The Cheat Sheet
Spring Arts Preview
Spring is upon us, and with it some of the best shows, performances and events in Southern California.
At the Getty, the Sicilian connection. Pacific Standard Time goes architectural. Lily Rabe takes on Strindberg, by way of LaBute. Benjamin Britten at 100. Country’s post-Swiftian voices. And that’s only a sampling of what’s up for the spring arts season.
Let our critics and writers guide you through some of the highlights of a packed season in architecture, art, dance, theater and jazz, classical, pop and country music. For more in-depth coverage, explore our complete spring arts preview.
Architecture | Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic
"A Confederacy of Heretics"
MARCH 29 - JULY 7
In 1979, architect Thom Mayne, who'd helped found the Southern California Institute of Architecture as a student several years before, opened an impromptu architecture gallery in his home in Venice. A PST show will look back at those exhibitions. But don't expect fawning (or at least not too much of it). Curators promise "neither to canonize the participating architects nor to consecrate their unorthodox activities."
"Everything Loose Will Land"
MAY 9 - AUG 4
This study of the ways architecture and the art scene influenced each other in the 1970s will bring attention to an era that has recently become a subject of intense fascination among younger architects. The show takes its name from an infamous Frank Lloyd Wright quote about L.A. "Tip the world over on its side," Wright once declared, "and everything loose will land in Los Angeles."
"Field Guide to Los Angeles Architecture"
MAY 1 - JULY 7
Among PST's least gallery-bound offerings, one highlight will surely be this contribution from Echo Park's Machine Project. The gallery and art center asked local and national artists to create performances, lectures and other events inside a number of architectural landmarks, including buildings by Rudolph Schindler and Gehry, and along L.A.'s freeways.
"Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Landscapes"
JUNE 9 - SEPT. 23
Beyond Los Angeles, architectural and curatorial life goes on, of course. The big architectural event of the season on the East Coast will be a new exhibition on the work of Swiss-French modernist architect Le Corbusier at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Remarkably, it is the first comprehensive exhibition the Modern has ever organized on Le Corbusier, arguably the single most influential architect of the last century.
Art | Christopher Knight, art critic
"War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath"
MARCH 23 - JUNE 2
War has become commonplace in the past 100 years. This traveling show from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gathers more than 150 war-related images from 1887 to the present, plus a documentary film and digital gallery, in what promises to be a sorrowful chronicle of human waste.
"James Turrell: A Retrospective"
MAY 26 - APRIL 6
Since the 1960s Pasadena-born artist James Turrell, a 1984 MacArthur Fellow, has turned his academic background in perceptual psychology into a flourishing investigation of the effects of colored light, both natural and artificial, on the complex human sensory apparatus. Using materials that range from ordinary windows in walls to an entire dormant volcano in the Arizona desert, he has produced an array of light projections, installations, prints and drawings.
"Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome"
APRIL 3 - AUG. 19
Ancient Greece had flourishing colonies on the Mediterranean island of Sicily off the southern tip of what is now Italy. From a variety of sources the Getty will assemble more than 150 examples of sculpture and decorative arts that survey Classical culture across the island — including a terra cotta head representing the god Hades, acquired by the Getty in 1985, that it recently determined had been looted.
APRIL 21 - AUG 19
Rooted in Neo-Dada traditions of found-object sculpture swimming in humorous paradox, Swiss-born New York artist Urs Fischer has made such eccentric objects as a house built from loaves of bread, wallpaper that photographically reproduces the same walls to which it is affixed and a tongue that darts out from a hole in the wall when a viewer leans in close to peer inside.
Classical Music | Mark Swed, music critic
APRIL 22 and 23
As a teen in the early 1950s, Wolff was taken under John Cage's wing and soon became a prominent member of Cage's New York School. So the composer and his music were inevitably included in many of the celebrations of the Cage centenary last year. But REDCAT is now devoting two evenings looking at the 78-year-old's influence on younger composers.
Pacific Symphony: Ellington
MAY 16 - 19
The classical music establishment has long accorded Duke Ellington lip service, hailing him as one of America's most important composers. For the Pacific Symphony's annual American Composer's Festival, the Duke is finally the subject. Composer and saxophonist Daniel Schnyder, trombonist David Taylor, pianist Kenny Drew Jr. and the Duke Ellington Orchestra join the Pacific Symphony for the program.
Handel's last oratorio is both a deeply spiritual work written at the end of the composer's life as he was going blind and a startlingly modern one that, as the great Handel scholar Winton Dean notes, points "an accusing finger at the dark impenetrability of the government of the universe." Few dare to perform such painfully and meaningfully penetrating music. The Handel and Haydn Society of Boston — led by a devoted Handelian, Harry Christophers — takes important chances by taking this important masterpiece on tour.
