Pico Iyer Meditates on Death and Dying

His new book is titled 'Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells' Read More

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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

Michael Richards Retrospective at Stanford Art Gallery

You can hear the sculpture of a head rotating on its axis before you zero in on the location of the whirring sound. It's one of five heads, each one mounted on its own pedestal. From the entryway, the heads project an alabaster sheen that's smudged by black ink running across their faces. There are gold plaques underneath each one. Four of them read, "When I was young I wanted to be a policeman." Beneath the fifth and central figure the plaque reads, "A loss of faith brings vertigo," which doubles as the name of the work as a whole. That middle head is the whitest of the five except for a significant black oblong blotch marring the forehead. It's a bullseye that's lost its shape, melting, molten and dripping down toward the bridge of the » Read More

Overflowing Frames at Pace, Triton

Every photograph looks like it's taking place in a stadium-sized event with people sitting or standing in different tiers, in row upon row. But the backgrounds are distorted and abruptly shift. In one corner of Balloon, you can see the downward curve of a typical hilly street. But the Castro Theatre marquee sign shows up in the foreground just to the right of it. When you're standing in front of the theater, you'd have to turn your head in either direction to see a street that rises out of the Castro and up to Noe Valley or to Divisadero. And, as if they're defying gravity, a dozen protestors float upward, blocking out the "R" and the "O" in the Castro sign. JR isn't afraid to enliven a busy scene like this with even more randomness. You » Read More

Review: 'Moby-Dick'

Soon, we are introduced to Queequeg, an American Indian sailor who proceeds to wake up the rest of the ship with an indigenous ritual and dance. This leads to a religious argument between Queequeg and Greenhorn, the opera's main protagonist, who in the original book is called Ishmael. From there, we are introduced to the ship: There's the peg-legged, scarfaced Captain Ahab; his first mate, the shrewd but conflicted Starbuck; and their squadron of ragtag shiphands. This adaptation is a dramatic, visually impressive anthology of poignant moments that unfortunately don't add up to cohesive whole. While the performers bring their A-game, there are plenty of problems with this show, mostly stemming from the script. » Read More

Review: 'Mothers and Sons'

An unspoken question that McNally implies but never articulates is, What if Katharine had been a loving mother who had accepted her gay son? Would Andre's life have turned out any differently? The playwright structures Mothers and Sons as a series of confrontations. Some of them develop into arguments. Others fizzle out. Some reveal truths about the past. Cal reminds Katharine that he cared for Andre during his illness. He fed and bathed him until he died, while the most she could bring herself to do was attend the funeral. After all these years, her son's death hasn't improved her disposition. Katharine is alternately cold or enraged and filled with bitterness. For Cal and Will, it's puzzling that she's chosen this moment to have a » Read More

Review: 'Frost/Nixon'

Written by screenwriter and playwright Peter Morgan, the play premiered at the Donmar Warehouse theatre in London in August 2006. Combining snappy dialogue and a fast-paced plot, Frost/Nixon grabbed audiences by focusing on the battle of wits between a lightweight TV personality aiming to prove his mettle and a disgraced world leader seeking to redirect public opinion. » Read More

MACLA's 'Xicanx Biennial' Returns

"Muxeres Rising" is a group show of 13 "self-identified Latinx women," some of whose work "openly critiques the repressive qualities of American politics and Latino culture." Notable examples include an Elizabeth Blancas painting that contains the slogan, "The future is femme trans non binary now." She halves the background at a 90-degree angle, painting half of it yellow, the other half magenta. A figure on the left stares at the viewer with long manes of pink hair. Vanessa "Agana" Espinoza transforms the Statue of Liberty by depicting her in black and white, as an immigrant with an "indigenous connection" to the land. Instead of a torch held high above her head, she wields a stalk of corn. Her patterned dress recalls Incan and Mayan » Read More

In Nature's Shadow at SJICA

The gnarled, ungainly shapes are at odds with the lack of pigment. On real trees, these branches could be claws reaching out to harm strangers lost in an enchanted forest. But here they're bleached out to the pale color of something mild and antiseptic. "In this particular show, I'm working with plaster and gauze bandage, which are the traditional materials for casts for broken bones, for things that need mending," Fredette explains. And while her sculptures may resemble the leafless limbs of deciduous trees or some spare, bare shrubbery that's been whitewashed, the artist discloses what that pregnant, lonely pod actually is. » Read More

