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Essential Arts and Culture: The soul in the machine and a phenom with a baton

Here's a look at what was going on in the arts world this week, plus a sneak peek at what we have planned for readers soon. I'm Kelly Scott, arts and culture editor for the Los Angeles Times.

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Google's soul

To Christopher Hawthorne, the design for Google’s new headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., shows it wants to save its soul and the world too. The Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels plan reminds people of the company's slogan in its early years: Don’t be evil. And it is in stark contrast with the design for a new Apple HQ.

'Mirga mania'

There’s another conductor on fire at Disney Hall: 26-year-old assistant L.A. Phil conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, who followed up a smashing Hollywood Bowl debut last August with a spectacular Disney Hall debut last week. Of her work with the baton, Mark Swed wrote, “She didn’t so much begin these pieces; she ignited them.” The word is apparently out -- the audience was loaded with presenters, orchestra leaders and out-of-town critics. “Let Mirga mania begin,” Swed says.

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

What's Hockney up to?

When David Hockney allowed a reporter into his Hollywood Hills studio recently, the walls were filled with the work of a terribly productive recent stretch. Hockney, who would just as soon create with iPad and iPhone as brush and canvas, described the scene at the studio as “3D without the glasses.” The paintings and photo works capture the moveable feast the 77-year-old artist brought back to Los Angeles: Friends are invited to sit for individual portraits or play cards for a series of photos inspired by Cezanne’s “The Card Players" -- and hang out. Hockney tells Barbara Isenberg, "These are portraits for the 21st century.”

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

$100-million question

There was some serious headscratching in Los Angeles with the news that entertainment mogul David Geffen gave $100 million to Lincoln Center in New York to help renovate famed Avery Fisher Hall. Our David Geffen? Hadn’t he heard that the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion -- located in the city where he’s spent most of his career -- needs a thorough makeover? Classical music critic Mark Swed asked a different question: Did the Music Center ever reach out to him?

Curbed enthusiasm 

The play “A Fish in the Dark” by writer and comedian Larry David opened on Broadway last week with a record advance sale. David's stage debut, after co-creating "Seinfeld" and following it with “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” doesn’t need good reviews. It didn’t get themCharles McNulty wrote that "Fish" plays like a long “Curb" episode that “huffs and puffs its way to the finish line like a geriatric marathoner wheeling an oxygen tank behind him.” But just try to get a ticket.

A breakout premiere

Ballet experts and followers have long regarded American Ballet Theatre as something of an underachiever. The company of Baryshnikov and Makarova lagged behind more vital and imaginative companies in reinventing classical story ballets for the next generation. But after seeing the world premiere of choreographer-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, reviewer Laura Bleiberg is a believer: “The company made a glittering course reversal Tuesday night.”

(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

What we’re reading in other media

New York City government plans to examine the diversity of its cultural institutions' management, boards and staffs. It won’t be pretty there, and wouldn’t be in L.A., either.

This was just too easy: New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz on an exhibition devoted to the singer Bjork at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: “A discombobulated mess.” He worries about MOMA's direction. Celebrities, pop culture themed exhibitions, critical disdain? This has a familiar ring.

Lots of people love “Hamilton,” the Lin-Manuel Miranda hip-hop musical about founding father Alexander now at New York's Public Theater, and moving to Broadway this summer. Charles McNulty was quite taken with it -- as most critics are. Hilton Als in the New Yorker is the first I've read who has some reservations.

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