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Essential Arts & Culture: The new MacArthur winners, Gehry's Bilbao effect, Springsteen on Broadway

Essential Arts & Culture: The new MacArthur winners, Gehry's Bilbao effect, Springsteen on Broadway
Taylor Mac, pictured at a 2016 performance at UCLA's Royce Hall, is one of the recipients of the MacArthur Foundation "genius" grants. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The new MacArthur winners. Springsteen does the Great White Way. And a look at what made Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao such a hit. I'm Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, with the week's top culture stories:

New MacArthur crop

The MacArthur Foundation announced its annual no-strings-attached, $625,000 fellowships this week. The lineup includes a number of arts folks with connections to Southern California, including Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, opera director Yuval Sharon of "Hopscotch" fame, and theater writer and performer Taylor Mac. The Times' Deborah Vankin has the full rundown. Los Angeles Times

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Viet Thanh Nguyen, left, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Yuval Sharon.
Viet Thanh Nguyen, left, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Yuval Sharon. (AFP/Getty Images, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Casey Kringlen)

In the meantime, Times art critic Christopher Knight looks at why the award is significant. "What important awards recognize is not 'the best,' whether it's a best picture or, with the MacArthur, a best anthropologist or poet," he writes. "Instead, they recognize the crucial importance of expertise in navigating daily life. Today, in public attitudes toward everything from science to politics, expertise is under enormous stress." Los Angeles Times

Plus, The Times' Jessica Gelt speaks with Yuval Sharon about what he plans to do with his award. Hint: Perhaps take a little time off. Los Angeles Times

Performers rehearse Yuval Sharon's "Hopscotch" in Chinatown.
Performers rehearse Yuval Sharon's "Hopscotch" in Chinatown. (Los Angeles Times)

Gelt also looks back at how Taylor Mac's 24-hour musical extravaganza came to be. Los Angeles Times

The Boss on Broadway

When Times theater critic Charles McNulty went to see Bruce Springsteen's new show at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, he says he wasn't sure whether to expect an intimate cabaret concert or "a genuine theatrical offering." After seeing "Springsteen on Broadway," he reports: "I am still not sure how to categorize this intimate, dreamlike encounter with a music legend accustomed to selling out football stadiums. … Call it a confessional jam session." Los Angeles Times

The Times pop music critic Mikael Wood also saw Springsteen. He had quibbles with parts of the show, but of one "mesmerizing half hour" he writes, "you almost forget you're in a theater surrounded by other people, so evocative are his images and so natural his shifts between singing and talking." Los Angeles Times

Bruce Springsteen in "Springsteen on Broadway" at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Bruce Springsteen in "Springsteen on Broadway" at the Walter Kerr Theatre. (Rob DeMartin)

The Bilbao effect

It has been 20 years since Frank Gehry's sweeping Guggenheim Bilbao opened in Spain. Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne considers the building's legacy and how its success lay in a string of urban planning decisions made in the years prior to its construction. He writes: "Properly measuring the museum's impact requires — in a way that's much different from typical architectural anniversaries — telling the story of what came before as much as what came after." Los Angeles Times

Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao in 1997, the year it opened.
Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao in 1997, the year it opened. (David Heald / Guggenheim Museum Bilbao)

Get me a Bellini!

One of the most exciting museum shows to be held in the U.S. this year? According to Christopher Knight, that's the intimate display of works by Giovanni Bellini at the Getty Museum. The exhibition focuses on the way this devotional 16th century master employed landscape: "Often it is as complex and meaningful as the people portrayed, from whom it is inseparable." Los Angeles Times

A detail of Giovanni Bellini's "Christ Blessing," painted circa 1500.
A detail of Giovanni Bellini's "Christ Blessing," painted circa 1500. (J. Paul Getty Museum)

Opera in space

Composer Paola Prestini's "The Hubble Cantata" employs virtual reality technology to take viewers inside the telescope and, ultimately, space. It's having its West Coast premiere at the Ford Theatres in Hollywood. Eliza McNitt, who designed the VR experience, tells Jessica Gelt: "We are trying to leave people with a sense of wonder and awe." Los Angeles Times

"The Hubble Cantata," first staged in Brooklyn, has its West Coast premiere at Ford Theatres in Hollywood.
"The Hubble Cantata," first staged in Brooklyn, has its West Coast premiere at Ford Theatres in Hollywood. (Jill Steinberg)

‘Inferno’ for Halloween

For the American Contemporary Ballet's next show, which will take place on Halloween, artistic director Lincoln Jones is getting a little spooky with a performance of "Inferno" from Charles Wuorinen's ballet "The Mission of Virgil," inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy." "You can really draw a parallel between Dante's time and our time because of the incredible divisiveness," he tells The Times' Jeffrey Fleishman. Los Angeles Times

Lincoln Jones, artistic director of American Contemporary Ballet.
Lincoln Jones, artistic director of American Contemporary Ballet. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Karen Finley inhabits Trump and Hillary

I talk with performance artist Karen Finley about her new work, "The Expanded Unicorn Gratitude Mystery," at REDCAT through Sunday, and why she took on the politics of the presidential election. "It's about whiteness and dominance — white power," says Finley, who takes on the personas of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Los Angeles Times

Karen Finley inhabits Donald Trump in "The Expanded Unicorn Gratitude Mystery" at REDCAT.
Karen Finley inhabits Donald Trump in "The Expanded Unicorn Gratitude Mystery" at REDCAT. (Hunter Canning)

Union Station’s piano man

On recent commutes through Union Station, I caught sight of a young homeless man playing the free public piano. His name is Matthew Shaver and he never fails to draw a crowd. "It's a meditation," he tells me. "Like, you pray about something and then you meditate on it. The piano is my meditation." Los Angeles Times

