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All the World’s a Stage: William Leavitt’s “Theater Objects” at MOCA

All the World’s A Stage:

William Leavitt’s Theater Objects at MOCA

By Leticia Marie Sanchez

All photography© MOCA

All the world’s a stage, all the men and women merely players. Nowhere does Shakespeare’s expression hold more true than at William Leavitt’s Theater Objects at MOCA.

Walking into the exhibition one hears the constant chirping of birds and the flow of cool air. Are we in a jungle? A theme park? On the set of a play?

Leavitt’s engaging exhibition interacts with its audience, causing the museumgoer to constantly question where he or she stands.

Co-curated by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and Ann Goldstein, former MOCA senior curator and director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, William Leavitt: Theater Objects represents the first solo museum exhibition and retrospective of the artist’s 40-year career. The exhibit showcases approximately 90 works from 1969 to the present, including: sculptural tableaux, paintings, works on paper, and photographs.

Leavitt’s background in stagecraft, narrative, and theater, informs his work, which gives audiences a behind-the scenes peek at theatrical installations. An inscription in the exhibit gives a “nod to Raymond Chandler,” an apt allusion as Leavitt’s work veers into noir, into what is lurking behind the shadows, behind the patio, behind the façade.

William Leavitt, Theme Restaurant, 1986, oil on canvas 46 x 72 in., collection of Carolina Bilbao and Richard Massey, Miami

Leavitt employs satire in his painting of the landmark Encounter Restaurant at LAX by titling it Theme Restaurant. His title links the iconic airport restaurant to a theme park like Disneyland. The visual context of the painting, cleverly hung by MOCA next to Roller Coaster (1984) and Brown Derby (1987) underscores this motif. Leavitt’s satire highlights Los Angeles’ identity as an entertainment hub. Are people flying into the city simply to be entertained? (Ironically, the interior of the LAX restaurant, was in fact designed byWDI, Walt Disney Imagineering)

William Leavitt, California Patio, 1972, mixed media(artificial plants, Malibu lights, flagstone, slider, curtains, wooden wall, and text), 96x144x 96 in.,collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam,courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Approaching California Patio (1972), are we walking on a set? Are we actors or viewers? Next to the patio set is a script, reinforcing the notion that the patio is merely an illusion.  The sliding door alludes to the wilderness coming in, the danger lurking behind the glass. The green curtains resemble theatrical curtains, adding to the spectacle motif in Leavitt’s exhibit.

William Leavitt, Cutaway View, 2008, mixed media installation with painting (acrylic on canvas),  98  x  75  x  26  in., painting:  30 x  40 in., courtesy of Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles

Cutaway View (2008) allows the viewer to play peek-a-boo with a horse glancing at us from behind foliage. The horse examines us quizzically with his steady gaze, putting us on the spot. Who is viewing whom exactly? Are we the spectator? Are we the audience? Leavitt plays with the experience of looking. The artificiality of the plant suggests façades around the city, heralding Los Angeles as a place to see and be seen, once again denoting the spectacle of the city.
Below:

William Leavitt, The Tropics,1974, gelatin silver prints and text, edition of  3 with  2 Artist proofs, each:  11 x 8  1/2 in., collection of Edward Israel,  Los Angeles

Finally, the Tropics is a multi-media display consisting of a water color set, a script, gelatin silver prints, and texts. The script tells the story of a man bestowing a pearl necklace upon his wife. The jaguar in the painting symbolizes the predatory nature of the man who uses jewelry as a means of seduction in the jungle of desire.
William Leavitt, Jaguar (from The Tropics), 1974, oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 44 1/4 in., courtesy of the artist
The plethora of visual media in the Tropics adds to its psychological dimension. The repetition of images like the jaguar elicits archetypes from our subconscious mind.
Presented through 10,000 square feet of exhibition space at MOCA Grand Avenue, Leavitt’s vast and cohesive exhibit marvelously takes the viewer on a journey, at once mysterious and humorous. Leavitt’s perspective on Los Angeles not only impacts the way that we see our city, but also the very way that we experience art itself.

Editor’s Note:

In addition to being an artist, Leavitt is also a playwright.

MOCA will stage two of his performance works in conjunction with the exhibition. Spectral Analysis (1977) will be performed in the galleries; Pyramid, Lens, Delta (2003) will be premiered as a table reading in the Ahmanson Auditorium at MOCA Grand Avenue.

William Leavitt: Theater Objects

March 13- July 3

MOCA Grand Avenue

250 South Grand Avenue, LA, CA 90012

http://www.moca.org/

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Review: The Real Housewife of Düsseldorf County—Clara Schumann

The Real Housewife of Düsseldorf County—Clara Schumann

Israela Margalit’s “Trio,” currently playing at the Lounge 2 Theater in Hollywood, offers a window into the artistic triangle between Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms. Maragalit, a concert pianist, tied the play together with her own recorded compositions of Schumann, Brahms, and Beethoven.

