Newsletter: Essential Arts & Culture: Luminous canvases, a mirrored house and all the ‘Hamilton’ you can handle

Los Angeles painter Mary Weatherford stands before her painting "Blue Cut Fire," 2017, at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
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A painter’s light-filled turn. A reflective desert house. And “Hamilton” arrives in San Francisco. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, with all the best cultural hotness and one very ugly footballer statue.

Luminous abstractions

Mary Weatherford, known for creating abstract canvases that feature bright touches of neon, stands before "Daisy," left, and "Rosalita" at David Kordansky Gallery.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It was a drive through Bakersfield at dusk that inspired a turning point in the art of Mary Weatherford, who is exhibiting her abstract canvases, touched by bits of neon light, at David Kordansky Gallery. I speak with Weatherford about her career and her penchant for creating works inspired by remote corners of L.A. “I’ve never wanted to make paintings about Sunset Boulevard or the center of Los Angeles,” she tells me. “I was more interested in the edges of Los Angeles.” Los Angeles Times


Times art critic Christopher Knight reviews the show at Kordansky, writing, “Like Helen Frankenthaler or Sam Francis, Weatherford approaches monumental painting on canvas as a sensuous species of watercolor — typically an intimate medium of modest size, but here washing across an entire wall.” The pleasure in her work, he notes, “is contagious.” Los Angeles Times

Must-see: Evanescent women

Also on Knight’s radar is a new show of drawings and paintings by L.A.-based artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle at the California African American Museum. The drawings pay tribute to 100 missing African American women. “Figures dissolve into the space of the sheet, like memories that fade,” writes Knight. Los Angeles Times

A funhouse mirror

Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne trekked out to the Mojave to pay a visit to Doug Aitken’s installation “Mirage,” a mirror-clad ranch house that is on view as part of the Desert X biennial. Hawthorne notes that the house is situated in a real estate development where the artist’s piece serve as both advertisement and critique. Los Angeles Times

Frank Gehry’s archives land at the Getty


The Getty Research Institute announced this week that it had acquired a major portion of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry’s archives. This includes documents from 1954, when he was a student at USC, to 1988, when he submitted the winning design for Walt Disney Concert Hall. Los Angeles Times, Getty Research Institute

The archive, reports critic William Poundstone, is “a real beast,” featuring thousands of drawings and slides and hundreds of models. Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

Gehry, in the meantime, will teach a course on re-imagining prison design at the Southern California Institute of Architecture this spring. Architect’s Newspaper

‘Hamilton’ vital as ever

The touring production of “Hamilton” recently landed at the SHM Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco and Times theater critic Charles McNulty was there. “The musical’s full-throated affirmation of diversity, inclusion and tolerance has taken on new urgency now that these values have fallen under sharp attack,” he writes. “‘Hamilton’ has become part of the resistance.” Los Angeles Times

Also important: The Times’ Deborah Vankin sorts through the red tape of buying “Hamilton” tickets for the musical’s Los Angeles run. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, this sounds very complicated. Los Angeles Times


While McNulty was in the Bay Area he also caught Lisa Loomer’s play “Roe” at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The play, he notes, is very fair-minded in its depiction of the seminal case that granted U.S. women a right to abortion, but doesn’t effectively dramatize the powerful story. Los Angeles Times

More than acting

Acting teacher Elizabeth Mestnik, center, begins a class with breathing and stretching exercises.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The prominent Studio City acting coach Elizabeth Mestnik is teaching a new generation of Los Angeles actors how to convey the toughest of emotions (including grief) in convincing ways. “If it’s not in your gut, if it’s not in your passion, then it’s not on the stage,” she says. Los Angeles Times

