Entertainment & Arts

Essential Arts & Culture: Staging Carrie Fisher’s ‘Wishful Drinking,’ Harry Gamboa Jr.'s newest photonovela

Carrie Fisher performing her one-woman show– "Wishful Drinking" in 2010.
(Patrick Harbron / HBO)

Tales from the stage about two Hollywood legends. An advance look at the Marciano Art Foundation coming together on Wilshire Boulevard. Gallery shows worth leaving the coziness of home. I’m Laurie Ochoa, L.A. Times Arts & Entertainment Editor, and this is your New Year’s edition of our weekly newsletter Essential Arts & Culture. Carolina Miranda returns next week.

Carrie Fisher’s ‘Wishful’ pitch

Carrie Fisher developed her autobiographical show "Wishful Drinking" at the Geffen Playhouse in 2006.
(Damon Winter / Los Angeles Times )

Following the death this week of Carrie Fisher, just a day ahead of her mother, Debbie Reynolds, memories came from all over. Randall Arney, artistic director of Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse, told Christie D’Zurilla about the 2006 pitch meeting that led to Fisher’s one-woman show “Wishful Drinking,” which eventually landed on Broadway and was turned into an HBO special. “Before the meeting started,” Arney said Tuesday, “she sat and just told us stories and we were crying, we were laughing so hard. We kept thinking that we were getting ready to start the meeting, and we kind of came around to, ‘Well, let’s get the meeting started,’ and she says, ‘Well, that was it!’” Los Angeles Times

The ‘Irene’ coincidence

Debbie Reynolds with daughter Carrie Fisher and son Todd Fisher in Reynolds' show at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas on July 28, 1971.
(Jim Borrup / LVNB/EPA )

As many have noted, Fisher and Reynolds, had an especially close daughter-mother relationship. But their deaths on consecutive days this week contributed to the making of an eerie Broadway coincidence. As Arts Editor Craig Nakano wrote, “The 1973 revival of the musical comedy ‘Irene’ [gained] a most unfortunate distinction: Three of its cast members have died within the span of three days.” Reynolds was making her Broadway debut in the leading role of fashion model Irene O’Dare, alongside her daughter, Carrie, who at age 16 was playing the role of Debutante. Lost to many with the news of Fisher’s and Reynolds’ deaths was the passing of another cast member from that ‘73 production. Broadway veteran George S. Irving, who won a Tony for his “Irene” role as the fashion designer Madame Lucy, passed away Monday at the age of 94. Los Angeles Times

Temple of Contemporary Art

Marciano Art Foundation Director Jamie G. Manné outside the Wilshire Boulevard building.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles )

How hungry is Los Angeles for contemporary art? That’s the question Deborah Vankin posed in her early look at the Marciano Art Foundation, which is due to open this spring in Wilshire Boulevard’s former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, still under renovation. Maurice Marciano, who is opening the contemporary art museum with his brother and Guess co-founder Paul, said of the multitude of recent museum openings, “I believe the more museums there will be, the more every museum will be successful in having a lot of visitors because more and more people will come to L.A. to visit them.” Los Angeles Times

The making of a photonovela

Harry Gamboa Jr. photographs Virtual Verité performers at the foot of the 6th Street Bridge.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times )

Before she left for vacation, Carolina Miranda watched artist Harry Gamboa Jr. orchestrate a photonovela, one of his impromptu human tableaux staged in urban settings and documented with photography. For his series “The Sixth Expanse,” Gamboa has been making images about the demolition of the 6th Street Bridge, which connected downtown Los Angeles with Boyle Heights. One of the central questions Gamboa seeks to answer through his work: “What happens when the place you make your mark has been removed?”  Los Angeles Times

Cuba’s Alberto Lescay

"El Titan de Bronce" (The Bronze Titan) a monument to Antonio Maceo, a 19th century Cuban general.The sculpture by Cuban artist Alberto Lescay is in the city of Santiago de Cuba.
(Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times )

On his recent trip to Cuba, writer Randy Lewis had a fascinating encounter with artist Alberto Lescay, the sculptor who created Cuba’s largest monument "El Titan de Bronce” (The Bronze Titan), which dominates the center of Santiago de Cuba’s Revolution Square. Lescay, who realizes he has a priviledged position in Cuba, declined the money that came with the statue’s commission and instead asked that it be used to create an art school, where he now teaches a new generation of artists. Los Angeles Times

Loving images

Richard and Mildred Loving with their children at home in Virginia in 1965.
(Grey Villet / Monroe Gallery of Photography )

The story of Mildred and Richard Loving is in the news again thanks to the Jeff Nichols-directed film “Loving,” starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. Many of the most memorable images in the film about the Virginia couple at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court decision that overturned state laws banning interracial marriage come from moments captured in a 1965 Life magazine photo shoot by Grey Villet. Pictures from the shoot can be seen at the upcoming Photo L.A., which runs Jan. 12-15 at the Reef at the L.A. Mart downtown, and at the Monroe Gallery of photography in Santa Fe. Los Angeles Times

Abstract spirits

Luchita Hurtado, "Untitled (detail)," circa 1950, crayon, ink, watercolor on paper.
(Park View Gallery )

Times art critic Christopher Knight writes that Luchita Hurtado’s work was “multicultural before multicultural was cool.” You can see what he means at Los Angeles’ Park View Gallery, where 21 “lovely abstract” drawings and four oil paintings by the Venezuelan-born artist and longtime Santa Monica resident are on display through Jan. 7. Knight says “spirits dwell” within Hurtado’s Park View images, which mostly date from 1942 to 1952. “The upheaval of a catastrophic war and its tumultuous aftermath was reshaping the way art looked and felt,” Knight writes, “and in these works flat, loosely figurative shadows seem to flit through spiky and organic shapes.” Los Angeles Times

Gallery shows for the new year

Yui Yaegashi's “White Line,” 2016, oil on canvas, 4.7 inches by 9 inches.
(Parrasch Heijnen Gallery )

David Pagel reviews a series of gallery shows to contemplate in the new year. “Brain: Photographs by Peter Badge” at the El Segundo Museum of Art is an ambitious project of 396 photos of Nobel laureates paired with touch-screen monitors where viewers can access information on each image. The problem, Pagel says, is that the show amounts to a data dump in need of organization and analysis. Other shows, he says, provide a respite from the noise of a disruptive political season. “At a time when those who shout loudest seem to get more attention than those who speak softly, it’s refreshing to come across Yui Yaegashi’s whisper of an exhibition at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery.” And the “whimsical sculptures” of Hannah Greely shown with the “haunting drawings by the late Avigdor Arikha at Michael Benevento “make for a moving exhibition.” Los Angeles Times

Obama’s geek and art fest

President Obama sits with a Lego statue created by artist Nathan Sawaya for the festival South by South Lawn at the White House.
(Pete Souza / White House )

The October day Barack Obama opened the White House to a bunch of tech geeks, rock and funk bands, rappers, filmmakers, artists and social activists for the festival South by South Lawn was a moment that the president’s cultural impact was on full display. I wrote about the festival as one of 2016’s most symbolic moments. Los Angeles Times

Peace be with you


Finally, as we close out 2016, I leave you with a video that has been a favorite in our house when we need a moment of calm: “Boiled Dumplings” from Ryoya Takashima’s YouTube series and website Peaceful Cuisine.

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