Artistic Statement: Jonathan Warman

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I favor a vivid, expressive, comic “Pop Art” surrealism.“Pop Art” but also somewhat “High Art” – all of which, I’ve realized, had its roots in my family’s record collection. My college professor parents (of history and literature) had copious amounts of classical music and opera, but among that was also Leonard Bernstein’s forgotten masterwork Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (High Art playing with Pop Art) and my sister had The Who’s rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia (Pop Art toying with High Art), all of which I was exposed to at a very impressionable age. Bernstein in particular was and is a role model; in my art I always strive to emulate his “accessibility and eloquence, gravity and theatricality, intellectual precision and ecstatic transport” as Vanity Fair‘s Laura Jacobs put it. The Pop connection entered decisively into my early theatre-making when I began corresponding with – and doing the plays of – Ron Tavel, who had been a screenwriter for Andy Warhol’s films. Tavel once said “we have passed beyond the absurd: our position is absolutely preposterous” referring to a movement called Ridiculous Theatre. I have developed musicals centered on music by pop singer / songwriter P!nk and Pete Townshend of The Who, and collaborated with David Bowie’s pianist Mike Garson on a rock musical adaptation of The Happy Hooker. More recently, I have directed a late Tennessee Williams play inspired by Ridiculous Theatre, and set an opera in a punk rock subculture of post-Franco Spain. My interests in the Pop Art/High Art nexus are also forward looking. I’m currently fascinated by the sculptures of Dustin Yellin and Korean pop music (or K-Pop) – check them out! And I am working with a songwriting team to develop a musical (with a marked K-Pop influence), that is actually about seeking out the new and cool in popular culture and what that can mean to the culture at large.


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