Worth A Look

Freestyle Academy Art Exhibition, Pop-up gallery, ancient Greek comedy

Art: 'Freestyle' students strut their stuff

Whether they are expressing themselves through music and poetry or telling a story through photos, video or a website, students at Freestyle Academy are always looking at ways to communicate via new media. And on May 27, the current class of Freestyle students will show the community what they've got, at the Freestyle Academy Art Exhibition.

Freestyle Academy is an art and technology school within the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District. The special school serves as an alternative classroom environment for students who want experience in photography, film, website production and graphic design. Students spend one half of their school day at the two-year program for English, fine arts and elective classes, and the other half at either Mountain View or Los Altos high schools.

At the upcoming exhibition, Freestyle students will display some of their recent projects, such as documentaries about place in the community, surrealistic visual art and computer-based interactive work.

Explaining the premise of the student documentaries, Leo Florendo, program coordinator at Freestyle Academy, explained that students were instructed to go out with their video and still cameras, and explore a place they find interesting. Students then combined the footage and images they captured with words to create a narrative for a photographic book, as well as either a film or website.

Parker Malachowsky, a Senior at Freestyle, produced a documentary on Veggielution, a community farm in San Jose that focuses on organic food and sustainability, exploring the benefits and costs of buying organic.

Beyond storytelling projects, the exhibition will also feature surrealist artwork, illustrations, and photos. All Freestyle projects are created using digital tools, with some fine arts components integrated into the process, according Leslie Parkinson is the digital photography and graphic design teacher at Freestyle.

The exhibit will be held at the Freestyle campus, a deliberate choice, according to Florendo. "Students wanted to have it here," he said, "to show people, 'Here's what we do, and here's where we do it.'"

Visitors to the open house event, will be able to view a variety of projects -- hung on the wall, as well as interactive works on the school's computers. Additionally, a "best in show" presentation will screen student video projects in Mountain View High School's Spartan Theatre.

The Freestyle Academy Exhibition runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on May 27. The main show begins at 5:30 p.m. on the Freestyle campus, located at 1299 Bryant Ave., Mountain View. The "best in show" films will begin showing at 6:30 p.m. in Spartan Theatre, located around the corner at 3535 Truman Ave. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information go to freestyle.mvla.net or call 650-940-4680.

--Kevin Forestieri

Art: Pop-up gallery: otherworldly forms

Local pop-up art gallery Pace Menlo Park recently opened the doors to its latest exhibition, "Tara Donovan: Untitled," located in the former Tesla dealership at 300 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. The collection, which includes Donovan's pieces from 2000 to present, showcases a number of the artist's large-scale creations made from mass-produced materials.

"For artwork, it's the perfect place," said Elizabeth Sullivan, director of Pace Menlo Park, of the old dealership.

As the exhibit is part of a pop-up gallery, it will be dismantled as quickly as it was erected -- at the end of June, staff will cart its pieces back to New York and the building will embrace an as-yet unknown fate.

Until then, Silicon Valley can appreciate the airy building in a new way -- as a backdrop for Donovan's striking single-material structures, all fabricated from repetitive applications of commonplace objects like clear plastic buttons, toothpicks and metal straight pins.

"It's very organic and really works with the light so beautifully," Sullivan said of Donovan's work. Sullivan added that she'll often roll up the gallery's garage doors just so the pieces can play with the sunlight.

Donovan's pieces often recall organic forms and can be likened to coral reefs, delicate stalagmites or billowy cloud cover. Donovan also plays with perception and scale, creating towering works of shimmering Mylar and full-wall installations that span hundreds of square feet.

Visitors are also welcome to peek around the gallery's curtained wall to see works from other Pace artists, like two of Paul Graham's photographs of Penn Station.

"Tara Donovan: Untitled" will show at 300 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, from May 22 to June 30. The gallery is open to visitors, free of charge, Monday through Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m. For more information, go to pacegallery.com.

--Lena Pressesky

Stage: Foothill stages ancient Greek satire

Foothill College's Theater Arts program is preparing to debut its performance of Aristophanes' Ancient Greek comedy "The Assembly-Women," a play that director and Department Chair Tom Gough appreciates for both its humor and relevance.

"Issues may have changed, but behaviors are 2,400 years old," said Gough, referring to the play, which debuts May 23.

The production follows Athens' concerned female citizens and the drastic measures they take to right their government's wrongs. Unsatisfied with the all-male citizen assembly that continually thrusts their society into war, the play's heroines cross-dress as their husbands to take down the irrational laws put in place by their male counterparts.

The result?

"A whirlpool of satire," Gough said, adding that the play "flatters and denigrates both genders."

For theatergoers looking for a laugh, bawdy jokes counter the play's insightful and thought-provoking elements. Gough admitted that part of the reason he liked the play was that it appealed to his juvenile side -- that which appreciates cross-dressing as a never-fail comedy staple.

Comedy aside, Gough remarked on the play's reflexive qualities that illuminate the similarities between our ancestors and ourselves.

The show's ensemble -- all Foothill College students, most of whom are full-time -- includes local players from East Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos and Portola Valley, among others.

The play is scheduled to run from May 23 through June 8. Thursday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for general admission, and $14 for students and seniors. For information call 650-949-7360, or visit foothill.edu. Please note: This play contains adult language, coarse language and sexual situations.

--Lena Pressesky

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