Essential arts: Why ‘Art in the Age of Black Power’ is the show for right now

“Did the Bear Sit Under a Tree?” (1969) by Benny Andrews, part of the exhibition "Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983" at the Broad in Los Angeles.
(© Estate of Benny Andrews; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY )

Your regular guide, Carolina Miranda, is taking a week off the keyboards. But the arts never stop in Southern California — and we’ve just published our Spring Arts Preview, which we don’t want you to miss. I’m Laurie Ochoa, arts and entertainment editor of the L.A. Times with a super bloom of culture.


This weekend’s big art opening is the Broad museum’s “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, 1963-1983,” an exhibition filled with “searing moments,” Times art critic Christopher Knight writes in his review. It’s a necessary show. “Black art,” Knight says, “has languished in an institutional blind spot.” Among the most vital pieces is Faith Ringgold’s “devastating” map of black incarceration, “The United States of Attica.” “Nearly half a century on,” Knight writes, “Ringgold’s image still shocks.”

Assemblage art works, including many by Los Angeles artists, are some of the strongest pieces on view at The Broad’s “Soul of a Nation” exhibition. Times writer Makeda Easter reports on the importance of the style. “It breaks with the American idea that when something is done you throw it away,” says Daniel Widener, UC San Diego history professor. “It’s got renewal at its heart, which is a radical message for people who are told they’re disposable and in a country that praises disposability.”


Faith Ringgold's "The United States of Attica," 1971-72, offset lithograph, part of the Broad's "Soul of a Nation."
(Pablo Enriquez / The Broad)


About 130 years before Photoshop, artist Oscar G. Rejlander used multiple negatives to create “one of the most vexed photographs of the 19th century,” writes Times art critic Christopher Knight in his review of “Oscar G. Rejlander: Artist Photographer,” at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Knight calls the photographic work “Two Ways of Life (Hope in Repentance),” “epic” and the exhibit “fascinating.”

Oscar G. Rejlander's "Two Ways of Life (Hope in Repentance)," 1857, albumen silver print.
(Oscar Rejlander / J. Paul Getty Museum)


Arts editor Craig Nakano put together a terrific look at the best of what’s coming this spring on the Southern California arts scene.

Times art critic Christopher Knight is anticipating the start of construction on architect Thom Mayne’s new campus for the Orange County Museum of Art as well as several museum and gallery shows, among them, April’s “Open House: Elliott Hundley,” the inaugural show in MOCA’s series in which L.A. artists organizing exhibits from the museum’s permanent collection, and “Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel” at the Hammer in early June.

Times theater critic Charles McNulty says “the forecast for the spring season calls for a hurricane of tears, shot through with just enough laughter to keep theatergoers from going off the deep end.” Among his weepy picks, “Tiny Beautiful Things” based on the book of advice columns by Cheryl Strayed, “Falsettos” coming to the Ahmanson and “Daniel’s Husband,” which will have its Southern California premiere at the Fountain Theatre.


And in Times music critic Mark Swed’s look at spring, he says that “the Los Angeles Philharmonic will be overstuffing Walt Disney Concert Hall with Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand” and hosting a 12-hour new-music marathon that opens with David Lang’s ‘crowd out,’ composed for as many volunteers as can be rounded up.”

David Ulin talks with director and multimedia artist Lars Jan about his staging in April of Joan Didion’s “White Album” at UCLA’s Ralph Freud Playhouse, produced with his collective Early Morning Opera and the Center Theatre Group. “We are watching a woman in crisis,” Jan says of Didion’s book, “describing a culture in crisis. I think of her as Ishmael in ‘Moby-Dick.’

Deborah Vankin experiences “Thought Experiments in F# Minor,” “a site-specific, immersive‘video walk’ installation with 3-D sound by Canadian artist duo Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. The 40-minute ‘architectural adventure’ — new this spring and free to the public — is, on its most simplistic level, a tour through Disney Hall and its immediate surroundings.”

