You’d probably guess that a man with a name like Snooky Young has got to be some sort of hip jazz guy—and you’d be right. For most of the last century Snooky has been part of the large and diverse jazz community we have here in Los Angeles. To honor this cultural legacy, LACMA is teaming up with the Los Angeles Jazz Society to present Snooky with the L.A. Jazz Treasure Award at tomorrow night’s Friday Night Jazz concert at the museum.
Snooky is a trumpet player—90 years young—and was just named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. He has been a part of so many historic big bands—starting with Jimmie Lunceford in the 1930s and then on to the bands of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, and the Tonight Show Band. He still plays regularly with both the Gerald Wilson Big Band and Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. That’s a lot of jazz history rolled into one man. Just to give a taste, here’s a great (if a little grainy) clip of Snooky’s work with the Tonight Show band:
We’re going to honor Snooky on Friday with an award and proclamation—but mostly we’re going to celebrate this great soul who represents the rich tradition of world-class jazz we are surrounded with here in L.A. And that’s really what LACMA’s Friday Night Jazz series is all about. What began eighteen years ago with just a handful of people now numbers nearly 2,000 people each week. From these humble beginnings, we’ve grown into a premier location to present the greatest jazz artists in the world—the L.A. kind, like Snooky Young.
Mitch Glickman, Director of Music Programs
Is it a sin for me, an employee of a lofty High Art institution such as LACMA, to admit to loving (gasp!) pop culture? Reality TV, no less? Dance competitions? It’s true: I consider shows like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew destination television. A love of pop culture is all well and good but does feel a little funny here—this is an office, after all, where a co-worker once uttered the phrase “who’s Snoop Dogg?” in all earnestness.
Maybe it’s not so odd. I’ll find out this Saturday at our next Late Night Art event, Korea: Future/Past, which is a celebration of Korean art and culture happening from 8 to 11 pm (or later if you hit up the After Party). In celebration of our new Korean art galleries—opening tomorrow!—and Your Bright Future, the night will feature plenty of entertainment. Traditional Korean music and dance, readings by author Leonard Chang and Sue Kim, a performance by artist Haegue Yang inside the Your Bright Future galleries, and the thing I’m most excited about—a performance by Korean hip hop crew Last For One. These guys are nuts. For instance, here’s their incredible performance, “Canon in D,” in which they break dance to a traditional Korean music/hip hop mash-up.
Last For One will be performing in the BP Grand Entrance during the Late Night Art event; then, as if to make real my TV fantasies, they’ll be judging a b-boy competition later the same night in the LACMA West Penthouse as part of the Muse ‘til Midnight After Party. These guys know competitions. Here’s the performance that won them the 2005 Battle of the Year championship:
As a Korean-American, it’s been especially gratifying for me to work on Your Bright Future, but I had been curious to see what my parents—first-generation Korean immigrants—would think of the show. Both my father and mother graduated from Hongik University in Seoul, Korea—the same school where many of the exhibition artists also received their bachelor’s degrees—with architecture and arts degrees, respectively. They finally had a chance to visit the museum last week and were taken away by the show. Having studied architecture, my dad could not tear himself away from Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star 1/5, admiring every minute, handmade detail. My mom connected most with Choi Jeong-Hwa’s HappyHappy as she thought it embodies what she considers to be the best kind of art—one that is accessible to those of all ages and backgrounds.
Overall, the observation that continued to come up during my parents’ visit was how Your Bright Future, in a way, reflects how much Korean culture has changed over the past few decades. My parents were in awe of the freedom of form and expression in all of the works—something they did not experience when they were in school. But more generally, viewing a contemporary Korean show in the U.S.—a first for my parents who have lived here for more than thirty years—served as a reminder of how globalized Korean culture has become. This Korean wave may be more prominent in pop culture with musicians and actors making recent debuts in America, and more locally, with Korean restaurants, and even food trucks, springing up outside of Koreatown. And the wave seems to continue here at LACMA, as we reopen our traditional Korean galleries on Sept. 10, host a film series dedicated to contemporary filmmaker Hong Sang-soo, and present a late night event celebrating Korean art, film, music, and dance from all generations.
For our Labor Day post we asked Devi Noor of American Art to recommend a work-themed picture from the upcoming exhibition American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915. Like all the paintings that will be in the show, the one Devi suggested (The Young Mechanic, an 1848 oil by Allen Smith Jr.) creates a narrative. I didn’t quite get it at first glance, so I consulted the online description—it seems that the kid on the left (the “working-class boy”) is sitting at the counter of his father’s woodworking shop, whittling a toy-boat mast commissioned by the kid in the straw hat (“the better-dressed boy”). With that little bit of setup, the picture acquires class and social implications that you could study for some time. And today would be a good day to do it, not just because it’s Labor Day but also because LACMA admission is free all day; the painting can be seen on the third level of the Art of the Americas Building.