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New York celebrates Minnesota artist Siah Armajani with a show – and bridge

Siah Armajani's “Bridge Over Tree” now overlooks the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The piece wil be on view through Sept. 29. (Photo: Timothy Schenck for Public Art Fund.)

Famed Minneapolis artist Siah Armajani just landed in the Big Apple. “Follow This Line,” a career retrospective that opened last fall at Walker Art Center, went on view Wednesday at the Met Breuer in New York City.

Armajani was honored at a private reception Tuesday night attended by the Walker's new executive director, Mary Ceruti, and her predecessor, Olga Viso.

His wife, Barbara Armajani, said the 79-year-old artist has been in good spirits for the entire trip -- but also extremely busy.

“Siah has had back-to-back [obligations] every minute, a walkthrough, a this and a that,” she said by phone Wednesday.

He was especialy elated by the recreation of his public sculpture “Bridge Over Tree” -- literally a 91-foot-long walkway that takes people over a single evergreen -- installed at Brooklyn Bridge Park by New York's Public Art Fund. The piece originally debuted in 1970 as part of a Walker sculpture show on the future site of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

“The wood quality was probably better today than 50 years ago,” she said. “Every detail was just perfection.

Above: The original 1970 version of Armajani's "Bridge Over Tree." Photo: Walker Art Center.

The bridge is placed between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, with the East River and the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. It is a clever juxtaposition between two completely utilitarian bridges for cars and pedestrians, and a bridge commenting on the idea of a bridge, located on the ground. 

The show at the Met Breuer -- a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in a Marcel Breuer-designed building that originally was the Whitney Museum -- was organized by Walker assistant curator Victoria Sung and Met assistant curator Clare Davies. The layout differs from the Walker presentation, which wove through galleries and ascended several floors. At the Met Breuer, everything is arranged on a single floor, and Davies used wall partitions to create smaller spaces.

The Met exhibition also does not include Armajani’s latest series of “Seven Rooms for Hospitality,” three-dimensional miniature 3D printed models and one large-scale sculpture, all ironic nods to the inhospitable treatment of immigrants around the world. These works will be on view next month at the Armory Art Fair and the Independent Art Fair, two of New York’s major fairs.

The Walker exhibit also coincided with the repolishing of a significant public artwork: Armajani’s “Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge,” originally built in 1988 and now freshly repainted in “Jeffersonian yellow” and baby blue.

Above: Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. Photo by Paul Schmelzer for Walker Art Center

Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo gets Afro funky covering Talking Heads in Minneapolis

David Byrne and Angelique Kidjo/ Photo by Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

David Byrne and Angelique Kidjo/ Photo by Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

She remembered it. Grammy-winning African star Angelique Kidjo remembered the last time she had played at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis 25 years ago.

She recalled it for two good reasons: She had just given birth to her daughter about 10 days earlier and she got to hang out at Paisley Park with Prince.

When Kidjo returned to the sold-out Cedar on Tuesday night, it was to explore something from the past – Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” album from 1980. Last year, she recorded her own interpretation of that Afrobeat-influenced project.

Backed by a fine five-man international band, the Benin-born, New York-based Kidjo did not simply do a re-creation of Talking Heads’ album as she had on record. Rather she offered several of the Rock Hall of Fame band’s tunes with a few of her own pieces mixed in.

Once again, Kidjo proved to be a dynamic dervish, as she has in performances at the O’Shaughnessy, the Dakota, the Ordway and Xcel Energy Center (opening for Josh Groban) since that first Cedar appearance.

Her dancing was energetic and athletic (with a few jittery David Byrne-like moves inserted for fun), her voice joyous and soulful, her personality vivacious and contagious.

However, she wasn’t as thrilling as on her “Remain in Light” record. Why? Largely because there was no horn section. The arrangements were not as complex, thick and rich as on record, the sound not as full and forceful. For instance, “The Great Curve” lacked the layers of countermelodies but featured plenty of percolating percussion.

Kidjo did selections from her own repertoire, including the sing-along “Afirika” (she taught everyone the words) and “Tumba,” during which she brought more a dozen concertgoers onstage to dance, giving each a chance to bust a move at center stage. She also offered a rendition of the 1967 Miriam Makeba classic, the bright and buoyant “Pata Pata.”

While those numbers were received enthusiastically, it was the Talking Heads favorites – the swirling “Once in a Lifetime” and the Afro-funky “Houses in Motion” – that earned the biggest cheers during the 85-minute performance.

For her encore, Kidjo did not stick with “Remain in Light.” Instead she turned to Talking Heads’ next album to deliver a version of 1983’s “Burning Down the House.” It was so intense and incendiary that no one was complaining.

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