Newsletter: Essential Arts & Culture: An opera inspired by Gandhi, Banksy’s auction house prank

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Aaaand we’re back! I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with your roundup of what’s good in culture — featuring slapping, shredding, head-banging and very large puppets:


Deborah Castillo performs “Slapping Power” at the Broad museum.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

In a performance titled “Slapping Power” at the Broad on Thursday night, artist Deborah Castillo slapped a wet clay bust of an anonymous man — a stand-in for authority — until his face was unrecognizable. I found it terribly satisfying. The piece was part of the series “En Cuatro Patas,” which resurfaces Nov. 15. The Broad


Philip Glass’s 1979 opera “Satyagraha” is landing at the Los Angeles Opera this month. Staged by director Phelim McDermott and scenery designer Julian Crouch, it employs very large puppets in a nonlinear narrative about Gandhi. Times contributor Catherine Womack spoke with Glass about why it remains relevant: “Gandhi was really the beginning of social change, and we’re still doing it that way today.” Los Angeles Times

The Times’ Jessica Gelt, in the meantime, sat in on a rehearsal and chatted with McDermott, as well as L.A. Opera resident conductor Grant Gershon and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges. The message in “Satyagraha,” says McDermott, is that “strength doesn’t come through ego or force.” Los Angeles Times

One of the giant puppets from Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha.”
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)



Fluxus, the art movement known for its anti-art gestures — musicians hitting their head against a wall (voila, music!) — will be a focus for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in conjunction with the J. Paul Getty Museum, this season. Times classical music critic Mark Swed grapples with Fluxus’ indescribable legacy, which could be found in a performance by Reidemeister Move at REDCAT. Los Angeles Times


The week’s big arts story has been the photogenic, sort-of destruction of a Banksy painting at auction. When the hammer went down on his 2006 work “Girl With Balloon” at Sotheby’s, a mechanism in the frame shredded the work. When The Times’ August Brown reached out to Banksy’s representative for comment, he was offered a quote by Picasso: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Los Angeles Times

Times art critic Christopher Knight is skeptical: “We are supposed to believe that a painting that committed suicide through a weighty shredding mechanism hidden behind the backing just happened to be the very last item in a routine modern art auction studded with famous names? A painting whose seller and buyer are both a secret?” Los Angeles Times

The buyer of the shredded Bansky said via a statement that she is going to keep it. It is indeed now a valuable part of art market history. Los Angeles Times


Seriously, I haven’t had this much auction house fun since Damien Hirst sorta sold that diamond skull to himself.

A Sotheby's employee poses with the shredded "Girl with Balloon" by the artist Banksy.
(Ben Stansall / AFP/Getty Images)


The Salk Institute in La Jolla, Cuba’s National Art Schools and an unfinished Oscar Niemeyer complex in Lebanon are among the recipients of important architectural conservation grants from the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern Initiative, reports The Times’ Deborah Vankin. Los Angeles Times

The National Schools of Art of Havana is a Getty Foundation Keeping It Modern grantee.
(Leonardo Finotti / Getty Foundation)



“Auto-Didactic: The Juxtapoz School” at the Petersen Automotive Museum explores the longtime intersection between cars and the artists of Juxtapoz magazine. It all started with a ’90s exhibition called “Kustom Kulture,” notes Matt Stromberg, which brought together hot-rodders such as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Von Dutch with then-emerging artists such as Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley. Los Angeles Times

But there is a major oversight in the exhibition, writes Christopher Knight: It makes no mention of the late Von Dutch’s well-documented racism. “The show whitewashes Von Dutch,” he writes. “His outrageous bigotry goes unmentioned.” Los Angeles Times


When artists Stephen Berens and Ellen Birrell launched X-TRA magazine in 1997, the plan was to publish one issue — and only do a second if they had the money. This year, the magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “It’s never been up-to-date journalism,” Birrell tells me. “It’s asking people, ‘What’s bugging you? What are you interested in?’ ” Los Angeles Times

Ellen Birrell, left, and Stephen Berens, founders of X-TRA, with executive director Shana Lutker.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)


Times contributing reviewer Leah Ollman has a fascinating story about groundbreaking Victorian photographer Anna Atkins, who created handmade publications of her images of flora and innovative photograms of algae in delicate blue tones Los Angeles Times

Plus, check out my Datebook for the latest art happenings, including art that takes inspiration from the termite. Los Angeles Times


“Oppenheimer,” the Tom Morton-Smith play about the life of atomic scientist Robert Oppenheimer just premiered in L.A., courtesy of Rogue Machine Theatre. “The dramatic poetry may fall short,” writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty, “but the storytelling moves in a contrapuntal rhythm, and the shifts from prose to an audacious lyricism reveal a writer impatient with prosaic chat.” Los Angeles Times



“Dear Evan Hansen,” the hit Broadway musical about an anxious teen and his holding-it-together single mom, has sparked all manner of conversations about mental health with its fans. Los Angeles Times


F. Kathleen Foley checks out “Everything That Never Happened” at the Boston Court Pasadena, a play that re-imagines Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” from a Jewish point of view. It is, she writes, “audacious, imaginative and moving.” Los Angeles Times

Plus, The Times’ Daryl H. Miller reports on a work that riffs on Chekhov and the history of theater. Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” can feel a “a bit stilted,” he notes, but the actors “otherwise spur the proceedings with funny line readings and comic bits.” Los Angeles Times


Miller’s also has got the lowdown on the 99-Seat Beat, including a Dalton Trumbo-inspired work at the Actors’ Gang. Los Angeles Times

And Matthew Cooper comes through with weekend picks, including a festival of disruption. Los Angeles Times


It was an evening “devoted to contemporary and neoclassical works that were flecked with folksy charm.” Contributing reviewer Christina Campodonico has a look at Los Angeles Ballet’s season opener at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Los Angeles Times



— The city of San Francisco will now require that public art feature more women. SF Gate

— Plus, the city’s Galería de la Raza, a key outpost of Chicano art, is being pushed out due to rent increases. Mission Local

— L.A.’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater is leaving its home in Echo Park. A new home will reportedly be announced soon. Los Angeles Times

— The Museum of Contemporary Art has named longtime trustee Maria Seferian board chair; Carolyn Powers will serve as board president. Los Angeles Times

— How the Women’s Center for Creative Work is helping female artists afford healthcare. Los Angeles Times


Kerry James Marshall on the art of Bill Traylor. Hyperallergic

— Work by L.A. painter Mark Bradford made an appearance at Princess Eugenie’s wedding. Metro

— Can the Olympic Games be sustainable for a host city? Questions of gentrification still loom large. New York Times

— Architect Richard Meier is stepping down from the leadership of his firm after allegations of sexual harassment. New York Times

Stella Lee, who came forward with the allegations, says the field hasn’t yet reckoned with harassment. New York Times

— A good Q&A with USC architecture dean Milton Curry: “Walking around South L.A. or Watts or Beverly Hills is really important to do ... you really start to unpack what these spaces are.” Los Angeles



A website that allows you to upload your art to the Banksy shredder. Boing Boing

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