Category: Arts

Music review: New Les Surprises Baroques in Santa Monica

April 16, 2012 |  3:04 pm

We could use more surprises in a concert scene so often encased in ritual and formula. So with that in mind, a new, roving period-performance group with a flexible roster of musicians is calling itself Les Surprises Baroques.

Getting Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock to serve as artistic director is a good first step. Now they have to build an audience, which from the looks of the pews in Santa Monica’s First Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon is currently in the embryonic stage.

This program, the group’s second, was labeled “Curiose Inventioni,” a dig through some cobwebbed corners of secular 17th century Italian repertoire. There were 21 pieces, none lasting more than a few minutes, some linked together so that it was sometimes hard to tell where one left off and the next began.  

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James Franco packs MOCA for lecture and book-signing

April 15, 2012 |  8:00 am


James Franco is as meta as it gets, the ultimate in creative cross-pollination. He’s an actor-turned-artist-turned-author-turned-actor-playing-an-artist-named-Franco in the soap opera “General Hospital." His new self-referential filmic offshoot, “Francophrenia” documents that experience. He’s also been cast in the upcoming Seth Rogen movie, in which he plays -- who else -- the actor-artist-author James Franco.

Drawing on all those areas of interest, Franco appeared at MOCA on Saturday in conversation with art theorist and Rhode Island School of Design digital culture lecturer Francisco Ricardo. The sold-out event –- which drew an appropriately young, hip-looking crowd of roughly 200 -- marked the release of Franco’s new book, “The Dangerous Book Four Boys.” The book is a companion to the 2010 New York exhibition of the same name and collects interviews, photographs and multimedia artworks around the themes of childhood and media, among other things.

Not surprisingly, however, Saturday’s conversation defied compartmentalization and strayed much farther afield. After a somewhat heady and hilarious dissection of Franco’s short film “Dicknose in Paris” (a clip was shown), the conversation ricocheted among topics, including Franco’s love of Faulkner; insider stories about director Nicholas Ray; Natalie Wood and Dennis Hopper during the filming of “Rebel Without a Cause”; and the upcoming MOCA show called “Rebel.” The latter, a high-concept group show that Franco conceived, is inspired by the iconic James Dean film and opens in May. It’s brimming with art world star power with works by Ed Ruscha, Harmony Korine, Damon McCarthy, Paul McCarthy, Douglas Gordon, Terry Richardson, Aaron Young and Franco.

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Art Review: Jason Kraus at Redling Fine Art

April 12, 2012 |  6:45 pm

Kraus 3

The premise of Jason Kraus’s second solo show at Redling Fine Art, appropriately titled “Dinner Repeated,” is an exercise in compulsive reiteration. On each of the first seven nights of the exhibition, the New York-based artist served a nearly identical meal: the same four-course menu to the same 12 people, on a plywood table of like design with matching dishes, glasses and flatware.

After each meal, he dismantled the table and used the wood to build a free-standing shelving unit, then cleaned all the dishes and stacked them neatly inside. At the end of the week, the installation was complete: seven apparently uniform cabinets, each stocked with 12 identical place settings, spaced around the floor of the gallery.

The concept of residue has had a lot of currency in recent years. Many a work has been generated from the marks or stains made by the unfolding of a performance or event. (Note Cai Guo-Qiang’s recent firework paintings at MOCA.) In a curious twist on this familiar trope, Kraus has done the opposite: made every attempt to erase the imprint of the events, emphasizing the generic nature of his mass-produced materials.

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NEA appoints L.A.'s Ayanna Hudson as arts education director

April 12, 2012 |  4:37 pm

  Ayanna Hudson
The National Endowment for the Arts has named a new director for arts education, choosing an experienced cultural advocate from Los Angeles. Ayanna Hudson will assume the new position starting in July, the NEA said Thursday. Hudson comes from the L.A. County Arts Commission, where she led Arts for All, an initiative to return arts to schools' core curricula.

Hudson will manage all stages of the grantmaking process for the organization's arts education program, the NEA said. The program benefits students and teachers through grants intended to go toward training and development of the arts.

Hudson has worked as arts eduction director at the L.A. County Arts Commission since 2001. Her previous experience includes the School Arts Program at the Fulton County Department of Arts and Culture in Atlanta.

Hudson will replace Sarah Cunningham, who left the NEA in July. In a statement, Hudson said she has a profound belief in the mission of NEA, and is looking "forward to spearheading strategic efforts to impact the lives of millions of youth through the arts."

The L.A. County Arts Commission said it is planning a national search to find a replacement for Hudson.


'Hunger Games' ' Stanley Tucci to go to bat for arts funding

NEA-style community-building via arts has lost ground in state

Obama's 2013 budget calls for 5% increase for arts and culture

-- David Ng

Photo: Ayanna Hudson. Credit: Gregory Gilmer / L.A. County Arts Commission

Music review: Pacifica Quartet at UCLA's Royce Hall

April 12, 2012 | 11:23 am

Pacifica Quartet
The Pacifica Quartet likes to think big -- and in the chamber music field, that often means doing cycles. 

