Category: Downtown

Art review: Emilie Halpern at Pepin Moore

February 16, 2012 |  6:15 pm

Mysticeti

A conceptual artist with a minimalist sensibility, Emilie Halpern rides a delicate line between economy and dearth. Her works can be slight nearly to the point of disappearance. When they click — which is to say, when a well winnowed concept comes into alignment with a gracefully refined form — the effect can be dazzling. When it doesn’t quite, or when the trick relies too heavily on a news release or other explicative mechanism, one has the feeling of being left with very little.

"Jamais Vu," Halpern’s second solo show with Pepin Moore, is a bit of a mix. An installation on the floor involving 29 black, hollow emu eggs, many of them cracked or shattered, feels insubstantial and mildly bewildering in a show in which the most eloquent themes revolve around the sea, the solar system and, in some fainter sense, birth and death. "Earth & Sky," on the other hand — a sculpture in which a small, black meteorite rests on a larger white stone that sits on the floor — is flawlessly composed, a neatly ironic material expression of its archetypal title, one that that echoes a number of other references in the show to the meeting point between the land and the heavens.  

The show’s most haunting piece, by far, is "Drown," an installation consisting only of a single, transient gesture: the pouring of four liters of ocean water onto the concrete floor of the gallery every day. It is a modest and, for at least some portion of the day, a nearly invisible act that assumes on alarming poignancy when you learn that it is the volume of water that would fill the human lungs. 

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-- Holly Myers

Pepin Moore, 933 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, (213) 626-0501, through Saturday. www.pepinmoore.com

Image: Emilie Halpern, "Mysticeti," 2012. Credit: From the artist and Pepin Moore, Los Angeles.

 

Dance review: 'Cleopatra, CEO' by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre

February 12, 2012 | 10:40 am

 

Johanna Sapakie as Cleopatra


The 51st floor penthouse suite at 515 S. Flower St., the site of Heidi Duckler’s latest dance-theater piece, “Cleopatra, CEO,” is a scenic design come true for the Los Angeles choreographer.

 

At “Cleopatra’s” premiere over the weekend, audiences were guided through dance-theater scenes spread across 30,000 square feet of marble, burnished wood, beige carpeting, exquisite cabinetry and executive boardrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, and one with a fireplace.

What more could a site-specific artist want than these rambling hallways and power chambers — once the opulent headquarters for oil corporation Atlantic Richfield — as settings for seduction, legislative mischief, war and suicide? 

PHOTOS: "Cleopatra, CEO"

For the most part, Duckler unleashed her imagination for a poetic riff on events from Cleopatra's life and mythology. Johanna Sapakie, a charismatic Cleopatra, climbed atop the furniture and upon the shoulders of her servants while yards and yards of fabric unfurled across the chamber. Greek attendants, with clipboards attached to their paddles, “rowed” their stationary boats (two stone secretary cubicles). The battle between Greeks and Romans for control of the ancient world was a mad dash through a hallway, while viewers pressed against the walls.

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Art review: Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia at CB1 Gallery

February 9, 2012 |  6:30 pm

Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, installation view of "Papel Tejido"
Clotheslines, floor mats and document shredders come to mind in Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia’s exhibition at CB1 Gallery. Hand-woven fabrics, pixelated imagery and religious tapestries are also evoked by his grid-bending abstractions, whose insouciance provides a nice balance between goal-oriented authority and seat-of-the-pants improvisation.

Each of Segovia’s eight pieces in the main gallery begins as a dozen or more sheets of thick paper. After painting both sides in an organic palette of mellow tertiaries, the Mexico-born, L.A.-based artist cuts each sheet into hundreds of long, skinny strips. Then he weaves them together, creating compositions whose humble beauty, both supple and sturdy, stands on its own.

A second gallery features eight little pieces, push-pinned to the walls like collected butterflies, and the largest work: a two-sided, 10-foot-square abstraction that does double duty as a room divider.

Many of Segovia’s works recall tartan plaids. But repetition yields to cockeyed improv, each element missing the mark and being all the more captivating for it.

In some, shadows shroud the picture plane in dusky mystery. In others, coherence disintegrates into flickering fields that resemble digital transmissions gone bad. Many read pictorially: the warp and woof of their surfaces opening onto spatial illusions. A few capture the sexy swing of hips sashaying beneath skirts and trousers.

In all of Segovia’s tastefully restrained paintings, hinting at things proves to be more potent than laying them bare.

