Just Do Art!

Sam I am: Spend 90 minutes in Lower Manhattan getting to know the New York of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

MARK TWAIN’S NEW YORK WALKING TOUR  |  It’s been 115 years since the great Mark Twain fired back at a newspaper’s premature obituary by describing the report of his death as “an exaggeration.” Today, the oft-quoted (and censored) American humorist is best remembered for his tales of life on the Mississippi — and his status as an early adopter of contempt for Congress. “Suppose you were an idiot,” Twain speculated. “And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

With the job approval of Congress polling below 20 percent, modern Americans are in lock step with the man who was born Samuel Clemens. Hear more of the author’s choice comments on the people who make our laws, when writer and Twain scholar Peter Salwen takes you on a walking tour of Lower Manhattan. “In his day,” notes Salwen, “Twain was New York’s best-known celebrity. At the same time, the city itself (and the people he met here) played a big part in Twain’s own development as a writer and as a person. If Sam Clemens hadn’t come to our town when he did, it’s fair to say there would be no Mark Twain — at least, not the Mark Twain we know and cherish.”

The “Mark Twain’s New York” tour begins at the site where Twain published his first book — and met his future wife. It ends at the mansion where he lived at the start of the 20th century. In between, there will be stops at over a dozen other places Twain visited, conducted business and/or caused enough trouble to make him (in his own only slightly inflated words), “the most conspicuous person on the planet.”

Tours, 90 minutes in length, take place at 1pm on the first Sun. of the month, through Oct. (July 1, Aug. 5, Sept. 2, Oct. 7). Meet at 500 Broadway (btw. Broome & Spring Sts.). To purchase tickets ($20), call 917-620-5371 or email mtny@salwen.com. For more info, visit marktwainsnewyork.com.

Shao Fan’s “Ming-style Foot” (2009, Bubinga wood). See “The Third Meaning II.” Courtesy of RH Gallery and the artist

“THE THIRD MEANING II”  |  RH Gallery, which opened in 2010 with a group exhibition — “The Third Meaning” — comes full circle (or, full sequel?). This summer, “The Third Meaning II” further explores the original’s quest to “reveal layers of meaning through process and form.” Coined by French literary critic and all-around deep thinker Roland Barthes as a term to represent that which exists without a direct, material source, the 17 artists who’ve contributed work to this exhibition seek to reveal “a third order of meaning, beyond the obvious and the symbolic.” To that end, Shao Fan’s “Ming-style Foot” (pictured) bridges past and present by employing the traditions of ancient Chinese periods, such as Ming Dynasty wood construction, with contemporary subjects and materials.

Through Sept. 6, at RH Gallery (137 Duane St., btw. Church & W. Broadway). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11am-7pm, Sun.-Mon. by appointment. For more info, call 646-490-6355 or visit rhgallery.com.

Laura Ortiz Vega’s “Guadalajara Sunday” (2012, Thread & beeswax on board; 18 x 24 in/45.72 x 61 cm). See “Material Matters.” Image courtesy of the artist & Lyons Wier Gallery

“MATERIAL MATTERS”  |  In the group exhibition “Material Matters,” Lyons Wier Gallery brings together four female artists who use common mixed media (thread, ribbon, discarded clothing, beads, resin) to bring a fresh interpretation to their chosen medium. Contemporary notions of identity are explored by transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Stephanie Hirsch appropriates iconic, once-rebellious, rock-and-roll images and re-infuses them with personal mantras. Rocio Infestas creates small-scale resin sculptures whose baby-like forms have both divine and profane implications. Laura Ortiz Vega reimagines her personal photographs of graffiti, utilizing the artisanal techniques of the native Huichol Indians of central Mexico — and Vadis Turner’s ceremonial adornments are partnered with destructive agents to generate compositions that address dual identities.

Through July 7, at Lyons Wier Gallery (542 W. 24th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11am-6pm. For info, call 212-242-6220, email gallery@lyonswiergallery.com or visit lyonswiergallery.com

Weathering the recession, 1891 style: See “Wall Street, A Farce in Three Acts.” Photo by John Quilty

WALL STREET, A FARCE IN THREE ACTS  |  Long before occupiers were protesting Wall Street, artists were satirizing it. Now, the Medicine Show Theater company takes you back to the future — with its everything-old-is-new-again production of “Wall Street, A Farce in Three Acts.” Written and performed during a recession (the one that caused the Panic of 1819), the script was recently discovered at the New York Public Library. Lost to the ages, it seems, is any knowledge of the play having been performed since it premiered. Medicine Show’s adaptation of the breezy 90-minute script will include additional material (such as folk songs, show tunes and “hard times” songs from the 18th century up to the present).

Select performances will feature short acts by guest artist “occupiers.” On July 1, Zachary James (Lurch in “The Addams Family”) will sing patriotic songs. During the July 5-8 period (exact dates TBA), investigative economic and political journalist Greg Palast will conduct a talk-back with the audience that addresses parallels between the Panic of 1819 and today’s economic meltdown.

Closes Sun., July 8. Performances are Thurs.-Sun., 8pm. At Medicine Show Theatre (549 W. 52nd St., near 11th Ave.; 3 Floor). For tickets ($18, $15 for students/seniors), call 212-868-4444 or visit smarttix.com. For more info, visit medicineshowtheatre.org.

–  BY SCOTT STIFFLER


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