“Ilona with her daughter, Michelle, 4, Moscow,” from the exhibition “Generation Wealth.” Photo by Lauren Geenfield

Lauren Greenfield exhibition examines how wealth skews values


Lauren Greenfield

In a portrait by the esteemed photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, a plump 13-year-old named Adam romps with a go-go dancer at his bar mitzvah at West Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go nightclub in the early 1990s.

“You see him with his face exactly in line with [her breasts],” Greenfield, widely regarded as a preeminent chronicler of the cultures of wealth and beauty, said during a recent telephone interview. “So you have this funny and ironic coming-of-age in what’s supposed to be this religious rite of passage. But it looks almost like a sexual coming of age.”

Adam’s portrait is one of more than 200 photographs, transcribed interviews and films on display in Greenfield’s newest exhibition, “Generation Wealth,” at the Annenberg Space for Photography through Aug. 13. The solo show is accompanied by a hefty monograph of the same name.

The book and the show trace Greenfield’s career over the past quarter-century, during which she created groundbreaking work exploring society’s evolving obsession with bling and its consequences. “It’s about the influence of affluence,” she said.

Organized into sections with titles such as “The Princess Brand” and “The Cult of Celebrity,” the work spotlights subjects such as Emily, 10, who appears basking in a Jacuzzi at The Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills. She and her family had been living there with their servants for three months after their two mansions were seized by the federal government — the result of her father’s forfeiture on tax evasion charges.

In other photos, a 6-year-old beauty pageant winner poses with her tongue provocatively protruding from her mouth; a plastic surgeon with a celebrity clientele prepares to inject aging lips with Botox; and the wife of a Russian oligarch stands in the library of her Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home — where the shelves are stocked solely with copies of her self-published photography book. These are balanced by pictures of people such as a teenager from South Central Los Angeles who prepares to attend his prom, which he could afford only after saving money for years.

“But this project is not about actual wealth,” Greenfield said during a recent lecture at the Annenberg. “It’s really about … our aspiration to wealth … the way we emulate it and package it and export our notions of it, [like] a contagious virus — the addictive culture of consumerism.”

Greenfield’s work describes the concept of wealth “very broadly,” she explained. “I’ve included the currency of fame, of branding, of the body, of youth.”

Materialism is a crucial part of the new American dream, she said, “but in the end, it’s an empty form.”

At the lecture, Greenfield projected slides that sometimes drew laughs or gasps from the audience: A woman who had paid for her Doberman pinscher’s facelift; a socialite showing off one of her four seasonal closets; and Adam, the bar mitzvah boy.

“Is this Vanity Fair or is this about social change?” one elderly social worker said during the Q&A session.

Greenfield told the lecture audience that her work is not about judging her subjects, but trying to see clearly what’s going on around this issue.

“It’s really hard material, and if you read the interviews, [you will see] a huge amount of pain and suffering, from the rich as well as the poor. It’s really about how we’re lost in this cycle of addiction that doesn’t bring satisfaction.”

Was Greenfield disturbed that patrons of her lecture tittered upon viewing photographs such as Adam’s? “I feel like laughter is the way in,” she told the Journal. “Then what happens is that people read his [words] and … they get brought into a very sad and emotional story.”

In his interview, Adam reflects that money ruins kids and that if your parents don’t spend at least $50,000 on your bar mitzvah, “You’re s— out of luck.” Greenfield said Adam found this kind of competition both empty and scary.

Born in 1966, Greenfield grew up with conflicting views about money. Her parents, who divorced when she was a teenager, didn’t care about the trappings of wealth and raised her, in part, in their separate communes in Venice in the 1970s.

They also valued social action: Her father, Sheldon Greenfield, now a UC Irvine professor of medicine, was a founder of the Venice Family Clinic, where low-income patients receive free medical care. Her mother, Patricia Greenfield, is a UCLA psychology professor.

Even so, Greenfield was not immune to the wealth (and girl) culture she observed at Temple Isaiah, where, she said, one of her friends owned 25 pairs of designer jeans. Greenfield chose to have a bat mitzvah, but she said it wasn’t lavish like Adam’s.

When she attended Santa Monica’s Crossroads School in 11th and 12th grades, her classmates drove expensive cars while an embarrassed Greenfield asked her father to park his jalopy — a used unmarked police car — a block away from school whenever he dropped her off. If she was traumatized by her family’s lack of fancy goods, “My stepmother says it’s OK because I made a career out of it,” she quipped.

After studying visual anthropology at Harvard, Greenfield’s first project, for National Geographic, was documenting a Mayan village — where her mother also happened to be doing research. Ultimately, though, she felt like she did not have “the intimate access or understanding to say something meaningful about what I was seeing,” she said during her lecture.

“I started thinking that … some of the things I had seen growing up were actually worthy of the same kind of serious study that anthropologists and photojournalists usually give to foreign cultures,” she said.

Greenfield returned home and began photographing teenagers at her old school, Crossroads, and elsewhere. That prompted her first book, “Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood,” about how “kids were influenced by the values of materialism, the cult of celebrity and the importance of image,” she said.

One picture captures a Beverly Hills High student riding in a convertible with the popular kids at the beach. In her interview, she told Greenfield that while she did not come from a rich family, her good looks had gained her entry into the elite school clique.

“So one of the things that I looked at … was the commodification of girls and their bodies,” Greenfield said.

A photograph from a subsequent project, “Girl Culture,” shows a 5-year-old shopping for skimpy designer clothes at an upscale boutique.

“In this kind of innocent game of dress-up, you start to see a kind of precocious sexualization,” Greenfield said. “I thought … that if girls see their bodies as a source of value, or a kind of currency, that this can only accelerate [with age].”

Greenfield explored that pressure in her following work, including her documentary “Thin,” about women battling eating disorders. She also captured the struggle, mostly on the part of women, to stave off aging through plastic surgery. In 2012, she released her lauded documentary, “The Queen of Versailles,” about the efforts of David and Jackie Siegel, a Florida couple, to build the largest house in the world — even as their efforts were stalled during the financial crash of 2008.

Greenfield’s photographs depict further images of the effect of the crash, such as the emptied swimming pools of foreclosed houses in the Inland Empire. There also are pictures exploring how the wealth culture has been exported to countries such as Ireland, Dubai and China, where a socialite appears with a logo of her favorite commercial brand tattooed on her neck.

During the era of President Donald Trump, whose preference for gilded furnishings mirrors that of the Siegels, Greenfield’s project is meant as a cautionary tale.

“We’ve got to get back to what matters,” she told the Journal, referring to the values her parents taught her: “To make a difference, a contribution, doing meaningful work, and caring about community and family.”

 

Lauren Greenfield’s exhibition, “Generation Wealth,” runs at the Annenberg Space for Photography through Aug. 13. For more information about the exhibition, visit annenbergphotospace.org.

Whatever happened to thinking outside the box?


What does it mean to reduce the contemporary Jewish experience to a series of quotes, objects, stereotypes and to conclude an exhibit by placing a live human in a glass box to answer the questions of museum-goers (regardless of merit or cultural sensitivity)? On March 22, Jews gathered across the world to observe the start of the Passover holiday, recalling our central narrative of what it means to move from slavery to liberation. On the same day, the Jewish Museum in Berlin opened an exhibition promising to “showcase Jews,” hoping to create a space for dialogue. The show, entitled “The Whole Truth…everything you always wanted to know about Jews,” runs through September 1, 2013. The timing of this exhibition takes on a new level of irony — liberation seems to have taken holiday this month in Germany!

How is this exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin different than all other exhibitions about Jews? Promotion for this exhibition included an illustrated trailer beginning with the moment of conception asking, “What makes someone a Jew?” thus framing the entire exhibition from a biological or racial perspective. A few moments later, a series of changing faces further illuminate the point, asking, “How do you recognize a Jew?” In keeping with centuries of tradition regarding Jewish caricatures, viewers will be astonished to realize the nose is the only thing that does not change with each face and grows larger towards the end of the digital mash-up. View the trailer:

Next up on the list of exploiting stereotypes, as visitors walk though “The Whole Truth” exhibit, a vote is cast using coins to determine if Jews are “good at business,” “smart,” “good looking” or “animal lovers.” The votes are tallied and displayed at the conclusion of the walkthrough. For the finale, you cannot miss the most controversial inclusion of all – a Jew in a box. Yes, that’s right, step on up to an installation in which German Jews sit in a glass box to answer questions posed by curious onlookers.

The museum’s press release explained that the concept of the box was their way of responding to the critique most often levied at them: how can their institution mount artifacts telling the 2,000 year plus story of German Jewish culture in an authentic way, given the complicated reality of a post-Holocaust Germany? Objects in vitrines and museum labels could, in the museum’s words, “unethically use Jews as ‘exhibition objects’ and subject them to voyeuristic curiosity […] Searching for the ‘whole truth,’ visitors now have the opportunity to confront their confused feelings about Jews.” Given the problematic history of Germany, one should be extra careful when considering how to be “provocative.” This was a moment for the Jewish Museum in Berlin to think outside the box, rather, than placing Jews, literally, on display inside of one. Given Germany’s sorted past with the pseudo-scientific practice of physiognomy and racial profiling, we did not need to be reminded of how Jews have been likened to a circus sideshow.

Considering the goal of “The Whole Truth,” is to question Judaism in Germany today. Here are some questions the exhibition causes me to ask: What could the curators, museum administration, and their board hope to accomplish with this show? How does one create an exhibition that serves to make space for a minority group, once victimized, to be asked questions by decedents of the perpetrators that does not perpetuate complicated power dynamics? Most importantly, what, if anything, should the Jewish Museum in Berlin do moving forward? Perhaps the most personal question of all: Why does this exhibition matter to me?

I have dedicated over ten years to creating new approaches to Jewish cultural engagement. Currently, I work as the Co-Director of Shulamit Gallery, which seeks to engage Angelenos through cross-cultural exhibitions and programming focused on the Middle East with a special interest in Israeli, Iranian and Jewish artists. Thus, I want the Jewish Museum in Berlin  as the institution preserving the cultural legacy of Jewish people in Germany  to get this right! They provide an important perspective reflecting a commitment to remembrance. The building’s architecture and core exhibition produce a strong narrative, translating the complicated themes of destruction and survival. The very creation of a Jewish museum in Germany is meant to highlight the Jewish renewal effort and the continuation of Jewish heritage, post the Shoah, in a powerful way.

They do not have the luxury; as the exhibition curator, Miriam Goldmann, herself a Jew, has been quoted saying, “We wanted to provoke, [. . .] and some people may find the show outrageous or objectionable. But that's fine by us.” While Goldmann and others need to be able to respond to trends in popular culture and create opportunities for dialog (between Jewish and non-Jewish residents), they also must be called upon to do so with nuanced sensitivity. Haven’t we been placed under a microscope enough throughout history? It is time: no more barriers, no more walls, no more boxes and no more perpetuating of stereotypes! Raise your voices and ask Goldmann and the Jewish Museum Berlin to remove the box: < besucherservice@jmberlin.de >.

Tell them that if they want to be radical, they should think outside the box! Set up couches or a table and chairs and have Jewish volunteers and non-Jewish German’s talk to each other as equals. If you want the whole truth the only way to get it is when you treat everyone with dignity and respect.


ANNE HROMADKA is Co-Director of Shulamit Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. She is also the founder and director of Nu ART Projects [Insert Jew-ish Culture Here], and an independent curator, art consultant, and educator. In addition, she manages the Hebrew Union College Jack H. Skirball Los Angeles campus art collection and exhibition program. 

Rebuilding lives, one broken tile at a time


It was an elegant opening for a gallery exhibition.

Artists and art enthusiasts mingled affably among more than 230 original mosaics — elaborate and dramatic, whimsical and rhythmical — that included mirrors, light boxes, flowers pots and Judaic designs with hamsas and candlesticks. They sampled catered hors d’oeuvres and listened to remarks by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. This exhibition, titled, “Pieces of Hope,” opened Nov. 2 in the Alpert Jewish Community Center‘s Pauline and Zena Gatov Gallery and runs through Dec. 1.

It was difficult to discern, on the surface, that the artists represented some of Los Angeles’ most impoverished citizens, residents of Skid Row and South Los Angeles, who are actually using the broken bits of tile, stone and other rejected and recycled materials to rebuild their own lives. They’re participants in a microenterprise arts initiative called Piece by Piece, and they generally receive 80 percent all of sales proceeds. On that day, about 50 pieces sold, amounting to $8,500. But the financial reward is only part of the program’s success.

“I hate to be a drama queen, but this has pretty much saved my life,” said Paula LeDuc, 58, a Skid Row resident, recovering addict and breast cancer survivor who had two frames made of fossilized stone featured in the show. “It’s given me something to do.”

Piece by Piece is the brainchild of Sophie Alpert, 50, daughter-in-law of Long Beach JCC leaders Barbara and Ray Alpert, who was impressed on a trip to South Africa in spring 2006 by microfinance projects that enabled HIV-positive women to create placemats, dolls and other objects with beads.

“It seemed so simple,” said Alpert, who compared the seemingly hopeless conditions of those South African women and their families to what she calls “Third World” areas of Los Angeles. She had worked as a grant writer and fundraiser for the nonprofit family service agency, Para Los Niños, in the 1980s, before taking time off to raise her four children, and she has never forgotten those families.

When she returned from South Africa, she couldn’t forget that experience either.

“I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get it out of my head,” she said.

Alpert agonized over a way to replicate the microenterprise bead workshops, which she knew were impractical for Los Angeles, until she came up with the idea for mosaics — something not prohibitively expensive, something that could be easily taught and done independently, and something that produced colorful and relatively quick results.

Artistically inclined and experienced in mosaics, Alpert nevertheless returned to school, taking three weekend classes at the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland. She also set out to find instructors — insisting on hiring and paying professional artists and teachers, including current artistic director Dawn Mendelson — as well as venues.

Alpert saw these first moves as a kind of pilot program, to determine if the idea was even viable.

“I couldn’t answer every question; I just had to start,” she said.

The indestructible spirit of Holocaust survivors


These photographs by Bill Aron are part of a project titled “Holocaust Survivors: The Indestructible Spirit.”

The project, sponsored by Chapman University, unites interviews and images of local Holocaust survivors, with each illuminating the other, telling their stories from the war and also showing them today as they have not only survived, but prospered.

