CELEBRATING THE RENAISSANCE AT THE GETTY

Thanksgiving is over, and a good time to push away from the table, get out of the house and go somewhere different, very different if you can.

I personally would like to go back to Italy, way, way back , to the Renaissance, though not as a lowly plebeian, as I comment in my weekly arts and entertainment observed on public radio KBU 99.1 and select websites everywhere.

No, I would want to be an artist. I’d leave being a cultural critic to others; it had its social and economic limitations, then, as it does now.

Prompting this time travel fantasy are several exhibits at the always engaging Getty, which being in nearby Brentwood I’ve come to regard as the local cultural center. And it’s free.

So if you are a skeptic and don’t believe in being whisked back in time and place, you, like me, also can go the Getty, and at least be beguiled by the exhibits radiating the Renaissance .

Most evocative are the landscapes of the Venice based Giovanni Bellini. Considered a leading exponent of the popular religious themes that dominated painting in the 15th century, Bellini filled his canvases with characters and scenes from familiar sacred stories..

And while his landscapes are highly metaphorical, they also accurately reflect the region’s topography and natural light. Indeed, if studied closely in they exude a reality that makes you see what it might have been like to be in Italy 500 years ago.

A companion exhibit focuses in on views of sacred landscapes depicted in Renaissance manuscripts, with the Getty noting that many people then looked to greenery for contemplating the perceived divine order of creation. The Getty notes:

“Manuscript illuminators were among those who carefully studied the raw elements of nature—such as rocks, trees, flowers, waterways, mountains, and even atmosphere—and incorporated these into luxurious objects of personal or communal devotion. “

Adding to this celebration of the Renaissance is a rare showing of three Caravaggio masterpieces, on loan from the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

Considered one of the true masters of Italian painting, Caravaggio is known for his bold, realistic style in which sacred subjects were shown as very real people, their emotions and physicality made dramatic by selective lighting, and dark shadowing. His works are mesmerizing.

Indeed, the three paining alone are worth a visit to the Getty. Be prepared for possible time travel.

 

UCLA HOSTS DANCE PERFORMANCE

 
If the arts and entertainment do anything for me, it engages, excites and expands the mind, be it the theater, film,, painting, sculpting, music or dance, as I comment this week on radio malibu, 99.1 KBU and select websites.
 
Note new and stronger signal, out to all of Malibu!
 
Dance in particular I’ve always found challenging, combining as it does music and movement, a feast for the ears, and eyes, and being an aging mesomorph, I am always amazed seeing what the body can do.
 
Prompting this thought was the premiere performance last weekend at the UCLA ‘s Royce Hall of “calling glenn,” a work by the ever-experimental dance company AteNine, and and supported by the ever-encouraging UCLA Center for the Art of Performance.
 
It was choreographed and directed by Israeli-trained and now L.A. based Danielle Agami, who not incidentally was one of the ten dancers who athletically and with grace cavorted on stage to the original music of Glenn Kotche.
 
While each talented dancers made distinct solo statements, none really stood out, not even when isolated by staging or costume, for the 70 minute piece was very much a collaboration, either as duos, a foursome, or a troop scrambling in concert.
 
What props there were you could have guessed: simple chairs the dancers on occasion sat in and dueled with. And microphone stands they grasped and fought over.
 
At times the choreography looked chaotic, but obviously wasn’t. The technique displayed was awesome, the unpredictable changes in rhythm challenging, and the multiple and simultaneous actions I felt celebrated a welcomed expressive freedom: what contemporary dance is all about.
 
And it was riveting.
Somehow the dancers kept pace to the percussionist punctuated music, or perhaps it was the music performed by an energetic Kotche that somehow kept pace with the dancers.
 
And then in the midst of a segment, there was silence, which had the effect of lending a sharp focus on the non-stop performers. Very legendary composer John Cage and dance choreographer Merce Cunningham inspired
 
At the abrupt end of the performance, the dancers appeared spent, and so was the audience. But not so much as not to give the dance company and Agami a standing , rousing ovation.
 
You left Royce elated, and looking forward to the next delight from UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.
 