Artists Ponder Their Soupy Origins at SJICA

Walk through the black curtain behind the back gallery at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and you'll get a taste of Tracey Adams and Virginia Folkestad's "Primordial Soup." They've created a prehistoric, pantry-sized diorama that depicts the beginning of life on Earth (or, at least, one postulation of it). Tendrils hang down everywhere. Some float from above like chandeliers at an octopus' dinner party. Others jut straight out of the walls. Amoeba-shaped critters are fixed in place but the squiggles on their backs suggest a scurrying motion as if they had unfinished business to carry out. Electronic music, composed by Jennifer Trust Wilkerson, drifts in and pulses out, summoning up an underwater version of a Dead Can Dance » Read More

NUMU Show Explores 'Truth'

The results, now on display at the New Museum of Los Gatos, are a revelation. Not so much in the individual cultural artifacts themselves but in culmination, as they offer a window on how each of the artists think. In this way, "Circle of Truth" works a bit like an old-fashioned psychological exam. It is a Rorschach test for the ages. It is the artist's psyche we see on the canvas, formulating thoughts or shouts or dreams. » Read More

Eduardo Carrillo Mystical Remix

References to Diego Velasquez's spirited mustaches; Giorgio de Chirico's dreamy, unoccupied plazas; the color schemes that El Greco mutilated and then blended back together to make into the night sky. You'll find all of these references, and more, in "Testament of the Spirit: Paintings by Eduardo Carrillo," now showing at the Triton Museum of Art. There are surfers, bricklayers and other ordinary models, holding classical poses found in Greco-Roman statuary. Biblical stories are recast with brown-skinned men and women, while figures from Mexican folklore hold their own equally potent mythical space next to them. » Read More

Wild Western Art

Santa Barbara-based writer William Reynolds has written a biography of one of the unsung creators of the cowboy image in the popular imagination. His name was Joe De Yong, and he was an artist, illustrator, creative consultant and, most importantly, a genuine cowboy. As portrayed in the beautiful new illustrated book, Joe De Yong: A Life in the West (Alamar Media), De Yong represented the direct link between the paintings of famed cowboy artist Charles Russell and the Western films that dominated Hollywood's golden era. » Read More

'Spotlight on Elizabeth Murray' at Stanford

Instead of making a collage to fit inside of a frame, Murray (1940-2007) started each new work by sketching out her ideas. Then her bulbous, gangly forms would come to dictate the organic shapes of her canvases. The massive painting Bop (2002-2003) epitomizes her approach. It's an amalgamation of bold colors that challenges the viewer to come up with a logical response to it. A geometry assignment given at a clown college with a garish palette to match. Ketchup red outlines a distended yellow letter "M," which, in turn, exhales a teal ghost. The ghost is about to collide into a pink worm with holes cut out of its midsection.. » Read More

Tandy Beal's 'Joy!' Comes to San Jose

Few people can cast a spell simply by entering a room. Tandy Beal can. With the carriage of a queen and the grace of a Botticelli sylph, the dancer-turned-impresario personifies joie de vivre. Energizing a stage or critiquing a new work-in-progress, Beal is as fully alive, active andengaged as it is possible to be. Or at least that's what it looks like to her many students, audiences and fellow dancers. And it has for more decades than seems possible. Beal of the dark eyes, long limbs and infamous mane of Pre-Raphaelite hair just can't quit. She's been everywhere, collaborated with everyone from Frank Zappa to Bobby McFerrin, and directed both the Moscow Circus and Pickle Family Circus. Her company, Tandy Beal & Company, has been provoking » Read More

Diane Samuels Visualizes the Written Word

Diane Samuels is a bibliophile's bibliophile. In the exhibit "It's a Long Story" at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, she's transcribed, verbatim, lengthy tomes like Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and The Odyssey by Homer. But her enthusiasm for the written word, including contemporary authors like Salman Rushdie and Richard Powers, doesn't muddle what she accomplishes with her visual inventiveness. The words form the essential core of each piece, but they complement and enhance the sculptural nature of her paintings and drawings. » Read More

'Continuous Life and Death' at Pace Palo Alto

Toshiyuki Inoko, the founder of the digital art collective teamLab, believes their work "transcends the boundaries between art, science, technology and creativity." The collective includes software programmers, hardware engineers, CG animators, architects and mathematicians. After an immersive installation in 2016 at Pace Gallery's now defunct space in Menlo Park, Pace Palo Alto hosts teamLab's latest array of digital wonders. "Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity" is the ethereal exhibition title that also doubles as the name of a work on nine monitors that reproduces a tapestry made of flowers and plants set on an infinite loop. A time lapse video of the piece on the teamLab website seems to back their contention that the » Read More

Philosopher Tobias Rees Raises a Question Everyone Thinks is Already Settled

"Think about AI," he says. "It's an engineering discipline whether you work on ideas of natural intelligence vs.artificial intelligence, of mind and reason and consciousness. Well, these are basically the same key concepts in philosophy and Western thinking going back 500 years. If AI engineers are right and they can build machines that think or are self-aware, then these distinctions that we take for granted, the distinctions between natural and artificial, or between living and nonliving, they are actually dissolved. This is crazy big." » Read More

The Yarn of War

Only two of Nathan Vincent's yarn soldiers are standing on display at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, but they alter the mood of the gallery. There's nothing decorous or innocuous about a three-dimensional man, albeit soft-bodied, holding a rifle above his head and aiming it at an enemy. These "child-size" soldiers are taken from a larger series Let's Play War!, in which Vincent created two opposing armies out of yarn and foam. He distinguishes them by knitting one troop in jungle green and a second the color of desert sand. Based on the plastic toy soldiers boys play with in order to mimic adult warfare, he arranges the figures in malevolent poses, cleverly negating the idea that child's play is harmless. » Read More

San Jose Museum Takes a Walk

Most would ignore a leaf that's fallen just above the clasp of a car door handle, but not Gabriel Orozco. He finds detritus, things that are overlooked and wasted, and then aims his camera at them. He photographs two dozen glass soda bottles corroded with grime and standing at attention against a gutter wall, or a charred metal oil barrel abandoned on the side of the road with a black rock placed on top, like the sign of a gothic coronation. » Read More

Neil Gaiman talks myth and memory at Stanford

With over 38 published books, Gaiman's writing has spanned genres, mediums and topics. But for many, the greatest work of his career remains one of his first: the 75-issue run of DC's The Sandman. Beginning in 1989, Sandman was notable for its literary tone and profound scope as much as it was for its forward-thinking depiction of women, queer, transgender and gender-fluid characters. Long before either the #MeToo movement or recent conversations around gender-fluidity, Gaiman presented desire as androgynous, treated queer lives as visible and normal, and made one his most heartfelt and complex characters a trans woman. Read today, Sandman still feels ahead of its time, despite being almost 30 years old. » Read More

'Interview with a Mexican'

Last year, in September, MACLA hosted the first staged reading of Ask a Mexican by the Denver-based playwright Anthony J. Garcia. He based it on Gustavo Arellano's trenchant OC Weekly column of the same name. From 2004 until his resignation from the weekly last year as editor-in-chief, Arellano would answer letters from the public about Latinx culture. The cartoon bandido character who appeared at the top of every column set the tone. Arellano was going to confront caricatures and stereotypes by dismantling blatantly racist letters that were ignorant of and/or openly hostile toward immigrants and their experience of America. Arellano replied to them with an unapologetic, cynical glee. » Read More

Litter-ature Project Calls for Submissions

Long before I was honored with the title of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, I've considered it my duty to spread the power of poetry to as many people as possible. Through the various open mic events and slams I host, I've worked to draw the poetry out of others and help them to find a voice all their own. Along the way, I've joined forces with local businesses, libraries, non-profit organizations and schools to help South Bae denizens learn to appreciate literature. It has been a wonderful adventure, perhaps the greatest of my life--second only to my initial discovery of poetry and my lasagna. Those two are tied for first. » Read More

Lighting Up Montalvo Arts Center

Right before sundown, Bruce Munro addressed a small crowd assembled to see "Stories in Light," his installation collection at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. To exhibit a mix of newly commissioned and older work, Munro used the Montalvo grounds the way other artists populate a canvas with color. As he talked about the inspiration behind many of the light sculptures, the Great Lawn behind him slowly lit up. His Silver Sea consists of white spheres on poles, "lilies" that undulate with white waves of light that turn blue and then back to white. Munro had previously stayed at Montalvo in 2016 to discuss the idea of an installation. One night he crossed the grounds stumbling toward his destination in the dark. Silver Sea is an antidote » Read More

