Exploring LA’s Cultural Landscape

By Sarah Spitz

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Exploring LA’s Cultural Landscape
Agnes Pelton,Winter, 1933, Crocker Art Museum Purchase; Paul LeBaron Thiebaud, George and Bea Gibson Fund, Denise and Donald C. Timmons, Melza and Ted Barr, Sandra Jones, Linda M. Lawrence, Nancy Lawrence and Gordon Klein, Nancy S. and Dennis N. Marks, William L. Snider and Brian Cameron, Stephenson Foundation, Alan Templeton, A.J. and Susana Mollinet Watson, and other donors, 2013.54.
I like to think that culturally speaking, LA and I grew up together. I moved to California at the age of 12 as the Music Center was nearing completion. Arriving at KCRW in 1983, I was privileged to wander through MOCA before the art was hung; I attended The Getty Center groundbreaking and later produced the on-site live radio broadcast for opening day. I took a hard-hat tour of Disney Hall when it was still in scaffolding, and produced the live opening night festivities from that now-established concert hall. And I covered Cirque du Soleil’s first US performance for NPR’s Morning Edition, when the then-young Canadian troupe helped launch the first Los Angeles Arts Festival that, alas, has gone by the wayside. Over the years I familiarized myself with some of the less-headlining institutions, especially smaller theaters like The Odyssey in West LA, following it from Bundy Drive at Santa Monica Blvd. to its now decades-long permanent location on Sepulveda at Mississippi Ave. I attended performances at the ambitious Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, the adventuresome Ruskin Group Theatre at Santa Monica Airport, and the ever-daring City Garage at Bergamot Arts Station, to name just a few. Sadly, I also watched as the Santa Monica Museum of Art moved out of Bergamot Station (after leaving its original location at Edgemar Center) to become the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in the Arts District downtown. But Bergamot still hosts a large number of vibrant galleries with a wide range of artworks, including the incomparable Peter Fetterman Gallery featuring the world’s best photographers, William Turner Gallery’s championing of local contemporary painters, ROSEGALLERY’s broad-ranging shows featuring visual and ceramic arts, and the quirky Lois Lambert Gallery and Gallery of Functional Art, where you’ll find unique artworks on the walls and floor alongside one-of-a-kind gift items just in time for the holidays. The Storied Philosophical Research Society Despite my familiarity with these places, it’s only recently that I’ve discovered an amazing institution that is an event space, a library for exploration of occult and esoteric practices, with lectures, classes, films, musical events and more. If you’re intrigued by the metaphysical, meet the storied Philosophical Research Society (PRS) in Los Feliz. Founded in 1924 by scholar and prolific author Manly Palmer Hall, it’s a repository of multicultural wisdom sources and a center of learning beyond the ordinary. The designated historical-cultural site was designed by architect Robert Stacy-Judd, and is “dedicated to the ensoulment of all arts, sciences and crafts.” This stunning complex sits at the corner of Los Feliz and Griffith Park Boulevards, and hosts a multitude of public events, like these two, immediately upcoming: Thursday, December 1. As LACMA prepares to open “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938-1945” on December 18, featuring works by Agnes Pelton and others who demonstrate how abstraction can be used in service of the spiritual, PRS presents “Transcendental LA: Agnes Pelton, Dane Rudhyar, and the New Age in LA.” Artist Agnes Pelton (1881–1965) and astrologer-musician-artist Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) are names both obscure and famous. Close friends for over thirty years, Pelton has emerged as a leading figure of 20th-century American metaphysical art while Rudhyar—in addition to his substantial musical, artistic, and philosophical efforts—is thought to be the most influential theorist of, and most prolific writer on, modern astrology. Artist, educator, and theosophical researcher Michael Carter (MFA, Claremont Graduate University) will discuss the uniquely Southern Californian genesis of Pelton and Rudhyar’s creative achievements. On Friday, December 2, there’s an in-depth conversation with LA’s own legendary modern choreographer Raiford Rogers. For over four decades, Rogers has presented some of the most lyrical and kinetic modern ballet in the country, working with collaborators such as Charlie Haden, Terry Riley, Sandra Tsing Loh and others. There’ll be a screening of a recording of Rogers’ latest work, the gorgeous and luminous “Seeds of Rain” (2022, 40 min.), with musical compositions by Philip Glass and Zbyněk Matějů—featuring organist Mark Alan Hilt and pianist Helena Suchárová-Weiser. The Penelopiad at City Garage Discover the many public events at PRS and join the email list: prs.org. Meanwhile, for a timely play, post-Dobbs decision (SCOTUS’ decision overturning Roe v. Wade), check out City Garage’s The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), a retelling of “The Odyssey” from the point of view of Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, and her twelve maids, who were hung by the returning “hero.” It takes place in Hades where these thirteen spirits are trapped for all eternity, telling and retelling their story like angry furies, unable to find redress for what they suffered at male hands. Visit citygarage.org for tickets and information. Last three shows: Nov. 25, 26, 27. City Garage is located at 2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica, CA 90404. In the months to come, I’ll share reviews, previews, maybe the occasional interview and tell you what to be on the lookout for in LA’s vast cultural landscape. Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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November 25, 2022