Sunday 3/9 @ L.A. Weekly’s Essentials Food and Wine Event: noon – 5pm
Sunday 3/23 @ Downtown Flea in Chinatown: 10am – 4pm
Saturday 3/29 @ Grand Park Bookfest: noon – 5pm
And next month we’ll be at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books! Stay tuned!
On Monday evening the “king of kitsch” and the “pope of trash” held court at downtown’s Orpheum Theatre. Co-presented by the Library Foundation and The Broad museum as part of the “The Un-Private Collection” series, artist Jeff Koons and filmmaker/author/photographer John Waters took the stage from opposite curtains like two opposing presidential candidates ready to debate—both in formal dark suits and politely shaking hands. The pair swiftly sat down and warmed up for the packed house of nearly 2,000 attendees to discuss Koons’ iconic body of work.
Holding tight to his clipboard of questions, Waters drilled Koons on his early days fishing for some sign of unhinged behavior of the artist as a young man. Undeterred by Waters’ playful prodding, Koons remained calm and upbeat as he spoke about his traditional upbringing in Baltimore—the one scathing story he remembered involved a “sexy” ceramic ashtray that he gravitated towards every time he visited his grandparents. Meanwhile, Waters, more easily inhabiting his outsider-artist status from an early age, confessed that as a child he constantly pretended to be the “nude descending the staircase.”
Waters also grew up in Baltimore and the two flashbacked to local haunts like a gaudy furniture store that either directly (Waters) or indirectly (Koons) inspired their art. They told a touching story about how Koons’ aunt and Waters’ mother, who both recently passed away, had lived in the same retirement home and used to exchange anecdotes about their provocateur nephew and son. Koons credited his aunt for taking him to art classes on the weekends, which helped to foster his early knack for drawing and gave him a sense of self. But he seemed to learn more about expressing feelings from music than art, “I started to become ambitious when I heard Led Zeppelin,” recalled Koons of driving around, cranking up Zeppelin and wanting to take his life in a different direction.
He enrolled in art school and on his first visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art he was humbled by all the great artists he had never heard of. Surviving this moment of realizing he didn’t know anything pushed him to become a disciplined student, and eventually a great artist. He explained how his paintings soon became bigger than the walls, so he naturally moved on to other mediums, producing the body of work that fans are familiar with today.
Waters curated slides of some of his favorite Koon pieces, including The Rabbit and Balloon Dog (Blue). When Waters asked how Koons felt about viewers who became confused or angry over his work, Koons seemed nonplussed. “The art happens inside the viewer,” said Koons. From his famous titillating rendering of Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles to a recent Lady Gaga album cover, Koons has been influenced by popular culture as much as he has been influenced by Plato and Kierkegaard. He emphasized how ultimately his art is about acceptance—accepting ideas and the self—and that is why he often incorporates familiar images and objects like garden gazing balls into his work. This accessibility has afforded him a huge following and success, which Waters astutely defined his own barometer of success by two things: “You can buy any book you want without looking at the price tag, and you don’t have to be around assholes.”
If you missed this memorable evening full of witticisms and insights on art, life, and the occasional divergence into sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, then you can watch the video below.
–Posted by Bridgette Bates and photos by Gary Leonard
Last fall, the Library Foundation launched Lost & Found at the Movies, a new series to celebrate the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. John Nein, a senior programmer of the Sundance Film Festival and curator of this new series, is focusing on lesser-explored areas of filmmaking to cultivate a conversation around film beyond the buzz of new releases. From unearthing historic photographs and film books from the Los Angeles Public Library’s archives to talking to some of Los Angeles’ biggest film nerds, Nein is combing the whole city for film treasures and bringing them to the stage. Free and open to the public at the downtown Central Library, the next event will take place this Friday, February 28th at 7:30 pm. All the events are built around a theme, so on the heels of Valentine’s Day this upcoming episode, Love is a Many Splendored Things, will explore love at the movies. We talked to Nein about some of his own movie loves and what movie-lovers can look forward to this Friday.
John Nein with Kenneth Turan.
Where did the idea for Lost & Found at the Movies come from?