Matthew Shaver plays the free piano at Union Station in Los Angeles. He describes it as his "meditation."
Matthew Shaver plays the free piano at Union Station in Los Angeles. He describes it as his "meditation." (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In the theaters

Times contributor Margaret Gray sits down with Broadway star Carmen Cusack, who is headlining Edie Brickell and Steve Martin's musical "Bright Star," soon to debut at the Ahmanson Theatre. Of the role, says Cusack: "I was like, I know exactly who this woman is, and it's me." Los Angeles Times

Carmen Cusack will play Alice in "Bright Star."
Carmen Cusack will play Alice in "Bright Star." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

F. Kathleen Foley takes in a performance of "Mice," a new play by Schaeffer Nelson that emerged from the Ensemble Studio Theatre/L.A.'s New West Playwrights Program. The playwright, she says, represents an "intriguing new voice" on the scene. Los Angeles Times

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And Philip Brandes reviews "With Love and a Major Organ," by Julia Lederer, at Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena. It's the writer's debut play, but Brandes says her dialogue "is laced with sophisticated poetry and wry insight." Los Angeles Times

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Paige Lindsey White and Daisuke Tsuji in a scene from "With Love and a Major Organ."
Paige Lindsey White and Daisuke Tsuji in a scene from "With Love and a Major Organ." (Jenny Graham)

Daryl H. Miller, in the meantime, checked out the Actor's Gang production of "Captain Greedy's Carnival." He was not impressed — by the singing or the show's "predictable sameness." Los Angeles Times

Around the galleries

Christopher Knight has been making the art rounds, starting with Gary Simmons' massive installation at the California African American Museum. The piece memorializes "race movies," the films made by black casts for black audiences during the Jim Crow era. And it looks "almost as if the frames of film in a projector were stuck and fluttering," writes Knight, "somewhere between imminent annihilation and furious clawing to endure." Los Angeles Times

An installation view of Gary Simmons' "Fade to Black" at CAAM.
An installation view of Gary Simmons' "Fade to Black" at CAAM. (California African American Museum)

Plus, Knight has a look at "A Spaghetti Dress for World Peace," a group show at Park View Gallery that exudes a tone of "exhausted conflicted hope." Los Angeles Times

And he examines Billy Al Bengston's "Dento" paintings at Parrasch Heijnen — and notes that these works, which skillfully play with depth and material, "have never been the subject of a focused museum show." Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, I write about a mystical little canvas by Elsa Flores that depicts her late husband Carlos Almaraz, on view through Saturday at Craig Krull. Los Angeles Times

"Urban Shaman, Portrait of Carlos," 1984, a portrait of painter Carlos Almaraz by Elsa Flores, on view at Craig Krull.
"Urban Shaman, Portrait of Carlos," 1984, a portrait of painter Carlos Almaraz by Elsa Flores, on view at Craig Krull. (Craig Krull Gallery)

Long reads I’m diggin’

The Walker Art Center held an interesting roundtable discussion about the Native American presence in art. "Native people in the Americas are not Western Europeans with slightly darker skin," says multimedia artist Luzene Hill (Eastern Band of Cherokee). "Our worldview, our culture, is enormously different." Walker Reader

Artist Jeffrey Gibson with his work at Roberts & Tilton in Culver City.
Artist Jeffrey Gibson with his work at Roberts & Tilton in Culver City. (Christina House / For The Times)

Related: Jeffrey Gibson, who is part of the chat, currently has a show on view at Roberts & Tilton in Culver City. Times contributor David Pagel has a profile. Los Angeles Times

Yet another to bookmark: Catherine Wagley's expansive look at what Mark Bradford's Art + Practice means for culture and real estate in Leimert Park. Momus

In other news…

Eli Broad is stepping back from day-to-day operations at his namesake foundation. Guessing this won't stop him from picking up the phone now and again to tell L.A. what's what. Los Angeles Times

Eli Broad at his namesake museum in 2015.
Eli Broad at his namesake museum in 2015. (Richard Vogel / AP)

— How Northern California arts institutions are faring during the fires. ARTnews

Puerto Rico's cultural institutions have begun to re-open. The Art Newspaper

— Plus, Lin-Manuel Miranda's song for Puerto Rico features a bevy of Latin music stars and nods to "West Side Story." YouTube

Frida, the Mexico City rescue dog, is now the subject of her own mural. VICE

— Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. ARTnews

Andrew Lloyd Webber didn't want critics to review his "Phantom of the Opera" sequel during its Baltimore stop. That's not stopping the critics. Washington Post

— "It is no wonder that younger generations stay away from institutions whose programming makes Donald Trump's Cabinet look vibrantly diverse in comparison." Alex Ross reports that the new classical music season in New York is looking back, not forward. New Yorker

Desert X, the public art show in the California desert, will be back for round two in 2019. Los Angeles Times

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Phillip K. Smith III's "The Circle of Land and Sky," part of the inaugural Desert X.
Phillip K. Smith III's "The Circle of Land and Sky," part of the inaugural Desert X. (Lance Gerber / Royale Projects / Desert X)

— Architect Rem Koolhaas will be designing an expansion for the New Museum in downtown Manhattan. New York Times

— Artists such as Ed Ruscha and Richard Serra are celebrating TV producer Norman Lear's 95th birthday with limited edition prints for charity. Hollywood Reporter

— The story of the New Mexico sculpture of a conquistador that is missing its foot. New York Times

— A fascinating discussion on the politics of being biracial covers the dialogue surrounding Dana Schutz's controversial painting "Open Casket." Still Processing

And last but not least…

John Oliver on Confederate monuments. Last Week Tonight

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