Category: Photography

Monster Mash: Annie Leibovitz's new show; 'Superstar' kerfuffle

January 25, 2012 |  7:38 am

Annie Leibovitz's new show of landscapes and objects at the Smithsonian is a departure from her popular celebrity portraits.

'Christ' clash: Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber are publicly at odds over a new production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," which Webber plans to cast via a television contest. (Telegraph)

Interview: Annie Leibovitz's new show of landscapes and objects at the Smithsonian is a departure from her popular celebrity portraits. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

Sale of the ancients: Desperate for funds, Greece's Culture and Tourism Ministry announced new lower rates for permits to film at the Acropolis and other historical sites. (Bloomberg News)

For the record: The Atlantic Theater Co. is mounting the play "CQ/CX," which deals with former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who was fired for filing false stories. (Playbill)

Tense talks: Union art handlers and the Whitney Museum are in protracted negotiations over a contract that expires Jan. 31 -- just before preparation for March’s Whitney Biennial kicks into high gear. (Art Info)

Silent ball: In celebration of the documentary "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present," the performance artist hosted a Silence Is Golden fete at Sundance. (New York Magazine)

Noisy fest: London's Southbank Centre will host a yearlong music festival in 2013, inspired by critic Alex Ross' study of 20th century classical music, "The Rest is Noise." (Guardian)

Stage presence: Actor Helen Hunt and director David Cromer talk about their production of "Our Town," playing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. (KCRW's Soundcloud)

Dominant company: Led by best director Mike Leigh ("Grief") and best actor Benedict Cumberbatch ("Frankenstein"), London's National Theatre won more than half of the 2011 Critics Circle Stage Awards. (Stage)

Lipstick on a corpse? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to demolish the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, but architect Bruce S. Fowle is continuing with a $390-million renovation started six years ago. (New York Times)

Passing: Experimental filmmaker Robert Nelson dies at 81. (New York Times)

Also in the L.A. Times: Charles McNulty reviews "A Raisin in the Sun" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

-- Margaret Wappler

Photo: Photographer Annie Leibovitz leads a media tour of her exhibit, "Pilgrimage," at the Smithsonian. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press


Gusmano Cesaretti's 'East L.A. Diary'

January 21, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Gusmano Cesaretti

As a boy growing up in Italy, Gusmano Cesaretti dreamed of America. He listened to jazz and rock 'n' roll on Radio Monte Carlo and was enticed by the fantasy worlds portrayed by James Dean and Marlon Brando in Hollywood movies. Yet when he arrived in the U.S. it wasn't the palatial estates and closed-off enclaves of the Westside that drew him in but rather the raw energy, graffiti, culture and people of East Los Angeles.

 "Driving around in my Volkswagen in Beverly Hills, I saw beautiful, surreal houses surrounded by walls but didn't see many people," recalled Cesaretti. "I kept driving to East L.A. and thought, 'This is great!'"

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Art review: 'Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles' at MOCA

January 12, 2012 |  3:00 pm

“Hollywood, the last refuge of geniuses and scoundrels, welcomed me with open arms,” the photographer known as Weegee (born Usher Fellig) once wrote of his arrival in Los Angeles in 1947.

It may well have been true. Fresh off the success of his 1945 publication "Naked City," the collection of New York tabloid and crime photographs that helped to make him “Weegee the Famous” (as he humbly called himself), he had reason to identify with the promise of Tinseltown. Sorting truth from hyperbole in any of Weegee’s statements is largely futile, however; he also declared that all native Angelenos are zombies who “drink formaldehyde instead of coffee and have no sex organs.” 

In any case, Hollywood could scarcely have known what it was getting. The work that Weegee produced in his four years here — the subject of “Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art — builds on much of what made Naked City great:  the wit, the irreverence, the keen eye for incriminating detail. At the same time, it veers into very strange territory indeed. Tackling the locus of celebrity culture while having recently begun to experiment with low-fi photographic effects proved a spirituous confluence in the career of such a character. The result is a playful, bawdy, gleefully caustic portrait of L.A. that comes as a breath of fresh air in this earnest season of civic self-reflection, illuminating one quality in short supply among Pacific Standard Time exhibitions: satire. 

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Neil LaBute tries his hand at an art show

January 9, 2012 |  9:02 am

  Neil LaBute, the playwright known for his oft-disturbing and provocative works, has applied his subversive wit to a new collaboration with photographer Gerald Slota that is currently running at the Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station
Neil LaBute -- visual artist? Well, sort of. The playwright-filmmaker known for his oft-disturbing and provocative works has applied his subversive wit to a new collaboration with photographer Gerald Slota that is currently on view at the Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station.