Nein: Ken Brecher [President of the Library Foundation] first suggested doing a film culture series. There’s no shortage of great film-related events on upcoming releases, award seasons, and so on, but what excited me was the idea of bringing in anyone who has a passion for film—directors, writers, journalists, cinematographers, costume designers—to talk about personal cinema passions, perhaps even arcane interests that they don’t often have an opportunity or platform to talk about in any real depth. For instance, a filmmaker may get the chance to talk about their current work, but they don’t get the chance to talk about how much they love the Czech New Wave. We’ve imagined the series to be very eclectic in nature. You should feel like you’re flipping through a film magazine, but there’s a thematic connection within each event like an episode of “This American Life.”
You kicked off the first event by talking to film critic Kenneth Turan—a beloved and longtime voice in the film community. What “new” things did he have to say about film?
Nein: Kenneth Turan makes his living talking about films that are coming out, but what we talked about was Miyazaki, Max Ophüls, and how he loves this old 1920s French serialized film called “Fantomas.” We even got a chance to talk about Casablanca. We both appreciated that we could use clips and that’s what makes it engaging and fun for the audience.
Speaking of Casablanca, the upcoming event will take on the love story. What do you plan to explore?
Nein: The idea is to look at different kinds of love in movies and love for movies. Each segment of the night will have a different way of interpreting that. For example, we’ll be showing a couple of home movies of famous Hollywood couples like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. In another segment, I just spent a day driving all over Los Angeles to as many theatrical exhibition venues as I could manage in search of people whose passion is to show movies—places like the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Cinefamily, and the American Cinematheque.
Also, the special guest of the night is Stacie Passon who is the writer/director of Concussion, which I thought was one of the strongest films of last year that was overlooked by many. It’s a film that deals with love in a really sophisticated and difficult way. This is not movie warm and fuzzy, but Passon shows a way of depicting how profound cinema can be about human nature and relationships, and marriage in particular and we’re going to look through film history for the really rigorous takes on mature relationships (Rossellini, Cassavetes, Bergman).
Besides Concussion, what are some of the other movies you loved from last year that maybe we haven’t heard of?
Nein: We’ll talk about some of these on Friday, but Fill the Void is a completely unique love story that takes place in an ultra orthodox community in Israel—by virtue of being set there, I’ve never seen this type of film before and it’s a wrenching love story. The Spectacular Now is one of the most honest portrayals of teenage romance with all the edges. Cutie and the Boxer is one of the best documentaries from last year, and even though it’s nominated for an Oscar, it was overlooked by many. It’s so observant of mature love about a tumultuous marriage between two artists.
You spend the year travelling to film festivals around the world in search of new work to screen at Sundance. What are some great films we should be on the lookout for this upcoming year?
Nein: We’ll also talk about some of these films I’m most excited about this year on Friday, which won’t all be love stories like Calvary, which stars Brendan Gleeson as a good priest tormented by his townspeople. Lunchbox, set in Mumbai, is a love story between an accountant and a housewife that starts when the lunchbox she sends her husband inadvertently goes to the accountant. And Mike Leigh’s new film, which we assume will premiere at Cannes and is about J.M.W. Turner, the British artist.
Where do you see the rest of the series going this year?
Nein: We’re hoping to do an episode called “All About Evil,” which occurred to me when I was thinking about characters in the Coen brothers’ movies, but this will stretch way beyond that. I’m talking to Buck Henry about Shakespeare on film, and I think later this year we’ll do something about documentary portraits.
Last, but not least, the Oscars are this weekend. In your professional opinion, what’s going to win Best Picture?
Nein: Gravity. But I’m always wrong.
Learn more about the upcoming Lost & Found at the Movies. Admission is free and space is limited, so please make your reservations online early.
From the gritty drama of noir to the free-spirited poetry of the Beats, how does the literature of California tell us who we are? This Thursday, February 20, ALOUD kicks off the second part of this special home-grown conference in collaboration with The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. Free and open to all at the downtown Central Library, Tales from Two Cities will explore the language, culture, and aesthetic that has helped to shape the writing of California. Here’s the full schedule of events, but for a sneak preview at some of the California voices gathering this week, check out these highlights from past ALOUD programs.
Walter Mosley, Between the Sheets: Sex, Literature, and the Future of Erotic Fiction. Listen to the podcast here.
Attica Locke, The Future of African American Literature and the Paradox of Progress. Listen to the podcast here.
David Ulin in Conversation with Joan Didion.
