Thursday, August 27, 2009

10th Annual Orange County Arts Awards

Wednesday, September 23 in the Samueli Theater at the Orange County Performing Arts Center
Complete information about our honorees and how to obtain tickets here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Italian Opera Festival in Dana Point?

Back in June I posted on the OC Register Arts Blog about a reception touting a new Italian Opera Festival being planned for Dana Point in 2010 as part of that city's "sister city" program and its growing effort to enhance its appeal as a tourist destination. Today, the OC Register reports that plans are moving along apace for this. Given the high costs of opera, the lack of an opera house in Dana Point, the loss of OC's opera company of longstanding last fall, and behind-the-scenes efforts to reintroduce operatic experiences in the county by various groups of opera lovers, it's really hard to know whether this venture will succeed. Certainly, we hope that opera won't be gone from Orange County for very long and wish them all well!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"100 Worst Album Covers"

That's the title of Fullerton Museum Center's new exhibition, curated by longtime OC music critic Jim Washburn. I ran into Jim and his wife Leslie last night at the Frances Gagnon & IntiIllimani concert at the Orange County Great Park, and Leslie emailed me the link to an article by Jim and a slideshow of 25 of his album cover picks on MSN CityGuide. I'm just terribly disappointed that I never owned any of them.

On the other hand, I did possess an album by Moondog--the true-to-life, towering, bearded, blind musician I used to see around Manhattan street corners in the 1970s dressed as a Viking (the music of this burly man was anomalous--he had a gentle, lighthearded, liliting singing style). His album cover for "Moondog 2" apparently didn't make Washburn's cut. Oh well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

GPS as cutting edge, interactive art medium?

This morning's New York Times carries a story of one intrepid jogger who has transformed his daily runs into creative exercises by using his GPS.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Register's Paul Hodgins: Why No Major Dance Company in the OC?

In his latest piece dealing with the ennui of Orange County's arts ecology, the Register's theater (and now dance) critic Paul Hodgins tackles the question of why this community lacks a major dance ensemble. But he doesn't stop there: he also suggests that the rest of the major arts players could do a better job of collaboration. (Actually, they are doing a lot of collaboration--just not with each other!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Will Rocco Landesman play in Peoria?

After denigrating the city as an arts backwater, the new NEA chair accepts an invitation to visit! (That's a mensch!) NYTimes report here.

Photo: Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In awe of IAM_ SHAKESPEARE on Twitter

I am in awe of IAM_SHAKESPEARE who is posting every Shakespeare work line-by-line on Twitter. Follow him at this link, and enjoy a new line every 10 minutes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Major Hurdle for OC's arts: Antipathy toward government funding

Orange County's historic antipathy toward government funding for the arts must change.
Right now the burden of supporting the arts has fallen on the shoulders of a small community of people who believe that arts and culture are important to a civilized society and to a creative and productive workforce.
But everyone who lives in Orange County has a vested interest in that, and studies have demonstrated again and again that a modest investment of government funding not only ensures that all residents contribute a fair share and receive in return greater access to the arts; it actually generates more than it costs in economic impact and tax revenue.
In other words, it’s not a handout – it more than pays for itself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

OC choral group wins 2009 "Choir of the World" Award

The Westminster Chorus, a 45-voice young men's chorus under the direction of Justin Miller, founded in 2002, has been awarded the 2009 "Choir of the World" Pavarotti Trophy. in the International Competition held in Llangollen, Wales. They are the performing group of the Westminster, CA Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.


(For a related story in the OC Register, click here.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

OC's Hutchins Consort Muse Dies at 98

Carleen Hutchins, who revolutionized the craft of making stringed instruments, has died at age 98. The Orange County-based Hutchins Consort I've written about previously--"Octet Is Not (Just) a Crossword Puzzle Clue"--that used each of her half-octave stepped up violins, violas, cellos and basses, is the only performing group dedicated to preserving her legacy (though many prominent musicians have secured instruments from her).

Here is her obituary in the New York Times.

