Arts in Brief


Doug Wang ’23

Pianist Leonel Morales performed four pieces in Elfers Hall last Friday.

Conceptual Artist Baldessari Dies at 88

The art world is overcome with grief following John Baldessari’s passing on January 2.
An American conceptual artist, Baldessari was known for his work featuring appropriated images. Starting as a painter, Baldessari began to incorporate texts and photography into his work in the mid-1960s. Before his death, he taught as a professor at the California Institute of the Arts and received numerous awards, including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement and the National Medal of Arts from former president Barack Obama. Ms. Terri Moore, instructor in art, said, “Baldessari was a living legend. He was an extraordinary thinker and maker, and he was well known for being kind and humorous.”
Through his conceptual exploration, Baldessari pushed the limits of what we perceive as art, creating works such as The Cremation Project, in which he burned his own paintings and baked cookies with the ashes from the cremation. For Ms. Moore, her favorite work of Baldessari’s was “YES, THANK YOU, BETTY There’s one called…” (2018) from his Hot & Cold series, in which he paired pictures of icebergs and volcanoes. Ms. Moore commented, “Baldessari opened up a door to how artists communicate and how viewers perceive the world around them.”
Despite the loss to the art world, Baldessari’s avant-garde influence will continue to challenge the definition of art and inspire future artists.

Pianist Morales Performs at Elfers

A melody emanated from the grand piano onstage. Seated at the bench was pianist Mr. Leonel Morales, fingers hovering above the ivory keys.
Last Friday, in addition to pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Mily Balakirev, Mr. Morales performed the Appassionata Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven in celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday.
Dr. Gisele Witkowski, instructor of piano and co-organizer of the concert, said, “One person may go to the recital and fall in love with the Beethoven, and someone else may fall in love with Islamey [by Balakirev]. All of the pieces [stand out] in their own way.”
Upon the audience’s standing ovation, Mr. Morales was invited to return to the stage and performed an encore piece from his native Cuba. Ricky Shi ’22, a piano student learning the Appassionata Sonata, said, “Mr. Morales really explored the full range of dynamics. The sound [in the piece] is really intricate and refined.”
Dr. Witkowski added, “[Mr. Morales’s] gorgeous repertoire should inspire our students. We bring him here to offer inspiration to our students and the community…and bring [the] gift of music to all of us.”
Following the concert, Mr. Morales taught master classes to several piano students before his departure.

Musillami Shares Avant-garde Jazz

This weekend, Elfers Hall will be filled with free melodies and rocking beats. This Saturday, the “Michael Musillami Trio +2” will bring the spirit of avant-garde jazz to the community.
The school’s jazz band director, Mr. Michael Musillami, will play guitar along with Joe Fonda on bass, George Schuller on drums, Thomas Heberer on trumpet, and Jason Robinson on saxophone and flute.
Unlike classical music concerts, Mr. Musillami has no clear repertoire in mind, emphasizing a preference for spontaneity. He said, “[Jazz] is a living thing. We are interpreting every moment of it [onstage]: loud and soft, fast and slow, getting away from the chart, maybe playing something that’s not even written at all there. The beauty of jazz music is that [even] as a musician on the bandstand, I never know what I’m going to get.”
Desmond Teague ’20, a student of Mr. Musillami’s and a member of Right Brain Logic, the student jazz band, commented, “[Jazz] offers a unique language and way of spontaneous freedom, intimate personal expression, and communication that few other art forms do. [It] can teach its listeners and practitioners a lot about life – how we deal with adversity, how we dance around what’s acceptable, how we push ourselves and our minds beyond the obvious, and how we resolve our own personal dissonances.”
The concert will take place in Elfers Hall on January 25, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.