By Lance Ewing: In an off-Broadway double bill dedicated to two of modern art’s most revered luminaries, Jackson Pollock, and Christopher Burden, performance artist Matthew Marcum, and the cast of “A Beast/A Burden,” do not disappoint in “Nature and Purpose.” During a special limited engagement run at The SoHo Playhouse, Marcum is electrifying as Jackson Pollock, in his rock-opera “Pollock: A Frequency Parable,” while Ben Hethcoat, who bears a striking resemblance to Christopher Burden, touches on the often negated humanity of an artist primarily known for taking a bullet for art’s sake…literally.
The closest thing to a breakout star that the American performance sect has seen in decades, Matthew Marcum’s work has a beguiling and enigmatic quality. Abandoning form altogether in his latest solo show, he explores a myriad of expressionist notions through extended vocal techniques, and an assemblage of Jackson Pollock quotes. Using his voice to evoke Pollock’s masterful landscapes of color, and chaos, Marcum’s vocal gymnastics provide a prowess, and eccentricity unparalleled by most. Liken to the experimental compositions of Phil Minton, and the personified canticles of Meredith Monk, Marcum translates the ephemeral avant-garde for a new generation. The piece was singular, beautifully difficult, and loud, at times almost too loud. With all impertinent preferences to volume aside, Marcum’s talent is undeniable and his passion is irruptive.
Written and directed by Bill Ray Brewton, A “Beast/A Burden,” excavates the modus operandi of controversial performance artist Christopher Burden, through a series of mimeographed vignettes of the artist’s most famous performances. With an ensemble cast consisting of Hethcoat, Corsica Wilson, Brennan Murray, Leah Lamar, Anthony Rey Perez, Jessica Deshaw, and Chloe Dworkin. “A Beast/A Burden” covers five transformative months in the life of the infamous artist, as he becomes one of the art worlds most influential figures. Brewton’s show attempts to capture the stylistic zeitgeist of the 1970’s Los Angeles art scene under Burden’s influence through multi-media and contemporary dialogue. Given that the performances were recreated attempts at some of Burden’s most famous pieces, a sense of danger is amiss. The show, however, plays on more of an emotional risk, ending in a profound nod to Burden’s attempt at human connection.
“Nature and Purpose,” makes for a perfect pairing of performance art and modernist theatre. Both shows provide a unique perspective on art making; one by a visionary performance maker and the other about one. Wrapping their engagement with what could only be described as a very successful New York debut, both shows head back to Los Angeles with a hit on their hands.
For more information contact www.natureandpurpose.com