Category: Year in review

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in theater and comedy

December 30, 2011 |  9:39 am


The theater world saw the deaths of a number of major talents in 2011, including legendary writer and director Arthur Laurents, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson and Czech dramatist and politician Vaclav Havel. In the world of comedy, stand-up star Patrice O'Neal died in November at the age of 41.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths of 2011: theater and comedy

In L.A., the theater world lost one of its biggest personalities, Gil Cates, the founder and producing director of the Geffen Playhouse. Cates, who died in November at 77, wore many hats during his long career. He was a film and stage director, a producer of the Oscars telecast and served as a professor and dean of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.

Cates made the Geffen Playhouse one of Southern California's top theater companies. The Geffen continues to draw top playwrighting and acting talent and has developed plays that have later traveled to Broadway.


2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in art and architecture

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in classical music and jazz

-- David Ng

Photo: Arthur Laurents in 1977. Credit: Los Angeles Times

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in classical music and jazz

December 29, 2011 | 10:32 am


From operatic to symphonic composers, from jazz musicians to virtuoso soloists, the classical-music and jazz worlds lost a number of greats in 2011.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths of 2011: Classical Music and Jazz

In L.A., the biggest loss came in April when composer Daniel Catán died unexpectedly at 62. The Mexican-born composer, who lived with his family in South Pasadena, debuted his last opera, "Il Postino," last season at L.A. Opera.

Other names that should be familiar to local music fans are composer Peter Lieberson, singer Salvatore Licitra and jazz drummer Paul Motian.


2011 year in review: Notable deaths in art and architecture

2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

2011 year in review: Best in art

— David Ng

Photo: Composer Daniel Catán in 2007. Credit: Pacific Symphony.

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in art and architecture

December 28, 2011 | 11:00 am


A number of notable artists and architects died in 2011. They included some local legends and undisputed international greats.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths of 2011: Arts and Architecture

Two major losses this year were the American artist Cy Twombly, who died in July at 83, and the British portraitist Lucian Freud, who died the same month at 88. Twombly was regarded by many as one of the giants of 20th century modern art. His works combined painting and text into unclassifiable forms.

Freud's legacy was his highly textural nude portraits that startled the art world and became highly coveted among collectors. The artist was the son of the pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.


2011 year in review: Best in art

2011 year in review: Best in architecture

2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

-- David Ng

Photo: Artist Cy Twombly. Credit: Christophe Ena / Associated Press

2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

December 21, 2011 |  9:00 am


It was a hectic year in the arts and our fingers feel tired just thinking of it. The sluggish economy continued to cast a stubborn pall over just about everything. But artists and cultural organizations in Los Angeles and elsewhere soldiered on through the thick of it. In the name of numeric symmetry, here are 11 of the most important stories we covered in 2011 (plus some runners-up).

"Art in the Streets" at the Geffen Contemporary / Museum of Contemporary Art: MOCA's blockbuster exhibition about the history of street art was also a lightning rod for controversy. Museum director Jeffrey Deitch had his hands full with a rash of rogue tagging in the surrounding neighborhood and charges of censorship when he nixed a public mural. But the public came in droves, giving Deitch his first big local hit.

National Sept. 11 Memorial: After endless bickering and bureaucratic red tape, the year's most important work of architecture was unveiled in New York on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pacific Standard Time: The Getty's ambitious survey of Southern California art launched this year with more than 100 exhibitions and events across the area. How many have you seen? (We're catching all of them.)

Ai Weiwei: No, he's not sorry and he won't apologize. China's most famous living artist spent 81 days in secret detention this year, presumably for his activist work. He emerged from the ordeal even more brazen and resolved than before. L.A. got its first big taste of his artwork when LACMA opened his installation "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads."

"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" on Broadway: Will it ever go away? At least the musical finally opened in June, following an agonizingly long gestation and preview period. The biggest casualty was Julie Taymor, who was given the boot from the director's chair after critics ganged up and tore the Broadway behemoth to shreds.

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2011 year in review: Best in architecture

December 16, 2011 |  9:35 am

West Hollywood
It was a year in which American architects despaired that the economy might never really recover. It was also a year in which they produced a few small gems. And the profession as a whole continued to move past the flashy formalism of the last decade to seek new, genuine kinds of engagement with cities and people.

“Decolonizing Architecture.” At REDCAT, an exhibition by architects Eyal Weizman, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti offered a rare look at the architecture and infrastructure of Israeli settlements and their potential future.

“OMA /Progress.” This exhibition at London’s Barbican Centre on Rem Koolhaas’ firm — curated by Rotor, a young and talented design collective from Brussels — is big, sprawling and messy. But it gets with surprising efficiency at the complex heart of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture’s practice, which ranges from research to books to buildings.

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2011 year in review: Best in art

December 15, 2011 |  9:00 am

Installation view with, left, Charles White, "Birmingham Totem," 1964, ink and charcoal on paper, and right, Melvin Edwards
In chronological order of their opening, these are the nine California museum shows, plus one show that could have been, that I enjoyed most in 2011 (the final three are still on view):

Charles Garabedian: A Retrospective, Santa Barbara Museum of Art. An innovator in the return to national prominence of figurative painting more than 30 years ago, Garabedian took his place among the best painters Los Angeles has produced.

Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, San Diego Museum of Art. A concise gem of a show that demonstrated how the British artist’s pictures of women, many of them performers, underscored the theatrical power of Gainsborough’s own dazzling brush.

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2011 year in review: Best in dance

December 14, 2011 |  3:11 pm

Benjamin Millepied
Two significant events reverberated in 2011 for Los Angeles dance, book ends to the touring companies that annually blow in and out of town.

In January, 12 dance groups were invited to compete on “The A.W.A.R.D. Show!”, a reality-TV style co-production of the Joyce Theater Foundation and REDCAT, Cal Art’s downtown performance and arts center. Choreographer Barak Marshall won the $10,000 prize, but all the participants surely benefited from the recognition and audience exposure that being at REDCAT confers.

Then last month, the formation of L.A. Dance Project was announced, a new “arts collective” founded by choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied, with backing from the Music Center.

In both these instances, powerful institutions reached out to sustain or create local infrastructure. Both have potential to be exciting developments, particularly if they have long-lasting impact. This kind of support is vital, and has been notably absent for decades. Will it continue? Stay tuned in 2012.

Oh, and about those touring companies…it was a year of superlative performances, from established powerhouses and groups making debut engagements. These were personal favorites, with photos of each:

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2011 year in review: Best in classical music

December 14, 2011 | 11:22 am

Esa-Pekka Salonen
The good signs for the future of classical music this year have been a splendid string of new concert halls and opera houses, many with distinguished architecture and acoustics. That began in January with the visionary New World Center in Miami Beach, Fla., and continued with halls in Reykjavik, Iceland; Helsinki, Finland; Kansas City, Mo.; Montreal; and, in our area, Aliso Viejo. Still to come: On Wednesday, Zubin Mehta opens the New Opera Theater in Florence, Italy, that will be a snazzy new home for the city’s famed Maggio Musicale festival.

The anxiety in classical music is, as it is everywhere, about money. Combine the world’s poor economy and over-assertive populism (the minister of culture in Finland chose to attend a sporting event rather than the opening of the country’s major new concert hall, which was an international event) with sometimes poor arts management (the Philadelphia Orchestra), and we see symphony orchestras and opera companies struggling. But we also see others, particularly those boldly committed to progress and innovation, thriving.

Those include the 10-best-list-topping Los Angeles Philharmonic — which performed, on average, a new or contemporary work (many being commissions) every week of its Walt Disney Concert Hall subscription season — and Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony.

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2011 year in review: Best in jazz

December 13, 2011 |  3:18 pm

Ambrose Akinmusire
From young stars following their unique vision to a parting session from a departed master of doing the same, there was no shortage of recordings worth celebrating in 2011. And one sour note.

Ambrose Akinmusire, “When the Heart Emerges Glistening” (Blue Note): It’s one thing to expect great things from an artist’s major label debut, it’s another pleasure entirely to have those expectations exceeded. Already possessed with his own tone on this evocative recording, this 29-year-old trumpeter-composer’s big year gets only better when you consider where he might go next.

Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein, “Bienestan” (Sunnyside): Often a duet in name only led by Goldberg on piano and composer-arranger Klein on Fender Rhodes, “Bienestan” frequently taps the expert rhythm section of Matt Penman and Eric Harland, incorporating flashes of Cuban jazz and contemporary classical into an album-length exercise in music without borders.

Endangered Blood, “Endangered Blood” (Skirl): Though the name sounds like a drive-in horror movie classic, there’s nothing to be scared of in this sharply swung collection led by the dueling saxophones of Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega and the constantly shifting rhythmic backbone from avant-garde veterans Trevor Dunn and the octopus-armed drummer Jim Black.

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2011 year in review: Best in theater

December 13, 2011 |  2:06 pm

  Jesus Christ Superstar
The theater gave us plenty to celebrate in 2011. In fact, it was a better year by theatrical standards than by most other measures. Here’s what had me clapping loudest at home and abroad, followed by a plea.

“Blackbird,” Rogue Machine. Scottish playwright David Harrower's fierce psychodrama about the confrontation between a young woman and the man who sexually abused her when she was 12 took such unpredictable turns that Robin Larsen’s unsparingly intimate staging starring Corryn Cummins and Sam Anderson left audiences questioning their sympathies and momentarily doubting their moral compasses.

“The Book of Mormon,” Eugene O’Neill Theatre, New York. The national tour production of this irreverent Broadway juggernaut by the creators of “South Park” and “Avenue Q” arrives at the Pantages Theatre next fall, and I can’t wait to hear the doorbell chimes of those proselytizing young men in white shirts and black ties during the show’s fiendishly delightful opening number, “Hello!”

“Circle Mirror Transformation,” South Coast Repertory. Annie Baker, a breath of playwriting fresh air, turned a creative drama class into an obliquely profound exploration of its participants’ lives, in a superb production directed by Sam Gold that rippled like a mesmerizing brook with delicate emotion.

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