Hello from the Times’s new art editor, Paula Mejía


Welcome to Essential Arts! I am Paula Mejía, the new culture editor of LA Times and I fill out for Carolina A. Miranda in this week.


While waiting for my worldly possessions to arrive from my home state of Texas, I read a pile of books on Los Angeles (I read Mike Davis’ must-see “City of Quartz” what’s your favorite?) as a makeshift bedside table and write this newsletter with two pillows instead of a desk. I am honored to direct our coverage of art from one of the world’s most vibrant and idiosyncratic cultural epicentres, a city I have adored since I first set foot in a decade ago.

Several friends who were born and raised Angelenos have kindly shown me a few favorite Los Angeles icons over the years including Barnsdall Art Park, Clifton’s cafeteria, Steel house, Big central market and the late Smog cuttereach of them moved me in different ways. However, the Griffith Observatory became one of the first places I moved to alone. Every time I visited Los Angeles, it became a ritual to grab a chocolate and peanut butter shake from Fred 62 before snaking up the hill for a meditative moment to myself. As often as I’ve been to the observatory at sunset, it still feels like a miracle to stand up there and look into the glittering expanse. Before leaving the Times last year, columnist This is how Chris Erskine described the magnificent view: “You can sniff the sage in the canyons. You can watch the shiny half smile of Santa Monica Bay. And the lights of the city, the glowing embers of another long SoCal day, not so different from the laden sky. ”I am still overwhelmed by this place, which, like my hometown Houston, at first glance is often vast and opaque appears.

What excites me about the Los Angeles Times at this moment, and the role of culture editor is a sense of urgency. It’s a busy time for the art world in Southern California as actors, dancers, and musicians carefully re-enter the stages; Walt Disney Concert Hall. Big and emerging institutions like the new one Academy Museum of Motion Picturesswing their doors open.

There is a lot to be happy about, and you have to be skeptical too. Do institutions of the performing and visual arts actively support and reflect on their communities after the racist disputes that came to a head in summer 2020 and the decisive discussions about harassment and discrimination, as manifested in museum galleries and concert halls? How does art lead to conversations and breaks in our culture and how can artists be enabled to continue to open up new possibilities of expression? As we head back to experiencing the arts beyond our screens, I hope you will come back to our reporters and critics as a resource, share your experiences, and tell us what you would like more to see in the section.

A little bit about myself: Before joining The Times, I was the arts editor of Texas Monthly, in addition to managing film, music, television, sports, and religion as well as reporting on the arts. Under my direction, we have told stories as varied as an oral tradition from the people of Houston Avant-garde-performance-art-meets-funhouse, Houston, and an extensive editorial package celebrates the effect of Selena Quintanilla Pérez about fashion, music and culture on her 50th birthday. As an author, I wrote the gnarly story of a. unpacked my mentor for creative writing whose life story turned out to be fiction; broken messages about the High-rise development sneak into James Turrell’s Skyspace in MoMA PS1 and how Score from Angelo Badalamenti for the cult TV show “Twin Peaks” looked exactly like that You guessed it two mountain peaks; explores why online sellers like Etsy Upselling tumbleweeds picked from the desert; and pursued the continuing appeal of Southern California Mall Goth Giant, Hot Topic. I am happy to be here with you!

Now I’m surrendering things Craig Nakano, deputy editor of the Times entertainment and arts teams who will feature on cultural news for the week.


How quickly did SoCal’s classical music scene pick up speed? Don’t look at the stages; Just have a look in our mailbox. So much. Occurrence. Yes, readers, critics Mark Swed was a busy, busy man. No, we cannot clone it.

Sweden’s calendar contained the Igor Levit Recital in the historic Thomas Mann House, the 1941 home of the author “Death in Venice” and “Doctor Faustus” and a meeting place for literary luminaries of the time. Aside from hearing Levit conjure up Mann’s Wheelock piano – returned to LA after a 70-year absence – Swed captures the spirit of the house and introduces himself Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Arthur Rubinstein and Hanns Eisler gather within the same walls. Bertolt Brecht and maybe Ernst Krenek and Darius Milhaud even. It’s a lovely read with some lovely photos of Jason Armond.

