Culture: High & Low With Carolina A. Miranda

Essential Arts & Culture: USC's retro Village debuts, Dudamel vs. Maduro, the Berkshire Museum's art sale

USC’s shiny new-old architecture. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s swipe at Gustavo Dudamel. The Berkshire Museum’s disquieting plan to sell off its art. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with the week in steaming-hot culture news:

Disneyland meets Hogwarts

The new $700-million USC Village is finally open — and it’s a Goth bonbon stuffed with a creamy center of the blandly bureaucratic. “With its Gothic ornament, peaked arches and 150-foot clock tower,” reports Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, “the complex is a fantasia of just-add-water heritage, equal parts Disneyland and Hogwarts.” He also notes that at the opening ceremony, USC President C.L. Max Nikias said the complex gives the university “1,000 years of history we don’t have.” That, writes, Hawthorne, is one of the “laziest clichés” about Los Angeles — a town with a pretty enviable architectural history. Los Angeles Times

As part of the pageantry, the university unveiled a sculpture that features a quote from Hamlet and William Shakespeare’s name spelled “Shakespear.” The spelling resulted in trolling from crosstown rivals UCLA. But scholars note that the Bard’s name was spelled myriad ways in his day. USC may have history on its side, but UCLA scores points for its flaming tweet. Final score: USC: 1, UCLA: 1. Los Angeles Times

Dudamel in the Venezuelan maelstrom

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has canceled a four-city tour of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra that was to be led by Gustavo Dudamel. In May, the musical director of the L.A. Phil called on Maduro to halt violence against protesters. “But what mainly seems to have set Maduro off,” reports Times classical music critic Mark Swed, “is that Dudamel … worked behind the scenes with former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to free popular violinist Wuilly Arteaga.” Arteaga had been arrested for playing the Venezuelan national anthem during a protest. Los Angeles Times

A worrisome art sale

The Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts wants to sell 40 of its most notable paintings — including works by Norman Rockwell, Alexander Calder, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church — to fund future museum operations (including a possible change of mission). Times art critic Christopher Knight says that is a terrible plan. “Here’s an idea: Don’t sell the art. Do close the museum,” he writes. In auctioning off works in this way, the institution is simply privatizing art that belongs to the public, he adds, and “the public is the loser.” Must. Read. Los Angeles Times

Lawsuit at the Geffen

Randall Arney, the former artistic director at the Geffen Playhouse, filed a lawsuit alleging age and disability discrimination against the theater’s management. Arney was recently replaced by 41-year-old TV and film director Matt Shankman. In his legal complaint, he cites an “exemplary, unblemished record of service.” Los Angeles Times

Berggruen’s new institute

Christopher Hawthorne reports on a proposed new campus designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Herzog & de Meuron for the Berggruen Institute, a public policy think-tank focused on governance. The project, which will be located on a hilltop near the Getty Center on the Westside, represents two sides of L.A.: a combination of “seemingly unlimited space” with “a city that is growing increasingly dense and vertical.” Los Angeles Times

Bowled over

Gustavo Dudamel led a show of Holst’s “The Planets” and a new Icelandic violin concerto at the Hollywood Bowl this week — an unusually experimental program for the Bowl’s picnic-happy audience. But Mark Swed reports that it worked. A “musically dangerous” violin solo by Pekka Kuusisto featured “a drone on its lowest string unnervingly tuned down a fourth” that caught everyone’s attention. Plus, the show took full advantage of the benefits and limitations of the venue’s amplification technology — proving that “the Bowl need not remain so far, far away from the ensemble’s larger mission of reinventing the orchestral wheel.” Los Angeles Times

Also, Times contributor Rick Schultz has a profile of Daníel Bjarnason, the Icelandic composer who wrote that violin concerto. Los Angeles Times

Getting solar with Ron Athey

Notorious Los Angeles performance artist Ron Athey recently spent half a dozen years living in Europe. But now he is back in L.A. in a big way. He is curating a performance night at the Broad (this Saturday) and is laboring on a major new work that is set to debut early next year. “I’ve been so inside the body, but I had to step back,” he tells me. “The performance I’m working on now isn’t about the body at all.” He and I sat down for a meandering chat in the middle of Monday’s eclipse. (Pro Tip: If you’re going to eclipse, do it with the artist behind a work titled “Solar Anus.”) Los Angeles Times

A Hamlet trio

The character of Hamlet has always been the subject of “an unusually wide latitude of interpretation,” writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty. So he looks at three recent performances to parse one of Shakespeare’s signature leading men: Andrew Scott in Robert Icke’s London production, Oscar Isaac at New York’s Public Theater and Grantham Coleman at San Diego’s Old Globe. “ ‘Hamlet’ has an uncanny way of holding the mirror up to whatever age is examining it,” writes McNulty. “The Romantics saw their freedom-loving reflection in Shakespeare’s masterpiece as clearly as the Freudians discerned their own Oedipal obsessions.” Los Angeles Times

In the galleries

At Parrasch Heijnen in Boyle Heights, artist Julia Haft-Candell presents a series of new sculptures that Times contributing reviewer Leah Ollman describes as toying with the infinite. Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, reviewer Sharon Mizota checks out Ryosuke Yazake’s wood and terra cotta works at M+B, pieces that “are decidedly anti-heroic, and all the more appealing for that.” Los Angeles Times

In other news…

— Renowned optical artist Carlos Cruz-Diez will be creating an installation for the crosswalks outside the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles for Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles / Latin America. Los Angeles Times

— Speaking of PST: LA/LA, more than 50 museums across Southern California will have free admission on Sept. 17 to mark the kick-off of the Getty Foundation-funded series devoted to Latino and Latin American art. Los Angeles Times

— Surfing the border: An art project organized by Diego Palacios and Machine Project brings surfers to that watery dividing line between the U.S. and Mexico. LA Weekly

— No matter the political climate, the Spanish language in the United States endures. New York Times

— Which makes it a fine time to note that the Main Museum in downtown Los Angeles is now making its offerings bilingual. Main Museum, La Opinión

— Who gets to portray black pain in art and film? Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris have an interesting discussion on the subject in the wake of the Dana Schutz controversy at the Whitney Biennial. Still Processing

— Really bad museum tips for parents: Put your kid in an 800-year-old coffin for a photo. New York Times

— Perfectly timed for eclipse week: A group of stage and screen stars will do a reading of Cedering Fox’s “In the Cosmos: Where We Come From, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going” at the Ford Theatres. Los Angeles Times

Alice Goodman, the librettist behind “Nixon in China,” is now an ordained Anglican priest. New York Times

— Dance writer Gia Kourlas says “Polina” is a film about dance that manages to offer a truthful picture of the profession. New York Times

— The story everyone in book publishing is talking about: Did an obscure young adult novel buy its way onto the New York Times bestseller list? Pajiba

— On the New Yorker and its many, many commas. The Baffler

And last but not least…

A Twitter meme that combines references to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and experimental filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Thank you, Internet, thank you. @ericallenhatch

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