"home.sweet.home" features photographic collages created by Slota with accompanying text -- sinister and disturbing -- written by LaBute. The show opened in 2010 at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York.

"The topics were totally at random and were developed over the course of a year or so," LaBute said via email. "I would either send Gerald little stories or (less often) he would send me an image. The themes of 'family' and 'relationships' developed more strongly once we had the idea of calling the exhibit 'home.sweet.home'"

Slota and LaBute never met in person until the exhibition opened in New York in 2010. Thinking they shared a similar sensibility, Slota's gallerist and LaBute's agent connected the pair ("like a dating agency for artists with nasty thoughts," the playwright said).

"We both liked the idea of collaborating, but we weren't sure what to do," LaBute said. Their email correspondence developed into a series of postcards called "because the darkness feeds my soul," which appeared in Aperture magazine and later became the basis for a gallery show.

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The undiscovered street photography of Vivian Maier

January 7, 2012 |  8:00 am

Vivian Maier
In 2007, Chicago Realtor John Maloof paid $400 at an auction for a storage locker filled with rolls of undeveloped film. He was searching for photos for a book project about his Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park. In a moment straight out of an episode of "Auction Hunters," Maloof discovered a treasure-trove of thousands of negatives that turned out to be from a nanny who took up street photography in her spare time yet kept most of her work hidden. The photographer was Vivian Maier.

After scanning a few of the images Maloof quickly realized he stumbled onto something remarkable. He created a blog seeking expert opinion and feedback on her photos. Immediately hundreds of positive responses poured in with book and exhibition offers. Comparisons were made to Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Her black-and-white photos, taken primarily from the 1950s through the 1970s, depict ordinary people, street life and architecture of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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PST, A to Z: ‘Under the Big Black Sun,’ ‘Naked Hollywood’ at MOCA

December 29, 2011 |  9:00 am

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

One huge, black hole of a show, “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981” at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary charts the flowering of pluralism in 1970s art — how in that turbulent era, art overflowed its traditional bounds and ran in any number of directions. Of course, the starting point for something new is more often than not the destruction of something old, and while “UBBS” is a celebration of pluralism, it also lives up to its name, full of acts of negation, derision and subversion.

With more than 400 objects on view, it's also nearly impossible to summarize. (Christopher Knight does a yeoman’s job in his review.) Such is the nature of true diversity, although I was dismayed to see works by African American artists Betye Saar and John Outterbridge alone in a cul-de-sac at the back of the galleries. Traditional notions of art history may have been chucked out the window, but some outdated boundaries are apparently more recalcitrant than others.

Big-Black-Sun-081_webStill, artists were clearly out to dismantle, or at least expose, such borders. In her 1977 video “The East Is Red, the West Is Bending,” Martha Rosler reads the user’s manual for a consumer wok, managing through her deadpan delivery to convey the cocktail of exoticism and sexism that comes with globalization. Ilene Segalove’s collage series “Meet the Turk (Meet the Jerk)” from 1975 dissects images of a mustachioed model from Camel cigarette ads. Cutting out and cataloging his clothes, props and companions, she deftly (and humorously) defuses his masculine mystique.

Other artists took the idea of negation more literally. Christopher Williams’ 1981 series of re-photographed images of John F. Kennedy show only the back of his head (which is still eminently recognizable, by the way). In his 1978 gubernatorial campaign, Lowell Darling declared that if elected, he would hire his competitor Jerry Brown to run the state. (Brown won.) And in 1977, Ed Ruscha painted the back of the Hollywood sign with the sun going down behind it. It doesn’t get more “negative” than that.

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Monster Mash: NBC's 'Smash'; Big Daddy Roth museum

December 27, 2011 |  7:30 am

TV to stage? Could "Smash," the coming NBC series about making a musical on Broadway, actually spawn a musical for Broadway? (New York magazine)

Permanent collection: Darryl Roth wants to see his collection of his father's hot-rod art in a museum (Los Angeles Times)

Kennedy Center broadcast: CBS will air Tuesday night the recent Kennedy Center Honors that recognized cellist Yo-Yo Ma, jazz musician Sonny Rollins, singer Barbara Cook, pop star Neil Diamond and actress Meryl Streep. (Playbill).

Going, going, gone: Thursday and Friday are the last chances to see "The Addams Family," "Private Lives" and "Bonnie and Clyde" on Broadway. (

Smart shooting: Phone photography accounts for a growing percentage of the photos taken each year. (Wired)

Role unclear: Founder and artistic director Dennis Nahat will have an as-yet unspecified role with Ballet San Jose under its new arrangement with American Ballet Theater. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Lost, found: A Boston music student was reunited with the $170,000 violin she forgot in the overhead compartment of a bus she rode last week. (Boston Globe)

Passings: Sori Yanagi, a pioneer of Japanese industrial design, at 96, and modern architect Andrew Geller, 87.

