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Neutra, Schindler and the course of L.A. modernism

July 31, 2010 | 12:38 pm


 "Architecture of the Sun," a new study of Los Angeles modernism by UCLA historian Thomas S. Hines, is a massive piece of scholarship. It covers more than 700 pages and takes us into the studios of dozens of innovative architects who lived or worked in Southern California, including Irving Gill, Frank Lloyd Wright and John Lautner.

At heart, though, the book is really the story of just two architects: Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. Close at first, the pair, both Austrian emigres with an unshakable commitment to the ideals of modernism, became rivals as their careers wore on. But they had a measure of reconciliation late in Schindler's life, when they wound up, miraculously enough, sharing the same hospital room in what was apparently a sheer coincidence.

For more on the Schindler-Neutra relationship and the book's take on their work, see my Critic's Notebook.

--Christopher Hawthorne


Photo: Richard Neutra's Lovell Health House. Courtesy Rizzoli.

The contemplative arts -- Jane Moss & Lincoln Center

July 31, 2010 | 11:00 am


Jane Moss, vice president for programming at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, thinks we are too caught up in our Blackberries and iPhones and wants to bring back reflective time. All of that high tech sends energy outward, says Moss, and music brings it inward.

To counter the world’s distractions, Moss has come up with Lincoln Center’s first White Light Festival, a few weeks of music to nourish the soul. From Oct. 28 through Nov. 18, expect to see such performers here as the Westminster Choir, Tallis Scholars,  Hilliard Ensemble, Muslim musicians from north India and monks performing modern dance inspired by ancient Chinese martial arts. 

Operating out of her small, uncluttered office, the soft-spoken, fine-boned redhead exudes calm.  “Experiencing art, including music, is essentially a contemplative act,” she says. “You empty yourself out, and you let the art fill you up in some fashion. That requires time and space.”

You can read more about Jane Moss and the White Light Festival in Arts & Books; click here.

-- Barbara Isenberg

Photo: Jane Moss. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times

The passions of Monsieur Nezet-Seguin

July 31, 2010 | 11:00 am


Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin was named the new music director designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra in June. For most Americans, especially those on the Left Coast, he is a bit of a dark horse.

The first hurdle on the way to YNS enlightenment is his name.  French accents don't indicate syllabic emphasis like they do in Spanish but rather change the sound of the vowel.  Think of the difference between découpage and delineate.


If it's still giving you anxiety, you can go with YNS or simply Yannick.

I met up with Yannick in Montreal just after the announcement to chat about his new appointment and he agreed to do a short Proust questionnaire to help America get to know him a little better.

Your best characteristic

Your main fault

What is your idea of perfect misery?
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A dream cast for 'Night Music'

July 31, 2010 |  9:15 am


It seems like the brainchild of a marketing genius. Take two of Broadway’s most celebrated living actresses, bringing with them more than 100 years of combined New York stage experience, and cast them as mother and daughter in a show that mines both their glittering history as musical-theater performers and their indelible association with the composer.

It was some casting coup to have Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch step into the Broadway revival of “A Little Night Music,” particularly for a production that had been scheduled to close when original leads Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury finished their contracts. But the idea didn’t come from a marquee-minded producer or from the fantasy casting thread of chat-room show queens.

“Actually, it was mine, I have to confess,” said the composer himself, Stephen Sondheim. “I don’t know why, but it simply hadn’t occurred to anybody to cast anybody as well known as Elaine and Bernadette for the parts.”

“Why didn’t you call Greta Garbo?” he quipped. “Oh, it never occurred to me.”

The deal came together quickly, with less than three weeks of performances before critics were invited back at the end of July.

“It’s a miracle,” said Stritch with a mix of gratitude and fear as she headed into a frenetic weekend of dress rehearsals. “There’s no time to do anything. So you just do one foot at a time.”

