Category: USC

PST, A to Z: ‘Sight Specific’ and ‘In Focus’

March 19, 2012 |  9:05 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.

Pacific Standard Time has included medium-specific exhibitions devoted to film, ceramics, music, and printmaking, so it’s only fitting that photography—nearly ubiquitous in contemporary art—should have its turn in the spotlight. Two exhibitions, “In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945-1980” at the Getty Center, and “Sight Specific: LACPS and the Politics of Community” at the University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art paint somewhat different portraits of the medium’s role in the region. While the former is a small, tightly focused sampling of images created in L.A., the latter is a sprawling chronicle of an organization, the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies, which operated from 1974 to 1985.

Although the Getty is the flagship institution for Pacific Standard Time, its own PST exhibitions have been relatively modest. This holds especially true for “In Focus,” which includes just 31 images, all drawn from the Getty’s permanent collection. Organized into four rather conventional categories—experimental images, street photography, architecture, and the entertainment industry—they are pretty much the pictures you expect to see of Los Angeles: Judy Fiskin’s tiny, cameo-like portraits of stucco houses, miles of tract housing documented from the air by William A. Garnett, and a fabulous image by Garry Winogrand of two women, dressed to the nines, walking towards the swooping lines of the Encounter restaurant at LAX. The images are exceptional, but the show is a bit flat-footed.

Gm_05384201_webThere are a few pleasant surprises, however. Jo Ann Callis’ poetic, 1974 nudes, lying in the water like Ophelia, are partially obscured by mysterious layers of reflections—smoke, floral patterns, and other indeterminate shapes—making it hard to tell whether they’re “straight” photographs or composite images. And Robert Cumming’s 1977 photos of the awkward, behind-the-scenes spaces of Hollywood stage sets are simple but cogent exposés of the mechanics behind the illusion.

Anthony Friedkin, represented in both exhibitions, presents a similar, albeit more humorous image in “Sight Specific.” It’s a shot of a man who looks like he’s being swallowed as he works on the mechanical shark from “Jaws.” The image was featured in “L.A. Issue,” an exhibition organized by LACPS in 1979, one of its many wide-ranging shows.

“Sight Specific” presents groups of selected works from these exhibitions, which encompassed not only thematic shows of contemporary work, but historical ones featuring such luminaries as Edward Weston, James Van Der Zee, and Paul Outerbridge, Jr. Perhaps the most certifiably “L.A.” endeavor in this regard was 1981’s “Photoflexion: Photographs about Body Building,” It included images of the shiny, muscled bodies the world has come to associate with Southern California, as well as some curious older works, such as a turn of the century image by George Steckel that depicts a somewhat less emphatically muscled man sporting roman sandals and a pert fig leaf.

LACPS’s exhibitions of contemporary work were organized according to the artistic concerns of the day, only some of which were strictly photographic. There were shows on multiculturalism, theatricality, the relationship between word and image, expressions of time and duration, and “constructed” images, or scenes set up expressly to be photographed. In other words, LACPS artists were engaged with the same broad issues as their peers in other media.

As a consequence, “Sight Specific” feels a great deal more freewheeling than the buttoned up “In Focus.” As it turns out, post-war photography in L.A. was a much messier business than can be summed up with a handful of cool, black and whites.

Nettles Pack up“Sight Specific” does feature some stunning “straight” images, like Mark Klett’s dramatic shot from inside a snow tunnel—a vertigo-inducing swirl of textured light and shadow. But LACPS members, at least as sampled here, tended toward experimental and conceptual approaches, many of which did not necessarily involve traditional photographic skills. Bea Nettles used a pinhole camera to try to see everyday objects from the wonderous perspective of her small children. Bruce Yonemoto’s “Suspected Japanese Houses” from 1976 looks like a photocopy (it’s actually a diazo print, like a blueprint). With its whited-out ornamental shrubbery (many Japanese Americans worked as gardeners), it’s a subtle, darkly funny comment on stereotypes and racial profiling. And in “Construct XV” from 1982, Barbara Kasten photographed an arrangement of mirrors and colored plastic to create a geometric abstraction more commonly associated with painting.

To its credit, LACPS seems to have had no aesthetic agenda beyond the love and promotion of photography, in whatever form it appeared. And it filled a void in local support for such adventurous work between the demise of the forward-thinking Pasadena Art Museum in 1974, and the creation of a photography department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the mid 1980s. In this regard, its greatest impact may have been in fostering a sense of community.

