Cathedral Opening

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So, Labor Day has come and gone and thank God for that. One more day of 100-plus temperatures and, I'm afraid, we would all be gone, too. The long weekend was marked by slight pangs of jealousy for being excluded from the festivities around the opening of the new Cathedral. On the other hand, seeing hundreds of bishops baking under the merciless mid-afternoon sun, and not sharing their suffering, gave me a guilty pleasure. That's what our German friends call schadenfreude.

The new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels opens to the public today. I wouldn't be surprised if most of you, like me, haven't seen it yet and only caught glimpses of it while driving by its bulky muscular structure. One thing that continuously gave me pleasure in recent months is the way the Cathedral presides over the Hollywood Freeway. It reminds me of the old European tradition of perching a church at the hilltop above the riverbank. The Spanish architect Rafael Moneo understood the essential poetic truth about our city of angels and that is that we do have many rivers - our freeways - that flow through Los Angeles. Richard Meier ignored this truth. As a result, his Getty Center literally turned its back on the freeway underneath.

I watched yesterday bits of TV coverage of this important social and cultural event in the life of the city, coverage which was predictably inconsequential. As one could expect, the LA Times gave in-depth coverage to this event, with front-page articles appearing on two consecutive days. However, the choice and placement of photographs illustrating the articles were disappointing and uninspiring. Yesterday, on the day of the opening, a tiny photograph of the Cathedral's fa-ade was shoved into the bottom left corner of the front page, while the main spot was given to a large photo of kids splashing in the water. (Feelgood and banal to the hilt--Talk about priorities!) The Times architecture critic gave a strong endorsement of the Cathedral, but its art critic weighed in with his negative assessment of all the artworks commissioned by Cardinal Mahony. Other Times staff writers joined in the chorus of commentators. Los Angeles-based sculptor Robert Graham, designer of the massive bronze doors, Lita Albequerque, responsible for the outdoor water fountain, and John Nava, who created the numerous tapestries for the Cathedral, were all summarily dismissed. I had the experience of seeing some of these works in the artists' studios while they were working on the project and I was impressed and moved by what I saw. But I reserve further judgment until I see the completed works in their designated spaces.

In the best and the largest photograph in today's issue of the Times, a crowd of bishops is shown sitting at the feet of the towering bronze crucifix made by Los Angeles sculptor Simon Toparovksy. Surprisingly, he is not credited, either in this photo, or in the second one, of a worshipper touching the feet of the bronze Christ. It's not the first case where the Times' editors were asleep at the wheel, either ignoring or forgetting to mention an artist's name whose artwork is prominently displayed. A couple of months ago the tapestry of John Nava was used as a dramatic background in a large color photograph of Cardinal Mahony, but, in similar fashion, without the courtesy of acknowledging the artist's name. I don't like when artists are treated without proper respect, as if they were hired hands.

Tune in to next week's program, when I will be talking about my first visit to the Cathedral and my impression of its artworks.

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