Category: Westside

Music review: Violinist Lara St. John with the New West Symphony

November 14, 2011 |  3:33 pm

Sarah Ionnides  and Lara St. John
The Los Angeles Philharmonic wasn’t the only orchestra over the weekend to introduce a fancifully programmatic concerto by a composer born in 1968. In downtown, it was Richard Dubugnon’s “Battlefield” for the pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque. The New West Symphony’s contribution was the first local performance of Matthew Hindson’s Violin Concerto No. 1, “Australian Postcards.”

The New West program, which I heard Sunday afternoon at Barnum Hall in Santa Monica, was meant to be notable also because it was the first time a woman -- Sarah Ioannides -- conducted the orchestra founded in Thousand Oaks in 1995, But the woman who got all the attention for all the right, if curious, reasons was a Canadian violin soloist who has a reputation for eccentricity.

Lara St. John happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat. She is uninhibited, sometimes strikingly so.

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Getty ends free evening parking, sets $10 fee after 5 p.m.

November 14, 2011 |  1:05 pm

The free evening parking perk at the Getty Museum in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Malibu will vanish after Sunday, when parking after 5 p.m. will cost $10.

The Brentwood museum is open Saturday evenings -– making this Saturday the last one for saving the $10. The charge also will kick in for evening events such as lectures, screenings and performances at the museum and the villa.  Daytime parking remains $15 at both venues, and admission remains free.

“Just like all other public institutions, the Getty’s operating costs continue to go up. Free parking in the evenings was just no longer feasible,” a museum spokesperson said following Monday's announcement.

Art and free parking continue to intersect at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has free garage parking after 7 p.m.; it also offers free admission weekdays after 5 p.m. for Los Angeles County residents. The Getty is the area's only major museum with a free admission policy, although others waive their fees on certain days or hours.


Bring at least $10 for the visit

Metropolitan Museum of Art hikes recommended admission to $25

Critic's Notebook: Jeffrey Deitch should expand MOCA's hours, make admission free

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Robert Irwin's Central Garden at the Getty Museum in Brentwood. Credit: Robin Goddard/Los Angeles Times.

Music review: Carl Stone's Pacific Standard Time concert

November 13, 2011 |  2:30 pm

Carl Stone and Gloria ChengThe first notable musical offering of Pacific Standard Time was a glorious concert of electronic music by Carl Stone at the Getty Center on Saturday evening, a night of sonic wonder. Now my job is, somehow, not to explain why.

One of the most annoying aspects of Pacific Standard Time is that it engenders definitions. But for Los Angeles, definition can be an act of destruction, especially in music. A true L.A. composer is no more apt to be pinned down in our particular geographical energy field than a quantum particle in its.

That may be one reason why music has a relatively insignificant place in this festival (its antecedent, the region-wide Ring Festival last year, was not so small-minded). But Stone’s electronics did send, you might say, a stimulating signal.

Stone, who is 58, is from here, but doesn’t live here, having relocated first to San Francisco then Tokyo, where he is now based. That, however, has made him no less an Angeleno, if you take Los Angeles to be a place of many places.

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Theater review: 'Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie' at Geffen Playhouse

November 10, 2011 |  2:50 pm

Marie curie 1

In his long and justly celebrated acting career, Alan Alda has frequently been called upon to play doctors. He has a kind of smiling command that suggests he won’t fall apart even if your body does. He’s best remembered, of course, for his role as the operating room Groucho Marx on the legendary TV sitcom “MASH.”

A well-known science nut (for years he hosted the PBS series “Scientific American Frontiers”), Alda has written a play that resembles at times a physician’s stab at writing for the stage. Which is to say his drama is informative, efficient, reliable — and when it’s over you’re glad.

The subject of “Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie,” which opened Wednesday at the Geffen Playhouse’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, is the two-time Nobel Prize-winning scientist whose research broke new ground in the understanding of radioactivity. The work is exquisitely mounted by veteran director Daniel Sullivan and features a striking performance by Anna Gunn in the title role, but Alda hasn’t so much dramatized his material as assembled watershed moments from Curie’s career and personal life.

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Art review: 'Modern Antiquity' at the Getty Villa

November 7, 2011 |  4:00 pm

Modernity -- the sharp awareness of being Modern-with-a-capital-M -- used to be a very big deal. At the start of the 20th century it didn't mean just shaking off the dusty past and all its hidebound baggage. It meant being alert to how far civilization had come from that past. It meant faith in cultural progress.

Skepticism about that progress is one reason modernity is no longer the big deal it used to be. After Auschwitz -- and more -- who can believe it? Change -- inevitable, inescapable, even relentless -- has replaced progress. Cultures become different over time, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they become better.

A quirky show at the Getty Villa looks back to the tensions between modernity and the ancient past in the work of four leading European artists of the early 20th century. Handsome and engaging, "Modern Antiquity: Picasso, De Chirico, Léger and Picabia" considers myriad ways in which ancient Greek and Roman art -- the epitome of Western tradition -- interested painters more commonly regarded as radical. Major paintings by all four are included, along with one remarkable sculpture: Pablo Picasso's 1931 bronze head of his young mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter.

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Getty loses bid to dismiss art-restitution lawsuit

November 4, 2011 |  9:09 am

The J. Paul Getty Trust lost its bid to dismiss a lawsuit by Armenian Orthodox Church over the return of illuminated manuscripts
The J. Paul Getty Trust is squaring off against the Armenian Orthodox Church in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and on Thursday the church won the first important procedural round in its bid to reclaim eight prized medieval manuscripts (a detail is pictured above) it contends were stolen goods when the Getty bought them for $950,000 in 1994.

The Getty tried to have the suit dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds, arguing that church officials were aware of the manuscripts' whereabouts by 1952 and should have sued at that time, when they were owned by an Armenian-American family in Massachusetts -- the heirs of a man who had brought them out of the province of Cilicia as the Ottoman Turks were expelling the province's Armenian population during the World War I-era Armenian genocide.

Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan denied the Getty’s motion, saying that it was "not clear" that church officials knew what the Getty says they knew when it says they knew it. He said the statute-of-limitations law could come into play in a future hearing but that he would want to hear evidence about the complicated path the 755-year-old pages took starting in 1916, when they were separated from a larger bible known as the Zeyt'un Gospels.

The Getty’s pages are lavishly illustrated Canon Tables -– citations of parallel verses from the four New Testament gospels, which served as a kind of frontispiece for the bible created in 1256 by T’oros Roslin, considered the greatest Armenian manuscript illuminator.

The church aims to make the Zeyt’un Gospels whole again by winning back the missing pages from the Getty and sending them to the Matenadaran, a major manuscript museum in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, which has housed the rest of the Zeyt’un Gospels since the late 1960s.

Here's the full story about the decision. It includes a rarity in the controversy-shy, ultra-cautious art-museum world: Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at  Saint John's University in Minnesota and a Benedictine monk, is openly calling on the Getty to repatriate a contested masterpiece. Stewart says the issue shouldn't be decided by legalities, but by the ethical imperative of turning a fragmented artwork into one that's whole.

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Theater review: 'Next Fall' at Geffen Playhouse

November 3, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Next fall 1

The Geffen Playhouse production of “Next Fall,” Geoffrey Nauffts’ drama about a gay couple with stark religious differences — one’s a fundamentalist Christian, the other’s a sarcastic agnostic — proceeds with the somber discretion of someone walking into church after the sermon has begun. The play has many humorous moments, particularly when urban wisecracks are pitted against redneck ripostes. But an autumnal light bathes even the comic aspects of the work, toning down the banter and subduing the punch lines.

It’s quite a different experience from the play’s amped-up Broadway production, though the director, Sheryl Kaller, is the same. Perhaps the biggest difference is in the portrayal of Adam, a neurotic New Yorker who falls in love with Luke, a sweet, openhearted younger man who silently says grace before every meal and believes his sexuality is a sin.

PHOTOS: 'Next Fall'

Nauffts, an actor-turned-playwright, assays this godless role and steers it in a surprisingly low-key direction. (Patrick Breen fueled the play on Broadway by heightening Adam’s high-strung histrionics. Nauffts opts for a more modest portrait of a guy who, no matter how he’s played, is a bit of a self-involved know-it-all.)

