Last Chance to See Fading Scroll… For Now

October 31, 2008

This Sunday is the final day to check out a work at LACMA I’ve been pretty crazy about, El Anatsui’s Fading Scroll–a sumptuous tapestry made from liquor bottle tops and other discarded material whose troubling history is only revealed upon closer inspection.

El Anatsui, Fading Scroll, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fowler Museum, UCLA, purchased jointly with funds provided by The Broad Art Foundation, Phil Berg, Robert and Mary Looker, and Margaret Pexton Murray

El Anatsui, Fading Scroll, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fowler Museum, UCLA, purchased jointly with funds provided by The Broad Art Foundation, Phil Berg, Robert and Mary Looker, and Margaret Pexton Murray

In a recent conversation with Art Journal, El Anatsui talked about the number of hands that touch his work: “When I saw the bottle tops, what struck me was that they are from bottles that have been used, and therefore human hands have touched them…. People have really drunk from these bottles and therefore human hands have left a charge on them…. I’m constantly looking for anything that has a connection to human hands in a meaningful way.” All this talk of hands makes me feel a bit better about my urge to run my own across the work-and, I thought, a perfect reason to share these behind-the-scenes photos of El Anatsui’s assistants assembling Fading Scroll.

Photos provided by Elizabeth Cameron
Photos provided by Elizabeth Cameron

If you’re unable to drop by LACMA this weekend, the good news is that we’ve just acquired the work jointly with the Fowler, where it will go on view in February.

Brooke Fruchtman


Something Creepy for the Weekend

October 31, 2008

Just in time for All Hallows’ Eve, feast your eyes upon these five ultra-spooky works in our collection, as chosen by LACMA’s staff.

Erin Sorenson, Education

Félicien Victor Joseph Rops, Le Vice suprême, gift of Michael G. Wilson. Selected by: Erin Sorenson, Education

Rachel Mullennix, Communications & Marketing

Edgar Degas, The Bellelli Sisters (Giovanna and Giuliana Bellelli), Mr. and Mrs. George Gard De Sylva Collection. Selected by: Rachel Mullennix, Communications & Marketing

Ellen Castruccio, Membership

Victor Brauner, Suicide at Dawn, purchased with funds provided by Robert and Mary Looker, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Max and Eleanor Baril Family Trust, Helena and Boyd Krout, Alice and Nahum Lainer, Sheila and Wally Weisman, Herta and Paul Amir, Abby and Alan D. Levy, Sandra and Jacob Y. Terner, and Bill and Maria Bell through the 1996 Collectors Committee, and gift of Richard L. Feigen, New York. Selected by: Ellen Castruccio, Membership

Amy McFarland, Graphics

Dominique Blain, Untitled, Modern and Contemporary Art Council, 1991 Art Here and Now Purchase. Selected by: Amy McFarland, Graphics

Peter Brenner, Photographic Services

Marlene Dumas, Dead Girl, purchased with funds provided by the Buddy Taub Foundation, Jill and Dennis Roach, Directors. Selected by: Peter Brenner, Photographic Services


Land of the Lost: My Top 5 AFI FEST Picks

October 30, 2008

I guess I should get the disclosure out of the way first. I am a “programming associate” at AFI FEST 2008. That said, I pretty much had nothing to do with selecting any of the films I’m about to mention, and to even give myself anything resembling credit would greatly undermine the hard work and stress undergone by the fest’s full-time programmers. So here we go, in alphabetical order, what I’m most eager to catch:

24 City
The unappointed poet laureate of “new” China, Jia Zhang-ke sets actors and locals against a sprawling factory being dismantled to make way for a high-rise in this HD panorama of modernity 2.0.

24 City

24 City

Birdsong
The Three Wise Men traverse a barren expanse under curling tresses of clouds to reach Jesus Christ in Catalan minimalist Albert Serra’s second feature. Cinema Scope editor and Vancouver Film Festival programmer Mark Peranson stars as Joseph, and he’s also made an intimate “sort of making-of” entitled Waiting for Sancho that will thankfully be screening as well.

Birdsong

Birdsong

The Headless Woman
Argentine director Lucretia Martel’s long-awaited third film elusively appoints, through liminal sounds and CinemaScope friezes, the moral landscape of a woman who may or may not have hit someone with her car.

Liverpool
Another trilogy finale, this one from Argentina’s master of sparseness Lisandro Alonso as he follows a lonesome seaman on an encounter at the end of the world (snowy Tierra del Fuego to be exact).

Liverpool

Liverpool

Tulpan
The big surprise at Cannes (it won Un Certain Regard), this Kazakh film from onetime documentarian Sergei Dvortsevsky is an immersive portrait of nomad sheepherders which includes a breathtaking single-take scene of literal life-affirmation.

