Culture: High & Low
With Carolina A. Miranda
Datebook: Beastly dinner, calligraphy art, sonic pieces at Schindler

A dinner and performance that channel Jacques Derrida and a bestiary, a series of sound pieces at Rudolph Schindler's historic home in West Hollywood, and art made from Arabic and Farsi calligraphy. Plus, YouTubing in a parking lot and a book party for a new tome that captures the people of the auto industry. I love the weirdness of late August shows. And it's all going down in L.A. and the Valley:

“TRAINS,” a group show curated by Sterling Ruby, at Night Gallery. Sculptor and installation artist Sterling Ruby gathers a mix of works for a late summer group show. The press release describes it as “spatially separated images and objects [that] occur at the same time becoming linked by the observer.” Also known as: pictures and sculptures set up around a warehouse. Opens Saturday, 2276 E. 16th St., downtown Los Angeles, nightgallery.ca.

"Sound, at the Schindler House: Space as Raw Material," at the MAK Center for Art

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Los Tigres del Norte get a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame -- finally!

I'm not the kind of person who generally gets all excited about someone getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The area is tourist-trappy. Parking sucks. And the idea that the stars might be awarded out of merit (or actual fame) is a fiction. After all, Donald Trump has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And unless it was granted to him for playing an Oompa Loompa, I'm just going to come out and declare that he doesn't deserve it.

But I am genuinely excited that Los Tigres del Norte will be getting their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday morning. One of the longest-running Mexican regional music acts of all time (together since the '60s), the San Jose-based band has played Disney Hall and Soledad Prison and just about every venue in between.

The Hernández brothers (Jorge, Hernán, Eduardo and Luis) and their cousin Óscar Lara are a musical institution. They have produced dozens of albums and sold millions of records. Their lyrics have touched on love, immigration,...

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Round-Up: Gaza video game, Ferguson's architecture, L.A. art hotbed

Ancient cave murals in India getting some needed cleanings, the architecture of America in a time of strife, a video game inspired by Gaza, dating advice from Ovid and L.A., L.A., L.A. — it seems everyone wants a piece of us. This, along with a ginormous comet and a Marina Abramovic pug. Yes, it's Round-Up time:

— Let’s begin with the ancient: the cave paintings at Ajanta, in India, some of which date to the 1st or 2nd century BC. The caves have received some much-needed TLC to undo conservation work from the early 20th century that left the murals buried under a layer of shellac. (h/t Weisslink

— Now, onto the hard news: A new video game is based on actual tweets from Gaza. Unfortunately, it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be, writes Chris Priestman in Kill Screen.

— Critic Christopher Hawthorne analyzes the architecture of Ferguson: a prototypical suburban American commercial strip that has become a stage for dissent and a militarized show of force.

— Moving onto the issue of...

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R.I.P. Corcoran Gallery. Now, about that collection...

One of the oldest private museums in the United States will be no more. On Monday, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., received permission from a Superior Court judge to merge with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The National Gallery will take the art, while the university absorbs the Corcoran's College of Art + Design. (The Washington Post and Washington City Paper have good primers on the decision and what it all means.)

This spells an end to the years-long financial troubles, along with a last-minute Hail Mary legal challenge by a group called Save the Corcoran, which sought to keep the museum independent.

For art-loving geeks like myself, however, the big question now is what will happen to the museum's collection? And when and where will we get to see the art again?

According to the terms of the deal, the National Gallery of Art will take the pieces it wants and distribute the rest to other D.C. art institutions. Transfer of any Corcoran...

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A gag quiz from 1985 says a lot about how we talk about gentrification

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so it would seem — at least when it's related to the very hot topic of gentrification in San Francisco.

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How L.A.'s Islamic art shows might expand our 'Middle East' vision

Too often the Middle East is reduced to just that: the "Middle East" — a blanket term defining a large swath of territory in Western Asia and North Africa, a news-hour shorthand for territorial conflicts and civil unrest. But "Middle East" does little to define the diversity of a region made up of nearly 20 countries, a dozen languages, myriad cultural traditions and several millennia of history.

A series of exhibitions scheduled to land in Los Angeles starting in September should help open some minds. The Los Angeles/Islam Arts Initiative (LA/IAI), led by the Department of Cultural Affairs, will bring together nearly 30 cultural institutions in the L.A. area to stage exhibitions and events that will tell the story of Islamic art around the world. This should offer some perspective on the culture of a region whose politics and traditions are often oversimplified, when they aren't serving as a source of outright caricature.

"One of the things that we were talking about when we were...

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Moment of Friday: Artist Dara Birnbaum's 1970s Wonder Woman mash-up

By today's standards, Dara Birnbaum's video piece "Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman," might not seem like a big deal. The 5 1/2-minute video looks like your typical Internet mash-up: repeating cuts of actress Lynda Carter spinning in circles to transform herself into Wonder Woman, all studded with explosions, which are also repeated. 

