Barbara Kruger. Untitled (Hello/Goodbye), 2014. (Photo by Brian Forrest)

Barbara Kruger. Untitled (Hello/Goodbye), 2014. (Photo by Brian Forrest)

Thanks to the generosity of two benefactors, Erika J. Glazer and Brenda R. Potter, admission to UCLA Hammer Museum in Westwood is now completely free. Three cheers!

The Hammer is a tremendous resource for our community, where you’ll be treated to such unique exhibitions as “Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880 to 1914,” which really opened my eyes to the blinding misogyny of the times, exemplified in a remarkable collection of prints, books and photography. It closes May 18.

Romanian-born artist Andra Ursuta has created an imaginary cemetery populated with her deeply haunting sculptures in a Hammer Projects gallery, on view through May 25. And that’s naming just a few of the multiple shows on view now at the Hammer.

The Hammer also offers free lunchtime talks on artists and other subjects, a weekly mindful meditation, film screenings, poetry readings plus free outdoor summer dance parties featuring KCRW DJs and live music, to cite just a few of the museum’s many happenings.

Two outstanding special events are coming up. L.A.’s highly acclaimed experimental opera company, The Industry, presents a conceptualization of Terry Riley’s seminal minimalist composition “In C” in the museum’s courtyard, part of Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Minimalist Jukebox Festival.

Driving around town, The Industry’s dynamic Artistic Director Yuval Sharon (I consider him his generation’s Peter Sellars) was listening to “In C” on the radio as he passed by a car dealership featuring “air dancers,” those inflatable figures that look like they’re flailing in wild ecstasy, throwing their arms into the air and collapsing in undulating bends and bows.

The rhythm of the music and the kinetic energy of the air dancers combined in Yuval’s mind as a vision of life in Los Angeles, and along with an array of air dancers and real ones, that’s what we’ll see, hear and feel in a four-hour performance, on two Saturdays only, April 5 and April 12, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. This, too, is free.

And stay tuned for “Made in L.A. 2014,” opening June 15, the Hammer’s biennial exhibition featuring emerging and under-recognized L.A.-area artists. This colossal curatorial achievement really speaks to the way that the Hammer partners with and mines the L.A. community for fresh artistic treasures. Over 30 artists will be featured, they’ve commissioned 11 major new works, so there’ll be exciting new discoveries for L.A. collectors and art fans alike. And of course, there’ll be numerous free public events.

Stop by The Hammer, pick up a brochure or two or find out more at www.hammer.ucla.edu.

 

More minimal

 

I’m excited to be attending Santa Monica-based concert producer Jacaranda’s  Civil Wars evening, featuring “The Knee Plays” on April 5, which is also part of the L.A. Phil’s Minimalist Jukebox Festival.

This is a unique performance originally intended as part of an opera at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, “the CIVIL warS,” [sic] that Robert Wilson never completed.

But David Byrne, the mind behind the art rock band, Talking Heads, created 14 loosely connected “playlets” which were to take place downstage as set changes were being made behind the curtain. Byrne recorded an album of The Knee Plays and toured it, but it hasn’t been seen since 1988. They’re called “Knee Plays” because they’re envisioned as a “joint” that connects to the opera the way the knee connects parts of the leg.

In a statement to Jacaranda’s Artistic Director Patrick Scott, Byrne said, “It’s super exciting that this music is being performed again in L.A., where it was originally supposed to be presented. (It’s) a mix of original compositions and brass transcriptions of choral folk music from different places. The little stories that make up most of the narration are personal and for the most part plausible. All together they tell a story, a kind of myth involving a tree that becomes a boat, travels to a far off land and a book that turns back into the tree.”

The narration will be provided by TV and film actor Fran Kranz, with Mark Alan Hilt conducting and playing organ on the program, which includes Philip Glass’ “Mad Rush,” an organ piece performed for the exiled Dalai Lama’s first public visit to New York City in 1981, and a suite from the soundtrack to the 1985 film “Mishima.”

When performances like these come around, you really shouldn’t miss them — this is truly one of a kind. “The Knee Plays” takes place Saturday, April 5 at 8 p.m., at the architecturally stunning First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 Second St. For tickets visit www.jacarandamusic.org or call (213) 483-0216.

 

Giving voice to Women’s Theatre

 

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival marks 21 years of producing close to 500 multicultural and multidisciplinary solo performances from around the globe.

“Giving Voice” is this year’s theme for the longest-running annual solo festival for women in Los Angeles, which returns to the Electric Lodge in Venice, March 27 to March 30, featuring four days of theatre work by talented female playwrights, producers and performers.

There’s a Champagne Gala and Awards Ceremony on March 27 in honor of exceptional women who’ve made laudable contributions in theatre, including Kiha S. Lee, Amentha Dymally, Debra De Liso, Josefina Lopez and posthumously, Juanita Moore. Gala hosts include Starletta DuPois (“Lost”) and Ted Lange (“The Love Boat”).

Each set of performances is also connected by theme: experience “Transformations” on Friday night at 8 p.m.; on Saturday the 3 p.m. matinee focuses on “Mirrored Reflections”; and at 8 p.m. performers will be “Rising Above.” Sunday’s themes are “It’s All Relative” at 3 p.m., and “Riffs” at 7 p.m.

Bullying, ballet, forgiveness, dysfunctional families, self-acceptance, grief, grace and much more will be explored by these singular voices onstage.

Reserve these very reasonably priced gala and performance seats by calling (818) 760-0408 or online at www.lawtf.org. Electric Lodge is located at 1416 Electric Ave. in Venice.

 

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.

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