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Geffen Playhouse founder Gil Cates is dead at 77

November 1, 2011 | 10:37 am

Gil Cates, who founded the Geffen Playhouse in 1994 and remained its producing director, has died at age 77.

Cates also was the former dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. A prolific television producer as well as the director of the films "I Never Sang for My Father" and "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams," Cates is perhaps best-known for the 14 Academy Award shows he oversaw.

Check back with Culture Monster for more about Cates' life and career.


Photo: Cates directing the musical "Nightmare Alley" at the Geffen in 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman/ Los Angeles Times

Have a Culture Monster Halloween (and you can start now)

October 28, 2011 | 11:00 am

A roundup of arts-related Halloween productions or activities.

For many, Halloween means carving pumpkins, dressing up in bright costumes and trick or treating. For others, it's an excuse to walk through a pitch-black cemetery in the middle of the night. If you're in the second camp, Wicked Literature: A Halloween Theatre Festival might be for you.

From now through Nov. 6, the 4-year-old Wicked Lit festival comes to the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena, presenting theatrical adaptations of six classic works of horror literature.

Audience members can choose between two distinct productions: One features adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Unnamable” and Charles Dickens’ “The Chimes.” The other includes adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher,” M.R. James’ “Casting the Runes” and Mark Twain’s “A Ghost Story.”

Created by Paul Millet, Jonathan Josephson and Jeff G. Rack, Wicked Lit is aimed at people looking for a more theatrical experience from Halloween. The three adapted and direct the classic works.

Though it began as a reading series, Wicked Lit has evolved into an event at which audience members are expected to walk through the mausoleum and cemetery as three separate horror stories unfold, one after the other, from just a few feet away.  

“When you see these shows, you’re not sitting in a theater, in a seat, watching the actions in front of you — you are actually in the show," says Millet.

Bring comfortable shoes, warm clothing, a flashlight … and your loudest scream.

Wicked Lit, Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery 2300 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena. Tickets: $45 to $60.

Keep reading for more Halloween events for the culturally inclined of all ages.

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Art review: John M. Miller at Margo Leavin Gallery

October 27, 2011 |  6:00 pm

John M. Miller, from left, "Passage,"  "Waning" at Margo Leavin Gallery
The installation of three paintings by John M. Miller in the main room at Margo Leavin Gallery is flawless -- which isn't really surprising, since the artist made them in the early 1990s expressly for that capacious, sky-lighted space. Miller brought the intensity and precision found within his geometric abstractions to the scale and composition of the canvases installed in the room. It might be the most beautiful room of paintings in a Los Angeles gallery right now.

As with the show's other four paintings, all from the same decade, the three works share a format Miller developed nearly 40 years ago and has extrapolated ever since. Pairs of angled color-bars are painted on raw canvas, visually stitching together the surface, the woven cotton of the canvas, the vertical and horizontal dimensions of traditional Western painting and even the multiple panels from which each is made. "Waxing" and "Waning" are diptychs, their colors forming a mirror image on opposite sides of the room, while the horizontal sweep of "Passage" -- more than 15 feet wide -- is composed from four abutted vertical canvases.

Miller's paintings virtually demand an investment in contemplative time. Without it, they remain essentially out of sight.

Some of the angled bars mix blue, purple or green pigment into black, meaning that the richness and depth of color remains invisible if the glance is cursory. The white bars optically fuse with the raw canvas, at least until your eyes slow down to see them. The patterns also initially jump around, finally snapping into place to hold the picture together as the conventional buzzing in your brain dissipates. The experience of perceptual clarity is remarkable, worthy of a secular chapel.

Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 273-0603, through Nov. 12. Closed Sun. and Mon.


Art review: "Glenn Ligon: America" at LACMA

Art review: "Monet/Lichtenstein: Rouen Cathedrals" at LACMA

Art review: 'Under the Big Black Sun' at MOCA

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: John M. Miller, left, "Passage," 1994; right, "Waning," 1993; magna on canvas. Credit: Margo Leavin Gallery


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