The second concert in Lincoln Center's wonderful Tully Scope Festival, like the opening night, revolved around the music of Morton Feldman, and, although it was entitled "For Morton Feldman," it was actually dedicated to quite a different composer, György Kurtág, who is still very much alive and celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday on February 19th, only a month younger than Feldman would have been if he had not died prematurely in 1987 at the age of sixty-one. The program consists entirely of some of their best-known works, played by Axiom, the contemporary music group of the Juilliard School, under the direction of Jeffrey Milarsky, and the Clarion Choir under music director Steven Fox. The instrumentalists and the soprano soloist were all students or recent graduates of Juilliard, who acquitted themselves most impressively.
This exceptionally important and beautifully realized exhibition is not only the first retrospective of the work of Adolph Gottlieb in Italy, it is the first full retrospective of his work anywhere in quite a few years. One can hardly say that Gottlieb is a forgotten artist, because there has been a steady flow of exhibitions following his death in 1974 through the eighties, nineties, and up to the present day, more at major private galleries rather than museums, and none as ambitious or as scholarly as this. On the other hand it appears that Gottlieb's reputation has weakened in recent years, especially among the general public, among whom Jackson Pollock has become a sort of louche patron saint of Abstract Expressionism, or "Ab Ex," as MoMA now encourages us to call it, more through biographical scandal and sensational controversies over his oeuvre than a serious appraisal of his work — not that the Boston College exhibition about the Matter sketches was not serious and important work. Hence, in our conversation about the show, Philip Rylands, the director of the Guggenheim Collection, was surely right in pointing out that the principle goal of the exhibition is the re-assessment of Gottlieb's pre-eminence among the "Abstract Expressionists" — something that was never in doubt during the peak years of both the movement and his career.