August, 2009

Every Ballerina’s First Love

As a young ballet student, it’s not easy to forget the first time you see an unparalleled performance – on tape, on stage, or in the studio.  I won’t forget the first time I saw the pointed toes, spectacular leaps, and turns of one Mikhail Baryshnikov, easily classified as unparalleled in every sense of the word.  Sitting in the ballet studio all huddled around the TV in tights and ballet shoes, we watched a video of Baryshnikov in a pas de deux, lifting Gelsey Kirkland with grace, ease, and his boyish charm.  It was one of those moments where, even as young boys and girls, we realized what we were working toward. Even those who aren’t ballet fanatics will remember fondly when they saw Baryshnikov light up their screens as the elusive artist Mr. Aleksandr Petrovksy in Sex and the City.

Kicking off the Broad Stage’s second season is a performance that, like Baryshnikov himself, inspires the word  ‘unparalleled.’  Dancing with Ana Laguna, the performance will see the start of their limited engagement tour of “Three Solos and a Duet” across the US.  They’re performing new works by contemporary choreographers like Mats EkAlexei Ratmansky (formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet), and New York City Ballet’s Benjamin Millepied.  

If there was any way to otherwise convey my excitement about a performance as groundbreaking and enticing as this one, I’d take it.  Once you move past Baryshnikov’s casual good looks, confidence, impeccable technique, and spectacular artistry, you’ll be faced with the performance itself, which marks four premieres as danced by a living legend. Ana Laguna, truly not to be overlooked, will hold her own next to Mr. Baryshnikov with ease – she’s long been Mats Ek’s muse (and wife),  danced with the Cullberg Ballet, and staged a number of Ek’s works at the Opera de Paris and the Compania Nacional de Danza in Spain.  Her career has also been studded with awards from around the world.  I’ll reason with you – they’re not exactly lithe twenty-year-olds up on stage.  But remember how good Something’s Gotta Give was?  Enough said – certain things really are better with age (and the wisdom that comes with it.)  They say that youth is wasted on the young for a reason…

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna are performing their “Three Solos and a Duet” at the Broad Stage on Friday, September 4 at 8pm and on Saturday, September 5 at 7:30pm.  For more information, please call (310) 434-3200 or click here.

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Don’t Call It a Renaissance… Quite Yet

slide1In the midst of galleries closing and various art programs being cut (that is, except for the film program at LACMA – victory!), Los Angeles has against all odds been able to support its growing, newly thriving art scene through some trial and error, a lot of financial support, and even more elbow grease.  Pre-recession, many of our institutions and artists were beginning to make their way in the world of art that has long left Los Angeles on the back burner.  Not to make it sound that we’re a world apart, although it may be wise to start requiring passports to get in and out of this crazy city – but until recently we were one of the only major, metropolitan cities, for example, without its own ballet company.  As we all know, the city and its talents have attracted some very well known names that have done much to make our presence known around the world.  Without beating a dead horse, Placido Domingo at LA Opera, both Esa Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel at the LA Philharmonic, the Annenbergs for photography, and the Broads for theatre and contemporary art have all made strides on behalf of the City of Angels that have not only secured us a spot on the map, but have tried to make sure that our spot accurately reflects our city.

Regardless of our “earthquakes, riots, fires” and that pesky recession, Los Angeles has stepped up to the plate and maintained its stance on art as a worthy, necessary part of our cultural fabric.  On LACMA’s campus, for example, we’re getting a new building in 2010 donated by Lynda and Stewart Resnick.  Designed by master architect Renzo Piano and currently under construction, the building is adjacent to the Broad Contemporary and will look out onto the planned Jeff Koons piece Train – a seventy-foot replica of a 1940s train car.  It’s not a stretch to imagine that what Frank Gehry did for the Walt Disney Concert Hall, so Renzo Piano will do for LACMA once again. 

Our surviving and championing ballet company, Los Angeles Ballet, is headed by Co-Artistic Directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, the latter of whom is a member of the George Balanchine Trust – a group of dancers with exclusive permission to stage Balanchine’s works.  It’s an opportunity to perform pieces that no previous incarnation of an LA-based ballet company has been afforded.  So far they’ve successfully staged Serenade and Rubies among others and will continue with See the Music, Hear the Dance in February 2010. 

