Review: 'Skeleton Crew'

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's production of 'Skeleton Crew' is a well-oiled machine Read More

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Review: 'Skeleton Crew'

Every morning, Dez (Christian Thompson) changes out of his red and black high-top kicks--replacing them with a pair of work boots at the automobile factory where he works. As he puts them away in his locker, he checks for smudge marks then wipes them off with his thumb. His co-worker Shanita (Tristan Cunningham) brings in a giant bottle of ranch dressing and writes her name on it before she places it on a shelf in the breakroom fridge. She's visibly pregnant, and although she denies it, the dressing must be satisfying one of her hunger cravings. Faye (Margo Hall), who's worked at the factory for almost 30 years, is still sneaking cigarettes despite everyone's urging her to quit. » Read More

'Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration'

Tessie Barrera-Scharaga is one of two San Jose artists whose work is included in "Beyond Borders: Stories of im/Migration," on now through April 6 at Santa Clara University's Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building Gallery. Independently curated by Karen Gutfreund and Sherri Cornett of Gutfreund Cornett Art, they've put together an exhibit that brings their statement of purpose--"Changing the World Through Art"--to life. The accompanying catalog describes the exhibit as one that "sheds light on the personal and observed narratives surrounding the struggles of flight, immigration, assimilation, deportation, and the perception of being 'other' in American society." » Read More

'The Matter of Photography in the Americas'

The unofficial centerpiece of "The Matter of Photography in the Americas" is Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints). Ana Mendieta's series of arresting self-portraits hangs on a transitional gallery wall in this Cantor Arts Center exhibit. Employing an aesthetically minimalist approach, the photographs are easy to pass by. But the emotional content is maximal, and strange enough to induce a pause. In a colorless room, the images are cropped closely on the artist's naked body. She holds a small pane of glass in her hands, pressing it tightly against parts of herself. She compresses her buttocks in one, and, in another, she flattens her right breast while at the same time halving her left. » Read More

San Jose Celebrates Aztec New Year

"We always do a sunrise ceremony, because it is most important that we begin by celebrating the elements," says Pedro 'Aquihua' Perez, a member of the Calpulli Tonalehqueh organizing committee. "The oldest element, which is fire, is represented by the sun. We honor that by having a ceremony that allows us to all focus, share energy and receive the sun as it comes up from the East." March 12 is considered the start of the Aztec calendar year, and the celebration is usually held the night before, which is the equivalent of New Years Eve. The upcoming Aztec new year marks the beginning of the Six Rabbit cycle. According to Perez, this transfer between last year's Five House cycle to this year's Six Rabbit is an important transition, as Six » Read More

Chris Eckert at San Jose ICA

"Chris Eckert Privacy Not Included" at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art affects you aurally before you focus on the visuals. There's a white noise in the gallery that you immediately try to pinpoint. Coils of paper rustle on the ground beneath whirring gears. Somewhere else metals are scraping against other metals. The first sounds are emanating from Eckert's "Babel"--20 writing machines that are a cross between a stock ticker and a miniature typewriter. On each one, an automated black ballpoint pen is scrawling something across a steady stream of paper, which drops to the floor and piles up beneath. In a phone interview about a half hour before the show opens, Eckert describes what the machines are doing, "They're all exactly » Read More

'Mortified' at The Ritz

When asked about the most embarrassing story from his formative years, Scott Lifton is almost too eager to recount the incident. Then again, when you consider Lifton has built his career around the telling of the tale—perfecting his cadence, plotting out pregnant pauses and honing his punchlines--it makes sense. The story is actually two stories, both of which involve Lifton's early struggles with wooing women. In the first story, a teenaged Lifton decides that before asking out the girl of his dreams, he ought to first get his creep on and take pictures of her in the hallway; in the second, he ends up dating the very first girl that showed him any attention only to quickly realize he doesn't really like her. "In a two-month period, I » Read More

Raimonds Staprans' Artistic Restraint

Raimonds Staprans' living room window overlooks the growing cluster of skyscrapers in downtown San Francisco. From this vantage, the artist can also see pedestrians ambling about the city streets and cars driving east across the Bay Bridge. He's lived in the house since the 1960s but the busyness of urban life isn't his primary subject. "Paintings by Raimonds Staprans," now at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA), is a career retrospective spanning several decades of his work. The exhibit, which originated in Sacramento last year at the Crocker Art Museum, serves as a welcome introduction for a viewing public who may be more familiar with his contemporaries--Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, Gregory Kondos--than the Latvian-born painter. » Read More

Review: 'The Flying Dutchman'