The biographies here were condensed and excerpted by The Journal from interviews by students of professor Marilyn J. Harran, director of Chapman’s Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education. The interviews were conducted as part of Harran’s Holocaust history courses at Chapman, and are © 2007-2008, Chapman University.


“I was welcomed not only into their homes, but also into their hearts. They gave me a gift of openness and trust, which made possible one hundred truly memorable encounters. It was the essence of these encounters, a deep sense of connection, an exquisite intimacy, if you will, that I felt, and that I tried to put into the images. The extent that my photographs are successful is due to their openness and trust. . . .

The prophet Zechariah proclaims that the people of Israel will prevail “not by might, nor by power, but by spirit alone … will you survive.” Clearly, it was not by might, nor by power that they prevailed, but by the strength of their enduring spirit.

— Bill Aron, photographer


Jack Pariser was born in 1929 in Poland, south of Krakow. His father sold lumber and his mother sold fabric. When the Nazis began terrorizing Jews in 1939, Jack’s grandfather was beaten unconscious for refusing to walk on the Torah; he died soon after. In early August 1942, Jack’s mother learned that the Germans were planning to murder the town’s Jews the next day, and the family fled, hiding for months in the forest. They were rescued by a Christian man who had worked for Jack’s father and were hidden in a bunker under a woodshed floor. When they eventually moved to another hiding place, they were betrayed and arrested by Polish police. They escaped from jail by cutting through the wall with a penknife. They were again protected by non-Jews until the war ended in 1945.

The family moved to the United States in 1949, and Jack went on to become chief scientist at Hughes Aircraft, where he retired from in 1987.

Eva Brettler (nee Katz) was born in Romania in 1936. She was visiting her grandparents in Hungary in 1944 when the German soldiers took her grandmother and aunt as she hid. When she emerged, she sought out the town rabbi, who reconnected her to her parents. When her father was made to do forced labor, her mother tried to protect young Eva, at one point taking on a false identity as a non-Jew, for which she was later denounced and mother and child were arrested. In September 1944, the two were sent on a forced march to Germany with thousands of Jews; Eva’s mother was killed on the walk, and the young girl tried to understand why her mother didn’t come for her. Eventually, with the help of a fellow prisoner, she arrived at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she was encouraged and protected by women prisoners. With the advance of the Russian army, the Germans moved the prisoners to Bergen-Belsen by cattle car, and Eva survived — and helped others — by luck and ingenuity, squeezing through wire fence to steal scraps of potato peelings from a kitchen refuse area. After liberation, she reunited with her father and they returned to Hungary. In 1956, after the brutal suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, Eva fled her country, arriving in the United States in 1957, where she met and married fellow survivor Marten Brettler. In 1983, she earned a degree in psychology from UCLA and became a social worker.

Sally Roisman (nee Zielinski) was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in 1930 to a devoutly religious family. When war broke out, the family had nowhere to flee to, so they survived by bartering jewelry for food. Young Sally was often sent to do the job. In 1942, her father was sent to Auschwitz, and the rest of the family was moved to the ghetto. Eventually her sisters, then Sally, were sent to Graeben, a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen. Sally, just 13, survived with the help of her sisters. In January 1945, as the Soviets approached, the Germans sent 250 prisoners on a death march to Germany; Sally was among the 150 to arrive at Bergen-Belsen, where she almost died of typhus. In April 1945, when the British liberated the camp, the sisters learned that their brother had also survived at a nearby camp and two other brothers were at Buchenwald. Their parents, three brothers and two sisters were murdered at Auschwitz.

The remaining six siblings eventually moved to Australia. On a vacation to New York, Sally met her future husband, Steve Roisman. The couple settled in Los Angeles, near Sally’s sister and brother. Today, Sally is an artist, making award-winning paintings of Jewish life before the Holocaust.

Curt Lowens was born in 1925 in East Prussia (now Poland), to a home filled with music and laughter. His father, once a respected lawyer, lost all his clients with the rise of Hitler. The family moved to Berlin in 1936, hoping to find safety in the large Jewish community there, but eventually decided to immigrate to the United States. The day before they were to depart on the SS Veendam from Rotterdam, the Germans invaded Holland, preventing the departure. In June 1943, the family was sent to Westerbork, a transit camp, and then to Auschwitz. However, they were released and immediately went underground. Curt received a false identity and became an active and valiant member of the resistance, under the name “Ben Joosten.”

After the war, in 1947, Curt, his father and stepmother immigrated to the United States; he became an actor, and met Katherine Guilford at the famous Berhoff Studio. He is a respected character actor, working onstage on Broadway and in film and television.

Photo exhibit highlights the human cost of our bounty


In the stark black-and-white photo, two small children play in and around water, as children anywhere might do on a hot day. But there’s something odd about the image: it isn’t the shore or a recreational pool they’re playing in, but a concrete irrigation canal.

“The children’s father works in the orchards,” said Rick Nahmias, creator, writer and photographer of “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers,” a recently opened exhibition at the Museum of Tolerance and of the book of the same name.

“Their mother works in the packing houses. Midday they pack a lunch and the kids bring their pet chicken, and they play in the canal…. Against all odds, these people are holding their family together. There’s something beautiful about that,” Nahmias said.”At the same time, there’s something horrifying because it’s not Santa Monica Beach or the YMCA. It’s an agricultural canal, and the water is tainted with pesticides.”

Nahmias, who is Jewish and in his early 40s, lives in the San Fernando Valley. A photographer/writer/filmmaker who has worked for corporate and organizational clients, his recent efforts have focused on what he feels “really matters”: documenting the lives and struggles of marginalized people and communities. His other photo-documentary projects include “Golden States of Grace,” a collection of images and oral histories depicting off-the-beaten-path religious groups in moments of sacrament and prayer. Another undertaking, “Last Days of the Four Seasons,” now in post-production, chronicles the lives of Holocaust survivors residing in a Catskill bungalow colony that is in the process of being shut down for good.

Nahmias said that the idea for “The Migrant Project” took root in 2002, when he was working for Arianna Huffington as a writer and researcher.

“On a break from my political writing, I spent a week at a culinary institute in Napa,” Nahmias said. “While there, I realized that no one talks about how this amazing bounty of food gets to our kitchens and tables. And I thought: ‘Let me take a stab at this.’ I felt passionate enough about this issue to leave a paying job in order to try to do something that was both creative and political.

“Another thing was that I had spent time [researching] the life of Edward R. Murrow, especially ‘Harvests of Shame,’ his groundbreaking 1960 documentary on migrant farm workers. I had not seen anything done currently that addressed that.”

In order to gather material for “The Migrant Project,” Nahmias crisscrossed California’s agricultural areas, from Calexico to Sacramento, listening to stories and taking photos. His aim was to put a human face on what he calls an “invisible and consistently neglected population.” Each of the exhibition’s 40 black-and-white photos — which are accompanied by Nahmias’ written commentary — offers a glimpse into the “collective saga about the very human cost of putting food on America’s table.”

For example, there’s Maria. She looks, unsmilingly, straight at the camera, her face framed by leaves. On the day Nahmias was scheduled to shoot Maria’s portrait, she was evicted from the trailer park where she lived with her three children. Her Latina landlady had “snooped around” and discovered Maria is HIV-positive.

“Here was an incident of bad behavior by someone in the community to someone beneath her,” Nahmias said. “Do I glaze over that? Or do I document it? I felt I had to bring that truth out and let people make of it what they will. It was amazing to me that Maria could put aside her own issues, her eviction, her fear and pain, her anger and sadness, and talk very candidly with me about her journey, what she’s doing now, how she’s surviving.”

Nahmias pointed out another photo: A laborer is in the shade of a grapevine, cutting down a bunch of grapes. He’s on one knee, his back ramrod straight, a hedge-clipper in his right hand, his left hand swathed with a protective cloth. A shaft of sunlight slants down on the grapes and makes them look like precious jewels. The light, the farm worker’s pose, his concentration — it looks like a religious moment in a classical painting.

“It had to be about 110 degrees when this photo was taken,” Nahmias said. “This gentleman was kneeling in this grape arbor all morning. I’d heard from a number of farm workers that they see their labor as a spiritual duty — helping to bring God’s bounty to the earth. Religion is one of the few shreds of dignity that farm workers have, something they can hold onto while doing enormously hard work and suffering degradation.”

Nahmias said more than a million people in California are involved in migrant farm labor, and the big growers have little or no human connection with them.

“A middleman-agent brings the growers undocumented laborers who are willing to work for three or four dollars per hour,” Nahmias said. “If a worker is owed [money], what’s he going to do? He doesn’t speak English; he can’t go to court because he works six days a week, and there are 8,000 complaints piled up ahead of his.”

While preparing this exhibition, Nahmias said he came to believe “that no other group of people in this country works as hard and is paid so little for that work. And no group plays such a vital role in preserving the lifestyle that we’re fortunate to have.

“I hope that this exhibit lays a few seeds of compassion … so that when people look at ‘the immigration issue,’ they’ll realize it’s a human issue…. We eat three meals a day, and we’re incredibly lucky to do that…. I do educational programs, I talk with the kids, I tell them, ‘Look, you’re going for your Happy Meal, this is where that tomato comes from’…. [So] by virtue of the lives we lead, as Americans and as human beings, we owe it to the migrant workers to look in their eyes and understand how we’re reflected in their eyes. We owe it to them to understand what responsibility we have.”

The exhibition continues through May 25 at the Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. “The Migrant Project” book is available at the Museum of Tolerance. Half the proceeds from book sales will go to organizations helping migrant farm laborers. For more information, call (310) 553-8403.

Spring Calendar



Trailer for the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, May 8

MARCH

Sun., March 9
Barrage in “High Strung.” The young, hip cast of Barrage, a contemporary string ensemble, will dish out high-energy virtuosity in their newest show. The international cast features six violinists/vocalists, a drummer, a bass player and a guitarist who will present an amalgam of music, song and dance with a diverse fusion of cultures and musical styles. Join in on the spine-tingling fiddle-fest. 2 p.m. $35 (adults), $20 (17 and under), $10 (Pepperdine students). Pepperdine University Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 506-4522. http://www.barrage.org.

Tue., March 11
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The renowned dance company, founded by a giant of American dance, comes to Orange County for a program that incorporates gospel, jazz and popular music, modern dance and ballet. Highlights will include Ailey’s masterpiece “Revelations,” which has been performed on hundreds of stages around the world and has been received with awe and delight since its debut in 1960. As an added bonus, ticket holders are invited to a free performance preview with a member of the Ailey company, one hour before the show. 7:30 p.m. Through March 16. $25-$85. Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (714) 556-2787. http://www.ocpac.org.

“Lessons From Bernard Rudofsky.” In a day and age where body image is the craze, an exhibition of the work of late Austrian-born Bernard Rudofsky will display innovative concepts of the body and fashion in an exhibit presented by the Getty Center Research Institute. Rudofsky, an architect, designer and critic, believed that people in Western society lost their spontaneity to design liberating, not restricting, clothing. Devoting his life to exposing the West to foreign architecture paradigms and unfamiliar customs, this breakthrough artist wrote nine books and more than 100 articles on the subject. View Rudofsky’s work accompanied by a 296-page catalogue with contributions from several talented artists. Tue.-Sun. Through June 8. $8 (parking). The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300. http://www.getty.edu/.

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” It’s difficult to separate the dashing Johnny Depp from Sweeney Todd’s character, after having seen the recent film. Although Depp won’t be on stage at this show, you can still have an up-close-and-personal look at the eerie character in an exciting theatrical performance based on the 19th-century legend of a London barber driven to madness after a judge takes his wife and child away. Sweeney Todd, played by David Hess, plots his revenge with Mrs. Lovett, played by Judy Kaye, who conjures up surprisingly tasty meat pies infused with a secret ingredient. Adapted from a book by Hugh Wheeler, the production’s music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim with musical orchestrations by Sarah Travis. 8 p.m. Through April 6. $30-$90. Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For tickets and additional show times, call (213) 628-2772. http://www.centertheatregroup.org.

Fri., March 14
“Beaufort.” The Israeli war film “Beaufort” stirred up scads of excitement this year with its Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination. Although the film didn’t win, it won many people’s hearts. Based on a novel by Ron Leshem, “Beaufort” was directed by Joseph Cedar and recreates the events prior to the Israeli troop withdrawal from the Beaufort military base in Southern Lebanon. Led by 22-year-old commander Liraz Liberti, played by Oshri Cohen, the small Israeli cohort of troops become weary of their mission when fellow soldiers are killed and injured. The film takes an in-depth look at the fear and drudgery of soldiers’ daily routines and examines the country’s ambivalence toward the 18-year presence in Lebanon. Playing in two locations: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; and Laemmle’s Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. For tickets and show times, call (310) 274-6869 or (818) 981-9811. http://www.laemmle.com/index.php.

Tori Spelling at Barnes and Noble. Admit it, you have a tinge of curiosity about how Aaron Spelling’s daughter is prolonging her 15 minutes of fame. Since playing Donna Martin on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the high-school soap-drama that started it all, Spelling has appeared on various reality TV series, wed and borne children and endured a public tussle with her mother over her alleged exclusion from her late father’s estate. Now, Tori Spelling is telling the story like it is with her new memoir, “sTORI Telling,” and today she’ll appear to sign books you can place alongside old “90210” posters. Just don’t expect her to talk about her “poor little rich girl” reputation. 7:30 p.m. Book purchase required for signing. Barnes and Noble at The Grove, 189 Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0366. http://www.bn.com.

“Strauss Meets Frankenstein” at the Long Beach Opera. In a dramatic and different double-bill, actor Michael York will perform Tennyson’s epic poem “Enoch Arden,” about the love and loss that ensues when three friends find themselves romantically entwined. The heartbreak of destiny is deepened by Richard Strauss’ rich, evocative score. The performance changes tone when the audience enters the wild, macabre underworld of Frankenstein where rodents, vampires, werewolves, John Wayne and Superman coalesce in a real monster of a musical. 8 p.m. Also March 15 and 16. $45-$95. Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Center Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach. (562) 432-5934. http://www.longbeachopera.org.

