One day, two art exhibits

Saturday afternoon I attended not one but two art openings. The first was at the Ontario Museum of History and Art, which is focusing on the latter for “Diversity and Inclusion.” Over four rooms, it’s got paintings, collages, drawings, sculpture, embroidery and probably something I forgot, all offering a look at the African-American experience.

It was well-attended, and at times the galleries were actually crowded. Probably half the attendees were black, a nice sight in Ontario and at a local art event. That and the strong turnout should be encouragement to do more such shows. Besides, most of the art was really strong.

After that, I headed for Cal Poly Pomona for “Positively 4th Street,” an ode in paintings, drawings, assemblages and text to LA’s 4th Street viaduct. It’s a small show, but likewise evocative. Below is Richard Willson’s “The Approach.” He and Roderick Smith did the art and D.J. Waldie provided text and an essay on the bridge’s history. I introduced myself to Waldie and got his autograph in my copy of “Holy Land.”

Find the exhibit on the 4th floor of the University Library through April 12.

All in all, a pleasant, visually stimulating afternoon across two counties.

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Favorite films of 2017

Consider this the How Did We Stand the Suspense Edition, coming as it does 10 days into the new year. I had planned to wait on this list a few days into 2018 to buy myself time to see an extra movie or two. But then I came down with a cold, which meant I couldn’t get out to any movies OR produce the list, the pen-and-ink draft of which was on my desk at the office. Sheesh.

At least I got to two movies in the final days of the year, and they filled my No. 1 and 2 slots.

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  3. Lady Bird
  4. Get Out
  5. The Big Sick
  6. Wonder Woman
  7. The Trip to Spain
  8. War for the Planet of the Apes
  9. My Cousin Rachel
  10. Blade Runner 2049

It was hard to know where or if to place Arrival, which was a 2016 release when I saw it last January. Fences was another holdover, but I liked it less. Arrival would have come in around No. 8. From No. 11 down, the rest of my 2017 movies would run like this: Thor: Ragnarok, The Beguiled, Dunkirk, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, Beatriz at Dinner, Rat Film.

Obviously I missed or haven’t yet had a chance to see lots of good movies, among them The Post, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, Molly’s Game, Call Me By Your Name, Novitiate, All the Money in the World, The Florida Project, Mudbound and I, Tonya. Oh well.

What did you see in 2017 that you liked — or hated?

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Favorite music of 2017

We’re in an age when music seems to mean less to the average person than ever before, but many of us still care, and some of them are my friends and colleagues. Below you’ll find a list of my favorite releases of 2017, pictured above. Wes Woods’ list is below mine.

  1. Rolling Blackouts CF: “Talk Tight” (Sub Pop)
  2. Arcade Fire: “Everything Now” (Columbia)
  3. Waxahatchee: “Out in the Storm” (Merge Records)
  4. Jens Lekman: “Life Will See You Now” (Secretly Canadian)
  5. Saint Etienne: “Home Counties” (Heavenly)
  6. Kamasi Washington: “Harmony of Difference” (Young Turks)
  7. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: “The Nashville Sound” (Southeastern Records)
  8. Randy Newman: “Dark Matter” (Nonesuch)
  9. Yumi Zouma: “Willowbank” (Cascine)
  10. The Magnetic Fields: “50 Song Memoir” (Nonesuch)
  11. Brad Paisley: “Love and War” (Arista Nashville)
  12. Various Artists: “The Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa” (World Music Network)
  13. The Pollyseeds: “Sounds of Crenshaw, Volume One” (Ropeadope Records)

Wes Woods:

  1. Kendrick Lamar: “Damn” (Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment, Interscope Records)
  2. Rapsody: “Laila’s Wisdom” (Jamla Records, Roc Nation)
  3. Valerie June: “The Order Of Time” (Concord Records)
  4. SZA: “Ctrl” (Top Dawg Entertainment, RCA Records)
  5. Thundercat: “Drunk” (Brainfeeder)
  6. Sampha: “Process” (Young Turks)
  7. Jlin: “Black Origami” (Planet Mu)
  8. The War on Drugs: “A Deeper Understanding” (Atlantic Records)
  9. St. Vincent: “Masseduction” (Loma Vista Recordings)
  10. (tie) The xx: “I See You” (Young Turks); Migos: “Culture” (Quality Control Music, 300 Entertainment, Atlantic Records); Joey Bada$$: “All-Amerikkkan Badass” (Pro Era Records, Cinematic Music Group)
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Column: Psst! Here’s the lowdown on PST: LA/LA shows in the IE

You may be at least marginally aware of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA art exhibits scattered around Southern California. I visited the eight shows in our area, in Pomona, Claremont and Riverside, and wrote capsule summaries for Wednesday’s column. This weekend brings free admission (although many venues are free anyway) and special events to the IE-area spots, so it’s timely.

(To be candid, I’m guessing this column will get fewer clicks than normal while requiring more time and mileage out of me than normal. But it seemed worth doing, so I did it anyway.)

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Column: Dining hall masterpiece provides food for thought

In writing last month about the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA show at Pomona College, I said I’d come back to the topic of the college’s celebrated “Prometheus” mural. At last, I do so in Sunday’s column, where you’ll learn how the first Mexican mural in the United States came to be painted in Claremont, what it’s about and what (tee-hee!) seems to be missing.

It’s a relief to have written this, by the way: My research started in March 2016 when I attended a talk on the mural and continued through the reading of two college-published art books, attendance at two events this fall around the PST show and interviews with several of those involved, all culminating in lunch in the dining hall earlier this month where I could see the mural. Whew!

Now I can finally get these books and notes off my desk. My only regret is that I forgot to make the dining hall my Restaurant of the Week — but maybe I’ll do that this week.

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Column: Rock of ages: Photog shot music billboards

I attended Sunday’s talk and slide show in Claremont by Robert Landau, who compiled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip” from photos he shot as a youngster, and since he’s going to give the same presentation in Rancho Cucamonga tonight, I figured I might as well write something about it. That’s in Friday’s column, followed by a few more items.

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Frank Fairfield’s folk (and Margaret Axelrod’s too)

I dropped into Claremont’s Folk Music Center Saturday evening to let them know my Joan Baez column would be in the next day’s newspaper, and they said, “Are you here for the concert?” Er, concert? Frank Fairfield and Meredith Axelrod would be performing in a few minutes.

I had seen Fairfield once before, an instore at Rhino Records in the same block maybe five years ago, and in fact had just seen his name about an hour before as I read about the “American Epic” PBS show and recordings, to which he contributed. And here he was.

So I stayed for the first half, as the duo performed folk and pop tunes from the early 20th century, “Down on the Brandywine” and “Frankie and Johnny” among them. I liked it. Fairfield seems more natural and relaxed than the Dock Boggs enthusiast he was that other time I saw him; maybe he’s internalized the music in the interim. Axelrod was winning too.

I counted 28 in the audience, all of us on folding chairs, and it’s a treat to hear live music in such cozy quarters. The duo joked around and took their time, and audience members interacted with them a bit too. (I’d have stayed for the whole show, but given that I hadn’t intended on seeing a concert, I was desperate for food.)

Fairfield will be in Tuesday’s “American Epic” episode.

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