The penultimate production of Opera San Jose's 2017-18 season--The Flying Dutchman--is a turbulent tour through the calamities and myths of the sea, as well as an examination of what lies beneath the promise of true love. The classic opera was written by an up-and-coming 26-year-old German composer in the 1830s. These days, Richard Wagner is known far and wide for his dramatic and explosive operas that strike at the heart of the German identity (as well as being the favorite composer of the Third Reich). But back then, Wagner was one of many popular composers, who was also running up debts across Europe with his extravagant lifestyle--to the point that he had his passport seized. » Read More

Amine Ragstar Burns Down 'Babylon'

Amine Rastgar isn't heavy into politics. But in some ways, it feels as if current affairs are aligning quite well with the themes, and especially the title, of his upcoming solo art show, "Present Day Babylon." "A lot of the imagery has to do with fire and idolatry and people fighting over nothing, which is kind of what you see happening now," San Jose native Rastgar says. "So I'm telling my own story through that phrase. 'Present Day Babylon' speaks to my past, present and future." Opening on Feb. 17 at Seeing Things Gallery and running through mid-March, Rastgar's collection reflects his unconventional path into the art realm and the experiences that helped bring him there. As the "token kid who was always drawing in class," his interest » Read More

Review: Bruce Nauman's 'Mirror'

"I just came out of your room, Bruce. And it was one of the most touching experiences, sincerely, that I've ever had of a work of art." That's the late Willoughby Sharp, an avant-gardist, speaking on camera in May 1970, with the artist Bruce Nauman. On a makeshift set inside of San Jose State's art gallery, they're discussing Nauman's "Corridor Installation with Mirror--San Jose Installation (Double Wedge Corridor with Mirror)." This was one of many corridors that Nauman experimented with in the late 1960s and into the '70s--but it was the only one he made on the SJSU campus. Sharp continues the interview with limited help from his subject. He asks hopefully, "What can you say about that room?" The laconic artist replies, "Not very much." » Read More

New Ballet Looks to 'Fast Forward'

At the tender age of 3, Keon Saghari took her first steps on the dance floor--dashing into the middle of one of her older sister's lessons at Ballet San Jose School. "Eventually they put up a little baby fence so I couldn't get in," Saghari said. "After a while, I think her teacher just felt really bad for me." So bad, in fact that the instructor bent the rules and admitted the young Saghari, making her the youngest student in the school. Now at 27, Saghari has returned to her roots at the New Ballet, founded from the ashes of Ballet San Jose School, to put on an original program she choreographed for their studio company. The piece, "Vorood," is part of the company's Fast Forward program, which will debut at San Jose State's Dance Theater » Read More

Kohei Nawa presents 'Trans-figure' at Pace Gallery

An animal glitters in the artificial light at the center of the gallery. Immobile, it stands almost 10 feet tall, 4 feet of which are antlers. Hundreds of round glass beads encase it in a clear, protective coat. Up close, they look like crystal balls of varying sizes that have been affixed in a precise design. Through these prismatic lenses, you can make out the coarse, finely preserved hairs on the body of a taxidermied deer. PixCell-Maral Deer is the finest example of organic materials colliding with inorganic ones in Kohei Nawa's "Trans-figure" at Pace Palo Alto. According to the gallery's director, Justine Chausson, Nawa, a Japanese artist based in Kyoto, bought the already dead deer on eBay. » Read More

'The (Anti) Valentine Show' Returns

For Mark Martinez, a San Jose-based artist, Valentine's Day is just another Hallmark holiday dreamed up to sell candy and canned greeting cards. Every February, he finds himself wondering about those who don't have a perfect relationship and challenges the definition of love. "For a lot of people it's almost like a fantasy," Martinez says, noting that unrequited love is a serious bummer. "When one person is in love with somebody, that love is actually not a real thing." Opening on Friday and running through Feb. 18, "The (Anti) Valentine Show" will be showcasing the work of 150 local artists who have created pieces around themes such as anti-love, anti-hypocrisy, anti-commercialization and anti-objectification. » Read More

Review: 'The Laramie Project'

Before the play, the company's managing director, Elizabeth Santana, introduced the show and welcomed the audience to fill out index cards with acts of kindness. "The Laramie Project" opens on a sparsely-decorated stage. A three-tiered platform holds a smattering of dining room chairs, and behind it a large triptych flashes images of Laramie. Quickly all eight actors are on the stage, and they go about explaining the story that has entrapped a small rural town in the ghost of memory and regret: On Oct. 6, 1998, a college student in the town of Laramie named Matthew Shepard went to a local bar to have a few drinks. There he was confronted, or met (eyewitness accounts differ) by two local men named Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, » Read More

