Category: Technology

Influences: Early Morning Opera's Lars Jan

January 25, 2012 |  9:30 am

Lars JanEven with the genre-bending eclecticism of today’s avant-garde, Lars Jan stands out. “Abacus,” the piece he brings to town next week, draws from opera, film and performance art, and concerns, among other things, the arbitrary state of national boundaries, the craze for TED presentations and the communication style of mega-churches.

“I’ve become really interested in our heavily screen-based society,” the multimedia artist says. “This is the screen age. I feel like screens have kicked the pants off performance since cinema was invented,” increasing the advertising beamed at us and limiting our ability to have long-term thoughts. “I wonder what will happen when the pendulum begins to swing back.”  

Jan is a polymath in other ways too: The son of émigrés from Afghanistan and Poland, he’s worked in Japan, Afghanistan and Ukraine and studied at Swarthmore and CalArts. (“Abacus” came out of his Los Angeles-based art lab, Early Morning Opera.)

Jan, 33, discussed his influences from Sundance, where he premiered “Abacus” before bringing it to REDCAT Feb. 2-4. 

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Racist image of Michelle Obama based on Versailles painting

January 5, 2012 |  6:30 am

A baldly racist depiction of First Lady Michelle Obama that appeared Tuesday on a right-wing website is based on a 1775 portrait of Marie Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty (1740-1786). The full-length painting hangs outside Paris in the Palace of Versailles.

The Internet image grafts Obama's face onto Gautier-Dagoty's lavish depiction of the French queen, dressed in full regalia. It also replaces the draped left arm of the young monarch, then barely 20, with a muscular black arm and shifts the position of the right hand to place it in front of a world globe.

The caricature of Obama as a profligate queen relies on the racist stereotype of an "uppity Negro," which emerged among slave masters in an earlier American era. Obama, born into a working-class Chicago family whose roots are traced to the pre-Civil War South, graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, prior to holding several high-level positions in the academic and private sectors.

The racist image appeared Tuesday on the right-wing blog Gateway Pundit; the slur was later called out by Media Matters for America. A post by Gateway blogger Jim Hoft paired the picture with a clip of the first lady's guest appearance on a forthcoming episode of "iCarly," a Nickelodeon sit-com. In the script, Obama commends the cast for their support of military families. Responding to a cast member who mistakenly addresses her as "your excellency," the script has Obama jokingly reply, "I kinda like it." 

The doctored painting also turned up in August 2010 on the right-wing Instapundit website, where it apparently originated.

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Music Center garage gets automated, now takes credit cards

December 1, 2011 |  9:00 am

Music Center
The above sign has been greeting patrons who park in the Music Center’s garage, but don’t be alarmed: the new automated parking system debuting Thursday at the downtown venue will apply only to weekday daytime users. Parking for performances, like the shows themselves, will still involve the human factor. Contrary to what the sign says, attendants will be on duty.

The main change for performing arts patrons who use the eight-level, county-owned garage beneath the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum is that they'll now have the option of paying the $9 fee with a credit or debit card.

For concert-goers using the garage beneath Walt Disney Concert Hall, parking remains cash only.

Nick Chico, Los Angeles County’s manager of parking services, said Wednesday that the 1,400-car garage under 135 N. Grand Ave. is the first in a series of county-owned parking facilities that will be automated; the Disney Hall garage probably won’t be re-equipped for some years to come.

The biggest advantage, he said, is an expected end to revenue “leakage” –- a euphemism for when the human factor introduces a degree of larceny. Based on industry-wide experience, Chico said, the county’s initial $1 million investment in equipment, software and changes to garage structures and electronics promises to yield a 6% to 15% increase in parking receipts. The county keeps 81.78% of parking proceeds, with the rest going to Classic Parking, the company contracted to run the garage.

Until 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, garage users -– primarily people with business in the nearby courthouses and County Hall of Administration -– will no longer pay as they enter. They’ll zip right in and park. But when it’s time to leave, before getting back into their cars they’ll use one of four newly installed machines to pay what they owe. The machine will spit out a receipt to present at the exit gate, enabling a bar to rise and sending each vehicle on its way.

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Google Doodle honors photography pioneer Louis Daguerre

November 18, 2011 |  1:26 pm

GoogleDoodle Nov 18 2011 honoring Louis Daguerre
Google put up one of its periodic Google Doodles Friday, a homage to Louis Daguerre on his 224th birthday –- and a reminder to web-surfing shutterbugs, photo-oglers and moving picture buffs everywhere to say a thank-you to photography’s most widely celebrated parent.

The first known photograph, “View from the Window at Le Gras,” actually was created by Daguerre’s fellow Frenchman, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, in 1827, when he coated a metal plate with bitumen and put it in the window of his country home -– creating a hazy silver and black image that he dubbed a “heliograph.”