Eli and Edythe Broad continue to change and illuminate LA’s artistic landscape by announcing plans to build a contemporary art museum in Beverly Hills.  The decision came when the Broads decided last year to keep their illustrious collection rather than donate it to MOCA – the new museum will house said collection.  Not to mention, they saved the day for MOCA last winter.

Even as galleries are closing and museums are going bankrupt, LA has seen the expansion of a number of spaces including Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, Blum & Poe, Roberts & Tilton, and Cherry and Martin in Culver City.  Our little nook of a neighborhood, Culver City, has become the nexus for the international art world right before our eyes. January will see the start of the Grant for New Projects, which will be born from Sandroni.Rey, a contemporary art gallery also in Culver City.  The new organization will support and raise funds for curators as well as emerging local artists. It comes at a time when not-for-profits are closing, California’s budget is a hot mess (and not in a good way), and arts and music programs are being cut from schools across the country.  Is there a more vital time to not only recognize, but also support the burgeoning arts scene in this city?  How do I love thee?  Let me list the ways…

Posted in Art, Culver City, Dance, Film, Galleries, Museums, Music, Personalities, Theatre No Comments »

Langston Hughes’ Mama Will Teach You A Thing or Two

What do you get when you cross Langston Hughes with The Roots and vocalist de’Adre Aziza? Ask your mama.  What are the twelve moods of jazz? Ask your mama.  Where can you hear an intricate score accompanying quotes said by greats like Louis Armstrong and Bill Bojangles? Ask your mama.

Langston Hughes knew something we should all know – Mama knows best!  His collaboration with composer Laura Karpman, “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz,” is a seriously exciting concert that encompasses music, film, and spoken word with such guests as The Roots, conductor George Manahan, famed soprano Jessye Norman, Nnenna Freelon, and de’Adre Aziza.  Within about 90-minutes, the concert weaves its way through jazz, German song, Latin music, Middle-Eastern styles, and Afro-Cuban sounds for your listening pleasure.  It was inspired by Hughes’ unparalleled career and his experiences with music and the people that love and make it across the globe.  Started in 1961, this visual, auditory, emotional, enticing poetry-cycle was well before its time, melding the sounds and senses of both fine arts and street talk.  It’s really the sort of project you can never say enough about – there’s always some intention or meaning that you’ve run out of time (or words?) for.

To get a taste of what Langston Hughes’ mother must have taught him, “Ask Your Mama” is coming to the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow night!

Following Mr. Hughes and his crazy, visual, musical poem project is a triptych of classic jazz, if you will, on Wednesday, September 2.  Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White are heading to the Bowl for a musical conversation on all kinds of jazz from acoustic to electric and back again.  Their performance comes with guests artists you may have heard of like Chaka Khan, Jean Luc Ponty, and John Scofield.

Don’t worry: mama would approve if you bought tickets to both concerts.  Jazz she liked; it’s that darn rock’n’roll she thought was just noise.

“Ask Your Mama” is on at the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow night (Sunday, August 30) at 7:30pm.  Corea, Clarke, and White are performing at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday, September 2 at 8:00pm.  For more information, please call (323) 852-2000 or click here.

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From 3D to 2D

Those familiar with the non-Indiana Jones side of archaeology feel at home poring over geographical and architectural maps.  Getting a good feel of the land surrounding a site as well as plotting the fragments of ancient buildings on paper are key to preparing your findings for publication – fingers crossed!

It takes skill to envision lines, dots, and dashes on a two-dimensional map as a living and breathing structure.  But these kind of works and more fleshed out architectural drawings allow people to gather data about civilizations past as well as contemporary architecture.  For every commercial and residential structure, there are thousands of pieces of draft paper scribbled upon and meticulously drawn in the various stages of building.  These papers give insight into the thought process of an architect at work.

