Essential Arts & Culture: Upheaval at MOCA, Lucas Museum construction, musical history the Taylor Mac way

MOCA chief curator Helen Molesworth stands next to a sculpture by Liz Larner in 2016.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Tumult at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the new buildings slated to rise in Los Angeles. I’m staff writer Carolina A. Miranda with this week’s essential art news (and an essential song devoted to bread):


A detail from “Virgin of Sorrows,” in “Painted in Mexico” at LACMA — on view through Sunday!



Times art critic Christopher Knight broke the story that MOCA chief curator Helen Molesworth, who had organized critically acclaimed exhibitions of work by Kerry James Marshall and Anna Maria Maiolino, had been fired. The museum issued a statement that Molesworth’s departure was over “creative differences.” Artist and board member Catherine Opie describes the dismissal as “a terrible mistake.” Los Angeles Times

The Times’ Deborah Vankin examined the fallout in a thorough report. Painter Lari Pittman, who until recently served on the board, told her that it “doesn’t bode well for the institution.” The decision to fire Molesworth remains murky: “Several art world figures said that the lack of transparency over Molesworth’s firing made them wonder whether [Director Philippe] Vergne acted alone or made the decision in concert with — or under pressure from — the board to whom he reports.” Los Angeles Times

Plus, arts writer Matt Stromberg speaks to various members of the L.A. arts community about what could have motivated the dismissal. Hyperallergic

All of this follows a controversy last month in which artist and board member Mark Grotjahn withdrew his name as honoree from the museum’s 2018 gala over issues of diversity. Los Angeles Times

Molesworth helped establish a partnership with the Underground Museum, the artist-run space in Arlington Heights. On Friday, the space posted a statement in support of Molesworth. Instagram

MOCA chief curator Helen Molesworth.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times )


Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne is leaving us! For a job across the street at City Hall. He’s taking a post of chief design officer. “It’ll be something of an experiment,” he writes in his final column, “an effort to produce better architecture, urban design and what we once called ‘public works’ for Los Angeles.” I will miss his insights on L.A. But I imagine I’ll be ringing him for comment. (Note to Chris: I have your cell.) Los Angeles Times

Christopher Hawthorne will join City Hall as design chief.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Tiems )


In Exposition Park, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art broke ground on Wednesday. This included the release of new renderings by architect Ma Yansong of MAD Architects. Deborah Vankin has the story. Los Angeles Times

Plus, some images from the groundbreaking ceremony. Variety

A new rendering of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art by MAD Architects.
(MAD Architects )

And because too much new architecture is never enough: Frank Gehry has been selected to design a campus extension for the Colburn School, which will include a 1,100-seat concert hall. The project will result in three consecutive blocks of Gehry designs in downtown. Jessica Gelt rounds up the deets. Los Angeles Times


Playwright and performance artist Taylor Mac is taking over the Theatre at Ace Hotel for the epic series “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” which covers said history in four six-hour installments. Times theater critic Charles McNulty profiles this boundless performer. “With protean magic and fierce cabaret brilliance,” he writes, “Mac slips effortlessly in ‘A 24-Decade History’ not just between the sexes but also between epochs and music styles, animating, appropriating and annotating the country’s patchwork story through its music.” Los Angeles Times

Taylor Mac's "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music" continues through next week.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times )


Jonathan Berger’s opera “My Lai” tells the story of the last days of Hugh Thompson Jr., the Army pilot who helped halt the notorious massacre. It was recently presented by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Times classical music critic Mark Swed says the music seamlessly combines Jewish and Vietnamese melodies. “The gongs [Vân-Ánh] Võ strikes are made from U.S. Army mortar shells, and the bamboo spikes she hits are Viet Cong war remnants,” he writes. “These onetime weapons stun with their physical as well as sonic beauty.” Los Angeles Times

Vân-Ánh Võ plays instruments made from what used to be weapons of war in “My Lai.”
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times )

Swed also sat in on a performance by pianist Adam Tendler at the Broad museum that examines painter Jasper Johns’ connection to music (related to the Johns exhibition “Something Resembling Truth”). Wednesday’s show, part of a series titled “Cross-Hatched,” featured work by John Cage as well as “striking” pieces by Japanese composers. Los Angeles Times