Some adventurous listeners remember the evening at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall in 2003 when the Pacifica served up all five of Elliott Carter’s notoriously knotty string quartets in one mighty scoop; after that, you figured that from then on, everything else would be a piece of cake for them.  There were more cycles to come -- most recently, two volumes of an emerging CD project on the Cedille label, “The Soviet Experience,” that will link all 15 Shostakovich quartets with four by his Soviet colleagues.

However, the Pacifica did not have omnivorous feats in mind when it visited UCLA’s Royce Hall on  Wednesday night -- just Beethoven’s Quartets Nos. 4 and 8, and Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 9, plus the spiky, humorous, Allegretto pizzicato movement from Bartók’s Quartet No. 4 as an encore. 

Live, the Pacifica sacrifices some of the smooth, virtually immaculate surface that it displays on its recordings. But in return, there was a big gain in dramatic tension and fire, with all four players listening intently to one another. 

Though it is one of Beethoven’s early Op. 18 quartets, the No. 4 could take the Pacifica’s emphatically-accented, forwardly-pushed approach more in stride than some of the others in Op. 18 might have.  The Beethoven Quartet No. 8 at the end of the night was even better -- from the first movement’s big symphonic chords to the perfectly sprung rhythms and fast tempos in the third and fourth movements. 

On the Pacifica’s Shostakovich CDs, the group usually stakes a middle ground between the Emerson Quartet’s fierceness and the Fitzwilliam Quartet’s warmth.  Live in the Quartet No. 9, the Pacifica leaned more toward the former approach, identifying with the wildness in the third and fifth movements, bearing down hard toward the conclusion with terrific momentum.


Influences: Violinist Leila Josefowicz

 Adventures around town with the noble and profound cello

Music review: Cage, Stockhausen and Bettison under Green Umbrella

-- Richard S. Ginell

Photo: The Pacifica Quartet, from left, Sibbi Bernhardsson, Brandon Vamos, Masumi Per Rostad and Simin Ganatra. Credit: Anthony Parmelee.

Arts on TV: Renee Fleming; Getty Museum gardens; Suzanna Guzman

April 5, 2012 |  6:00 am


“Soulful Symphony With Darin Atwater: Song in a Strange Land” Noon Thursday, KCET: Darin Atwater conducts an 85-member orchestra in compositions exhibiting styles ranging through gospel, jazz and symphonic music.

“Open Call” 9 p.m. Thursday, KCET: "USC First Look": Hosted by mezzo-soprano opera singer Suzanna Guzman; looks at four films from USC's First Look film festival.

“Independent Lens” 9 p.m. Thursday and 9 p.m. Monday, KOCE: "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey": Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo.

“Dudu Fisher: In Concert From Israel” Noon Friday, KCET: Dudu Fisher performs Broadway tunes and Israeli songs.

“Live From Lincoln Center” 10 p.m. Friday, KOCE: "Renée Fleming at the Penthouse": Soprano Renée Fleming's performance features “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” and songs from “Dark Hope.” With Josh Groban.

“The Victory Garden” 9:30 a.m. Saturday, KLCS; 2:30 p.m. Saturday, KVCR: "Easy: The Getty Museum."

“Rick Steves' Europe” 2:30 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: "Florence: City of Art": Florence, Italy; Michelangelo's “David”; Botticelli's “Venus”; Uffizi art gallery; perfumery; Vespa; converted monastery.

“Great Performances” 9 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: "Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk -- A Celebration of New Orleans Blues": Hugh Laurie performs New Orleans blues and jazz with Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and Tom Jones.

“Chris Botti in Boston, Part II” 11:30 p.m. Saturday, KOCE: A continuation of the trumpeter's performance with the Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart includes guests Sting, Steven Tyler, Josh Groban and Yo-Yo Ma.

“American Masters” 11 p.m. Sunday, KOCE: "Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird": A documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee, who never published again after “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Rick Steves' Europe” Midnight Monday, KCET: "Rome: Baroque, After Dark": A tour of Rome includes a pilgrimage to Michelangelo's Pieta, St. Peter's Basilica and the Borghese Gallery.

“Glee: Don't Stop Believing” 6 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, Biography: The stars of “Glee” perform for their auditions and exhibit how they found their way to the small screen.

-- Compiled by Ed Stockly

Photo: "Open Call's" Suzanna Guzman. Credit KCET

LACMA, Getty among 134 museums joining Google's art site

April 2, 2012 |  9:01 pm


Google knows something about the power in numbers, even in an art website.

Google Art Project, which launched last year with virtual tours and digitized artworks from 17 museums, has added 134 new museums to its site, including four from California.

Initially, no museums from the state were included in the project; now the Getty Museum, the L.A. County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the De Young Museum in San Francisco are participating.