Pasadena ArtWeekend. During a fun-filled weekend featuring more than 20 exhibitions, performances and cultural activities, Pasadena will host a comprehensive celebration of fine arts, visual arts, poetry, spoken word, music, storytelling and theater. Several cultural institutions will open their doors for “ArtNight,” offering a free peek at their collections. “ArtTalk” features a variety of performances, and the weekend is rounded off with “ArtMarket,” a design open market focusing on the work of students, faculty and alumni from Art Center College of Design and Pasadena City College, which will be available for sale. Sponsored by the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs with the Arts & Culture Commission. ArtWeekend will take place at various venues and times over the course of three days, and all events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (800) 307-7977 or visit http://www.pasadenaartweekend.com.

Gypsy Kings at Cerritos Center. Starting on the shores of the French Cote d’Azur, the Gypsy Kings fused South American rumba with fiery Spanish flamenco and their colorful blend of rhythms, leading to international success and recognition on the World Music scene. Tonight they “cast their spell” for a Southern California audience. 8 p.m. $45-$100. (562) 467-8818.

R.B. Kitaj — an appreciation


Amnon Barzel, the prominent contemporary art curator who served as the first director of what is now the new Jewish Museum in Berlin, says he arrived in Germany as an Israeli but left as a Jew. It is as much a comment on current German philo-Semitism (I’ve always said “now they love you to death!”) as on its opposite.

The same kind of logic could be applied to American-born painter R. B. Kitaj, who spent much of his life in Britain and died last month in Los Angeles. Kitaj found his gradual self-definition as a Jewish artist through his connection to what came to be known (probably inaccurately) as the “School of London,” a term of his own invention.

Likely under the strong spell of Francis Bacon, the group counted among its other (sort of) Jewish “members” Lucien Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. At a time when variants of abstraction were giving way to pop art, these artists remained committed to a very different, even traditional, sort of figurative painting mode. But Freud, Kossoff and Auerbach were, in their own way, legitimate Brits, and thus presumably not as put-off by the odd ways in which so many British Jews yearn for invisibility insofar as their Jewishness is concerned. Kitaj, like other contemporary American Jews, never quite felt that self-denial, even when he felt no strong Jewish attachments. Despite the Anti-Defamation League’s attempts to persuade us otherwise, American Jews have come a long way from the fearful 1930s attitudes that Philip Roth so brilliantly describes in “The Plot Against America” — when we hopelessly yearned to be perceived as undifferentiated Americans.

Two important exhibitions examining the Jewish content of Kitaj’s work will open in Los Angeles in January — “R.B. Kitaj: Passion and Memory — Jewish Works from His Personal Collection” at the Skirball Cultural Center and “Portrait of a Jewish Artist: R.B. Kitaj in Text and Image,” at UCLA’s Archive of Jewish Culture. These shows will offer the opportunity to calibrate just how “Jewish” Kitaj’s art really is — as distinct from his rhetoric about art-making in the diaspora. I doubt that Kitaj would have come up with his two “Diasporist Manifestos” (1989 and 2007) had he not lived so long in the comfort/discomfort of a London that in turns admired and reviled him as an artist — and, he felt, as a Jew.

Kitaj’s art’s connection to Judaism is not just that of a “diasporist” artist, however — always on the outside in some indefinable way, and yet also wholly celebrated as mainstream. After all, this is an artist who was long represented by the prestigious Marlborough Galleries, and his portraits of friends, even notable Jews such as Isaiah Berlin and Philip Roth, don’t necessarily suggest that his subject matter is Jewish — or do they?

Nevertheless, it should be noted that Kitaj was not the first artist to find relationships between the Shoah and the Passion of Christ, though his “Passion” works, which are included in the Skirball exhibition, reflect Kitaj’s intense need as an artist to anchor himself in the traditions of western art — which is largely dominated by Christian iconography — while also figuring his own way through issues that range from recapturing bits of Jewish history to working through Jewish ideas of thinkers, such as Martin Buber.

I first met Ron Kitaj in the late 1960s, when I was living and working in Berkeley and Kitaj came there to lecture. We became casual friends and remained so; I visited with him and his late wife, Sandra Fisher a few times in London, and then met up with him again much later in Westwood, where he moved after exiling himself from London. In 1965, I was blown away by Kitaj’s first New York gallery exhibition, at Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, which I saw when I was still working at The Jewish Museum. My interest certainly had nothing to do with his being a Jewish artist (I doubt that I even knew he was Jewish), but rather, his obvious talent. Here was a serious painter — in the age of Pop/Op and post-AbEx Color Field and all the other “isms” of the day — who was a skilled draughtsman with a very sure sense of using images, a sensibility that leapfrogged from that of the early 20th-century abstractionists and colorists right over a slew of subsequent modes, and did so with extraordinary self-confidence. Kitaj may not have been the unmatched draughtsman of his era that he claimed to be, but he was an amazingly talented artist, with breathtaking control of line and a gorgeous sense of color. His work is filled with imagery both suggestive and elusive, and often confounding.

Critical reaction to Kitaj’s work was often problematic, ranging from high praise to the damning reviews that ultimately led to his 1997 departure from London. The fluctuations were probably more the result of his not being easily pigeonholed — art writers need comfortable categorizations no less than anyone else — than because of the evolution of his work. Indeed, given the many decades of Kitaj’s productivity, it’s astonishing to consider how consistent his work was — in style, if not in subject matter.

That steadiness, too, has been off-putting to some critics, conditioned as we are to save our highest regard

Fantastical images inspire Jay and Spiegelman; JCafeLA does it again


Fantastical Images Inspire Jay, Spiegelman

At the threshold of commerce and art, there once existed a world where illusion, deception and transformation inhabited the fantasy realm of carnivals and circus sideshows. Noblemen would stand beside paupers to witness armless freaks and nefarious gamblers conjuring tricks that stirred the imagination.

Although such unsavory entertainments may linger in fringe cultures today, the world of “Carnivale” had been relegated to an HBO series (which only lasted two seasons) and had largely disappeared — until now.

Performer, scholar and sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay reintroduced Los Angeles to the artifacts of this extinct culture with “Extraordinary Exhibitions,” which recently closed a four-month run at the Hammer Museum.

Featuring more than 80 broadsides from his collection of eccentric playbills, the single-sheet advertisements dating back to the 17th century are printed with exaggerated statements (“Beheading A Lady! The Greatest Sensational Achievement of the Age!”) and display unusual drawings touting hermaphrodites, a canon-ball juggler, an armless dulcimer player, enchanted monkeys and contortionists. The exhibition demonstrated Jay’s interest in fantastical amusements, novel characters and the art of deception, which he recently discussed with Pulitzer Prize-winning comics artist Art Spiegelman at “Hammer Conversations.”

“Collecting is the only form of sanctified greed,” said Jay, commenting on the challenge of justifying sole ownership of a celebrated collection.

He tempers any guilt he feels by sharing his collection through museum exhibitions, book writing or public engagements, and he delights in any opportunity to perform Carney, the inventive jargon designed to both entice and confuse show-goers with its rapid iterations and irregular speech patterns.

When Spiegelman, whose own underground comic art derives inspiration from the content and style of the broadsides, prodded, “You’ve wasted your whole life on this Ricky.”

Jay replied, “Yeah, I could’ve drawn comics.”

Still, he proudly proclaims himself an avatar of fringe, “I’m fascinated by high-end low.” And he cited some riveting examples: Mary Toth, a woman who gave birth to rabbits and a king who certified that the birth was real (“I’m not sure which King George it was; let’s hope it was the one who went mad”); 29-inch-tall German magician Matthias Buchinger, who was armless and legless, played six instruments, married four times and fathered 14 children; “geeks” who bit the heads off chickens and drank their blood; a singing mouse (which Spiegelman revealed was the character inspiration for “Maus”); and a Talmudic scholar who pressed a pin through a page of Talmud and could tell you exactly what word the pin pierced on subsequent pages. There was also a rabbi who earned a living as a mentalist.

Although their passions are as divergent as their personalities, Jay and Spiegelman met in their appreciation of underground arts. Both gushed over the graphics, typeface and calligraphic style of the broadsides. They approached crude subjects with scholarly inquiry, addressing the content of a frame-by-frame projection.

The broadsides, designed to advertise a transient event, have become coveted artifacts and have risen to the level of art. Jay’s collection has been widely received across the nation, suggesting a renewed interest in a culture long considered befitting only the lowest class of human life.

And that’s the funny thing about art — one person’s vulgar is another’s Picasso.

JCafeLA: Much Ado About Dylan

A quiet Sunday in Beverly Hills had Bob Dylan impersonators in black leather jackets chain-smoking at the mic, mumbling incoherently in their efforts to capture the legendary artist’s droll personality.

The Thanksgiving holiday may have slimmed attendance, but 220 JCafeLA loyals snagged a sneak peak at behind-the-scenes footage of the Weinstein Company’s new film “I’m Not There,” where the prophetic musician is portrayed by multiple actors, including Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale, to name a few. Dylan incarnations on screen and in the flesh flashed through the crowd gathered at the smoky bar Aqualounge in Beverly Hills.

With the atmosphere a bit contrived, it was no wonder the crowd split up, choosing either to nurse icy drinks as couch potatoes or attend to the bizarre entertainments on stage. Emcees and actors Richard Rubin and Shayna Rose enacted a parody sketch of a Jewish couple on a date, and contest winner Ethan Samuels donned a rainbow-afro, sang a cappella and blended Bob Dylan and Borat-speak to take home the big prize: $100, movie tickets and a DVD player.

JCafeLA, a networking platform for young Jewish professionals, deserves credit for the effort.
An audience member re-enacts an incident at the 1998 Grammys when an overzealous fan jumped on stage with Bob Dylan, his chest scrawled with the phrase “Soy Bomb” at JCafeLA Nov. 18.

Yo! This week it’s Yatzpan, YULA and Yelchin


Saturday the 24th

Opening today is mixed-media artist Marcie Kaufman’s exhibition “Beyond the Line,” which “explores the idea of line in the context of Israel.” Painting, photography and digital media are merged to raise questions about physical lines — such as borders, boundaries, walls, gates, wires and trees — as well as conceptual lines and limitations.

Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825, 825 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-8272. ‘ TARGET=’_blank’>www.yulagirls.org.

Tuesday the 27th

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Beginning this week, USC Hillel Art Gallery presents “Sleepwalking: An Exhibition of Paintings by Eugene Yelchin.” Included are works from two of the Russian Jewish artist’s series, “Sleepwalking” and “Section 5,” both of which explore his feelings of displacement, first as a Jew in Russia, and later as an immigrant in America. An opening reception and conversation with Yelchin takes place March 25.

Opening reception: Sun., March 25, 4-6 p.m. Through May 14. 3300 S. Hoover St., Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135. ‘ TARGET=’_blank’>www.dreamhouseensemble.com.

Friday the 30th

MOCA’s latest exhibition reveals the early years of the ‘Feminist Revolution’


That women corporate executives are now indicted for malfeasance reminds me of the old Zionist litany that: “We won’t have a normal Jewish state until it includes gangsters and whores.”

If the glass ceiling hasn’t exactly been shattered, it does show a bit of leakage, although it’s still difficult to determine comfort levels about a woman being third in line for the presidency — or even a viable candidate.

Does this move toward egalitarianism now constitute a state of normalcy?

These are just some of the questions that make it worth contemplating the significance of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s bold look back at a pivotal period for women in art in “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” an exhibition that opens March 4 at The Geffen Contemporary and runs through July 16, 2007.

Women now make up about 30 percent of the membership of the Association of Art Museum Directors; that’s a huge difference from the early 1970s, when I first became a member and there were only a few women included.

Revisiting the once hot topic of feminism ought to be more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and the inclusiveness of MOCA’s exhibition — curated by former MOCA curator Connie Butler, currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — suggests a new level of seriousness that ought to be of special interest to Jewish viewers.

We, too, have seen a shift in the way Jews are viewed in the society.

We’re now a long way from the anti-Semitism of the 1930s and 1940s, when fears of “special pleading” kept many Jews from boldly protesting events in Europe that we subsequently came to call the Holocaust. But that doesn’t mean we should shun the topic of anti-Semitism, how it shaped the role of Jews in American society, and how it once gave us a special sensitivity to the plight of other groups subject to prejudice and indignity.

The MOCA exhibition “will highlight the crucial 15-year period between 1965 and 1980 during which feminism became a cultural force, and the discourse of feminism intersected with the practices of artists around the world.” This exhibition is not about a particular style, but about attitude and about artists positioning themselves in relation to the art world: As women, as feminists and, foremost, as artists. And that should make for an engaging experience of our perception of this art. And once again, Jewish analogies abound, since there has long been discussion about whether there is any such thing as Jewish art” or whether there are “Jewish artists.”

Regarding either Jewish or feminist art, we may ultimately be stuck with Justice Potter Stewart’s comment about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” And perhaps that will be the most valuable contribution of this exhibition.

Just as I have known artists who didn’t want to be seen in a Jewish context, fearing it might diminish some larger connotations of their work, I have known women artists who wouldn’t want to be shown in Washington’s Museum for Women in the Arts. Strange, since the artist never knows how she will be absorbed by the viewer.

Do we know what people are thinking when they look at Chagall’s painting of a Jew wearing tefillin at the Art Institute of Chicago?

Do people looking at the abstract color-field paintings of Helen Frankenthaler or the sculptures of Louise Nevelson — two women, artists, and Jews — make associations to specific gender or ethnic issues?

Probably not, since they are among the handful of successful women artists who overcame typecasting to make it to the mainstream prior to the advent of feminism, which may suggest why they are not included in this exhibition.

Using scholar Peggy Phelan’s definition, as stated in the show’s advance materials, that “feminism is the conviction that gender has been, and continues to be, a fundamental category for the organization of culture” and that “the pattern of that organization favors men over women,” the exhibition suggests an enormous diversity both in the range of work and in the range of attitudes about what feminism means to women artists (presumably men aren’t capable of expressing ideas about feminism in their work).

Again, Jewish analogies abound, since there is surely no Jewish style, but various Jews have expressed themselves Jewishly in their art, while others have emphatically eschewed such an approach. And what about artists embracing issues that don’t “belong” to them? For example, artists using the Holocaust or racism as a theme, even if they themselves have no personal relation to either issue.

As with any interesting and provocative exhibition, “WACK” promises to raise more questions than it likely will be able to answer. Which may well be all to the good, since we surely need thoughtful questions more than we need simplistic answers. Jewish viewers might approach this work by considering whether there’s any connection between feminism and Jewishness in the work of the many Jewish women in this exhibition (indeed, so many they can’t all be listed here).

