateurish by comparison. The only thing that really appealed to me were Jeannie Fitzgeralds' ornamental birdhouses ("not practical or useful in real situations," the signage explained) titled "Flight of Fantasy #1 and #2."
Sadly, the hours at the Kimura Gallery in the UAA Arts Building are even more limited than at the Student Center, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. I had to squint through the glass into the unlit room to get sight of Jeffrey Patrick's installation "Frustration/Aggression/Obfuscation: The Holy Trinity." Despite the Frustration and Obfuscation of the situation, I could sense in the dark that this may be the most beautiful and compelling thing the artist has ever done.
Patrick has built a magnificent temple of metal, wood, sand, water and gain that evokes both calm and turmoil in a compelling equilibrium. The core of the space is occupied by 16 stands positioned in regimental precision. each with it's own Zen-like sand circles. Nine basins line the long wall. Mysterious votive shrines adorn the other walls with names such as "Tabernacle of Persistent Memory" and "Philatory of Constant Tension."
This installation will remain on display though April 16 and may be the most impressive new art we'll see in Anchorage this year.
But would it have killed anyone to have it open until 7:30? The Arts Building was getting regular traffic as I and about 60 other willing victims waited for the doors to the recital hall to open for a trombone concert.
Yeah, I said trombones, one each in the hands of UAA music faculty members Christopher Sweeney, George Belden and Philip Munger. They presented the world premiere of Ivan Jevtic's Sonata for Three Trombones, a work in two movements composed in 2001. The first movement begins with lyrical lines in the alto trombone, played by Sweeney, becoming agitated and flirting with a waltz beat before returning to the lyric mode. The tranquil second movement ends with a low-key fanfare. I suspect it may have been among the more difficult pieces on the program; at least it caused the most trouble for Belden on the bass trombone.
Two works by Munger were presented, parts of his early "Variations on an Aboriginal Tune," written when he was 16, which the composer performed with Belden. Despite its status as juvenilia, it showed several of Munger's musical thumbprints: motor rhythms to propel the pace, ear-catching counterpoint and the occasional dance parody.
"Shards III," the latest in Munger's series honoring America's fallen in Iraq, opened the second half of the concert. Each of the "Shards" iterations have had their own character. I found this one, for two trombones and bugle (which Munger played) and electronically simulated orchestra, to be the most successful so far. The trombones sustain a slightly syncopated march - determined, possibly doleful - while the bugle plays more freely improvised passages over them. The computerized sounds came off very clean.
It's extremely difficult, using purely instrumental music, to summon a convincing expression that is, at once, sincere, good music and a political statement. In "Shards III" Munger has probably come as close as anyone can.
The program also included UAA trombone students in a couple of pieces, including an impressive arrangement. impressively played, of "Now is the Glorious Work" from Haydn's "Creation." But the big reason for going was to hear music by composers seldom played in Anchorage, like American maverick Henry Cowell and Soviet brass master Vladislav Blazhevich.
That's what I saw - and heard. What about you? Add your comments here or, if you want us to consider including them in print on Tuesday, send a "You Be The Critic" note to me at email@example.com.