Art + Tech: Elevenplay

Let's begin with YouTube. There we'll find a cache of videos that contain performances by Elevenplay, a collective of Japanese artists alternately described online as "Japanese Drone Dance Troupe" or "Dance Act with Drones and Lights." In the former clip, an excerpt from their 2016 appearance on America's Got Talent--that incubator of viral memes--young women in white shifts throw their willowy arms up in the air towards flying, lighted drones. It's like watching a literal iteration of notes played on a celesta, as if the bells themselves had taken flight. Titled "24 Drones," this performance was created by melding two distinctive approaches: the human element by Mikiko Mizuno, Elevenplay's principal choreographer and artistic director; » Read More

Review: 'Menopause: The Musical'

It's criminal how well-served the male menopausal audience is. There is not, nor does there need to be, Male Menopause: The Musical; there is no market for nightshirts reading "Keep Calm and Think About Your Hedge Fund." And such an audience would need no $1 souvenir fans to ward off hot flashes. Men over 50 never ever feel that hot, anyway. The Jeanie Linders-written musical debuted in Orlando, Florida, in 2001--about the same time the Backstreet Boys were running amok--and it's survived, complete with merch in the form of CDs, nightshirts riffing on hot flashes and lots of chocolate. It's currently in a perpetual Vegas run, but wherever it plays, moms and daughters meet: the former come to celebrate the power of life apres-estrogen, the » Read More

SJ Quilt Museum Covers the World

Like so many Americans in the '60s, Paul J. Smith yearned to see a world outside of his own. Luckily for him, traveling was a part of his trade. When he became the director of New York's Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in 1963, Smith embarked on a series of journeys around the globe, amassing a range of ethnographic textiles from Asia, Africa and Central and South America. It's all been tucked away in in storage for years--until now. For the first time in his career, Smith will be sharing a portion of his personal collection at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (SJMQT). » Read More

Silicon Valley's Unique History

Ask Michael Schwarz about the origin of Silicon Valley and he won't point to the microprocessor industry or the hippie movement. Both were essential to shaping the region, to be sure. But if there is one event that marks the beginning of it all, it just might be the advent of the moving picture. It was, after all, Leland Stanford who commissioned Eadweard Muybridge to photograph his horses on the farmland that would ultimately become Stanford University--the valley's de-facto feeder school. At the time, Stanford wasn't in it to kick-start a technological revolution. He just wanted to know if all the hooves of his ponies came off the ground at the same time. » Read More

Artistic Resolutions for 2018

Everyone is an artist--at least according to Joseph Beuys. The influential midcentury German artist and theorist made a name for himself by challenging the very idea of what art could be. While not everyone is cut out to be an internationally recognized firebrand and academic agitator, surely there is some truth in Beuys' assertion. And what better time than now, at the beginning of a new year, to explore new modes of creative expression? Silicon Valley is brimming with learning opportunities for aspiring artists. From downtown San Jose's DIY workspace, the School of Visual Philosophy, to the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, there are many places to hone one's craft. » Read More

CSMA's Finn Center to Expand

Due to a shortage of space, most of CSMA's growth in recent years has been in off-site programs like Art4Schools and Music4Schools, which encompass nearly 18,000 students at over 50 schools throughout the peninsula each year. The construction of a new wing will allow CSMA to increase the number of students it serves on-site, Kenney says. In 2006, CSMA purchased the land west of the Finn Center with the help of longtime supporters Ruth and Roy Rogers. The property was leased to an auto repair shop until last year. When the shop owner retired, CSMA seized the opportunity to launch a much-needed expansion, with construction slated to begin this fall. » Read More

Steve French Retrospective at SJICA

The throughline in Steve French's oeuvre--from the 1960s until his death in 2014--can't be defined with one approach or a singular aesthetic. He isn't like Claude Monet (1840-1926), an artist whose recurring palette and subject matter remain instantly recognizable. However, while looking at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art's (SJICA) retrospective of his work Overture: The Art of Steve French, the exhibit confirms that you can identify French, as well--but within a series of varying artistic strategies, from shaped prints that resemble oversized origami to industrial bronze assemblages and, of course, his paintings. » Read More

San Jose Museum of Art: 'Crossroads'