Mexico Movement

Though the nation we now call Mexico was formally founded a little more than 200 years ago, the country has a vast and storied history. Recognized by archaeologists as one of a handful of "cradles of civilization," the region was home to some of the very first urban settlements anywhere on the planet. Among the many accomplishments of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people: the creation of a complex hieroglyphic system, the development of mathematics and the domestication of cacao. The arrival of Spanish conquistadors was devastating for the indigenous population. » Read More

Andy Warhol at Stanford

With its latest exhibit, "Contact Warhol: Photography Without End," the Cantor Arts Center has come up with an alternative to binge watching. Instead of spending hours with Queen Elizabeth and her corgis on Netflix's The Crown, you can pore over a newly acquired digital archive of Andy Warhol's photographs online. And just like an evening lost to streaming movies and endless TV series, you never have to leave your house or change out of pajamas to enjoy the approximately 130,000 photographic exposures collected in sets of contact sheets and negatives. » Read More

Dia de los Muertos in San Jose

El Dia de Los Muertos, the traditional Mexican holiday celebrating life by remembering and honoring the dearly departed, will be observed in a variety of ways in San Jose this year. Enjoy tasty Mexican food, cold drinks, live music and cultural activities--like decorating a sugar skull, contributing to community altars and dancing. » Read More

Review: 'Fun Home'

The spotlight shines on a woman standing alone at her desk. Alison (Moira Stone) introduces herself to us from the middle of an empty stage. She's a cartoonist in search of the perfect caption to describe her childhood. One of her panels appears on a projection screen behind her. In it, her father holds her younger self aloft on his knees. She extends her arms out wide to mimic the wings of an airplane. This and other rare moments of father-daughter connection punctuate Fun Home, the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel. » Read More

Review: 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore'

Joshua Marx directs Martin McDonagh's play The Lieutenant of Inishmore with verve and efficiency. In this black comedy about a rogue INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) agent set on a path of revenge and destruction, the production emphasizes comedy even when the comic asides land in Grand Guignol territory. The pacing is light on its feet. Marx wrangles passable Irish accents from almost every member of the cast. And the actors commit to the psychic and physical geography of rural Ireland. As an ensemble, they're all on the same page. The production answers every question McDonagh poses on the page except the most important one: "Why?" » Read More

Agnes Martin's Native Inspiration

As the title of the current Pace Gallery exhibit suggests, "Agnes Martin/Navajo Blankets" pairs Navajo blankets with Martin's spare canvases. The blankets date back to the 19th century and are still intact and vibrant. One example identifies No. 6 as a "First Phase Chief's Blanket" (c. 1800-1830). No. 6 is lined with brown and white (now aged to the color of cream) stripes alternating with occasional thin indigo lines. This first phase of Navajo weaving didn't incorporate patterns. At a glance, it looks like an uncomplicated design. But you could come to the same conclusion about Martin's acrylic and graphite canvas Blessings (2000). Pale blue stripes alternate with white ones until they meet in the middle, where one slim line of reddish » Read More

Dinh Q. Le's Beautiful Diaspora

After receiving his art degrees in the US, the Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê returned home to Vietnam for good in 1997, only to stumble across a powerful metaphor. He saw groups of clam diggers walking into the sea at low tide, baskets in hand and hats on their heads, in search of goods. The scene triggered memories of own traumatic experiences of leaving the country by walking toward a boat at sea. In the West, we might call this a "full circle moment," but for Le the image resulted in his first video work, The Imaginary Country (2006), now on display at the San Jose Museum of Art. » Read More

All That Glitters...

The Gilded Age far outshines nature in the Cantor Arts Center's new show, "Painting Nature in the American Gilded Age." Grandiloquent portraits from the turn of the 20th century line the walls. Opulently attired men and women stare back at their makers and, unknowingly, at us in the future. The curators have drawn a tenuous link between this beau monde and the natural world. It's not an implausible relationship, but you may have to strain your eyes to see it. In his Portrait of Mrs. Chase (c. 1910), William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) adorns his wife's pale décolletage with jewels. He drapes a sumptuous green skirt over her right knee. It shimmers like the wings of an iridescent butterfly. That brilliant splash of color, however, is the » Read More

Review: 'The Abduction from the Seraglio'

