March, 2010

SAVE + MISBEHAVE: CalArts Get Free!

Along with the mild spike in sunshine this past few weeks, some of you may have noticed another influx in your area: college students, running free, wild, and naked in the streets. Spring break! Five days of release from the shackles of schooldom. Freedom. Monday, though, brought the party to an end, and students across the city are settling back in and setting their eyes on the home stretch. For Art and Photography/Media Graduate students at CalArts, though, the “home stretch” means one thing: running free, wild, naked in the streets. That’s right, folks—it’s time for the CalArts MFA Open Studios.
On Sunday, April 11th, from 2:00 to 7:00pm, more than 60 artists studying at the California Institute for the Arts will open their studios to the public. Each artist will be present and light refreshments will be provided—a great opportunity to hobnob with some of the city’s most promising creative minds. Or to just get some free food and look at cool stuff. It’s free of charge, free of pretense, clothing optional. Freedom!

By Helen Kearns

Please visit the website for directions and artist information. Reservations not required.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Festival, Film, Food & Drink, Galleries, Installation, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Painting, Performance, Personalities, Photography, Save + Misbehave, The Social Scene, Video Art No Comments »

Our Thirsty World: On View Now at Annenberg Space for Photography

The Annenberg Space for Photography lends itself well to documentary-like exhibitions.  The Space has a reverence for the technology that goes into taking photographs and displaying them – as soon as you walk inside, you recognize that its not just four white walls that accommodate just any artist’s work.  You’re met with curved walls, futuristic interactive photographic display tables, and a round screening room at the center allowing you to experience photographs in a more intimate way. The Space itself absolutely heightens the way you encounter the work on view.

Celebrating The Space’s one-year-anniversary is an unprecedented exhibit that sees the Annenberg Foundation teaming up with National Geographic Magazine to showcase the work of six photographers featured in the magazine’s April issue focusing on water.  Water: Our Thirsty World, on view now through June 13, 2010, reveals the realities of water, the problems around it, sacredness of it, and inequalities it creates.

The exhibit couldn’t be a better fit for the Space both physically and with regard to the Annenberg’s devotion to philanthropy.  From offering free admission to curating exhibits with a human or social message, The Space for Photography goes beyond displaying the work of some popular, emerging artist.  Their exhibits aspire to reveal what photography can accomplish – it’s a tangible recognition of the fact that photography can pull back the veil on educational, political, and social issues just as it can expose and commemorate cultural truths for generations to come.

Water: Our Thirsty World is as harrowing as it sounds.  But (and that’s a big but) it’s not depressing in that it becomes overwhelming and thus off-putting.  The beauty and fervor with which people celebrate water in countries like Japan, India, and Haiti contrasts photos documenting the starkness of the thirsty and desperate areas of Kenya and Tibet. Some images show places flooded with too much water, dirty water.  In some areas, thirsty people with chapped skin try to decontaminate murky water they fight to acquire from a well nearby.  That these regions are often not very far apart is enough to make us all stomp our feet like 7-year-olds saying “its so unfair!” That’s the accomplishment of this exhibit – that it makes you feel impassioned and moved with just one walk-through.

Each section of the magazine’s water issue has its own space in the exhibit – the Sacred Waters segment, photographed by John Stanmeyer, chronicles the ceremonies that cultures and religions harbor around the world in celebration of water while photographer Lynn Johnson’s The Burden of Thirst looks at the physical, emotional, and economical burden of trying to get access to water in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.

One segment that hits particularly close to home is photographer Edward Burtynsky’s California’s Pipe Dream.  Only through his photos can you begin to realize the kind of trouble this state is really in – put down the Voss and look at the trickle of water that is the Los Angeles River.  According to Burtynsky’s photos, this region, a natural desert, is working its way back to its original state.  Our pipes and dams are no longer able to sustain our cities, industries, and personal needs.

In photographer Paolo Pellegrin’s section Parting the Waters, we’re met with a blunt look at the politics of water specifically in the Middle East.  The situation there serves as representative of the wars and power struggles that derive from water and the lack thereof.  Geography plays an obvious role in the situation between Israel, Jordan, and Syria – Israel has blocked Syria’s access to the plentiful Sea of Galilee since 1967.

