Automata at the Exploratorium – Curious Contraptions: Small Machines of Love and Mystery

November 16–January 28, 2018
Explore small, surreal worlds at Curious Contraptions, an exhibition featuring charming, often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of simple, handmade mechanisms.

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Meet the artists

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How the Family-Run Underground Museum Became One of L.A.’s Most Vital Cultural Forces

The night after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins made his way to the Underground Museum, a buzzy cultural hub and alternative art space in the ­predominantly black-and-Latino neighborhood of Arlington Heights, in ­Central Los Angeles. Walking into the small storefront space for a post-screening Q&A, he saw few viewers inside and assumed that ­distress over the previous night’s outcome had made everyone stay home. Then he stepped outside into the garden and found 250 people packed tightly together on blankets on the lawn. They had just watched ­Moonlight on the outdoor screen and were eager to talk—not about craft or behind-the-scenes stuff, as they typically did at Jenkins’s Q&A’s, he says, but about how they felt. Jenkins recalls it as the most meaningful night of the movie’s rollout.

“I was struck by what a diverse crowd it was—tons of black folks, ­people from the neighborhood, white, Latino, Asian. And I thought, This is America,” says the director, whose film went on to win the Oscar for best picture. “Nothing could replicate the feeling that we had that night. It was almost like group therapy, all of us just out there under the stars, witnessing this thing we’d made and using it to bring us together.”

Cofounded in 2012 by the painter Noah Davis, a rising L.A. art star, and his wife, Karon, a sculptor, the Underground Museum began as a row of storefront spaces that doubled as the couple’s studio and home. Though the Studio Museum in Harlem, in New York, and the Rubell Family Collection, in Miami, had acquired some of Davis’s moody ­figurative paintings, Davis wanted to sidestep the gallery system, preferring to bring museum-quality art to a community that had no access to it “within walking distance,” as he once put it.

Soon, he and Karon were opening their doors to anyone passing by, and Noah was curating ­eclectic shows—of his own work and of others’, including his older brother, Kahlil Joseph, an artist and filmmaker who created music videos and would go on to direct videos for Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé. Noah was 32 when he died of a rare type of soft tissue cancer, in 2015; by then he had forged a unique partnership with the Museum of ­Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), which had agreed to loan the Underground Museum works from its permanent collection for a series of shows that Davis would curate. (He was able to work on the first one, and left behind plans for 18 others.)

These days, guided by Karon, Kahlil, and other family members, the Underground Museum is an anomaly in this era of starchitect-designed private museums and foundations: a modest, black-family-run art collective whose convening power is likely the envy of every cultural institution in the country. Beyoncé, the artist David Hammons, and the actress and activist Amandla Stenberg have all been spotted in its purple-themed garden; John Legend and Solange Knowles have launched albums there; and the director Raoul Peck visited to screen his acclaimed James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Equal parts art gallery, hangout space, film club, and speakeasy, the UM, as it’s affectionately known, focuses on black excellence, not struggle, though it’s been nimble enough to address recent racial turmoil by creating a forum for talks by Angela Davis and by Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors. Jenkins likens the museum to “a salon you would have found during the Harlem Renaissance,” in the 1920s and ’30s. “There’s something coming out of that place that is so radical in its potential that you can feel it,” concurs the L.A.-based sculptor Thomas Houseago. “And it draws a mix of people that I don’t find anywhere else in the world. As a white artist, it’s not like, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ It’s, ‘Great, you’re here! More hands.’ ”

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, however, you might be forgiven for walking past its unassuming entrance, which intentionally blends into the streetscape of carpet warehouses and tattoo parlors. Step inside and you’re immediately welcomed into an intimate bookshop, curated by Noah’s mother, Faith Childs-Davis, a former teacher who directs the L.A. branch of Tony Bennett’s arts-education nonprofit, Exploring the Arts. Found discarded chairs, reupholstered in Dutch wax prints, offer discreet spots to chat; vintage albums, culled from Noah and Karon’s collection, are often playing on the Crosley turntable. In the exhibition spaces, the current show, “Artists of Color” (through February), features a mix of pieces from MOCA’s permanent collection and other loans—providing a dialogue between artists of different periods and walks of life. But here, too, the vibe is chill. Short quotes by each artist are placed near their works, and the introductory wall text is signed, love, the um. In one gallery, a 1960s light installation by Dan Flavin faces a neon text piece by Los Angeles artist EJ Hill that reads WE DESERVE TO SEE OURSELVES ELEVATED. A long wooden bar in another gallery leads to the backyard garden, the site of an organic food market and yoga classes, where an installation by Diana Thater uses clear colored vinyl to create a giant tunnel of alternating hues.

Read the full article here.

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Warm for the Holidays

Meet Veronika Scott. As a 22 year old Product Design student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Veronica took professor Steve Schock‘s class on Design Activism and it changed her life.