Is it fair to suggest that in the 1970s Jews were still in the forefront of what might be thought liberal politics, and that this explains Jewish women embracing feminism? Or did Jewish women feel a special need for stridency, considering the long tradition of male domination in traditional Jewish religious practice. (Yes, I know, women have “special” obligations, such as lighting Shabbat candles; but let’s admit that the Jewish tradition has relegated women to the back of the bus. Indeed, even today’s gender-sensitive liturgies, citing the four so-called matriarchs, omit the two poor handmaidens who went through the pains of childbirth to help make that full dozen of Jacob’s boys!)

There’s no question that such issues inform the work of Chicago — one of feminist art’s most vocal and visible presences. But Jewish questions also enrich the work of Eleanor Antin, Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Hél?ne Aylon (the latter, strangely, missing from this show), and it will be worth pondering, in the presence of the work, in what way they do or don’t feel evident in the work of Eva Hesse, Miriam Schapiro and others.

Growing taste for kosher boils in U.S. melting pot


Hispanic and Asian foods are so different — in taste, textures, ingredients (even the utensils with which they are eaten) — that it seemed a strange pairing when the annual Expo Comida Latina was combined with the All Asian Food trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center recently.

Yet among the 500 exhibitors offering food service establishments everything from refrigeration equipment to signage, etc., there was one with an “intangible” asset: kosher certification, something that intrigues ethnic food providers of all stripes.

Sitting alone in a simple booth with a few brochures and a backdrop banner declaring, “Star-K Kosher Certification / Kosher Supervision Worldwide / A Vital Ingredient in Your Success,” Steve Sichel, director of development for the Baltimore-based agency, fought off fatigue. He had raced to the airport right after Simchat Torah to fly across the country overnight.

Sichel is no stranger to conferences where he is the only man wearing a kippah: “I attend these kinds of shows all over the world.”

Kosher has come a long way from designating merely a set of obscure dietary restrictions that are strictly observed by only a minuscule fraction of the world’s population. According to a 2005 Mintel Organization International report, Kosher is a $14.6 billion industry and ranks among the fastest-growing segments in the retail food business.

“Outside of Israel and North America, Star-K has offices in Europe, Asia and Latin America,” Sichel reported. “Obviously, our consumers are not in India and China, but a growing number of food processing plants are interested in kosher certification in order to broaden their export markets, and they call on our mashgihim based in Bombay and Shanghai.”

The increased availability and desirability of kosher food, whether imported or domestic, is reflected in its astonishing growth rate. “While retail food sales grew at a rate of 6 percent last year, kosher food sales grew 15 percent,” Sichel told the audience attending his expo seminar, “Kosher Certification 101.”

The turnout for Sichel’s workshop was small: only a minyan of men and women, both foreigners and locals. Undiscouraged, Sichel went through his complete bilingual (English and Spanish) slide presentation: “The Latest Wrap About Kosher Hispanic Food — Lo Ultimo en Comida Latina Kosher.”

As Sichel likes to tell his audiences, “You don’t have to be Jewish to have kosher products.” In fact, Star-K is a member of the American Tortilla Industry Association, and Los Angeles’ own Tumaro’s Gourmet Tortillas — the country’s best-selling flavored (savory and sweet) tortilla brand — is certified kosher.

Nor do you have to be Jewish to buy, consume and enjoy kosher products. “The second largest consumer group for kosher food is Muslims,” Sichel noted. “There are 10 million Muslims in the United States, and in the absence of widespread halal certification, they have come to rely on kosher certification.”

According to Sichel, others who prefer to eat kosher include Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians and health-conscious consumers.

“The kosher symbol is seen as an indication that there is another set of eyes keeping watch on what the company is doing,” he said.

The growing number of non-Jewish consumers of kosher food has not been lost on the supermarket chains.

“Given a choice, supermarkets prefer to stock kosher products — particularly products whose kashrut certification comes from a reliable agency.” he said.

Nor did this growth escape the attention of Diversified Business Communications, the company that owns and operates Expo Comida Latina and All Asian Food Expo, as well as Kosherfest, the country’s largest exhibition of kosher foods. In fact, Kosherfest — which was founded by Menachem Lubinsky 18 years ago and purchased from him by Diversified four years ago — was combined with New York City’s joint Expo Comida Latina and All Asian Food Expo in mid-November.

According to Brian Randall, Diversified’s group vice president for ethnic and cultural foods, Kosherfest, was not held in Los Angeles this year because of an unwritten agreement with Kosher World that the latter would hold kosher trade shows on the West Coast, as it did last spring in Anaheim.

In the meantime, Kosher World has been sold, and the brand dissolved, leaving it up to Randall and Diversified to decide whether to bring Kosherfest to Los Angeles next year.

Randall predicted more avenues for the growth of kosher products.

“We are going to see kosher kid products in all cuisines,” he said. “In addition, organic food is a nexus with kosher food for the growing healthy food market. Jewish parents want the best for their kids. Look for major kosher food producers, like Manischewitz, to introduce organic lines under their labels.”

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday the 4th

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“The Simpsons'” annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween episode airs tonight, featuring three supernatural tales, including one with a Jewish nod called “You Gotta Know When to Golem.” The story has Bart bringing to life a Golem, voiced by Richard Lewis, to do his evil bidding. The segment also features Fran Drescher in the role she was born to play: the Jewish monster’s bride.

8 p.m. on Fox. ” target=”_blank”>www.lamoth.org.

Tuesday the 7th

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“Girl Culture” photographer and documentarian Lauren Greenfield most recently has snapped shots of girls and women residing in Southern Florida’s Renfrew Center, an eating disorder treatment clinic. Their painful struggles with anorexia and bulimia are depicted in Greenfield’s new book of photographs and documentary, both titled “THIN.” Selected images from the publication are on view at Fahey/Klein Gallery through Nov. 25. The film debuts Nov. 14 on HBO.

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Thursday the 9th
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Friday the 10th

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Q-and-A with Leonard Nimoy


Leonard Nimoy — best known as “Star Trek's” logical Mr. Spock — wants the Griffith Observatory to go where no observatory has gone before. So he became one of the staunchest advocates of the landmark's mammoth renovation and expansion project, along with his wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, donating $1 million toward its new Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater. The auditorium, housed in a circular drum clad in perforated metal panels, is so elegantly futuristic it could serve as a set for the planned “Star Trek XI” film, which will not involve Nimoy.

The 75-year-old actor-director, who helmed two of the “Star Trek” films, has left filmmaking and fictional space travel behind to focus on philanthropy and photography. Last Friday, he was busy preparing for his latest exhibition, “The Photography of Leonard Nimoy,” at the Archer Gallery in Brentwood. But he set aside time to talk with The Journal about the observatory, where he hopes visitors will learn more about what “Trek” dubbed the “final frontier.”

Jewish Journal: How did you get involved with the Griffith project?

Leonard Nimoy: About five years ago, my wife, Susan, got up one morning and read a piece in the Los Angeles Times about how the observatory was shutting down for renovations, and that they needed funds. We immediately contacted the key people and learned about their plans and hopes and dreams. One thing we discovered was that while the Griffith has had a Planetarium where you could see laser shows, they've never had a theater for presenting films, lectures and the exchange of ideas. I was drawn to the theater because of the obvious connections: I explored the stars, the planets and the galaxies on “Star Trek,” and I got my professional start in the theater.

JJ: Specifically, the Yiddish theater.

LN: My parents were immigrants from the shtetl, so I grew up speaking Yiddish and was able to perform with visiting theater troupes in L.A. as a young man.

JJ: It wasn't until you were in your 30s that you got your big break playing the Vulcan Spock on “Star Trek.” Which came first, your association with science fiction or your interest in science?

LN: Actually I've been interested in physics and mechanical issues since I was a child in Boston, where I attended science programs at the neighborhood settlement house [an institution that helped poor immigrants and their families]. Also, one of the first movies I ever did was a [1952] science fiction film called “Zombies of the Stratosphere” — how's that for starters (he laughs)?

JJ: What did you play?

LN: A zombie, of course.

JJ: Your character intended to build an H-bomb to blast the earth out of its orbit. I remember a giant green poster from that movie in your den, across from the last pair of pointy Vulcan ears you wore on the “Star Trek” TV series.

LN: Both are still there. But of course it was “Star Trek” that introduced me to a host of information about outer space, some of it speculative, some of it real. “Warp drive” was a riff on Einstein's Theory of Relativity [where you could travel vast distances if you surpassed the speed of light].

JJ: In astronomy, an event horizon is the gravity field of a black hole where light cannot escape. I trust that visitors will have no trouble exiting the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater?

LN: For us, “event” horizon is meant to indicate a place where things happen — anything from movies to live downloads of outer space experiences to NASA projects in progress. The very first film that will show there is a documentary about the Griffith's renovation, which I narrated.

JJ: As a philanthropist, you've endowed projects as diverse as a concert series at Temple Israel of Hollywood to artist's fellowships at museums throughout the country. In the past you've given anonymously, but recently you've allowed your name to be associated with some gifts.

LN: In Judaism, there is a philosophical understanding that the highest form of charity is that which is given anonymously. The reason is that when you give to an individual, that person could feel an obligation to you if he knows whom you are. [Today,] when Susan and I give publicly to an institution, we do so in the hope that it will encourage others to do the same, so there's the difference.

JJ: Susan told a Canadian newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen, that when you announced the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater, the observatory's phone “rang off the hook with all these 'Star Trek' fans. They gave money like mad.

LN: That's exactly what we had hoped would happen…. Our gift-giving comes from a very Jewish place. It's the belief that the exploration of ideas is vital to the expansion of the human consciousness of who we are, and what we're on earth to do, which I strongly believe is tikkun olam the healing of the world.

JJ: That sounds a lot like the outlook expressed by the fictional characters of “Star Trek's” USS Enterprise, although they'd perhaps call it the “healing of the universe.” So what would Spock think of Griffith's grand re-opening?

LN: He would think it was a very logical event taking place here. Very logical.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday the 21st

TV stars perform bonafide rock ‘n’ roll at a Ben Gurion Society

Keren’s Corner

It’s an old episode but a fairly new story. Last year, “Grey’s Anatomy” featured a plot line about the high risk of breast cancer among Jewish women. This year, Hadassah delves into the subject with an informative panel discussion about the episode, but more broadly, about this trend. “Can TV Be Good For Your Health? How One Show is Helping the Fight Against Breast Cancer” takes place on Tues., Oct. 24 at the University of Judaism.

Panelists include former “Grey’s” writer Mimi Schmir, cancer survivor and health advocate Selma Schimmel and genetic counselor Joyce Seldon. TV and film writer and director Linda Shayne moderates.

7 p.m. $25. University of Judasim, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P., (310) 276-0036 or (818) 343-9316.

benefit this evening. Battle of the Network Stars Band features current and former TV actors, or “actors.” Bob Guiney aside, however, you’ll also catch James Denton of “Desperate Housewives,” Greg Grunberg of “Heroes,” Hugh Laurie of “House” and Brad Savage of … ummm … yeah, he falls into that “former” category. They rock it out for ya post cocktails, dinner and a silent auction.

7 p.m. $125 (tickets). Attendees must be current members of the Ben Gurion Society, which requires a minimum 2006 gift of $1,000 to The Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3219.

Sunday the 22nd

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Monday the 23rd

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Tuesday the 24th

The dazzling compositions of Miriam Wosk come to the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Wosk’s first solo museum exhibition, “Euphoria,” features three large-scale pieces. The crafty works, paintings embedded with a bevy of everything from pearls, to crystals to starfish, walk the line between excess and exactitude. They are on view through Nov. 25.

Bergamot Station G1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 586-6488.

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The ambitious Arpa Film Festival aims to forum “films exploring Diaspora, war, exile, genocide, multiculturalism and dual identity,” according to founder Sylvia Minassian. Two such films featured in this year’s fest (both documentaries) have Jewish perspectives. “Awake Zion” explores the relationship between reggae culture and Judaism, and “Young, Jewish and Left” focuses on radical Jewish communities.

Oct. 25-27. Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 663-1882.

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Thursday is looking up as UCLA Live welcomes Fes Festival of World Sacred Music to Royce Hall. “The Spirit of Fes: Paths to Hope” features world artists including early music singer Susan Hellauer from Anonymous 4, South Indian vocalist Aruna Sairam, Lebanese American percussionist Jamey Haddad and Moroccan Sufi ensemble Daqqa of Taroudant, performing Judaic, Christian, Muslim and Hindu sacred music.

$15-$45. 8 p.m. UCLA Royce Hall, Westwood. (310) 825-2101.

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The uplift continues today with the opening of the film, “Conversations With God,” based on the 1996 book by Neale Donal Walsch. The movie stars Henry Czerny (“The Pink Panther”) and is produced and directed by “What Dreams May Come” producer Stephen Simon. The film tells Walsch’s true journey from homelessness to best-selling author and spiritual guru.

Bedouin life from a child’s eye view through a camera


A young Bedouin boy casually leans against a rough-hewn wooden table, his kaffiyeh blowing in the wind. Laid before him are some of the traditional tools of Bedouin coffee-making, essential to their culture of hospitality. A mortar and pestle for grinding the beans, a large cast-iron pan for roasting them, and a bacraj, or coffeepot.

Behind him is a section of a cinder-block wall, a sign of the permanent housing that is gradually replacing traditional Bedouin tents. English writing appears across the chest of the Western-style sweatshirt he wears beneath his jalabiyya jacket.

The photograph is part of an exhibition titled, “Passages Between the Past and Future: Photography by Bedouin Children of Abu Kaf, Israel,” which continues through Sept. 30 at the Venice Arts Gallery. According to Kim Frumin, the educator, artist and Fulbright Fellow who designed and implemented the project, this and other photos in the exhibition accurately show the fluidity between tradition and modernity at Abu Kaf. Frumin sees the boy’s relaxed pose, amid artifacts ancient and new, as epitomizing a “great harmony … between the past and the future” in the children’s lives.

The seeds of this project were sown in the summer of 2003, when Frumin visited Israel on a community service trip. Walking through the Bedouin village of Wadi El Na’am, Frumin felt like the “pied piper of 35 millimeter film.” Fascinated by the camera slung over her shoulder, the children followed her around, excitedly calling out in Hebrew: “Take my picture!”