The show is vibrant from the jump, with the set pieces rendered like an ornate Turkish palace, complete with tall domes and turrets towering above the stage and drawing the eye in. This is extended in the second act when the set is transformed into a magnificent topiary garden with leaves covering every square inch. The setting and ambiance is further reinforced by dynamic mood lighting, casting the stage in soft, early-evening oranges and purples or high-noon desert white light depending on the scene. This attention to detail extends to the costumes, which are an assorted blast of bright colors, textures, and arabesque patterns that transport the audience to the show's Ottoman time period. » Read More

Viviana Paredes at the Triton Museum

The sounds of a Oaxacan marketplace emanate from one corner of a gallery in the Triton Museum of Art. The sounds are coming from a small speaker covered by a fruit crate that faces Viviana Paredes' steel and glass sculpture Ser y Comer, a street cart displaying ears of corn in a handwoven basket. The basket itself is nestled inside a mound of dried, pale yellow kernels that threaten to spill over the cart's edges. Paredes has etched the word "ESQUITES" in capital letters onto one of the glass, side panels. The cart itself stands on top of a platform made from a dozen wooden fruit crates. In "Alimentos: Glass Work by Viviana Paredes," the artist says she wanted to remind people of Mexico's rich cultural heritage as it pertains to "a » Read More

Review: 'Native Gardens'

In Robert Frost's 1914 poem "Mending Wall," the narrator doesn't say, "Good fences make good neighbors." His neighbor does. He wants to mend the stone wall that divides their properties. Instead, it's the narrator, the poet's alter ego, who, after their encounter, asks himself, "If I could put a notion in his head:'Why do they make good neighbors?'" Frost continues with this line of inquiry a few lines later wondering, "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out." Fences, as we've discovered in recent years, have come to symbolize political ideologies that favor division over unity. » Read More

Miguel Machuca: 'Drawing Light From Darkness'

There are 54 card drawings in the Mexican game of Lotería. You'll recognize the images of La Mano (the hand), El Corazon (the heart) and La Calavera (the skull). The hand waves unattached to an arm, the heart is an ugly organ pierced by an arrow, the skull is the smiling face of death staring at you with empty, black sockets for eyes. In his own way, artist Miguel Machuca has created a similarly illustrated universe. Drawing Light from Darkness, the title of his solo show at the Triton Museum, is replete with recurring symbols that fill out his deeply personal mythology. » Read More

Worldcon 76 Lands the Ship in San Jose

When Maria Arena woke in a vat of fluids, she couldn't remember how she died. That is, how she died this time. For a clone like Maria, death is just a part of life. It is, at least, in Mur Lafferty's sci-fi mystery Six Wakes. Released in January 2017, Six Wakes is one of six books nominated in the Best Novel category for this year's Hugo Awards. For science fiction writers, there are few prizes more prestigious. A list of previous winners reads like a who's who of the genre: Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov. To be named a Hugo winner is to enter the pantheon of seers and dreamers whose works have shaped the imagination of readers all over the world. » Read More

The Cypher Dance Company is Born

Fortunately for Cervantes, she has another method of communication to turn to, even when she doesn't speak up. As dancer and choreographer, she uses her body to tell the world how she feels. That's exactly what Cervantes aims to do with "Things I Can't Say Out Loud," the first original showcase by her fledgling Cypher Dance Company. The production aims to call out social inequities through movement. Cervantes says the show will be an immersive experience, featuring a series of dances along with pre-recorded narration, which will help the audience follow along with the emotions the dancers are working to express. Attendees will be encouraged to reflect on their own experience and actions while taking in the performance. » Read More

Curvy Cabaret is All About That Bass

When singer and actress Karyn Rondeau planned to audition for Monty Python's Spamalot, something held her back. "I wasn't going to audition for Spamalot because I was too fat," says Rondeau, who occasionally becomes misty eyed during our conversation. However, with the support of friends, she went out for the role and ended up landing the part of the musical's leading lady. "It was this amazing experience for me, and I got to wear these really awesome sexy costumes," she says, remembering what a confidence boost she gained from the experience. "I just felt great, and I closed that show just loving myself and loving my body." It is that feeling that Rondeau aims to coax out of others with her new show, Curvy Cabaret. A talented cast of » Read More