Other newcomers in the U.S. include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., the Rubin Museum in New York, and the White House.
New partners from outside the U.S. include the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, the Musée d’Orsay in France, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, Islamic Museum of Qatar, and the National Museum of Indonesia, just to name a few. Altogether, 40 countries are now represented.

This expansion addresses early complaints from cultural critics that the site was too Eurocentric and Old Masters-heavy, because of offerings from such venerable institutions as the Frick Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Uffizi in Florence, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the National Gallery in London.

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Art review: Urs Fischer at Gagosian Gallery

March 29, 2012 |  6:00 pm


Urs Fischer’s exhibition at Gagosian Gallery is a big disappointment. Titled “Beds & Problem Paintings,” it feels as if it’s been phoned in. Worse, its lackadaisical attitude is at odds with the spare-no-expense production of its slick, custom-made objects.

While effort, hard work and thoughtfulness are not the only ingredients that go into a work of art, they are almost entirely absent from Fisher’s pompous pieces.

The three sculptures (one in each of the three first-floor showrooms) are unimaginative rip-offs of works by Charles Ray and Robert Therrien.

Fischer’s two life-size beds are overshadowed by Therrien’s whimsically weird beds, which he has been making for a couple of decades, and Ray’s “Unpainted Sculpture” from 1997, an exact copy, in Fiberglass, of a crashed Pontiac. Fischer’s sculpture that resembles an ordinary wood table likewise borrows too directly from Ray’s 1989 “Tabletop,” which also uses hidden mechanisms to provide special effects.

Fischer’s preposterously big pictures, on nearly 12-by-8 foot aluminum panels, are portraits of people whose faces can’t be seen because they are blocked by images of disproportionally large objects: a sliced chile pepper, a mushroom and a steel bolt that appears to have wilted. Fischer’s men are pushed into the background by similarly Freudian stand-ins for their genitals: a mushy banana, an uprooted turnip and a steel screw that seems to have been made in the same place as Salvador Dali’s melting clocks or Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures.

In Fischer’s hands, tragedy is bypassed as history is immediately repeated as farce.

 -- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, (310) 271-9400, through April 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Image: Urs Fischer exhibition at Gagosian Gallery. Credit: Mats Nordman

Art review: 'B. Wurtz & Co.' at Richard Telles Fine Art

March 29, 2012 |  5:40 pm

 B Wurtz sculpture
Good old American ingenuity doesn’t make the news these days. Nor does the attitude of can-do optimism, which seems to have been squashed by a rising tide of anger, disdain and bitter defeatism.

The spirit of DIY inventiveness lives on at Richard Telles Fine Art, where guest curator Matthew Higgs has brought together 26 works by 11 artists. Titled “B. Wurtz & Co.,” the quietly inspiring selection takes art back to the basics: individuals making things out of just about nothing.

In most religions, that’s a god’s job. But there’s nothing grandiose, overblown or entitled about the humble objects in this refreshing exhibition, which puts salt-of-the-earth honesty and homegrown improvisation front and center.

Most works are abstract, yet none disguises the materials it is made of. Scrap wood, plastic lids, bits of yarn, postal labels, coin wrappers and bottle caps are plainly visible in the casual yet composed pieces by Al Taylor, B. Wurtz, Judith Scott, Udomsak Krisanamis, Gabriel Kuri and Philadelphia Wire Man.

Collage predominates, its cut-and-paste aesthetic given sharp shape in subtly charged works by Richard Hawkins, Joe Fyfe and Vincent Fecteau. Doodling is a virtue in Martin Creed’s crisp compositions. And unsullied emptiness is filled with potential in Noam Rappaport’s clean canvases.

At “B. Wurtz & Co.,” imaginative handiwork never looked better, its democratic impulse a timely reminder of art’s place in everyday life.

-- David Pagel

More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (323) 965-5578, through May 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Image: B. Wurtz, "Untitled," 2009. Credit: Richard Telles Fine Art

Art review: 'Charles Garabedian: Works from 1966-1976' at L.A. Louver

March 29, 2012 |  5:05 pm

Charles Garabedian Restaurant (The Waitress)
Ever since the avant garde went the way of silent movies, many of the most interesting artists of the last century have cast themselves as lone wolves — solitary souls whose genius is tied to the freedom that comes with being a go-it-alone misfit.

This romantic fantasy is mercilessly mocked by the 10 wickedly original paintings, sculptures and mongrel mash-ups in “Charles Garabedian: Works from 1966-1976.” In L.A. Louver’s upstairs gallery, the 88-year-old artist’s cock-eyed pictures and fractured forms replace the macho bravura of the lone wolf with the scraggily raggedness (and whiplash unpredictability) of a stray dog.

The two earliest works, “Daytime T.V.” and “Restaurant (The Waitress),” are scruffy, ill tempered and out of whack, both compositionally and emotionally. Each cranks up the loneliness of Edward Hopper’s best paintings, transforming the promise of solitude into the despair of distraction gone wrong. Their curdled surfaces look dirty. With uncanny efficiency, Garabedian makes looking feel like leering.

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