British sculptor Thomas J Price is rethinking the triumphalism of monuments

Large-scale bronzes show Black people engaged in quotidian activities (such as looking at their phone) inside a gallery
Larger-than-life bronzes inspired by Angelenos by sculptor Thomas J Price in “Beyond Measure” at Hauser & Wirth.
(Keith Lubow / Hauser & Wirth)

I am here for the tacos of Downey. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, art and design columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and I’m also here for all the essential culture news:

Monuments to the everyday

Thomas J Price makes sculptures that may be monumental in scale, but dispense with the heroic trappings of monuments. His bronze figures do not ride horses, nor do they march heroically into battle. Instead, they peer into their cellphones or stand casually in a plaza, hands in pockets.

His sculptures, though inspired by real people, are not literal portraits. As part of his process, he will interview subjects, scan them and then create composites. These feature the details that make his work feel very human: A woman shifting her weight from one foot to another, another who shields her middle protectively with her arm. Price, who has a Jamaican father and English mother, is determined to show the Black body engaged in the mundane.

“The gestures and poses are a rejection of the triumphant ruler,” he tells me. “Black people spend a lot of time being performative and this is the opposite of that.”


Pink marble busts of Black people are presented on plinths in a gallery
Everyday people rendered in pink marble by Thomas J Price — now on view at Hauser & Wirth in downtown.
(Keith Lubow / Hauser & Wirth)

This week, the artist opened his first solo show in L.A. at Hauser & Wirth‘s downtown space. It features a series of sculptures made of bronze and pink marble — materials that nod to Classical statuary — that were inspired by people he met during a trip to Los Angeles last summer. Some are magnificent in scale, reaching heights of up to 12 feet; others are more diminutive. A series of small, 10-inch busts, evocative of Roman portraiture, all appear lost in thought. One, from 2004, is titled “Mixed Feelings About Bus Drivers.”

The artist says he is interested in generating emotions other than awe. “What if we look at different qualities,” he says. “Let’s put some energy into empathy.”

While this is Price’s first major show in L.A., it’s not his first presentation in the United States. Over 2021 and 2022, he displayed a bronze figure of a Black man in Marcus Garvey Park in New York City, courtesy of the Studio Museum in Harlem. That figure, who is shown reviewing his telephone, reached a height of nine feet.

Farther afield, in East London, a monument of his design titled “Warm Shores” was unveiled outside a town hall last year. It pays tribute to the Windrush Generation, the Caribbean immigrants who landed in England between 1948 and ’71 (some of whom were later wrongly deported). It too is notable for its informality: an older woman and a younger man, who stand in a plaza without the benefit of plinths, each representing the generations shaped by the migration.

They aren’t shown as heroes, simply as people — a monument to the unmonumental. “It’s presenting things that are familiar,” says Price, “and not familiar too.”

Thomas J Price, “Beyond Measure,” is on view at Hauser & Wirth through Aug. 20;


On and off the stage

It’s been quite a ride for the Tony Awards, whose telecast was canceled by the WGA strike before being resuscitated in altered form. After two years of being buffeted by COVID-19, the show, writes The Times’ Ashley Lee, exposes “just how dependent the American theater industry has become on the annual celebration.” Are the Tonys too big to fail? Lee gets into it.

Times theater critic Charles McNulty had a chat with crooner Josh Groban, who has Tony nods for his Broadway debut in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” as well as for a fearsome role in a new production of “Sweeney Todd.” Groban talks about how it took him a bit to find his way as a singer, but it was producer David Foster who set him on his path. “He was the first person to say to me, ‘Don’t worry about how people are going to write about it. Don’t worry about what category you’re going to find yourself in. Just sing from the heart.’”

