I’m Kelly Scott, the arts and culture editor of the Los Angeles Times, and this holiday weekend marks the rough midway point of the arts year. Spring shows have completed their runs, the L.A. Philharmonic season concludes this week, and we look ahead to summer art exhibitions opening in early June. Classical music focus now shifts to the Hollywood Bowl, and one thing you can count on to tell it's summer in the L.A. theater world: a lot of Shakespeare over the next few months, most of it al fresco.
But let’s look at the stories we covered this week.
Chris Burden's 'Ode'
There will be no more new work from Chris Burden, the influential artist who died May 10 at 69, but Los Angeles County Museum of Art is showing “Ode de Santos Dumont,” his final sculpture. Using a replica of a 100-year-old restored motor and a dirigible, Burden intended "Ode" as a tribute to the unmanned blimp that circled the Eiffel Tower in 1901. His is aloft at one end of the Resnick Pavilion. In his review, art critic Christopher Knight compared it to a drone, but one that “doesn't surveil you, you surveil it — with wonder and delight.”
Joel Searles, left, and John Biggs prepare to power up Chris Burden's last sculpture, "Ode to Santos-Dumont." (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
"I was as inspired by Steve Reich as I was by Jimmy Page,” Bryce Dessner tells London writer Christina Boyle in Sunday Arts & Books. That would explain his dual life as a rock guitarist with the National and a contemporary music composer. Dessner’s “Quilting,” commissioned by the L.A. Phil, is a highlight of the orchestra’s Next on Grand festival of new music, and it will be performed Thursday and Saturday, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Dessner is not unaware of his good fortune: "The musicians are just extraordinary, and Gustavo being Gustavo, well, it's kind of the dream situation for any composer."
Music director Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Phil. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Emails and LACMA funds
Who knows what you'll find sifting through those hacked Sony emails? Robert Faturechi and Jack Dolan of the Times metro staff found some emails to and from Michael Govan of LACMA, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and Sony CEO (and LACMA board member) Michael Lynton on the eve of the Board of Supervisors' vote on whether to allocate $125 million to help build a new museum building. It involves a Sony campaign contribution to a political action committee founded by Ridley-Thomas. Was it just business as usual? See what you think.
A lens inside the L.A. Ballet
Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin was embedded with the Los Angeles Ballet for the rehearsal period of the company’s final show of the season and offers this photo essay of the dancers' work to make the performances -- in this case a program of Balanchine, Kylian and Limon -- the kinetic wonder we see on stage.
Los Angeles Ballet dancers Bianca Bulle, from left, Allyssa Bross and Ashley Millar tape their feet and prepare their pointe shoes for rehearsal at LAB's studios in West L.A. in April. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Longtime 'Jersey Boy'
Faced with the choice between low-key realism in performance and really putting on a show, it’s an easy call for actor and singer Erich Bergen. “I want to walk out there with a sparkly jacket,” he told Susan King on the eve of a cabaret appearance at the Catalina Bar & Grill. “Why would you not?” Bergen has spent much of his adult professional life playing Four Season Bob Gaudio in various stage and screen versions of the musical "Jersey Boys." No complaints there: “ 'Jersey Boys' gave me a career,” he says. He's also in the cast of the CBS drama “Madame Secretary.” He plays an assistant to the Secretary of State -- no sparkly jackets in that job.
Erich Bergen (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
We’re letting the Calendar movie writers have Blythe Danner this time around. Reporter Amy Kaufman wrote a great story; Danner's performance in "I'll See You in My Dreams" is receiving strong reviews. But let’s not forget that last year this time she was on stage at the Geffen Playhouse in Donald Margulies' “The Country House,” which went on to Broadway ... Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “Head of Passes” drew theater critic Charles McNulty to San Francisco to see the much-admired playwright's "Head of Passes" at Berkeley Repertory Theater. McNulty's review is here. ... Let me get this straight: The 20-year-old Evidence Room is one of Los Angeles' leading theater companies, but Actor’s Equity has no record of it? What’s that about? ... Word is that the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s new president, Jean Davidson, who formed the arts organization New York Arts Live by helping merge the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the Dance Theater Workshop, is a real "get" for the company.
FOR THE RECORD:
New York Arts Live, where Jean Davidson was executive director before being named president of the Los Angeles Master Chorale last week, is an arts organization. An earlier version of this newsletter was in error when it called it a festival.
Coming this week:
L.A. Phil's Next on Grand Festival picks up again Tuesday with a Green Umbrella concert conducted by John Adams. ... The highly praised Deaf West Theater's 2014 production of "Spring Awakening" moves to the much larger Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, opening Thursday. ...MOCA holds its gala May 30 at the Geffen Contemporary, with a special honor for John Baldessari.
What we’re reading and watching:
The Brooklyn Museum chose Anne Pasternak, the director of a New York arts organization called Creative Time, as its new director this week. She has never worked in a museum. (The New York Observer's story said Jeffrey Deitch was considered for the job.) Christopher Knight sent his Twitter followers this "compare and contrast" on the appointment:
Roberta Smith in the New York Times versus Culture Grll Lee Rosenbaum's contrarian take on Arts Journal.