Frumin was intrigued by the fact that “in a village without water or electricity … the children were so excited about the camera.” Concerned with escalating tensions between the Negev Bedouins and Israel over land disputes and access to basic services, she thought about ways she might help create bridges between the cultures.

“I realized that my experience and expertise lay in art education and in working with different cultures,” she said.

With the children’s excitement for photography fresh in her mind, Frumin decided to use art “as a tool for communication and expression.”

From December 2004 through April 2005, Frumin worked with 10 youths at a school in the recently recognized Bedouin village of Abu Kaf. The students practiced taking and developing pictures — none had ever used a camera before — and examined photographs taken by other children around the world.

Frumin and the children also “spent a lot of time with the idea … of how the camera gives you new eyes to see everyday things in new ways,” she said. “I hoped that spending time examining and reflecting on their community would foster a pride in their unique culture and a love for Israel.”

Though shy at first, the students quickly became eager to write and talk about their culture.

“The project tapped into a wellspring of thoughts [and] feelings about their community and their traditions,” Frumin said. They also “knew they had a unique perspective to share, the experience of being a Bedouin child,” a notion that was very “empowering” for the children.

In another photo, a young girl is counting on her fingers as she kneels for prayer. Frumin explained that “she is praising Allah the prescribed number of times and is showing how kids remember to count the correct number.”

The principal of the Bedouin school, Ali Abu Kaf, has been so impressed by the children’s “work, their ideas … and the power of their writing and photographs,” that he suggested Frumin undertake an expanded second round of the project. This time, however, he’d like the Bedouin children to partner with children from Jewish kibbutzim in the area.

As Frumin said, “the project would be a ‘living together’ — not just tolerating each other or existing together — project.” Frumin hopes to begin this second round in February or March and is “actively looking for sponsors.”

“Passages Between the Past and Future: Photography by Bedouin Children of Abu Kaf, Israel,” through Sept. 30. Venice Arts Gallery, 1809 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-8533.

Can Artwork Mend Fences?


Before the Beirut airport closed during Israel’s recent war with Hezbollah, a shipment of pillows, shawls and jackets sewn by Palestinian women living in Beirut refugee camps was sent off to Los Angeles’ Craft and Folk Art Museum.

These objects, all exquisitely ornamented, were destined to become part of the exhibition, “Sovereign Threads: A History of Palestinian Embroidery,” where they would share space with richly decorated fare dating from 1830 to the 1940s. The show opened last month as Israel fought Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas near the Gaza Strip border.

While images of bombed cities and wounded and suffering victims on all sides dominated the news, “Threads” offered a different window into the region: a rare opportunity to view Palestinian embroidery, considered among the finest in the world, in what is perhaps the first show of its kind in Los Angeles.

On display are gowns embellished with vivid crimsons and detailed geometrical designs, symbolizing a girl’s maturation and readiness for marriage (muted clothing is reserved for matrons).

A married woman’s headdress from 1930s Bethlehem sports a tall, conical cap studded with Ottoman coins, coral beads and silken embroidery — all connected to the delicate silver jewelry that was intended to hang over her dress.

Other gowns glow with wide swathes of multicolored, iridescent silk or cotton cloth, covered with stitching so vibrant it appears to undulate. The colors include magentas, oranges, reds and golds; the meticulous patterns resemble Cyprus trees, double-edged combs or acanthus leaves and cups (symbolizing health and happiness), among other designs. Five circles on chest pieces from the once-Christian city of Ramallah represent Jesus and the four Apostles.

Additional new works are for sale in the museum’s gift shop, with all proceeds to go toward human services in Palestinian refugee camps, museum director Maryna Hrushetska told The Journal.

“Threads” (which closes on Oct. 8) has proven so popular, she added, that museum attendance is up more than 25 percent. It’s the latest success for an official who has helped put her once-imperiled institution on the map on Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, with well-received exhibitions, such as the current “Tigers and Jaguars: L.A.’s Asian-Latino Art Phenomenon” (through Oct. 29), which burst stereotypes about folk art. “Sovereign Threads” follows suit — but it weaves a story that may raise eyebrows for some in the Jewish community.While the show does not overtly refer to the recent fighting near the Gaza Strip, or to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, it subtly but unmistakably depicts the conflict from the Palestinian point of view.

The exhibition begins with a map of the region that makes no mention of Israel (it notes “Palestinian subdivisions according to the British Mandate,” 1917-1948). A timeline in the show does not mention the ancient Israelite kingdoms, or the subsequent (and significant) Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Nor does it describe Arab offensives that precipitated at least two wars, as described by an analyst for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The omissions are significant, several analysts explained.

“All this effectively deligitimizes the historical Jewish presence in the land of Israel,” said Yehudit Barsky, director of the division on the Middle East and international terrorism for the American Jewish Committee.

Barsky added that one exhibition sponsor, the A.M. Qattan Foundation also funds organizations such as the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and Orient House, “the symbol of Palestinian aspirations for autonomy and solidarity in Israeli Occupied Jerusalem,” according to the Web site, orienthouse.org.Even the title of the exhibition — and Hrushetska’s take on it — suggests it crosses cultural boundaries into the realm of advocacy for the Palestinians and their cause.

“The term ‘sovereign’ describes self-rule, autonomy, and independence — all still painfully absent for Palestinians in the political sphere,” Hrushetska wrote in the “Threads” brochure. “However, from a cultural perspective, the term takes on a more comprehensive meaning…. The costumes and embroidery on display are living records of Palestinian ‘cultural sovereignty’…. As they revive a culture in peril, the Palestinian women who create contemporary embroidery in refugee camps are also preserving their own imperiled dignity.”

When asked whether the show is biased, Hrushetska doesn’t entirely say no. She ties “Threads” to a continuing debate among curators over what has come to be called “the politics of representation”: Just who gets to tell a people’s story?The debate emerged in sharp focus when museums attempted to describe Native American history from a United States perspective some years ago, Hrushetska said.

“As a curatorial policy, if I’m going to show somebody’s culture, I will show it from their perspective — that’s the only authentic way,” Hrushetska said. “If we did a history of Israeli embroidery, how would the Jewish community feel if Palestinians narrated it?”

Hrushetska, who grew up in Chicago and is in her late 30s, is quick to acknowledge that she is an unconventional museum director. Her background is in international relations, not art history or museum management. She believes that most people mistakenly view folk art as “quaint, nostalgic or something their grandparents used to do.”

She wishes to help reframe traditional art in a contemporary, relevant light, while promoting cross-cultural understanding in Los Angeles and around the globe.

Yet such issues were far from her mind when she caught her first glimpse of Palestinian textiles 18 months ago, around the time she arrived at the museum. The setting was the ultramodern Venice home of 75-year-old artist Huguette Caland — daughter of Lebanon’s first president, Bishara al Khuri — who is known for her own artwork, as well as for opening her home to salons frequented by Los Angeles’ cultural community. In a corner of Caland’s vast studio, Hrushetska spotted a brown velvet chaise lounge covered with pillows embroidered by Palestinian women in Beirut refugee camps.

Hrushetska, a Ukrainian American who grew up in a house filled with her grandmother’s embroidery, immediately assumed the pillows were Ukrainian.”Even though I consider myself a globalist, I defaulted to my own heritage,” she said.

But she learned that her connection wasn’t completely off mark: Eastern Orthodox Christians (including Ukrainians) reportedly made pilgrimages to Bethlehem, via Ramallah, from the 15th century onward. Some purchased embroidery samples as souvenirs of the Holy Land, which later entered the visual language of Ukrainian decor.

Caland told Hrushetska her pillows were created in workshops sponsored by the Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps (best known by its Arabic language acronym, INAASH), a United Nations non-governmental organization co-founded by Caland in 1969. INAASH provides refugee women with embroidery materials so they can supplement their incomes through international sale of their handiwork, Caland said.

“Because I’m very sensitive to the plight of women in conflict and war, I decided we need to show this work,'” Hrushetska told The Journal. She believes the work deserves to be shown, as well, because “Palestinian embroidery and costumes are known as some of the most beautiful in the folk art world.”

Through Caland and other Arab American contacts, Hrushetska obtained funding for the exhibition (she declines to name the amount) and a curator, Hanan Karaman Munayyer, who has studied and collected Palestinian costumes (along with her husband, Farah) since 1987.

The exhibition concludes with a video depicting women sewing in an INAASH workshop: “Our financial situation is hardly bearable, that’s why we are working,” one participant says on camera.

“After six or seven hours, I can hardly hold the needle,” another woman says.The museum gift shop has already sold almost $15,000 worth of their handiwork, Hrushetska said; a number of items remain for sale, although the embroiderers ceased working during the recent fighting and were unable to send additional fare while the Beirut airport was closed. (It has now reopened.)

So how can prospective buyers be sure their money will not fund anti-Israel causes? Hrushetska responds that INAASH is recognized as a U.N.-sanctioned organization. (The group did sign onto a letter calling for the Palestinian right of return, according to the Web site administered by Al-Awda — The Palestinian Right of Return Coalition.)

When asked if “Threads” could be perceived as unfair, even irresponsible during a time when Israel is at war with Hamas and Hezbollah, Hrushetska emphasized that the show was conceived long before the current crisis.

“But enough of this,” she added. “I know the history of the region, and this and that U.N. resolution, and I’m tired of it. These conflicts will only diminish when we start to humanize each other…. I think that this is an important exhibition for people to see so they start to humanize Palestinians.

“This show is not about the history of blame,” she added. “It’s about recognizing the dire situation that these women are in, not making a judgment on how they got there. It’s saying, ‘These women deserve to be recognized, because they’ve created something beautiful and relevant.'”

A panel discussion, “Culture, Conflict and Identity,” in conjunction with the “Threads” exhibition, will take place Sept. 17 at the Goethe-Institute, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, Los Angeles. (323) 937-4230.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, July 15
Pretty Charlize Theron plays chairwoman for Los Angeles Free Clinic’s ninth annual “Extravaganza for the Senses.” The food and wine event features tastes from some 40 local restaurants — ranging from high-end Angelini Osteria to lower-end but highly tasty Poquito Más — and some 100 wineries. Also on the bill are live music and a silent auction.

6-10 p.m. $90 (general), $200 (VIP). Twentieth Century Fox, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 330-1670 ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, July 16
Make some time for “Zero Hour.” West Coast Jewish Theatre’s latest is this one-man show, written by and starring Jim Brochu, as Zero Mostel. The play tells Mostel’s life story, from his youth growing up on New York’s Lower East Side, through his early highs as a stand-up comedian and lows when he was blacklisted, to his ultimate huge success on Broadway.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sun.). $20-$30. Egyptian Arena Theatre, 1625 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 595-4849.

 

 

Monday, July 17
Funny girls perform for tonight’s charity benefit, “4 Women For Women,” supporting the Women’s Clinic and Family Counseling Center. Julia Sweeney hosts, with Laraine Newman, Melanie Chartoff, Ann Randolph and Terrie Silverman each offer some comic relief. Also scheduled is a silent auction, special eBay auction of black bras worn by the stars and a kissing booth with “special guest smoochers.”

6:30 p.m. (reception), 8 p.m. (performances). $100. The Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 376-9339. ” target=”_blank”>www.womens-clinic.org.

 

Tuesday, July 18
Jack Rutberg Fine Arts goes big for summer, offering an exhibition of more than 50 major paintings, drawings, original prints and sculpture by heavyweight artists including David Hockney, Ruth Weisberg, Arthur Dove and Marc Chagall. “Summer Selections: Portraits, Places, Perspectives” runs through Sept. 9.

357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 938-5222. www.jackrutbergfinearts.com” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Wednesday, July 19
An expansive art exhibition can also be viewed, and purchased, at the Workmen’s Circle. “Curating a Better World: 10th Anniversary Show” features donated works from artists who have participated in the Circle’s 62 previous exhibitions over the last 10 years.

Through Aug. 25. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, July 20
Got a kitschy song in your heart? Head to the Aero Theatre for the first night of its “Can’t Stop the Musicals” series. In this installment, the series pays homage to the guilty pleasures from “an era not normally thought of as rich territory for filmed musicals: the 1970s and 1980s.” Tonight, that translates to a screening of Menahem Golan’s “The Apple.” Head back other nights for “Flashdance,” “Rock ‘N Roll High School,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Tommy,” “Hair” and “All That Jazz.”

July 20-30. 7:30 p.m. $6-$9. Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456

Friday, July 21
Gay Men’s Choruses of Los Angeles and Orange County each put on worthy shows this week. On Saturday, July 15, head to the O.C. for Men Alive’s fifth anniversary concert, “Curtains Up! Light the Lights!” The song and dance tribute to Broadway will feature special guest star and Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein. And this weekend, stay local as the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles presents “The Look of Love: The Music of Burt Bacharach.”

“Curtains Up! Light the Lights!” Sat., July 15, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Irvine Barclay Theatre, 424 Campus Drive, Irvine. (866) 636-2548. ” target=”_blank”>www.gmcla.org.


7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, July 8
The Hollywood Palladium’s got the beat tonight. Head there for ’80s retro fun wrapped up in a good cause. Bet Tzedek — The House of Justice presents its annual Justice Ball benefit with headliners The Go-Go’s.

8:30 p.m. $75-$150. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd. (323) 656-9069. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

 

Sunday, July 9
A midsummer night’s edutainment comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Tonight, they perform “Ahava: From Israel with Love” at the Ford Amphitheatre, with Chen Zimbalista on marimba and Alon Reuven on French horn. Explanatory introductions of each piece will be given by conductor Noreen Green.

7:30 p.m. $12-$36. 2850 Cahuenga Blvd., East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.

Monday, July 10
TV gets some artistic recognition, thanks to Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Today FIDM opens its new exhibition, “The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design,” which continues through Sept. 9. On display are highlights from 40 years of television costuming, including clothes worn by Sonny and Cher, Barry Manilow and Carol Burnett, on their shows and specials.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. (daily, except Sundays). Free. FIDM Museum and Galleries on the Park, 919 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 624-1200, ext. 2224.

 

Tuesday, July 11
The sound of music drifts through the air, mixing with that signature zoo scent, this evening. The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association kicks off the first of two “Music in the Zoo” nights. Tonight, hear the Masanga Marimba Ensemble of Zimbabwe, the Scottish Wicked Tinkers, the Mediterranean music of Shaya and Rafi and the Irish Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder. Plus, the animals get a later bedtime of 8 p.m. and “Club Med Circus Performers” monkey around.