People gather at Thomas Mann’s house to hear Igor Levit play Thomas Mann’s piano.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

This follows Swed’s review of the sold-out climate opera Sun & Sea, a devastatingly effective environmental work of art produced by the Contemporary Art Museum, Hammer Museum and Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Coming soon: Reviews of LA Operas “Tannhäuser” and Steve Mackeys Premiere of the new trumpet concert in the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Publication Monday: Sweden’s interview with Gustavo Dudamel about the pandemic loss and its impact on the sound of the LA Phil. As I said, busy busy.

Reporting from Mexico City

Daniel Hernandez has a look back at the replica of the Great Temple of the Aztecs, which rose in the central square of the capital in summer. Was the massive video light installation part of a decolonization movement that rightly highlighted the country’s indigenous roots, or was it an attempt to rewrite Mexican history?

A brightly lit work of art displayed at night is surrounded by a crowd.

A 15-meter-high replica of the Templo Mayor pyramid in the central square of Mexico City, illuminated with video art.

(Daniel Hernández)

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One big sale, two great shows

Great week for local art news too. UCLA announced it was selling a wonderful 1930 Picasso painting Hammer Museum Collection set to raise $ 6 million to $ 8 million for the university at auction. He was very critical of the museum’s recent onslaught on the relegation artworks, so critics Christopher Ritter may have surprised many readers with his verdict on the Hammer Plan: Smart Move.

Knight also has a recommendation for your cultural calendar: photographer LaToya Ruby Fraziers smart, effective show “The Last Cruze” in California African American Museum. What makes the exhibit – about the closure of a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio – so effective is “that sense of intimacy that must be carefully created,” writes Knight, and an empathic understanding of the very human workers who – past tense – on the assembly line.

In the gallery in the city center Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Carolina A. Miranda discovers the artist’s wondrous watercolors Karla Diazwhose stroke in 2017 forced her not only to relearn drawing, but also to struggle with insomnia. The late nights made Diaz go deeper and the artist channeled a powerful exploration of life and death in paintings. Go.

Blackface and demolition culture

The consequences of a Professor at the University of Michigan who showed the filming of “Othello” with Laurence Olivier in blackface generated some not unexpectedly divided opinions. Theater critic Charles McNulty interferes – and gets straight to the point by opening his play with the following words: “Last spring I included the 1965 film“ Othello ”with Laurence Olivier in Blackface in my Shakespeare on Stage and Screen curriculum. You may be wondering why I openly admit my academic crime. ”Click here to read McNulty’s response.

Follow the money

the Ahmanson Foundation, once the largest donor of European old master paintings and sculptures to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, announced that it will make art purchases at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens instead in San Marino. Deborah Vankin has the story.

If you don’t know WriteGirl, Robey Theater, Santa Cecilia Orchestra or Centro Cultural by Tia Chucha, Check out Jessica Gelts Contribution to the pandemic recovery of the organizations. They are among 90 arts organizations that collectively receive $ 36.1 million from the LA Arts Recovery Fund.

the Plaza theaterwho have favourited the stage in downtown Palm Springs on the, among others Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and later was home “The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies” got a maintenance boost this week. “Frasier” co-creator David Lee Gelt reports $ 5 million pledged for the restoration and renovation.

Your indispensable calendar

If you are last minute looking for something to do this weekend, Listing Coordinator Matt Cooper have you covered, with suggestions that one August Wilson Revival in Pasadena, a Linda Ronstandt Tribute with La Marisoul in Northridge, a Chiara Atik Atwater social justice drama Kristin Chenoweth and Megan Hilty in Costa Mesa and Margaret Cho in La Mirada. But wait, there’s more.

Cooper’s list of 13 SoCal Halloween Trick or Treat events in LA Union Station to Zombie Joes The 17 year old “Urban Death Tour of Terror” (how’s that for the range?) Is here.

And there’s always our list of the latest LA and OC museum exhibits to see in October.


Friends, employees and customers shared their memories of the gallery owner and philanthropist Margo Leavenwho died at the age of 85. If you missed Gelt’s extended obituary, you can read it here.

Last but not least …

One of the most common complaints we hear is that with so many articles flowing through the Times website each week, some readers are having trouble locating the art material. Some helpful (hopefully!) Abbreviations:

You can always find our latest art stories at latimes.com/arts. And our themed pages are back! You can bookmark these special pages for coverage on art, architecture, classical music, theater and dance, books and activities.

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