Bernardo Rondeau


The GOP is Coming to LACMA

October 29, 2008

I have a confession: I am a reformed rock and roll sexist. Upon being introduced to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, and Roger Daltrey, I just did not think it possible for there to be female vocalists who could measure up. I was grossly mistaken. After seeing the light thanks to Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, and Mama Cass, among others, I’ve had my ear to the ground for the next generation of rock queens. Amidst that search, I was fortunate enough to come across Kristin Gundred and her band, Grand Ole Party. In fact, I liked them so much that I booked GOP to perform at this Saturday night’s sold-out Muse Costume Ball.

Hearing GOP for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by the band’s driving, throwback sound. Heralding a time when soul and funk shared the stage with rock and roll, the opening guitar riff of “Look Out, Young Son” immediately intrigues, only to bowl you over when Kristin belts out her first words over the drums. Take a look at the song’s video, which was filmed with nineteenth-century cameras—a fitting complement to our exhibitions A Story of Photography and Vanity Fair Portraits!

Jason Gaulton
Muse Coordinator


Chronicling Art in L.A.

October 29, 2008

Yesterday, I attended the press conference for Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, an initiative led by the Getty Foundation that funds the investigation of art created in post-World War II Los Angeles via exhibitions at institutions ranging from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Fifteen shows, including LACMA’s California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way”, will roll out starting in 2011. The program, which has been in the works for several years, began with the idea that we must archive our artistic legacy here in L.A. Aside from Southern California museums, perhaps no entity has better maintained the city’s artistic history, chronicling its shift from a cultural backwater to a thriving arts capital, than the L.A. Times. Suzanne Muchnic’s Sunday story deftly records this latest achievement, both summing up and illuminating P.S.T. It’s particularly gratifying to read such a thoughtful, in-depth piece in a paper that has as of late suffered well-publicized cutback after cutback.

Many have noted that arts coverage in L.A. has declined in recent years. Anecdotally, many of the journalists that I’ve enjoyed working with at the L.A. Times over the years have been laid off, including a few in this most recent round. We museums can maintain our own histories, but isn’t thoughtful third-party reporting integral to our history as well? I worry that now, as Los Angeles is finally achieving credence as an art center, its paper is simultaneously shrinking. We’ve finally made it and it seems to me we need our paper more than ever.

Allison Agsten


Art Catalogue Tells All

October 28, 2008
". . . full of gossip and history . . . "

Art and Technology

As noted in Allison’s post of yesterday, the provenance of James Turrell’s Afrum (White) can be traced back to the Art and Technology exhibition of 1971. We’ve recently made it easy to learn about this fabled show by putting its catalogue online. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound that exciting, but trust me. It’s a different kind of catalogue—candid, original, and often very funny. “I loved the catalogue,” the sculptor Claes Oldenburg once said. “It’s full of gossip and history and time passing and attitudes.”

It was written by then-LACMA curators Maurice Tuchman and Jane Livingston and entitled A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1967–1971. It tells the story of how LACMA, then around two years old, set out to place artists within high-tech corporations to see what would happen. Two exhibitions resulted, one at the Osaka World’s Fair in 1970 and one at LACMA the following year.

James Turrell and Robert Irwin

What makes the catalogue so compelling is its unconventional tendency to disclose everything: who backed the project and who was skeptical, contracts and letters, successes and dead ends, tales of the mutually beneficial interactions that resulted (notably Robert Irwin and James Turrell’s work with the Garrett Corporation) and of the mutually baffling (see John Chamberlain and the Rand Corporation). And all conveyed in a candid, deadpan style that makes the whole thing pretty charming. Here is the last line of an entry about Donald Judd, who exchanged letters (included) with the curators but did not end up participating: “Judd did not contact us while in California in September, 1969 and we could not locate him.”

Tom Drury


Recent Acquisition: Turrell’s Afrum (White)

October 27, 2008

Every year, LACMA hosts the Collector’s Committee, a group of donors who join together to purchase a handful of objects on our curators’ wish lists. The artworks up for acquisition are installed for the committee’s review; for fun, we staffers get an early look and cast our own ballots ranking favorites. This year, I was the first person in the galleries. I don’t know what I was more excited about—the prospect of basking in James Turrell’s Afrum (White) or the chance to opine on it. You see, I am a Light and Space Fiend. In fact, I even created a Facebook page to celebrate my love. You can thus imagine my jubilance to find that the Turrell made the cut.

James Turrell, Afrum (White), 1966, purchased with funds provided by David Bohnett and Tom Gregory through the 2008 Collectors Committee, © James Turrell, photo by Florian Holzherr

I’m interested in the way Afrum, as with other Light and Space objects, challenges viewers’ perceptions. What appears to be a floating cube is actually projection magic—simply, elegantly, powerfully, a light on the wall. The artist once said, “In working with light, what is really important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought, to make the quality and sensation of light itself really quite tactile.” That quote leaves me almost as breathless as the object itself. The provenance is an added bonus. Afrum‘s original owner was a Torrance, CA-based aerospace scientist with whom Turrell and Robert Irwin worked from 1968-71 on LACMA’s Art and Technology exhibition. If you don’t know about that pioneering show, check in tomorrow to learn about the unusual collaborations that emerged as a result, as well as the delightfully candid accompanying catalogue.

Allison Agsten


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