So, at last, the happy dog days of summer are here again. Yes, I know I am mixing metaphors, but it's been hot - almost 90 degrees, even here in Santa Monica, so I do have an excuse. Last weekend, seemingly everyone wanted to come to the beach to cool off, but I had better plans: with a group of friends, I went in the opposite direction - toward downtown - to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Cool idea, don't you think? Actually, it was freezing cool inside...yes, I know, I am mixing metaphors again.
Upon entering the cathedral, we were greeted by the majestic sound of a live organ accompanying a soprano singing for a wedding party a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria. Waiting for the ceremony to end, we strolled through the vast space flooded with sunlight streaming through thin plates of semi-translucent Spanish alabaster substituting for traditional stained glass windows. Dozens of monumental tapestries designed by southern California artist John Nava (and woven in Belgium) decorate the walls of the cathedral. But it's the life-size bronze crucifix installed near the altar that we wanted to see up close and personal, especially considering that the Los Angeles sculptor who created it, Simon Toparovsky, was part of our gang. Let me tell you, you would have wanted to be there to hear his stories of the four years of inspiration and hardship it took him to finish this divine project.
Probably it's more than coincidence that when a few months ago I talked about my impromptu Sunday visit to three other beautiful Los Angeles churches, I got many more responses than usual. Still, it was not as popular as the all-time favorite Talk titled Art and Babies, about the hilarious adventures of my friend's three-year-old niece during her first-ever visit to the Getty Museum.
But the program that broke all the records was last week's Art Talk, MOCA's Double Standard. Only one listener took me to task for my criticism of Dennis Hopper's show, writing, "Not a very thoughtful review, Edward. You're clanking along on Chris Knight's coat tails and not doing even that very inventively." All others agreed with me that Dennis Hopper, the artist, was treated uncritically as a celebrity whose every step is of importance, and in that, the museum revealed, unwittingly, its own double standard. Here are a few of your comments:
-Don't agree with you all the time, but you got it right this time!
-Hopper's photos are a nice documentation of the sixties and seventies, but the rest of the work isn't as successful. I also wondered about his private art collection and how it would look in context of the show...As it is, this just isn't up to MOCA's standards.
-The show itself was a huge disappointment. I think your idea of showing what Hopper collected as well as his art would have given the show depth and meaning.
-In my humble opinion, you hit the nail on the head with Dennis' review. Pandering to the Hollywood crowd is an embarrassing direction for a major museum, and a considerable misstep for the new director.
-As the previous show at ACE gallery revealed, some of his photography was quite good, the rest forgettable. The impulse to make a show popular at the expense of a discernment of quality seems all too irresistible in today's world, art…and elsewhere.
So, once more, I want to thank you all for such thoughtful responses. You'll find more listener comments on KCRW.com/ArtTalk.
Banner image: Consecration of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles