Free Admission Presidents Day

February 16, 2009

Looking for something fun—and free—to do on your day off? Look no further: LACMA is free all day today. If you haven’t seen Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures yet, now would be a great day to do so. Or if you have seen it already, come see it again! It rewards multiple viewings. You’re also close to missing out on Vanity Fair Portraits (closing March 1) and The Arts and Crafts Movement (closing March 8), as well as the BMW Art Cars by Warhol, Rauschenberg, Stella, and Lichtenstein, which will only be here through February 24.

Happy Valentines Day, Urban Light: I Made You a Mix Tape

February 13, 2009

What with Valentine’s Day tomorrow, we thought we’d give our favorite streetlamps the ultimate in expressions of love: a mix tape. Here’s a handful of songs inspired by the 202 lampposts culled from every corner of Los Angeles and installed at LACMA’s front door almost exactly one year ago. You can go to iTunes and download this playlist:

1. The Velvet Underground: Beginning to See the Light
2. Spoon: I Turn My Camera On
3. Elliott Smith: L.A.
4. Sam Prekop: Neighbor to Neighbor
5. A.C. Newman: The Town Halo
6. Josh Rouse: Street Lights
7. The Beach Boys: Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
8. Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Water Blues Band: Guide Me Home
9. Wilco: What Light
10. Gene Clark: White Light
11. Television: Guiding Light
12. Low: Streetlight

Most of these songs, you’ll see from their titles, are taken more or less literally. (Uh… any other songs about “light” that I missed?) The Beach Boys selection doesn’t have any literal connection to Burden’s piece, other than that it’s a song about two people who shut the rest of the world out, and I think Urban Light is a terribly romantic work of art, especially around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning when the surrounding neighborhood is all but silent and those lights seem to be there just for you and your sweetheart. (The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You” is another great choice.)

On that note, the last track, by the Duluth, Minnesota trio Low, is probably my favorite: just thirty seconds long, I’ve always thought of it as a love song, in an elementary school sort of way. The entirety of the song:

And you can see her
Before it cracks and goes out
She throws rocks at streetlights
Keeps the streetlight changer busy

Scott Tennent

Dieter Roth’s Box of Chocolate

February 13, 2009

Dieter Roth, Chocolate Lion Tower, left foreground

Dieter Roth’s Chocolate Lion Tower (1968–69) is featured in Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures. You can smell it before you see it—a rare moment in art in which the nose is privileged before the eyes. Chocolate Lion Tower is comprised of 252 chocolate objects which, perhaps much to conservators’ chagrin, are allowed to decay, flaunting conventions of both materials and content. For the exhibition, the Roth estate fabricated a copy that will decompose during the year the show travels.

Allison Agsten

One Museum’s Impact on the Economy

February 12, 2009

The Los Angeles Times‘ Christopher Knight makes an important point in his recent Culture Monster post,  namely “the inability—or the perverse refusal—of many to include jobs in the culture industry as a legitimate concern.” We at Unframed wanted to underline this point by reprinting a letter written by LACMA’s President, Melody Kanschat, to Senator Harry Reid and the other members of the H.R. 1 House and Senate Reconciliation Committee.


February 10, 2009

Senator Harry Reid
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Reid:

I am writing to express my disappointment about the Senate-passed bill (Sec. 1609 barring museums, zoos, and aquariums) and the House-passed bill (Sec. 1609 barring zoos and aquariums) from receiving funds through Federal economic stimulus funding.

Museums employ more than a quarter-million Americans, spend an estimated $14.5 billion annually, and rank among the top three family vacation destinations. In fact, visitors to cultural and heritage destinations stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other kinds of tourists. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has forced museums to struggle just to maintain essential programs at a time when your constituents need those services most.

Through the course of our regular annual business the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
- employs 450 people in our community;
- has an annual budget of $60 million;
- serves 800,000+ visitors each year, including 15% from out of town;
- serves 250,000 children each year through school visits to museums and programs in the schools;
- offers free or subsidized admission to over 400,000 visitors.

In addition the museum is currently engaged in an $85 million campus expansion program with financing procured and donations committed that:
- employs 400+ construction, architectural, engineering and management workers;
- improves, widens, and upgrades 4 major intersections serving over 100,000 cars per day;
- will extend our services to an additional 200,000 visitors per year.

And we have 5 shovel ready projects on hold due to the current economic conditions that:
- total $142.7 million in spending over the next 3 years;
- would produce 900 direct jobs for people in the construction, architectural, engineering, and management fields;
- would produce 1,926 indirect jobs (2.4 indirect jobs for each direct job);
- would produce 1,988 induced jobs (14 jobs for each $1 million spent);
- would add 50 artistic, scholarly, and museum professional positions to our full time employment ranks.

It is unfathomable to me that the economic impact that museums, zoos, and aquariums have on our community is not considered a viable stimulus alternative. They are in fact economic engines and a central part of our nation’s cultural and educational infrastructure.

I hope we can count on you to recognize that the completion of museum, zoo, and aquarium projects will be critical in the economic recovery of cities and localities, and that you will support the deletion of this language when the House and Senate versions are reconciled in committee.


Melody Kanschat

Torqued Ellipses: Straub/Huillet’s Not Reconciled

February 12, 2009

In the midst of our ongoing Two Germanys on Film program, nestled on the second half of this Saturday night’s double-bill, you’ll find Not Reconciled. The title alone could itself be a spot-on summation of the series’s themes. But its lucid density and brute materialism make it something of a UFO among everything else in the series.

This debut feature from self-exiled French filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet (though she isn’t here credited as an official co-author) clocks in just under an hour and can simplistically be described as the story of a middle-class German family stretching from 1910 to 1965. But this adaptation of Heinrich Boll’s Billiards at Half-Past Nine, though it touches on both World Wars and is rife with familial strife, stands apart from most inter-generational sagas. For one, by Straub’s own admission, the film removes anything in the novel “that could be qualified as picturesque or anecdotal, psychological or even satirical.” To call its approach a “new narrative structure,” as Berlinale programmer Enno Pantalas did when he secured it a morning screening outside the main 1965 festival, certainly hones in on what most saliently disturbs many a first-time viewer. We are thrust, from the film’s very first moments, into a current of images, stories, voices, places, and times. It’s certainly hard to get one’s bearing at first, so our program note for the evening will lay out in some detail the film’s altering plot planes and ancillary characters. That said, the unpredictability of Not Reconciled is entrancing. Its layered rhythms have the locked mystery of an aphorism; the editing is nearly sculptural in its concrete presence. You soon start tuning into the diverse timbres of slamming doors, shades of white wall starkness, and diagonal variations. A film that could certainly benefit from the deeper absorption afforded by a home-video edition (though none exists yet), Not Reconciled‘s specifics may be elusive at first, but the film’s tonal undercurrent is hauntingly persistent.

Bernardo Rondeau


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