You'll recognize Grant Wood's name first in the San Jose Museum of Art's "Crossroads" exhibit. He's the painter made famous by American Gothic (1930), the one with the pitchfork standing upright between a farmer (modeled after the artist's dentist) and his daughter (after the artist's sister Nan). But this painting doesn't appear in the show. "Crossroads: American Scene Prints from Thomas Hart Benton to Grant Wood" is devoted solely to lithographs, etchings, and wood engravings by Benton, Wood and their lesser-known contemporaries. In fact, there are only two works by Benton and three by Wood, whereas Leon Gilmour and Louis Lozowick, neither household names, are represented by almost a dozen each. » Read More

Review: 'Cinderella'

A sold-out crowd welcomed musical prodigy Alma Deutscher to the California Theatre for the North American premier of Cinderella. A reproduction of the the classic fairy tale--only with a decidedly modern feel and opera-centric twist, Cinderella is the first full-length opera by Alma, a 12-year-old English girl, who previously attracted media attention for her impressive musical talent. Alma composed her first piano sonata at age 6, her first short opera at age 7, as well as a litany of other mind-bending musical accomplishments before hitting adolescence. Now at the distinguished age of 12, Alma is bringing her talents to Silicon Valley's Opera San Jose. » Read More

Review: 'The Santaland Diaries'

Spike your eggnog, pretend to like your aunts, uncles and cousins, and fight your way through the savages at the mall to get that last, overpriced gift. It's Christmastime and TheatreWorks Silicon Valley keeps these dueling holiday sentiments in mind with their latest production--a stage adaptation of David Sedaris' cautionary holiday tale, "Santaland Diaries." One of Sedaris' first widely recognized works, it is both a meditation on being young and without direction, as well as an incredulous take on the wild, surreal clash of Christmas and capitalism. The essay debuted on NPR's Morning Edition in 1992 and was later published in the collection Barrel Fever in 1994. NPR rebroadcasts the reading every year, making it a public radio holiday » Read More

A 'Nutcracker' For Everyone

It's a tradition as enduring as egg-nog and roast turkey. The Nutcracker, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's century-old ballet about a little girl, an enchanted wooden doll and an anthropomorphic mouse, is a performing arts staple of the holiday season. This year, Silicon Valley has at least three different takes on the Christmas classic. » Read More

Review: 'Holiday at the Savoy'

The Tabard Theatre Company kicks off this holiday season '40s style with a night of big band jazz, soaring vocals and swingin' moves. Holiday at the Savoy: A Tribute pairs period classics with beloved Christmas tunes for an uplifting segue into the new year. The show is set in December 1945 at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. After four years of a global war that spawned nearly half a million casualties, the U.S. welcomed a holiday season filled with hope and newfound peace. The Savoy was one of the first racially integrated jazz clubs in the country and, in the words of writer Barbara Engelbrecht, the "soul of a neighborhood." » Read More

Bill Murray Sings, Recites American Classics

According to multiple articles on the subject of Murray's communication habits, those seeking a comment or commitment from Murray must attempt to reach the comedian, golfer and avid photo-bomber by leaving a voicemail on his secret 800 number. So, imagine my surprise and elation as I receive word that Murray is willing to take the time to connect via phone. Just a few hours before Metro's deadline, I'm given a number for one of his traveling companions and told he'll be available in about 15 minutes. » Read More

Adam Pendleton's Totally Absurd Art

A champion of nonsense and irrationality arrived in Palo Alto last week at the Pace Gallery. Adam Pendleton's solo show in California, "Which We Can," is just one of many stops on the Brooklyn-based artist's move toward cultural ubiquity. Pendleton's work has recently been displayed in Detroit, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Berlin, New York and, not least of all, the 2015 Venice Biennale. Vogue and the New York Times have featured interviews with him this year. At the age of 33, Pendleton has gazed at the zeitgeist, and now it's gazing back at him. We're living through an era that's resistant to the idea of definitive meanings. » Read More

African Dancers Leap Locally

From the moment they stepped into their first ballet studio at the age of 12, Odwa Makanda and Lwando Dutyulwa had the odds stacked against them. Growing up in poverty-stricken Langa township in Cape Town, South Africa, the idea that they would become professional dancers was far-fetched. Twelve years after first entering the world of classical ballet, Makanda and Dutyulwa's perseverance is paying dividends. The talented pair will be in San Jose for the next six months, training at The New Ballet Studio Company and performing in a series of shows for its upcoming season. » Read More