Before his death in 1833, Niepce began collaborating with Daguerre, who built on his partner’s earlier work and, by 1839, had found a way to fix permanent images onto a plate (Englishman William Talbot was simultaneously making similar strides). Daguerre dubbed the result a daguerreotype -- represented by Google in its drawing, above -- launching a rage for taking, posing for, collecting and telling stories with photographic images that continues unabated.


Scientists expose secrets of the first photograph

Getty takes a closer look at the origins of photography

Into the light

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Google Doodle for Friday, Nov. 18. Credit:

Steve Jobs theater piece in New York to proceed, with changes

October 7, 2011 | 10:35 am

Steve Jobs theater piece in New York to proceed, with changes

Too soon? A one-man theater piece that addresses the life and career of Steve Jobs will proceed as scheduled at New York's Public Theater, just days after the Apple co-founder's death at age 56. The Public Theater said this week that "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," written and performed by Mike Daisey, will begin previews as scheduled on Oct. 11, with an opening set for Oct. 17.

However, Daisey told the New York Times that he plans to implement some changes to the production, which is said to be critical of Jobs and Apple. Daisey said he doesn't know for certain what those changes will be but that he will keep the play's critical point of view regarding Apple's relationship with factories in China.

In a release sent out this week, Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, said "it is inevitable that reality and drama will intersect in surprising, sometimes uncomfortable ways. This isn't to be regretted; it's to be celebrated."

Daisey said in the same release that "we live in denial about China: a relationship that so disturbs us that we pretend our devices are made in magical Willy Wonka-esque factories by space elves instead of the real human cost we all know in our hearts has been paid."

As a stage performer, Daisey has toured the country with his monologue shows, including a 2009 stop in L.A., when he performed "How Theater Failed America" at the Kirk Douglas Theater.


Theater review: "How Theater Failed America" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Steve Jobs dies at 56; Apple's co-founder transformed computers and culture

-- David Ng

Photo: An Apple fan lifts his iPad to take a picture at the Apple store in Santa Monica. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Lang Lang starring in Franz Liszt's 200th birthday simulcast

September 19, 2011 |  2:02 pm

Lang Lang at Hollywood Bowl in 2011
Lang Lang’s showmanship and flash on the piano have earned him frequent comparisons to Franz Liszt, so it’s not surprising that Lisztomania and Langomania will intersect live on the big screen for an Oct. 22 simulcast celebrating  Liszt’s 200th birthday. 

The concert, which Southern California audiences won’t see live at 5, but on tape delay at 8, emanates from Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall, where the Philadelphia Orchestra under Charles Dutoit will accompany Lang in Liszt’s Piano Concert No. 1. Lang’s solo spot will include the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

NCM Fathom, the outfit that also beams the LA Phil Live series to movie theaters (next up, Oct. 9, is “Dudamel conducts Mendelssohn with Janine Jensen”) and the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD,”  says that Lang’s Liszt homage will be “the first classical music cinemacast headlined by a solo artist.”

More than 20 Southern California theaters are screening the performance -– some showing it Oct. 24 instead of Oct. 22. Check here for information.

Also on tap is “The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary”  staging from London’s Royal Albert Hall on Oct. 2, plus three follow-up dates.


Gustavo Dudamel and Lang Lang together for the first time

All flash and no substance?

Franz Liszt, the most intriguing of the 19th century composers?

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Lang Lang performing at the Hollywood Bowl in July with the L.A. Phil. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times.

Google doodle: An interactive Alexander Calder mobile

July 22, 2011 |  9:02 am

Google Leave it to the folks at Google to use the latest technology to update the artwork of Alexander Calder. Today's Google homepage celebrates the American artist's 113th birthday by using a Calder mobile in place of the company logo. The mobile swings on your computer -- and even tilts if you have the right kind of laptop.

Before we get technical, a little bit about the artist:

"Even people who don't know art know Alexander Calder's art," Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote of Calder earlier this year. "Forever identified with the mobile, Calder gave sculptural form to currents of air."

Of Calder's talent, Knight wrote:

"He of course did much more in a long art-life that was encouraged from childhood by a sculptor-father and a painter-mother. But, formally schooled as a mechanical engineer, Calder had the tools, after he decided to become an artist, to bring seemingly effortless elements of balance and poise to bits of broken glass and plastic, chunks of wood and, most often, curved and painted metal plates suspended from a hanging system of interconnected rods."

Southern Californians can check out Calder's work at the show "Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy" at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach through Sept. 4.

