Culture: High & Low
With Carolina A. Miranda
Da Vinci fire follow-up: Good urbanism not just architecture and bars

Federal investigators have concluded that the massive downtown Los Angeles fire that consumed much of the Da Vinci apartment complex was arson, as The Times reported earlier this week. Which means that the Da Vinci and its developer, G.H. Palmer Associates, will continue to generate headlines as the investigation is carried out.

Already, the buildings have kindled all kinds of debate related to their design and general disconnect from the greater urban fabric. Their inhospitable, faux Italianate street-level facades have been critiqued in the pages of Los Angeles Magazine, on the airwaves of KPCC and by readers of the L.A Times. The week of the fire, I wrote a story about how the attention on the blaze provided an opportunity for Angelenos to rethink the types of projects rubber stamped by our city planners. As so many Times readers made clear, there is a hunger for a newer style of mixed-used design that would take human-scale street life into greater consideration. But it's not a...

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Moment of Friday: Cat show artist Rhonda Lieberman is a fan of cat ballet

For roughly 15 years, artist and writer Rhonda Lieberman says she has wanted to do a gallery installation that involved cats. But for roughly 15 years, she couldn't find a taker.

"Galleries," she says, "are not wild about hosting rescue cats."

But after the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis hosted its wildly successful Internet Cat Video Festival in 2012, Lieberman says she felt the moment had come. So she pitched the concept of a cat-themed show to the White Columns gallery in New York, which agreed to stage an exhibition.

"The Cat Show," as it was called, gathered feline-related works by prominent artists (from video game hacker Cory Arcangel to conceptual photographer Robert Heinecken, whose work is currently on view at the Hammer Museum). It also featured an installation designed by architects Freecell and Gia Wolff, which served as a sort of avant-garde kitty play zone. Inside, a couple dozen cats did what cats do — played, lounged and snoozed around cat-friendly sculptures. The...

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Datebook: Intricate collages, bottle-cap masks and lots of art cats!

Masks made from detritus in downtown, a holiday open house in Santa Monica and intricate collages in Pasadena. Plus, cats — lots of cats! With the holidays upon us, it’s going to be a quiet couple of weeks in the art world. But there are still quite a few shows going down. Here’s what we’ve got on our calendars through the New Year:

Rhonda Lieberman, “The Cats in Residence Program” at 356 Mission. Because there’s no such thing as too many cats (especially on the Internet). Artist Lieberman, as she did for a similar New York event, is staging a gallery “purrformance” with lots of feline players as well as an interspecies lounge/installation designed by Freecell Architecture and Gia Wolff. After, take a performer home; the piece is also a collaboration with the adoption organization Kitten Rescue. I have a feeling my dog is gonna love this show. Opening reception Sunday at 3 p.m.; runs through Jan. 25. 356 S. Mission Rd., downtown Los Angeles, 356mission.com.

“When It Is Dark Enough” and...

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'Left out of the discussion': Jenn Kidwell on being Donelle Woolford

Jenn Kidwell, the performer who participated in one of the most controversial works of art of the year, has now written an essay about that experience.

Kidwell is known for portraying Donelle Woolford, a fictional black female painter conceived by white artist Joe Scanlan. The inclusion of the Woolford character as an artist in her own right in this year's Whitney Biennial unleashed months of fierce debate about the race dynamics of the art world. And the museum, along with the show's curators, were heavily criticized for incorporating a fictional black artist at a time when only a handful of real ones had made it into the show. (I wrote a long, reported piece about it back in June, in case you're looking for a refresher.)

Kidwell, who plays Woolford (along with fellow performer Abigail Ramsay), has written a reflection about that whole experience for the lastest issue of Movement Research Performance Journal. In it, she discusses how her participation in the piece was often belittled...

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Object Lesson: Two images, two photography roads taken

They are two photographers whose paths crossed repeatedly over the decades, but who never met until a combined exhibition of their work opened at the Yale Center for British Art this past summer. 

Bruce Davidson and Paul Caponigro were both born in the United States in the 1930s. They are both known for their meticulous attention to the craft of photography. And they both spent formative periods shooting in Britain and Ireland. But their subject matter couldn't be more different. Davidson leans toward crackling urban and industrial settings. Caponigro chooses pastoral landscape and ruin: megalithic boulders, crumbling walls, the shells of early Christian churches.

Now the work of these two photographers stands side by side in an ongoing exhibition at the Huntington Library in San Marino: "Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland." 

"At first, the pairing might seem odd," said Jennifer Watts, the Huntington curator who helped organize the...

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Mark Bradford's Art + Practice to bring art, social services to Leimert

The eastern side of Degnan Boulevard and West 43rd Place in Leimert Park at first glance seems like just another crestfallen Los Angeles block. Doors are closed. Gates are shut. Plywood obscures the windows on a magnificent corner building, an ornate Art Deco-era structure that is topped by a stupa-like tower. 

But walk closer and you'll hear a hive of activity: the frenetic buzz of workers sanding, painting and figuring out exactly where the light switches will go. A singular art and social services collaboration is being constructed. 

Art + Practice, as this unusual project is called, will showcase museum-grade contemporary art exhibitions, while also offering a menu of services for youth in the city's foster care system.

"This is the bookstore," says Allan DiCastro, the organization's interim director, as he leads me through an empty Degnan Boulevard storefront that is in the process of being lined with wood panels. "We're adding a second floor right there — that's where the...

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