Pairing Adams and Stravinksy

Soloists, from left, Elissa Johnston, Niké St. Clair, Todd Strange and Nicholas Brownlee perform Stravinsky's "Les Noces" with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Composer John Adams (of “Nixon in China” fame) is turning 70 this year, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale helped mark the occasion with a performance of new piano accompaniments for choruses from five of his theater works. The show featured four pianos, which were then employed on Stravinsky’s “Les Noces,” one of the composer’s most radical and influential scores, reports Times classical music critic Mark Swed. Los Angeles Times


Cheech reflects

Actor and comedian Cheech Marin tells the story of his rise to fame in a new memoir.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Actor, comedian and noted Chicano art collector Cheech Marin has a new memoir, “Cheech Is Not My Real Name … But Don’t Call Me Chong!” Part of what motivated him to tell his story, he tells me, was to show that Cheech & Chong, the comedy act that rocketed him to fame, wasn’t some cosmic accident. “We are artists, we work hard,” he says. “We have a subtle and unexpected art that is hugely popular.” Los Angeles Times

The Power of U

Noe Montes, left, photographs Adan Ortega of Fullerton as Miguel Luna, assists, as part of Luna's Power of U project.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

How the election of President Trump has changed the dynamics of Miguel Luna’s online photo project called the Power of U, which collects the stories of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. Los Angeles Times

The WhiBi’s controversial painting

"Open Casket" by Dana Schutz on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
(Alina Heineke / AP)

A painting of Emmett Till in his casket by white artist Dana Schutz has stirred controversy at the Whitney Biennial, with some calling for the painting to be removed because they say it exploits black death, and others stating it should remain. On some corners of the Internet, it’s a full-on flame war.


Here are the essential reads:

  • If you read only one essay on the subject, make it this one by artist and critic Coco Fusco, who argues against censorship, while examining the history of the photo upon which the painting is based, along with other historical issues. Hyperallergic
  • Christopher Benson, a journalism professor who worked with Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, thinks “she would have found purpose in it all.” New York Times
  • Critic Roberta Smith looks at other examples of white artists taking on black history in ways that have generated outcry. New York Times
  • And Andrew Goldstein interviews Biennial co-curator Christopher Lew. Artnet

L.A. and the NEA

The Times continues its series on how the Los Angeles cultural landscape would be affected if the NEA were defunded. Here’s some of what we could lose:

  • The performances by the Independent Shakespeare Co. at Griffith Park. Los Angeles Times
  • A vital program at the Autry Museum that provides a platform for Native American playwrights. Los Angeles Times
  • Those free Grand Performances series in downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times
  • Plus, how a little-known NEA program helps museums offset the cost of insuring priceless objects. Los Angeles Times

In other news …

— The Los Angeles Philharmonic has named executive director Gail Samuel as acting president and chief executive officer. Los Angeles Times

— Time to budget for an understudy? A bass baritone lip-synched his own role at the Los Angeles Opera after coming down with bronchitis. Los Angeles Times

— Art dealer Perry Rubenstein pleaded no contest to charges that he embezzled money from his clients. Los Angeles Times

— The Krens-master Cycle: Thomas Krens, who brokered the deal for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, now says it’s not such a hot idea. The Art Newspaper


— After 21 years at UCLA, artist Mary Kelly, whose work has been exhibited at institutions around the world, is making for USC. Trojans: 1, Bruins: 0 USC

— In protest of Trump, theaters worldwide will screen the film version of George Orwell’s “1984” on April 4. Los Angeles Times

— Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei will build more than 100 fences around New York City for a large-scale public art program. New York Times

— Losing our sense of history? Contemporary art dominates temporary exhibition programs at art museums. Art Newspaper

— The musical “Zoot Suit” at the Mark Taper Forum is drawing fans decked out in dapper, ‘40s-style threads. New York Times

— A Tumblr for architects: Sci-fi corridors., via @colsonwhitehead


And last but not least …

A bust of Cristiano Ronaldo at a Portuguese airport.
(Francisco Leong / AFP / Getty Images)

Better than Beast Jesus: That new bust of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Cartoonist Jon Kudelka has the best Tweet. @jonkudelka

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