For those who need a little light to hone that skill, the Edward Cella Art + Architecture gallery is currently showing Drawings and Objects by Architects, a drawing-based exhibition that highlights the original drawings of buildings and architectural details by Frank Gehry, Richard Neutra, Lebbeus Woods, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others.  Included in this show are buildings of two of the most famous skyscrapers – the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.  Mostly filled with black and white drawings, colorful splashes brighten up the exhibition space as you walk, wonder, and see this other side of architecture that is usually stuck in a sketchpad somewhere.

 Drawings and Objects by Architects closes October 10th at Edward Cella Art + Architecture.

Posted in Architecture, Exhibitions, Galleries, Miracle Mile, Music No Comments »

Saving the Day

The Fine Arts LA team would like to congratulate the lovely people behind Save Film at LACMA whose efforts have proved successful and fruitful for our entire city!  Thank you for fighting to keep LACMA’s illustrious and beloved film program – we’d have less to look forward to without it and we’re truly inspired by the way you pulled this together with such efficiency and grace! Bravo!

Click here for more information about LACMA’s now reversed decision to shutter their film program.  Click here for more information about Save Film at LACMA.

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Fly India With Carlos Ramos

There are some adults that harbor a very thorough Disney movie collection with no shame and out in the open for all to see.  They still cry in Bambi, applaud Mulan, and fantasize about being whisked away on a magic carpet ride with Aladdin.  Others are a little more subtle about their love of animated creatures and tend to look for the Disney satisfaction in other arenas – thank God for Wall-E and Up or we’d be fuzzy-animal starved!

Carlos Ramos may be our latest artistic (and adult-proof) source of colorful, rich, animated satisfaction. His new show India at Corey Helford Gallery is full of bright, wild paintings of characters and creatures any Disney-phile would appreciate.  It’s almost as if you can close your eyes and imagine the flamboyant voice-overs.  There are some paintings with a blue, meaningful tone and others with a red, adventurous theme that together allow you to create your own narrative.  He sets the stage with paintings like Shahjahanabad and introduces characters like the wily temptress in Raqs Baladi or the King atop his elephant in The Coronation of Edward VII.

The show ends September 2 though, so I’d head to Culver City pretty soon.  You may want to scope out a Blockbuster (for your Aladdin fix), an Indian restaurant nearby (to satiate your taste and aural senses), and a jewelry shop to pick up some bangles or even a bindi – you can keep them with your top secret Disney collection.

Carlos Ramos’ India is at Corey Helford Gallery and closes September 2, 2009.  For more information, please call (310) 287-2340 or click here.

Posted in Contemporary Art, Culver City, Exhibitions, Galleries, Painting No Comments »

The Wiggle Effect

joe-solaDuring an episode of The Paul Lynde Show – a one season long ABC sitcom from 1972 — entitled “No Nudes is Good News,” the main character Paul Simms accidentally engages in a discussion about art and pornography with the town’s mayor.  The conversation goes a little something like this:

Paul: Mayor, how can you let an all-nude show come into a quiet, suburban town like this when you yourself promised to uphold the moral decency?

Mayor: Look at all the statues in the Sistine Chapel.  There are nudes everywhere.  Is that not art?

Paul: Yes, but when you look at the statues in the Sistine Chapel, they don’t wiggle.

The studio audience laughs a good, wholesome laugh at this lame punch line, but Paul brings up a point.  Fine art and nudity have indeed gone hand-in-hand for millennia, but pop culture’s relationship with the naked, human figure has always been fraught with a sense of uneasiness — a phenomenon I shall hereby coin “the wiggle effect.”

This wiggle effect seems to be exactly what artist Larry Johnson was concerned with when he was putting together Nudes Descending a Staircase, the third and final installment of the film series, Elective Affinities, which he co-curated with filmmaker William E. Jones at the Hammer Museum.  The Tuesday night screening featured five short pieces revolving around  nudity and pop culture.

First was the aforementioned episode of The Paul Lynde Show.  The plot followed the hapless Paul, an Archie Bunker wannabe, as he ranted and raved at his free-minded family and townsfolk for accepting the likes of an all-nude theatre piece into their martini-toting vicinity.  Paul makes his final point by coming round full circle and stripping to the buff himself, proving the limits of his relations’ tolerance levels.

