In February, we hosted a cadre of out of town journalists for the opening of BCAM. Many of the visiting writers and editors told us they could really sense a collaborative feel among L.A. museums. Another step in that direction was just officially launched this week—Rembrandt in Southern California. It’s a web-based project initiated by the Getty that involves LACMA, the Hammer, the Norton Simon Museum, and the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego. Together, these five institutions feature the third-largest assemblage of paintings by Rembrandt in the United States. Rembrandt in Southern California brings these works together into a virtual exhibition that features fourteen paintings on view in Southern California. The site also offers a guide to exploring the works along with suggested connections and points of comparison. Check it out at rembrandtinsocal.org.
Why did you come to the museum today?
[Sitting in front of Friday Night Jazz] I grew up listening to jazz since I was eight years old. Over sixty years. My early years were in Harlem and there was always music around and I remember that every apartment that we moved to there was a piano. So with the jazz thing, I’ve been chasing it around…
What do you do?
I’m a design student. I’m visiting from Tijuana.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Ishmael, again, by Daniel Quinn… It taps into how humans just believe that we are the creation, the center.
What do you do?
We are both photographers.
Have you ever been inspired by art to do something you normally wouldn’t?
Nico: I would say that going to museums made me become a photographer.
Rachel Mullennix and Michael Storc
Tucked in back of the American art galleries (third floor of the Art of the Americas Building) is a small room I’ve been calling “the fun zone.” I tagged this intimate, one-room space with the phrase while planning for the reinstallation of the American art collections. I was committed to maintaining a space that would be flexible, into which contributing curators could pull together works for three to four mini-exhibitions a year.
Since our reinstalled galleries opened in July 2007 we’ve seen amazing modernist and pictorialist photographs acquired by the museum directly from photography salons mounted by Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles between 1918 and 1947. Kanemitsu in California during the 1960s and 1970s featured standouts from the museum’s extensive collection of expressionist and witty lithographs by Matsumi “Mike” Kanemitsu. Superb modern works given to the museum by art impresario, critic, author, and book designer Merle Armitage were showcased in Merle Armitage: Collections at LACMA.
Currently there is a marvelous installation on view, Pop Prints from the Permanent Collection. Consumer products are subject and object in vibrant works by four pop artists. James Rosenquist’s monumental F-111 (1974) is so long it wraps around a corner of the room and bombards you with pattern, color, a blond baby under a hair dryer, light bulbs, tire treads, and an A-bomb explosion all overlaying the image of the F-111 bomber.
But the showstopper has to be Claus Oldenburg’s three-dimensional object/lithograph of a car, Profile Airflow (1968-69). It is the kind of work that makes you stop in your tracks, it is so gorgeous and outrageous and unexpected. The curator brilliantly describes the “seductive cast-polyurethane car” as having “the consistency of flesh and the blue-green translucency of a swimming pool.” Go dive in.
Editors’ Note: For Veterans Day we asked Austen to select three relevant paintings from our permanent collection and tell us about them. Two of the works are not on view, but you can see the Childe Hassam on the third floor of Art of the Americas Building. And today’s holiday is a good day to do so, because general admission is free all day.
I thought of these paintings because they encapsulate a range of artistic responses on the part of American artists to the war efforts during World War I (1914-1918), and inspired art patronage in Los Angeles. These works also underscore the internationalism of war and its aftermath.
In the fall of 1918, the fourth and last of the Liberty Loan Drive fundraising parades was held in New York, and each block on Fifth Avenue from Twenty-Fourth to Fifty-Eighth streets was dedicated to the flags of a different Allied nation. Childe Hassam depicted that 1918 scene at the block devoted to Brazil and Belgium along what became known as the “Avenue of the Allies.”
Luks’s painting imagines the triumphant conclusion of the Czechoslovakian army’s march across Siberia in the drive for independence and to become an Allied Nation. Their success was celebrated on Czechoslovak Day, October 3, 1918, held during the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive Hassam painted. These two paintings were given to LACMA in the 1920s by William Preston Harrison, whose art bequests form the historic core of the LACMA’s American art collection.
The Mantle of Spring by Wendt was given to LACMA in 1921 by the Los Angeles District Federation of Women’s Clubs in “grateful tribute to the Boys of America who gave their lives and the Mothers who gave their Sons in the World War.” Wendt’s lush California spring landscape, when our state’s parched brown hills turn bright green during winter rains, is of course a poignant metaphor for rebirth and renewal after the devastation of war.
Some of my favorite contemporary works on view at LACMA aren’t inside BCAM; they’re part of the Latin American art galleries, which includes some stunning work of the last fifty years from Jésus Rafael Soto, Hélio Oiticia, Cildo Meireles, and Francis Alÿs.
My personal favorite in the gallery is Message (Mensaje), from 1967, by Mathias Goeritz, who was German-born, but spent the last forty years of his life in Mexico. The work—just a piece of gold, punched metal—rewards patience.
At first I thought it looked almost like a textile; seeing it in print (or onscreen) heightens that feeling. But the punches in the steel give it a kind of topography. Then I started wondering about how those holes were punched: rigid horizontal lines across the panel, the density of the lines letting up in places—it’s composed. Yet there is also a kind of randomness created by how the metal was punched: in some places it has been completely punched through, creating tiny black voids all over. If you get up close enough you can see the burgundy-colored wood peeking through.
The longer I stare, the more colorful Message becomes. It’s really not “just gold”; in addition to the black pockmarks, the leafing has taken on a bruiselike shade of greenish purple, revealing itself in the few areas of the surface that haven’t been disturbed by the punches. I start to notice cracks in the gilding, like spider cracks in damaged sidewalks. I wonder how much of Message is a result of its age. Was it more uniformly gold when Goeritz first created it? Was it even more luminous than it is now? What qualities has it taken on in the last forty-one years? What qualities will take on in the next?