As her class project, Veronika spent hours at a homeless shelter and with the help of their residents, developed a coat that also doubles as a sleeping bag at night and a shoulder bag when not in use.  The Element S (survival),  now called the EMPWR Coat, is self heated, and waterproof .  The coat not only filled a need in the community, but became a way for Scott to improve the lives of others.

Ms. Scott stepped up and decided to do more than help the homeless stay warm in the cold Michigan winters, she began to hire people from local shelters and help them work their way out of homelessness. Her nonprofit organization, “The Empowerment Plan“,  centers around lifting single parents out of homelessness by providing them with training and work making coats.

Over 34 families now have permanent housing thanks to a 20-something with a good idea, and a good heart. Together they have made over 15.000 EMPWR coats distributed across North America.

Good for you Veronika!  Thanks for keeping us all warm for the holidays.

 

Emanuele Fornasier’s Crystal Birth

 

Crystal Birth: A Beautiful Timelapse of Metallic Crystals Forming in Chemical Solutions

Italian chemistry student Emanuele Fornasier also has a knack for photography and spent the last few months documenting the formation of crystals. The result is Crystal Birth, a timelapse of some 18 examples of electrocrystallization, where an electric current is run through a chemical solution, causing metal deposits to form over a period of several hours or days. You can see more of his chemistry and timelapse work on his website.

 

Camille A. Brown: A visual history of social dance in 25 moves

Lovely (only 4 minutes) TED Studio Talk with
Camille A. Brown, Choreographer and educator
Camille A. Brown leads her dance company through excavations of ancestral stories, both timeless and traditional, that connect history with contemporary culture. Full bio
Why do we dance? African-American social dances started as a way for enslaved Africans to keep cultural traditions alive and retain a sense of inner freedom. They remain an affirmation of identity and independence. In this electric demonstration, packed with live performances, choreographer, educator and TED Fellow Camille A. Brown explores what happens when communities let loose and express themselves by dancing together.

Statue of Liberty Nebula

2016 September 28     NGC 3576: The Statue of Liberty Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: S. Mazlin, J. Harvey, R. Gilbert, & D. Verschatse (SSRO/PROMPT/UNC)
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap160928.html

It sounds like something straight out of Ghostbusters … today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is The Statue of Liberty Nebula.  Do you see her?

Explanation: What’s happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun’s formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured imagewas taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

 

James Turrell’s Sky Spaces

Installation artist James Turrell, at Roden Crater in northern Arizona in 2001.  Credit Florian Holzherr

I am always on the lookout for something or someone new and interdisciplinary to bring to the STEAM Hub. James Turrell,  an installation artist and son of an aeronautical engineer and Peace Corps doctor, seems to have that beautiful mix of aesthetic creativity partnered with science that is so interesting to me.   It came as no surprise that his undergraduate studies focused on psychology and mathematics; only later, in graduate school, did he pursue art, receiving an MFA from the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California.

Here are a few of his Arizona projects to wet your whistle.  When it cools off just a little, I think a James Turrell art road trip is in order.

Roden Crater
The natural cinder cone crater is now home to a land art project and naked eye observatory thirty plus years in the making that will blow your mind.

Air Apparent
A Sky Space Art Installation by James Turrell and Will Bruder at the ASU Tempe campus.

Knight Rise
Another Turrell public sky space located at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

 

 

 

At the Tonys, Moments to Remember

Photo, from left: Renée Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo and Daveed Diggs.CreditSara Krulwich/The New York Times 

In a Tony Awards night shadowed by the tragedy in Orlando, Fla., prizewinners and other performers worked hard to strike a balance between joy and reflection. Here are some moments to remember:

The Hardest-Working Man in Showbiz

Soon after delivering a tremulous speech addressed to the TV audience (“Hate will never win”), the Tonys host, James Corden, dove into a breathless mash-up of 20 Broadway hits, concluding with some elegant hoofing to “We’re in the Money” from “42nd Street.”

#TonysSoDiverse

“Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity,” Mr. Corden joked in his opening monologue. And the show delivered: In a first for Broadway, Tony voters gave the four musical performance awards to black actors: Cynthia Erivo of “The Color Purple” and Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs of “Hamilton.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Sonnet

Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted the award for best score for “Hamilton” at the Tony Awards with a sonnet addressing his wife, Vanessa Nadal, as well as the shooting in Orlando, Fla.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004467857

A Poem for the Moment

In his acceptance speech for best score for “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda provided the broadcast’s emotional high point, reading a sonnet he had written that cited “senseless acts of tragedy” and included the repeated “and love is love, is love, is love, is love” that brought down the house.

Asked later why he decided to address the situation this way, he said: “We live in this world where beautiful and horrible things exist at the same time. You can’t let that go by, particularly when theater doesn’t exist without the L.G.B.T. community.”

Read more of the NY Times article here.