Next on the cue was Pat Rocco’s Nude Groovy Guy.  Sans sound, it starred an assortment of fully-nude, male models circa 1970 staring at the camera awkwardly and showing off their goods.  The most striking part of this piece was the visceral feeling of discomfort in the mainly older, Hammer crowd.

The third and longest of the night was Most, a documentary starring Hugh Heffner in his prime as he discusses and traverses his self-made empire of parties, women, jazz, fast cars, and egoism.

Unfortunately, the fourth film in Johnson and Jones’ lineup was an exceedingly long taping of a poetry reading, which made most of the theatre long for the shots of male genitalia.

The series ended on a high note, however… and quite literally.  Video artist Joe Sola tapes his experience riding on a roller coaster with three male, porn stars.  It’s aptly titled Riding with Adult Video Stars and manages to capture a genuine, joyful energy that anyone can wiggle into!

All Hammer screenings are free of charge and take place inside the Billy Wilder Theatre, located within the museum at 10899 Wilshire Blvd.  For more information, call (310) 443-7000, or visit www.hammer.ucla.edu.

Image: Joe Sola, Riding with Adult Video Performers, 2002

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Freddi Cerasoli On What You Need To Know About Art

Like anything worthwhile, finding art that you love and really respond to takes time.  It also means not only loving those pieces you keep going back to see at LACMA – to fill your home with beautiful pieces is an exploration.  Some collectors are avid watchers of the emerging artist market, others will employ an art adviser to scour the scene for them,  and still others may fall prey to the trendiest artist of the moment, hoping the piece they bought will go up in value over time. 

Freddi Cerasoli, owner of Cerasoli Gallery in Culver City, knows all about putting on display just what you love.  She recently opened her doors to the Fine Arts LA team and chatted to us about how she became involved with art, how exciting LAs art scene is now, and how grateful she is for this new, vibrant scene in Culver City – she was getting pretty bored of all the same old restaurants!  After opening her gallery six years ago and watching the Culver City art scene grow around her, Freddi has really developed a style and reputation for showing not only emerging artists, but emerging styles of art. 

The Cerasoli Gallery is currently showing Meggs, an Australian graffiti and graphic design based artist alongside Pure Evil and a host of others.  Opening August 22 is an exhibit of Roy Nachum’s work, which will take over the entire space.  Check out our video interview here and then plug the address into your GPS, you’re going to want to see what she’s got up her sleeve!

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Los Angeles 3.0

There are some realities that are certainly comforting.  Peanut better goes with jelly.  Cold beer on a hot summer’s day will always taste divine. The sun will rise and set — whew!   We relish these facts, look forward to them, and even expect them, especially the sipping’ on a cool drink part.

But other realities are disconcerting.  First things first, my car doesn’t always start in the morning as much as I will it to turn over.  Not everyone will see eye to eye on your brilliant ideas.  Sometime it just doesn’t work out.  Like you, I don’t want to acknowledge that this happens, let alone expect it.  But in some way, we must in order to reevaluate, readjust, and carry on.

This cold sense of reality must be addressed in one way or another.  As seen in the recent past, it is no surprise that the United States as we know it will no longer hold the same superpower it once exercised over the world. Post-American LA, curated by Pilar Tompkins, is an artistic reality check of what happens when the economical and political structures of our nation shift into unfamiliar territory and its consequences trickle into the cityscape.  Unfortunately, there is little to no reference to the Tupac-alyptic or Escape from LA-esque city we expected.  Artists Carolina Caycedo, Sandra de la Loza, Hugo Hopping, Ashley Hunt, Vincent Johnson, Glenn Ligon, Adrian Paci, Vincent Ramos, and Chen Shaoxiong reflect on the question, “how will we find our footing in a new global society without fully examining our preparedness on the local level?” We might not have the answer right now, but we can count on the things we know until we do. In fact, it is five o’clock right now.

As part of the exhibition, 18th Street 2009 Artist Fellow Sandra de la Loza, will host a series of encounters and discussions entitled The Revolution Will….

Post-American LA runs from August 1 to September 26.  18th Street’s ArtNight and the opening reception is tonight from 6 – 10 at the 18th Street Arts Center.  

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, Installation, Mixed media, Painting, Photography, Video Art No Comments »