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 -- David Pagel

CB1 Gallery, 207 W. 5th St., (213) 806-7889, through Feb. 19. Closed Mon.-Tue. www.cb1gallery.com

Image: Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, installation view of "Papel Tejido." Credit: CB1 Gallery.

Los Angeles Dance Festival to debut in a busy April

February 9, 2012 | 10:20 am

Kybele Dance Theater
With the goal of highlighting local dance, Diavolo Dance Theater and Brockus Project are co-producing a new Los Angeles Dance Festival, April 14 and 15, at the Brewery Arts Complex just east of downtown.

So far, 16 contemporary dance companies have signed up to participate, including Barak Marshall’s dance company, Oni Dance, Kybele Dance Theater and Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Deborah Brockus, artistic director of Brockus Project, said she is awaiting word from several other groups.

“What I want to do with this festival is somewhat similar to the American Dance Festival in North Carolina,” said Brockus, speaking of the annual summer event that is an international leader for dance training of college students, and for presenting and commissioning contemporary work.  For the Los Angeles Dance Festival, “the companies are all going to be doing open classes in the day, and then there are performances in the evening.”

The classes will take place in Brockus Project’s two studios at the Brewery Arts Complex on Moulton Avenue, and the performances will be at Diavolo’s studio space, also at the Brewery, which can seat as many as 150. If the Saturday performance sells out, a later second show would be added, Brockus said. She based her selection on "strong working companies that tour to different places."

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Music review: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler's Seventh and Ninth

February 3, 2012 |  2:15 pm

Gustavo Dudamel

In the final and most demanding week of his Mahler Project, Gustavo Dudamel has been pushing a conductor’s physical, mental and Mahler endurance about as far as it can go. There have been single days in which he has rehearsed two different symphonies and performed a third. He has been, all the while, shuttling between two radically different orchestras -– the feisty Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and the refined Los Angeles Philharmonic --  as well as shuttling between Walt Disney Concert Hall and the twice-as-big Shrine Auditorium.

Tuesday night with the Bolívars at Disney, Dudamel conducted an 80-minute Seventh, which is the least performed and most elusive of Mahler’s nine completed symphonies. On Thursday, Dudamel led the first of three performances of a lyrically transcendental 90-minute Ninth with the L.A. Phil. In extraordinary performances -– conducted, as usual, from memory -- Dudamel reached new and Mahlerian heights. If he was exhausted, he didn’t show it.

He is, of course, exhausted. During a break between rehearsals Wednesday, Dudamel, struggling to remain coherent, delivered a few groggy remarks to an audience of 400 educators at an L.A. Phil symposium on Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program. The conductor also, after all, is engaged in a full-time engineering challenge of putting together the spiritually ecstatic Eighth with a cast of a thousand at the Shrine Saturday night.

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Art review: Elias Hansen and the Reader at the Company

February 2, 2012 |  5:00 pm

Elias Hansen, "We made it far enough"
Whatever Elias Hansen looks to be cooking up in his arrangements of beakers and buckets at the Company, his enterprise feels somewhat private, surreptitious. Could be moonshine, could be meth. Mostly, the sculptural set-ups of hand-blown glass, rough-cut wood, rubber tubing, water and light bulbs feel like props in a narrative of personal exploration, experimentation, expanded consciousness. They complement well the other half of this intriguing two-person show: bold declarations painted on wood and printed on posters by the street artist who goes by the Reader, among other names.

The two are old friends from Washington, where Hansen lived before moving to upstate New York. The Reader, who recently had his first gallery show in Seattle, has made his anonymous/eponymous mark nationally on buildings by covering them with giant letters spelling out READ. His DIY literacy campaign’s most compelling gesture here is a black and white drawing in lumber crayon on a large (66-by-81-by-10 inches) surface of repurposed planks. “OPEN YOUR EYES” commands a drawn banner stretched across the image of an open book, three alert, disembodied eyes hovering in a triangle around it.

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Music review: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler's Fifth and Sixth

January 29, 2012 |  3:19 pm

Gustavo Dudamel and Martin Chalifour
In the summer of 1901, Mahler celebrated his 41st birthday and began his Fifth Symphony. For all that was new about his first four symphonies, they were nonetheless song-filled, poetically and spiritually inspired products of 19th century German Romanticism. Although Mahler’s moods were many, dark tunnels still promised light at the end. With the Fifth, and more so with the agitated Sixth, Mahler took the hard-edged, modernist plunge into a future and fate unknowable.

