Newsletter: Essential Arts: Facebook’s new logo? That’s so Meta

A man takes a photo of a infinity loop logo emblazoned on a large roadside sign at the company's entrance
A Facebook employee takes a photo in front of new Meta Platforms Inc. sign outside the company headquarters in Menlo Park on Thursday.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)
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It’s time to honor the ancestors and, as part of that, dip into all the foods that are essential to Day of the Dead. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, arts and urban design columnist at the Los Angeles Times, alive and here with the week’s essential arts news:

Design time

Facebook corporate is now known as Meta and the stylized infinity symbol logo feels very Big Pharma meets “Squid Game” enforcer mask. Side effects include incontinence, political instability, political unreality and eventual death.

Mark Zuckerberg is seen on screen alongside the Meta logo.
Mark Zuckerberg presents Meta, the new Facebook parent company, on Oct. 28.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press )

On social media, the new logo has already been compared to testicles and Spiderman’s mask. Bill Gardner, who publishes a logo trend report via his website, LogoLounge, tells Anne Quito at QZ that Meta’s mobius strip style form was trendy ... back in 2008. (Here is Gardner’s 2008 logo report.)

Far more interesting than dwelling on the company’s supremely uninteresting logo is reading about its questionable governance — which has been made public in recent weeks via leaked internal documents and the congressional testimony of former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen. The Washington Post has had a great series of reports based on these findings.

The takeaway: “The social media giant has privately and meticulously tracked real-world harms exacerbated by its platforms, ignored warnings from its employees about the risks of their design decisions and exposed vulnerable communities around the world to a cocktail of dangerous content.”

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Now, on to other bad ideas:

The L.A. Zoo wants to expand its facilities (many of which date to the 1960s) in a plan that would consume 23 acres of native woodlands, reports The Times’ Louis Sahagún. A couple of local organizations — Friends of Griffith Park and the California Native Plant Society — are opposing the $650-million plan, which includes the development of climbing walls and vineyard.

Times readers are not having any of it.

Classical notes

Times classical music critic Mark Swed sat down for a frank conversation with L.A. Phil musical director Gustavo Dudamel about the effects of the pandemic on his work, as well as his personal life. He lost, among others, the grandmother who raised him. And the shutdowns forced him into unexpected roles: from cajoling funding from donors to hosting a radio program. “Everything can be the last time,” he says. “How you do that, how you are, you create, how you interpret music, all of that goes deeply into your being.”

COVID-19, he says, has changed everything. “I am not the Gustavo of 2010, 2011, 2012.”

Gustavo Dudamel passionately gestures toward the violin section from the podium.
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Phil and pianist Seong-Jin Cho at the orchestra’s Homecoming Concert & Gala earlier this month.
(Ringo Chiu / For The Times)

Swed also writes about a recent performance by the Phil at Disney Hall, which included Steven Mackey’s “Shivaree: Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra.” His review opens with some pretty spectacular wordplay: “Shivaree, chthonian, erumpent, tintinnabulation, exonumia, requiescat, deipnosophist, omphaloskepsis, horripilation, deliquesce, apopemptic. How many of these fabulous words do you know?” It turns out that these were the words flashed above the orchestra during the 12 short movements of Mackey’s composition. “First came the word,” he writes, “which was followed by Mackey’s short, fantastical musical response.”

Los Angeles Opera’s new production of “Tannhäuser” has landed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The sets don’t look so hot in this version of the opera, directed by Louise Muller, but James Conlon‘s conducting, writes Swed, “is better than ever.” And Sara Jakubiak, a young soprano from Michigan, adds a jolt in the second act.

ICYMI, Swed, also reviewed Jonas Kaufmann‘s recital at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica last week. “Kaufmann,” he writes, “revealed an impressively robust, focused, heroic voice that is particularly effective when scaled down to a whisper that seems to say, ‘Yes, I really care.’”

Art report

Because the vast emptiness of space is the only place left to fill with art, artist and engineer Xin Liu sent her wisdom tooth into the heavens aboard an early iteration of a Blue Origin rocket in 2019. Now the tooth is in a sculptural installation on view at Honor Fraser Gallery — part of a group show that also features work by Nancy Baker Cahill and LaJuné McMillian. “The action of sending a tooth to outer space,” she tells The Times’ Deborah Vankin, “is very much a ceremony and a performance for me.”

An exhibition of Renaissance portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger has landed at the Getty Museum, and the show, which features 33 paintings and drawings by the artist, “opens with a bang,” reports art critic Christopher Knight. “Holbein’s seamless union of materiality and symbolism was more than merely showy,” he writes. “Instead, it’s what makes the flesh-and-blood verisimilitude of his portraits so captivating.”

A portrait on a circular canvas shows a man in 16th century dress and a plumed hat holding a red flower.
Hans Holbein the Younger, “Simon George of Cornwall,” 1535-40.
(Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main)

On the stage

A production of Jean-Claude van Itallie‘s breakthrough play “The Serpent” was cut short by the pandemic, but now it’s back in a production staged by the Odyssey Theatre. It’s a presentation, writes theater critic Charles McNulty, that takes on added resonance given Van Itallie’s death in September. The new production eludes some of the collective spirit of the original staging, he writes. But “it’s heartening to witness this sampling of a theatrical tradition so at odds with today’s commercial zeitgeist.”

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Essential happenings

Matt Cooper has all the best events for the weekend, including a dance performance by Micaela Taylor and her dance company at the Wallis and Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers (All-Night Vigil)” sung by the Pacific Chorale at the Segerstrom in Costa Mesa.

Cooper also has a guide to the 10 free and family-friendly Día de los Muertos events, including performances, food and an exhibit staged by Self Help Graphics & Art — its 48th celebration.

An altar features black and white drawings of people's faces with sculptural renderings of food and other objects.
“Flower, Season, Fortune,” an altar by artist Sandra Low, will be on view at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights as part of its Día de los Muertos exhibition.
(Miyo Stevens-Gandara / Self Help Graphics & Art)


Kenneth Baker, a longtime art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, has died at 75. “While at times challenging for an average reader to unpack,” writes the Chronicle’s Steven Winn, “Baker’s prose was often marked by lyrical and evocative concision.”

In other news

— It appears that UC Santa Barbara and a very rich patron are trying to create a dorm inspired by Kowloon Walled City on the UCSB campus.
— The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright reviews the new Munch Museum in Oslo by Spanish architect Juan Herreros, who argues against horizontal museums. (Cough cough, LACMA.)
— “Pixar is preoccupied with the urban condition, and we’re all just poisoning and consuming ourselves to the brink of extinction.” Justin R. Wolf writes about the subversive urbanism of Pixar movies for Common/Edge.
— A 1952 Los Angeles home designed by Gregory Ain gets a painstaking restoration after a fire courtesy of Escher GuneWardena.
— Important programmatic architecture update: Tail o’ the Pup is making a comeback.
— That “Diana” musical? Lily Janiak of the San Francisco Chronicle says it’s not as bad as everyone is making it out to be.
— “It’s a hard job, it’s a big job, whether you’re a woman or a man.” The New York Times profiles Eun Sun Kim, the first woman to serve as music director at San Francisco Opera.
Angel City Chorale’s Joy Horowitz writes about what it means for a woman to sing tenor.
— A private collector has returned an important Mayan artifact to Guatemala after it was slated for auction. Here is Christopher Knight‘s 2019 report on the artifact’s history.
— An initiative spearheaded by the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama is placing plaques to memorialize the site of lynchings around the U.S.

And last but not least ...

L.A. artist Joel Kyack has a new music video for his band DREAM_MEGA and it’s pretty memetastic.