Photo: From Left- Bjørn Johnson, Meghan Maureen Mc Donough. Jeremy Shranko

Meghan Maureen Mc Donough played the grim, subdued Clara Schumann, a once famous concert pianist repressed as a housewife cooking beans. Mc Donough’s Clara was a woman drained by years of belittlement by an insecure husband who would toss cruel jabs at her, including, “Those who can’t compose, play.”Her father, dynamically portrayed by Peter Colburn, bemoaned the wasting of Clara’s life. Bjørn Johnson, captured Robert Schumann’s madness with pathos, particularly when he called out in the asylum for his beloved Clara, his little “Clashen.”  Jeremy Shranko energetically portrayed the arc of Schumann’s protégé Brahms, from naïve tongue-tied ingénue to cunning manipulator.  Joseph Joachin, Brahms’ confidante (played by Brian Normoyle) radiated genuineness as a straight shooter, a voice of reason to his flattering friend.

The play worked best during the musical sequences.  For instance, when Brahms consoled an exhausted Clara, one heard his soothing Lullaby for Piano Solo. The music explained his solace and why Clara turned to him at that moment in time. Another memorable moment was a scene in which Clara and Brahms toyed with tempo, swept away rhythmically during Beethoven’s Appasionata. Margalit’s play was most meaningful when it centered on the music itself.

One minor weakness in the play is that structurally, a narrative element was needed to convey expository plot details: perhaps an introductory Greek-inspired chorus, a group of Düsseldorf townspeople, critics or audience-goers commenting on the timeline of the Schumann scandal. This element would have spared the actors from having to recount plot through dialogue (a structural challenge during which they did an excellent job) and instead focus on the immediate and the raw.

Margalit’s play begs the question: Can two eagles (artists) live together in domestic bliss? Or will one feel forever caged?

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Review: Young Director’s Night at LACMA

Review: Young Director’s Night at LACMA

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

On March 5, LACMA Muse presented its 10th Annual Young Director’s Night. Six talented young directors presented a wide range of creative films.

Left. Sylvia Sether’s “Overdrawn.” Winner of the Art of Film Award

Cat Youell’s “The Mischievous Case of Cordelia Botkin” brought to light a true story episode from 19th century San Francisco history (death by chocolate) with charm and humor.  Sylvia Sether’s “Overdrawn, (and winner of the Fourth Art of Film Award) exhibited comedic chops and timing in its depiction of a single bank teller pushed to the edge. Jordan Bloch’s “Underdogs,” created unsettling tension as a bounty hunter wreaked havoc amongst diners in a roadside restaurant.

Left. “House of Olive Trees” directed by Thouly Dosiois

Thouly Dosiois’ beautifully shot “House of the Olive Trees,” set in Greece, was reminiscent of the films of Eric Rohmer in her marvelously sensuous shots of setting, slowly unfolding before our eyes. Fady Hadid’s unforgettable “Where We Live” documented the family life and loss of American immigrants from Baghdad with humanism and sensitivity.

Left. “Shoot the Moon” directed by Alex O’ Flinn

Director Alex O’ Flinn’s compelling “Shoot the Moon,” depicted the relationship between Tommy and his troubled brother, Victor, a Marine. O’ Flinn’s cinematography was pure visual poetry. The sunny, dreamlike warmth during flashback scenes depicting Tommy walking through fields with Victor and his ex-girlfriend contrasted with the gritty reality of Victor’s present, providing clues to his raw despair. O’ Flinn’s wealth of striking images (all the more incredible given that it was a short film) gave the audience immediate and profound access to the complex characters’ interior life. The filmmaker’s vision lifted storytelling away from restrictive Black and White; instead, O’Flinn probed life’s rich gray area, thereby offering hope for redemption and the chance to shoot the moon.

Kudos to LACMA for allowing these talented young directors a chance to showcase their vision and inspiring us all to shoot the moon.

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Pasadena Symphony- March 12- Beethoven, Mendelssohn & Avetisian

March 12, 2011 2:00 pm 8:00 pm

Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night’s Dream (excerpts)

Avetisyan Kanun Concerto

Beethoven Symphony No. 7

Karine Hovhannisyan, KANUN
Maestro George Stelluto, GUEST CONDUCTOR
Ambassador Auditorium. 131 S. St. John Ave. Pasadena, CA.
Pre-concert talk, led by Guest conductor George Stelluto at 1PM and 7PM in the auditorium.
For more information, please visit: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org/
or call 626.793.7172.
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MAGNA CARTA coming to LACMA- April 26- for Brit Week

One of the most influential documents in history, impacting constitutions everywhere (including the American Constitution) comes to  LACMA on April 26th.

The  1217 version, on view at LACMA during Brit week, is only one of 17 surviving original manuscripts of the Magna Carta.