The exhibit is so successful because unlike public-service-announcements and snaps from celebrities’ trips to battered nations, these photographs are pulled from the pages of National Geographic Magazine.  It’s the photographer’s story that’s on display. Once given their assignment, these intrepid photographers went to live in far-flung locales searching for a story that would uncover the truth; the photos weren’t taken with an exhibit in mind. One could even say that considering these were photographic journalism assignments, the exhibit feels validated, believable, and worth paying attention to.  These weren’t taken by hippies who’ve traded the boardroom for Birkenstocks; they were taken by professional photographers whose mission was to reveal a problem that stems from our very core.  They became impassioned along the way, which is precisely the effect the exhibit has on its viewers.

As part of the full Annenberg experience, many featured photographers and other National Geographic team members will speak in lectures and workshops bringing you closer still into the inner workings of this exhibit.  Their dates can be found on the Annenberg Space for Photography’s website.

The exhibit will be on view through June 13, 2010.  For more information, please call (213) 403-3000 or click here.

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SUNDAY FEATURE: Westward Ho: Exploring America’s Artistic Frontier

Watson-the-Shark2It’s not hard in this day and age to be disillusioned with the idea of America. Documentaries like Food, Inc., Religulous, and Sicko present ample evidence that we have veered a great distance from the America envisioned by our forefathers. Whether they be social, political, religious, or economic, my generation rarely sees beyond the fissures in our disintegrating national culture, and the art world is no exception. As an Art History major with a focus on 18th Century British and French art, I’m not likely to grab the car keys and rush myself to an American art exhibition. I was playing for team Euro-snob.  But after my visit to LACMA’s newest exhibit, American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, I’m writing this article with my tail between my legs.

The exhibition’s 75 paintings universally express what it means to be an American, and how artists played a critical role in characterizing the American identity and experience. Wandering from room to room in LACMA’s American Stories, the viewer will observe the progression of American history through art, from the tense and politically charged pre-revolutionary era through the brink of World War I. The exhibit showcases art from a broad range of subject matter, including immigration, exploring new frontiers, industrialization, and family life, all subjects that were popular for American artists seeking to capture the sweeping changes that distinguished the fabric of our nation.

Some of the most revealing early American artists dared to dig beneath the young country’s façade and hint at the darker side of a culture tainted by slavery and violence. John Singleton Copley’sWatson & The Shark” (1778), recounting a young British merchant’s brush with death, is among the more dramatic, attention-grabbing works in the exhibition. The expert depiction of heightening tension, accelerating winds, and a mounting sense of disaster are reminiscent of history paintings of the Great Masters. Beyond the theatrical re-telling of Watson’s spectacular rescue from a shark attack, the painting symbolizes a small community, struggling through crisis to save one of its own. This sense of survival, possible only by the unity of the people, resonates throughout the cannon of American art and history.

Paintings of everyday life and familiar scenes of leisure bring intimacy to the exhibit’s portraits of early America. William McGregor Paxton’sThe Breakfast” (1911) uses a subject matter that appears frivolous to set a mood of loneliness and frustration. Paxton’s sense of humor is tempered by a strong adherence to academic technique that gives his painting a serious and significant tone. A wealthy woman sulks as her husband, unaware of her isolation, reads the morning paper—a symbol of his engagement with the outside world juxtaposed by the conflicting situation of his female companion. She is shielded from the outside world, not only by the drawn blinds and curtains of her breakfast nook, but by the impenetrable domestic sphere that society forced her to inhabit.

While I looked upon “The Breakfast,” two women behind me snickered as one of them did an impression of the aloof husband, “Oh honey. Why are you so upset? Don’t I give you everything you want with your maids and beautiful home?” I couldn’t help but snicker along with them. It was an experience we all could identify with in some way or another, whether it is because we are women, or American, or simply empathetic for a person who sometimes feels seen, but never heard.

Indeed, it was impossible to wander through American Stories without comparing the paintings to my own personal experience of being an American. Familiar scenes that transcend the confines of time, including John Lewis Krimmel’sFourth of July in Centre Square” (1812) and Lilly Martin Spencer’sYoung Husband: First Marketing” (1854), warm the heart with their familiar portrayals of urban daily life. Francis William Edmonds’sThe New Bonnet” (1858) and William Glacken’sThe Shoppers” (1907-08), make one chuckle at the predictable scene of the American woman’s affinity for shopping, while alluding to the rapid growth of mass world consumerism. It is through these strikingly recognizable narratives, most of which are presented with references to slavery, pre-suffragette sexism, and mass consumption, that we are able to further understand our controversial history and absorb the significance of the courageous and distinctive genre of American art.

