'Unhinged' Winchester

The Mystery House's new attraction goes for spooky narrative arc over historical accuracy Read More

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Review: 'Die Fledermaus'

The opera premiered on April 5, 1874, at Vienna's Theater an der Wien. Since then, it has not only been a staple of the theater's repertoire but has grown in reputation, becoming one of the most popular operas ever produced. Opera San Jose's adaptation opens on an upper-crust Austrian apartment, where consummate man-about-town von Eisenstein (Eugene Brancoveanu) has found himself in a bit of a pickle. Eisenstein was planning to attend Austrian Prince Orlofsky's annual New Year's Eve Party. However, a recent altercation that ended with Eisenstein punching a police officer in the face has thrown a wrench in the works. » Read More

'Unhinged' Winchester

As the sun sinks behind the Santa Cruz Mountains, a group of people mill about outside the Winchester Mystery House. A white-haired man at the gates urges them to go no further, for they will likely never return. Based on the silver flask he's white-knuckling, it's safe to assume he's seen some things he'd prefer to forget. A historic San Jose estate with a legacy rooted in the supernatural, the Winchester Mystery House is a popular destination for those seeking close encounters with the astral plane. With the fall season upon us and October lurking right around the corner, the mansion has once again opened its doors to guests seeking an evening of paranormal activity. » Read More

Stanford Explores Diebenkorn

Two of Stanford University's museums are devoting this curatorial season to one of their most celebrated alumni, artist Richard Diebenkorn (d. 1993). On Sep. 20, two of his paintings will be on display in "Left of Center: Five Years of the Anderson Collection at Stanford University," an exhibit devoted to West Coast artists. His Girl on the Beach (1957) and Ocean Park #60 (1973) will represent the artist's approaches to figurative and abstract painting. Concurrently, at the Cantor Arts Center next door, there's "Richard Diebenkorn at the Cantor," which opened on Sep. 4. Both could be thought of as an amuse-bouche rather than the kind of bountiful buffets that career retrospectives tend to proffer to a certain set of museum-goers. » Read More

Hector Dionicio Mendoza at Triton Museum

Severed at the neck, a giant's head hangs from the ceiling in mid-air. His eyes are closed; his lips slightly parted. This is the white plaster face of a god in repose. He might be contemplating his next act of creation. His expression is as enigmatic as the iconic stones on Easter Island. Long scraps of bark coat his neck, creeping toward the edges of his forehead, cheeks and chin. A green man made out of wood and the elemental earth. Hector Dionicio Mendoza's Head/Cabeza is one of several sculptures in his solo show, "White Wilderness/Maleza Blanca" (at the Triton Museum of Art through Nov. 3) that makes contact with the divine. But the gods and demigods who populate the gallery aren't merely benevolent or blandly beatific. » Read More

Review: 'The 39 Steps'

The play's built-in gimmick doesn't solve that problem. Apart from Lance Gardner's leading man performance as Richard Hannay, the three supporting actors play multiple roles. The need for quick costume changes turns every scene into a physical comedy gag or extended routine. When Ron Campbell steps into a premade wig and housecoat ensemble, his voice gets shrill the second he becomes a house cleaner. This approach brings ham and camp together, often on a collision course. The cast also moves the action along by maneuvering props every which way about the stage, as well as by taking hurried turns at the sound effects table. » Read More

Comic Relief

It's a story he shares with audiences in his acclaimed one-man-show Not a Genuine Black Man, which premiered in San Francisco 15 years ago, and which Copeland still regularly performs to sold-out crowds. Not a Genuine Black Man is one of several hit one-man-plays Copeland has written and performed in the last two decades that address personal and political issues. His latest is The Great American Sh*t Show with Charlie Varon, which comes to the Tabard Theater on Aug. 15. In fifth grade, Copeland was introduced to theater, and he began performing in the school musical every year. The plan was for him to become a lawyer when he graduated from high school, but fate intervened when Tommy Thomas, better known as Tommy T, opened the original » Read More