 

CONCERT ANTIDOTE FOR WORLD SERIES

This week, something different for my arts and entertainment commentary on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites everywhere. It is needed if only to edge out of mind the homer happy, wacky World Series that ended with a dud.

It’s needed too, if you want to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world of music, and get out of your caves and experience it.

That is what is promised this Saturday, at 8 PM, at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance at Royce Hall, where appearing will be the Grammy award winning pop rock band, “OK Go.”

The band is perhaps best know for its eye-catching, mind blowing videos. But instead of seeing the iconic videos on the small screen, expect to see them, in performance, in an immersive cinematic environment, being scored, live.

Don’t expect this to be the usual rock show, lots of amped up sound and flashing lights, but a blast from the bands past, and into the future. If this sounds a bit confusing, stay after the performance, when the band will take questions from the audience. And you can catch your breath.

I also look forward to it being antidote for me to the World Series, which frankly left me exhausted, and deserve some mention here.

After all, this commentary is entitled “arts and entertainment observed,” and indeed I have to confess that the unpredictability and drama of the series was for the most part entertaining.

Certainly for me as a critic it had elements of an ancient production, what with fallen heroes as in a Greek tragedy, and the screaming crowds mimicking Roman spectacles.

This despite the crass commercialism and the mind numbing television spots, though happily were long enough to allow breaks from the couch.

Of course I didn’t attend any of the games, what with the obscene ticket prices. If I wouldn’t pay $100 to see “Hamilton.” I certainly wouldn’t pay S1,000 for a questionable seat, and having to fight traffic to get there, and also pay for parking.

Long, long ago I came to realize that the Dodgers despite the smiling face of Magic Johnson had become just another greedy sports enterprise; I think it was about the time it was bought by Rupert Murdoch and then sold to a Boston parking lot owner.

Suffice it to say the Dodgers are not the team I loved with an uncommon passion, the team of Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson, when I was growing up in Brooklyn.

There I’d actually take the legendary trolley to the games at Ebbetts Field to see games, having been blessed with tickets scored for hawking copies of the newspaper Brooklyn Eagle .

But those were days past. The present is now, and the future is a concert at UCLA. Life does move on.

 

 

HEAT WAVE ABATES, LA/CA EXHIBITS DO NOT

The heat wave in Malibu has abated, we hope, and It is time once again for Pacific Standard Time’s LA/LA. an unprecedented and welcomed exploration of Latin American and Latino art, sponsored in large part by the Getty.

Indeed, it seems it is always time for LA/LA since it was launched several months ago at the LA County Museum and is continuing there, and, of course, at the Getty, and seemingly everywhere across Southern California., as I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

With some 100 concurrent exhibitions, programs and events scheduled over four months at no less than 70 cultural institutions, selecting what to see and then finding time to visit the venues can be a real challenge for those with real lives,.

For me recently it was finding an hour plus downtown to duck into Union Station, to see a here-to-fore hidden, mesmerizing mural, a 43 panel chronological history of Los Angeles, from the founding of the city in 1781 to 1981.

That is when the mural painted by Barbara Carraco was to be displayed as part of L.A.’s bicentennial on, of all things, a McDonald’s exterior downtown, but was censored. It seems 14 of the images were considered offensive, depicting past discriminatory events involving the city’s black, Mexican and Japanese minorities. Nothing like displaying the truth to worry the powers-that-be.

So into storage it went, appearing briefly at Union Station in 1990. And now it is at Union Station again, properly hailed and labeled an “un-censoring” as part of an exhibition co-curated for LA/LA by the LA Cultural and Arts Plaza and the California Historical Society.

I would have liked to seen more of the display on rebel art, but since I was downtown I also wanted to see the Pacific Standard Time’s exhibit at the Central Library, “Oaxaca in L.A”, the city being the home to the largest population of indigenous Oaxacans outside Mexico.

I unfortunately missed the program, as I frankly have some others. There are just too many.

I’m sure it is also daunting for the Getty overseers, museum curators and ardent academics to make time, even though salaried, or just even having their travel expenses covered.