Poet Gary Snyder. Listen to the podcast here.
This year’s observance of Martin Luther King Day is made especially momentous as it also marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington. Here then are a few incredible moments from the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection looking back at the rich legacy of MLK and how he impacted our city. Also, LAPL will be hosting Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle, a new program series developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that uses the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America’s civil rights history. Check out the schedule of free film screenings at several library branches here.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Addresses StudentsMartin Luther King speaks to a crowd of 4,500 on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. Here, he called for students to join a “Domestic Freedom Corps” to work in 120 counties of the Deep South to help increase the number of registered African American voters.
Honored at the Hollywood Palladium
Martin Luther King is honored by the City of Los Angeles and the World Affairs Council during a luncheon held at the Hollywood Palladium. Here he is pictured with (from left), Councilman (and later mayor) Tom Bradley, Supervisor Warren M. Dorn, King, Harold C. McClellan and Mayor Samuel W. Yorty. King arrived in Los Angeles under heavy guard following the assassination of Malcolm X. An anonymous bomb threat was made during the luncheon. When addressing the group, King said, “Before the victory is won, some of us will have to get scarred up a little bit.” Photograph caption dated February 26, 1965 reads, “City and county officials presented a proclamation to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in ceremonies preceeding a World Affairs Council luncheon yesterday at the Hollywood Palladium at which King, the Nobel Peace prize winner, spoke.”
Busload of L.A. Marchers Leave for Alabama March
A chartered bus with 37 aboard leaves the Federal Building under strict security measures. The Los Angeles civil-rights partisans were on their way to Alabama to participate in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Negro vote” march. 1965.
Los Angeles Sports ArenaMartin Luther King and Governor Edmund G. Brown during a Freedom Rally at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. An audience of 12,000 was expected at the 18,000-seat venue. When over 25,000 people showed up to hear King speak, many remained outside and listened to the speech over loudspeakers. Photograph dated June 18, 1961.
Chavez Gives King Tribute Cesar Chavez, standing next to a large wreath, pays tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a memorial service at the Los Angeles Coliseum on April 7, 1968.
King Memorial Service Clergy and mourners march to First Methodist Church, 8th and Hill Streets, on April 8, 1968, where services were held for Dr. Martin Luther King. View is from the top of the church.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Honored
A grandmother explains to her grandson who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was, in front of a display in the lobby of Curtiss Middle School in Carson. Photo by Ken Papaleo.
Browse more photos from the Library’s online collection here.
Wanda Coleman’s poetry was all music. All street. All wild. She was one of the most authentic people I have ever met. She was entirely herself and if you didn’t like her, that was your problem. She did not kowtow; she did not pretend to be anything that she was not. I remember her leaning into me across the table when I asked her what she thought of so and so. “That trifling yellow bitch!” she’d say, followed by that huge laugh and I’d be left wondering, “Is she serious?” There are poets who write privileged academic poetry, poetry that you need degrees to understand. And there was Wanda, playing the drum for the language of life, of poverty, of racism, of the soul of Los Angeles.
To hear Wanda read poetry was like being at the circus and watching all the animals come into the Big Top at once. There was an energy and rush and movement to her performance. Wanda brought the audience in with her hair, her laughter, but underneath was a deep sadness. Los Angeles, her deepest love never gave as much to Wanda as Wanda gave to the city. The Los Angeles of Wanda Coleman was a wandering mess of dangerous streets and unpaid bills. Wanda Coleman’s performances of these poems ringed with sadness were electrifying. She was our city’s poetry rock star; an uninhibited rush of raw emotion and longing.
Listening to Wanda Coleman’s work was listening to the dark story told in such a rage of lyric intensity and jaw dropping music that you felt you were inside love, inside the blues, inside the best kind of blues/jazz club listening to the city sing to you, never to sleep, always to wake, always to wake into another dark story with a dark woman dancing toward you, dancing and singing the Los Angeles blues. Her poetry was laced with rage, with political overtones, with the song of the oppressed, the outcast, the alone, the underpaid, the ones to whom life is always teaching the same lesson: We do not want you. The ones who always sing back the same song: But we will make music in this outcast place.
For all of us who write poetry in Los Angeles, Wanda Coleman will always be the voice singing in our dreams, threading through our poems, asking us to write truth and to write that truth in music.