So whether you’re sporting a “Freedom Isn’t Free” bumper-sticker on the back of your Ford pick-up or reading this article on your iPhone while in line for your cappuccino at Intelligentsia, this exhibition will unquestionably change and expand the way you think about our national art. It is with the highest esteem that I admit that American Stories did me proud.

-By Brittany Krasner

American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915 is on view at LACMA through May 23rd.  For more information on tickets and viewing hours, visit www.lacma.org.

Posted in Art, Exhibitions, Museums, Neighborhoods, Painting, West Hollywood No Comments »

Narrating the Adventures of the Mind Among Masterpieces

Recently several people, whose opinion I greatly respect, have introduced me as an art critic. I was gobsmacked by the label the first time, and truthfully, no less the second and third. I am an arts enthusiast for sure. In fact it consumes almost every moment of my life: by day I’m a museum publicist, by night an art socialite perusing the latest openings and fundraisers around town, on the weekend an art history instructor, and—in my spare time—I share my thoughts and experiences via Facebook, Twitter, and this site. But a critic? Definitely not.

On Thursday night, MOCA hosted a panel on the future of art criticism with Sasha Anawalt, director of the University of Southern California Annenberg Arts Journalism Program; critics Andrew Berardini and Sharon Mizota; and MOCA Associate Curator Bennett Simpson. While the discussion did explore the effect of the Internet on traditional media, as the event was billed, I was particularly intrigued by the panelists’ views on the differences between criticism and journalism, in respect to the arts. Berardini and Simpson were both remiss to call themselves ‘art journalists,’ preferring the title ‘arts writer,’ while Mizota said she was a part-time journalist. Anawalt was surprised they all distanced themselves from the term and said that by her definition anyone writing about anything “commits an act of journalism,” regardless of tweeting, blogging, or publishing in a newspaper. Simpson asserted that the most visible writing about art in the art world doesn’t happen in newspapers, but in exhibition catalogues, art magazines, and, increasingly, blogs. Mizota argued on behalf of newspapers’ ability to occupy a more general space and be accessible to a broader range of people. She feels there has been too large a separation between the language of the art world and the general public, and tries to bridge that gap in her feature writing and her reviews.

As I was listening to these writers debate, I was recalling the words of the famed critic Clement Greenberg: “Art criticism, I would say, is about the most ungrateful form of ‘elevated’ writing I know of. It may also be one of the most challenging.” I thought, perhaps the reason I am hesitant to call myself an art critic is because I have such respect for the profession – though I don’t necessarily believe it’s always done well. Another reason might be that I’ve always thought of art criticism much in the vein of John Ruskin, who espoused that “The true work of a critic is not to make his hearer believe him, but agree with him.” Yet I, personally, write from a place of passion, not a place of persuasion (and if I was to accord strictly to Ruskin’s 19th century definition, my gender might disqualify me entirely).

That is not to say there aren’t many terrific critics who write without a persuasive agenda. During the panel, Berardini himself said: “I am not trying to convince anyone of my opinion, I’m just trying to start a conversation.” I know my writings on art—at least museum and gallery exhibitions—tend to feel more like friendly reportage than criticism, which one friend described as an “impeccable use of the gonzo technique.” Whatever label it is given, reportage or criticism, I hope that my writings most closely embody the philosophy of Robert Hughes who said, “I have always tended to take art contextually. If I have any merits as a critic, they have to do with my ability as a storyteller, and above all I wanted to tell a story.”

Note on Title: A slight paraphrase of the brilliant quote by Anataloe France, “A good critic is one who narrates the adventures of his mind among masterpieces.”

By Rebecca Taylor

The Museum of Modern Art (MOCA) is located at 250 S. Grand Avenue. For more information on events and exhibitions, please call (213) 626-6222, or visit www.moca.org.

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A Silent Film Education in 90 Minutes

We have all been in situations where the conversation turns to something we know not of.  That time your friend laughed off the dumb girl who knew nothing about that obscure general’s wife whose revolutionary hats changed millinery forever was enough to make you covertly check Wikipedia from your phone.  The problem is, well, how do you know what or who to Wikipedia in the first place?