But what of the committed, causal or just curious aesthete, the public, for whom these offering are ostensibly directed? And also what about many of my old media acquaintances, who keep showing up while their publications sadly continue to wilt and no longer pay?

Then of course, there is the constant attraction of what is being presented. It’s like taking an art appreciation course, and loving it.

GETTY CELEBRATES LATIN AMERICAN ART

The engrossing perspectives of Latin American and Latino Art continue to be unveiled in the ambitious cultural endeavor Pacific Standard Time, LA/LA., as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and websites everywhere
 
Underwritten in large part by the Getty Foundation, the exhibits in some 70 cultural institutions are singular curatorial events exploring the traditions of Latin American art and their contributions to art in all the Americas.
 
So much for walls between nations, repressive immigration policies, and the xenophobic views of our embarrassing President Trump, and his gutless and greedy supporters.
 
The sorry situation in the nation’s capitol, I feel, makes it all that important the we celebrate our diversity, particularly in the rich traditions of art. And that is what LA/LA does.
 
Most recently this happily meant touring yet another LA/LA extravaganza, this one to the Pacific Standard Time’s mother ship, the Getty’s Brentwood hilltop museum, Featured there at present are four distinct and strikingly different exhibits.
 
All are noteworthy, but most arresting to me was the exhibit entitled Golden Kingdoms; Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas.
 
With exquisite art works dating back 3,000 years, revealed are a succession of civilizations that obviously valued creativity and enjoyed flaunting it.
 
Of particular interest to me was that metals were used to craft objects of ritual and ornament, not as in most other civilizations, for weaponry, tools or coinage.
 
So we have for example ancient jewel encrusted hoop earrings that would be quite stylish today, and body ornaments that would distinguish a Venice Beach hipster.
 
Displayed in addition to objects in gold and silver are art works made from shell, textiles, and most notably jade. Indeed, jade appears to have been valued more than gold, though the early Europeans did not differentiate.
 
They just plundered everything they could get their greedy hands on while conquering the heathen Golden Kingdoms in the name of Christianity. Millions died, and with them the crafts that had distinguished their civilizations.
 
As for the other LA/LA exhibits at the Getty, they also were fascinating as they were different, but these broadcasts being brief I will have to review the in the weeks and months ahead.
 
However, with the exhibits running into next year, I just might have enough time to see and comment on them all. You should try.
 
 

LATIN AMERICAN ART EXHIBITS CONTINUE

The gift of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time labeled LA/LA continues, most recently for me at the Hammer Museum for an understated but powerful exhibit entitled “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960 -1985.

Both dense and fragmented, sweeping but also absorbingly specific, strong but also subtle, the artworks that include photography and video installations, is compelling, as I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites everywhere.

The exhibit is, I feel,a must –see for thinking and feeling women, and consciousness raising for men. If you can, try also to catch a related gallery talk or film.

And a welcome reminder: the Hammer is free, as I think all museums should be. And let me add must be, to counter the dumbing down of America coming out of Washington these depressing days.

For those too young to remember, or for women who don’t care to remember, the 1960 through the 80s was a challenging time for women almost everywhere, asserting their identity as the veil of the feminine mystique was being lifted,.

Or so I remember it in the public world of art world in the United States..

In Latin America it was a much, much tougher battle, for women, who suffered there under stifling harsh political and social conditions. This included a tradition of virulent machismo, repressive political regimes, and an unsympathetic, impervious predominate religion.

But as evidenced by the Hammer exhibit, these courageous women artists, most unknown, produced an impressive body of work. In particular, most absorbing to me were the films and video, that lend a sense of the raw presence.

On a completely different note for a different arts venue, I also want to plug the upcoming Dorrance Dance concert at the always engaging Wallis Cultural Center in Beverly Hills.

The Dorrance company is different indeed, extending the always entertaining but most times limited tap dance tradition   into the present, more experimental street and club forms.

Because they are only at the Wallis for a few days, next Thursday through Saturday, the 12, 13th and 14th, a review at my scheduled times would not allow those interested time to make plans and get tickets.

And therefore I offer this advance plug, Hoping the performances are as exciting as they have been promoted.

