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.

 

 

IMMERSIVE THEATRE IN BEVERLY HILLS

Saw the acclaimed production of The Encounter recently at the always inviting Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Every time I attend a production there, it makes me think how great, and convenient, it would be if Malibu had a similar center, with a creative and resourceful administration. There is always hope.

Meanwhile, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites, The Encounter is one of those productions I would definitely label creative, and frankly challenging. But I also would add that though it lost me at times, I found it riveting, indeed mesmerizing, and would recommend it, especially to those who appreciate what is described as immersive theatre.

We are talking here of avant-garde productions that plumb your imagination, employing every device imaginable to play on whatever senses are exposed, which was sight and hearing at the Wallis.

For The Encounter, this required the audience putting on small earphones attached to each seat, which when adjusted transmit wraparound sensitizing sound that creates a sense of space.

Then there is the open set that looked like one hell of a messy work room, featuring a plain table cluttered with water bottles, a carton of exposed film, and in stage center, a large bulbous binaural microphone, manned by an intense, frenetic, confiding Simon McBurney, in a wrinkled Tee-shirt and jeans.

He is IT, the show’s single performer, and director, with a variety of voices, and supported by mind bending sound and lighting designers. He tells the true story of a National Geographic photographer, Loren McIntyre, who in 1969 became lost in the Brazilian Amazon while in search of the mysterious Mayoruna tribe.

It is a wild telling, based on a book by a Romanian journalist, Petru Popescu, entitled “The Encounter: Amazon Beaming.” that McIntrye quotes from with mounting passion, only to be interrupted by his young daughter who can’t seem to fall asleep, and whose squeaky voice we hear asking for water, questioning what her father is doing, and finally gets him to tell her a story.

Of course, it is about this photographer who gets lost in jungle. It is definitely a production you also can get lost in, and enjoy.

If so, you are going to have to get to the Wallis this weekend, for the remaining performances.

 

 

 

 

“INTO THE WOODS” REVIVED WITH VERVE

Spring break for me, thank you, was a most enjoyable writing a remembrance and  gardening at home, and attending the theatre downtown.

So instead of doing a city observed on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites as I do every Saturday, it is an arts and entertainment observed,  happily hailing the current production at the Ahmanson,  “Into the Woods.,”

The revival running until mid May has to be one of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s most fun musicals, a mash up of fairy tales both familiar and fractured, engaging, enchanting, sure to please children of parental guidance age, and also a little edgy, to please hardened adults.

Premiered 30 years ago to much praise on Broadway, it has been a favorite of touring and regional production companies everywhere, and also made into the inevitable Disney movie a few years ago
Overblown with over-the-top performances by superstars Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, it nonetheless was a much praised commercial hit.

We all know the weaving of the playful story lines,  and the adventures and misadventures of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel,  tested by the all purpose witch, along with a big bad wolf and a bigger giant.

Therefore, to be a critic, in effect an advocate for the theatre goer, one must approach a revival with a wary eye, alert to what makes the production special, and not a forgettable, ho hum, cash cow rip off.

Fear not. It is an absolute pleasure to report this latest revival of “Into The Woods,” brought to L.A. by the Center Theatre Group, is fresh, brimming with a new look and new energy.

On an open bare bones stage, fashioned and played with a charming abandon by the acclaimed Fiasco Theatre company, it is sure to delight even the Sondheim purists.

And there being no set pieces, it allowed me to focus on the performances, which were marvelous, most of the actors performing multiple roles with aplomb.

Loved Darick Pead, in 3 roles, including the cow, and also Bonnie Kramer and Anthony Chatmon, He particularly was great as the prince and a wolf, in a great musical. Kudos all.

TWELFTH NIGHT REIMAGINED AT THE WALLIS

This week it was hurry off to the always-enticing Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in a relatively accessible Beverly Hills, as compared to fighting the frustrating traffic to go downtown.

On stage for a limited engagement was a retelling,i n a wildly reimagined style, of “Twelfth Night,” one of Shakespeare’s more lighthearted plays, and reason alone appealing to me– as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and websites everywhere.

As theatre goers may recall, with a full title of “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” the play was said to be written as a twelfth night’s entertainment at the close of the Christmas season, and tells the tale of twins separated in a shipwreck. One is a disguised as a boy, who falls in love with a Duke, who in turn is in love with a Countess, and so forth and so on, into a mash up with musical interludes.

That this version of the production was premiered a decade ago at Stratford upon-Avon for the Royal Shakespeare Company and cheered by the London Sunday Times had to be an enticement, and so it was.

Also that this review is aired and posted on Fridays, gives those who might be tempted to go see it, have just four performances, to do so. tonight.

That said, you are cautioned, for this Twelfth Night is like no other , and you are forewarned, as that rave review in the Times declared “ The music is ferocious, fiery and funny: at times, it makes the Stones look like a group of genteel clergymen. This is not a send-up: it’s a celebration-mad, wild, loving and hilarious.”

My one word description is “adventurous.” Another word might be “chaotic.” To be sure, it has its moments, like the vaudeville shows I saw as a youth: some brief acts were great, others a bore.

Actually, the production presented itself, no doubt intentionally, as if still in rehearsal. The actors and musicians milling about, talking to each other and the audience being seated, with one principal actor sipping tea front and center.

Slowly, almost painfully, reluctantly, the play begins, with the famous declaration in the opening speech, “If music be the food of love, play on..” But in this production the line is fumbled, and the actor pauses, and asks for a forgotten word, and the audience shouts back, “love.”

You gotta love it. And you are going to need a lot of love of theatre to enjoy this Twelfth Night at the Wallis.

ZOOT SUIT TIMELY REVIVAL

Experiencing the stage production of Zoot Suit nearly 40 years ago was for me an intense introduction to my new home of L.A., exposing its racist history in a docu-drama, presented in a fanciful flash of costumes, song and dance, and story line.

The revival at the Mark Taper Forum now through April 2d doesn’t have the shock of the new for a now native me, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites. Some of the stage contrivances of flash backs, and a narrator have become prosaic production props, the shifting raw open set a familiar construct.

But the play as a penetrating portrait of home town prejudice is still affecting today as ever, and perhaps more so in wake of President Trump’s pronouncements deriding Mexicans and his insulting immigrant edicts.

Reviving a 40 year old play, depicting racist events plaguing Latinos 40 years before, in 1942, and not incidentally 150 years after the Civil War, and is still relevant today, has to say something about our society.

With that as history, to be sure, Zoot Suit, now as then, is a joy to watch, even if in the last row and an imperfect sound system .

Its conception is a wonderful stage conceit, especially given the drift of theatre in the 70s, and stands as a shinning tribute to the memory of the Taper’s then artistic director Gordon Davidson. He is given proper credit in the insightful program notes of Stephen Lavine and Janet Sternburg.

It was Davidson who commissioned the production from Luis Valdez, then a young, fiery Latino dramatist. That the now 75 year old, Valdez directs the revival lends the evening at the Taper a wistful aiur.

As for the production, it time and place is announced by a curtain splashing a Los Angeles Times front page of 1942 . to be sliced open by a giant switch blade knife , through which struts the flamboyant Zoot suited El Paucho, wonderfully played by Demian Bichir.

Indeed, the entire cast is excellent, the song and dance routines exuberant, the dramatic interludes touching, if somewhat cliché and in need of some editing. But then this is a revival, not a adaptation.

Zoot Suit is what it is, relevant to the fractured history of a fractured evolving city, a landmark of theatre production, and a deep bow to Latino talent.

Tickets are tough, but worth the effort, especially if you call L.A. your home.