Sprouting has occurred. I repeat, sprouting has occurred.
More on Potato Watch here.
I recently wrote about a visit I made to Proa, a contemporary art space in Buenos Aires, and included images of the striking ceiling. As you can see in this photo, there’s quite a contrast between the old pillars in the building and the very modern feeling fluorescent lighting.
A reader wondered if American museums will ever try lighting contemporary art this way. There are many ways to address this question and one, for starters, is to explore when and why fluorescents are used. I spoke with Terry Schaeffer in LACMA’s Conservation Center on the subject and she told me that U.S. museums do indeed sometimes use fluorescent lights but that they’re utilized less than tungsten, which is the mainstay, because fluorescents emit more UV light, which can be damaging to objects. The decision to light via fluorescent or tungsten is influenced by three primary factors: conservation requirements (works on paper and costume may be particularly light-sensitive), lighting that ensures a correct representation of the color of an object, and curator preference. Not surprisingly, contemporary curators are more inclined to choose fluorescent lighting, which lends a crisp, blue effect; and curators in fields that study art prior to the modern and contemporary periods most often prefer tungsten, which emits a warmer, cozier feel and evokes the experience of fire light.
Why did you come to the museum today?
Jacob: Because it’s where we come to unwind. We need a little time down so we can hang out, you know, maybe get a couple of drinks [laughs].
What are you reading right now?
Chris: Marciano Magazine.
Jacob: 33 Strategies of War.
If you were a piece of artwork, which one would you be?
Ken: Probably a Frank Stella, but I can’t think which one. I like machines, so you obviously have to have mechanical knowledge to do a piece like that. They seem to be larger than life; they don’t just lie there. To be something by Jackson Pollock, I mean I like Pollock, but it’s being a victim of a shotgun.
Melanie: I’d be a Calder sculpture because they are usually out in the open and they are moving and a sense of whimsy.
Today, part II of artist Marysa Dowling’s conversation with LACMA’s Manager of School and Teacher Programs, Elizabeth Gerber. Yesterday’s portion saw Gerber asking Dowling about the themes behind Journeys, Dowling’s project on view at Charles White Elementary School as part of Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-Site. As the conversation progressed, Dowling started asking the questions.
MD: What do you hope people will bring to this exhibition? Take from the exhibition?
EG: Like you, I hope that with careful looking at the artwork, visitors will see something new in this city, or consider different ways they can look at their own neighborhoods or familiar journeys. I hope people will bring an interest in seeing new artwork and in learning how some of the young people in Los Angeles view their schools and neighborhoods. And I hope that the broad role that LACMA can have in this city, and of museums generally, is refreshed and reinforced. I too hope that the collective portrait presented in the exhibition continues to grow over time.
MD: Why are these types of projects important to LACMA?
EG: The museum supports an incredible amount of work with students and teachers; a project such as this one encourages art making and discussions with students and teachers—as well as their families, friends, and neighbors—outside of a traditional classroom setting. A project that is based in different neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles allows the museum to engage with the interests and concerns of multiple neighborhoods, and to work with individuals who might not have previously visited LACMA. Ultimately, projects that create new and dynamic works of art, build community, engage with audiences, and educate (in the broadest possible sense) are critical to furthering LACMA’s mission.
MD: Why is it important to commission artists?
EG: I am actually very interested to see the response that we receive to this question here on Unframed, as the importance of commissioning artists and the type of work that should be commissioned is a fascinating topic for discussion. From my perspective, the museum has the opportunity to foster the creative process and to share it more broadly with others through these types of commissions.
When it comes to commissioning artists to work with students, there are a range of important benefits. In addition to the creation of new work, the time and energy that you shared with the participants can have a large impact: so often we hear from teachers and principals about the importance of artists as role models for their students. With this project, you introduced David Hockney’s Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio as an artwork for students to view and discuss, leading them to consider their own journeys through Los Angeles. At LACMA we often try to view our encyclopedic collection through a contemporary lens, and artists are very good partners in this endeavor. There’s always a risk when new work is created, but in my opinion, that risk is an interesting and important element as well.
MD: In what ways could this project connect with other cities?
EG: We live in an increasingly global world, where images and information can travel at an incredibly rapid rate. At the same time, localities matter—and they matter a lot. In my mind, a project like this does an excellent job of highlighting the similarities and differences of cities, and the people who live in them. At its core, an institution like LACMA provides opportunities for people to learn about cultures throughout time and around the world.
For more information on this exhibition, including directions and hours, click here.
Earlier this year, LACMA commissioned London-based artist Marysa Dowling to work with students in the Los Angeles Unified School District as part of Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-Site. The result, Journeys, is a collection of images both from the students and from Dowling. The exhibition is on view at Charles White Elementary School. LACMA’s Manager of School and Teacher Programs, Elizabeth Gerber, sat down with Dowling to discuss the project. Midway through, Dowling turned the tables and interviewed Gerber. Today we present the first part of the interview, with part II to follow tomorrow.
EG: Your artistic process often involves many decisions by the individuals you are photographing. Could you describe your process for this project?
MD: There are several pieces of interconnected work within the overall project, Journeys. All of them are portraiture projects with several intentions: to look at how people move around the city they live in; to explore how people communicate and engage with the city and with others; how they use and see everyday objects; and most importantly, how people express themselves in front of, and communicate through, the camera.
I wanted to create a piece of work that let, to a certain degree, other peoples’ choices shape how the project would evolve and who would be involved. So for the main pieces I came up with a set of rules—or rather instructions—for each person to follow. I first made a series of portraits of seven people on journeys they each take regularly. I also had them incorporate an object, a blue plastic bag, which they used in one of the photographs. And I asked each of them to choose at least five other people to become involved and be photographed.
EG: Why did you propose this theme of journeys for this project?
MD: L.A. has such a particular way of being viewed by those who have never been here and has an odd familiarity to the rest of the world. Having an overarching theme that I could explore in various ways is something I often do. I also like to work on similar projects in different cities simultaneously.
Realizing how many people live totally different lives within the city seems obvious, but once you really start to see and hear about it, it’s quite overwhelming. It’s also amazing the connections that start to unfold.
One thing the project has done is reinforced my thoughts about how complex and problematic cities are and but also how wonderful, strange, and engaging they are. People live with similar concerns in cities everywhere.
EG: Why the blue plastic bag?
MD: I began using the using this object in London, when The Photographers’ Gallery in London commissioned the project entitled The Movement of an Object. I knew it had to be a common, ordinary, and ubiquitous object, something people use and engage with all the time but do so without really thinking about it. It’s also important that the object can be changed, adapted, or even destroyed by the sitter as a way of enabling them to express themselves.
I use the object as a way for people to bring performative aspects to the portraits. Everyone has something creative inside of them; the choices people make and how they choose to represent themselves, this urge to express ourselves in front of the camera is what fascinates me.
EG: The galleries include an area for people to add to the exhibition. What would you hope people might think about when adding to the space?
MD: I’d like people to bring their own stories, the small details about how they live, and make connections by adding photographs, words, or drawings. I hope people find something new through the small details in an image, while simultaneously finding recognition of something similar to their own lives.
Check back tomorrow for part II of the conversation. For more information on the exhibition, including directions and hours, click here.