Essential Arts: The ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ rallying cry is louder than ever in new murals and different artwork


Hi, I’m arts author Deborah Vankin, filling in for Carolina Miranda this week.

A 5-year-old public sculpture, honoring a Persian emperor of two,600 years in the past, is now tragically well timed.

The 2017 sculpture, “Freedom: A Shared Dream,” sits on Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City, that includes gold and silver concentric cylinders made from chrome steel. It shimmers within the daylight and glows, with LED lights, at evening. It’s by British artist Cecil Balmond and was commissioned by the L.A. nonprofit Farhang Foundation, which promotes Iranian artwork and tradition.

The work now serves as a focus for the “Women, Life, Freedom” motion supporting Iranian ladies and human rights. Artists and others are tying scarves and ribbons to the work, multicolored slips of cloth that billow and whip within the wind protesting the September dying of 22-year-old, Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini. She’d been arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police for not sporting her hijab, an Islamic headband, correctly and died in detention.

In the wake of mounting protests in Iran, sparked by Amini’s dying, and experiences of human rights abuses within the nation, the Century City sculpture now additionally stands in solidarity with demonstrators there. Authorities in Iran have cracked down on protesters, and there have been experiences of bodily and sexual abuse of detainees. (This current CNN piece a few “full-fledged human rights crisis” in Iran is painful to learn.)

A detail of Cecil Balmond’s sculpture, “Freedom: A Shared Dream.” The work gives voice to demonstrators in Iran, fighting for their basic human rights.

(Photo: Vafa Khatami; from Farhang Foundation)

“The declaration of human rights is a precious jewel for humanity,” Balmond told me when I interviewed him in 2016, “and I conceived the sculpture as such, a golden treasure [being the inner gold cylinder] buried within the surface silver, the appearance of our lives.”

With international Human Rights Day coming up on Dec. 10 — and the protests in Iran still going on — the “Women, Life, Freedom” rallying cry is louder than ever. Artists and activists handcuffed themselves to Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” installation at LACMA last month for a demonstration marking 40 days since the Zahedan massacre in southeastern Iran and drawing attention to Amini’s death. Additional “Women, Life, Freedom” artworks are now popping up around Los Angeles.

The Farhang Foundation launched a billboard campaign in the Westwood area in early October featuring the “Freedom” sculpture — the two images will be up through the end of the year. The organization is now putting up new murals around the city. One, designed by Iranian American Washington D.C.-based artist, Rashin Kheiriyeh, appears on the side of an office building in Santa Monica. The mural, at 3325 Pico Blvd., was originally unveiled in July 2021 before Amini’s death; but it spoke to freedom for women in Iran. It’s since been updated. It depicts a woman with flowing hair made of Persian calligraphy. A line from a Persian poem reads: “restless tresses in the breeze.” “Women, Life, Freedom” appears in English and Persian.

A mural by Rashin Kheiryeh in Santa Monica.

A mural by Rashin Kheiriyeh on the side of an office building in Santa Monica.

(From Farhang Foundation )

Another Farhang Foundation mural is in-development, planned to appear on the side of a downtown L.A. office building that currently features a Shepard Fairey mural. The image for the 1031 S. Grand Ave. mural is still being worked out. It will either be by Kheiriyeh or Iranian American L.A.-based Farzad Kohan. The mural is meant to be a permanent work and will feature the “Women, Life, Freedom” hashtag.

Elsewhere around the city, artists are putting up their own murals. The exterior of a shoe store on Melrose Avenue, in the Fairfax District, now features a nearly 30-foot-tall mural of Amini, clad in black and eyes cast downward with the colors of the Iranian flag flowing through her hair. Silhouettes embedded in her clothing depict Iranian women tossing off their veils and setting them on fire. At the bottom, in Persian script, it reads: “Death to the dictatorship.” The 7753 Melrose Ave. mural is by Iranian American L.A.-based artist Cloe Hakakian and L.A. muralist Todd Goodman. It was unveiled in early October and was paid for by the artists, with some community donations.

A Melrose Ave. mural Cloe Hakakian and Todd Goodman.

A Melrose Ave. mural by Cloe Hakakian and Todd Goodman.

(Photo: Impermanent Art)

Hakakian has since started a not-for-profit initiative, Murals for Freedom, which connects artists and wall owners internationally to create awareness around the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement.

“I’m Iranian American before anything else, I feel my roots deeply,” she told me. “And I just wanted to be the voice for the voiceless.”