Josh Groban, in a light blue suit and wearing a beard, leans his head on his palm while sitting in a checkered banquette
Josh Groban wanted to bring a more human approach to the dastardly actions of Benjamin Barker in “Sweeney Todd.”
(Justin J Wee / For The Times)

Important Tony news has landed close to home: Pasadena Playhouse will receive the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award, becoming only the second L.A. stage to earn the prize (which comes with a $25,000 grant). “The award,” writes McNulty, “marks an astonishing turnaround for Pasadena Playhouse, which was on the verge of shutting down in 2010.”

A touring production of Charles Fuller‘s Tony-winning “A Soldier’s Play” has just landed at the Ahmanson Theatre. The play, writes McNulty, “is a fiercely complex study of race relations neatly packaged as a whodunit.” He has a look at how this 1981 drama holds up in the 21st century.

“On This Side of the World” premiered at East West Players’ David Henry Hwang Theater earlier this month. The Times’ Steven Vargas looks at how the show, inspired by the lives of Filipino immigrants, came to be: It was, quite literally, a rainy night, and director Noam Shapiro checked out a performance of songs by Paulo K Tiról at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. As Shapiro recalls: “I wrote in my program that I got chills from Paulo’s music.”

A black and white photograph shows Paulo K Tirol and Noam Shapiro standing before a large arched window.
Paulo K Tirol, left and Noam Shapiro. Tirol says his process began by talking to his friends about “what stories they had to tell.”
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Susana Tubert worked in New York theater for decades. Now she oversees a different kind of live entertainment: leading or collaborating on the live productions featured at the Disneyland Resort, along with the two U.S. theme parks. A background in children’s theater has helped shape her vision. “I was less inclined toward naturalism,” she tells The Times’ Todd Martens, “and more into using the lie of theater to tell the truth of the story.”

Design & preservation

Urbanism Twitter, along with other variously highly charged corners of Twitter, have been obsessing over a sunshade prototype installed at four L.A. bus stops called La Sombrita. The design has drawn jeers for its modest scale. I had a look and, while the design is indeed modest, the initiative that spawned it is not: It is a tiny piece of a larger LA DOT effort, managed in part by the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), intended to better serve women riders.

Kriston Capps at Bloomberg Citylab talks to the designers at KDI about how designs of this nature can also “help to highlight the problem at hand.” It was KDI, interestingly, that brought attention to the impossible codes governing street carts for food vending.

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In a distant part of the design spectrum, I spent time marinading in the midcentury Modern furnishings of Paul McCobb at the McCobb Museum — a DIY display assembled by collector Yogi Proctor in his Silver Lake home. This weekend, the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design is holding a series of public tours of work by a designer known for bringing high design to the U.S. middle class.

A Modern lamp with a small white shade sits atop Modernist desk crafted from wood before a sunny window
A Paul McCobb writing desk is part of Yogi Proctor’s collection.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Lisa Boone has a look at how architects Erik Amir and Dora Chi, of Spatial Practice, have given needed TLC to a little-known residence by Modernist Richard Neutra that lay gutted in Sherman Oaks. “There was no electrical. No water,” recalls Amir. “The only thing that was nice was a table with sketches by Neutra along with a piano belonging to the home’s original owner.”

The Times’ Astrid Kayembe reports that artists Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu have teamed up with Venus Williams to help preserve singer Nina Simone‘s childhood home in North Carolina. The effort is being undertaken in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

In the galleries

A new exhibition of ’80s-era painter Keith Haring‘s work is landing at the Broad museum, and it examines the serious undercurrents in his work. This includes “his critique of capitalism, his critique of global social justice issues that focused on South Africa and apartheid, his critique of what, in the ’80s, was called consumerism or commodification,” Broad director Joanne Heyler tells Deborah Vankin, “he was looking for change.”

Vankin talks to a close friend of the artist: painter Kenny Scharf, who was at Haring’s bedside when he died of AIDS-related complications in 1990. “I took — what I still take from him — is so much of his work ethics,” he says. “And the philosophy about how art is shared and how art is something that we wanted for everyone.”