Local 88 @ The ARTery Gallery @ The LAB

Last night was also the opening of "Local 88," a group show by 17 local artists at The ARTery Gallery behind Urban Outfitters at The LAB Anti-Mall in SoBeCa on Bristol in Costa Mesa (do I really have to say all that or do you already know where this is?)
The ARTery is a series of corrugated metal container units which form surprisingly attractive and hip exhibit spaces. Its primary aesthetic emphasis is to provide a space for emerging young artists to exhibit their work. As such, the work varies widely in subject matter (and in quality) from show to show, but I've found that it's always worth a visit and it's so easily accessible, there's really no excuse not to drop by ('s near Memphis, a favorite watering hole and eatery that I alreayd have no excuse not to drop by).
Stephen Crout, The ARTery's director/curator, is an out-of-work young film artist for whom programming the gallery is a labor of love--and sometimes he even gets his ideas past SoBeCa owner Shaheen Sadeghi, and artist himself.
Most notable in the "Local 88" show is Krystie Sargent's skateboard art. But there's something for everyone in this show, which runs through August 30th.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More Photography: Steve Dixon @ Reflective Image Studios

For a little over a year, a new gallery located a stone's throw from South Coast Plaza has been devoting itself to the art of photography, exhibiting the work of local and national artists. Ludo and Barbara Leideritz, themselves photographic artists, gathered together a number of Orange County's best art photographers and created an exhibit space in which to showcase the breadth of their work, Reflective Image Studios Gallery.

Last night, their latest exhibition, traditional black and white photography by artist Steve Dixon, debuted. Ludo Leideritz met Dixon at a photography workshop in Yosemite, where the ghost of Ansel Adams looms large. Dixon, a North Carolina news photographer shared with us the story of how he returned to art photography fairly recently and how it's been an arduous yet rewarding process of discovery.

The show is entitled, "Memories in Silver: Traditional Black and White Photographs," and it reminds us of the intense beauty that only black and white photos can truly deliver.

At the opening, however, I was reminded of the technical prowess that true photographers possess: questions of the artist from other photographers referenced the timing of exposures and f-stop settings, "dodging," multiple "burns" of prints and other techniques in the toolbox of experts--all a far cry from point-and-shoot digital snapshots taken from a cellphone.

Dixon spoke of re-learning patience--that it takes a long time to plan and set up a photograph, sometimes requiring multiple visits to the location, and that it is always time consuming to print effectively even the most artistic of shots.

Not only was it great to see that so many are still dedicated to real photography, but also to learn that Orange County's photographic community is especially robust--for instance, Ludo was well aware of the Hal Robert Myers exhibit at the Irvine Fine Arts Center and the Barbara Higgins exhibit at the Wyndham Hotel Gallery--both are photographers he knows and greatly respects. And he also knew of the Polaroid exhibit at Fullerton's Hibbleton Gallery.

4 important photographic shows running concurrently in Orange County is something worth celebrating.

"Memories in Silver" continues through September 30th, and the gallery is located at 211 E. Columbine Av., just north of MacArthur Blvd. and is open every weekend.

Exhibits @ Irvine Fine Arts Center

Attended last evening's openings at the Irvine Fine Arts Center...
"22 Degrees Below" is a truly compelling exhibition of photography, and though the images displayed are few in number, I lingered in awe of Hal Robert Myers' compositional eye and empathetic choice of subjects. It also served as a reminder that small digital images on our cameras or computers cannot hold a candle to real photographic images enlarged and printed.

There is a second, somewhat larger exhibition at Irvine Fine Arts Center: paintings by Paul Gardner. Abstract, mostly colorful works ranging from very small to room-dominating canvases, Gardner uses a thick transparent material reminiscent of Asian lacquer that makes his works seem more vivid.

Newly-confirmed NEA Chair Already Stirring the Pot

New NEA Chair Rocco Landesman's first interview after his confirmation signals that he's gonna stir the pot really good!
Quality over geographical equity will rule grantmaking
Congress will be pitched to appropriate very substantial increase
Congress will be pitched to reinstate funding for individual artists
And more.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"All the girls love Earl" posters plastering OC--A new Shepherd Fairey?

It's a big "whodunnit" according to the OC Register. (OC Register photo)

Today's Box Score: LA County Arts-$4.42 million, County of Orange Arts-$0.00

Today's LA Times reports that the County of Los Angeles trimmed 2% of its arts funding amidst the current economic pressures.

Guess what, the County of Orange implemented no cutbacks in arts funding this year!

That's because they already give nothing to the arts.

"Guess Who's Invited to the White House?"