Gilroy Artist Lands Show in London

Katherine Filice never expected doodles would pave the way for her first ever art show in London. In fact, when she first started putting ink to paper, she wouldn't have thought to show her work to anyone, let alone an entire art fair half a world away. Offering a startling glimpse into everyday emotions, Filice creates pen-and-ink designs in the hopes that her art resonates with others, emphasizing that we are living a shared experience. Even the most well-adjusted people have fleeting moments of intense emotions--feelings of frustration, pain, sorrow or betrayal. An active member in the community and executive creative director of a thriving marketing firm in the heart of downtown Gilroy, Filice has helped many to develop their brand. » Read More

Worlds collide at 'The Propeller Group' exhibit

A few years ago, after getting laid off from Yahoo, I decided to reinvent my life in the most rational way possible: I drew portraits of America's vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The pictures seemed to have struck a chord with people because they gave me a pile of money on Kickstarter last year to turn the pictures into a book called Veeptopus: Vice Presidents with Octopuses on Their Heads. Life is funny sometimes. My fascination with the vice presidency started when I was 5, flipping through a copy of Newsweek. Walter Mondale was on the cover, standing sheepishly behind Jimmy Carter. "What does a vice president do?" » Read More

Historical Tentacles: 'Veeptopus'

A few years ago, after getting laid off from Yahoo, I decided to reinvent my life in the most rational way possible: I drew portraits of America's vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The pictures seemed to have struck a chord with people because they gave me a pile of money on Kickstarter last year to turn the pictures into a book called Veeptopus: Vice Presidents with Octopuses on Their Heads. Life is funny sometimes. My fascination with the vice presidency started when I was 5, flipping through a copy of Newsweek. Walter Mondale was on the cover, standing sheepishly behind Jimmy Carter. "What does a vice president do?" » Read More

Pedro de Lemos' Promised Land

Tourists crowded the Monterey Peninsula this weekend. Unloosed from their large buses, they strode down Ocean Avenue to take photographs of themselves on Carmel Beach. They stood in pairs and quartets indecisively weighing the imperfections of one restaurant before moving on to disparage another. Without asking permission, one woman plucked leaves and flowers from a local's verdant garden. Beads of sweat ran down one man's neck while he smoked a cigarette in the hot sunshine. He flicked the ash and then the butt onto the immaculate sidewalk. Scenes like these don't appear in the paintings of Pedro Joseph de Lemos (1882-1954). » Read More

Local Gaming Upstarts: Supergiant

In September 2009, Amir Rao found himself packing up his desk at Electronic Arts. He was leaving his prized position as a game designer at one of America's biggest video game developers to move back into the house where he grew up--but he wasn't bummed about it. Rao hadn't been sacked. Rather, he had made the weighty decision to return to the suburbs of South San Jose to create something of his own. With the help of his EA colleague Gavin Simon, he would set up camp in his father's house and get to work building a game called Bastion. » Read More

A Culture Warrior Rides High

One of the artists most prominently featured in (Re)Writing the Narrative is making a valiant attempt to speak up for the disenfranchised. Ana Teresa Fernández describes her work as "trying to highlight either some event or a people or a place that has dealt with tension or aggression." In this exhibit, all three of her short video narratives address particular political tensions and aggressive stances toward women and minorities--with Fernandez as the star. What's most astonishing about her work, apart from the ravishing imagery, is her ability to feature herself in a scenario without drawing attention to an invented persona or character. » Read More

Scenes From the Inferno

What better season than autumn to contemplate the meaning of hell. Specifically, Dante Alighieri's Inferno, one third of his 14th-century poem, The Divine Comedy. The artist Michael Mazur created a series of etchings to accompany a translation of the work by Robert Pinsky, a former U.S. Poet Laureate (1997-2000). Mazur's monochromatic response L'Inferno di Dante, on display at the de Saisset Museum, is celebrated for his evocative depiction of Dante's journey and for putting the viewer inside the narrative. We look at the spectral black and white images through Dante's eyes. Just as the author has imagined an entire underworld in verse, Mazur has conjured up its visual equivalent. » Read More

The 'Roots & Wings' of sjDANCEco

Since its founding in 2003, sjDANCEco has bounded, tumbled and twirled its way through 14 seasons, always keeping an eye fixed firmly on the future of dance. The company opens its 15th year with a production that continues this theme, while also acknowledging the work of the artists that have inspired them. Roots & Wings will feature nods to groundbreaking choreographers Doris Humphrey and José Limón-both pioneers in the field of modern dance-as well as new pieces created by the company's resident choreographers, Gary Masters, Maria Basile and Hsiang Hsiu Lin. "We have always been focused on new works," says Masters, one of sjDANCEco's founders. But that's not to say he and his colleagues have no reverence for tradition. » Read More