Indeed, the first thing one sees upon entering “Sight Specific” is a wall papered with images of smiling people posing for pictures at art openings. In 1978, artist Daryl Curran began his series “L.A. Art Openings: 1978-79,” which evolved into “A Moment in Photo History,” in which he documented not just openings, but the lectures, parties and other events around which the L.A. photographic community coalesced. In each image he had someone hold a clipboard, like a Hollywood film clapper, detailing the name of the event, the location and the date. Sprinkled throughout the exhibition, these photos are a quiet undercurrent in this boisterous show, but in photographing the people behind the cameras, Curran was perhaps acknowledging LACPS’s greatest work of art.

--Sharon Mizota

Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr., (310) 440-7330, through May 6. Closed Mondays.

Fisher Museum of Art, University of Southern California, 823 Exposition Blvd., (213) 740-4561, through April 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photos, from top: Darryl Curran, "Untitled," 1980, from the "Moment in Photo History" series. Credit: Collection of the artist. 

Garry Winogrand, "Los Angeles International Airport," 1964. Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles © 1984 The Estate of Garry Winogrand.

Bea Nettles, "Pack up your Troubles," 1981. Credit: Courtesy of the artist.


Music review: Piatigorsky Cello Festival opening concert at USC

March 11, 2012 |  3:28 pm

Sayaka Selina and Thomas Demenga
The Piatigorsky International Cello Festival began big Friday night at USC’s Bovard Auditorium. Seven cello soloists played five concertos (two were double concertos) in an exhausting and often spectacular showcase concert. And it was just the start of what promises to be an inimitable 10-day nonstop cello orgy that will end March 18 at Walt Disney Concert Hall with a piece by Christopher Rouse for 100 cellists.

But, hey, USC has the reputation for knowing how to party, and I overheard one student cellist in the audience say she was prepared to become cello-ed out.

Cellists have come from all continents except Antarctica, Ralph Kirshbaum, the festival’s artistic director, noted in his introductory remarks at Bovard. That includes 22 soloists and 45 young cellists who will participate in public master classes. It also means a bonanza for the airlines, since cellists must buy an extra seat for their fragile instruments.

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Music review: Mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin at AT&T Center Theatre

March 9, 2012 |  2:08 pm

Laurie Rubin
A young mezzo-soprano whose voice is darkly complex and mysteriously soulful and who adds intense emphasis to every word of text sang six songs by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo on Thursday night at the AT&T Center Theatre. In one, a bee bites the lip of a sleeping shepherdess as if it were a rose, to the envy of a shy lover.

Laurie Rubin's rich, toffee-thick tones conveyed not just the sense of touch of puffy rosy lips but also their exceptional redness.

It would hardly occur to a listener that Rodrigo had been blind. Nor might someone hearing Rubin’s new recording of the Rodrigo songs, say on the radio, suspect the mezzo is without sight. In recital, of course, that is obvious. Whether this makes her a different sort of singer than one who sees was the question posed by this short recital and equally short colloquium, which was organized by the noted USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and presented by the university at the theater inside the AT&T Center highrise in downtown L.A.

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'The Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci gets some help from USC

November 28, 2011 |  9:01 am


Leonardo da Vinci completed "The Last Supper" in Milan in 1498. Almost immediately, the fresco started to deteriorate. Over the centuries, the famous work has suffered from human carelessness, humidity, pollution, a war-time bombing and more.

The fragility of "The Last Supper" has been the subject of numerous studies. Preservation efforts have focused on minimizing human contact and keeping pollution out of Milan's Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church where the fresco is located. Recently, researchers from the University of Southern California traveled to Milan to conduct a study intended to aid preservationists in their eternal fight to save the masterpiece.

Costas Sioutas, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at USC, said his objective was to determine the effectiveness of the church's new filtration system, which was installed in 2009 to eliminate pollutants from the refectory where "The Last Supper" is on display.

Milan has long had an air-pollution problem. "The city is polluted enough to impress someone from L.A.," said Sioutas in a recent interview. "It's not as bad as Cairo or Calcutta... or even Beijing. But it is pretty polluted."

The team of researchers from USC and other organizations installed equipment to measure the seasonal variability of outdoor pollution that can find its way into the church. Their objective was to test the efficacy of the existing filtration system as well determine the sources of unknown indoor pollutants.