Iranian American L.A.-based rapper Shaheen Samadi, an emerging artist, wrote a song supporting the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement in collaboration with L.A. musician Dr. Symph (a.k.a. Dr. Mansour Zakhor). He performed it in front of a new Tarzana mural, by Iranian American L.A.-based artist Keyvan Shovir. It depicts Amini without a headscarf along with 16-year-old Iranian protestor, Nika Shakarami, who went missing on Sept. 20 and has since been declared dead. In the mural, at 19449 Ventura Blvd., Shakarami is holding a microphone. The music video appears on Samadi’s social media.

“How do we help from thousands of miles away,” Samadi wrote on his Instagram post featuring the video. “How do we help defend our people from torture, bullets, from twisted people using religion to cause pain and suffering in our beautiful motherland?”

“I’m a practitioner of this art-form that we call rap music,” he added. “This is my weapon, this is the sword I’ve spent the last 12-13 years sharpening.”

Meanwhile, Roshi Rahnama’s West Hollywood gallery Advocartsy, featuring Iranian contemporary art, debuted a solo exhibition called “Mohammad Barrangi: Dreamscape” on Sept. 22, just days after Amini’s death. “We were in a haze of morning,” Rahnama told me. “We weren’t able to engage in any festive activities or in the mood to celebrate the exhibition.”

After it closed on Nov. 5, and because the gallery had canceled its annual Holiday Hang community celebration while mourning Amini, Rahnama scrambled to put together a new show called “Inspired By Woman, Life, Freedom.” It features relevant reverse transfer works from “Dreamscape” as well as new mixed media works by Iranian American San Francisco-based artist Ali Dadgar. She asked artists who’d previously shown at the gallery to ship back work to be exhibited. Artists who contributed “returning works” included Iranian American San Francisco-based Shadi Yousefian and Iranian Canadian Toronto-based Simin Keramati. “Inspired By” will be up through Dec. 30.

"Guardians of Eden"(2021).

A reverse switch on canvas, “Guardians of Eden”(2021), by Mohammad Barrangi at Advocartsy.

(Mohammad Barrangi)

“I was trying to do something responsible with our gallery,” she says. “And this was the most effective way we could create a dialogue that would bring more attention to this important movement and revolution in Iran. Our language is art. It was a call to action and I stepped into it.”

This is by no means a comprehensive list — previous “Women, Life, Freedom” billboards have come down and new murals will undoubtedly go up, for however long they last. But even the ephemerality is powerful, says Farhang executive director, Alireza Ardekani.

“What’s happening in Iran, the people who are out in the streets fighting for their freedom, they appreciate and get energized knowing that other people around the world are supporting their cause, hearing their voice — they are not silenced,” he says. “And art is the most powerful way to do that.”

And here’s what else is happening across the L.A. artscape …

Visual artwork

The taboo-busting, 73-year-old Alexis Smith stopped making artwork about six years in the past resulting from sickness, however a serious exhibition on the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego underscores what Times artwork critic Christopher Knight calls her “pivotal importance.” The present of 51 works, he says, is “a marvelous, long-overdue retrospective of the Los Angeles artist’s exceptional career.”

Knight additionally opinions a survey of 27 work from the final 21 years by Honolulu-born, Los Angeles-based painter Rebecca Morris on the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. “ In a period when figurative painting with distinct social narratives has been dominant,” he writes, “while facile abstract painting abounds, a fine survey of Morris’ savvy, often unexpected abstractions is especially disarming.”

Alexis Smith, "Red Carpet," 2001, mixed media

Alexis Smith, “Red Carpet,” 2001, combined media

(Philipp Scholz Rittermann)

It’s been 20 years since William Kentridge has had a serious exhibition in L.A. Leah Ollman has an interview with the South African artist on the event of his Broad exhibition, “William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows.” To Kentridge newbies, Ollman says, the exhibition — which options about 130 works relationship from 1975 to 2020 — is “a feast of an introduction.”

An exhibition on the Skirball Cultural Center, “Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories” — which debuted on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston final yr — goals to reply a elementary query via the lens of 42 works on view, writes Leigh-Ann Jackson: “What is the story of America and what parts of it can be told through quilts?”

Frieze Los Angeles is again — or it will likely be, in February 2023, larger than ever on the Santa Monica Airport. Here’s my report, with particulars in regards to the artwork honest’s subsequent iteration in L.A.

The Hammer Museum’s new corner entrance.

A rendering of the Hammer Museum’s new nook entrance at Wilshire and Westwood. It debuts in March 2023.

(From Michael Maltzan Architecture )

And in case you haven’t been to the Hammer Museum not too long ago, you could not acknowledge the place. It’s nearing the top of a two-decade enlargement and renovation that will probably be unveiled, as soon as and for all, in March. Here’s my interview with museum director Ann Philbin in regards to the museum’s transformation and what we are able to anticipate to see there.

