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by Leticia Marie Sanchez

French opera composer Jules Massenet once experienced an untimely mix-up in phone lines at the precise moment he was dashing off the finishing lines to an opera.  Stuck on the last scene of his opera Thérèse he called up his collaborator from a hotel phone to brainstorm together. Unfortunately, the lines got crossed, and a terrified eavesdropper listened in on their conversation. Katherine Bakeless related the anecdote in her book, Story-Lives of Great Composers:

“The last scene didn’t come out right. He called up his collaborator who had written the words, and said:

‘Cut Therese’s throat and it will all be all right.”

The wires had crossed, and some total stranger heard him. The strange voice said,

 “Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoundrel, I would denounce you to the police.”

The collaborator answered Massenet: “Once her throat is cut she will be put in the cart with her husband. I prefer that to poison.”

The strange voice shouted, “Oh that’s too much! Now the rascals want to poison her.”

[Bakeless, 138]

Unfortunately for Massenet, SKYPE had not yet been created.Or else the suspicious citizen could have seen with his own eyes that the “murderer”on the other line was, in fact, famous French composer Jules Massenet who was having a bit of trouble with his opera and that newly invented machine: the telephone.

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez                                                                                                                                                                 Salvador Dalí mastered the art of creating his own image. Dalí shocked audiences everywhere with his flamboyant persona. A limousine or taxi was just too dull for the outrageous surrealist. So Mr. Dali drove a Rolls Royce stuffed to the brim with…. cauliflower.   The veggie-mobile was the automobile of choice for Mr. Dali as he drove to La Sorbonne University in Paris to give a lecture.  His speech was entitled, “Phenomenological Aspects of the Critical Paranoiac Method.”  

During the speech, Dali exclaimed to the two thousand listeners in the audience, “Everything departs from the rhinoceros horn! Everything departs from Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker! Everything ends up in the cauliflower!” Time Magazine, Dec. 26, 1955                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Move over Hybrids. That Cauliflower-Car was the first truly Green vehicle.

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez 

As a teenager, Michelangelo Buonarroti suffered a blow at the hands of a green-eyed bully.

Two different accounts of the story exist. In Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, Pietro Torrigiano, an artist studying with Michelangelo under the patronage of Lorenzo De ‘Medici, grew jealous of Michelangelo’s undeniable talent. Resentful of his former pal’s new status as teacher’s pet, Torrigiano delivered a blow that knocked the 15-year-old genius out cold.

In the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Torrigiano defended himself by saying that Michelangelo was teasing the other artists working in the Church of the Carmine. He admitted the viciousness of his attack: “I felt bone and cartilage go down like biscuit beneath my knuckles; and this mark of mine he will carry with him to the grave.” 

Torrigiano should have taken Anger Managment 15th Century style: I’m sorry I Baroque a Friend’s Nose.

Instead, Torrigano continued on a temper tantrum-filled path that eventually led him to prison. Not just any prison.

A Spanish holding cell established by the black-robed goons of the Inquisition. Woops. Torrigiano had become so enraged at a miserly payment for his sculpture of the Virgin that he smashed his Madonna to smithereens. Let’s just say that the fanatical judges did not crack up at the crack up.

As for Michelangelo, he carried more with him to the grave than a broken nose. He has bequeathed the world everlasting art brimming with humanity, majesty, and passion.

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez

According to Kathleen Krull, in her book “Lives of the Artists,” Henri Matisse subsisted on a strict diet of rice-only when he first started out as a painter. Not Rice-A-Roni. Just plain boiled rice.

Matisse refused to even allow himself to indulge in the luscious fruit that he bought for his still life paintings.

Instead, he saved that fruit for his art.

And for us. 

Enjoy.

Henri Matisse, Still Life with Oranges. 1899 

 Editor’s Note: Matisse eventually became one of the highest-paid artists of his time, imbing champagne and moving to the French Riviera– a real Rice to Riches story!

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Which American Museum has:

181 works by Renoir

69 Cezannes (more than in all the museums of Paris combined),

59 Matisses

46 Picassos

and

7 Van Goghs

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

This happens to be the spot that Matisse called, “the only sane place to see art in America.”

Unfortunately, the collection will be at the Foundation for only two more months.

The Independent covered the saga and court hearings behind the attempt to move the works of art out of the Foundation

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/rupert-cornwell/rupert-cornwell-is-this-the-biggest-art-heist-in-history-2246968.html

as did the documentary Art of the Steal.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1326733/

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All the World’s A Stage:

William Leavitt’s Theater Objects at MOCA

By Leticia Marie Sanchez

All photography© MOCA

All the world’s a stage, all the men and women merely players. Nowhere does Shakespeare’s expression hold more true than at William Leavitt’s Theater Objects at MOCA.