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Arto Lindsay and Rirkrit Tiravanija guide parade of 'Trespassers'

September 30, 2011 | 12:57 pm


Nobody does it quite like Barbara Kruger, but dozens of artists have penned slogans for the music/dance/art/activism mash-up known as the Trespass Parade, taking place downtown this Sunday. The artists each wrote one-liners printed on T-shirts to be worn at the parade.

Learn to dream, says John Baldessari.
Mend the roads with the ruins of churches, says Lisa Anne Auerbach.
They only call it class war when we fight back, says Sam Durant.
The revolution is my boyfriend, says Vaginal Davis.
Talk is cheap/free speech is priceless, says Barbara Kruger
Less oil/more courage, says one of three designs by Rirkrit Tiravanija, who was a guiding spirit of the event along with musician Arto Lindsay.

A group of high school students from Roosevelt Senior and South Gate high schools who also wrote slogans will join many of these artists in the procession. Other participants include Nancy Buchanan, Dawn Kasper, KILLSONIC, Joel Kyack, Sylvère Lotringer, Ann Magnuson and My Barbarian as well as some art students from USC, CalArts, Art Center, Otis and UCLA.

"The idea was to do something really participatory inspired by Rirkrit's practice--something very inclusive and about collaboration," says organizer Emi Fontana of West of Rome.

As for the anti-capitalist thrust of some of the slogans, Fontana says the event is "a sort of hybrid between a parade and a demonstration, a parade and a march. It has both elements." She expects the event to have the jagged energy of downtown L.A. itself: "I think downtown represents a sort of broken dream of Los Angeles being a real city on the European or New York model. But of course it is something else--the first really contemporary city in the West."

The parade, an official kickoff event of Pacific Standard Time, begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday at 1933 S.  Broadway  and wraps up at MOCA and REDCAT. The following night an artist-packed benefit party will take place at Union Station, complete with parade footage, to raise money for Fontana's nonprofit public art organization West of Rome. See the website for specific parade route and benefit information.


Pacific Standard Time makes a bid for L.A. in art history

Pacific Standard Time: Artists on the verge

Complete coverage of Pacific Standard Time

--Jori Finkel

Photo: T-shirt by Rirkrit Tiravanija. Credit: West of Rome

USC's Arthur C. Bartner, the Spirit of Troy -- and then some

September 2, 2011 | 11:28 am

For many college undergrads, being part of the marching band is less about music and more about community spirit –- it’s kind of a fraternity/sorority for students who prefer to open each school year with Band Camp instead of Greek rush week. 

Arthur C. Bartner, 71, now entering his 42nd season as director of the USC Marching Band, tells us that students in the USC Trojan Marching Band hail from all majors, including a preponderance of engineering students: “I don’t know why, but there’s a correlation between math [and] music,” Bartner says.

Read the full interview with Arthur C. Bartner. 

Watch the audio slide show here.

Bartner says that while many music education majors gravitate toward the band, it’s rarely the place for those who aspire to become first chair with a major orchestra. Some of that resistance, he says, comes from private teachers who believe that playing in the band can eat away at precious practice time necessary to beat the formidable competition for every professional symphony seat.

Still, Bartner says, some aspiring performers manage to combine band practice with the demands of pursuing a music major, and those few are invaluable to the band. “They set the curve,” Bartner says.  “We don’t have many, but those we have are very, very important.”

A couple of USC music majors who played with the band went on to be principals of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: David Washburn, 52, principal trumpet, and Richard Todd, 55, principal horn player (as well as horn professor at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami). Both have a variety of musical commitments and are veteran studio musicians who have each performed for hundreds of movie scores (Todd just completed work on the soundtrack for “Mission: Impossible 4”).

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LACMA unconcerned by attorney general's finding on trustee Jamie McCourt

June 28, 2011 |  4:48 pm

McCourts Should the Los Angeles County Museum of Art be concerned because the California attorney general’s office recently determined that one of its trustees –- Jamie McCourt –- had improperly received personal benefits from a Los Angeles Dodgers charity she helped oversee as its vice president?

LACMA's answer is "no" -- and two outside experts on nonprofit boards and governance agree.

Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that the Dodgers Dream Foundation, which builds youth baseball fields and provides college scholarships for minority students, contracted with a public relations consultant in late 2008 for work that the attorney general subsequently determined was “primarily for the benefit of a member of the board of directors rather than the Dodgers Dream Foundation.”

Interviews and a foundation tax return indicated the unnamed board member was Jamie McCourt.

The attorney general told the Dodgers Dream Foundation in March that the $122,352 expenditure failed to comply with state law governing nonprofit organizations, and that the foundation's overseers should repay that amount to the charity. A foundation attorney said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, Jamie's ex-husband, had done so from his personal funds.

