Newsletter: Essential Arts: How do you want to meet the L.A. River’s edge? Three intriguing park plans

Redesign of LA River
Taylor Yard, the sliver of land along a bend in the Los Angeles River north of downtown, is being reconceived by design teams.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times )

First, the big news: The Times unveiled a hot new online look this week that makes finding arts stories waaaay easier, so check us out. As always, I’m staff writer Carolina A. Miranda, your in-flight hostess, with the week’s dose of essential arts news — and vintage critical throwdowns:

Planning the L.A. River

A pair of design firms presented proposals for revamping a bend in the Los Angeles River last month. The designs for Taylor Yard were done by the international firm WSP and the L.A.-based landscape architecture firm MLA, established by Mia Lehrer, last month. “In all three design schemes,” writes contributor Mimi Zeiger, “the priority is bringing people closer to the river’s edge.” And it will be a complex job: Designers are facing a dynamic site that will require soil remediation to contend with industrial contamination, among other challenges.

L.A. River Taylor Yards
Designs presented by Studio MLA show options for reimagining a portion of the L.A. River.
(Studio MLA)

Redesign time

Robert H. Schueller‘s temple of televangelism, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, was reborn as Christ Cathedral this week, part of the Catholic diocese of Orange County. Overseeing the revamp — which included shades on the windows and a hand painted mosaic of the Virgin of Guadalupe — were architects Johnson Fain.

KCRW’s Frances Anderton spoke with Scott Johnson of Johnson Fain about what it meant to put a scalpel to the work of Philip Johnson, who designed the original building. The two are not related, but as luck would have it, Scott worked for Philip in the 1970s and has thoughts about what his old boss might have said.

Christ Cathedral
The remodeled Crystal Cathedral is rededicated as Christ Cathedral, part of the Diocese of Orange County.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

In far weirder architecture news, my colleague Julia Wick considers the fate of Nitt Witt Ridge near San Simeon, a home built entirely out of found objects and trash.

Classical notes

Times classical music critic Mark Swed reviews a performance by rising Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández (“a sure star in the making”) and L.A. Dance Project‘s version of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” choreographed by Benjamin Millepied, at the Hollywood Bowl. This included dance on stage, but also in the hills and through the seats, with the performers chased by a hand-held video camera. Writes Swed: “This should be the future of virtual reality.”

At Disney Hall, Swed saw Thomas Adès’ “Inferno,” the first part of what eventually will be a full ballet inspired by Dante‘s most famous work. Adès’ score, he reports, offered “wry reasons for celebrating our vices.” The performance included sets by Tacita Dean, choreography by Wayne McGreogor and dance by the Royal Ballet.

Lastly, Swed was back at the Bowl to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Gustavo Dudamel’s musical stewardship at the L.A. Phil. The program included Tchaikovsky performed by Khatia Buniatishvili (“La Beyoncé du piano”) and “the grooviest performance of Henry Mancini’s ‘The Pink Panther’ theme ever” by the kids of the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.

Bravo Gustavo 10th Anniversary
Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili with conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who is marking his 10th anniversary with the L.A. Phil.
(Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt / Mathew Imaging )

Lucas Museum discovers ... art?

Curators from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art presented plans for their rising L.A. museum at San Diego Comic-Con, and my colleague Todd Martens was on it. Curator Ryan Linkhof told the audience that the museum’s big innovation will be mixing art from various eras to “eliminate the hierarchy between so-called high art and commercial art.” Which makes me wonder if the curators missed class on the day the professor was talking about Andy Warhol.

In the galleries

British artist Sarah Lucas is the subject of a show at the Hammer Museum (her first solo show in L.A.) that takes the history of art and tweaks it with some giant phalluses. This includes a sculpture of a mattress bearing genitals made from produce and beer cans that evoke disembodied male privates. “Akin to Andy Warhol’s Pop breakthrough in the 1960s, which knocked art’s institutionalized status quo off its pedestal, a British tabloid sensibility is a mainstay of her work,” writes Times art critic Christopher Knight.