On and off the stage

On the event of Tom Stoppard’s “stunning new play on Broadway,” “Leopoldstadt” — a few Jewish household in Vienna throughout the Holocaust — Times theater critic Charles McNulty interviews writer and San Francisco American Conservatory Theater former inventive director, Carey Perloff. Her “Pinter and Stoppard: a Director’s View” explores the 2 English playwrights’ Jewish identities.

“Infusing her personal knowledge of the artists with her practical experience of staging their work,” he writes, “Perloff sheds light on what makes “Leopoldstadt” distinctive but wholly built-in into Stoppard’s oeuvre.”

Margaret Gray has the story on “Clyde’s” on the Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum. Lynn Nottage’s 2021 Tony-nominated darkish comedy is about at a truck cease sandwich store. “The greasy spoon’s sandwiches are unexpectedly delicious,” Gray writes, “but as a workplace, it’s not healthy; in fact its toxicity is operatic in scope.”

The West Coast premiere of "Clyde's" at Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum.

Nedra Snipes, Reza Salazar (middle) and Garrett Young within the West Coast premiere of “Clyde’s” at Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum

(Craig Schwartz/All Uses © 2022 Craig Schwartz)

Is laughter the most effective drugs? Comedian Alex Hooper would say so. Arts author Jessica Gelt interviews Hooper, who not too long ago was recognized with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a subject he plumbs for comedic materials. He’s performing round L.A. whereas present process chemo.

“With preternatural positivity and boundless amounts of love for his fellow comedians, his family and his audience,” Gelt writes, “Hooper has managed to turn cancer into a punchline and inspire his fans to appreciate life in the process.”

A black and white image of three people performing in a theater production

Diana Ross, middle, as Dorothy, Michael Jackson, proper, as Scarecrow, and Nipsey Russell because the Tin Man throughout filming of the musical “The Wiz” in New York on Oct. 4, 1977.

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

And, lastly …. A brand new adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical, “The Wiz,” will return to Broadway in 2024, leisure reporter Nardine Saad experiences. But first, there will probably be a nationwide tour that debuts in Baltimore subsequent yr.

Classical notes

Did the L.A. Opera’s “Tosca,” a revived manufacturing by British director John Caird, transfer the needle when it comes to the artwork type’s evolution? Maybe not, says Times classical music critic Mark Swed. But it was impressively sung; the group was impressively dressed; and Angel Blue, one of many manufacturing’s stars, was a powerful draw.

“What struck me Saturday night was the sheer pleasure the audience took in being in an opera house for an opera,” Swed writes, “in being in a world that felt, for three hours, like a welcome refuge from the ordinary.”

Florence Price.

Florence Price (1888-1953) was the primary Black American lady to have her music performed by a serious orchestra.

(University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections)

The late, trailblazing composer Florence Price was the primary Black American lady to have her music carried out by a serious orchestra. Her work has discovered new appreciation within the final two years. The Los Angeles Philharmonic carried out Price’s Third Symphony in Nov. as a part of its Rock My Soul Festival — it was a efficiency “conducted with a vivid, clear-eyed edge by Jeri Lynne Johnson,” Swed says.

“It is a score of great beauty, considerable grace and rapt expression,” Swed writes. “Its substance comes from the use of spirituals and African American dance in a symphonic manner, modeled after Dvorák’s example in his ‘New World’ Symphony. Not to be moved by the score and its composer, who rose above the racism and misogyny in classical music, requires a cold heart.”

Just dance

On the event of L.A.’s Banjee Ball celebrating its ninth anniversary, arts reporter Steven Vargas takes a have a look at ballroom tradition as its inching into standard tradition. “What started underground has gone mainstream,” Vargas writes, “so where does that leave events like the Banjee Ball, one of Los Angeles’ largest ballroom events?”

Isla Ebony and Enyce Smith pose for a portrait at Studio A Neuehouse Hollywood.

Voguers Isla Ebony, entrance, and Enyce Smith pose at Studio A Neuehouse Hollywood. They had been a part of a Banjee Ball, the place ballroom and mainstream tradition intersect.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Design time

Features author Lisa Boone has the story behind a 700-square-foot ADU, whose exterior was “custom-milled” to match its most important home, a century-old Craftsman in Culver City.


McNulty takes a have a look at two new books, each “brazenly entertaining works of theatrical biography.” The first is “Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers,” which was co-written with New York Times chief theater critic Jesse Green. The second is a sequence of interviews: “Finale: Late Conversations With Stephen Sondheim” by New Yorker author D.T. Max.

“The crackle of these books,” McNulty writes, “has everything to do with the zingy forthrightness of their title characters.”

