Left gets it right: SBMA SHOW HIGHLIGHTS RECENT CONTEMPORARY ACQUISITIONS

'Mr. President,'Llyn FoulkesSanta Barbara Museum of Art photos
‘Mr. President,’Llyn Foulkes

Santa Barbara Museum of Art photos

The work of a museum is done behind closed doors, away from the public. We see the austere, carefully considered, hung and lit works in echoing galleries. Nothing of the work that is done during installation is shown to us, nor is the bureaucracy, paperwork, and deal-making that happens in the simple act of accepting new works into a permanent collection. (Not that we’d want to see this anyway.)

The benefit of all that work is on display now through Sept. 14, at Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s “Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art.” Curated by Julie Joyce, it’s a grab-bag of mostly California-based artists, mostly living, and shows the breadth not just of our particular brand of art, but the eclectic nature of Ms. Joyce’s curatorial eye. From painting and drawing to photography and sculpture, there’s a lot represented here, and a lot of work that has not been seen until now.

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Buried Truths: ‘IDA’ IS A SPARE, BEAUTIFUL POST-WAR TALE

Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida, in IDA. Courtesy of Music box Films
Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida, in IDA. Courtesy of Music box Films

Agata Trzebuchowska, the actress making her debut as the title character of “Ida,” has dark eyes that burn like coal when shot in black and white. Playing a novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, she doesn’t speak much at all, the camera is always gazing into her eyes and as we watch and keep watching, there’s a lot going on behind them.

However, her character is going to be tested in this quiet but wrenching little tale from director Pawel Pawlikowski, best known for 2000’s “The Last Resort.” She receives a letter from an aunt and travels out into the great big world to find her. When she does, they are quite opposite: Wanda (Agata Kulesza) smokes, boozes it up, and sleeps around. But we also learn that she used to be a detective for the state, hunting down “anti-socialists” and she has called Anna from the convent to tell her a few shocking things: her name is actually Ida, and she was actually born a Jew. And the reason she’s brought her out is to join her in hunting down the Nazi sympathizers who murdered Ida’s parents back in World War II.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Olio Crudo Bar’s Balsamic Martini

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

The Olio e Limone name continues to spread on its little corner of Victoria Street. At one point, it was only its namesake restaurant. Then it took over the space next door and started busting out delicious pizzas as Olio Pizzeria. And a few months ago, it moved into a third business on the other side of its door, now called Olio Crudo Bar. This place features small plates of seafood and meat and, most importantly (for us anyway), a lovely collection of cocktails designed by owners Elaine and Alberto Morello and prepared by bartender Tim Delaney. The focus here is on Italian-themed drinks, with a range of familiar and unfamiliar flavors.

We dived right in first with an Aperol Spritz, a simple aperitif of Aperol, prosecco and soda, and that whet our appetite for more. The Milano cocktail, very popular already, is the bar’s version of a Manhattan, with ri brand whiskey, Antica Formula Vermouth and Peychaud’s Bitters. The rye makes this as complex and as sweet as you’d want a classic whiskey cocktail. Moving on, we tried a favorite that’s also over at the original Olio e Limone, the Martini all’Olio, with drops of the family’s olive oil in the drink, as well as Stoli vodka, simple syrup, basil leaf and pink grapefruit juice. The result is smooth and basil-forward, and that oil is almost an afterthought.

Mr. Delaney, who was making all these drinks for us, kept the best for last, though: the Balsamic Martini. We’ve had drinks that mix balsamic with strawberry before, but nothing like this flavor sensation: Bacardi rum, strawberry puree, simple syrup and Bevivo Drinking Balsamic. Sweet and sour in one sip, on top of a fruity tongue. Immediately we knew this would be our Drink of the Week.

BALSAMIC MARTINI
2 ounces Bacardi rum
1 ounce strawberry puree
1 ounce Bevivo Drinking Balsamic
3/4 ounce simple syrup

Combine ingredients in shaker over ice, shake and strain into coupe glass. Garnish with strawberry.

Olio Crudo Bar
11 W.Victoria St. 899-2699 or www.olioelimone.com/olio-crudo-bar

Artists put finishing touches on their works at I Madonnari

Artist Jessea Gay Marie created a 12-foot by 16-foot chalk work of a Chumash cave with art on the walls
Artist Jessea Gay Marie created a 12-foot by 16-foot chalk work of a Chumash cave with art on the walls

A misty morning turned to a sunny afternoon as thousands celebrated the final day of Santa Barbara’s 28th annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival at the Mission on Sunday.

With the smell of barbecued chicken wafting through the stalls of the Mission’s front lawn, visitors wandered around the margins of the hundreds of chalk artwork covering the 30,000-square-foot asphalt space below the bell towers.