Makeda Easter talks with 25-year-old choreographer and dancer Micaela Taylor, who is getting national attention for her athletic but graceful, fluid yet precise style. Her TL Collective premieres its work “Drift” at Ford Theatres on March 30. Easter also previews this spring’s dance happenings.


Daryl H. Miller sits down with Los Angeles playwright Inda Craig-Galván, who felt the urgency to write her new play “Black Super Hero Magic Mama” after the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. It’s now at the Geffen Playhouse’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater.

And Matt Cooper previews the Broadway national tours coming to Southern California this spring,

Cover illustration for the 2019 Spring Arts Preview.
(Illustration by Michael Glenwood / For The Times)



Don’t tell violinist and former child prodigy Ray Chen that classical music is a fusty old art. Yes, as Chen told Times arts writer Jessica Gelt, he knows that the classical music community can be small and insular, but with his playing and huge social media following he’s opening up that world. On Friday, he and the LA Phil announced the Play With Ray contest, open to non-professional violinists around the world. The winner will play on stage this summer at the Hollywood Bowl with Chen, 30, and the L.A. Phil.

Violinist Ray Chen performing in London on June 2, 2014.
(Tim P. Whitby)


Many predictions have been made of Brexit’s effect on the economy of the U.K., but writer Joseph Giovannini looks at what architects fear could happen if Britain separates from the European Union. Rem Koolhaas sees “pea soup and a complete absence of coffee” and “‘Little England’ all over again — a small-minded, prim and grim place.” The European Union, Koolhaas says, “modernized the English mentality.”


A London view taking in, from left, St. Andrew Undershaft church, the Scalpel tower, the Lloyd's building and the Leadenhall Building (also known as the Cheesegrater). Architects worry Brexit would hurt not only businesses' bottom line but also the profession's creative vitality.
(John Keeble / Getty Images)


Carlos Izcaray, music director of the Los Angeles-based AYS since 2016, has made a significant pledge: “50% or more of new music performed by the youth orchestra will be the work of female composers,” writes Tim Greiving, who talks with Izcaray about his bold move: “It serves a little bit like a lab, to discover: How is the symphony orchestra relevant in a 21st century world?”

American Youth Symphony music director Carlos Izcaray.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


At the center of David Lindsay-Abaire’s career-launching play “Fuddy Meers” is an amnesia-damaged woman who greets each day like a blank slate. Reviewer Philip Brandes, wrote about a revival of the work at Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre, says, “the loopy plot and reality-upending antics, which looked so outlandish in 1999, now seem woven from today’s headlines — particularly in the trauma-laden swamps of the #MeToo era.”


“Even those who are not [hip-hop] fans … will find “Hype Man” an overdue immersion into a cultural phenomenon,” writes F. Kathleen Foley in her review of “Hype Man” at the Fountain Theatre. “Director Deena Selenow elicits first-rate performances from her tight-knit cast.


Clarissa Thibeaux and Matthew Hancock in a scene from "Hype Man" at the Fountain Theatre.
(Ed Krieger)


On the 99-Seat Beat, Philip Brandes previews Mary Zimmerman’s “Argonautika” at A Noise Within, “Steel Magnolias” at Actor’s Co-op, Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer” at the Odyssey and Bernard Pomerance’s biodrama take on “The Elephant Man” at El Portal.

Matt Cooper previews the week ahead in Southern California museums, dance, theater and classical music. Plus he gives us his weekend picks, which including a female-powered salute to Yoko Ono at Walt Disney Concert Hall.



One image that’s stuck with me this week is the display of 50 pairs of white shoes representing the 50 Muslim lives lost after a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The memorial, outside the country’s All Souls Church, shows how people of all faiths were moved by the tragedy. Lorraine Ali wrote about how there’s never been such a contrast in views and narratives about Muslims this month, from the vitriol of suspended Fox News host Jeanine Pirro to grace of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who wore a black head scarf when consoling the Islamic community after the shootings.

Fifty pairs of shoes for 50 Muslim lives lost. A memorial at All Souls Church in Christchurch, New Zealand.
(Marty Melville / AFP / Getty Images)

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On Twitter: @Laurie_Ochoa