"The Marriage of Figaro"
MAY 17, 19, 23 and 25
At Frank Gehry's invitation, French architect Jean Nouvel will design the sets for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" in Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. Gustavo Dudamel will be conducting and Christopher Alden handling the staging of this second of three Mozart operas being presented by the L.A. Phil. Azzedine Alaia will provide the costumes; the cast includes Christopher Maltman and Dorothea Röschmann.
Dance | Laura Bleiberg, dance writer
Bebe Miller Dance Company
APRIL 4 - 6 and 7
"A History" is Miller's exploration of the creative process and dance making, through the lens of her 25-year career and her relationships with veteran company members Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. This duet includes a special digital projection created by Lily Skove and videos that will play in the REDCAT lobby.
Trisha Brown Dance Company: The Retrospective Project
MARCH 30 - APRIL 7
A sampling of work spanning Brown's groundbreaking career is the focus of this innovative project, organized by Kristy Edmunds, the new director of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Among the highlights is the outdoor performance of "Astral Converted," Brown's 1991 collaboration with visual artist Robert Rauschenberg, featuring his lighted sculptural towers (April 4, Sunset Canyon Amphitheatre) and more.
A former dancer with National Ballet of Canada, Ballet BC and Frankfurt Ballet, artistic director Emily Molnar has restored and revitalized Vancouver's formerly troubled contemporary ballet company of 18 dancers. The program will feature ballets by three choreographers whose works have not been performed here. Molnar will be represented with a recent work, while the other two choreographers are Italy's Jacopo Godani and France's Medhi Walerski.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet + Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Collaborations between dance companies that have their own distinct visions are rare — if not impossible. Yet, Hubbard Street and LINES Ballet have done just that. They will present the local premiere of a new joint work, "Azimuth," by LINES artistic director Alonzo King. Each company also will perform separately in a signature piece.
Theater | Charles McNulty, theater critic
'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder'
MARCH 8 - APRIL 14
In this musical comedy written by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, the outcast of the aristocratic D'Ysquith family learns that he's ninth in line to inherit a dukedom, meaning he's a measly eight murders away from easy street. Set in Edwardian England, this music hall-inspired comedy, directed by Darko Tresnjak, was a smash at Hartford Stage, and Broadway is no doubt in the show's sights.
MARCH 16 - 31
Weighing in at 600 pounds, Charlie, the heavyweight protagonist of Samuel D. Hunter's play, is committing suicide by meatball heroes and doughnuts. Ravenously mourning the loss of his lover, whose death he attributes to religious homophobia, Charlie, an online writing teacher, tries to establish some kind of relationship with his estranged and extremely antagonistic daughter before his inevitable end.
MAY 1 - JUNE 2
It was probably only a matter of time before Neil LaBute, the American theater's perennial bad boy, would tackle Strindberg's indelible tragedy. Strindberg, the mad dyspeptic genius of the 19th century stage, is infamous for his misogyny, though it's probably his misanthropy that is his blackest mark. He also happens to be one of the forefathers of modern drama, a theatrical revolutionist with a ferociously keen understanding of human behavior at its worst.
'Joe Turner's Come and Gone'
MAY 8 - JUNE 9
Phylicia Rashad directs the Taper revival of the play that would get my vote as August Wilson's masterpiece. Rashad is no stranger to Wilson, having received a Tony nomination for her performance in "Gem of the Ocean." "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" is the next in line of the Wilson 10-play cycle, set in the second decade of the 20th century, as the great migration of African Americans to the North is underway.
Country Music | Mikeal Wood, music writer
A former contestant on the televised singing competition "Nashville Star," Musgraves had a critical and commercial hit in 2012 with her single "Merry Go 'Round." It's on her upcoming major-label debut, "Same Trailer Different Park," which takes a skeptical look at such core country music concerns as marriage, motherhood and religion. The album arrives in stores March 19, and she’ll play Angel Stadium with Kenny Chesney in July.
A Nashville veteran whose 2007 album "Satisfied" was lost in a record-label shuffle, Monroe broke through to a wide audience in 2011 as a member of Miranda Lambert's Pistol Annies side project. Now she’s releasing a major-label record, "Like a Rose," with production by Vince Gill and a duet with Blake Shelton. Monroe is to appear March 11 on the "Tonight Show."
Rose's mother is the Nashville songwriter Liz Rose, who's co-written hits with Taylor Swift. But Caitlin Rose has come up largely outside the country music establishment, releasing records on indie labels and playing rock clubs such as L.A.'s Bootleg Bar, where she’ll perform May 2.