Bringing you nine silent film icons in ninety minutes, the Egyptian Theatre is screening all of the following films in one go on Saturday evening.  Take a deep breath: Rudolph Valentino and His 88 American Beauties, Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco, Max Learns to Skate, Teddy at the Throttle, The Masquerader, Sweet and Twenty, and The Mothering Heart.  Now, what’s so special about these nine films and what kind of educational morsels should you cull from the screening?

We’ll start from the top – Rudolph Valentino was one of silent film’s most iconic and devilishly handsome actors.  Hailing from Italy, he was known well for his role in one of silent film’s highest grossing films The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and in The SheikRudolph Valentino and his 88 American Beauties is a documentary that was produced by a still-new-to-film David O. Selznick.

Mabel and Fatty Viewing The World’s Fair at San Francisco is a film that chronicles the famed 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco celebrating the newly completed Panama Canal and the redeveloped city of San Francisco itself. The viewers of the Exposition are none other than silent film stars Mabel Normand, a brilliant comedienne and Fatty Arbuckle was a vaudevillian star with a sordid and scandalous past.  Then there’s Max Learns to Skate, starring Max Linder who was a French stage and silent film actor with forays into directing.  He took his own life in 1925 in a “death pact” with his wife – talk about a conversation starter.

The screening moves on with Teddy at the Throttle starring Gloria Swanson and Bobby Vernon.  Gloria Swanson, whose name you may recognize, was an American silent film icon who starred in such classics as Beyond the Rocks (alongside our new friend Rudolph Valentino) and Male and Female alongside Cecil B. DeMille. With The Masquerader, we turn to the man who virtually defined comedy in silent film: Charlie Chaplin.  The film stars Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and Minta Durfee – three major silent film players.  Sweet and Twenty, made in 1909, stars the LA icon Mary Pickford as Alice whose slight misunderstanding creates a whole host of entertaining twists and turns.

Last but not least is DW Griffiths’ The Mothering Heart starring Walter Miller and Lillian Gish.  Gish is, if you only Lillian20Gish_03ORremember one thing from this educational outing, largely known as one of silent film’s most virtuosic talents having starred in over 100 films.  Her face is instantly recognizable and was distinctly beautiful in a way that silent film actresses actually tended to be – they had such expressive eyes.

Time to start a conversation with that really smart person you’ve been avoiding.  They likely don’t know as much about silent film as you will on Saturday at 10pm.

The Silent Film screenings at the Egyptian Theatre’s Speilberg Theatre begin Saturday at 7:30pm.  For more information, please call (323) 466-3456 or click here.

Posted in Film, Hollywood, Old School, Personalities No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Every Moment is Always a Continuation of the One Before It

In Latin, the word “escape” means “out of cape,” due to the custom of the ancient Romans who would often avoid capture by literally throwing off their capes when fleeing. I personally like to recall this origin whenever I am thinking of escaping something—or someone—in my life, because it implies that part of me will always be left behind. Consider my favorite passage from the much-celebrated Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men, involving the newly acquainted Llewelyn Moss and a young gal on her way to California, both on them on the run from their respective pasts (quotation marks inserted by myself):

“There’s a road goin to California and there’s one comin back. But the best way would be just to show up there.”

“Show up there.”

“Yeah.”

“You mean and not know how you got there?”

“Yeah. And not know how you got there.”

“I don’t know how you’d do that.”

“I don’t either. That’s the point.”

The reason I like this particular conversation so much is because it calls into question the high-school-grad aphorisms of ‘there’s always tomorrow,’ or ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life,’ or ‘carpe diem,’ and instead offers a deeper, truer lesson—that each moment is always a continuation of the one before it.

Multi-award-winning, New York City-based playwright Sheila Callaghan knows this lesson all too well, and employs it to the max in the upcoming, debut production of her play Lascivious Something at the [Inside] the Ford Theatre. Opening this weekend on March 27th, and running until May 1st, the Paul Willis-directed Lascivous Something deals with the attempted escape of an American ex-pat and his new bride from the perils of 1980’s Reaganism to the lush vineyard of a secluded Greek Island. All is good and well with the fresh, grape-gurgling couple until the past comes back to haunt them in the form of an ex-lover with a metaphorical cape in hand.

If you would like to be among the first of those privvy to this new drama from one of America’s foremost, emerging talents in the theatre world —and maybe catch a few dialogues like the McCarthy passage above—then do we have a deal for you! FineArtsLA is giving away two free tickets to see the Friday, April 2nd production of Lascivious Something, beginning at 8 PM at the [Inside] the Ford Theatre on Cahuenga Blvd. Simply enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below. Not only will you be eligible to receive tickets to see Lascivious Something on April 2nd, but the next three shows in which we give away tickets as well. Just remember to not leave your cape at home.

