This Spring Has Turned Our Gods and Angels Into Artists

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Every year in Spring, we expect the lovely pleasure of flowers blooming all around us. But, this year, Mother Nature got totally drunk. The “Super Bloom” of wild flowers all over Southern California has brought huge crowds to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve and beyond. I’ve read about long lines of cars waiting for hours to enter parkland. So, I decided to search for less trampled ground, to find wild flowers blooming closer to home. First, I drove up PCH to Temescal Canyon’s The Point at the Bluffs, where I found an expanse of purple flowers. It’s not easy to find this hidden in plain sight park, but once you find your way there, you’ll want to return again and again.

Top: Malibu Creek Park, March 2019. Photo by Edward Goldman. Bottom: Superbloom in Temescal Canyon. Photo by Tom Mobley.

Then, I continued driving North, to Malibu Canyon’s Malibu Creek State Park, where I found mountains covered with fresh grass and the most beautiful blue/purple blooms… I have no idea what kind of flower they are – take a look at the picture on our site and tell me if you know. All these wild blossoms made me think that this Spring has turned our Gods and Angels into artists. And not just any kind of artists, but Impressionists. Maybe, high above us in the Heavens, they are taking lessons from Claude Monet…

Work from Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, California African American Museum. L: Greg Breda. Untitled (Salt, woman w/big hat), 2013. Acrylic on mylar. R: Kenturah Davis. All Water Has Perfect Memory…, 2018. Oil paint applied with rubber stamp letters and graphite grid on embossed Mohachi paper. Photos by Edward Goldman.

And, talking about lessons… there is an interesting exhibition at California African American Museum (CAAM), Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, showing works of contemporary black artists getting inspiration and lessons from the art of Charles White, the major American black artist whose retrospective is currently on view at LACMA. These artists’ work resonates with White’s “profound and continuing influence” (CAAM).

Installation shot, Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, California African American Museum. Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Dwell: Me, We, 2017. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Among the variety of abstract and figurative artworks, one particularly grabbed my attention – a portrait of a contemplative young black woman sitting at a table in her home with a floor made of hundreds of photographic images of black people. Not surprisingly, this large mixed-media artworkis given a place of honor in the exhibition. If I’m not mistaken, it is a self-portrait by the artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby, who received the MacArthur “Genius” Award in 2017.

Installation shot, Adia Millett: Breaking Patterns. California African American Museum. Expansion, 2018. Paint, paper, turf, chaise, vinyl, and sound. Audio by Adia Millet and Michael DuCott. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Another exhibition at CAAM introduced me to the art of Oakland-based artist Adia Millett, with paintings, collages, miniatures, and textiles. But, the attention-grabber was her multi-dimensional installation Expansion, a two-wall mural painting in the shape of a house. Viewers are invited to step onto its grass-covered platform, lounge on a red chaise, and listen to the accompanying audio.

Adia Millett. The Fire Next Time, 2018. Mixed media and gold leaf on wood panel. Part of Adia Millett: Breaking Patterns. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Another, much smaller, piece shows a house against a shimmering gold sky, with fire breaking through its roof. This image, somehow, is both beautiful and unsettling. And here is why: Adia Millett’s family home burned in the early 90s. Since then, she has used the image of a home in her art as a metaphor for “life and death, destruction and renewal” (CAAM).

Top: Charles Atlas, MC⁹, 2012, Collection Walker Art Center, installation view, Merce Cunningham, Clouds and Screens, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 28, 2018–March 31, 2019, © Charles Atlas, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. Bottom: Detail of poster forFosse/Verdon film. Image courtesy LACMA.

So, let me finish today’s Art Talk with my thanks to two geniuses of dance – Merce Cunningham and Bob Fosse. On Sunday, I went to LACMA to take one last look at their exhibition dedicated to modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham, which was closing that day. And yesterday, Monday, I was back at LACMA to see the screening of the famous 1979 film directed by Bob Fosse, All That Jazz. Even after four decades, the magic of this movie is still in full bloom. And, if you RSVP soon, we can all meet at LACMA this Thursday for a KCRW Partner Screening of Fosse/Verdon, the new FX show about the personal and professional partnership between Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, one of the great Broadway dancers.