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Anish Kapoor: Fluidity, Reflections, Space A spatial stainless-steel installation in Hollywood

Anish Kapoor is known as one of the world’s great living artists.  Since he won the Premio Duemila Prize at the 44th Venice Biennale back in 1990, his sculptural installations had a significant presence in many cities, including London, at the Tate Modern, Paris, at the Grand Palais, and Jerusalem, at the Israel Museum.

 

Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai in 1954 to an Iraqi-Jewish daughter of a rabbi who immigrated to India from Baghdad with her family when she was an infant. His Punjabi Hindu father was a hydrographer for the Indian Navy.  This mixed and complex background had a powerful influence in his attraction to dualities: concave and convex, matter and void, light and darkness, negative and positive, earth and sky, mind and body.  The range of materials he uses and pushes to their limits is astonishing: stone, steel, concrete, fabrics. Many of his projects are at an architectural scale.  He collaborated with architects Frank Gehry in Chicago’s Millenial Park, Arata Isozaki in Japan, and engineer Cecil Balmond at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park.

Although his reflective artworks in highly polished stainless steel are easily recognizable, it would be a mistake to pigeon-hole Kapoor into this style only.  His crude artworks in sculptural painting and amorphous concrete tell us of an artist in continuous research for new forms of expression.

The exhibit of Kapoor’s stainless-steel Double S-Curve at the Regen Projects gallery in Hollywood is good art news for Southern California.

12/12 in L.A. & 3 Pianists A link between long-term thinking and what is doable today through architecture and the arts

This short documentary tries to connect dots between three disparate experiences that happened in a single day, 12/12/2019. The dots are a brainstorming session with old friends, a visit to a new working environment in Hollywood, the discovery of an art studio by the Los Angeles River dedicated to environmental art, and three piano performers.

It all started with a scheduled breakfast at Coffee Cup, a reunion of four former members of a group known as “Rethinking Greater Long Beach.” At the table were Professors Alex Norman (UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs,) Jack Humphrey (Demography) Bill Crampton (Education) and myself.

After ordering sunny side up eggs for breakfast – out of the ordinary for me – and updating ourselves – we had not seen each other several years – we started our brainstorming session. This time, instead of rethinking Long Beach, we posed several questions at a global level. China thinks and plans long term, why can’t the US? Is Singapore urbanity number one, as Jack thinks after his recent visit? How many people can planet Earth take sustainably? What revolution is needed in education to face the future’s challenges? What are the dangers generated by Trumpism beyond Trump? Summarizing the results of our discussion, we voted. “Optimistic vs. Pessimistic.” The result: 1 to 3, respectively.

In the afternoon, Ruth and I made an unplanned visit to Second Home Hollywood. I only knew that it had been designed by the same architects that designed the Serpentine Pavilion near LACMA, Jose Selgas, and Lucia Cano, from Madrid. They had recently completed this new kind of working environment in London and in Lisbon.

We found Second Home Hollywood’s design impressive. Built with low-cost materials, and making intensive use of planting, the place is full of light, spatially vibrant and stimulates socialization. It is out-of-the-box thinking. Its success with young people is evident.

In the evening, we went for a first visit to Metabolic Studio, by the Los Angeles River, close to downtown L.A. Once again, we were surprised to discover a stimulant space to produce arts and crafts within an existing industrial warehouse.

Inspired by these three events in a single day, I decided to produce a short documentary, included here. While watching the Kennedy Center Awards 2019, I discovered Yuja Wang. Immediately it triggered the idea of bringing into the film the piece that she performed, “You Come Here Often?” by Michael Tilson Thomas. While researching for another two piano pieces, I first discovered Marco Mezquida, from Barcelona. He has played in many international jazz festivals. Then I discovered Joanna MacGregor. She is a British concert pianist, conductor and composer, who is also Head of Piano at London’s Royal Academy of Music. I found her playing of a Piazzolla arrangement fantastic! I couldn’t resist connecting the dots through a film collage.

And The Winner Is… Q&A with the five Foreign Films directors nominated for the Golden Globes Awards 2018

“And the Winner Is…” brings segments of a Q&A with the five Foreign Films directors nominated for the Golden Globes Awards sharing their thoughts and experiences on the making of their latest films. Angelina Jolie, Ruben Östlund, Andrey Zvigagintsev, Sebastian Lelio and Fatih Akin sat next to each other at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater and answered questions posed by the moderator, Mike Goodrich, on their films: FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHERTHE SQUARELOVELESSFANTASTIC WOMAN AND IN THE FADE respectively, dealing with contemporary themes addressing the world today.

The day preceding the Golden Globs Awards night we sat at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood surrounded by a public of creative people from the filmmaking community. The Q&A was moderated by Mike Goodrich. The directors, in spite of being competitors, were friendly and unassuming. Although my preferred film among the very good five was Ruben Östlund’s The Square, whom we had encountered the preceding day at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, I was very impressed by the humanity, eloquence and thinking of Angelina Jolie, well beyond her beauty and talent as an actress. Being acquitted with Cambodia’s genocide – back in 2008 we were commissioned to design a memorial in Long Beach, which has the largest Cambodian community outside of Phnom Penh – I thought that They Killed My Father First was important to raise the public’s awareness of the Cambodian tragedy.  The film was well crafted, besides its content.

