This week has not one, but two events examining from different perspectives (neurological, emotional, innovative, and creative) the evolving relationship between teenagers and technology, a livestream exploration of Leimert Park, an IGTV storytelling festival, a new avant-garde movement piece celebrating the resilience of our heroic and essential neighbors, a special webinar on the pleasure principle in iconic fashion photography, an exhibition series curated friend-to-friend, a show comprised of artist couples, an online book launch for an acclaimed progressive comics-based vision, and a surprisingly reasonable documentary on a polarizing titan of modern photography.
Thursday, July 30
Dreams, Genes & Machines: Are We Living Science Fiction? at ALOUD. Of course it’s not only young people whose brains are being rewired by avalanches of screen time, but the effects for socialization, cognition, language and other neurological aspects are especially potent at that stage of development. Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, professor of Education, Psychology, and Neuroscience at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC’s Rossier School of Education, explores how trauma and current events — and the mediated effects of witnessing the world through the filter of the virtual — informs “how teens think and feel about themselves in relation to the world.” Thursday, July 30, 5pm; free with rsvp; eventbrite.com.
Nexus Soyuz at the Wende Museum. Nexus Soyuz presents the results of the GENESIS organization’s Virtual Pioneer Summer Internship program in a virtual exhibition. The tech educators and museum staff worked together to support the research undertaken by a group of high school students engaged in gaming, 3D modeling, and VR. The idea was to recreate “the sights and sounds of the Eastern Bloc” in an interactive mixed reality environment that also reflects the quality of isolation we are currently experiencing. Thursday, July 30, 6-8pm; free with rsvp; wendemuseum.org.
Leimert Park Live! at LACMA. Leimert Park is a current and historically vibrant hub of African American arts, culture, music and activism in Los Angeles, whose central role in our city’s evolution must be celebrated always. This virtual exploration of the neighborhood’s treasures will be led by co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors; co-lead organizer of We Love Leimert, Kaya Dantzler; CEO of Urban Design Center, Sherri Franklin; founder of the California Jazz & Blues Museum, Barbara Morrison; artist Alison Saar; and co-owner of Sikas, Milan Wilkinson. Following the virtual tour, an expanded conversation unpacks this moment of a Black art renaissance and its historical antecedents. Participants include historian and curator at the Autry Museum, Tyree Boyd-Pates; founder of Kaos Network, Ben Caldwell; and art collector and advocate, Dr. V. Joy Simmons. Moderated by independent curator and producer Autumn Breon. Thursday, July 30, 7-8:30pm; free with rsvp; lacma.org.
Friday, July 31
Big City Festival: Stories That Move. A three-day live-streamed music and conversation series from the folks behind Big City Forum, in that same spirit Stories That Move aims to, “serve as a community dialogue to bring together culture makers, activists, change agents, and creative visionaries to explore the role of art in building a strong democracy and collaboratively shaping a better future.” In this first of what is sure to be a robust series, Bianca Nozaki-Nasser, Natalie Patterson and Christopher Rivas share personal stories of how they view the transformation of the world and with it, the self. Between stories, there will be live DJ performances by Bruja Prieta and Baby Bruise in Mexico City. IG Live, Friday – Sunday, July 31 – August 2, 2pm daily; instagram.com/bigcityforum.
Diavolo: This Is Me – Letters From The Front Lines. Diavolo, known for their innovative, athletic and emotional aesthetic, creates a new film commissioned by the Soraya, following the paths of military veterans and first responders as they confront the current multiplicity of crises. “At a time when most have been asked to halt and withdraw,” reads the creative statement, “others, like soldiers, are charging forward.” Directed and choreographed by Diavolo’s founder Jacques Heim, and filmed by Aaron Mendez. Streaming live at Facebook on Friday, July 31, 4pm; free; diavolo.org.
Saturday, August 1
The Power of Pleasure: Decoding the Art of Visual Seduction webinar with Matthew Rolston at LACP. This professional development webinar by legendary photographer Matthew Rolston takes the idea of pleasure very seriously indeed, as this lion of fashion and celebrity photography deconstructs the strategic elements of “visual seduction.” Within the historical context of how beauty and luxury brands communicate, Rolston will impart insight into the analytical framework of how beauty operates on our consciousness, with the goal of making you a better photographer/artist/designer/maker — and a more savvy viewer. Los Angeles Center of Photography, Saturday, August 1, 10-11:30am; $45 / members $35 (proceeds benefit the LACP); lacphoto.org.
