“I have tried to convey in these pictures…the beauty and terror of early-21st-century America, as it clings to past comforts and gropes for a more sensible future.” —Mitch Epstein
Minneapolis, September 11, 2013—Cellist/composer Erik Friedlander and photographer Mitch Epstein embark on a musical, visual, and oral exploration of “our cultural relationship to energy.” American Power is drawn from Epstein’s 5-year, 25-state travels making photographs that reveal how our behemoth power grid functions in our neighborhoods and landscape—West Virginia high school football teams practicing in the shadow of coal stacks; Texas wind turbines spinning next to old pumpjacks; an oil rig mangled by Hurricane Katrina. Friedlander’s new compositions for solo cello unlock a dramatic dimension in the large-scale visual narrative, underpinning it with strong melodies and startling improvisations. The evocative piece examines power from all angles, not least of which is the power of looking. Directed by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar (Big Dance Theater).The world premiere of the Walker-commissioned work will be performed in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater on Friday, November 1, at 8 pm.
This project follows Friedlander’s successful and popular 2009 Walker-commissioned work Block Ice & Propane.
Epstein began work on American Power in 2003. His interest lay in the notion of power; in the overlap of electrical, corporate, civic, religious, environmental, commercial, governmental, and artistic power.
American Power won the 2011 Prix Pictet award, whereupon Epstein was invited to present the project that July at Les Rencontres d’Arles. To broaden his perspective on his own work, he asked musician Erik Friedlander to collaborate. Friedlander composed music inspired by the American Power pictures; and on a July night in a Roman amphitheater, Friedlander performed his music on the cello in tandem with Mitch, who narrated the project’s history, while behind them the photographs were projected on a cinematic screen.
Mitch Epstein’s photographs are in numerous major museum collections, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern in London.
Recent solo exhibitions of Epstein’s work took place at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., NY (2012); Thomas Zander Gallery, Cologne (2012), Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris (2011), Kunstmuseum Bonn (2011), Musée de l’Élysée in Lausanne (2011); and upcoming, a solo exhibition at the Fondation A Stichting in Brussels (2013).
Epstein’s nine books include New York Arbor (Steidl 2013); Berlin (Steidl/The American Academy in Berlin, 2011); American Power (Steidl, 2009); Mitch Epstein: Work (Steidl, 2006); Recreation: American Photographs 1973-1988 (Steidl, 2005); and Family Business (Steidl, 2003), which won the 2004 Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award.
Winner of the 2011 Prix Pictet for his series American Power, Epstein was also awarded the 2008 Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters by the American Academy in Berlin, and a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Epstein has worked as a director, cinematographer, and production designer on several films, including Dad, Salaam Bombay!, and Mississippi Masala.
He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.
Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer, an improviser, and a veteran of NYC’s Downtown scene. Friedlander started studying music at an early age, beginning at age 5 with guitar and then at age 8, cello lessons. He grew up in a house filled with music as his father, a photographer and an avid music lover, made countless mixtapes. Friedlander’s desire to actively participate in the swirl of music styles he grew accustom to hearing led him to find new ways to play the cello. Friedlander’s recent work include a limited edition LP with photographer Mitch Epstein entitled American Power, and a remix EP (10” vinyl) with producer Scott Solter called No Compass: Solter Resets Friedlander. Friedlander spent November of 2012 in Europe touring Bonebridge, an improvising quartet of cello, slide-guitar, bass and drums inspired by the music of the American South and recorded a new CD for the Bonebridge band in May of 2013. The New Yorker magazine called his solo cello reinterpretation of American roots music (Block Ice & Propane) “a magnificent new solo album..” and The New York Times said Friedlander’s Broken Arm Trio, a tribute to bassist Oscar Pettiford, was an “…effervescent small-group jazz executed with wit and soul.”
Friedlander is preparing to release Claws & Wings, a work dedicated to his late wife, featuring laptop percussionist Ikue Mori and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier. Friedlander has composed music for ads, dance works, documentaries and, most recently completed the score for Nothing on Earth, a documentary about the work of landscape photographer Murray Fredericks on the Greenland icecap. Friedlander scored the feature film Future Weather which was released in 2013.
“Mr. Friedlander, an ingenious cellist who makes an art of soulful rusticity.” says Nate Chinen of The New York Times.
American Power was commissioned by the Walker Art Center with support provided by Producers’ Council members Nor Hall and Roger Hale, the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Tickets to Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein’s American Power are $20 ($16 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600
The Walker Art Center’s performing arts programs are made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the Doris Duke Performing Arts Fund, the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Performing Arts programs and commissions at the Walker are generously supported by members of the Producers’ Council: Russell Cowles; Sage Cowles; Nor Hall and Roger Hale; King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury; Emily Maltz; Dr. William W. and Nadine M. McGuire; Leni and David Moore, Jr.; Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney; and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.