Continue reading », NEA fellows plan to cover L.A. theater scene like a house afire

June 14, 2011 |  3:05 pm

Engine28-frontThis post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

The intrepid crew will be operating out of an old fire company station in downtown Los Angeles. At  practically all hours of the day and night, they’ll be rushing out to answer the call of duty.

Who knows -– some of them may even slide down the fire pole at the rear of the red-brick 1912 building.

But this team of roughly 40 arts journalists, working with USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and ensconced in a second-floor office suite at Engine Co. No. 28, a converted firehouse-turned-restaurant on South Figueroa, won’t be battling blazes. They’ll be reporting on one of the largest concentrations of live theater ever to occur in Southern California.

Over the next two weeks, the nation’s premier organization of nonprofit theaters, Theatre Communications Group, as well as four separate theater festivals all will be taking place in an area stretching from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood. For journalists trying to cover even a fraction of the dozens of performances, seminars and talks by high-profile artists such as Julie Taymor, this might seem like the equivalent of trying to subdue a three-alarmer in a 70-story skyscraper.

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USC Thornton bassist wins chance to play with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra in new mentorship program

April 15, 2011 | 10:00 am

Maryreed For several years, the USC Thornton School of Music's strings department has held mock orchestral auditions to give students a taste of life in the professional world. But, says adjunct professor Margaret Batjer, there was always something missing — "an added incentive that would energize and motivate them in a different way."

So Batjer, who also serves as concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and department chair Midori Goto, the celebrated violinist, went to the ensemble with a proposal. The result is the LACO-USC Thornton Strings Mentorship Program, which offers auditioners a real prize to compete for — the chance to perform with the orchestra.

The first winner, double bassist Mary Reed, will play in LACO's concerts at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and 7 p.m. Sunday at UCLA's Royce Hall. Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will lead a program that features John Harbison's Gli accordi piú usati ("The Most Often Used Chords"), Dvorak’s Serenade in E major for Strings, Op. 22, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with soloist Jon Kimura Parker.

Reed, a 22-year-old master's candidate, was among nine nominees — violinists, violists, cellists and bassists — who auditioned last fall before Batjer; adjunct professor Peter Stumpf, principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and Roland Kato, LACO's principal violist. Batjer says the judges assessed areas including technical proficiency, "familiarity with not only their own parts but also the score" and "stylistic approach to the composer." If no one had met the appropriate standards, no winner would have been selected.

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Rirkrit Tiravanija comes to town for 'Murder and Mayhem'

March 18, 2011 |  9:30 am


His art can look a lot like parties—involving food, drink and friends. He called a recent performance “Je ne travaille jamais.” But the ever-popular Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija (above, right) certainly seems busy — if not hard-working in the classic, capitalist, petit-bourgeois sense — during his week-long stay in L.A.

Having given a talk at Art Center earlier this week, the artist is giving another talk next Tuesday at noon at USC. And now he's working to finish the installation of his new exhibition at the gallery 1301 PE in time for its opening Friday evening. 

He has wallpapered the downstairs space with images from his ongoing series of demonstration drawings (based on newspaper images of protests across the world) and carpeted the floors in orange (what gallery owner Brian Butler calls “a Buddhist monk orange”).The upstairs space has a collaboration between Tiravanija and the Belgian artist Nico Dockx, which features an LP playing the sound of making and then erasing (that would be the B side) a demonstration drawing.

The artist says the show's title, "Murder and Mayhem," comes from a saying he’s used on protest T-shirts in the past. “Murder and mayhem was a description that the BBC used to describe the situation going on in Zimbabwe when Mugabe was refusing to go away after the election. It kind of stuck with me — because it’s the image of everything going wrong in society.”

The T-shirts have also spawned another idea, which will bring the artist back to town in October. He will be teaming up with musician-producer Arto Lindsay and public art impresario Emi Fontana of West of Rome to create a performance for the Getty-initiated event Pacific Standard Time. The idea is to stage a meta-protest parade through the streets of downtown L.A.

“It will be a parade of T-shirts,” says Tiravanija. “We’d like to get other artists involved and also students — art students and high school students who could contribute texts for the shirts.”

-- Jori Finkel


Drinking with Tom Marioni and friends

Pacific Standard Time expands

Image: Nico Dockx and Rirkrit Tiravanija at 1301PE. Photograph by Brian D. Butler.



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