Don’t want to risk the competition? Buy tickets here.

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Posted in Art, Extra! Extra!, Hollywood, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, Theatre, Tickets No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Ian Bostridge at Royce Hall

barbican-bostridge-schubert1

The kind people at UCLA Live have offered, exclusively to Fine Arts LA readers thank you very much, a discount on tickets to see that tortured, irresistible Englishman we wrote about last night at Royce Hall!  The man: Ian Bostridge.  The performance: Schubert’s Winterreise. The time: tomorrow evening, 8pm.

Click here to go to the event page and make sure once you’ve chosen your tickets that you enter in the following secret password: WINTERREISE.  That will get you 25% off — just cause you’re so in-the-know. Enjoy the show!  (The offer only lasts for a limited time and can’t be combined with any other offers.)

Posted in Bring Your Flask, Classical Music, Extra! Extra!, Music, Personalities, Tickets, Voice, West LA No Comments »

Oscar’s Evil Twin Found Atop Runyon Canyon

A while ago, we posted an article asking what you, dear readers, thought about the distinction between art and vandalism.  Skating the line, with a very charged political message, is British street artist D*Face who has installed two enormous and menacing Oscar statues atop two iconic LA locations: Runyon Canyon and Mel’s Drive-In in Hollywood.  Both statues have skeleton-like figures with bits of flesh missing from their arms and legs exposing Oscar’s blood and bones.  The one that sat at Runyon had a placard that read “Beauty Is One Snip Away,” while the other at Mel’s Drive-In said “Beauty Is Skin Deep.” They’ve both been removed since they were spotted yesterday morning, but the whole incident begs a whole host of questions, not least of which is: really? Mel’s Drive-In? We get Runyon Canyon, but that’s a strange choice.

More importantly, what do you think of all this? The two most basic sides must be: applause to D*Face for exposing a vanity-obsessed culture at a time when it’s at its most self-congratulatory vs. how petulant of this artist to criticize a sector of popular culture that he need not participate in if he finds it so disheartening.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Bring Your Flask, High Brow, Hollywood, Installation, Low Brow, Personalities, The Social Scene No Comments »

The Art Of The Fight

Have you ever wondered what a fight for equal rights looks like through our contemporary artistic minds?  Forget what it looks like when Anderson Cooper discusses the issue and interviews the experts on CNN.  Nevermind what it looks like when thousands of angry protesters come together on the street waving signs telling passing cars to honk if they agree with the cause.  What does the fight for an equal rights issue look like through a painter’s eyes, a photographers eyes, and what does it sound like when a DJ spins a soundtrack to it all?

If you’ve recently wondered just what a group of the most talented and relevant artists in our time think when it comes to the issue of equal marriage rights, now is the time to make your way to 1341 Vine St. in Hollywood – The Manifest Equality Gallery.  To be frank, the collection of artwork is not an abstract, nor a complex look at the issue so much as it is a blunt and to-the-point reflection of what’s wrong with the fact that equal marriage rights are still not availed to any and all that want them.  Artists represented in the big, warehouse-like group show, set up in the former Big Lots! space include Shepard Fairey, Gary Baseman, Robbie Conal, and Bary McGee.  Their work is an amalgam of mediums, focal points, and aesthetic styles that all fit under the umbrella issue of once and for all supporting equal marriage rights for gay couples.

A DJ spins accompanying tunes during the day as locals, tourists, and curious passersby wander through the space taking a look at pieces of art and memorabilia that speaks to this no longer just grassroots movement.  The gallery will be open through this Sunday, March 7 at 10pm and it’s really worth shifting some plans around to make even a quick run through of the space.

The Manifest Equality Gallery is located at 1341 Vine St in Hollywood and will be open through March 7 at 10pm.  It’s open from 10am – 10pm through then – Hollywood, here you come! Click here for more information.

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This Looks Fascinating!

It’s hard to say exactly why, but art heists are so much more enticing and glamorous than regular heists.  Even jewelry thieves don’t hold a candle to the crazy men and women behind the greatest art heists of all time.

This film, which chronicles the scandal of the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania, is about an art heist of a different ilk.

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