By Kate Gale, managing editor of Red Hen Press
Come pay tribute to Wanda Coleman on January 18th at ALOUD.
Photo: Wanda Coleman at ALOUD, Los Angeles Public Library, 2013.
Credit: Gary Leonard
Members of the Library Foundation are a dedicated group of people who share a deep commitment to helping the Library provide all Angelenos with access to ideas, information, and lifelong learning. We are so grateful for their support, and in return, have spent 2013 hosting a range of events to celebrate their love for the Los Angeles Public Library. Before we look ahead to 2014 and invite Members to join us for a new slate of special events, here’s a look back at some highlights from this truly remarkable year. If you are not a Member already, please consider becoming a Library Foundation Member today to take part in these special events.
2013 marked the debut of “The Writer’s Cut.” This new program brings today’s most well known television writers and showrunners to the Central Library to discuss storytelling for the small screen. Members heard behind-the-scenes tales from Dan O’Shannon (“Modern Family”), Glen Mazzara (“The Walking Dead”), and, pictured above, Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”).
After the coziest of all fundraisers, the Stay Home and Read a Book Ball, took place last year, writer Mark Salzman, chair of the event, invited Members to participate in a private writing workshop.
Members were also invited to many other exclusive events with celebrated authors including these Leadership Circle receptions and private events:
Sharon Rising, Marlene Billington and Patt Morrison gather for a reception with Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California.
As part of What Ever Happened to Moby Dick?, D. Graham Burnett with Douglas Murray, Bernadette Glenn, and Ken Brecher.
Songs in the Key of LA performance with Van Dyke Parks and special guests.
Membership also comes with some special savings benefits. This year, Members received early access to the Summer Sale at the award-winning Library Store and discounts at other Los Angeles organizations as part of May and November’s Member Appreciation Days.
As always, Members received priority notice of the ALOUD lineups throughout the year, and this past September Members also received priority notice to the launch of “Lost & Found at the Movies,” a new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. Curated by John Nein, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, the program kicked off with Los Angeles Times and NPR Film Critic Kenneth Turan talking about how and where we watch films in L.A. (pictured above.)
The Young Literati’s annual Annenberg Beach House party was the perfect kick off to “Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?”. Members were treated to readings by Moby, Mark Z. Danielewski, Colin Hanks, and Attica Locke; a DJ set by Shepard Fairey; and a special acoustic performance by thenewno2.
Young Literati also enjoyed cocktails with Roy Choi after a particularly mouthwatering edition of ALOUD. During the evening, Roy Choi discussed his fascinating journey, which has culminated in his critically-acclaimed Kogi BBQ Trucks and several much-loved restaurants. He then joined Young Literati Members in the courtyard for a private reception featuring tacos and beer!
And the Young Literati’s Private Party at Subliminal Projects was an evening of literary inspiration at Amanda and Shepard Fairey’s Echo Park gallery space. Kai and Sunny’s literature-inspired artwork provided a beautiful backdrop for Young Literati to mingle and enjoy special cocktails from The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
Thank you to all of our Members for spending the year with us! If you are looking for some last minute holiday gifts, Membership is the gift that keeps on giving. For a limited time this December and January, a generous Member of our Board of Directors will match your gift dollar for dollar when you join the Library Foundation.
The year brought many unexpected surprises to the ALOUD stage: a first-ever live rap with local hip hop stars backing author MK Asante; Quetzal bringing vintage music from the Los Angeles Public Library sheet music collection to life; Persian short story master Goli Taraghi slyly comparing Tehranian and Parisian cabbies; the late Wanda Coleman delivering one of her last public readings—a passionate poetry tribute to James Weldon Johnson. We sampled sustainable Congolese coffee before a panel on coffee culture, and blissed out when The Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) ruminated on how “love is the rug that ties the room together.”
Please join us once more before the year’s end to laugh, question, savor, and reflect on some of our favorite ALOUD moments from 2013:
Three accomplished short story writers—George Saunders, Bernard Cooper, and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, unpacked the challenges of the short story form explaining how they work through their own daunting personal doubts.
“Language is like a sword that can defend you.” Iranian writer Goli Taraghi shared this wisdom along with other fascinating insights into how creativity and ingenuity can flourish despite censorship, oppression, and the struggles of an exile living far from her home and mother tongue.