Check out this provocative blogpost today about the need for the arts community to shift from a reactive to a proactive stance in advancing its goals nationally in light of a receptive new administration.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Art openings galore

Saturday was a busy evening for me.

First stop was Sharyn Case's for a party of "theatuh" people--mostly from the now-defunct Rude Guerrilla Theatre Company (RGTC) and fodder for the soon-to-debut Monkey Wrench Collective (MWC). MWC leader Dave Barton is putting together plans for one new production--of the Jacobean play The Revengers Tragedy (on Facebook over the weekend he was putting out a call for actors willing to "die" on stage), and a revival--of RGTC's production of the Mark Ravenhill play Shopping & Fucking. They are still seeking a venue at this point, with the likelihood of using a temporary industrial space in the Huntington Beach area until they solidify a longer-term location. Longtime RGTC actor Jay Fraley updated me on his plans to split his time between Laguna Beach and Austin, Texas where theatre is thriving (plus he has family in the Lone Star State).

Then it was off to Whittier Law School on Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa, where Engard Arts has mounted a small group exhibition in the library foyer. It was well attended, but the cramped quarters and the "checkout counter" made it feel more like a shop than a gallery, which is not inconsistent with Engard's commercial nature.

I arrived at Santa Ana's Artists Village just when the crowds were peaking--the pedestrianized street was teeming with art lovers, street artists and performers, and the restaurants were full. After a cocktail at Lola Gaspar, I skipped past the Grand Central Art Center (I had already just been to their R. CRUMB UNDERGROUND exhibit opening) and headed across the street to the OC Center for Contemporary Art for Jeffrey Crussell's exhibit DIRECTIONS.
A year ago, Crussell invited a number of artists to participate in a project he called "DIRECTIONS"--in which each artist was required to embark upon a sort of creative magical mystery tour, following a set of 56 precise directions invented by Crussell, involving explicit dimensional parameters, scavenger hunt-like waystations they were to visit at specific times, and benchmark dates for the progressive delivery of their work.

How well did these artists "follow directions"? You'll have to see for yourself. As for me, I found some did better than others in freeing themselves from their traditional work and embracing the adventure of new directions. But it was a typically worthwhile visit to OCCCA for this to be sure.

Finally, I swung by The Artery in Costa Mesa on my way home. This exhibit space is comprised of some corrugated metal container units placed next to The LAB Anti-Mall on Bristol Street south of the I-405. The limitations of the space are actually rather liberating in a way, keeping the focus on the art. This one-night-only exhibit, "I Hate Everyone But You," seemed to have little to do with the attention-getting title. The show included the works of two artists, Tim Biskup and Matt Goldman.

Tim's work reminds me so much of 1950s era decorative art, but more vivid in its color palette and occasionally twisted in a way that suggests "Ren and Stimpy!" I found it hard to take my eyes off his neo/retro prints (silkscreens, I believe). Matt's also rooted in traditions: rock album covers of the 1970s, "Day of the Dead" imagery and Shepherd Fairey's work (Fairey's signature "Obey" face appeared verbatim in one of the prints). Some works were samples of his concert posters.

It was great ending the evening on such a refreshingly high artistic note!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

National Choreographers Initiative

I'm not a dance maven.

I've seen live performances by a number of well-known companies over the years (like New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Erick Hawkins, Toronto Dance Theatre).

I've attended some performances at Jacob's Pillow, the summer dance magnet in the Berkshires.

I even spent the better part of a day with Pilobolus founder Robby Barnett as he rehearsed that company's first-ever piece with spoken words--he actually invited me to select a section I liked best as the excerpt they would perform at the Connecticut Arts Awards event I was producing. attention span for dance is limited and my "vocabulary" in dance is non-existent.

So, it was with not a little dread that I accepted my friend Sophie's invitation to attend the showcase by National Choreographers Initiative at the Irvine Barclay Theatre last weekend.

NCI selects 4 choreographers from around the country, provides them with professional dancers for 3 weeks, and then showcases their works-in-progress at the end of that period.

Predictably, the two pieces that held my attention (first and last of the program) were set to appealing music and were less abstract than the other two. Nevertheless, even the other two works were interesting to see--even when my mind began to wander.

As a champion of new works in the theatre, I applaud NCI artistic director/founder Molly Lynch for her dedication to this process in the world of dance.