Newsletter: Essential Arts: Fury after mass shootings felt in Mozart’s Requiem at the Bowl

Budapest Festival Ochestra at the Hollywood Bowl
Iván Fischer led the Budapest Festival Orchestra in a three-concert series.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A concert at the Hollywood Bowl captures the national melancholy while another serves as platform for a teenager’s joy. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with your week’s essential arts news and weird fonts:

Requiem at the Hollywood Bowl

When the Budapest Festival Orchestra took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday, the plan long had been to conclude the program with Mozart’s unfinished Requiem. Yet the performance came in the wake of Toni Morrison‘s death and the shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton. “With the Requiem, [Mozart] was the first to so operatically dramatize the rite of the dead,” writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed, “and the Hungarian conductor at the Bowl, Iván Fischer, was a merciless Mozartean who brought out the outright fury that much of America feels.”

Budapest Festival Orchestra
The Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer, concluded its Hollywood Bowl series with Mozart’s “Jupiter,” and his last work, the Requiem.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Museum shake-up

Kerry Brougher is out as director at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, reports Josh Rottenbergbefore the $388-million museum completes construction on its new home at Wilshire and Fairfax. No word on where he might be headed. The Times’ Jessica Gelt reports on what may have gone wrong: “A source close to the museum, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said critics called Brougher an indecisive, ineffective leader who had little interest in, or talent for, fundraising.”

Kerry Brougher, formerly of the Hirshhorn Museum, is leaving his post at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Classical notes

The L.A. Philharmonic held a global contest to Play With Ray, a chance to perform at the Hollywood Bowl alongside headliner Ray Chen. Finnish violin student Laura Kukkonen, who is just a high school senior, won the competition — and received a standing ovation for her performance. Her instrument of choice? A violin built by Guadagnini in 1775 and valued at more than $2 million.

Play With Ray winner Laura Kukkonen
Play With Ray winner Laura Kukkonen, 18, plays Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins with Ray Chen and the L.A. Philharmonic.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Plus, Mark Swed caught a performance at the new Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla, designed by Epstein Joslin Architects, with acoustic design by Yasuhisa Toyota (Walt Disney Concert Hall). The kinks are still being worked out acoustically (with some piano and flute passages sounding “glaring”), but Susanna Phillips‘ “carefully sung” performance of Ravel’s “Trois Poémes de Stéphane Mallarmé” was “exquisite.”

In the galleries

Contributor Sharon Mizota has been doing the white box thing. She reviews an ambitious exhibition and program series at the Mistake Room that is focused on contemporary Vietnamese art. Some of the most compelling works “address cross-cultural interactions,” she notes, such as a piece by Tuan Andrew Nguyen that features large reproductions of a handwritten letter a Vietnamese rapper sent to a U.S. rapper named Saigon, and Phan Quang‘s poignant photographs of the Vietnamese descendants of Japanese soldiers.

Mizota also reviews the “refreshingly blunt” paintings of Brandon Landers at M+B gallery and an “entertaining exhibition” of 13 figurative painters at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica. “The show,” she writes, “is like summer reading, pulling you in with its stories.”

The Times’ Deborah Vankin writes about Xu Zhen‘s living sculptures in impossible poses at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. “Before the Xu acquisition, MOCA owned just one performance work, ‘Temperament and the Wolf,’ 2014/2019, created by Puerto Rico-based duo Allora & Calzadilla and acquired in 2015,” writes Vankin. “At its annual benefit this year, MOCA re-staged the work, a double receiving line in which museum staffers and board members welcomed visitors into the dinner area after cocktails.”

Xu Zhen at MOCA
Angéline Herron takes a photograph of one of the five sculptures that are a part of artist Xu Zhen’s show “In the Blink of an Eye,” at the MOCA.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Plus, Leah Ollman reviews a pair of intriguing shows. The first is a “snappy, tough show” by Samuel Levi Jones at Vielmetter Los Angeles consisting of fabric book covers that Jones has stitched together in irregular patchwork grids. “His response to the racial inequities and injustices embedded in the foundational texts of our culture is to break the books apart, dismantling the container as a means — literal and symbolic of defusing the contents,” she writes.

At the Craft in America Center, Ollman turns her attention to Anni Albers, the Bauhaus artist who revitalized the field of weaving in the early 20th century. The show pays tribute to her legacy by displaying textile works by 10 contemporary artists — all women — an exhibition “steeped in reverence and spiked with formal ingenuity.”

In the meantime, Times art critic Christopher Knight hit the the Mary Corse survey at LACMA. The show features 25 pieces (mostly from the ‘60s) by the Los Angeles light and space artist, known for canvases that refract light and toy with a viewer’s sense of perception. The show offers some buzzy, flickering moments, writes Knight, but, ultimately, “the perceptual payoff doesn’t go far.”

On stage

Will Geer‘s Theatricum Botanicum has taken on the rarely performed Thornton Wilder play “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Director Ellen Geer takes the pile of catastrophes featured in the work — an ice age, a flood and a great war — and has fun with it. (Sometimes, too much.) But, writes The Times’ Daryl H. Miller, “the material delivers chills of recognition as it wraps in environmental calamity, a refugee crisis, mass violence, political and social division, arrogant exceptionalism, smear politics, a presidential sex scandal and more.”



Nancy Reddin Kienholz, an artist known for her large-scale installations, and for work created with her late husband, Edward Kienholz, has died at 75.

David Berman, a poet and indie rocker known for his band the Silver Jews, and his way with a lyric, has died at 52, less than a month after his new band Purple Mountains’ album release. It was Berman’s first album since 2008.

Don Suggs, a low-key Los Angeles conceptual artist who shaped generations of artists as a professor at UCLA, died last week at the age of 74. His death generated an outpouring of grief in the L.A. art world: “He was never the person who wanted to appear in the spotlight,” says Elizabeth East, a director at L.A. Louver. “But he became, to many people, the sun to which they were drawn.”

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, who wrote of a slave mother’s wrenching path in “Beloved,” has died at 88.

Reading the tributes to her work has been inspiring. L.A. essayist Lynell George describes a writer who “was both a mirror and a map. She reflected our experience back to us and to the world: but also, projected her own.”

Of course, Hilton Als is essential: “When she looked at you and addressed you by your Christian name, she made it sound like a promise, one that stood on the side of everything that was juicy, smart, black, amused, yours.”

And while you’re at it, go back and read this 2015 profile of Morrison by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah. Worth every word.


Ready for the weekend

Matt Cooper has his weekend picks, as well as the week ahead in classical music, theater, dance and art, including a show at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery that takes its inspiration from animal innards.

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In other news...

— Guess who is coming to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery? Queen Bey (in photo form).
Egypt has begun conservation work on one of King Tutankhamen‘s coffins, which is in very poor condition.
— A group of African American leaders in San Francisco leaders came out against a plan to whitewash a 1930s mural by Victor Arnautoff that shows slavery and indigenous genocide.
— Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen is no fan of “Miss Saigon.”
Mimi Zeiger has a must-read on how women have reshaped the practice of architecture (with shout-out to Lizzo).
Furniture is getting cuter.
Laura Capelle examines the state of dance criticism. Which is a good time to mention that Gia Kourlas has been named dance critic at the New York Times.
Antwaun Sargent has a great profile of performance artist Okwui Okpokwasili (whose riveting “Bronx Gothic” I saw when she was in L.A. in 2014). Here’s hoping we’ll see her in L.A. again soon.

And last but not least...

A font made out of gerrymandered congressional districts.