Tues., July 11 and 25, 6-9 p.m. Free (children 5 and under), $7-$16. Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park. (323) 644-6042. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Wednesday, July 12
Invisible friends get revenge in “Bunbury: A Serious Play for Trivial People.” The play by Tom Jacobson features the never-seen characters of Bunbury (of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”) and Rosaline (of “Romeo and Juliet”), teaming up to sabotage classic literary works. It is performed at the Skirball Cultural Center, and recorded to air on L.A. Theatre Works’ radio theater series, The Play’s the Thing, which broadcasts weekly on public and satellite radio, including 89.3 KPCC.

8 p.m. (July 12-14), 3 pm. (July 15), 4 p.m. (July 16). $25-$45. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P.,
(310) 827-0889.

Thursday, July 13
July gets a little hotter with Stephen Cohen Gallery’s “Summer Skin” exhibition. The group show features nude works, some naughty, some nice, by artists like Diane Arbus, Anthony Friedkin and Horace Bristo. The raciest stuff, by guys like David Levinthal, Larry Clark and Robert Mapplethorpe, can be seen in a separate viewing room.

July 7-Aug. 26. Free. 7358 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 937-5525.

 

Friday, July 14
Literature takes center stage with The New Short Fiction Series, a host of evenings in which actors read from a published work of fiction. This year’s first featured writer is author and poet Carol Schwalberg, whose “The Midnight Lover and Other Stories” will be performed, tonight.

8 p.m. $10. Beverly Hills Public Library Auditorium, 444 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-2220.

Spectator – The Theme Park Without a Prayer


Bible Storyland must have a guardian angel. Dissolution by the clergy, dormancy for 45 years and a fatal fire were not powerful enough to erase the plans for this Bible-based theme park from history.

And now, art collector Harvey Jordan is working to inform Californians about this piece of their past in a new exhibition at the University of Judaism titled, “Dream Parks: Artwork From the Bible Storyland Theme Park.”

Nearly five decades have elapsed since Nat Winecoff, former Disney promoter and theme park developer, conceived of a $15 million Bible story-based Disneyland-esque place, which he planned to build on 220 acres of land in Cucamonga (now Rancho Cucamonga). Investors included actor Jack Haley and Donald Duncan of Yo-Yo and modern-day parking meter fame. However, the clergy allegedly quashed the idea and Bible Storyland was never erected.

More than 200 drawings and watercolor paintings of Winecoff’s brainchild, created by former Disney artist Bruce Bushman and a handful of other artists, remained after the deal went sour. Another art collector purchased the artwork from Winecoff’s estate and kept it holed up in his apartment until he and his possessions perished in a fire. Miraculously, 50 paintings of Bible Storyland survived the blaze.

Bible Storyland was a unique concept that mingled Disneyland-type family-oriented rides and attractions with biblical stories. A press release issued in 1960 described the plans at length.

To be constructed in the shape of a heart, Bible Storyland would have included different “lands,” each with its own theme, tied to either pre-Christian times, the Bible or the New Testament. Parkgoers would arrive at a Star of David garden and could then saunter through the Garden of Eden and visit Adam and Eve. Visitors could also venture to Israel and ride animals through Noah’s Ark Carousel, explore the inside of the whale with Jonah and watch Moses on Mount Sinai. Other locales would have included ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome, as well as Ur, where Abraham began his journey to the Promised Land.

Jordan has assumed the role of promoter and savior of the history of Bible Storyland.

“I am now the holder of Bible Storyland,” he said. “From what I understand, I have the rest of the drawings and nobody else has kept them alive or written about it.”

The art can be seen at the Borstein Gallery at the University of Judaism through Aug. 20. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. For more information, call (310) 440-1201 or visit

Vintage Israeli posters, MethodFest, ‘Bush Is Bad’


Saturday the 31st

Theater with a historical lesson comes to The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, with the guest production of “Black and Bluestein.” The dramedy written by Jerry Mayer takes place in early ’60s St. Louis, and tells the story of Jewish homeowner Jeff Bluestein and the issues he faces while deliberating whether to sell his home — in a largely white Jewish neighborhood — to a black family.

Through April 29. $22-$25. 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. (323) 960-4418. ” target=”_blank”>www.methodfest.com.

Monday the 2nd

Another independent film worth your attention is Russell Brown’s “Race You to the Bottom,” which opens this week. The film focuses on the relationship between two friends, Maggie and Nathan. Maggie is straight, and Nathan identifies as gay, and both of them are involved with other people. Despite all of this, however, the two are also in the midst of a passionate affair and decide to take a romantic road trip to Napa together.
Special screenings: Sat., March 31, 7:30 p.m. Post-screening Q-and-A with Russell Brown.

Sun., April 1, 7:30 p.m. 2-for-1 “Girls Grab Your Best Gay/Gays Grab Your Best Girl” promotion. The Regent Showcase Theatre, 614 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. ” target=”_blank”>www.georgebillis.com.

Wednesday the 4th

AFI goes behind the music at the Arclight in their sixth-annual Music Documentary Series. Tonight’s opening night features the 1982 classic “Pink Floyd: The Wall.” Subsequent Wednesdays will screen “Buena Vista Social Club,” “Punk Rock Eats its Own: A Film About Face to Face,” “Shut Up and Sing,” “Rock the Bells” and “Last Days of Left Eye.” Post screening Q-and-A’s with filmmakers are also planned.

Through May 9. 8 p.m. $10-$11 (per screening). 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 464-4226. ” target=”_blank”>www.skirball.org.

Friday the 6th

Following a successful 15-month run in New York, “Bush Is Bad” makes its West Coast debut this evening. Those making up that 30-something percent approval rating will want to ignore this suggestion; others, however, may welcome a show with a bit of comic relief, described as “the hysterical love-child of ‘Forbidden Broadway’ and ‘The Daily Show.'”

Through May 20. $35. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 508-7101.

Video Bares Artist’s Obsession, Views


“I have a warped idea about my worth, my abilities as an artist, my intelligence,” Jessica Shokrian says in her video installation at the Skirball Cultural Center. “For much of my life, I’ve been extremely concerned with how I look and how I think I look to other people. It’s definitely been a sad obsession.”

A Persian Jew who lives in Los Angeles, Shokrian’s confession appears in her 12-minute video triptych, “Six Years, Twelve Minutes and Two Seconds” in the exhibition, “The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photographs,” opening March 24.

On the central monitor, her pale face blurs and her speech wavers in and out of synch, reflecting her distorted self-image. On another TV, family rituals often drown out her wispy voice. On the third, her elderly Persian aunt makes a lonely pilgrimage to an ethnic food market.

“Jessica’s work delves into all the ways one can experience exile, whether from one’s country, one’s family or from oneself,” says Tal Gozani, the Skirball’s associate curator. “There is something so sad but also brutally honest about her work.”

At a visit to Shokrian’s downtown loft recently, the 42-year-old photographer and video artist appears as fragile and thoughtful as she does in her triptych. While twisting her fingers through her frayed, black sweater sleeves, she says she identifies with her aunt, because she, too, has felt lost, between cultures, cut off from her family’s homeland and from her family.

They are conservative Persian Jews based in Beverly Hills; she is a single mother who lives downtown and is divorced from the Belgian non-Jew she “wasn’t supposed to marry in the first place,” she says. Her family’s disapproval has not always been tacit, she adds, and while she is drawn to their ancient culture, she has been torn between her desire to connect with them and her opposing desire to live her own life as a contemporary artist.

The loft’s decor reflects this tension: Persian rugs lie beneath luminous moody photographs and a self-portrait in which Shokrian looks backward, her expression anxious, while stepping through a doorway.

This self-portrait could be a metaphor for her life journey. Shokrian’s father grew up in Tehran; her mother, raised in a secular Christian farming family in Central California, converted after meeting him at Cal State Sacramento. As a girl, the artist says, she felt “invisible, ignored” and less accepted than her Persian cousins because she was a hybrid who did not speak Farsi.

She says the culture’s strict mores also made her an outcast at school.

“I wasn’t allowed to wear jeans, to talk to boys, to attend sleepovers,” she recalls.

When she gained a little weight, some relatives warned that she might become too heavy to attract a proper husband. As is the custom in traditional Persian homes, the expectation was that she would remain a virgin and live at home until she married a Persian Jew.

Her longing for a valued role within the family led her to pick up a 35-mm Nikon camera in high school to become the official family photographer and to be the quintessential “good girl,” she continues. But when her parents refused to allow her to go away to college, “I lost it and rebelled,” she says.

In her early 20s, she disappeared for days while dating a bohemian artist some 15 years her senior. As she spiraled deeper into depression, she began drinking, doing drugs and trying “pretty much everything,” she says.

Psychotherapy and AA meetings helped her get sober. But when she wed her now ex-husband at 25, her father refused to speak to her for close to a year.

She moved back home, six years later, soon after the birth of her son. But this time, her parents were so concerned about her depression that they urged her to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Her photographs began appearing in galleries and anthologies, such as Houman Sarshar’s “Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews” and Linda Sunshine’s “Our Grandmothers: Loving Portraits by Seventy-Four Granddaughters.” Accompanying her essay about grandma is a shadowy portrait of Shokrian and her baby that looks like a melancholy Madonna and child.

Even more personal work followed in 2002, after the artist again moved out of her parents’ home, this time with a boyfriend who left when her family protested the relationship. Feeling vulnerable and exposed, Shokrian shot a series of nude self-portraits — enlarged Polaroids that were recently displayed at the Farmani Gallery (she was aghast to learn the space was across the street from her uncle’s office) and are now at the Bedlam Warehouse.

During that frightening period in 2002, Shokrian believes the “Jewish Identity Project” commission helped save her life. The show’s organizer, Susan Chevlowe, then a curator at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, had seen a 1998 film Shokrian had made about her aunt while still a student. Chevlowe was impressed that the film’s slow pace poetically transformed the widow’s bus ride into “a metaphor of the displacement and longing experienced by an immigrant living between cultures,” she wrote in her catalog essay. The film ultimately became part of Shokrian’s video installation, combined with other footage to express her mixed feelings about her family. The triptych is named for the time she spent on all components of the piece (six years) and the length of the final product (12 minutes and two seconds).

In one lovingly shot sequence, Shokrian’s relatives spontaneously trill, expressing religious rapture as her father donates a Torah to his synagogue. At her sister’s engagement party, voices interrupt dreamy images of sultry dancers, jeering, “Face the reality of your life Jessica and stop hiding behind that damn camera.” The artist slows these female voices down to a creepy baritone to emphasize the cringe-factor.

Chevlowe believes the piece — like many other recent video installations — dissects “the boundaries between what’s personal and real and what’s imagined.”

The work has been cathartic for Shokrian, who believes her “sad obsession” is fading, in part, because of her status as an emerging Los Angeles artist. She says she now has a close relationship with her father, who appreciates her triptych as a sign of respect for his family.

“In spite of the alienation I’ve experienced, I’ve managed to find the beauty and a kind of connection through the spirituality of my family and their community,” she says. “If I haven’t been able to be the perfect Persian daughter, I feel like this was the next best thing I could do. And I think my relatives recognize this is an offering and a way of showing that I really love them, even though my life now is so much about my work.”

For information about the Skirball show, March 24 through Sept. 3, call (310) 440-4500. For information about Shokrian’s photos at the Bedlam Warehouse, 1275 E. Sixth St., Los Angeles (the red door east of Alameda), call (213) 924-9000.

 

A Photojournalist’s Twist on Nazi Image


A visitor to the Getty Center encounters a 1932 photomontage of Hitler, his right arm raised Nazi style. Behind him stands a corpulent German industrialist slipping wads of money into the Fuehrer’s outstretched hand.

The ironic title is “The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little Man Asks for Big Gift,” and the picture is part of the small but striking exhibit, “Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920-1938.”

Heartfield was born in Berlin as Helmut Herzfeld to parents who were both ardent socialist activists. They left their four children behind to shift for themselves, when Helmut was 8, and fled Germany to avoid a prison sentence for “blasphemy.”

The boy quickly proved that he had inherited his parents’ rebellious streak. Drafted into the Kaiser’s army at the beginning of World War I, he started out by sending anti-militaristic photomontaged postcards to the front.

In 1916, soldier Helmut Herzfeld expressed his disgust for the war slogan, “May God Punish England,” by anglicizing his name to John Heartfield.

Threatened with transfer to a combat unit, the newly renamed soldier faked a nervous breakdown so successfully that he got a medical discharge.

Was Herzfeld/Heartfield partly Jewish?

Art historian Andres Mario Zervigon of Rutgers University, who curated the exhibition and is writing a book about Heartfield, thinks almost certainly not, though he is still looking into the matter.

But even in this case, Heartfield went against the norm.

“Though he was of German descent, he identified himself as Jewish,” Zervigon said.

Back in civilian life, Heartfield helped found the Dada movement in Germany and began his lifelong membership in the Communist Party.

Initially trained in advertising, he created photomontages to twist standard pictures carried by the mainstream or Nazi press into subversive attacks on the pictured dignitaries.

One of his 1929 exhibits carried the title, “Use Photography as a Weapon,” and the Getty display illustrates what he meant.

Taking a well-known picture of Hitler in the throes of an emotional speech, Heartfield superimposed a chest X-ray, exposing a neatly stacked column of gold coins. The caption reads, “Hitler, the Superman, Swallows Gold and Spouts Tin.” The last two words are German slang for talking nonsense.

One of Heartfield’s favorite targets was the rotund Hermann Goering, mocking him with his own words that “steel makes a nation strong, but butter and lard only makes people fat.”

With Heartfield and his German colleagues in the lead, photomontage became an art form, designed to sell both soap and ideology, which made a strong impression in the United States on the founders of LIFE magazine.

The same style became a major tool for agitprop, especially by the rival Nazis and communists. Heartfield never wavered in his loyalty to the party of Lenin and Stalin and turned out a series of worshipful posters in praise of the Soviet workers paradise.

He also turned to the design of book covers, and his illustrations for the German translations of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and John Dos Passos’ “Three Soldiers” are striking to this day.

Heartfield completed only one book of his own, which he titled, with characteristic irony, “Deutschland, Deutschland Ueber Alles” — then the first line of the German national anthem.