Personal Contacts at Durden & Ray. The artists collective Durden & Ray is known for its innovations in exhibition and curatorial models, and the new IRL / online series Personal Contacts is another creative response to this hybridized time. Part gallery show on view by appointment at their downtown space, and part live-streaming video interviews, every two weeks members of the collective invite guest artists into the conversation. The result is not only physical and non-material, but beguilingly intimate considering the enforced distance that prompted the idea. The first installment goes live this weekend, and features Mark Acetelli with Brian Thomas Jones, Shiva Aliabadi with Gul Cagin, Chaz Guest with Max Presneill, and Kimberly Morris with Sean Noyce. Durden & Ray, 1206 Maple Ave, #832, downtown; Saturdays, August 1 & 8, 11am-5pm (two people at a time, masks on); livestream artists talk, Monday, August 3, 7pm; free. durdenandray.com.
Sunday, August 2
Terra Incognita at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. History is full of examples of couples in which both partners are artists. From Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, to Ed & Nancy Kienholz, Gilbert & George, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Christo and Jean-Claude — and there is a special dynamic that takes place in those relationships, whether or not the pair are regular collaborators. A new exhibition takes a closer look at the variations of this theme, peering into the private studios of several significant local artist-couples Joe Forkan & Crystal Yatchin Lee, Jeffrey Gillette & Lauri Hassold, Robert Repp & Robin Repp, Victoria Reynolds & Jeffrey Vallance, Eric Stoner & Stephanie McManus. OCCCA, 117 N. Sycamore St., Santa Ana; August 1-29 by appointment; virtual opening reception: Sunday, August 2, 7-8:30pm; occca.org.
Context-Con at Human Resources. Co-hosted by Human Resources Los Angeles and New York’s Participant Inc., New York, this online book launch event celebrates Alexandro Segade’s new graphic novel The Context (Primary Information). Reimagining the superhero comic book as “a queer parable of belonging,” that fuses Segade’s lifelong love of the comic book universe with his education and practice in advanced semiotics and lived experiences that prompt social reimaginings. The story’s six characters — Biopower, Cathexis, Barelife, Objector, Drives, and Form — each embodies a concept from critical theory and possesses powers that are as existential and philosophical as they are cosmic. Sunday, August 2, 4pm; free; participantinc.org.
Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful on VOD. About halfway through Gero von Boehm’s new Helmut Newton documentary The Bad and the Beautiful you realize there have been no interviews with men. Other than the extensive (and quite rare) footage with Newton himself, the voices heard throughout this film are entirely those of the women in his life and work — from his wife and partner June Newton, to his publisher Anna Wintour, and his most high-profile models/subjects such as Grace Jones, Isabella Rosselini, Claudia Schiffer, Charlotte Rampling, and Marianne Faithfull.
Newton became famous in the ‘70s for his racy and hyper-sexualized fashion campaigns and magazine spreads obsessing over the female form — a very specific, very naked, fantasy-driven version of the female body as an object, that still inspires both cultish fandom and charges of exploitative misogyny. Throughout the film, footage of Newton at work is woven with modern-day interviews that function as surprisingly warm, witty, and insightful interviews from his models and subjects, testifying to the narrative of their personal empowerment and the work’s useful artistic and social transgression. A 1979 interview with the late Susan Sontag, who calls him out on the “I love women” trope oft-repeated by misogynists is the only moment of discord in an otherwise keenly empathetic documentary.
The dynamic of the models’ and subjects’ defenses of Newton is fascinating and obviously sincere if rather one-sided, and the huge amount of works and archival materials offers a richly textured and definitely NSFW visual pageant, but perhaps the most intriguing part of the film is the unpacking of Newton’s history as a young Jewish Berliner. In a comparison that seems obvious in retrospect, Newton was both repulsed and influenced by the Leni Riefenstahl aesthetic, and had apprenticed with a pioneering female fashion designer before he fled the Nazis as a teenager. He headed to China then to Australia, where he met his wife June (aka the photographer Alice Springs) whom he clearly loved and respected immensely, and who essentially ran his career and studio from that point on — until he died in 2004, aged 83, after his car crashed into a wall on Sunset Blvd. outside the couple’s local home base at the Chateau Marmont. Now playing at Laemmle Theaters VOD; $12; kinomarquee.com.