Since Mark Swed is relentless, he also attended a show of Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice,” a joint production by L.A. Opera and the Joffrey Ballet, currently on view at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. “The result,” he writes, “is opera on all levels in exquisite service of the dance.” Los Angeles Times

Tenor Maxim Mironov, as Orpheus, and dancers from Joffrey Ballet.
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times )

And since we’re on the subject of ballet, contributing reviewer Laura Blieberg checked out the Joffrey’s performance of “Romeo and Juliet” (choreographed by Krzysztof Pastor). “Does a ballet company really need an updated production of every classic work?” she asks. “Probably not, and in the case of this specific ballet, answer that with a definitive ‘no.’” Los Angeles Times


When Disney announced in 2016 that it would be taking its hit animated film “Frozen” to Broadway as a musical, it turned a few heads when it put the project in the hands of Michael Grandage, who is best known for his interpretations of Shakespeare. But the director tells The Times’ Jessica Gelt that “Frozen” bears more similarities to Shakespeare than one might think: “Everything that happens in this piece happens in those beautiful, relatively short, five-act pastoral comedies like ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘As You Like It.’Los Angeles Times

Frozen” director Michael Grandage photographed in New York.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )

Gelt, who has been on the “Frozen” beat in New York, interviews songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, as well as Jennifer Lee, who wrote the book. “I’m keeping my expectations low and my hopes high,” says Anderson-Lopez, in advance of the show’s March 22 debut. Los Angeles Times

She also sits down with the team that brings Olaf the snowman to life: actor Greg Hildreth and puppet specialist Daniel Mura. When puppet and singer appear onstage for the first time, notes Gelt, “the crowd goes absolutely bananas.” Los Angeles Times

Actor Greg Hildreth, left, who plays Olaf, and puppet specialist Daniel Mura.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )


An effort to relocate Sheila Klein’s beloved “Vermonica” sculpture, installed in a strip mall at Vermont and Santa Monica in the wake of the L.A. riots, has hit a snag as the city attorney’s office and a lawyer for the artist exchange emails. Department of Cultural Affairs head Danielle Brazell, however, tells me that the city is still “totally committed to the project.” Los Angeles Times

Sheila Klein installs the “Vermonica” light-post sculpture after the ’92 riots.
(Los Angeles Times )


— Five women have accused Richard Meier, the architect who designed the Getty Center and a structure at the former Crystal Cathedral complex in Orange County, of sexual harassment. New York Times

— Musical director James Levine has sued the Metropolitan Opera after being fired over abuse allegations. New York Times

— Critic Justin Davidson wants to know what the Met knew about the Levine allegations and when they knew it. Vulture

— Guards at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., allege a hostile work environment. Washington Post

— Photographer Nan Goldin and others protested the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s connections to a family whose wealth is partly based on OxyContin. New York Times

— Alert Katy Perry: The Broad museum has acquired another Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama. Los Angeles Times

Yayoi Kusama’s “Longing for Eternity” was acquired by the Broad museum.
(Maris Hutchinson, EPW Studio / David Zwirner / Yayoi Kusama Inc. )

— Plus, the Getty Research Institute has acquired the archives of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. ARTnews

Zooey Deschanel, Taye Diggs and Rebel Wilson will be performing as part of the Hollywood Bowl’s screening of “Beauty and the Beast.” Los Angeles Times

— Times reviewer Margaret Gray was wowed by Sarah Jones’ one-woman show, “Sell/Buy/Date,” at Geffen Playhouse. Los Angeles Times

— A stirring short film looks at how the Skid Row Housing Trust and architects such as Michael Maltzan, Killefer Flammang and Brooks + Scarpa are creating housing for the homeless. “All you need is the will to do it.” Curbed

— Remember the performance art peacock denied boarding on United? The Times’ Robin Abcarian follows up. Los Angeles Times


Since we were talking about a certain newspaper’s L.A. bread story last week, here is the only bread song you will ever need: Monoloco’s “Vendo Pan.” YouTube (h/t @ElRandomHero)