Essential Arts & Culture: Parsing Measure S, 'Fun Home' inspires genuflection, SCI-Arc goes to Mexico

The battle over the Los Angeles skyline. The award-winning show inspired by a singular graphic memoir. And “Salome” at 30. Plus: SCI-Arc in Mexico City, Oscar-nominated films that emerged from important plays, and a longtime curator leaves the downtown gallery he helped establish. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles, and I’m in your inbox with a weekly digest of everything culture:

Measuring Measure S

On March 7, Los Angeles will head to the polls to vote on a development measure that could affect the profile of the city. Measure S (formerly known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative) seeks to put a two-year moratorium on development projects that require an amendment to the city’s general plan, among other factors. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne parses the measure and its backers, whose roots lie in anti-growth initiatives from the 1980s — and whose vision of Los Angeles seems to lie squarely in the 1960s. “It is an argument,” he writes, “for safeguarding a Los Angeles organized around the car and the single-family subdivision.” Los Angeles Times

A fun home 

“Fun Home,” the Tony Award-winning musical inspired by the award-winning graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, has finally landed in Los Angeles. Times theater critic Charles McNulty says it provides reason for genuflection. The story — based on Bechdel’s own childhood — is about a picture-perfect family that is shattered within: a volatile, closeted gay father, a suicide, and a young woman who, in the midst of this, is trying to come to terms with her own sexuality. The show, writes McNulty, “combines textured character psychology and nuanced storytelling with the enchantment of a score that can go from melancholy to zany in a heartbeat.” Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, The Times’ Daryl Miller sits down with Jeanine Tesori, the show’s Tony Award-winning composer. Tesori has produced music for an array of Broadway productions, including “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Caroline, or Change” and “Shrek: The Musical.” Tony Kushner, who wrote “Caroline,” tells Miller that Tesori has “that gift of liberating very deep feeling in an audience. There’s an openhearted emotionality, a way of using music to make your heart explode.” Los Angeles Times

‘Salome’ at 30

Thirty years ago, the Los Angeles Opera’s staging of Strauss’ “Salome,” by British director Peter Hall, put the company on the map. Now the company is revisiting that production, with soprano Patricia Racette in the title role — a performance that Times classical music critic Mark Swed reports was “empowering” and “triumphant” and drew “the crowd on its collective feet cheering.” The vintage staging, however, is in dire need of a rehash. “The large cistern in which Jochanaan (John) is imprisoned resembles an industrial-size barbecue pit,” he writes. “The intentionally garish costumes scream the worst of the 1980s.” Los Angeles Times

New crop of composers

The Times’ Jessica Gelt spent some quality time with students participating in Symphonies for Schools, a weeklong outreach program that introduces young people to classical music. This included a thwarted adolescent attempt to produce John Cage’s famous composition devoted to silence, “4’33”.” (Silence and teens — not a good combo.) The highlight: Four teenage composers, graduates of a special Los Angeles Philharmonic fellowship program, had their compositions performed by the orchestra at Disney Hall. Bravo! Los Angeles Times

SCI-Arc in Mexico

As the new presidential administration talks about building walls, the Los Angeles architecture school SCI-Arc is strengthening its ties to Latin America. Earlier this month, I paid a visit to SCI-Arc Mexico, the school’s new programming hub in Mexico City, where a binational team of students gathered to present ideas on affordable housing. “Our beliefs at SCI-Arc have always been one of openness and of open collegial debate,” SCI-Arc vice director John Enright told me. “Administrations come and go, but ideas have longer legs.” In the fall, SCI-Arc is scheduled to open a similar space in Colombia. Los Angeles Times

Coachella of the art world

A new biennial opens in the Coachella Valley this weekend. “Desert X” consists of 16 site-specific works situated over 45 miles of desert. The Times’ Deborah Vankin took a tour of the show, which includes a dramatic earth piece by Tavares Strachan, a dirt-filled storefront by Gabriel Kuri and sculpture inspired by a Middle Eastern pigeon tower by Sherin Guirguis. The show, which is free, says exhibition curator Neville Wakefield, “is a sort of refraction of the desert experience through different eyes.” Los Angeles Times

Art books at MOCA

The Los Angeles Art Book Fair is in town through Sunday at MOCA Geffen in downtown Los Angeles, and I have written a guide to the madness, which includes an exhibition about the 1980s Chicano barrio magazine Teen Angels, an artist tattoo parlor run by Gagosian Gallery and a political zine by Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama whose proceeds are destined for the ACLU. Get ’em while they’re hot! Los Angeles Times

A little bit of Oscars

McNulty examines two of the contenders for lead actor at Sunday’s Academy Awards: Casey Affleck’s performance in “Manchester by the Sea” and Denzel Washington’s turn as a middle-aged sanitation worker in “Fences” — two film roles that emerged out of plays by Kenneth Lonergan and August Wilson respectively. “Psychologically, Lee and Troy aren’t all that far apart,” writes McNulty of the characters played by the actors. “Scarred by their histories, straitjacketed by conventional masculinity and stuck in jobs that squash their self-esteem.” Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, I get my geek on with Eric Heisserer, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of the alien-landing flick “Arrival,” about linguistics, relativity and how J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish inspired his alien language. Los Angeles Times 

Plus, a bit of design: The Academy Awards set on Sunday will have an art deco vibe. Vanity Fair

In other news…

— Longtime Los Angeles curator Paul Schimmel has departed the downtown gallery he helped open in 2016, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. No reason was provided for the departure. Los Angeles Times

— Speaking of exits: Critic Charles Isherwood has left the New York Times. Reporter Boris Kachka investigates why that may be. American Theatre, Vulture

— The Museum of the Moving Image in New York shut down Shia LaBeouf’s live video piece “He Will Not Divide Us” over concerns about public safety. But the piece has rematerialized outside a theater in Albuquerque. The Verge

— South Korean dance troupe Bereishit was unable to secure visas to enter the U.S. for a performance. It is unclear whether Trump’s immigration crackdowns are a factor. Minneapolis Star Tribune

— The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently re-hung its permanent collection galleries to feature artists who hailed from countries affected by the travel ban. Ben Davis gives the installation some critical consideration. Artnet

— Frederick Deknatel reports on the archeological losses of Yemen’s war. Los Angeles Review of Books

— Critic Oliver Wainwright says it’s time to reconsider the nature of public art. The Guardian

— No pain, no gain? Isamu Noguchi’s sets for Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring” were really uncomfortable for the dancers. Washington Post

— Andrea Rosen, the longtime New York gallerist who presented key shows by artists such as Rudolf Stingel and Wolfgang Tillmans early in their careers, is shutting down her space to focus on managing the estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Critic Jerry Saltz pays tribute. Vulture

— Naima J. Keith, deputy director of L.A.’s California African American Museum has won the David C. Driskell Prize for her contributions to African American art history. ARTnews

— The Ahmanson Theatre has announced its 2017-18 season, which will include Stephen Karam’s Tony Award-winning “The Humans” and a world premiere of David Henry Hwang’s “Soft Power.” Los Angeles Times

— Plus, the Geffen Playhouse has also announced its upcoming season, which will include Neil LaBute’s “The Way We Get By” and Halley Feiffer’s off-Broadway comedy about an unlikely pair that bond over their mothers’ hospitalizations. Los Angeles Times

— And the Marciano Art Foundation has announced its opening date in Los Angeles: May 25. I think we’re gonna need a bigger season. Los Angeles Times

Last but not least…

When times are dark, I have a no-pants policy. Thank you, Leslie Hall. YouTube

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