 

A BERKSHIRE RAMBLE

It’s back on air on public radio KBU 97.5 and in print after several weeks on the east coast that included returning to my cultural roots in western Massachusetts.

There, I am happily to report the Berkshire Mountain is still joyfully flourishing, as a wellspring of dance, music and the visual and performing arts, in an accessible historic cluster.

For us that meant locating in the pleasant village of Lenox, and making daily forays to the surrounding attractions.

First and foremost was nearby Tanglewood. The Koussevitsky Music Shed was inviting as ever, though to be sure I no longer sat on the lawn for concerts, but in a chair under cover and closer. And the summer resident Boston Symphony Orchestra was as crisp and refreshing as expected, in a program of Mozart’s youthful violin concerto number 3.

The soloist was Daniel Lozakovich, a 15-year-old European phenom, making his American debut. He performed faultlessly, and was cheered enthusiastically, especially by his mother, who sat near us.

He joined her after intermission for the program’s second feature, Mahler’s fourth symphony, and arguably his most genial. This performance also had a family touch, the orchestra being conducted by Andris Nelsons, and the last movement’s vocal centerpiece, delivered by his wife, Kristime Opolais.

In the evening, it was the Ozawa Hall, and a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and the American Songbook, batted out enthusiastically by Tanglewood’s vocal troupe accompanied by members of the Boston Pops. I just loved Stephanie Blythe, who echoed Ella Fitzgerald.

The next day Tanglewood’s own orchestra performed, with the addition of world renown trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger, in a program that included some several modern scores. Ever engaging was Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, less so Mark-Anthony’s Turnage’s From the Wreckage.

To be sure, the humid weather and thunderstorms were not as climate perfect as Southern California’s, but the festivals and museums forays were sublime, notably also Jacob’s Pillow for dance and a forever expanding and engaging Massachusetts Museum of Art in North Adams.

My Berkshire ramble prompted the thought of Los Angeles, and how the region’s emerging and engaging cultural gazpacho might be better organized and orchestrated to serve Southern California’s expanding and diverse population, fractured and institutionalized as it is.

Ah, if some of those selected self aggrandizing arts efforts were only less insular and more attuned to audiences and artists, how refreshing and energizing our cultural scene could be; if only our vain patrons and pandering politicians were less ego involved, indeed, if only pigs could fly.

 

 

WALLIS CENTER ACCESSIBLE, ENTERTAINING

Once again I’m braving the traffic on the dreaded PCH, and weaving my way through a congested Santa Monica, and Westwood, to Beverly Hills, and to what is becoming one of my choice cultural venues.: the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

Upcoming on the center’s schedule is a dance program by the celebrated British choreographer, Mathew Bourne,, entitled Early Adventures, running Wednesday May 17th through Sunday the 21st.

Having heard much about Bourne but never having seen him, I am looking forward to a singular program that features his early works, said to be witty and spectacular. It will be Bourne’s only U.S. appearance this spring, happily in \an inviting venue .

The former Beverly Hills Post Office has been imaginatively recycled into two distinct theatres: the Bram Goldsmith, containing 500 seats but with a rake that leaves no seat more than 50 feet from the stage. Sight lines are great, complemented by pitch perfect acoustics, making it particularly suitable for dance.

More intimate is the Lovelace Studio Theatre, with flexible space and traditional theatre seating and also cabaret style seating.

The parking at the Wallis is also accessible and reasonable , and being closer to Malibu, you do noy have to take the terrible 10.

As for the Wallis’ laudable commitment to dance, the Bourne troupe follows a classic program, last weekend that celebrated the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Featured was three familiar favorites under the direction of the master himself, now a venerable 86. It was a trip back in time for his many fans.

The program opened with the 1987 work entitled “Syzgy,” which is an astronomical term for celestial bodies at opposite points in an orbit. As one can imagine, the choreography was energetic and athletic, the dancers pliable and playful, lots of squiggly arms and legs, singularly and in chorus, exhausting and entertaining. Loved it.

It was followed by the more somber 1998 piece,“The Word,” a dark score and grim. It sent shiver through me.