Walking into the exhibition one hears the constant chirping of birds and the flow of cool air. Are we in a jungle? A theme park? On the set of a play?

Leavitt’s engaging exhibition interacts with its audience, causing the museumgoer to constantly question where he or she stands.

Co-curated by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and Ann Goldstein, former MOCA senior curator and director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, William Leavitt: Theater Objects represents the first solo museum exhibition and retrospective of the artist’s 40-year career. The exhibit showcases approximately 90 works from 1969 to the present, including: sculptural tableaux, paintings, works on paper, and photographs.

Leavitt’s background in stagecraft, narrative, and theater, informs his work, which gives audiences a behind-the scenes peek at theatrical installations. An inscription in the exhibit gives a “nod to Raymond Chandler,” an apt allusion as Leavitt’s work veers into noir, into what is lurking behind the shadows, behind the patio, behind the façade.

William Leavitt, Theme Restaurant, 1986, oil on canvas 46 x 72 in., collection of Carolina Bilbao and Richard Massey, Miami

Leavitt employs satire in his painting of the landmark Encounter Restaurant at LAX by titling it Theme Restaurant. His title links the iconic airport restaurant to a theme park like Disneyland. The visual context of the painting, cleverly hung by MOCA next to Roller Coaster (1984) and Brown Derby (1987) underscores this motif. Leavitt’s satire highlights Los Angeles’ identity as an entertainment hub. Are people flying into the city simply to be entertained? (Ironically, the interior of the LAX restaurant, was in fact designed byWDI, Walt Disney Imagineering)

William Leavitt, California Patio, 1972, mixed media(artificial plants, Malibu lights, flagstone, slider, curtains, wooden wall, and text), 96x144x 96 in.,collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam,courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Approaching California Patio (1972), are we walking on a set? Are we actors or viewers? Next to the patio set is a script, reinforcing the notion that the patio is merely an illusion.  The sliding door alludes to the wilderness coming in, the danger lurking behind the glass. The green curtains resemble theatrical curtains, adding to the spectacle motif in Leavitt’s exhibit.

William Leavitt, Cutaway View, 2008, mixed media installation with painting (acrylic on canvas),  98  x  75  x  26  in., painting:  30 x  40 in., courtesy of Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles

Cutaway View (2008) allows the viewer to play peek-a-boo with a horse glancing at us from behind foliage. The horse examines us quizzically with his steady gaze, putting us on the spot. Who is viewing whom exactly? Are we the spectator? Are we the audience? Leavitt plays with the experience of looking. The artificiality of the plant suggests façades around the city, heralding Los Angeles as a place to see and be seen, once again denoting the spectacle of the city.
Below:

William Leavitt, The Tropics,1974, gelatin silver prints and text, edition of  3 with  2 Artist proofs, each:  11 x 8  1/2 in., collection of Edward Israel,  Los Angeles

Finally, the Tropics is a multi-media display consisting of a water color set, a script, gelatin silver prints, and texts. The script tells the story of a man bestowing a pearl necklace upon his wife. The jaguar in the painting symbolizes the predatory nature of the man who uses jewelry as a means of seduction in the jungle of desire.
William Leavitt, Jaguar (from The Tropics), 1974, oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 44 1/4 in., courtesy of the artist
The plethora of visual media in the Tropics adds to its psychological dimension. The repetition of images like the jaguar elicits archetypes from our subconscious mind.
Presented through 10,000 square feet of exhibition space at MOCA Grand Avenue, Leavitt’s vast and cohesive exhibit marvelously takes the viewer on a journey, at once mysterious and humorous. Leavitt’s perspective on Los Angeles not only impacts the way that we see our city, but also the very way that we experience art itself.

Editor’s Note:

In addition to being an artist, Leavitt is also a playwright.

MOCA will stage two of his performance works in conjunction with the exhibition. Spectral Analysis (1977) will be performed in the galleries; Pyramid, Lens, Delta (2003) will be premiered as a table reading in the Ahmanson Auditorium at MOCA Grand Avenue.

William Leavitt: Theater Objects

March 13- July 3

MOCA Grand Avenue

250 South Grand Avenue, LA, CA 90012

http://www.moca.org/

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-Scarlett O’Hara had nothing on me!

In a lecture a few years ago at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, it was revealed that Arabella Huntington, powerful arts patroness, happened to be a tempting siren.

Mystery shrouds the birth of her son. At the time, there were not two, but three gentlemen involved with Mrs. H, who could have sired the heir to the Huntington fortune.

Arabella went by the nickname Belle.

The stoic portrait of Arabella at the left, painted by Sir Oswald Birley, graces the entrance of the Huntington’s Research Library. It teaches us not to judge a book by its cover, nor a dowager by her spectacles, black garb, and beekeeper’s veil.

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