Jazz | Chris Barton, jazz writer
MARCH 15 - 17
As if the weather weren't enough for Angelenos to gloat about, jazz fans got yet another reason when this trumpeter returned to his West Coast roots as an instructor at USC's Thornton School of Music. That means more opportunities to catch a unique, restless talent, including this residency, which should hint toward his next moves following his acclaimed Blue Note debut, "When the Heart Emerges Glistening."
Whether leading the various incarnations of fusion innovators Return to Forever or continuing to explore duets with Gary Burton, this jazz piano great has hardly slowed down. This run of shows finds Corea exploring the trio form backed by Return to Forever bassist Stanley Clarke and Clarke's longtime drummer, Ronald Bruner Jr.
Allen Ginsberg's "Kaddish"
The connection between the Beat Generation and jazz is well established, and that thread will be further strengthened with this production staged by Hal Willner. The night will combine Ginsberg's poem with a film by Chloe Webb, projected paintings by Ralph Steadman and music composed and conducted by guitarist Bill Frisell, who leads a nine-piece band.
Medeski Martin and Wood
Now in its second decade, this trio is often lumped into a "jam-band" ghetto, but within the organ group's thick bond to the almighty groove there are nods toward the interstellar explorations of Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor and other wonders of improvisation. John Medeski's lush solo piano album, "A Different Time," only underscores the group's ability to surprise.
Pop Music | Randall Roberts, pop music critic
Can the artist pull off a season-stealing return after his impressive disappearing act during much of the 21st century? David Bowie, 66, shocked his fan base in February when he announced a new studio album called "The Next Day," his first in 10 years. It's a rich return, filled with the kind of smarts, imagination and drama that has typified his most resonant work. The Thin White Duke sings of the stars and cosmos with typical vigor, though the moments of restrained, transcendent beauty are just as convincing.
"The Next Day" (Columbia/Sony)
MARCH 19 and JULY 28
Back to music after a sabbatical spent acting and starring in "Saturday Night Live" parody videos, pop singer Justin Timberlake's highly anticipated return hasn't been without early stumbles. The first single, "Suit and Tie," was received with deserved ambivalence, though the second, an eight-minute jam called "Mirrors," suggested a return to form. Regardless, JT will no doubt trend for much of the season due to both "20/20" and an impending co-headlining tour with Jay-Z — which makes a stop at the Rose Bowl on July 28.
"The 20/20 Experience" (RCA)
Malian singer Rokia Traoré has an exquisite voice and an even more lovely way around a phrased melody. On her delicately crafted "Beautiful Africa," the French-singing chanteuse offers West African guitar pop, smooth but funky, not soft, suggestive of a more rhythmically dense Sade. It's the kind of record that will prove your musical mettle during an impress-your-friends dinner party, while resting on a yoga mat or during a Sunday morning space-out.
"Beautiful Africa" (Nonesuch).
Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
APRIL 12 - 14 and 19 - 21
This year's two-weekend kickoff to the festival season features headliners Phoenix, Blur and Red Hot Chili Peppers and an undercard that will include 130-odd others. Potential highlights? "Harlem Shake" creator Baauer, Grimes, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Rodriguez, the Postal Service, Wu-Tang Clan, the xx, Lou Reed and New Order. Potential breakouts? Seth Troxler, Tame Impala, Father John Misty, 3BallMTY, DIIV and TNGHT, among others.
Books | David L. Ulin, book critic
"The Flamethrowers" by Rachel Kushner
APRIL 2 (Scribner)
Rachel Kushner's first novel, "Telex From Cuba," was a sensation: Set in the years before the Cuban revolution, it was a national bestseller and a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. Her follow-up, "The Flamethrowers," operates in the space between creativity and politics, the saga of an artist who travels from Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s to become immersed in the white hot center of Italian radical politics. Kushner is a vivid storyteller, worth reading for her sentences alone.
"Never Built Los Angeles" by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin
APRIL 30 (Metropolis)
I can't wait for this: an art book featuring more than 400 images that offer a vision of the city Los Angeles never became, in the form of nearly a century's worth of plans, designs and layouts, including the Olmsted Brothers and Bartholomew's "Plan for the Los Angeles Region," a 1930 re-imagining of the city as a whole.
"An Evening With David Sedaris"
David Sedaris is as close as literature comes to a touring rock band; his performances are eagerly anticipated, and he comes back every year. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than at UCLA's Royce Hall, which Sedaris has played, regularly, for the last 17 years. If you've seen Sedaris do his thing, you know that he's hilarious and engaging; if you haven't, what are you waiting for?
"Little Green" by Walter Mosley
MAY 14 (Doubleday)
When last we saw Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley's iconic detective, it looked as if he had come to an untimely end. That was in 2007, when the 10th Rawlins novel, "Blonde Faith," ended with a car crash, but six years later, Rawlins is back, the survivor that we always knew he was.