In the 1973 show, set in fin de siècle Sweden, Peters takes on the role of Desiree Armfeldt, an actress looking to extricate herself from one lover to rekindle an old flame, who is inconveniently besotted with his child bride. Stritch plays Desiree’s mother, Mme. Armfeldt, a quasi-aristocratic, Proustian figure who observes these and other romantic entanglements from her wheelchair with the same wry detachment she brings to remembrances of her colorful past.

For the full story in Arts & Books, click here.

--David Rooney

Photos: Peters and Stritch, theatrical daughter and mother. Credit: Joan Marcus

The LACMA-Israel Museum connection

July 31, 2010 |  8:45 am

Is Geographically isolated from the Western art world, the Israel Museum has thrived, in part, by developing support groups and cultivating relationships with museums worldwide. In the case of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, there’s a special twist. The two museums opened within a few weeks of each other in spring 1965.

“They were both campus museums that wanted to be encyclopedic,” says James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. The Jerusalem museum reflected the aspirations of a new country and grew into its largest cultural institution. LACMA embodied the ambitions of a young American city and is now the biggest art museum in the Western United States.

There are as many differences as similarities between the two institutions, but one fundamental thing they share is L.A.-based donors. Among them is the late Max Palevsky, a computer industry pioneer who donated a major Arts and Crafts collection to LACMA and founded the Israel Museum’s design department. Philanthropist and collector Eli Broad, who bankrolled the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, is also a longtime supporter of the Israel Museum.

Real estate developer Paul Amir and his wife, Herta, veteran members of LACMA’s Collectors’ Committee, have a strong commitment to Israel. They were major donors to a restoration of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem and their names will be on the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in recognition of their lead gift. 

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Art review: Tony Berlant at LA Louver

July 30, 2010 |  7:00 pm

400.Terrace TB10-13 Tony Berlant's new works are simpler and more complex than anything he has exhibited over his long and productive career, which began nearly 50 years ago and has never slowed down or let up. At LA Louver, the 69-year-old artist's 22nd solo show in Los Angeles features 16 sizzling pictures that break new ground by doing what Berlant does best: make works that turn the world inside-out in a way that makes it difficult for viewers to disentangle their emotions from everything else out there.

Berlant's panels range in size and sentiment from the delicious intimacy of the approximately 2-foot-square "Waylaid" to the electrifying excitement of the enveloping "Terrace," which, at 71/2 by 14 feet, is the show's dazzling masterpiece.

All are landscapes. Some are more abstract than others. Kaleidoscopic patterns often spiral into focus, emerging from the splintered stew of fragmented shapes Berlant composes with methodical madness. Rorschach-style symmetry bubbles out of the primal soup in Berlant's fluid fusions of abstraction and representation.

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Art review: Jorge Pardo at Gagosian Gallery

July 30, 2010 |  6:30 pm

400.PARDO 20.10 Bulgogi (Main Gallery, North) A (DP) Jorge Pardo's love of home décor is celebrated the world over. His lamps, tables, pots, wallpaper, rooms and buildings regularly appear on the international exhibition circuit. The fanfare and adulation that have accompanied the Cuba-born, L.A.-based artist's career also have glossed over the flip side of Pardo's love of décor: his disdain for complacency.

That side of his wildly successful oeuvre comes roaring into focus in a beautifully barbed installation at the Beverly Hills branch of Gagosian Gallery. Titled "Bulgogi," Pardo's show delivers an abundance of the casual tastefulness that has become his signature while spicing things up with uncomfortable questions about access, privilege and power. Such social issues have always been a part of his art, even when overlooked by fans distracted by Pardo's skills as a decorator.

In the main gallery, a handsome, dumpling-shaped pavilion houses a custom rug, a fabulous plastic chandelier, a tinted window in the ceiling, some finely designed furniture, seven cheap planters and a couple of high-end vases. The six-sided structure's curved wood walls are adorned with graceful lines, abstract patterns that have been cut into them with a router. The atmosphere is lovely.