MK Asante and Nick Flynn gifted us raw wisdom in their memoirs, both soaring meditations on the power of poetry, writing, and filmmaking as tools for transmitting universal truths, emotional healing, and unlocking individual freedom.
“Is this your first book in a box?,” asked graphic novelist Gene Yang of fellow illustrator Joe Sacco. Yang dove into a fascinating discussion with Sacco on process, while looking at how artists deal with the ethics of converting history into graphic narratives. Far from being contained within the boundaries of a box, these two artists showed how storytelling is illuminated through diverse forms.
The Feminine Mystique, a panel of multi-generational activists, expanded upon Betty Friedan’s seminal book by exploring the evolution of the feminist movement, and why feminism is still considered a “dirty word.” Highlights included learning about the radical and exploratory approaches women took to protect their health in the sixties (the first time anyone produced a speculum on the ALOUD stage!), and consensus from all participants that feminists today are in favor of a more inclusive movement encompassing class and racial equality for both women and men.
The Library jammed to the jazz and world music tunes of Don Cherry in a live tribute honoring an L.A. genius who spread his cosmic musical talent far and wide. In a first-ever hometown tribute, his talented family of fellow musicians—conducted by his son David Ornette Cherry— shared candid stories from his career while also introducing a new generation to his work.
The ALOUD audience was enlightened by a rich bilingual experience about the life of the late poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño. Here’s a gem from an audience member: “Otherness becomes familiar as the magic of unattainable syllables is rendered even more magical with the conveyance of heart pulse, bone and marrow intentions.”
Activists Albie Sachs, Eve Ensler, Jody Williams and artist Shirin Neshat—all by example—showed what we can do as citizens and artists in service of reconciliation, social justice and as agents for positive change in the world: “You cannot not respond to the world around you—culture has to be morally conscious.” —Shirin Neshat (pictured above)
Thank you for spending the year with us! We look forward to seeing you in 2014. Learn more about our 2014 program calendar here.
The Library Foundation has spent the last year envisioning the role of the 21st century library by launching a range of special projects that celebrate the rich history and culture of Los Angeles in today’s world. Before we head into 2014, we wanted to share some highlights from these projects that we hope have offered Angelenos a chance to experience our city in new and unique ways.
Songs in the Key of L.A.
Photo by Gary Leonard.
Over the summer, this special project brought to life the Los Angeles Public Library’s sheet music collection, including the publication of Angel City Press’ beautiful anthology curated by USC Professor Josh Kun. The First Floor Galleries of the Central Library also opened an exhibit of 46 pieces of the cover art from the sheet music, and ALOUD hosted Kun and GRAMMY-winning L.A. band Quetzal for a look at L.A.’s musical history. Listen to the podcast here.
The project closed with what Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic Randall Roberts called “a truly memorable moment, one that many in attendance won’t forget.” East L.A. band Ozmatli and fellow artists took the stage at Grand Performances to resurrect the historic songs from the collection. The evening featured special guests Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Cheech Marin filling the California Plaza with a new take on its SoCal roots.
Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?
Throughout the fall, the Library Foundation teamed up with the Los Angeles Public Library to invite readers to take a look at Herman Melville’s masterpiece through a Southern California lens. Over 90 librarian-created events across the city offered Angelenos of all ages to chance to interact with the great white whale, including a special reading of Moby Dick by actor, comedian, and Melvillian enthusiast Patton Oswalt.
Photo by Gary Leonard.
Over 200 folks took part in the Summarizing Moby Dick Twitter Contest winners, which offered hilarious and thoughtful micro takes on the epic story, including this favorite:
The project culminated with “My Moby Dick,” a grand finale of theatrical performance, sea shanties, and cutting-edge science at the Broad Stage, including a special film by the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Watch parts of this video here, including food critic Jonathan Gold’s retelling of eating whale balls.
Lost & Found at the Movies
This fall, we debuted a new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. Curated by John Nein, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, the program is eclectic in theme and varies in form, exploring how we lose ourselves and find ourselves at the movies. The first installment unearthed some historic photos of theaters from the Library’s archive and featured Los Angeles Times and NPR Film Critic Kenneth Turan talking about how and where we watch films in L.A.
Check back with us in the new year for upcoming special projects, including the next installment of Lost & Found at the Movies.