Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Participate Free in National Arts Journalism Summit!

On Friday, October 2, from 9am-1pm Pacific Time, you can view the live webcast of the first National Arts Journalism Summit by clicking the viewing mechanism below. For more information, and an overview of the agenda, click here. This event is a must for anyone who cares about the future of arts journalism!

Video chat rooms at Ustream

Monday, September 28, 2009

Midori w/Pacific Symphony & Botero at Bowers

My concept of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto was shaped when I was in college and bought a recording of David Oistrakh performing it--passionate, loud, emphatic, even bombastic. What a world of difference hearing the legendary Midori perform it with the PSO on Saturday night. It had passion tempered with delicacy, fireworks balanced by sweetness--nothing I had ever imagined the piece to be. The concert began with a short piece by PSO favorite composer Frank Ticheli (PSO commissioned it a number of years ago) and ended with the Brahms Symphony No. 1. This is not a Brahms piece I would choose to listen to--its first two movements are completely tedious to my ears, only beginning to perk up in the third, and with a fourth movement that begins to show why we should take it seriously. But it's a symphony that allows the conductor to show off certain principal players, and as such is justifiable for a season opening concert like this.

Botero's chubby people may now be cliche to many in the art world, but they continue to delight museum goers at the Bowers Museum which has just opened up the first major exhibition of his work in many years. Up close, the paintings are gargantuan, doubling or tripling the impact of his audacious convention--now in place for 50 years. But interestingly, the Columbian artist's works from 1959 show his penchant for large size canvases and larger-than-life figures while bathing them in an expressionistic color palate and with brush strokes suggesting pastels instead of oil. His sculptural pieces actually work the best in my estimation--here the large size figures deliver great beauty in form. Overall, Botero's works reflect a combination of traditional Latin American art themes (Day of the Dead) and locales (jungles thick with fruit) while delivering the classical knowledge he possessed from living in Spain and in Paris. There are hints of Picasso, Magritte and Leger, but ultimately Botero remains a one-of-a-kind artist.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Musical Chairs at NY Philharmonic

With all the hoopla over Gustavo Dudamel taking over the LA Phil, on the other coast another young(ish) man is making waves of his own in his first concerts as music director of the New York Philharmonic: Alan Gilbert. The son of two NY Phil musicians (one now retired), he is practically family to that ensemble, so perhaps his recent changes in seating the orchestra is welcomed more by the musicians that it might otherwise have been. It will be exciting to see if these two great orchestras become rivals in winning the hearts and minds of audiences and critics. Here's an article in the New York Times about it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday's art openings

With each first Saturday night come two important gallery openings that coincide with the Santa Ana Artists Village Art Walk, and it's a good thing, too.

Art being sold on pedestrianized 3rd Street and in the historic Santora Building basement's galleries is really a mixed bag, and while the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) seems to manage to pull the rabbit of out the hat with its programming with a fairly high degree of consistency, it's really Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center Gallery that almost always "wows" art lovers.

That was certainly the case again the other night, as CSUF's new show "F+" showcased the works of its faculty artists working in a variety of media. It was all quality stuff (you had to enjoy the double entendre of the show's title).

My personal favorites were two paintings by Joe Forkan, inspired by famous works of art: Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ and David's Death of Marat. They were not slavish reproductions, mind you, (nor were they parodies) but totally independent works that openly referenced the themes and structures of the originals in an indirect manner.

I was also very fond of Lawrence Yun's series of small watercolors of palm fronds. Some might consider them "tame" in contrast to other artists' works in the exhibit, but they went beyond decorative to achieve a zen-like serenity in their precision and composition.
Though it's hardly a genre that usually turns my head, Hala Swearingen's vivid fantasy scenes are so masterfully executed, I paused at each one to admire their fine detail.

The Grand Central Art Center Gallery also included a one-man show, occupying the better part of what is typically their shop. Entitled "Idiosyncratic Behavior," the paintings by Paul Torres are reminiscent of Reginald Marsh's mass-of-humanity beach scenes--only the people depicted are truly grotesque. This distorted view provoked me to snicker, as I'm sure it's intended to.

OCCCA's "Jecca+1" featured a prominent international artist's photography and video installations that were mostly comprised of still images, some static, some put into motion. One series found the beauty in automobile fuel cap assemblies. There was a disturbing video intended as a 9/11 memorial and an amusing upside-down video outside I.M. Pei's pyramid entrance to the Louvre in Paris. The companion artist's works seemed a total afterthought (Rob Mintz).
Before I headed to Santa Ana, I swung by The LAB's Artery exhibit space for a quick view of Terry Kim's works in a show entitled "Re-Inventing the Wheel" by this self-described "underground artist." Well he's got a highly-skilled illustrative hand and the paintings are less unconventional than you might expect.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Are the arts being asked to become a "tool of the state"?

The recent call for the nation's arts community to participate in the Obama administration's "United We Serve" effort has been embraced by many, vilified by some.

Before this began, Arts Orange County led a coordinated arts community-wide food drive last March. Recently the arts groups agreed that it should be repeated this winter. It provided a ton of food to the OC Food Bank, whose cubbard was nearly bare, so I'd have to say it helped a little and it showed that the arts community cared enough to do its part even though these same organizations are themselves finding it a real struggle to survive in these economic times.

What do you think?