Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Offerings at UCLA

WHEN I moved to the Eastside five years ago, the main think I knew I'd miss from my more central position in the city was the cultural stuff at UCLA. The last few days -- which has seen a new schedule  for UCLA Live and a season preview at the Hammer Museum -- reminds me just how much is going on there.

One of the best developments since I landed here 13 years ago has been Ann Philbin's revival of the oil tycoon's museum in a particularly corporate part of Westwood. Today's preview continued a fresh program of art in various forms, much of it infused, this time, with music and performance.

Douglas Fogle, the newish chief curator, opened up the preview by welcoming us on "what passes for bad weather in LA - 'There's a mist, I can't go out.'" He was especially excited about a September show by Mark Manders, a sculptor who started out as a poet and retained, he said, a poetic approach to his craft. The Hammer's Contemporary Collection is about to open, full of what seemed like challenging work.

Overall, there seemed like a great deal of installations, documentaries, musical offerings, etc. coming over the next few months. The next Hammer Invitational, still without a title, looks promising, and this year will offer not only LA artists -- Kerry Tribe and Charles Gaines, both of whose recent work sounds fascinating -- as well as international artist who have not had much exposure in the Southland.

I was able to very swifty move through Outside the Box: Edition Jacob Samuel, 1988-2010, and will be returning to take a closer look at the beautifully austere work of the old-school Santa Monica-based printmaker, who obvious loved Durer. (I especially liked his work with Barry McGee - right -- and Ed Ruscha.)

UCLA Live, which for years I have found to be the most challenging arts series in town, recently announced its 2010-'11 schedule, and as usual there is some wonderful stuff on here, if not, alas, the international theater festival that has helped connect LA audiences to the best work happening in the rest of the world.

It's hard to imagine John Cale being better suited to any spot in town than this series, and I am eager to see piano virtuoso Murray Perahia, Dengue Fever playing to silent film The Lost World as well as the intriguing bill of soul legend Mavis Staples and Brit folk-punk singer Billy Bragg.

Should I be surprised that cashiered UCLA Live artistic director David Sefton, whose last season this is, is not, from what I can tell, anywhere mentioned in the rollout of the new season?