Seeing Red

Pop cultural artifacts and ephemera invade every visible corner of Tracey Snelling's immersive work, Clusterfuck 9. Shades of red stain drip and creep along the walls, which are also covered with collaged imagery of TV, film and rock stars. Pages cut out from tabloid journals feature pinup girls with glossy lips in various states of undress. The artist intensifies the fever and fury of Hollywood by adding splashes of spray paint, glowing neon, video monitors and gushing, viscous tears. At the center of this maelstrom, Snelling places a red leather sofa to up the ante on how much saturation the eyes can take. This is a hellscape made from an everyman's day of mindless media consumption. » Read More

'Here Today' at Stanford Art Gallery

Some of the posters from 1301PE, a contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles, are as eye-catching as DIY streetlight fliers for local bands. Others tell sophisticated stories in the same way their close cousins, classic vinyl record covers, used to do. But a few of them are so abstract that they only exist as private references or inside jokes from the artist's mind that can't be explained or retold. The collected works here date back to the gallery's opening date in 1992. Since that time, Brian Butler, founder of 1301PE, has represented and championed artists who are now known well beyond the confines of one Southern California art gallery. » Read More

Strange Visions at MACLA

Javier Martinez upsets the order of the natural world with his sculptures Double Ass Coyotl and El Tlacoc. By shifting animal DNA around, he invents a new breed of mutants. His silvery-blue coyote, as the title suggests, is headless with two rear ends. The artist seamlessly merges two dog bodies together. Either they've collided in a science experiment that's gone terribly wrong or this was some deranged god's first draft of a pooch. At one end, a striped tail lifts and holds still in the middle of a wag. The other half, painted in creamy silver, extends three tails of its own. Each end has two rear-view mirrors attached and reflecting the lone striped tail back to itself. » Read More

Review: 'The Language Archive'

At the same time that Mary leaves George, he and Emma are in the midst of a new project. They're recording Resten (Francis Jue) and Alta (Kuroda), the last speakers of a dying language. But things don't go according to plan. Resten and Alta, a long-married couple, start arguing in English. Their marriage mirrors George's back to him, except for that their disagreement is temporary. Alta tells Emma that in her native language, the words "I love you" don't exist. What people in love say to one another is, "Don't leave me." Kuroda expresses this thought in such a way that it modifies both phrases. "Don't leave me" becomes a tender endearment while the inherent need in saying, » Read More

Language Arts

Assyrian culture dates back to around 2500 BCE. In the ensuing millennia, war, regime change and environmental shifts have led to mass exodus. Today, the Assyrian diaspora covers the globe. Northern California is host to a strong community of Assyrian peoples, some of whom are working tirelessly to preserve the traditions of their ancestors. Tony Khoshaba is one such individual. Since 2007, he has curated a yearly event called Mesopotamian Night, which celebrates Assyrian culture by showcasing ancient traditions and championing the preservation of one of the world's oldest surviving languages through an evening of music and performing arts. » Read More

Return to Form

Dalia Rawson, who performed and worked for Ballet San Jose, founded the New Ballet in 2016. She says the new partnership with the Hammer represents a milestone for the troupe. "The return of a full dance season to downtown San Jose fills a longtime void in our cultural landscape," Rawson says, adding that the New Ballet represents a new model for a ballet company—one that differs significantly from older and more established groups. New Ballet's studio company is structured as a two- or three-year incubator for young dancers. "Part of the program is providing a lot of career setting and counseling," Rawson says. Unlike major ballet companies, where dancers must work for years as part of the corps before even getting a chance to audition » Read More

Locals Only at 3F Gallery

This May, Japantown welcomed a new resident: 3F Gallery. At only 11 square feet, it is easily one of the smallest galleries in the city, or pretty much anywhere. But what 3F lacks in square footage, it more than makes up for in ambition. "It was a space that was created to meet the needs that we saw in the community," says founder Imran Najam. Those needs were simple: San Jose artists needed support. "I've kind of been upset by the trajectory that San Jose has taken regarding the art scene," Najam says. "They've been sponsoring a lot of projects recently that aren't by San Jose artists, like the Santa Clara bridge with the light-up circles. The new [city] logo was designed by a firm in Kansas City. These are big money projects. I think » Read More

