Cecil Taylor at the Whitney: Storming Places, Like He’s Always Done

Pianist Cecil Taylor performing with dancer Min Tanaka during “Open Plan” at the Whitney Museum of American Art/ All Photographs © Paula Court

If you arrived on Thursday night at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s fifth floor, Cecil Taylor was there to greet you.
Elevator doors opened and there was Taylor—his image, anyway—in towering proportions as projected on a massive screen, moving fleetly about a piano’s keyboard while wearing a white knit cap, as captured in Ronn Mann’s 1981 documentary, “Imagine the Sound.”
The night’s real attraction was an increasingly rare invitation—the chance to see and hear Taylor, who recently turned 87, perform in person.
And in glorious context, no less: At the far west end of an imposing venue—the largest column-free museum exhibition space in New York City (more than 18,000 feet of open space), at a Bösendorfer grand piano set against floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River.
A yet deeper context was on display. Taylor’s concert was the prelude to a lovingly curated and wisely broad-minded exhibition and residency at the Whitney through April 24, dedicated to the full range of Taylor’s artistry. “Open Plan: Cecil Taylor,” the first of five such Whitney programs, places Taylor in the company of a wide range of creative souls: installation and performance artist Andrea Fraser; painter Lucy Dodd; sculptor/earth artist Michael Heizer; and video/filmmaker Steve McQueen.

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