On Thursday, the day Gustavo Dudamel celebrated his 31st birthday, his Mahler Project turned the troubling 20th century corner in an imaginative performance of the Fifth Symphony with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Walt Disney Concert Hall. The next night, Dudamel led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a driving, riveting Sixth.

When Dudamel recorded the Fifth five years ago, he took a score with which many conductors have trouble finding a trajectory, pretty much on its contradictory, if exciting, face value. Now his confidence has grown to ask unanswerable questions.

A possible way to read this symphony is as the farewell to one age and a wary but game readiness for the next. In five movements and three parts, it begins with a funeral march, introduced by solo trumpet dirge, the battle lost, the battlefield a plain of sorrow. The slow Adagietto, famous as memorial music, was not originally meant to be played snail-slow but as a robust song of love. That leads to a cheerful, contrapuntal rondo, its role in the drama unclear.

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Music review: Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra at AT&T Center

January 29, 2012 |  2:51 pm

Angelica
A 500-seat auditorium is hidden within the 1965-vintage corporate confines of the 32-story AT&T Center at 12th Street and Olive, an area of downtown Los Angeles that looks desolate at night -– off the charts, as it were.  But when KUSC moved into the AT&T Center in 2010, they saw a possible staging ground for small- to medium-sized groups in this underused hall –- and so on Saturday night, the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra became the first group to try out the facilities.

The hall looks like an artifact of its time –- a gleaming-white, fan-shaped, multipurpose room with maroon-colored theater-type seats –- and sounds rather dry, with hardly any resonance.  Yet the makeshift shell that KUSC erected on the stage did its job well, pushing the sound forward and out to the audience with good balances among the six period instruments and a full bass response.  The voices of a pair of early-music stars -– soprano Emma Kirkby (working with Musica Angelica for the first time) and countertenor Daniel Taylor -– sounded a bit recessed, but they could be heard clearly from a right-center seat toward the stage and farther back on the left.

In other words, it’ll do.

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Occupy Wall Street movement inspires series of short plays

January 28, 2012 |  9:30 am

  Protesters at an Occupy rally in Oakland
Occupy Wall Street is over, but its spirit lives on ... and on and on. The solidarity of the 99% continues to find various outlets for creative venting, though it often feels like the word "occupy" has become less like a potent rallying cry than a fashionable slogan as hip as skinny jeans or vintage T-shirts.

Into the endless array of "occupy" tie-ins comes "Occupy the Heart," a collection of short plays that will run at the Little Casa Theater in downtown L.A. from Feb. 10-26. The production is inspired by media criticism that the Occupy movement lacked clear demands and solutions, according to the show's promotional material.

"Occupy the Heart" features 10 short plays and is being produced by Casa0101, an arts group that brings stage and film projects to the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Josefina Lopez and Miguel Garcia are the co-producers.

This isn't the first time that theater artists have shown their support for the Occupy movement. In New York, members of the Broadway and off-Broadway community came together to organize Occupy Broadway, a 24-hour occupation of the Times Square area that took place in late November.

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-- David Ng

Photo: Protesters at an Occupy rally in Oakland. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

Theater review: 'And God Created Great Whales' at REDCAT

January 26, 2012 |  2:25 pm

Rinde Eckert
Don’t call him Ishmael. Nathan is having enough trouble remembering his own name.

A loveably disheveled piano tuner and composer, Nathan’s task is to somehow finish his “Moby Dick” opera before he loses his memory. His is a race against time and more than one form of madness in “And God Created Great Whales,” a stunningly effective theater piece that Rinde Eckert first produced in New York 12 years ago and that opened at REDCAT on Wednesday night.

Eckert and director David Schweizer revised the 80-minute production for an eight-week revival beginning next month in New York, which meant it luckily happened to be available when Robert Wilson canceled his re-creation of his 1977 “I Was Sitting on My Patio and This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Hallucinating,” scheduled at REDCAT last month. “Patio” was to have been the CalArts-operated black box’s contribution to Pacific Standard Time. But Wilson -- busy readying “Einstein on the Beach” in Ann Arbor, Mich., for an international revival –- postponed “Patio” for a later date.

There are curiosities here, the first being that the multi-talented Eckert –- who created, composed, made the sound design and wrote “Whales” and who gives a dazzling performance that includes not only brilliantly original acting, but also brilliantly original singing, as well as playing the piano and the ukulele credibly -– was inspired by the 1976 “Einstein” to create his own unique brand of music theater.

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