In contrast, the last piece was more joyful, entitled “Esplande, created in 1975. ” a celebration of everyday movement in a public space teeming with dancers, echoing with the music of J.S. Bach . You left the theatre uplifted and smiling.

 

 

TRAFFIC WAGS THE CULTURAL DOG IN L.A.

When it comes to attending cultural events in L.A. , and wanting to avoid the increasingly taxing trip downtown, particularly attractive to me is the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing arts in Beverly Hills.

And happily for dance aficionados, upcoming at the Wallis next weekend, May 5, 6 and 7, are three special dance performances by the always engaging, and challenging, Paul Taylor Company.

As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBUU and select websites, I may not be able to do anything about the traffic, no waze short cuts to the center on Santa Monica Blvd. But I can suggest scoring tickets early, for the performances promise to be sell-outs, as they are wherever the company appears.

The program for the Wallis features 3 distinctive pieces,: SYZYGY, which is described as a nearly straight line configuration of three or more celestial bodies in a gravitational system; THE WORD, inspired by the biblical line, “For our God is consuming fire -,” and the classic, ESPLANADE, danced to the music of J.S, Bach.

 At 84 years old, Paul Taylor is a celebrated icon of dance, his company having performed for more than 60 years. and as observed by Wallis artistic director, Paul Crewes, “continues to this day to shape modern dance.”

This follows the recent performances by the equally iconic Alvin Ailey dance company , downtown. The program was stunning, but the stop-and-go drive getting there was awful.

True, the driving to the Wallis also calls for patience, coming as we do from Malibu and Pt. Dume. There is always the unpredictable drive on the PCH and having to weave on local streets to Beverly Hills.

But for me that is so much better than going to the music center downtown, whether by the agonizing slow expo line or the forever frustrating freeways.

You want to be culturally au courant. I was nurtured in my native New York on art, music, dance and the theatre, and have been increasingly pleased, at times dazzled, by the array of artistic attractions in L.A.

But getting to them has also been increasingly difficult. And forget going to the ridiculous pricey Dodger Stadium with the family, even if you sneak in snacks and drinks.

Yes, I have to declare that traffic in L.A. has become the tail that wags the arts and entertainment dog.

 

KITES SOAR AT MALIBU CITY HALL

If you happen to be going to Malibu’s City Hall for some dirty deed or other, like depositing hazardous wastes or turning in old batteries, do check out in the atrium on the second floor for the Cultural Art Commission’s latest offering entitled, “Painting the Sky.”

Actually, you do not need an excuse to go see the modest exhibition in the makeshift municipal gallery, for the kites hung from the ceiling that were designed and built by the late Tryus Wong and the photographs of Sara Jane Boyer of him and his kites, are a delight, And so I comment on public radio 97.7 KBU and select websites everywhere.

The dozen or so colorful hand painted kites depicting a menagerie of animals appear to sway and shimmer in the raised, sun light bright space. Of course not as a soaring as if they were aloft on a nearby sandy beach, but the spirit of sky seeking kites can be sensed.

Loved the animals, that included swallows, cranes, owls and dragon flies. Most arresting was the 22 foot long undulating kite shaped like a caterpillar that serves as the centerpiece to the display.

The caterpillar was no doubt one of Wong’s favorites, and can be seen in a series of photographs by Boyer of being teased off the beach and into the air by an attentive Wong.

These and the other accompanying fine art photographs of Boyer complement and celebrate Wong, who interestingly photographed him for the last ten of his 106 years, on the beach, flying his kites., for which he had become renown .

One appreciates that the respected Boyer’s composed fine art technique focusing on the subject and not her skill. She respected Wong.

The kites were clearly Wong’s love, and designing and flying them obviously filled his extended later years with soul enriching art and the enjoyment of cavorting on the sandy beach, delighting himself and onlookers.

As I can attest, and my children acknowledge, flying kites can be fun, and challenging, depending on the construction of the kite, the fickle winds, and your skill.

Of course, Wong came to this mastery with a quiver of abilities honed working at Disney, among other studios., and in particular for his animation on such films as “Bambi.” The kite making came after his retirement in 1976. He died last December. His kites endure.