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Art review: Doug Edge at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art

July 30, 2010 |  6:00 pm

300.DougEdge_Globehead "Doug Edge: Then & Now" shows the L.A. artist to be a dilettante in the best sense of the term: a lover of the arts. Although dilettantes are often mocked for being dabblers only interested in superficial amusements, there's nothing flighty or lightweight about Edge's affection for wit, wackiness and the unaffected wisdom they sometimes give rise to.

His 20 works at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art come in all shapes and sizes, moods and materials, tones and textures. In the entryway, three seemingly straightforward black-and-white photographs from the late 1960s and early 1970s introduce visitors to Edge’s peculiar sense of humor, his capacity to make cockeyed fun of himself while making even more fun of anyone who takes himself too seriously. The same goes for “Globe Head,” a self-portrait that brings we-are-the-world sentimentality too close for comfort.

A pair of cast resin pieces from 1966, “JFK” and “Malcolm X,” raises the specter of death and the nightmare of politics. For the most part, however, Edge’s cast resin sculptures and abstract wall reliefs, made of Plexiglas-covered panels, leave direct references behind, preferring anxious ambiguity to numbing familiarity.

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Art review: Jacci Den Hartog at Rosamund Felsen Gallery

July 30, 2010 |  5:30 pm

400.Glacial Speed Landscape painting has been around for centuries. It’s a genre that’s packed with masterpieces from all over the globe.

Landscape sculpture is another matter altogether. Sculptors rarely make landscapes. But if you think that set decorators and diorama builders have a monopoly on 3-D renditions of the landscape, head over to Rosamund Felsen Gallery, where Jacci Den Hartog has installed eight new landscape sculptures that delight and inspire.

Beautifully sculpted from a lightweight, paper-based polymer, Den Hartog’s steel-reinforced works hang from the wall, like paintings. Six are 3-D depictions of swiftly flowing rivers, their serpentine forms snaking through space and cascading around rocks, boulders and banks you fill in with your imagination.

From a distance, “Glacial Speed,” “Double Vision” and “What Are You Doing Out Here?” resemble gigantic, 3-D brushstrokes, their waters’ tumultuous surfaces seemingly shaped by the bristles of industrial-strength paintbrushes.

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Theater review: 'Engagement' at the Beverly Hills Playhouse

July 30, 2010 |  5:00 pm

400.engagement If Allen Barton, writer-director of the ironically titled “Engagement,” presented by the Katselas Theatre Company at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, intended to illustrate the erosion of civil discourse in an age of electronic media, he has succeeded.  But he does so in a mean-spirited spew that falls far short of the comic tone he intends.

An examination of the rancorous relationship between liberal-minded artist Nicole (Vanessa Celso) and her arch-conservative Republican boyfriend Mark (Everette Wallin), this world premiere play transpires in a series of loosely linked, not necessarily chronological, scenes.  But really, “Engagement” is just a series of endless monologues in which the characters criticize and insult one another while expounding exhaustively on random subjects, with scant transitions in tone. 

Mark, a knee-jerk right-winger, is frequently decried for his insensitive rants.  But insensitive rants seem the primary means of communication for most of these emotionally indistinguishable characters, whose hurtful interchanges sound as if they poured out of the same common id.

Despite the fact that this evening runs almost three hours, much of it dispensable, we are seldom bored – a testament to the efforts of the performers, many of them double-cast, who approach their flawed material with impressive concentration and commitment.  The cast also includes Jeremy Radin, Christopher Hoffman, Brynn Thayer, and Retta Sirleaf, who is particularly fine as Nicole’s dry-witted, practical roommate.

Granted, Barton’s curiously unedited spate offers flashes of fresh and funny philosophical insight. However, like pyrite in a streambed, obscured by the rushing flow of verbiage, the occasional nugget is not worth the excavation.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Engagement,” The Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills.  8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Aug. 22.  $25.  (310) 358-9936.  Running time:  2 hours, 40 minutes.

Photo: Everette Wallin and Brynn Thayer. Photo credit: Ed Krieger.


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