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The Menil Collection Presents a Pianist, a Poet and a Painter

A new series of occasional conversations at the Menil Collection, A Common Language invites artists from different disciplines to focus on and consider particular works of art in the collection. For the inaugural program, three notable artists – the pianist Sarah Rothenberg, the poet Tony Hoagland, and the painter Carl Palazzolo – will share ideas about art and artistic practice and, looking beyond their own fields and experiences, consider what they, as artists, have in common. Regarding a particular work of art, they may diverge widely in opinion, setting the stage for agreement or disagreement as they invite audience participation.

Premiering Wednesday, October 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Menil, A Common Language is a free public program, open to all.

The new series grew from the Menil’s popular first-Sunday series, The Artist’s Eye, where an artist selected one work from the collection as a source of inspiration. At the conclusion of its decade-long run, the Menil’s director of public programs, Karl Kilian, began to wonder, in his words, “what would happen if we cast the net wider, expanding the idea and the conversation beyond the visual arts.”

That notion led Kilian to the three artists who have agreed to take the first plunge into the new program. Agreeing with her program companions, Sarah Rothenberg, artistic and general director of Da Camera, immediately saw the ties that bind different disciplines. “I have no doubt that my way of looking at paintings is deeply informed by my being a musician,” she said. “Tempo, rhythm, texture are all aspects of a painting for me.” Rothenberg, whose original staged concert productions relating music to art, literature, and ideas have received criti­cal acclaim on national and international stages, has created many concert programs as musical counterpoints to Menil exhibitions of such artists as Paul Klee, Cy Twombly, and  Kazimir Malevich.

In poetry that wittily probes contemporary life and culture, Tony Hoagland “ranges thrillingly across manners, morals, sexual doings, kinds of speech both lyrical and candid, intimate as well as wild,” stated the American Academy of Arts and Letters in a citation honoring his body of work.  Hoagland’s published collections include Unincorporated Personas in the Late Honda Dynasty, published by Graywolf Press in 2010; What Narcissism Means to Me, a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award; Donkey Gospel (1998), which received the James Laughlin Award; and Sweet Ruin (1992), recipient of Emerson College’s Zacharis Award. Hoagland’s other honors and awards include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 2008 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers magazine, as well as the Poetry Foundation’s 2005 Mark Twain Award in recognition of his contribution to humor in American poetry. Tony Hoagland teaches at the University of Houston and Warren Wilson College.

From his early work of the 1970s and 80s, Carl Palazzolo has described the central theme of his work as a meditation on memory, loss, and the passage of time. He has explored that theme in a series of paintings based on John Singer Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” and in another cycle of canvases drawing on imagery and icons of the Italian cinema of the 1960s.  After studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Palazzolo began exhibiting his work in New York in the 1975 Whitney Biennial. He is represented by Texas Gallery in Houston and Lennon Weinberg in New York. In conjunction with this year’s Spoleto USA, the Gibbes Museum presented The Spoleto Watercolors of Stephen Mueller and Carl Palazzolo. Of the artist’s new paintings, shown this May in New York, Robert Berlind wrote in the Brooklyn Rail:  “Palazzolo’s play of illusion suggests memory, longing, distances, and loss …The paintings’ sense of grief, memory, and love is convincing. (Their) exquisite beauty and sorrowful aura would remain well after departing the gallery.”

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