Dreaming of a White Christmas...?

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Whether you're dreaming of a white Christmas or not, here's a story for you about one of us Angelenos, who took the matter into her own hands. Lita Albuquerque, a well-known Los Angeles artist, and a good friend of mine, decided to spend a few days in the snow, in Antartica to be exact. She traveled to the South Pole, with fifty volunteers, to execute one of her tour-de-force art installation/performances. First, Lita and her crew installed 99 blue fiberglass spheres mirroring the position of the stars above. Then, on December 22, the day of the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, she and her volunteers did a performance, which was filmed from a helicopter. If you want to see this truly unique footage, a weblink will be available at the bottom of today's Art Talk text on the KCRW website. Of course, those of you who are already signed up to receive Art Talk on a weekly basis will be getting it in your inbox.

I was glad to see that the New York Times deemed Lita's project worth mentioning on December 23, a day after the performance took place. Two days later, on Christmas, I was reading in the Times an _extensive article devoted to L.A.'s cutting-edge architectural scene. The emphasis was not on the usual suspects like Frank Gehry and his Disney Hall, or Thom Mayne and his Caltrans building. Instead, the article focused its attention on less glamorous, but nevertheless very important civic projects, designed by top architects and supported by our city leaders, which indicate a new level of maturity and sophistication for our city. I can see a few New Yorkers raising their eyebrows at the notion that something of importance is happening outside the isle of Manhattan.

By the way, the exhibition of Thom Mayne's architecture, originally shown in Paris at the Pompidou Centre, is supposed to come next year to MOCA, though the museum has not yet officially put it on the schedule. In this exhibition, designed by the architect himself, Thom Mayne chose to pull the proverbial rug out from under his visitors' feet. First, they were asked to take off their shoes, and then to step into a dark gallery on a steeply inclined glass floor, glowing from inside. It was utterly fascinating to watch people standing, sitting and even laying down, to get a closer look at dozens of models and drawings from projects done in the last 10 years by his architectural firm, Morphosis. This innovative exhibition, with its unorthodox presentation, demonstrated the unsettling beauty and daunting energy of our City of Angels.

And let me finish with a little story about the slightly wicked sense of humor that our Angels seem to have. After my trip to Israel earlier this year, I received an invitation to come back with a lecture on the contemporary Los Angeles art scene. The unusual thing is that I will have to deliver it twice ­ once in English, the second time in Russian, because there is a large population of Russian Jews in Tel Aviv. Thirty years ago, when I arrived in America, I was hired to teach at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and I was sweating bullets over my first-ever lectures in English. Now, ironically, three decades later, it's the thought of lecturing in Russian that gives me pause. So I better start brushing up on my Russian right now and wish you a Happy New Year in my native language: S NOVYM GODOM, S NOVYM SchastIEM!