Roundup: Freeway shutdowns as protest, Lucas museum ripples

Roundup: Smithsonian on Cosby, #Ferguson freeway protests + George Lucas's Jabba design

The Smithsonian responds to the assault allegations against Bill Cosby, protesters find a new urban tool for making themselves heard, George Lucas’ museum is causing kerfuffles in Chicago and novelist Ursula K. Le Guin gives a giant Web retailer of books an earful. Plus: photography billboards, the monorail to the Valley that never happened, and delicious Tijuana electronica available for devouring on Soundcloud. It’s time for a Roundup:

— In the wake of #Ferguson, a new urban protesting tool: shutting down freeways.

— Related: Is there a U.S. museum that will step up to the plate and show Natalie Bookchin’s incredible video installation about the ways our society perceives the presence of black men? I'm waiting...

— There is all manner of controversy in Chicago over George Lucas’ proposed Museum of Narrative Art: the Chicago Tribune editorial board is opposed to it and a preservation group has filed a suit against the project, saying that Mayor Rahm Emmanuel overstepped his authority in recommending the valuable lakefront property as a site for the museum. (As part of the deal, Lucas gets the very valuable land for only $1 a year.) 

— And because we're on the subject of Lucas ... This is what architecture critic Blair Kamin thinks of the design: “Like the bloated Jabba, the building needs to be put on a diet — or rethought altogether.”

— The upcoming departure of Don Bacigalupi from the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas — for George Lucas' new museum (yes, him again) — means the institution will have lost all of the senior curatorial staff that it opened with just three years ago. On Culturegrrl, one departing curator describes the place as focused on commercially driven crowd-pleasers and “the Afghanistan of curatorial posts.” (Wowzers.) More perspectives on the departures here, including a statement from the museum’s director of communications.

— Speaking of which, Crystal Bridges recently relocated a New Jersey house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to Bentonville. One can only imagine what the maniacally site-specific architect would think of this news.

— The Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art has released a statement about the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations in relation to the institution's current display of his art collection: “Exhibiting this important collection does not imply any position on the serious allegations that have been made against Mr. Cosby.”

Lewis Baltz, known for his stark photographs of American landscapes has died. He’s an artist I’ve always admired for the way he captured the brutal sprawl of places like Orange County (where I partially grew up), particularly in the series “The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California.” 

Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin lambasted Amazon.com in a wonderfully feisty speech at the National Book Awards last week: “We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this.” Read the full speech here

— Speaking of criticism, British author Will Self has a piece about how the Tate Modern in London has come to symbolize the worst of inequity: "Working people on modest to low incomes and the unwaged may no longer be able to afford to live in the city, but their children can at least get to experience for a few hours the aristocratic lifestyle of strolling about and looking at expensive stuff.” 

— A private donor in Italy put up funds to help restore “the greatest picture in the world,” a 15th-century fresco in Sansepolcro by Piero della Francesca that shows the resurrection of Christ. 

A slideshow that shows works from painter Katie Herzog’s “Transtextuality (Senate Bill 48),” a series of black-and-white portraits of important trans men and women, is now part of the permanent collection at the L.A. County Museum of Art.  

— Plus, LACMA has re-installed photographer Larry Sultan’s billboard artworks around L.A. 

— Because the holiday season demands some sublime ridiculosity: The Great Echo Park Cardboard Art Feud of 2014

Smithsonian Magazine has a report on how L.A. became car-centric, with nice details about the 1950s monorail to the San Fernando Valley that never happened.  

— In keeping with the theme, Times book critic David Ulin has an interesting essay about reconsidering L.A.’s landscape as the city grows up. 

— Other L.A. miscellany: an informative look at the mosaic tile murals that decorate LAX and Long Beach airports, and how L.A. neighborhoods got their names

— If you haven’t been to see the Robert Heinecken exhibition at the Hammer Museum, this review by Sharon Mizota may persuade you that it will be worth your time to tangle with traffic near the 405. 

— … and, on the right coast, this Chris Ofili show at the New Museum sounds like a must-see. (Get on it, people, it’s Thanksgiving weekend! Choose art over Black Friday sales!) 

— Last but not least: Pepe Mogt of the Nortec Collective, the famed electronica group from Tijuana, has been putting his mixes on Soundcloud. And like Tijuana, this makes me very, very happy…

Find me on the Twitters @cmonstah.

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