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Essential Arts & Culture: The 'Hamilton' ruckus, Baryshnikov's tribute, SoCal's architectural temple

Essential Arts & Culture: The 'Hamilton' ruckus, Baryshnikov's tribute, SoCal's architectural temple
The Salk Institute, designed by architect Louis Kahn for scientist Jonas Salk in La Jolla in 1965. (Salk Institute)

A face-off between Broadway and a president-elect. A tribute to the seminal Vaslav Nijinsky. And a look at the masterful architecture of Louis Kahn. I'm Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer of the Los Angeles Times, with a super special, three-days early Thanksgiving edition of the week's most blazing arts stories!

Examining a key architect

Louis Kahn, around 1972.
Louis Kahn, around 1972. (Robert C. Lautman Photography Collection / National Building Museum)

The San Diego Museum of Art recently opened an exhibition devoted to the work of the late Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn, known for stirring buildings crafted from brut concrete. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne describes the show as a "pleasure," with models, photos and sketches of "Kahn's astonishingly self-possessed buildings."

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But the exhibition, which originated at the Vitra Design Museum, sticks to the idea of the architect as lone genius. "He and his work weren't quite as isolated as we like to remember," writes Hawthorne. "Marcel Breuer (particularly in his Whitney Museum of 1966), Paul Rudolph, Edward Larrabee Barnes, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche and a handful of others were mining a similar vein." Los Angeles Times

A fish-eye view of the Salk Institute, with its dramatic Pacific Ocean views.
A fish-eye view of the Salk Institute, with its dramatic Pacific Ocean views. (Salk Institute)

In the meantime, I took a tour of Kahn's temple-like Salk Institute, the research facility the architect built for scientist Jonas Salk in La Jolla in 1965. I was happy to discover that the complex still functions brilliantly as a center of science. As Thomas Albright, a neurobiologist who has worked at the Salk for decades, told me: "Not only do the buildings continue to function well, I would say this is the best way to build a laboratory building." Los Angeles Times

The Pence-‘Hamilton’ brouhaha

Actor Brandon Victor Dixon of the Broadway musical "Hamilton" addresses Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Actor Brandon Victor Dixon of the Broadway musical "Hamilton" addresses Vice President-elect Mike Pence. (Hamilton LLC / Associated Press)

When Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the smash musical "Hamilton" in New York on Friday, performer Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, delivered a short speech asking the incoming administration to uphold the "inalienable rights" of "diverse America." Times theater critic Charles McNulty writes that he was intrigued by the gesture, especially since the theater is a place where "artistic truth is spoken to power," but that "the most eloquent case that can be made for the pluralistic values endorsed by 'Hamilton' is the musical itself." Los Angeles Times

Cultural critic Mark Harris says the action nonetheless offered artists an opportunity to speak truth directly to power: "Don't underestimate the degree to which a black man, poised and unflappably calm, speaking truth about the hopes of a nation to a white politician is exactly the kind of nightmare from which some of Trump's voters thought they were finally awakening," he wrote. "Now they know that whatever they imagined might happen, this kind of thing is not going away." Vulture

The speech got Donald Trump all riled up on social media — with the president-elect referring to it as "harassment." "Conversation is not harassment," Dixon responded on "CBS This Morning." "It was the beginnings of a conversation I hope that we can continue to have." Los Angeles Times

Baryshnikov takes on Nijinsky

Mikhail Baryshnikov as Vaslav Nijinsky in Robert Wilson's "Letter to a Man."
Mikhail Baryshnikov as Vaslav Nijinsky in Robert Wilson's "Letter to a Man." (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles times)

Mikhail Baryshnikov has long resisted portraying the legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, known for the intense eroticism of his performances as well as his struggles with mental illness. But he relented for Robert Wilson's "Letter to a Man," which was staged last week by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. The show came "close to perfection," writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed. "Baryshnikov enters the soul of a lost soul, a soul close — and, at the same time, distant — to his own." Los Angeles Times