Following the Communist party line, Heartfield could lampoon the Social Democratic leaders of the Weimar Republic as viciously as he did the Nazis, sharpening the enmity between the two left-wing parties that paved the way for the Nazi takeover.

Knowing full well what was in store for him under Nazi rule, Heartfield fled to Czechoslovakia, where he resumed his anti-Nazi fusillade. In honor of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he designed a montage of new Nazi “sports,” including axe swinging for judges and head-rolling for Brown Shirt bullies.

After wartime refuge in England, he returned to East Berlin in 1948, but was greeted with suspicion. For one, the party now denounced photomontage as a “formalist” art form, and communists who had spent time in the West were seen as potential traitors.

But gradually Heartfield was rehabilitated, had a one-man retrospective show in 1957, and died as an honored artist in 1968, at the age of 77.

The current exhibit brings back, with a sense of immediacy, the fierce political struggles of the Weimar Republic between the two world wars. Now that these hatreds have faded into the past, Heartfield remains as one of the innovative minds that ushered in the golden age of photojournalism.

“Agitated Images,” continues through June 25 at the Research Institute Gallery of the Getty Center. Admission is free, parking is $7, and no reservations are required. For more information, call (310) 440-7300 or visit www.getty.edu.

 

Art Exhibit Links Trojans, Bruins


Divided between the USC and UCLA campuses, the latest art exhibition by the Jewish Artist Initiative (JAI), titled, “Makor/Source,” taps into the wellspring of Jewish life.

How fitting that Ruth Weisberg, USC dean of fine arts, would include her water-themed, mixed-media drawing, “Bound for Nowhere.” As a succession of hunched-over immigrant Jews board a boat headed back to Europe, the vessel, with its portholes and cables strewn like seaweed, appears to be a submarine. It is as if these passengers, who carry their belongings, ascend a gangway into an underwater graveyard.

Alternately, Weisberg, whose drawing features a muted brown or ocher color scheme, suggests that the immigrants may be “undergoing a sea change,” a salutary transmutation as they board the ship. She notes that the Jews in the drawing, though denied a visa to Palestine, ultimately may have been admitted to Israel after the country’s founding, the makor or source of a whole new chapter in the history of the Jewish people.

Barbara Drucker, UCLA art department chair, also contributed a work to the show, “Breadbox Stack No. 1,” in which seven bread boxes are tiered into a ramshackle, yet sturdy, tower. Is it a Tower of Babel surging at peril toward the heavens? Or is it, as Drucker proposes, an image both of life, as symbolized by the bread, and death, since modern-day Greeks use such boxes to store bones?

Drucker works from instinct. She did not set out to create something with a Jewish theme, but the bread boxes date from the 1920s and ’30s and recall the heyday of immigrant and first-generation Jews living in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and the Lower East Side, yet another seminal moment in Jewish history.

JAI, which Weisberg calls the “brainchild” of the Jewish Community Foundation and USC’s Casden Institute, was formed, she said, to “act as a galvanizing force” for bringing Jewish culture to the community.

“Makor/Source” marks the first time that the Hillels of the two universities have collaborated on an exhibition. Roughly 20 local artists submitted works to the show, including collages, paintings and photographs.

Because the exhibition is based on a study of Jewish text, one of the most salient pieces is Joyce Dallal’s “Promises Made in a Language I Don’t Understand,” an ink-jet print of pieces of paper bunched into a ball. The image of crumpled paper might or might not refer to the Hebrew Bible. It’s hard to say, so indecipherable are the runes, yet the scraps, involuted as they are, do resemble a Torah being unscrolled.

Even if Hebrew, like all Indo-European tongues, comes from an original source, the endless permutations can create language barriers that are palpable, if less severe to the artist than humanity’s failings or God’s.

“Makor/Source” is at USC Hillel, 3300 S. Hoover St., (213) 747-9135, ext. 14. Opening reception is Sunday, Jan. 22, 3-5 p.m. “Makor/Source” is also at UCLA Hillel, 574 Hilgard Ave., (310) 208-3081. Both exhibits run through March 3.

Capturing Chasidim


As a street photographer, Maya Dreilinger echoes the sentiments of the 1982 “Missing Persons” song “Walking in LA.” Driving around the city, “you don’t see a lot of people walking,” she said. “But the Chasidism are always out on the streets and not just on Saturdays.”

With her camera, Dreilinger spent about two months documenting the streets of the Chasidic community bordering La Brea Avenue. Her exhibition, “La Brea on Robertson,” currently on display at the Workmen’s Circle, presents an intriguing mix of photographs and paintings that in some ways reveal more about the artist than the subject matter.

Born in Israel and raised in Los Angeles, the 30-year-old Dreilinger admits to having pre-conceived judgments about Chasidic Jews before she embarked on her project.

“I believed that their culture was restrictive, that women were always patronized,” she said. “But being around them for two months, I was humbled. Now I have no more anger or resentment, only respect.”

While other photographers have sought to document Chasidism from more of an insider’s perspective, Dreilinger purposefully maintained her distance as an outsider. She wandered around the La Brea area dressed as she normally does and refused the occasional invitation to dinner at someone’s home.

“I didn’t want to go in that direction,” she said. “I wanted to be only the respectful observer.”

Upon viewing Dreilinger’s work, Eric Gordon, director of the Workmen’s Circle, immediately thought of Roman Vishniac’s photographs of pre-war Poland.

“Maya has a discerning eye, and I love the humor in her work,” he said. “As for her subject matter, we may not be a religious-centered organization, but we are devoted to Yiddish culture. A socialist from the 1930s might have condemned this exhibit, but we’ve evolved since then. They [Chasidim] are part of our Yiddish community.”

The majority of Dreilinger’s photographs clearly show her outsider’s perspective. Several depict rear-view shots of Chasidic men and boys walking down the street and radiating inscrutability. A Chasidic boy, shown in the midst of prayer in an unidentifiable interior, seems completely absorbed in his own world. In “Kosher by Kehilla,” two women walking toward a street sign for a kosher bakery appear partially visible. Only their skirts and the top of a hat can be glimpsed.

In contrast, other photos subtly reveal the intrusion of the modern world. “Grandfather’s Touch” shows a little girl, with her father and grandfather, who carries the kind of plastic backpack desired by most trendy kindergartners. In “The Alley,” a group of black-garbed men pass an alleyway near the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. Three men who appear to be Hispanic laborers inhabit the alleyway. One of them looks at the Chasidim, wide-eyed curiosity written across his face.

Often, Dreilinger succeeds in capturing the community’s varying attitudes in being photographed by an outsider. Some of her subjects smile broadly and pose for the camera. Some regard the camera as an alien interloper.

In some portraits, a sly humor can be found. A striking juxtaposition, for example, appears in “Trio,” where through the illusion of a reflection two young men look as if they stand next to the bust of a mannequin while they peer into the window of a clothing store. At first glance, the headless mannequin bears some resemblance to a Torah scroll.

Dreilinger took 14 of her black-and-white photographs and painted over their surfaces, sometimes leaving only a portion of the original image intact. These are hung situated across from the originals, and many a viewer will be tempted to keep traveling back and forth to cross reference the works. These paintings explode with vibrant color and whimsicality and, for the most part, do not evoke the sense of restraint and limitation found in many of the original photographs.

Take the Chasidic women walking toward the bakery sign. In the painted version, they wear bright red suits. The dress of an elderly woman standing outside the Westside Jewish Community Center on Olympic Boulevard has been colored in with bright flowers suggestive of a Hawaiian lei. In “Close-up,” a young, handsome Chasidic man posing against a wall has been colored and shaded so that he resembles an urban nightlife character from a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.

In other paintings, Dreilinger has added natural landscapes that sometimes enhance and other times completely obfuscate the original photograph. One of these paintings depicts two Chasidic girls with their hands over their mouths wandering amidst a rural, mountainous backdrop. In the original photograph titled “Contemplating Girls,” they stand on a city street with other schoolchildren.

Dreilinger says the paintings brought her “emotional release.”

“I hope I captured what is mysterious about these people and at the same time, beautiful. I wasn’t interested in showing ugliness,” she said. “But I did want to open people’s eyes.”

“La Brea on Roberston: Paintings and Photographs by Maya Dreilinger,” Jan. 22-March 5, Shenere Velt Gallery, Workmen’s Circle, 1525 S. Roberston Blvd. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

 

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, January 14

See Harrison Ford battle Nazis in his quest to secure the Ark of the Covenant from a lost Egyptian city. The classic Spielberg adventure movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” comes to the Aero Theatre today as part of its special “Indiana Jones” trilogy weekend. Head back tomorrow to catch a double feature of the two follow-up films, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

Sat., 7:30 p.m., “Raiders…” and Sun., 5 p.m., “Temple of Doom” and “Last Crusade.” $6-$9 (single and double feature). 1328 Montana St., Santa Monica. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, January 15

Opening this weekend is galerie yoramgil’s latest exhibition, “Two American Classics: Abraham Walkowitz and Reuben Nakian.” The retrospective displays a large selection of both renown artists’ works, including some 40 abstractions by Walkowitz and terracottas, bronzes and drawings by Nakian, with saucy titles like “Nymph and Goat” and “The Emperor’s Bedchamber.”

Jan. 14-Feb. 28. Opening reception Jan. 14, 6-9 p.m. Free. 462 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 659-2641.

Monday, January 16

For a special program honoring the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., look to the Museum of Tolerance. Its commemoration takes place twice, once on Sunday as its “Family Sunday” event, and once on Monday, with personal stories by Tommy Hawkins, former L.A. Laker and vice president of the Dodgers, and other sports and music icons.

2 p.m. (Sun. and Mon.). Ages 10+. Free. Photo ID required. Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 1399 S. Roxbury Drive, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 772-2526.

Tuesday, January 17

David Mamet comes to Pasadena today, as Classic and Contemporary American Plays (CCAP) presents a staged play reading of “American Buffalo.” James Eckhouse, of “90210” fame, directs actors Bill Smitrovitch (“Independence Day”), Joe Spano (“Apollo 13”) and Michael Weston (“Garden State”) in the drama about a coin heist gone awry.

Jan. 17 and 18, 7:30 p.m. $25. Main Stage at Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena.

Wednesday, January 18

For those who haven’t yet caught Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad’s “Paradise Now,” the UJ presents a screening today. The film about Palestinian suicide bombers has already garnered a Golden Globe best picture nomination, as well as some controversy. A post-screening discussion will feature Abu Assad; Nadav Morag, former senior director for domestic policy at Israel’s’ National Security Council, and Nick Cull, professor of public diplomacy at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications, and is moderated by The Journal’s Marc Ballon.

7:30 p.m. $10. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P., (310) 440-1246.


Thursday, January 19

All the young Jews looking for a little nightlife to go with their latkes need look no further than the legendary comedy club, the Laugh Factory. Aish presents a “Funnikah Party,” featuring stand-up acts by rising Jewish comedians. One free drink is included with admission, and the second l’chaim’s on you.

Ages 22-33. 7:30 p.m. Free (with advanced R.S.V.P.), $20 (at the door), plus two-drink minimum. 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (310) 278-8672, ext. 703.

Friday, January 20

Although we’re not quite clear on when exactly Shabbat lost its funk, OJG Productions’ new CD, “Hip Hop Shabbat,” promises to put the funk back in. And not a moment too soon. Tonight, the group is welcomed to the University of Judaism, along with Jewish young professionals, for a gathering named after the CD. Twenty- and 30-somethings will dine and sing along to the hip-hop, reggae and electronic Shabbat beats.

Ages 22-39. 7 p.m. $20. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P., (310) 476-9777, ext. 473.

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday 7

Bruins and Trojans unite in the name of Jewish art. For the first time ever, the Hillels of UCLA and USC collaborate to present coinciding art exhibitions. Titled “Makor/Source,” the two shows feature works by 23 contemporary Jewish artists reflecting their study of Jewish text. Each artist will show a different piece at each show.

Free. Opens Jan. 7 at UCLA Hillel. Opening reception and panel discussion Jan. 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles (310) 208-3081, ext. 125.

Opens Jan. 22 at USC Hillel. Opening reception Jan. 22, 4-6 p.m. 3300 S. Hoover St., Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135.

Sunday 8

It wouldn’t be a week in our Jewish community without the requisite cantorial concert. But Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI) does it up big for theirs today. “MaTovu: A Musical Celebration Paying Tribute to the Works of Two Great Cantorial Masters” features cantors from across the country, plus Stephen Wise’s Nathan Lam and CBI’s Marcia Tilchin. They sing the liturgical music of renowned cantors Yossele Rosenblatt and Philip Moddel to benefit the Cantors Assembly and the Philip Moddel Scholarship Fund.

7:30-9 p.m. $18-$250. Chapman University Memorial Hall, One University Drive, Orange. R.S.V.P., (714) 730-9693.

Monday 9

Hearing John Lithgow’s voice in your head again? Must’ve already heard about Walt Disney Concert Hall’s special audio tour. Visitors don headphones to learn about the creation of the building, with Lithgow playing virtual tour guide. Architect Frank Gehry, L.A. Philharmonic music director Esa-Pekka Salonen and acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota also chime in periodically with details about how it all came together.

10 a.m.-3 p.m. most days. Check Web site for schedule. $8-$10. 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.

Tuesday 10

In conjunction with the release of art historian Peter Selz’s book, “Art of Engagement,” about politically motivated pieces by California artists, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts presents an exhibition of nearly 80 works from the book, including paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings.

Jan. 3-31. Free. 357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 938-5222.

Wednesday 11

There are bad dates where maybe the guy chews with his mouth open, and then there are the really bad ones where you end up in jail without your cell phone. That’s the kind Courtney Fine is on in her new show, “ME2.” Follow the Jewish girl’s trials and tribulations over the course of a very lousy evening, at the Masquer’s Cabaret playhouse.

7:30 p.m. (Wed.), 9:30 p.m. (Sat.). $15. 8334 W. Third St., West Hollywood. (310) 590-7229.

Thursday 12

The Levantine Center and PEN USA co-host a conference this evening exploring the relationship between the Arab and Western worlds. “The Arab/Muslim Revolution: The Middle East and the West” features Islamic scholar Reza Aslan and historian Mark LeVine in conversation. But along with a heaping helping of political dialogue come live music by Mohammed Cahoua and Omar Fadel and an open bar reception to keep the mood convivial.