Tim Hawkinson is Wonderfully Weird at PACE

A recent visitor to the Pace Gallery described Tim Hawkinson's exhibit All that glitters, Must come Down as "super fun." She went on to call out the Baldachin series in particular, noting that the artist was "playing with the classical figure" but wishing that the inkjet scrolls were on a nicer material. They're hanging vertically and mounted on gold emergency blankets that look like appropriate drapery for the inhabitants of a future space colony. The artist has digitally altered human nudes, twisting every limb and appendage around and around. Each body is in a virtual knot. It's a vision of an inelegant ice skater's triple axel that ends in a disastrous pose. After finishing her tour of the work, the patron thanked the gallery assistant » Read More

San Jose ICA Celebrates the Bicycle

The Bike Boogie will dominate the day on Saturday, Aug. 4 at the ICA's gallery space in downtown San Jose. The institute is partnering with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition for a day of activities in which bicycles are put in fun new contexts. For instance, there's a "bike rodeo," where bikes substitute for buckin' broncos as riders navigate an obstacle course. "There's also a bike runway," says Marielle Mervau, the ICA's curatorial associate and visitor engagement manager. "That's where you can either dress up like your bike, or decorate your bike, and walk the runway, narrated by an emcee." There will also be free bike tune-ups, workshops in bike repair, presentations on safety in urban settings for bicyclists, and a talk about San » Read More

The Pinball Wizards Come to Santa Clara

Maples, who has been in the field for 15 years, recently accepted a position as curator of African Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art. She has often encountered art historians who contend that African art is derivative of Western art. Maples observes that "any time an African picks up a paintbrush or something that is a Western medium, it's not inventive and creative from an African or a visionary standpoint." She believes that's wrong-headed and a problem in the field. Maples notes that, "African art only started getting recognized, particularly contemporary African art, in the last decade, if that." » Read More

Asami Akinaga at the CSMA

Growing up bicultural in the eclectic narrative of Bay Area culture, local artist and art teacher Asami Akinaga explores her Japanese heritage in her first solo exhibit "Strength: Drawings & Paintings." Born in Japan's vibrant capital, Akinaga moved from Tokyo to the Bay Area at age 2. But as she spent most of her summers back in her home country, the move did nothing to dampen her ties to her native land. "I consider myself growing up with both cultures," says Akinaga who refuses to tie her identity to a single building block. "They hear me speak and they assume I'm American now, and I think that's strange because I'm just as fluent in Japanese." » Read More

Frederic Bruly Bouabre at Cantor

Maples, who has been in the field for 15 years, recently accepted a position as curator of African Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art. She has often encountered art historians who contend that African art is derivative of Western art. Maples observes that "any time an African picks up a paintbrush or something that is a Western medium, it's not inventive and creative from an African or a visionary standpoint." She believes that's wrong-headed and a problem in the field. Maples notes that, "African art only started getting recognized, particularly contemporary African art, in the last decade, if that." » Read More

Review: 'In The Heights'

The cast of In the Heights, now playing at City Lights Theater Company, would do well to check their headsets before curtain. Last weekend's opening night performance was marred by numbers in which it seemed some singers' mics were turned up to 11 while others were on mute. This was especially unfortunate because Lin-Manuel Miranda's lyrics drive the plot as much as Quiara Alegria Hudes' dialogue does. A lot of songs are structured as conversations between characters, and a lot of those conversations came across as one-sided. The sound issues were even more vexing since City Lights' cast features some stellar voices. Cristina Hernandez is formidable as Nina, who has managed to break out of the barrio in Manhattan's Washington Heights to » Read More

Won Ju Lim's 'California Dreamin''

What separates the American Dream from the one in California? The color of the sunset. Won Ju Lim's California Dreamin' at the San Jose Museum of Art is alive with it. She projects photographs of an ordinary Los Angeles street scene onto and across the gallery walls. Lim collected that raw footage herself, editing it at the same time that she worked on the sculptural elements filling up the rest of the room.The images feature palm trees standing in formation against a blue sky washed in reds, oranges and yellows. Buildings line the horizon and merge together. Shadows swallow them up. But as your eyes get accustomed to the darkness, they also focus on the sculpture, a model city. » Read More

'Hold These Truths' Remembers Japanese Internment

Jeanne Sakata's father never talked about his internment. He didn't want her to hold any resentment toward her country. He hoped his family could move forward and not look back. Her father was in high school when President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized Executive Order 9066 to relocate more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, including U.S. citizens, to internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. My father would always give me short answers, and then he would change the subject when I would ask about it," Sakata, a Watsonville native, remembers. "After they got out of those camps, many of the nisei--second-generation Japanese Americans--felt that the best way to deal with the trauma was to not talk about it." » Read More