'Surreal Sublime' at the SJICA

Mary Ann Kluth takes her accomplished photo collages to a new level with the installation Flaming Gorge. In Yosemite 3 OS Study, my favorite of her three smaller collages, Kluth deconstructs a landscape and then reconstructs it. The note identifying them reads, "All works are hand-cut archival photo collage," but they look deceptively like paintings. There are no rough edges. no white wisps of paper left behind--the telltale signs of a dilettante's hurried imprecision. Flaming Gorge enlarges and enhances that approach. The artist assembles cliffs and boulders and clouds into a life-size diorama. Klute writes that she was inspired to make the piece by the explorer John Wesley Powell, the painter Asher B. Durand and her own photos of » Read More

Rina Banerjee's Worldview

If you don't have a use for that fabricated alligator head sitting out in the garage, give it to Rina Banerjee. She might situate the head atop welded steel, cowrie shells, dried mushrooms, floral sticks, beads and linen. Banerjee hunts and gathers material from all over the world to create such assemblages. Within a single sculpture, one might find a daunting variety of components: fake rhino horns, toy soldiers, distorted South Asian religious iconography, cowboy antiques, piles of light bulbs, mosquito nets, pitchforks, reptile skulls, pomegranates, fans, bent hat racks or beds of rocks. All woven together with surgical precision. » Read More

Review: 'Archduke'

When the second act of Archduke opens, 19-year-old Gavrilo (Stephen Stocking) is nursing a broken arm. He's fitfully dreaming on a leather chaise longue. The stage is cast in darkness except for the large Géricault painting illuminated behind him. The painter depicts a society that's at war with itself. Enraged bodies commit acts of war against each other in roiling, tormented colors. While Gavrilo tries to rest, lighting designer Dawn Chiang projects white light against two tall columns that frame the scene. If you concentrate on her imagery, you can see dozens of distorted skulls interconnected inside the projection. Rajiv Joseph's play is set in 1914 on the eve of World War I. Without descending into a didactic history lesson, this » Read More

'Agrarianaa' Highlights Asian-American Women

Inside the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj), an eight-foot wooden wall hangs on display. The only remaining piece of an egg house from artist Reiko Fujii's family farm in Riverside, the wall features decades-old handwriting from Fujii's grandmother. The farm was part of her family for almost 80 years and the egg house wall remains a physical piece of Fujii's ancestral history, sustained through her art practice. "That little room was where I would go when I was little," Fujii recalls. "I grew up in that egg house. And I remember so much about it." » Read More

Jay DeFeo at San Jose Museum of Art

San Francisco's Hosfelt Gallery displayed a thrilling and more expansive selection of DeFeo's (1929-89) paintings in 2015. But in that show, "Alter Ego," Firesign might not have held the same power as it does now in San Jose. It would have been competing for your attention with equally ominous works like Hawk Moon No. 1 and Hawk Moon No. 2. There I might not have projected my own dog's image onto the constellation of hard geometric edges. Instead of a triangle, I could see an ear. A snout where it's just a snub-nosed square. Two oblong, mismatched forms turned into his splayed, mottled legs--they used to run in place when he napped. » Read More

'Gender Bent Broadway' at City Lights

Rodrigues is looking forward to the chance to take on a role in which he normally wouldn't be cast. "I rarely get to be feminine onstage," he says. "There are so few featured roles written for gay men in musical theater other than side characters and [typically 'queer' shows]. It's nice to be able to be the ingenue, villain, love interest while expressing my feminine side." With the express purpose of transcending the traditional constructs of theater--and more importantly, gender--Gender Bent Broadway seeks to entertain while simultaneously pushing back against societal conventions, with the long-term goal of making the status quo of old seem as strange as the trans community once appeared to cisgendered normies. » Read More

