Culture: High & Low
With Carolina A. Miranda
Can a Frank Gehry design help change the dynamic of Watts?

He is putting the finishing touches on an elegant new museum in Paris. He has created a demure renovation plan for the nearly century-old Philadelphia Museum. And Michael Govan, the director of the L.A. County Museum of Art, has floated his name for a possible tower at the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax. The architecture of Frank Gehry is everywhere. But most significantly, it's about to land in Watts. Gehry Partners has signed on to design a campus for the Children's Institute, Inc. (CII), a social services not-for-profit that provides youth development and education programs, as well as other family support and clinical services. For the project, the firm is collaborating with (fer) studio of Inglewood.  The new campus will occupy a 2-acre lot on East 102nd Street near its intersection with Compton Avenue. It is just a half-dozen block walk to the northwest of the Watts Towers. All of this may seem small potatoes for Gehry, but the architect has been involved in nonprofit...

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Round-Up: Cuban heavy metal, Chicago tailgaters, the science of Koons

The Orange County Museum of Art is trying to use its Newport Beach property to finance a move to Costa Mesa, the Detroit Institute of Arts may get to keep its collection and George Lucas' Chicago museum has awoken some unlikely detractors (fans of da Bears). Plus, the fight over Vivian Maier's legacy and Cuban heavy metal. It's all in today's Round-Up: — Gonna start with a story I will follow with diabolical glee: Apparently Chicago Bears fans are none too happy with the location of George Lucas’ impending art museum since it will interfere with their tailgating. (Artnet) — The Orange County Museum of Art hopes to sell its Newport Beach property to a development company as a way of financing a move to Costa Mesa. — Detroit pensioners approve a plan that will help preserve the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection. (Hyperallergic) — And opponents to the Corcoran Gallery’s dissolution are going to get a hearing. — James Turrell is slated to receive a National Medal of Arts at the White...

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Comic-Con 2014: Judge Dredd, future L.A.'s most hard-boiled cop

A Los Angeles where endless loops of freeway have been built over the Pacific Ocean, where traffic jams are so epic they make the Sepulveda Pass on Friday afternoon look like child's play, where life is a continuous reality show, where immigrants don't apply for citizenship — they audition. That is the L.A. of 2094 as envisioned by a comic book series devoted to a new incarnation of the future's most hard-boiled cop, Judge Dredd. A collaboration between writer Douglas Wolk and artist Ulises Farinas (with Ryan Hill serving as colorist), "Judge Dredd: Mega City Two - City of Courts" is a five-comic series that explores the adventures of the cop/judge/executioner on assignment in the megalopolis once known as Southern California. Prior to writing his take on the classic comic, Wolk, who is the author of "Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean,"  immersed himself in the Dredd universe by reviewing every comics compilation related to the character on his blog, "Dredd...

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How a SCI-Arc design spoof predicted New York's 'poor doors'

My mom likes to say that she left South America for the Land of Opportunity, only to have South America follow her here. It's our bit of gallows humor for talking about rising economic inequity here in the United States — an inequity that appears to be increasingly written into our architecture.  On Sunday the New York Post reported that the city of New York had approved a "poor door" for a luxury condo development on Manhattan's Upper West Side. That is, a separate entrance for tenants of the building's affordable-housing units. Naturally, this is already causing waves — in one, two and three parts — on the Internet. Certainly, there are places in the world where a "poor door" might not seem like a big deal. In South America, where my mother is from, inequitable architecture is simply par for the course. The well-to-do live in sprawling apartments and large homes. The live-in servants they employ generally inhabit small, cell-like rooms, adjacent to a kitchen or a garage, with just...

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Impressive exhibition tells the story of Latin America in pictures

An injured woman is pulled out of a protest in Peru in 1960. A boy lies next to a bent bicycle, a cinematic puddle of blood pooling next to his head in Mexico City, 1958. A crowd gathers before a hanged man at a plaza in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1946 — yet another moment of intense unrest in a country plagued by coups. This trove of images can be found on view as part of the exhibition "Urbes Mutantes: Latin American Photography 1944-2013," at the International Center of Photography in New York City. The show includes more than 200 images from Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as vintage photographic books from various countries. (Many, as design writer Alexandra Lange points out, will be of interest to people into graphic design.) It is a lot to take in — but, for a continent that has tended to be underrepresented in arts institutions in the United States, it is a welcome barrage.  The show is, indeed, a sprawling one, covering...

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Moment of Friday: An Angolan dance jam from artist Okwui Okpokwasili

A young girl stands in a corner, half dancing, half wriggling. The movements are adult as much as they are childlike. She shakes her hips with a budding sense of sensuality, then flails her arms as if she were having a temper tantrum. This sequence is the opening scene from New York artist Okwui Okpokwasili's gripping one-woman show, "Bronx Gothic," which is having its West Coast premiere under the auspices of Show Box L.A. (Seriously, go see it. It's riveting.) The hybrid play/performance tells the story of two tweenage girls through the intensely emotional and unwittingly hilarious notes they pass to each other in class. "I was inspired by notes because we'd pass them around and they'd get into the wrong hands and they'd create these seismic social eruptions," says Okpokwasili, who grew up in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx. "We were having this really full world and the language was so dense and thick and filled with curses and love — all of it happening under the noses of...