The Surreal History of Anthony Riggs

A mud-colored python wraps its body around a resting angel with magenta hair. She is unconcerned by its proximity and rests both of her hands against its curving belly. At the center of a target, a 1940s pin-up model holds the head of a gray garden snake between her thumb and index finger, its silvery length coils around her right forearm. Faded pink cherry blossoms surround them both as satellites race across the sky. In two separate poses, the right arm of a naked saint is held aloft by the tail end of a black and white snake. Even chubby putti ride, cavort and wrestle with snakes in the paintings made by Anthony Riggs in his new exhibit at the Triton Museum of Art. » Read More

Author of 'The Billionaire Raj' at Books Inc.

The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age begins with a car crash. Someone related to India's richest person, Mukesh Ambani, smashes up a $700,000 Aston Martin; no one's held accountable. At the time, author James Crabtree was Mumbai bureau chief for The Financial Times, a job that led him to write his new book, which explores the shadowy billionaires and crooked power brokers who have driven India's growth over the last few decades. Since The Billionaire Raj is essentially a business book, we get doses of statistics, analytics, Forbes lists and all the things that seem to fascinate business writers. » Read More

Animating Artificial Intelligence at The Tech Musuem

While parents might see a budding Michelangelo in the Lego creations of their kids, others likely find it difficult to discern any form in the meandering block structures that spring from the minds of children. So, it would be understandable to also doubt a machine's ability to recognize the intention behind the artistic representations of tots. However, that day may soon be at hand. The Tech Museum of Innovation's newest artificial intelligence-powered attraction demonstrates just how, by pulling visitors into an immersive experience that bridges the realms of technology and art. Titled "Animaker," the new exhibit showcases the capabilities of AI-equipped robots to recognize physical creations and bring them to life through » Read More

'Ink Worlds: Contemporary Chinese Painting'

The relationship between art and the Chinese art of calligraphy is a recurring theme that emerges after a tour through "Ink Worlds: Contemporary Chinese Painting" at the Cantor Arts Center. For those who can't read Chinese, the drawings live in a beautiful, if elliptical realm. Standard meanings, though, even if you can read the language, will be deconstructed. The works are intellectually imposing in conception, execution and size--many take up all or at least half of a gallery wall. In Qin Feng's watery ink-on-paper drawing Desire Scenery No. 1 (2007), two contorted shapes composed in willowy black ink sink down inside a pale blue background. They suffer from spasms and bend angrily in the midst of their dissipation. This could be a » Read More

Review: 'Finks'

In Finks, playwright Joe Gilford imagines the lives of his showbiz parents, Madeline and Jack Gilford, at a crucial point in the beginning of their 40-year marriage. Their fictional counterparts are Mickey (Jim Stanek), a stand-up comedian, and Natalie (Donna Vivino), an actress and activist. They meet in a nightclub where Mickey's performing. Natalie sees him and decides for the both of them that they're meant for each other. And despite the fact that they're both attached to other people when they first meet, the drama of their romantic coupling is only the framing device for writer Gilford's agenda. Finks is set during the 1950s, when the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings dominated the headlines. » Read More

Advertising Run Amok

Other than a brief fascination with Mad Men in the Obama years, Americans have never shown much of an interest in the internal dramas of the advertising industry. It has always been the Rodney Dangerfield of the mass media, always looking for respect and not finding it. But in his new book, journalist Ken Auletta reminds us of the one inescapable truth behind advertising that commands respect. However much you may be annoyed by ads and commercial encroachment in public space, advertising pays the bills for all that great content you and I enjoy every day. From his perch at The New Yorker, Auletta has become one of the country's most prominent observers of the ad game. On Thursday, June 14, he comes to Kepler's in Menlo Park to discuss » Read More

Photographer Hai Bo Documents China's South

Hai Bo strips the human figure of its individuality in his solo exhibit "The Southern Series" (now at Pace Gallery) without destroying the narratives in these black and white photographs. Faces are turned away from or oblivious to the camera, darkened by shadows or otherwise obstructed from view. Bo assigns each work in the series a number rather than a name, a system that encourages an unregulated response from the viewer. "No. 55" features three pillared shrines receding at a perpendicular angle to the grayed-out horizon line. In front of them, a woman stands in the foreground, just off center. She casts an Orphic gaze into the distance, finding nobody behind her in that dusky world. » Read More