Pico Iyer Meditates on Death and Dying

While traveling on assignment, Iyer learns about the passing of his wife Hiroko's 91-year-old father. After Iyer returns home, death penetrates everything. Hiroko's widowed mother then grows senile, sometimes unable to remember that her husband of 60 years is actually dead. And then there's the ever-growing estrangement of Hiroko's brother, a Jungian analyst who lives nearby but has long since disowned his family. The rest of the narrative explores how the Japanese deal with death, loss, emotional distance and the relativity of sadness, all through the lens of autumn, with interludes from Thoreau, Basho and Leonard Cohen. "Autumn is the season of subtractions, the Japanese art of taking more and more away to charge the few things that » Read More

Maker Faire Returns to Bay Area

Of course, Maker Faire is about more than robots and circuit boards. Expert woodworkers will demonstrate how relevant their craft still is. Matt Berger carves handmade timber skateboards and teardrop trailers, while Cal Poly engineering student Josh Warner shapes bicycle frames out of wood, adding a timeless finish to the classically eco-friendly mode of transportation. This fair is family-friendly, featuring plenty of displays and activities geared toward children. Soap-making, kite-making and multiple Apps for Kids workshops provide space for learning and entertainment. Visitors of all ages can learn how to solder and code, and there are several young innovators participating, such as 15-year-old maker Walden Schafer and his » Read More

Girafa Breaks Free

As he explains his increasing interest in animal rights and nature conservation, the human skulls in his latest pieces become clearer. One also notices the new line work he has developed over the past several years. He is no longer deploying a crisp band of black as he once did. Rather, the outlines of his figures are squiggly and quivering. Judging from the expressions on the cartoon animals' faces, they are likely shaking with rage or fear. » Read More

Inside The Studio

Now in its 33rd year, Silicon Valley Open Studios is once again celebrating these makers by swinging the doors open to the spaces where they practice their craft. During the first three weekends in May, art lovers are invited to visit participating artists in their homes and studios. Some artists will exhibit on their own, while others will share a space; numerous studios are located within the same complex, making for easy movement between featured works. The festival begins this weekend, running Saturday and Sunday, May 4-5. It picks back up next weekend, May 11-12 and concludes the weekend of May 18-19. » Read More

The Trick Raising Tech Execs: Set Them Free

If you want to prosecute the case that Esther Wojcicki is a terrible parent, there is ample evidence. When her daughter Anne was 5 years old, she put the child on a commercial flight, unaccompanied, with a little necklace around the girl's neck on which was her name and birthday, "like a luggage tag," Wojcicki laughs. Her other two daughters were allowed, at ages 6 and 7, to bicycle more than a mile to Patterson's, a now-defunct dime store in Palo Alto, crossing busy El Camino in the process, and linger there (or conceivably anywhere else) for hours with no GPS tracker, cellphone or even beeper (none of which, to be fair, were invented yet). » Read More

Alan Rath Retrospective at SJICA

Among the many discarded objects, scattered tools and works in progress secreted away in Alan Rath's Oakland studio, a poster loosely splayed out on top of a box grabbed my attention. It read, "I Pity Inanimate Objects" and was used to announce a 2018 talk the artist gave at San Jose State University's Art Department. The title is Rath's reference to a Godley & Creme song, off of their 1979 prog rock album Freeze Frame. After walking through "Virtual Unreality," his current career retrospective at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the song's lyrics indicate, if not the only theme, then a schematic for viewers unfamiliar with his work: "I feel sorry for them all/What are they thinking/When they arrive at a place/Do they sigh with » Read More

Review: 'A Spoonful of Sherman'

Robert's son, Robert J. Sherman has organized a selection of these tunes in the theatrical production A Spoonful of Sherman, which garnered strong reviews during its original run in London. It is now making its U.S. debut at 3Below. It's conclusive evidence that the Shermans' tunes were often far better than the movies they were in. Some were appealing sugar-frosted pop with nonsensical sesquipedalian words. Others, like the somber Mary Poppins hit "Feed the Birds," as powerfully sung by Susan Gundunas, are a spear right through the heart. » Read More

Review: 'Adios Mama Carlota'