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Deeper, please: We want and expect more from video game documentaries

There seems to be a point in every video game documentary in which someone bellyaches about video games not being taken seriously, that they're seen as the sort of thing kids play in a basement. We do need to get over that image. Video games are a $93-billion-a-year global industry, pulling in sales that would make the average Hollywood film producer blush. They have been the subject of movies and been featured in museum exhibitions. They are also played by just about everybody on every sort of device, be it some hyper-violent, first-person shooter on PlayStation or the addictive, ridiculous "Fruit Ninja" for smartphones, in which the player does nothing more than slice fruit with a forefinger. A good pal's 81-year-old father is so addicted to the various versions of "Ricochet Infinity" that he even participates in online chat rooms devoted to making modifications to the game. (Much to the chagrin of his wife.) So every time I see an article or TV segment or documentary in which some...

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Datebook: Canvases attacked, drums pounded and colors bleeding

A dance-performance about adolescence in the Bronx, an eight-hour movie about people at work, an installation that is all color, and talking-breathing-eating Instagram. It's all happening in our smoggy, drought-y neck of the woods: Okwui Okpokwasili, “Bronx Gothic,” at Show Box L.A. In a work that straddles spoken word, dance and performance art, Okpokwasili tells a story about the coming of age of two girls living in the Bronx through notes the two 11-year-olds share with each other. Her performances of the piece in New York drew a rave from the Village Voice (“evocative and fresh”) as well as the attention of the New York Times, which created a video of her performing a scene from the show. I'm excited to see this one. Three nights of performances Thursday through Saturday. Highland Park Ebell Club, 131 S. Avenue 57, Highland Park, showboxla.org. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge talk, book signing and screening at the MOCA bookstore. P-Orridge is the artist (and member of the band Throbbing...

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Round-Up: Artist's 3-D crime, Darwin's library, why parking's a mess

The ways in which parking spaces devour a city, LACMA director Michael Govan's defense of his museum's architectural plans and one of the awesome-est documentaries about L.A. — finally released on DVD! Also: pit bulls, lots of pit bulls (but not the singer), all in Thursday's Round-Up: — First up: Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar has been barred from attending his own show in New York. He was nonetheless scheduled to be present at his talk at the New Museum on Wednesday night via Skype. — Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokudenashiko, has been arrested by Tokyo police for distributing data from a 3-D scan of her vagina, which she was going to turn into a vagina boat … as one does with 3-D scans of a vagina. Artnet shows a video of the artist's crowdfunding appeal. — LACMA and the MTA are in early talks about building a skyscraper at Wilshire and Fairfax. — Related: KCRW’s Frances Anderton has a terrific interview with LACMA’s Michael Govan on "DnA" about architect Peter Zumthor's...

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The 5 most beguiling-weird-curious works at LACMA's new Korean show

Depictions of torture in hell, a graceful screen of mountains that feels contemporary and a snarling lion holding a mirror that reflects your misdeeds. The L.A. County Museum of Art's exhibition "Treasures From Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910" contains a bounty of incredible works — dozens of paintings, textiles, ceramics and more, from one of the most long-running Confucian dynasties in world history. Curator Virginia Moon, who organized the exhibition, says the more than 500 years of continuous rule by 27 kings provided Korea with a "sense of stability bound by strict neo-Confucian principles." The stability, however, didn't rule out creativity. "If you look at the art," she adds, "there was clearly still room for creativity and whimsy." Think a palm-sized water-dropper, a tool for diluting ink, produced in the form of a downright charming curled-up lion. The show contains more than 150 objects — a lot to take in. So I've narrowed things down a bit. (My...

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What the 9/11 museum could learn from two Latin American memorials

It is difficult to say at which point during my visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum I went from somber to irritated. Was it at the umpteenth piece of mangled wreckage? Or at one of the overwhelming displays, cluttered with everything from a man's watch to singed papers to a carbonized telephone, amid all the requisite news photos and portraits of the dead? Maybe it was the barrage of audio and broadcast news — Matt Lauer and Katie Couric trying to make sense of an explosion at the World Trade Center playing on an endless loop. Or perhaps it was watching a tourist snap a picture of his child in front a smashed New York Fire Department (FDNY) truck. The cheesy gift shop — complete with FDNY jackets for dogs — left me feeling queasy. As my colleague Christopher Hawthorne wrote in May when it first opened at New York's ground zero, the 9/11 Memorial Museum isn't a place that leaves you any "space to be alone with your thoughts." And he couldn't be more right on. Entering the museum is a...

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Object Lesson: Hollywood mechanic's rare Japanese internment photos

In the photo, a young boy hangs on a fence. His face is partially obscured; his eyes hover just above his bent knuckles. His stance is playful. On first impression, he looks like any kid in the middle of play. The background, however, tells another story. Receding endlessly into the horizon are the rows of barracks of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, a World War II Japanese internment camp near Cody, Wyo. During the three years it was open, August 1942 to November 1945, Heart Mountain held more than 14,000 people of Japanese ancestry. Many of them were American citizens. All of them — mechanics, farmers, green grocers, small children and grandparents — were forcibly removed from locations along the West Coast on unfounded (and patently hysterical) suspicions of espionage following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Among the detainees: Bill Manbo, an American citizen who, prior to being detained, had operated a garage in Hollywood. In addition to being a mechanic, Manbo was also a...

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