Inside the Hammer Museum Gala Honoring Joni Mitchell, Mark Bradford

by Erich  Schwartzel
Wall Street Journal
October 12, 2014

ART


LOS ANGELES — To the list of cultural touchstones that have Joni Mitchell's stamp on them, we can add this: "You complete me." One of the all-time famous movie lines, delivered by Tom Cruise to Renee Zellweger in "Jerry Maguire," was an homage to Mitchell's Court And Spark, the movie's writer and director, Cameron Crowe, told a Los Angeles gala crowd on Saturday night.

Mitchell's lyric goes, "And you could complete me / I'd complete you," and Crowe said the line has gotten him in trouble with viewers who think it's a pretty narcissistic way to woo someone.

"I say it's a tribute to Joni Mitchell and Court And Spark," said Crowe. "Shuts them right up."

Mitchell did a good job of that herself on Saturday, when she was honored by the city's Hammer Museum at the organization's 12th annual Gala in the Garden. Mitchell didn't sing, but instead found the "sweet spot" of the microphone like a pro to deliver a spirited acceptance speech that touched on two projects unexpected for an artist best known for songs like Big Yellow Taxi and Both Sides Now — painting and ballet.

There are plans to adapt a forthcoming four-disc set of music for ballet performances, she said. And this being an art museum, Mitchell described the time she spends painting — avoiding the "tic's" of psychotic, neurotic and erotic art for pieces that are something like Matisse — or as she described it, "joyous things for tired businessmen."

Mitchell was honored with Mark Bradford, a Los Angeles artist whose paintings and collages have earned him a MacArthur Fellowship and the Department of State's Medal of Arts. Growing up, he divided his time between his home in Santa Monica and his mother's hair salon in South Los Angeles — an area not better, or worse, than the White House, he said — just "different."

The stars were out in the museum's open-air courtyard. Rita Wilson seemed like a bit of a prom queen, hopping from conversation to conversation with fellow actresses Demi Moore and Molly Shannon. Julia Roberts crouched down to talk with Mitchell as the singer held court in the middle of the room, and Hollywood mega-agent Ari Emanuel swung by because he's a big fan of Bradford. "Glee" actresses Dianna Agron and Jane Lynch were spotted, too. Singer Sia performed a small set of songs, including her hit Chandelier.

Tomas Maier, creative director of Bottega Veneta, served as one of five co-chairs, and the luxury brand dressed attendees that included Orlando Bloom, Rashida Jones and Elizabeth Banks.

One of the museum's current exhibits, a Jim Hodges collection titled "Give More Than You Take," seemed well-timed. Museum director Ann Philbin said the event raised $2.5 million.


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