A gallery covered in striped wallpaper bears colorful paintings by Keith Haring, as well as a Statue of Liberty statue
Works by Keith Haring — some featuring designs by LA II (Angel Ortiz) — go on view at the Broad in downtown this weekend.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Jessica Gelt reports that the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits are raising their adult admission to $18 — a 20% jump for adults. Museum officials said that the fees were in line with admission at institutions such as the Academy Museum and the Huntington Library. Though this overlooks the various L.A. museums — the Hammer, Broad and MOCA — who offer free admission.

Classical notes

Esa-Pekka Salonen was in town to perform major works by Stravinsky and Bartók with the L.A. Phil, as well as one of his own compositions: Sinfonia Concertante, which Times classical music critic Mark Swed describes as “a potent organ concerto” that “uniquely filled the hall and a listener’s spirit.” If anyone was worried about the looming departures of L.A. Phil CEO Chad Smith or music director Gustavo Dudamel, he adds, “There was no sign Thursday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall.”

Since we’re on the subject of Dudamel: he is stepping down from his post as music director of the Paris Opera, four years before his contract was set to expire. Swed parses the move while serving up some history: This is not the first time an L.A. Phil leader has abandoned Paris.

Gustavo Dudamel stands in an elegant wood-lined room with chandeliers inside the Palais Garnier
Gustavo Dudamel at the Palais Garnier in Paris in 2021.
(Christophe Ena / Associated Press)

Essential happenings

Steven Vargas has got his essential recommendations, including a screening of the dance film “MisFit,” hosted by TL Collective and founder Micaela Taylor on Saturday.

And heads up: L.A. Zine Fest, now in its 10th year, lands in Long Beach this weekend.


The San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Photographic Arts will merge, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune, adding MOPA’s collection of more than 9,000 images to SDMA’s existing photography archive.

San Francisco Ballet has announced its first open call for entry-level corps de ballet dancers in nearly four decades.

Composer John Kander received the lifetime achievement award at the 2023 Chita Rivera Awards in New York. Other winners included director and choreographer Jeffrey L. Page and choreographer Steven Hoggett.

The Brazilian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, organized by curators Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares, has taken the Golden Lion.


Kenneth Anger, the underground film pioneer, who brought homoeroticism to the screen in short films such as “Fireworks” and “Scorpio Rising,” is dead at 96.

In a vintage photograph, Kenneth Anger is shown setead at a pianon in a white, button down shirt.
Kenneth Anger (born Kenneth Anglemyer) in Los Angeles in 1955.
(Estate of Edmund Teske / Getty Images)

Bill Lee, a jazz bassist who played with musicians such as Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, and who composed scores for films such as “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Do the Right Thing” (directed by his son, filmmaker Spike Lee), has died at 94.

In the news

— The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on why they forgive the Dodgers — while looking truly fabulous.
Matt Stromberg of Hyperallergic has a great story about Radiotron, the ’80s-era youth center that helped shape L.A.’s graffiti and hip-hop scenes.
— Climate activists dyed the water in Rome’s Trevi Fountain black using diluted charcoal.
— In England, vandals painted a sculpture of a Black woman by Tschabalala Self white; community members came together to help undo the damage.
— It appears that Zaha Hadid Architects’ principal Patrik Schumacher is mad that the Venice Architecture Biennale is not about him.
— I just finished Shehan Karunatilaka‘s Booker Prize-winning novel “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” and cannot recommend it enough: a darkly humorous ghost story of a chatty, promiscuous Sri Lankan war photographer who is trying to solve the riddle of his own death.
— Now I’m adding Mexican novelist Fernanda Melchor‘s latest to my pile. Don’t miss Mark Athitakis’ review of “This Is Not Miami.”
— “I suggest that we think about A.I. as a management-consulting firm, along the lines of McKinsey & Company,” writes Ted Chiang, on how we get the metaphors for A.I. all wrong.

And last but not least ...

Rest in power, Tina Turner. My colleague Mikael Wood has a good tribute here.