But in the context of the late 1970s, when "Technology/Transformation" was made, the video represented something totally new. For one, it was an appropriation of a hit television program at a time when it wasn't all that easy to appropriate video. 

"There weren't VCRs," says L.A.-based video artist and historian Carole Ann Klonarides. "You couldn't really record anything off the television back then. So she was actually getting her hands on the film footage. And she was using the material to re- and deconstruct television to reveal all of these stereotypical ideas about women."

Klonarides, along with artist and composer Tom Recchion, will be...

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After Ferguson: U.S. museums need to show a work by Natalie Bookchin

Over this past week, I have been obsessively following the developments in Ferguson, Mo., where the events following the shooting of an unarmed black teen have brought startling images of protest and even more startling images of the heavily militarized police presence — not to mention the detention of reporters doing their jobs.

All of this takes me back to an absolutely staggering work of art I saw a couple of years back. "Now he's out in public but everyone can see" was a video installation produced by Los Angeles-based Natalie Bookchin at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in Hollywood in the spring of 2012.

It featured 18 monitors staggered around a darkened room, with cuts of video taken off video logs — vlogs — which Bookchin harvested from YouTube. The clips consisted of average Americans of all races giving their thoughts about incidents in the news involving African American men, all of whom go unnamed.

At times a single monitor would speak; at others, they would all...

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Datebook: Cat art, cosmic collages and sculptures that purify water

Sculptures that explore questions of environmental sustainability (and purify water), works inspired by graphic design, art about cats and a benefit show for a church that was at the heart of the Chicano movement. It's all in the Datebook:

Lucy + Jorge Orta, “Food – Water – Life,” at Ben Maltz Gallery. A series of jury-rigged sculptures can perform useful actions like purifying water — even if they do it in somewhat cumbersome, inefficient ways. But that’s part of the point: The Paris-based art-making couple Lucy and Jorge Orta create work intended to get the viewer thinking about topics related to sustainability and the environment. This includes placing plenty of attention on the all-important issue of our water supply. The show will include pieces related to a trip the couple made to Antarctica in 2007. Opens Saturday at Otis College of Art and Design. Through Dec. 6. 9045 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, otis.edu.

“Clayton Brothers: Open to the Public,” at Mark Moore Gallery. Since the...

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So minimal, so addictive: the puzzle game 'Compulsive'

I've been knee-deep in stories about war photography, prison literature and human-trafficking operas. Which means I need a break. I've found it in a video game called "Compulsive," which I've become compulsively addicted to over the last several days. 

It is astonishingly simple: a smartphone/tablet puzzle game in which a player lines up squares of color until they shatter and make room for more squares. "Compulsive" bears some resemblance, in principle, to matching games such as "Bejeweled" and "Tetris."

But the design makes it a stand-out. Instead of the gleaming gems of "Bejeweled," or the brick blocks of "Tetris," there are only simple, flat bits of color. If Ellsworth Kelly were to design a video game, it would look like this.

"I drew on games like Tetris," says Todd Moore, of TMSoft, who created "Compulsive." "But the design and the aesthetics were inspired by the flat, modern design that I've seen in things like the 'Letterpress' game for iPhone or the new Windows operating...

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Round-Up: Statue selfies, new Nazca Lines, the whitest superheroes

All kinds of drama at museums in Delaware, North Miami and Washington, D.C., a discovery of new Nazca Lines in Peru, reconsidering the urban role of the Santa Ana River, psychedelic fonts, statue selfies and why liking everything on Facebook encourages the worst kind of content sludge. It's all in the Round-Up:

— Let's start with the bad news: The shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo., has prompted other teens to post photos of themselves under the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown to show the ways in which a single image can distort the way we see a subject in the news, particularly young African Americans. 

— Related: an interesting story in CityLab about the growing militarization of U.S. police forces.

— Onto museums behaving badly: The Corcoran Gallery’s disintegration is getting ugly. An adjunct instructor was reportedly fired as retribution for starting an organization that opposed the dissolution and absorption of the museum into the National Gallery of Art. 

— The...

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Why Kenneth Jarecke's gruesome war photo needs to be seen

The photo shows a man, his skin blackened, his teeth set in a grimace, a barely human figure who was carbonized trying to escape his deathtrap of a burning truck. The man is Iraqi. The setting is the Highway of Death, the strip of road that led north out of Kuwait into southern Iraq, where the allied forces of Gulf War I bombed an Iraqi convoy attempting to retreat.

Snapped by combat photographer Kenneth Jarecke, it has all the makings of an iconic war photograph. But at the time he took it, in the pre-Internet days of 1991, it was barely seen — published in only two newspapers, both in Europe.

The Atlantic has a terrific story about the photo's history and why it went largely unnoticed in the United States. Be forewarned: the article shows the gruesome image. (Though, to be honest, the image is not that different from some of the scared-straight photos of drunk-driving accidents I was shown as a teen in drivers education.)

Certainly, a general post-Vietnam squeamishness about showing...

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