Sarah Lucas, Self-portrait with Fried Eggs
Sarah Lucas, “Self-Portrait With Fried Eggs,” 1996, part of the artist’s retrospective at the Hammer Musuem.
(Sarah Lucas / Sadie Coles HQ)

Contributor David Pagel reviews painter Eric Fischl‘s show at Sprüth Magers — a show about sex whose true subject is anxiety — as well as an exhibition of 12 works by Betty Woodman at David Kordanksy Gallery that mix painting with installation and ceramics for pieces that are “a thrill to see, a thrill to think about.” But this week he is particularly bowled over by painter and singer Terry Allen‘s show at L.A. Louver, a 50-year survey that is “so jampacked with love, suffering and resilience that there’s a good chance you’ll be moved to tears,” he writes.

Lastly, I report on a show at the Getty Museum featuring work by the late photographer Gordon Parks. The show examines a 1961 series he shot for Life magazine that chronicled the daily life of a 12-year-old boy named Flávio da Silva who lived in a Rio de Janeiro slum. The story raised concerns about issues of exploitation and propaganda and was the source of a spat between Brazilian and U.S. media outlets. Da Silva, who was in Los Angeles to see it, tells me he had little understanding of the significance of the story when it first came out: “I just hear that and see pictures. But I don’t know how big the situation is.

Flavio da Silva
Flávio da Silva at the Getty Center in Los Angeles almost six decades after he was memorably photographed by Gordon Parks in Rio de Janeiro.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Related: Historian John Edwin Mason, who is at work on a book about Parks, wrote an essay in 2014 that explores the significance of the series for the photographer.

Annals of performance

Royal Ballet dancer Francesca Hayward has put on the fur to play the shy Victoria in the upcoming film, “Cats” (which this week released a much-discussed trailer).

The adventuresome “Men on Boats,” currently playing at the Son of Semele theater in L.A., tells the story of John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War vet who explored the Grand Canyon in 1869. The cast is made up of performers who are female or nonbinary with “audaciously anachronistic contemporary language that lends further immediacy to the proceedings,” writes F. Kathleen Foley.

Broadway star Sutton Foster, who will be starring as the Baker’s Wife in a Hollywood Bowl production of “Into the Woods,” tells The Times’ Daryl H. Miller that she identifies with her character’s struggles to have children. “My husband and I ... we went through lots of trials and tribulations to find our daughter,” she tells him. “We had tons of infertility struggles.”

Sutton Foster
Broadway star Sutton Foster is appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in “Into the Woods.”
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Ready for the weekend

Matt Cooper has lined up his essential weekend picks. Plus, he has guides for the week ahead in classical music, theater and art — including an exhibition of paintings, photographs and prints at the Getty Museum that pay tribute to the cathedral of Notre Dame.

"Chevet de Notre-Dame-de-Paris, vue prise du Quai de La Tournelle," 1860s, by Charles Soulier, on view at the Getty Center.
“Chevet de Notre-Dame-de-Paris, vue prise du Quai de La Tournelle,” 1860s, by Charles Soulier, on view at the Getty Center.
(J. Paul Getty Museum)

And I’ve got all the visual arts goods in my weekly Datebook, including a show of contemporary ceramics by Jasmine Little.

Your support helps us deliver the news on culture — as well as this newsletter. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.

In other news ...

Five artists have withdrawn their work from the 2019 Whitney Biennial in protest of museum vice chairman Warren Kanders, a weapons manufacturer.
— More uncertainty at the the David Ireland House in San Francisco as the last curator, Diego Villalobos, resigns.
— The pro football player who became a painter: The California African American Museum considers the life and work of Ernie Barnes.
— How Notre Dame came close to collapsing.
— The Getty Foundation has announced the recipients of its Keeping It Modern grants initiative, which supports the preservation of Modernist architecture, such as Eero Saarinen‘s space-age North Christian Church in Indiana.
— How playwright Luis Alfaro is making Greek tragedy more Chicano.
— A look at the Ebony magazine photo archive before it is sold.
— Now in theaters: a 4K restoration of “A Bigger Splash,” Jack Hazan‘s genre-busting film about painter David Hockney from 1974.

And last but not least ...

Sometimes when I want to freak myself out late at night I go back and read Renata Adler‘s 1980 takedown of film critic Pauline Kael. Chills.