Colorful drawings recreated old masters and family photos. Others were original works drawn large.

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Chalk full of arts: I Madonnari returns to the Santa Barbara Mission

Space is ready for the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival to begin today.STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
Space is ready for the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival to begin today.

STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

The 20,000 square feet of dark asphalt surrounding the Santa Barbara Mission will bloom into a rainbow of colors today as hundreds of chalk artists join in the 28th annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival.

Artists from Santa Barbara and beyond will turn the usually utilitarian surface into a patchwork of art works, created lovingly in chalk over the next few days, with the finished works presented on Monday.

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Lightning Strikes … again and again: FROM HUMBLE ORIGINS TO MAJOR FESTIVAL PLAYERS, LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE IS BACK

Just look at the top three headlining bands playing at this Memorial Day Weekend’s Lightning in a Bottle and you can get some sense of how this once-tiny festival has matured. There’s electronic duo Phantogram, Swedish popstars Little Dragon, and one of the godfathers of EDM (that’s electronic Dance Music to the uninitiated) Moby. From a tiny birthday celebration in the forests of Los Angeles, to up above Santa Barbara County in our own hills, to the mountains of Santa Ana, this verdant, pocket-sized Burning Man-like festival has been a victim of its success, moving on to another location as attendance threatened to spill over the boundaries.

Though it started as a private party in 2000, it was really the 2006 move to Live Oak Campground off of the 154 freeway that got the three Flemming brothers, who go by the event name of DoLab, imagining the Festival as bigger than its humble beginnings.

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The Dragon that Roared: WITH FOUR ACCLAIMED ALBUMS, SWEDEN’S LITTLE DRAGON IS ONE OF HIGHLIGHTS

Little Dragon will headline the Lightning main stage Saturday night
Little Dragon will headline the Lightning main stage Saturday night

Little Dragon is exactly the kind of group to play at Lightning in a Bottle during its transition period. They are not DJs and they are not laptop electronic noodlers. But this Swedish band uses the sounds of Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, as one color among many on their palette, and they incorporate just as much hip hop as they do jazz, R&B, glitch, rock, and ’80s textures. With singer Yukimi Nagano’s soulful voice the common thread through all of Little Dragon’s discography, the band has constantly evolved over its four albums, culminating in the dark tones of this year’s “Nabuma Rubberband.”

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The Power Spot: Jessea Gay Marie is this year’s I Madonnari featured artist

Jessea Gay Marie is the featured artist in the 28th edition of IÊMadonnari at the Santa Barbara Mission. She has participated in the event since 1997.
Jessea Gay Marie is the featured artist in the 28th edition of IÊMadonnari at the Santa Barbara Mission. She has participated in the event since 1997.

Jessea Gay Marie was hard at work Thursday afternoon under the two bell towers of the Santa Barbara Mission.

As this year’s featured artist for I Madonnari, the 28th annual Italian Street Painting Festival, she was working solo on a 12-by-16-foot space directly below the Mission steps. Above her dark clouds threatened rain – and would later sprinkle all over Santa Barbara – but she was ready.

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Drink of the Week: Milk & Honey’s Unbeetable

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

Milk & Honey is about to lose its “honey.” In other words, Lesley Wood, who helped start the business in 2006 along with Alcazar’s Alvarado Rojas, is moving on and out of Santa Barbara to San Diego. She’s been a nightly fixture at the restaurant/bar since December 2006, when she was busy wearing overalls and painting the walls a deep red right before they opened. (Since Milk & Honey’s opening, however, she’s traded in work clothes for black dresses.)

She’s also responsible for a lot of the drinks on the menu, and we’ve tried a few over the years. For our last visit with Lesley, we called up a recent drink we ordered a month or two ago outside our Drink of the Week working hours.

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The red and the black: Ensemble’s Mark Rothko bio-play has weighty questions on its mind

Matt Gottlieb play abstract-expressionist painter Mark Rothko and Shaun Anthony his put-upon young assistant in the dramatic new play at The New Vic, "Red." John Logan's play won six Tony Awards in 2010
Matt Gottlieb play abstract-expressionist painter Mark Rothko and Shaun Anthony his put-upon young assistant in the dramatic new play at The New Vic, “Red.” John Logan’s play won six Tony Awards in 2010

“What do you see?”

That’s the first line of John Logan’s intense two-person play “Red” that just opened at The New Vic as part of Ensemble Theatre’s current season. The man asking the question is abstract painter Mark Rothko, and although he’s asking it of the man who has turned up to be his new assistant as they stand in front of one of his paintings, he’s asking it of himself. And, no surprise, he’s asking us, too, in a play that dives energetically into questions of art, history, integrity, money, and creativity. In real life, Rothko was very secretive, with very little footage or interviews available. This biographical play brings the prickly painter to life.

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