Issued in the name of  King Henry III, it will be on view on Level 2 of the Art of Americas Building.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art • 5905 Wilshire Blvd. LA, CA, 90036

323-857-6000. For more information, please visit:

http://www.lacma.org/art/ExhibMagnaCarta.aspx

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Cultural Cocktail Hour- 150,000+ reader hits!

Dear Readers,

I’m delighted by your curiosity for all things Cultural!

In addition to my LA readers, I’ve had readers from France, the UK, and spanning the globe.

The most highly searched article was Making the Fig and Other Artistic Insults with more than 17,000 readers curious about literary mischief. Leave it to Shakespeare to come up with a good insult!

Another widely searched article was my review of Francis Alÿs’ Fabiola Portraits at LACMA.

Thanks again!

And don’t bite your thumb at someone unless you mean it.


Leticia Marie Sanchez,

Editor-in-Chief

Cultural Cocktail Hour

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Young Director’s Night at LACMA- Sat March 5- 8pm

Young Directors Night
Saturday, March 5, | 8 pm

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Blvd. LA, CA, 90036
323-857-6000

 

-Film Screening of Six Shorts

-Q&A with the directors

-Reception & Entertainment following at A+D Museum across the street

For more information, please visit:

http://www.lacma.org/membership/MuseCalendar.aspx#Mar5

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Hans Von Bülow and leafy greens

Keep your rotten plants away from me!

According to eminent music critic, Harold C. Schonberg in his book, The Great Conductors (Simon & Schuster 1967) German maestro Hans von Bülow cringed at the idea of being crowned, Apollo-style, with plants.

When a committee attempted to present him with a laurel wreath, he rejected their tribute, saying,

“I’m not a vegetarian.”

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Review: -Must See- Tennessee Williams puts the fun in dysfunctional at the Fountain Theater

Tennessee Williams puts the fun in dysfunctional at the Fountain Theater

©2011

by

Leticia Marie Sanchez

The Fountain Theatre’s “A House Not Meant To Stand” deserves a standing ovation.  The dynamic cast, its Gothic set spewing forth leaks, and the darkly wry barbs of Tennessee Williams added up to a riveting performance of Williams’ “spook Southern Gothic spook sonata.” From Virginia Newcomb’s rapturous ecstasies as born-again Christian Stacey to Lisa Richards’ slithering portrayal of Jessie Sykes to Daniel Billet’s sensitive portrayal of a protective son, the entire cast brought William’s last play to life.

Most strikingly, Sandy Martin fully inhabited the character of Bella Mc Corkle: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although the play brimmed with zesty zingers, Martin poignantly captured Bella’s confusion and maternal loss with unsettling realism. Martin grounded the play as a spiritual anchor during literal and figurative tempests. In the hands of less-skilled actress, the play could have veered into slapstick, but Martin’s soulful and whole-bodied interpretation evoked a heartbreak that lingered over the play like a rain cloud.

Sandy Martin. Photo by Ed Krieger

Alan Blumenfeld’s performance (rendered all the more spectacular by the fact that he joined the cast only a few weeks ago) instilled Cornelius Mc Corkle with raw vitality. From bellowing rages to sly conspiratorial asides with the audience, Blumenfeld’s vigor and spontaneity honored the dialogue of Tennessee Williams. An actor with a deep range of emotional notes, shades, and undercurrents, he deftly managed to evoke sympathy for his cruel character. When Blumenfeld darkly lashed out at his son Charlie for his deep attachment to “mama,” one could sense Cornelius’ own repressed jealousy and vulnerability, a desperate need for approval channeled through quixotic political campaigns.

Daniel Billet, Alan Blumenfeld. Photo by Ed Krieger

Finally, accolades must be given to Keith Skretch’s creative and poignant video design. During key moments in the play, a dream-like silllhouette of the young Mc Corkle children floated near their elderly mother, embodying her dreamy nostalgia for her beloved children thrown out by their father. Their plaintive calls to their mom and carefree dances outdoors gathering fireflies, depict Bella’s painful loss. Her constant loving stare at the framed photograph of her boy with the long blond curls, Chip, (bullied for his effeminate look and mannerisms) hinted at the darkness faced by Tennessee Williams for his own personal life.

This March would have marked Tennessee William’s 100th birthday. The Fountain Theatre’s “A House Not Meant to Stand” offers a rich and worthy tribute to a master playwright. Happy Birthday, Mr. Williams.

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Arabella Huntington- Femme Fatale

--Scarlett O’Hara had nothing on me!

In a lecture a few years ago at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, it was revealed that Arabella Huntington, powerful arts patroness, happened to be a tempting siren.

Mystery shrouds the birth of her son. At the time, there were not two, but three gentlemen involved with Mrs. H, who could have sired the heir to the Huntington fortune.

Arabella went by the nickname Belle.

The stoic portrait of Arabella at the left, painted by Sir Oswald Birley, graces the entrance of the Huntington’s Research Library. It teaches us not to judge a book by its cover, nor a dowager by her spectacles, black garb, and beekeeper’s veil.

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