Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
You could choose OC's newest theater company, the Alchemy Theater Co., but it has only done one show to date, so give us time. Instead, what about the UC Irvine Drama Department? Its shows usually last only a couple of weekends, so getting a review in these space-constrained times is problematic at best. But the arsenal of undergrad and graduate talent, plus a ridiculously well-rounded and smarty-pants faculty (Robert Cohen, who founded the department in 1965, is STILL there as a professor) elevates all its productions—whether experimental drama or antique classics or contemporary pieces—well above the norm. Two new theater companies, helmed by UCI professors but semi-autonomous, have also come out of the department recently: the New Swan Shakespeare Festival, with an emphasis on the Bard and American musicals in an intimate, moveable space, and the Counter-Balance Theater, charged with highly physical productions based on great literature.
Tired of the kids making a mess as they play fort in the living room? Take them to this miniature city, all within the confines of an industrial park building, and let them make a mess there. Kids from infants to 8-year-olds will go wild as they debate Obamacare in the mini-doctors' offices sponsored by Kaiser Permanente; perform an avant-garde play in the small theater; farm plastic fruit and vegetables with rakes and baskets; create a masterpiece at an art studio; build stuff while wearing goggles and orange vests at the construction site; go fishing and build boats at the marina; shop at a tiny Ralphs; go to the beach, where there are lots of sand and buckets and beach chairs—wherever their imaginations take them. It's a living hell if you don't have (or can't stand) children, but an educational, relatively cheap excursion that helps build an active interior life in your child. Better than a night at Chuck E. Cheese.
Last time we visited BC Space in Laguna Beach, we got a personal tour after the closing of the "Capital Crime$" group exhibition. Several pieces had been removed already, leaving sad, empty holes, but photographer/political activist/gallery owner Mark Chamberlain filled us in on what was missing, walking us through what was left. Art is everywhere once you climb the stairs—in every corner and every room. Even the bathroom has something to look at while you're doing your business. The money Chamberlain makes as a commercial photographer subsidizes the tough, topical, completely non-commercial work hidden in the upstairs gallery . . . all in a shopping area of downtown Laguna where you wouldn't even notice it if you didn't know it was there. And now you do. Per the website, "Gallery hours are irregular and event driven, but appointments for viewing may easily be arranged by contacting the gallery." Call now.
While the Laguna Art Museum continues to give it a run for its money each year, the Orange County Museum of Art's first exhibition of 2013—"Richard Jackson: Ain't Painting a Pain," curated by Dennis Szakacs—was so amazing it nailed the honor this year in mid-February. Exhilarating, thoughtful, angry and subversive, it's a travesty Jackson's fantastic body of work didn't get one of these earlier. The museum's second exhibition—curator Dan Cameron's downsized and retitled "2013 California-Pacific Triennial"—is just as adventurous, offering people walking through its doors a veritable roller-coaster ride of art from the Pacific Rim.
Did you know there's a Joan Miro-cast bronze statue in the lobby of a Costa Mesa office building? Yeah, neither did we. But now that we do, we can't take our eyes off it. It's described as a "bird" by various websites, but we know Miro's work. The Spanish Surrealist was as obsessed with sex as we are. Take a long hard look at the statue. It ain't no bird.
Fox's mixed-media, socially conscious painting is heavy on black outlines separating figures from their backgrounds, his people often caught in a colorful nature scene at odds with the technology: umbrellas don't work, businessmen swirl down into whirlpools while still talking on cell phones, butterflies sniff at lost electronics, obese birds sit at the top of collapsing staircases. His 3D figures often lift and separate from their place on the canvases, rising above, possibly escaping. If we had a Kebe Fox coloring book as a kid, we'd be much cooler than we are now.