Meanwhile, Martin Wolk has an interview with “Little Fires Everywhere” writer Celeste Ng about her new novel, “Our Missing Hearts.” Ng joins the L.A. Times Book Club on Dec. 8, at 6p.m. for a dialog with Times columnist Patt Morrison. Sign up here.

Essential happenings …

‘Tis the season. Good thing Matt Cooper has a “supersize list” of live holiday entertainment throughout Southern California. It’s received one thing for everybody, together with the Los Angeles Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” South Coast Rep’s “A Christmas Carol” and Zombie Joe’s “Cabaret Macabre Christmas” — and extra.

Cooper’s trusty weekly record of different occasions consists of the nationwide tour of the musical “Annie,” on the Dolby Theatre; drag artist Alaska at the Regent in downtown L.A.; and the New Hollywood String Quartet on the South Pasadena Public Library.

A slideshow features a miser and a ghost, a burlesque dancer with an elf on her shoulder, ballerinas and female mariachis

South Coast Rep’s “A Christmas Carol,” Zombie Joe’s “Cabaret Macabre Christmas,” Los Angeles Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and Mariachi Reyna De Los Angeles make our record of vacation exhibits to see this month.

(Jenny Graham/SCR; Cailey Christ and Laura Van Yck; Reed Hutchinson; Hoy)

Vargas has been busy too. His most up-to-date occasions roundup consists of “Victor Estrada: Purple Mexican” at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. The work within the exhibition of drawings, work and sculpture combines, as Vargas says, “1980s Los Angeles, the South Bay punk rock scene and Chicano art, music and politics.” Another occasion spotlight: the bluegrassy selection present, “Watkins Family Hour Christmas” — hosted by Grammy-winning brother-and-sister duo Sean and Sara Watkins at the Soraya in Northridge.

Want Vargas’ full record of the place to go and what to do delivered to your in-box every week? Sign up for his e-newsletter, L.A. Goes Out. This week’s additionally features a record of art-walks alongside prime Metro strains for a car-free artwork outing.


Longtime American Ballet Theatre Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie, is retiring after 30 years. But first: the vacations. McKenzie gained’t step down till after the run of “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 9 to 16, on the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

McKenzie began New York’s ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in 2004, in addition to the college’s subsequent National Training Curriculum. Throughout his profession he’s steered ballet luminaries equivalent to Ángel Corella, Paloma Herrera and Ethan Stiefel to Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera, Misty Copeland, David Hallberg and Herman Cornejo.

And talking of “The Nutcracker,” ABT’s James Whiteside was injured final yr, onstage, throughout a efficiency of the vacation basic. He’s made a speedier-than-expected restoration and will probably be returning to carry out on this yr’s “Nutcracker” manufacturing, the ABT’s seventh at Segerstrom. Whiteside can also be the writer of the 2021 memoir, “Center Center: A Funny, Sexy, Sad Almost-Memoir of a Boy in Ballet,” essays that tackle his childhood, his popping out and being a person in ballet.


Christine McVie.

Christine McVie, of Fleetwood Mac, rehearses with band mate Lindsey Buckingham at Sony Studios in Culver City in May 2017.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times )

RIP Songbird. Singer, songwriter and keyboardist Christine McVie, of Fleetwood Mac, handed away after “a short illness,” her household stated. She was 79. McVie introduced us the hits “Don’t Stop,” “Songbird” and “You Make Loving Fun,” amongst others.

“Onstage, her steady presence behind the keyboard,” writes Times pop music critic Mikael Wood, “provided a crucial counterweight to the more dramatic figures cut by [Lindsey] Buckingham and [Stevie] Nicks, whose rocky romantic relationship powered the band’s darkly glamorous legend.”

George Lois.

George Lois poses subsequent to his paintings on the New York Museum of Modern Art in April, 2008.

(Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press)

Artist, designer and promoting man George Lois, who introduced us catchphrases and model names equivalent to “I Want My MTV” and “Lean Cuisine,” handed away at 91 at his house in Manhattan.

He was, the AP experiences, “among a wave of advertisers who launched the “Creative Revolution” that jolted Madison Avenue and the world past within the late Fifties and ’60s. He was boastful and provocative, keen and in a position to offend and was a grasp of discovering simply the suitable picture or phrases to seize a second or create a requirement.”

And final however not least …

Here’s McVie, in her own words, discussing being a lady in rock ‘n’roll, the touring life and her early days as an artwork scholar.

“I’ve learned to be humble,” she says. “I don’t think money’s gone to my head. I don’t think being a star’s gone to my head, either. In blunt terms, I am a star, you know? But to say those words doesn’t really ring true to my emotions.”


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