This deposed 19th-century monarch hobbles out clutching her cane, her back hunched over and covered in a matronly shawl. Before she even speaks, we see that her makeup is as thick as an actual mask. It signals a ghoulish, grande dame quality that she shares with Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (1950). Even though Bette Davis did play a version of Carlota in Juarez (1939), Rich's vocal intonations owe more to Gloria Swanson's Norma. Swooping down low and wide with the phrases she's chosen to emphasize, Rich reaches for and achieves a melodramatic portrait. Under the direction of Kinan Valdez (Luis' son), the rest of the cast follows suit. These are wide- and wild-eyed performances that extend themselves to the last row of seats in the » Read More

'Figurative Fiber' Feels Oddly Familiar

Is that a furry pig?" Someone asks the question aloud in a gallery at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). They're looking at a shelf of teddy bear skulls and the aforementioned piece, entitled Dedicated Meat Source, which does, in fact, resemble an off-white, forlorn and furry pig. You can purchase similarly mesmerizing, desiccated oddities like these at San Francisco's Paxton Gate or online at The Bone Room. But the skulls, pods and misshapen organic matter in Stephanie Metz' exhibit "Figurative Fiber" are all made of wool. That colorless, neutral fabric neutralizes the Gothic qualities of skeletal figures. "Skulls are not about death," she says, explaining her take on skinless heads. "They're about the underpinnings of » Read More

'Voice of the Fields'

Warren Chang's paintings of Salinas Valley fieldworkers are at odds with Robert Frost's line of poetry, "Nothing gold can stay." California sunshine warms every one of the canvases in his exhibit "Voice of the Fields" (at NUMU through June 16). That gold, even when it's mixed with cloud cover, suffuses the skyline. The beatific color suspends the workers outside of time and also fixes them in a specific place as they dig in the soil or harvest crops. Part of the effect comes from the artist's use of raw umber. Discussing his process, Chang explains, "I paint in what's described as chiaroscuro, which is extreme light and dark." His use of shadowing is painted with that raw umber, he says, "to help unify the entire picture, especially when » Read More

Review: 'Marie and Rosetta'

The sequins on Rosetta's purple dress sparkled more intensely every time the actress playing her began to sing. That may have been a trick of the light, but Michelle E. Jordan inhabited the character with verve the minute she opened her eyes. In the opening scene of Marie and Rosetta, Marie Knight (Marissa Rudd) is applying rouge to Rosetta's cheeks. They're in a funeral parlor getting ready to rehearse their first performance together. The two women will also be staying there for the night, coffins and all, because they're on tour in the South, where white hotel owners won't allow African American guests. Rosetta has just hired Marie after hearing her perform backing vocals for her contemporary, Mahalia Jackson. » Read More

Review: 'Bullets Over Broadway'

There is some excess, sure--interactions are melodramatic, the accents are ridiculous--but it's all part of the fun. As David, Adam Cotugno is hopeful and cherubic, serving as a straight man foil to the rest of the miscreant cast. Nick Mandracchia as Cheech is shrewd but comical, pouncing on David's innocence in a believable but entertaining duel of wits. Carla Befera as Helen Sinclair is perfectly boozy and fierce. However, the standout role is Olive, played by Jocelyn Pickett. She upstages almost everyone else by default. Through song and monologue, she is bombastic without being overbearing, raucous without being lewd, coalescing in a hilarious performance that carries the show in loud, parade-like package. » Read More

'Volta' Goes For Big Air, Comes Up Short

For those who grew up in a world where the police regularly chased skateboarders out of public squares, Cirque du Soleil's action sports-embracing Volta is a kind of bittersweet vindication. The mainstream acceptance of all forms of extreme athleticism is nothing new. Gleaming the Cube hit movie theaters in 1989. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater debuted on the Playstation in 1999. And in October, Apple released a commercial for its latest iPhone X model that featured a gaggle of free runners cartwheeling down flights of stairs and vaulting over cars. Next summer, skateboarding is set to drop into the 2020 Olympic Games. » Read More