Also in the L.A. Times: The Salty Shakespeare troupe brings the Bard to the streets of Los Angeles and Woody Allen talks about his love of jazz.

-- Kelly Scott and Sherry Stern

Image: Poster for "Smash." Credit: NBC

Betty Freeman's memorable portraits of classical music artists

December 24, 2011 |  9:00 am

Alfred Brendel
Betty Freeman, a great patron of the city's arts, is best remembered as an influential benefactor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A lesser-known part of her legacy is her photographs of composers and musicians.

It was while producing a 1973 documentary on the cantankerous composer Harry Partch that she unintentionally took on the additional duty of still photographer. A camera was thrust into her hands when none of the crew was available, and thus began a decades-long labor of love.

Some 71 of Freeman's intimate portraits and documents are on view at "Music People: The Photography of Betty Freeman," at the Walt Disney Concert Hall's Ernest Fleischmann Gallery. "There is no esteemed composer that isn't in her collection; she knew them all," said L.A. Philharmonic President Deborah Borda. The images, on display for the first time since Freeman's death in 2009, are drawn from her personal collection, which she willed to the orchestra.

Each musician had a direct relationship with the Philharmonic and a personal connection to Freeman. Many attended the private musical salons she hosted at her home in Beverly Hills, along with her second husband, painter and sculptor, Franco Assetto. There, guests would gather to listen to new works from various composers.

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Book: The surrealist self-portraits of Francesca Woodman

December 7, 2011 | 11:20 am

Francesca Woodman, Self-portrait talking to Vince, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975–78

"Francesca Woodman," edited by Corey Keller, with essays by Jennifer Blessing and Julia Bryan-Wilson

SFMOMA and D.A.P., $49.95

Would photographs by Francesca Woodman, most notably her nude self-portraits that walk the line between powerful and vulnerable -- pack the same punch if you did not know about her suicide in 1981 at the age of 22? That question is hard to avoid when looking at the beautiful new book published by SFMOMA on the occasion of the museum's current Woodman survey -- her most ambitious retrospective to date. But by publishing an unprecedented number of pictures by the artist in roughly chronological order without interceding commentary, this book gives readers at least a fighting chance to see the images in themselves: Surrealist-laced self-portraits that explore sexual identity as much as mortality and together represent a young artist's coming of age.

--Jori Finkel

Image: Francesca Woodman, Self-portrait talking to Vince, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975–78; gelatin silver print; 5 1/8 x 5 1/16 in. (13 x 12.9 cm); courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman.

Monster Mash: Graffiti artists upset over Jennifer Lopez commercial

November 30, 2011 |  7:36 am


From the block, too: Street muralists TATS Cru. claim a recent Fiat commercial starring Jennifer Lopez uses their work without permission. (New York Daily News and Fox Latino News)

Popular: "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway has recouped its $11.4-million investment after just eight months. (Hollywood Reporter)

Decision: An appeals court in Tennessee has ruled that Nashville's Fisk University can sell part of its Stieglitz art collection to keep the school financially afloat. (News Channel 5)

Intimidation: The wife of artist Ai Weiwei said police treated her as a "criminal suspect" when they took her away for three hours of questioning earlier this week. (Reuters)

Church and state: The American Civil Liberties Union is questioning the legality of a student-created crucifix mural in a public high school in Virginia. (ABC 8 News)

Art and life: The National Endowment for the Arts is forming a task force of 13 federal agencies to foster more research on how the arts affect human development at all stages of life. (Yahoo)

Controversial: Architect Maya Lin's design for a Doris Duke memorial is creating a rift among citizens of Newport, R.I. (New York Times)

Of all places: A museum in Rio de Janeiro has canceled an exhibition of pictures by photographer Nan Goldin because it includes nudity. (Agence France-Presse)

Eco-friendlier: An architect in Colombia is leading a crusade to use bamboo as a replacement for wood, concrete and other materials in construction. (Los Angeles Times)

Ruling: A judge has approved the Philadephia Orchestra's request to turn over two of its pension plans to a federal agency. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Also in the L.A. Times: A look at the Broadway-bound revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that is coming to the La Jolla Playhouse and Mark Swed calls the late director Ken Russell a "great imaginer of music."

-- David Ng

Photo: A screen shot from the Fiat TV commercial starring Jennifer Lopez and featuring a mural by street artist TATS Cru.


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