And now about how Google created the doodle:

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Monster Mash: Supreme Court won't hear Norton Simon case; China seeks millions from Al Weiwei

June 28, 2011 |  7:55 am


Rejected: The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to take up an appeal from Marei Von Saher, who is trying to wrest a 480-year-old painting from the Norton Simon Museum. (Los Angeles Times)

No stopping: China has asked dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who was recently released after two months in detention, to pay 12 million yuan ($1.85 million) in back taxes and fines. (Reuters)

Local roots: Pop singer Alicia Keys is one of the producers for the Broadway mounting of Lydia R. Diamond's "Stick Fly,"  which had been seen in 2009 at the  Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles. (Broadway World)

High tech: The J. Paul Getty Museum is teaming up with Google on a new project to provide information on hundreds of paintings from the museum's permanent collection. (Los Angeles Times)

Staying put: An effort to send the Mona Lisa on a temporary visit to Italy has been dismissed by gallery chiefs in France. (Telegraph)

Remembrance: The New York Philharmonic will hold a free memorial concert to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. (New York Times)

Rock legend: A contested statue of musician Chuck Berry has been approved in St. Louis. (Reuters)

Stepping down: Brent D. Glass, who has served as director of the National Museum of American History for the past nine years, will retire in July. (Washington Post)

Shelved: A proposed Hong Kong museum honoring the late movie star Bruce Lee has been canceled. (Hollywood Reporter)

Inheritance: The late Huguette Clark has bequeathed a painting from Claude Monet’s "Water Lilies" series to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. (Washington Post)

Passing: British stage and screen actress Margaret Tyzack has died at 79. (BBC News)

And in the L.A. Times: Art critic Christopher Knight on the Ardabil Carpet on display at the L.A. County Museum of Art.

-- David Ng

Photo: The Getty Center in Brentwood. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Bill and Melinda Gates portrait unveiled at National Portrait Gallery

May 17, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Gates Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, have been officially immortalized in a new painting at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The artwork, which was unveiled Tuesday morning, was painted by Jon Friedman and is on display in the museum's "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition.

The painting was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and is part of the museum's permanent collection.

The portrait emphasizes the Gateses' humanitarian efforts, which are conducted through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The screen behind them in the painting reads "All Lives Have Equal Value.") The artwork makes no direct visual reference to Microsoft, the software company that Gates founded with Paul Allen in 1975.

The couple issued a joint statement Tuesday: "It is an honor to have our portrait joining those of so many outstanding Americans in the National Portrait Gallery. Our thanks go to Jon Friedman for creating the portrait in so thoughtful a manner, and for calling out the work of our foundation so evocatively."

Gates isn't the only businessman to earn a place in the National Portrait Gallery. Other prominent businessmen who are featured in the museum's collections include Ted Turner, Malcolm Forbes Jr., Rupert Murdoch and Hugh Hefner.

A spokeswoman for the National Portrait Gallery said that the museum features portraits of "individuals of all backgrounds and careers -- it's a matter of how significant you are in American history."


Gates2Smithsonian withdraws offer to buy endangered L.A. murals

Critic's Notebook: Smithsonian public forum on censorship? Not so much

Getting the facts straight about Wojnarowicz's 'A Fire in My Belly'

Critic's notebook: Smithsonian regents didn't solve the problem

-- David Ng

Photos, from top: The portrait of Bill and Melinda Gates by Jon Friedman at the National Portrait Gallery; Friedman with his portrait. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

Google unveils online 'Art Project' but bestows new technology mainly on Old World museums

February 1, 2011 |  4:36 pm

Aiming to open the world’s art collections to online viewers, Google today unveiled the Google Art Project, a website that allows visitors to see more than 1,000 works by 486 artists, take virtual 360-degree tours of galleries, and zoom in for extreme close-up views to inspect a great artist’s brushwork.

But Google's masters of new technology began by taking a distinctly Old World view of art: Of the 17 museums in the Google Art Project, 13 are in Europe. In America, none of the art on view is housed west of Manhattan or the Potomac River, which means no exposure for museums in Google’s home state of California.

If it's the thought that counts, Google, based in Mountain View in the Bay Area, was neighborly enough to invite the nearby Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the De Young and the Legion of Honor) to be part of the Art Project, museum spokeswoman Jill Lynch said, "but due to scheduling conflicts we were unable. We hope that our exhibition schedule will permit us to work with them in the next round."

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was not approached to participate, spokeswoman Miranda Carroll said; a Getty Museum spokeswoman told a Times reporter that she hadn’t heard yet about Google’s online initiative and would check whether the Getty had been invited. (Updated, 5:55 p.m.: the Getty confirmed that it was not invited or contacted, either.)

The four United States museums involved are New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and Frick Collection and in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art. Otherwise, the project focuses on two museums each in Madrid, Berlin, London and Amsterdam, and one each in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Paris, Prague and Florence.

Many museums around the world have made a priority in recent years of making their collections available on their websites, albeit not typically with a virtual tour of actual galleries. The extreme close-up technology that's one of Google's new wrinkles is available for one artwork picked by each museum.

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