Why was The Square my preferred film? Because I saw it as one of those films that mark a “before and after” point of reference, like La Dolce Vita in the 1960’s. It is a breakthrough in filmmaking, and I am glad that the Cannes Festival acknowledged that by awarding it the Palme d’Or. Many professional critiques disagree, and in fact, contrary to my predictions, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not award it, neither did it award Jolie’s film, which I considered the second best. The critique is that it is “disjointed.” Sure, and that’s the point. Östlund is perfectly coherent in the way he presents his social critique in a language consistent with the message. In a way, its satirical aspect reminded me the films of Luis Buñuel and the plays of Eugene Ionesco.

Fatih Akin’s input at the symposium was genuine. In the Fade is a very good thriller, but I agree with him that he would not have been there without the participation of Diane Kruger’s fabulous acting. The importance of this film dealing with terrorism and neo-nazi racism is that it focuses on the victim, rather than on the terrorists or the police investigators.

In Fantastic Woman, Sebastian Lelio confronted a difficult subject in telling the story of a transexual as a social message, to a great extent thanks to the performance of its star, Daniela Vega. He acknowledges that before the film he had had many prejudices about the subject, and only after long research he changed his mind.

Last but not least, Andrey Zviyagnitsev’s Loveless develop a theme that, unfortunately, it is quite universal: the victimization of children from an ugly divorce. The filmmaking is masterful in a  classical cinematographic way of painting a drama, but, like In the Fade, it is essentially a thriller.

Why would a filmmaker of architecture documentaries step on the field of feature films’ critique? An easy answer is ‘why not’? But the truth is that I see architecture as the ultimate expression of life itself, and it is nourished by all the arts and sciences. In many ways, I find that architecture and filmmaking have a similar process. As a personal note: in my first year at the School of Architecture of the University of Buenos Aires, we had a course named “Cultural Integration,” taught by Jorge Romero Brest. As part of the course, we had to go to watch assigned good cinema (Fellini, Antonioni, Tati, Kurosawa) every Saturday morning, and write a review by Monday. It was the way the school saw how to develop critical thinking in students that didn’t know a jota about architecture.

“And The Winner Is…” Obviously, YOU! 

Renzo Piano and Kerry Brougher at theThe Samuel Goldwyn Theater

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood Work-in-Progress: The Academy Museum of Motion pictures in Context

Rendering of Academy Museum. Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The work-in-progress of the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is scheduled for opening in 2019. In “Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood”, the three are connected through images of the museum’s construction at the present time, historic and contemporary examples of architecture, mementos from classic movies, metaphors of Hollywood, and segments from my previous films.

We live immersed in architectural spaces throughout our lives. Filmmaking tells us stories through space, light, motion and human scale. The Acadamy Museum of Motion Pictures offers an opportunity to make tangible the connection between the two sisters’ arts.

 Both crafts have many things in common. They both are realized with the help of a team guided by a creator. On both disciplines, a spatial sequence is critical. In architecture, we perceive space as we move. In cinema, the spatial movement comes to us linearly, as may have been defined through editing.
Both disciplines interact with the other arts. Both must control sound, operate at different scales and deal with significant costs for their realization. Both create stages, one for everyday life, the other as a background for a story.
Architecture’s fundamental difference lays in its materiality. It deals with the law of gravity and with the nature of materials: strength, weight, texture, color, shape, durability. Yet the thinking process of architectural design and filmmaking is the same: we first dream, then we program/script, then we design/shoot, then we build/edit and finally we occupy/distribute. Criticism follows!

Architect Renzo Piano

Prof. Bruno Zevi

What does the museum’s “program/script” tell us? There are two main components: exhibitions and movie screenings. The exhibitions will be housed within the 1939 May Co. building, at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. The main screenings will be presented in the new 1,000-seat state of the art theater.
To emphasize the contrast between the existing building and the theater, Piano chose to formalize the later with a sort of molded sphere “suspended in space,” mostly cantilevered, standing on mayor pillars. This approach reminds me both Michelangelo’s structural support of Saint Peter’s dome and John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, more than Bucky Fuller’s dome.
The overall context couldn’t be more eclectic. Within the LACMA campus, old and new “connect” only by adjacency. Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” , reminding us that we are still standing on the Earth, is in total contrast with everything else. The Petersen Automotive Museum, at the opposite corner of the intersection, wraps around with metal ribbons a Bernard Tschumi-like red box, bringing to the scene a sort of caricature of adaptive-reuse. In a way, the whole area represents ultimate Los Angeles’ exiting disjunctions.

Using filmmaking techniques to communicate architecture, short of providing the physical experience of moving through space, can bring to the viewer much more than a succession of single frames. It can create associations with other places or stories, it allows for multiple perceptions in seconds, it can use drawings, photography, and art to illustrate a point. The film at the top of this blog tries to express that.