California Arts on the Chopping Block; L.A. Arts Veteran Mary Corse at Ace;

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The year is coming to an end, so it's probably as good a time as any to remember that the California Art Council budget for 2004 was officially cut by 94 percent, from $17.5 million to 1 million dollars. "California Arts Hung Out to Dry" announced the headline in a recent issue of "Art in America". Even before this slashing, we in California were already 40th in the nation for art spending. Would you like to know where we are now, after the latest budget cut? Hold on to your seat- we are dead last. "While the national average for state arts spending is $1.10 per capita, California will spend less than 3 cents per capita for - the next fiscal year." Quite a development for a state that likes to think of itself as being on the cutting edge. Seems more like California is on the chopping block.

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It's time to lighten up. Let's talk about the exhibition of "White Light Paintings" by Mary Corse, a veteran of the L.A. art scene. The gigantic space of the new Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills is filled with Mary Corse's large abstract monochromatic canvases. Observed from different angles, her minimalistic paintings are brought to life by the sensuality of light reflected from the surface of the canvas thanks to the thousands and thousands of her trademark glass microspheres suspended in the acrylic pigment.Image Not Available
I find Mary Corse's new paintings to be as elegant and intellectually rigorous as the best of her art for the last 35 years. If I'm missing anything in her new work, it's a sense of novelty and surprise. But then, I might be wrong, because the installation, not very sensitive to the delicate nature of the artist's painting, made it difficult for me to appreciate the nuances of her work. I think anyone's patience would be tested by so many white on white paintings displayed against white walls.

For a jolly good time, in the spirit of the holiday, check out the new LACMA exhibition devoted to the glory of Ballets Russes. The company's bigger-than-life impresario Serge Diaghilev introduced the world to the genius of such dancers as Nijinsky and Pavlova, the music of Stravinsky, and the spectacular set designs and costumes by artists from Matisse and Picasso, Sonia Delaunay and L-on Bakst down the food chain to Ert-. This ambitious exhibition concentrates on Ert-, which is no surprise since the County Museum is lucky to own a large collection of the artist's sketches and costumes.

Though not exceptionally original, he contributed a lot to the success of Ballets Russes, and his association with the company launched him into an international career as a graphic artist responsible for 21 years worth of covers for Harper's Bazaar and American Vogue. His costume designs for Hollywood movies, as well as lavish New York and Paris theatre productions, added to his prestige and influenced fashion of the day.

The only regret one can have about this exhibition is the inability to see the costumes in movement, as they were meant to be, enhancing and emphasizing the most innovative choreography of the era. Don't miss the small TV monitor playing rare footage of a pre-war performance by Ballets Russes.

Now, in the spirit of the holidays, let me encourage you to spend time with friends and family going to museums and galleries, get your hands dirty in the garden, stretch out on the couch while splurging on candies. Have a great time and a happy New Year.

Mary Corse: White Light Paintings
Through February 21, 2004
Ace Gallery Beverly Hills
9430 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 858-9090

Ert-/Opera & Ballets Russes/Dance
December 14, 2003 - April 4, 2004
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 857-6000