Essential Arts & Culture: A controversial Santa Monica play, a terrifying architectural slide, how 'Brexit' affects the arts

I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, and I’m ready to newsletter after being on vacation for two weeks. (During which, incidentally, I read Valeria Luiselli’s wondrous novel “The Story of My Teeth,” an austere tale that offers some wry observations about art and the art world in Mexico City. Highly recommend.)

Here are the week’s essential arts and culture stories:

What a terrifying slide says about skyscrapers

Visitors to the U.S. Bank building in downtown Los Angeles can careen from the 70th floor to the 69th floor on a glass slide that offers vertiginous views of the city. Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes the plunge in this piece of “bouncy-house urbanism,” in the process examining the current role of the skyscraper: “As white-shoe law firms shrink and expanding tech companies in L.A. increasingly move into restored warehouses or historic buildings, commercial skyscrapers around the country are struggling to find tenants.” Los Angeles Times

Holocaust play causes controversy in Santa Monica

The staging of “Right Left With Heels,” a new play by Polish playwright Sebastian Majewski, has led to friction between the Santa Monica performance space City Garage and the Polish consulate in Los Angeles. The play’s producing director, Charles Duncombe, tells reporter David Ng that the consulate had promised financial support but then withdrew it because the material was too controversial. In an email to The Times, a representative for the consulate responded: “We are not withdrawing our financial support, [because] of never initially promising to support this particular production.” Los Angeles Times

Lone MFA student withdraws from USC’s art school

Alleging “woefully oblivious decision making” and “a lack of structure,” HaeAhn Kwon, the lone student enrolled in the studio art MFA program at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design, announced via an emailed statement that she was withdrawing from the university . The move comes a little more than a year after an entire class of MFA candidates withdrew from the university in protest of changes in the program’s faculty, curriculum and funding. Los Angeles Times

A must-see biennial at the Hammer Museum

The latest iteration of the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2016” biennial — titled “a, the, though, only” — features just 26 artists, but it explores rich themes about the tensions between the visceral presence of objects and the worlds of the virtual. Art critic Christopher Knight looks at this smart and restrained exhibition: “‘Made in L.A. 2016,’” he writes, “exhibits a familiar, enduring L.A. aesthetic trait — a relaxed, even casual quality that is especially refreshing in the frenzied here and now of our market-dominated art world.” Los Angeles Times

A play looks at perceptions of Islam in America

“Disgraced,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Ayad Akhtar at the Mark Taper Forum, is a work for our time. The action takes place at a dinner party, where topics of identity, secularism and prejudice come to the fore — all centering on the perception of Islam in the West. The cast, says theater critic Charles McNulty, is “pitch perfect.” And of Akhtar, McNulty says, “Instead of telling us what to think, he questions how we are thinking.” Los Angeles Times

A director’s magic touch

Peter Sellars is renowned internationally as an innovative and avant-garde theater and opera director. Less known, writes classical music critic Mark Swed, is his role in helping shape some of the premiere performers of our time. Swed sat in on a master class held by the director during Songfest and got to see Sellars at work: “He didn’t much want beautiful sound. He cared more about articulating the important words than the little ones. What mattered in every phrase was dramatic, namely human, motivation.” Los Angeles Times

The tangled relationship between art and social media

For some time, social media has been promoted as a way for artists to promote what they do. But powerful platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have a restrictive view of art (no nudity!). I write about how the services also may be quietly shaping the way art is produced and shown, motivating artists and art institutions to feature work that looks attractive on digital platforms, even if it feels flimsy in real life. “It’s a compromised space,” says New Museum curator Lauren Cornell, of art on social media. “It’s kind of like being asked to make art in the showroom of a company.” Los Angeles Times

Stories from around the web:

— The United Kingdom’s vote to withdraw from the European Union (a.k.a. “Brexit”) is affecting the art market, with sellers leery of London auctions. Bloomberg

— Likewise, the British film industry is also concerned about what Brexit might mean for production. Los Angeles Times

— Speaking of England, London’s Tate Modern has unveiled its new Herzog & De Meuron-designed wing, the Switch House. Art critic Adrian Searle says it is “terrific.” Guardian

— Filmmaker George Lucas has dropped plans to build a museum in Chicago. Los Angeles Times

— The editorial board at the Chicago Tribune says Lucas’ departures is a good thing. Chicago Tribune

— A wild new installation by artist Christo on a lake in Italy allows viewers to, literally, walk on water. New York Times

— Phillipa Soo, the leading lady from the original cast of “Hamilton” is set to take the lead in the musical “Amélie,” which will debut at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre in December. Los Angeles Times

— An experimental opera by Dutch composer JacobTV (a.k.a. Jacob ter Veldhuis), staged by the Long Beach Opera, and on view at the Broad Stage this weekend, takes on the subject of TV news in intriguing and “trifling” ways, writes Mark Swed. Los Angeles Times

— The Huntington museum in San Marino has just done an extensive reinstallation of the designs of architects Greene & Greene in its galleries. Verso

— If you have $2.5 million lying around, there’s a Rudolph Schindler-designed house for sale in Silver Lake. Los Angeles Times

— The late architect Zaha Hadid has been honored with a new postage stamp in Iraq. Dezeen

— And Times art critic Christopher Knight says that if you plan to visit the Getty Museum, keep an eyeball peeled for “Portrait of a Boy,” 1500, attributed to Giorgione. It’s a very rare loan from a private collection. Twitter

Last but not least…

A hypnotic video of a Brooklyn artist’s wild pigeon piece. New Yorker

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

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