And that's just one of the stunners Swed caught in the L.A. area in the last week. He also took in a pair of concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall and Costa Mesa's Segerstrom Concert Hall. Led by conductor Simon Rattle, the shows were a tour de force: "Rattle got everything he asked for in these performances, and he asked for a lot," writes Swed, "from the extremes of ferocity to those of finesse." Los Angeles Times

The first great media artist

A detail from Albrecht Durer's "Portrait of Jakob Muffel," 1526.
A detail from Albrecht Durer's "Portrait of Jakob Muffel," 1526. (LACMA)

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant split from the Catholic Church is next year. And the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is marking the occasion with a beguiling new exhibition, "Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach," which brings together 113 magnificent objects from state museums all over Germany. Of particular interest might be the era's religious propaganda: "With these mass-produced prints, the modern media age dawns," reports Times art critic Christopher Knight. "Gutenberg's mechanical printing press allowed for their wide public dissemination, as it did for the Bible…. From the privileged text of a closed priesthood, the Bible went open-source." Los Angeles Times

A detail from Jose Clemente Orozco's mural "The Epic of American Civilization," represented digitally at the Philadelphia Museum show.
A detail from Jose Clemente Orozco's mural "The Epic of American Civilization," represented digitally at the Philadelphia Museum show. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Plus: Knight also recently traveled to Pennsylvania to see "Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950," a new exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The show, which cogently lays out the history of art made in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, is "sprawling" and "thrilling." "That it won't travel to Los Angeles, home to the largest Mexican American community in the nation," writes Knight, "is a major disappointment." Los Angeles Times

In other news...

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, center, and architect Jean Nouvel, left, visit the under-construction Louvre in Abu Dhabi in January.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, center, and architect Jean Nouvel, left, visit the under-construction Louvre in Abu Dhabi in January. (Karim Sahib / AFP/Getty Images)

Abu Dhabi has postponed the inauguration of its Louvre museum outpost. The Art Newspaper

— If you're in New York, it sounds as if the thorough retrospective of the work of Francis Picabia at the Museum of Modern Art is the show to see. New York Times

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— The art of the Hollywood backdrop. Hyperallergic

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— With the help of the Getty Conservation Institute, Giorgio Vasari's "The Last Supper" is back on view in Italy after being damaged in a historic 1966 flood. The Iris

— The Staten Island artist who made a giant "T" in honor of Trump. New Yorker

— The Week in Art Merch: A 3-ton, 65-foot-wide stained-glass mural commissioned by the East German secret police is going to be up for grabs in Miami. New York Times

— We, the critics of America, would like to apologize to the people of France for the horrible Jeff Koons sculpture the artist is about to deposit on your shores. Hyperallergic

Jeff Koons poses next to a rendering of his proposed sculpture during an event at the American Embassy in Paris.
Jeff Koons poses next to a rendering of his proposed sculpture during an event at the American Embassy in Paris. (Michel Euler / AP)

— A lost work by Igor Stravinsky will be played once again after 107 years. Classical-music.com

— The striking Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra may be close to reaching a deal with management after a two-month work stoppage. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Violinist Augustin Hadelich is having a moment — with three solo turns at Walt Disney Concert Hall over Thanksgiving weekend. Los Angeles Times

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Rogers is serving as a guest editor for CNN Style for the month of November. Who knew CNN had style? CNN

— Here are 101 books about design, architecture and urban planning that deal with how we live (featuring a contribution by yours truly). Curbed

— Novelist Umberto Eco's list of the 14 common features of fascism. Open Culture, New York Review of Books

And last but not least…

The duo known as Jeff&Gordon; (in the gray and blue polos) in a faux family portrait.
The duo known as Jeff&Gordon; (in the gray and blue polos) in a faux family portrait. (Jeff)

With the election bringing its fraught divisions to the Thanksgiving table, the artist duo Jeff&Gordon has come up with a work to soothe the pain: a voice mail line where you can get a few things off your chest before heading to dinner. Los Angeles Times

Happy Thanksgiving, Angeleños! May your mashed potatoes be fluffy and your stuffing gluten-free!

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah

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