Entertainmen & women
by Roberto Friedman
In November, our attention turns to promising events and productions through the end of the year. Here are a few entertainments on the horizon that have caught the Out There eye.
In her highly anticipated comeback movie role, talented actress and frequent basket-case Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls) stars as the legendary dame of all hearts Elizabeth Taylor alongside Grant Bowler (Defiance) as celebrated thespian Richard Burton in the Lifetime Original Movie Liz & Dick. Its world premiere comes up Sun., Nov. 25, 9 p.m. on Lifetime. Based on the true story of the couple's passionate, tumultuous love affair, the film is from executive producer Larry A. Thompson (Amish Grace) and was directed by Lloyd Kramer (Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven) with a script by Christopher Monger (Temple Grandin).
Favorite film: Set in the razzle-dazzle world of Las Vegas, the new film Lay the Favorite boasts a cast including Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn and Rebecca Hall , and is directed by Stephen Frears (The Grifters, High Fidelity). Hall plays a small-town stripper who moves to Vegas and becomes involved in the legal and illegal world of sports gambling. Willis is the booker who hires her to place wages all over town to gain advantage over the casinos – hence the film's title. He finds his new employee a lucky charm, but his wife (Zeta-Jones) thinks she is quite ditzy and wants her gone, baby, gone. A fun caper, the film will roll in a special screening on Sat., Dec. 1, 11 a.m. at the Vogue Theater, Sacramento at Presidio in SF. For free tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with "Favorite'' and your name in the subject line, and how many tickets (up to two per person) you request in the body of the e-mail. See you at the movies!
Westfield San Francisco Centre has teamed up with the San Francisco Ballet to kick off the 3D holiday light spectacular Illuminique Under the Dome today (Thurs., Nov. 15). As part of the celebration, SF Ballet will lead children in a special dance demonstration and will hand out commemorative tutus to aspiring ballerinas.
In this second annual 3D light spectacle, Westfield's iconic dome comes to life with sugar-plum fairies, toy soldiers, and gingerbread men – sounds like a night bar-hopping in SoMa. Illuminique Under the Dome will show nightly from Nov. 15-Dec. 31, every half-hour from 5 p.m. until 30 minutes prior to the Centre's closing. Free and open to the public, today's launch event begins at 4:30 p.m. on Level 4 under the dome, with a demonstration of dance steps for children 8 and younger by SF Ballet's Nutcracker Snowflakes. The first 100 children 8 and under will receive tutus. The light show begins promptly at 5 p.m. Look for us under the dome.
(Photo: Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)
As arts writer Sura Wood's review in this issue points out, the new Jasper Johns retrospective now showing at SFMOMA is about perception and the act of seeing as much as it's about what's seen. The show's subtitle, Seeing with the Mind's Eye, also points there. Johns' art is as much about intellectual constructs as about visual delight. In fact, some of his later paintings – we're thinking of Bridge (1997), the Bushbaby (2004-05) and Shrinky Dink (2011) series – seem as much puzzles as artistic expressions. They're like crosswords, double acrostics, cryptograms or rebuses in their canny references to patterns and motifs, and allusions to other artworks. This is an artist who is intellectually engaged, and in an era when art appreciation is reduced to whether one "likes" something or not, this is a refreshing stance.
Johns doesn't paint objects as much as he paints signs of objects. What is a flag, a target or a map of the U.S. but a sign pointing to an idea? The artist's much-favored subject, the numeral, has no intrinsic meaning as a shape. A number is just a shape we have all agreed has some quantifying measure, not the measure itself. It's a sign in Arabic.
But all this doesn't mean it's not possible to find personal resonance in Johns' artworks. For Out There, the early works in which the words Red, Yellow and Blue are spelled out, not in the colors they represent – in this show, the works Land's End and Periscope (Hart Crane) (both 1963) continue this conceit – have always called out to us. That's because OT is red-green color blind, so this business of color identification has always raised interesting issues. When the world says something is red, but you see it as blue, you grow up questioning authority by default. We would love to know if gay poet Crane was color blind, but Wikipedia is not forthcoming on the subject.
In fact, the Numbers and Numerals series reinforce our idiosyncratic take on the oeuvre, because they remind us of those color blindness tests we were subjected to in childhood as the disability was discovered. They were fields of colored dots that would resolve themselves into numerals – say, 76 if you had normal color vision, or 29 if you were color-handicapped. These were always games of torture to us as, try as we might, we could not squint out a 76 when the reds and the greens were spelling out their illusory 29.
The Jay DeFeo retrospective now showing at SFMOMA (reviewed in last week's issue) also rings personal bells for us. The show has one and the catalog has four untitled drawings from DeFeo's Water Goggles series (1977) (polymer, graphite and charcoal on paper). We know the artist's interest in the swimmer's eyegear was probably in the shapes and shadows that the rubber and plastic goggles make when they twist around on their straps. Her Shoetree and Tripod series are similarly about shape and shading, not the devices themselves. But for OT, who clamps goggles to our face every time we do our laps, it's a revelation, Duchampian even, to see them as the subject of art. Last one in's a rotten egg.