7:30 p.m. Free. Levantine Cultural Center, 5920 Blackwelder St., Culver City. R.S.V.P., (310) 559-5544.

Friday 13

Venture out this evening despite 13th superstitions to see L.A. Theatre Works’ latest show. “Top Girls” is the Obie-winning comedy by Caryl Churchill about feminism during England’s Thatcher years. The production will be recorded for the nationally syndicated radio theater series “The Play’s the Thing.”

Jan. 11-13 (8 p.m.), Jan. 14 (3 p.m.), Jan. 15 (4 p.m.). $25-$45. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 827-0889. www.latw.org.

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, December 3

Your momma remembers this drama. The Skirball has its last show of “12 Angry Men” this afternoon. The classic courtroom tale about a teenage boy accused of killing his father has been around a while, but gets refreshed by L.A. Theatre Works, with the help of performances by Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, Dan Castellaneta, Armin Shimerman and Richard Kind. A Q-and-A session with noted scholar Rabbi Lee Bycel follows the Saturday performance.

Nov. 30-Dec. 4. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 827-0889.

Sunday, December 4

Today’s concert at the Simon Wiesenthal Center offers an homage in strings to the Romanian Jewish immigrants from 1890-1914, who trekked across Europe to reach ports where they could travel to the United States. Titled “Di Fusgeyers,” and commissioned by the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, the performance is inspired by Stuart Tower’s historical novel, “The Wayfarers” and was composed by Yale Strom.

7 p.m. $15. 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 772-2452.

Monday, December 5

Big-name actors also convene tonight to celebrate another literary classic. “This Is on Me: An Evening of Dorothy Parker” features Broadway veterans Angela Lansbury, Victor Garber, Frances Conroy and others in a staged-play reading of works by the sharp-witted Parker (née Rothschild).

7 p.m. $25-$500. Brentwood Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood. R.S.V.P., (213) 365-3500.

Tuesday, December 6

Attend the Skirball’s screening of 1958’s “Marjorie Morningstar” this afternoon, part of their twice-monthly “Classic Films” series. The story of a Jewish young woman, struggling between a traditional upbringing and a desire for a less-conventional life was probably never meant to be provocative. But Jewish feminists haven’t exactly approved of Miss Morningstar over the years. Now you can decide for yourself….

1:30 p.m. Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Wednesday, December 7

In the nimble hands of Lorel Cornman, Betty Green, Nancy Goodman Lawrence and Mary Beth Schwartzenberger, everything from maps and buttons to fabric and Venetian turpentine become art. The works of these four artists is on view in the University of Judaism’s “Mixed Media” exhibition starting this week.

Public opening is Dec. 4., 2-4 p.m. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1201.

Thursday, December 8

Old world mixes with new, as playwrights Ross Pavis and Howard Teichman premier their play, “Simcha.” The story about a Jewish beggar and storyteller imbued with magical powers might as well have been written by Sholom Aleichem. But, in fact, the stories in the play are all original, based on the “old country” superstitions the playwrights’ parents and grandparents believed.

Limited three-week run closes Dec. 18. $9-$18. Theatre 40, Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills High Campus. R.S.V.P., (310) 364-0535.

Friday, December 9

Playwright Tom Dudzick offers up an interfaith story for the holidays, complete with Christmas Eve miracle. The play is “Greetings,” and tells the tale of an atheist Jewish girl who accompanies her Catholic boyfriend home for Christmas, where she meets his cast of characters family, which includes his very devout parents and mentally challenged 30-year-old brother. Could hilarity not ensue?

$16. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (818) 700-4878.

Spectator – Lessing’s Shots of Liberty


Erich Lessing received his first camera when he exited the synagogue from his bar mitzvah in Vienna in 1936.

“There was no idea of taking up photography as a profession,” said Lessing, 82, from his house in Austria. “In a good Jewish family in Vienna you would only be a lawyer or a doctor.”

But the camera stayed with Lessing when he left Austria for Israel in 1939 to escape the Nazis. There he took photographs for the British army. When he returned to Austria in 1947, he started working as a photojournalist. His interest was the newly communist Eastern Europe, and the photographs he took in Austria and in Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 have become Cold War icons.

For one week, starting Sept. 25, a selection of Lessing’s photographs of Austria will go on display at the Beverly Hills Country Club in conjunction with Austrian American Day. The exhibition, titled “From Liberation to Liberty” includes images famously emblematic of the period, such as “Four in a Jeep” — a photograph of four military policeman, one each from the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union, a symbol of the post-war occupation in Austria.

Lessing did not stay with this reportage: “After the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, all the photographers who had been there saw that it was not our documents that were changing political decisions. I do not want to downgrade the influence of photography — the photography at the end of the Vietnam War was very influential. But it took another 50 years for the end of communism in Europe.”

In 1960, Lessing started taking photographic “evocations” of the lives of great poets, musicians and scientists, often taking still photographs of their work in museums. The result was more than 30,000 photographs of art, history and archeology that have filled 40 books. But his seminal work remains the photographs of the 1940s and ’50s.

“I found it a very strange title, being dubbed the photographer of the Cold War,” he said. “But I think it is true.”

“From Liberation to Liberty,” will be on display at the Beverly Hills Country Club, 3084 Motor Ave., as part of the Austrian-American Day Celebration. For more information, call (310) 444-9310.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, September 17

Jews of the LBC rejoice as they finally get a film fest all their own. The first Long Beach Jewish Film Festival will be held today and tomorrow, thanks to the support of the Alpert JCC and the Cal State Long Beach Jewish studies program. The lineup features “Gloomy Sunday,” about a love triangle set in 1930s Budapest; “Solomon and Gaenor,” a British love story set in 1911 Wales; “Time of Favor,” an Israeli tale about the clashes between Orthodox nationalists and the military; and “Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi,” a French comedy about a young boy with unique culinary talents.

$10 (each), $36 (festival pass). University Theater, CSULB campus, Long Beach. (562) 426-7601.

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Sunday, September 18

This afternoon, it’s all about sabra women at the first Israel Women’s Festival. Actress Shirley Brener hosts the luncheon that features a fashion show by American-based Israeli designers, boutiques and live entertainment by Maya Haddi, Duende, and DJ Eyal. Proceeds benefit women’s organizations in Israel.

Noon. $65. Eretz-Siamak Cultural Center, 6170 Wilbur Ave., Tarzana. Tickets must be purchased in advance: (818) 980-9848, (818) 702-9272 or (323) 951-0111.

Monday, September 19

The Museum of the Holocaust challenges viewers to compare images of two genocides side-by-side in their new exhibition, “Encountering the Cambodian Genocide,” on display through Nov. 15. Pictures of Pol Pot’s killing fields and camps taken by Chantal Prunier-Grindon make up most of the display, however, a special collage of photographs depicting images from the Shoah and the Cambodian genocide is also hung, forcing the viewer to consider the similarities.

6435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 303, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704.

Tuesday, September 20

The Simon Wiesenthal’s film division, Moriah, premiers its latest documentary this evening. Titled “Ever Again,” the film examines the resurgence of violent anti-Semitism and terrorism, and is narrated by former baseball movie go-to-guy Kevin Costner.

7:30 p.m. Director’s Guild Theater, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 553-9036.

Wednesday, September 21

Nicknamed after the Ouija board, photojournalist Weegee literally made a name for himself in the Depression era, and in the process, became as famous as the mobsters and detectives he aimed his camera at. More than 60 make up the Getty’s latest exhibit, “Scene of the Crime: Photo by Weegee,” which runs through Jan. 22.

1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, September 22

The epic story of one Jewish family’s struggles through the last days of the Czarist Russian regime through the Holocaust became the subject of director-producer Dan Spigel’s indie film, “House of the Generals.” It premieres tonight at the Skirball, with a Q-and-A with Spigel to follow.

6 p.m. and 8 p.m. $8-$12. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 700-7133.

Friday, September 23

Snaps for the Skirball’s new exhibition, “Semina,” which features and takes its name from the Beat art and poetry of the underground magazine created by Wallace Berman. Contributors to the publication included William S. Burroughs, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, John Alton and Charles Brittin. Its content reflected Berman’s varied interests, including visual and literary art, Jewish mysticism, pop culture and current events.

2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

‘Apostle of the Ugly’ Outlasts Nazis, Gets His Due


For 40 years, painter Max Liebermann was the premier artist of Berlin, a cultural icon and pioneer in his native land, and the pride of the Jewish community in Germany.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Liebermann became officially a nonperson — and when he died two years later at the age of 87, the controlled Nazi press ignored his death and accomplishments.

The Skirball Cultural Center, in the most ambitious artistic project in its nine-year history, will present the first American survey of the painter’s life and works in “Max Liebermann: From Realism to Impressionism.”

The exhibit opens Sept. 15 and continues through Jan. 29, 2006, after which it will travel to the Jewish Museum in New York.

Born into a wealthy German Jewish family in 1847, Liebermann spent a lengthy apprenticeship in German art academies and travels to Holland, and scored his initial success with his realist paintings of Dutch peasants and workers, particularly his “Women Plucking Geese” in 1872.

His depictions of life among the poor won praise for their skillful technique, but were denounced by hidebound critics who dubbed him “the apostle of the ugly.”

He followed the next year with “Self-portrait With Kitchen Still Life,” the only one of his many self-portraits in which Liebermann, posing as a kitchen chef, ventured a half-smile.

Keen viewers will spot a kosher seal attached to the chicken on the kitchen table.

In the 1880s, Liebermann started his large collection of French impressionist paintings by Manet, Degas, Renoir and Pissarro. He himself began to experiment with a looser, spontaneous impressionist style, a move denounced as “anti-German” by some critics.

He perfected this style over the next decades, especially in lovely paintings of beach scenes with tennis players, bathers and a pensive portrait of his wife Martha (who committed suicide in Berlin in 1943, after receiving her deportation orders for Theresienstadt).

Liebermann rarely used Jewish themes in his paintings, perhaps discouraged by the reception of his 1879 drawing, “The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple,” debating a group of rabbis. The young Jesus was originally portrayed as a scruffy, unkempt boy with gesticulating hands and a distinctively Semitic nose. The painting elicited howls of outrage that a painter, and a Jew at that, would depict Jesus in such an unflattering manner. As a result of the attacks, Liebermann cleaned up his act by changing the painting to show the young Jesus in a clean white robe and with an “Aryanized” nose.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Liebermann emerged as the leader of the German avant garde as president of the Berlin Secession, which promoted modernist German art rejected by most official museums and galleries, and works by French impressionist and post-impressionist artists. Around this time, he painted “Parrotman at the Amsterdam Zoo,” considered by many as his greatest impressionist work.

With the outbreak of World War I, Liebermann joined in his countrymen’s patriotic fervor, even suggesting in a letter that “war seems to be necessary to curb the excessive materialism of peacetime.”

He contributed for two years to the “Wartime Art Pages,” which featured heroic portraits of the kaiser and advancing German soldiers, but he also sketched the Kishinev pogrom, inscribed, “To my dear Jews.”

With the end of the war, Liebermann again explored new avenues. He became a highly regarded and well-paid portrait artist, whose sitters included Albert Einstein, Richard Strauss and German President Paul von Hindenburg.

At the same time, as the Weimar Republic brought a brief interlude of liberalism to Germany, Liebermann reached the apogee of his influence.

Wrote one historian, “During the Weimar Republic, Liebermann embodied the artistic and intellectual establishment like no other person in Germany.”

However, with advancing age, Liebermann retreated increasingly to his spacious villa in the Berlin suburb of Wansee, growing and painting flower and vegetable beds, and, toward the end of his life, concentrating on intimate family scenes. A 1932 photo shows Liebermann, aged and leaning on a cane, leaving a polling station, with a Hitler poster in the background.

Liebermann hardly fit the image of the bohemian, hard-drinking and loving artist. He was a devoted family man, and, even when painting at a beach, always wore a well-cut suit, tie and hat.

“In my daily habits,” he said, “I am completely bourgeois. I eat, drink, sleep and go for walks with the regularity of a church clock.”

His sober habits yielded some 1,500 paintings, studies and drawings during his long life, of which about one-third disappeared during the Nazi regime and World War II.

In addition, he was a prolific and conscientious correspondent, writing thousands of letters. In one, he characterized himself as “an inveterate Jew, who otherwise feels like a German,” and most of his life he was able to combine and balance the two loyalties.

As late as 1931, he wrote to Tel Aviv mayor Meir Dizengoff, “Art knows neither political nor religious boundaries … although I have felt as a German throughout my whole life, my kinship to the Jewish people is no less alive in me.”

But three years later, responding to an appeal for support of a Zionist youth group, Liebermann observed:

“We have only awakened now from the beautiful dream of assimilation…. I am too old to emigrate, but for the Jewish youth there is no salvation but to leave for Palestine, where they can live as a free people.”

Liebermann was “squarely in the tradition of Jews shaped by German culture and language,” who have made enormous contributions to the arts and knowledge, noted Dr. Uri Herscher, president and CEO of the Skirball Center.

Included, he said, are such names as Martin Buber, Einstein, Lion Feuchtwanger, Sigmund Freud, Erich Fromm, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Otto Klemperer, Gustav Mahler, Jacques Offenbach, Leon Panofsky, Arnold Schoenberg and Kurt Weill.

Senior Curator Barbara Gilbert spent eight years in preparation for the exhibit, researching Liebermann’s life, tracking his works across Europe, and persuading museums and private collectors to lend some 70 paintings and drawings for the Skirball exhibit.

“We are trying to introduce the American public to the art of Max Liebermann, as well as to illustrate the politics of art,” Gilbert said. “Art became quite politicized during Liebermann’s lifetime and he used his position to speak out for the equality and broad inclusiveness of art.”

Underlining the point, museum director Lori Starr observed, “This unprecedented exhibition rediscovers Liebermann and illuminates how he leveraged his artistic talent and position in the Berlin art world to promote social change and campaign tirelessly against censorship, intolerance and injustice at a time when Nazism presented grave dangers.”

Accompanying the exhibit will be a series of concerts, lectures, workshops, family programs, German silent film screenings, courses in drawing and painting, an introductory video and a 220-page catalogue with 150 color images.

For information, call (310) 440-4500, or visit www.skirball.org.

 

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