Roundtable Recap: The American Indian and American Art

March 31, 2009

Last year, soon after we acquired the portraits of Chippewa Chief No-Tin by Henry Inman and Charles Bird King, I began making plans to organize a public program to explore the identities, histories, and art histories these images embody and prefigure. I wanted to find noted authorities who could help elucidate fact from fiction and consider artistic license in relation to history. At our roundtable on Saturday, “The American Indian and American Art,” we heard from William Truettner and Amy Scott, curators at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Autry National Center, respectively, as well as Mateo Romero, a Cochiti Pueblo painter based in Pojoaque Pueblo and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their talks brilliantly tackled issues raised by American Indian imagery in American art in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, and raised important questions that we will all be thinking about for a long time to come when looking at historical to contemporary images of Native Americans.

Henry Inman, No-Tin (Wind), 1832-1833, Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee

Henry Inman, No-Tin (Wind), 1832-1833, Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee

A central theme throughout the talks was the contingency of images of American Indians, especially by non-Native American artists, as the title of Mr. Truettner’s talk on nineteenth-century paintings suggests: “Why Real Indians Never Appear on Canvas.” However, in Mateo Romero’s contemporary art, both appropriated and real Indians appear in his canvases.

Mateo Romero, War Music II, © 2008 Mateo Romero

Mateo Romero, War Music II, 2008, © Mateo Romero

In some of his works, like War Music II (2008), just acquired by the Autry National Center after being exhibited in their 2008 exhibition, Maverick Art, Mr. Romero incorporates photo transfers of historical Edward Curtis photographs into his work.

Edward Sheriff Curtis, A Favorite Cheyenne Costume, 1911

Edward Sheriff Curtis, A Favorite Cheyenne Costume, 1911

In other paintings he depicts living Pueblo village traditions of song and dance that portray individual Pueblo Indians, such as the young dancer named Butterfly in the eponymous 2007 painting.

Mateo Romero, Butterfly, 2007, © Mateo Romero

Mateo Romero, Butterfly, 2007, © Mateo Romero

In response to questions from the audience about authenticity of American Indian images, Mr. Romero responded, “I am authentic.” And Mr. Truettner stressed “from whose standpoint is something authentic?” Ms. Scott acknowledged the interconnectedness of “representation and power and expectation and response”: it is essential to assess how representations of American Indians are determined by who is making the image, and for whom, and to consider the audience for the work and the historical moment of creation and reception through history. And how does portraiture broadly considered—of American Indians, their land, their cultures—try to negotiate the past, present, and future? In what ways today can historical and contemporary American Indian imagery obscure, preserve, or mediate Indian cultures for non-Indian and Indian viewers alike?

Austen Bailly


L.A.’s Not-So-Silent Movie Theater

March 30, 2009

L.A. is a city rife with movie screens, from the Cinerama Dome to the Nuart to the Directors’ Guild and more. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in cinema in this town. Sometimes I take it for granted; every time Lawrence of Arabia comes on Turner Classics at home, I skip it—”It’ll be playing on the big screen somewhere in L.A. within the next month or two,” I advise myself. You can’t say that for most cities.

Even more valuable than catching a David Lean epic in all its widescreen glory—and something I don’t take for granted—are the movie houses that really dig up the lost gems. Perhaps my favorite theater in town is located just up the street from LACMA: the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater. Cinefamily has some of the most idiosyncratic film programming in the city—from Thin Man double features and classics from Lubitsch, Cukor, and Sturges to obscure exploitation films of the ’70s, contemporary documentaries, and bizarre cult films. It’s always worth keeping an eye on their calendar. Wednesdays in April will feature Buster Keaton double-features, while weekends will see a series dedicated to the psychedelic films of ’60s filmmaker Tinto Brass and the late works of Danish director Carl Dreyer. Personally, I’m always most excited about the theater’s Thursday-night offerings, invariably dedicated to music films. April is the second of a two-month series, Post-Punk Junk, which features documentaries, vintage home recordings, and feature films centered around the U.S. and European punk bands of the late ’70s and early ’80s. These guys take it seriously: back in January Tom Verlaine, of the legendary band Television, performed live on stage, scoring avant-garde silent shorts. Can it get better?

Scott Tennent


Snapshot: Who’s at LACMA

March 27, 2009
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Portia and Felisha, college students

Why did you come to LACMA today?

Portia: We are here on a field trip for our class for an art project. We need to compare and contrast German art and artists.

Has a piece of art ever made you emotional?

Felisha: There was a piece in [Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures] and it was a bunch of shoes and gloves. It spoke volumes…
Portia: It was kind of like the rice exhibit that they did, where they took a piece of rice for everybody that dies of AIDS and it was piled up. I know it was just grains of rice, but looking at it all, it was shocking.

Where do you want to travel?

Felisha: Africa. I just want see what Africa is like, it looks really beautiful on T.V., but I wanted to go and see what it really is like, besides what is on T.V.

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Monica and Mary, actors

Why did you come to the museum today?

Mary: We had a casting down the street in the SAG building.

Have you been inspired by art?

Monica: The first time I went to Chicago I saw Paul Klee’s work; I’d never seen it before and that inspired me to create more. I remember staring at his paintings and thinking they were so beautiful and the story of his disease that he had throughout and how he conquered it. So that made me think work hard at what you have and what you do.

Rachel Mullennix and Michael Storc


Designer, Fabricator, Artist: Q&A with Eder Cetina

March 26, 2009
 Eder Centina

Eder Cetina has worked with LACMA both as an artist and fabricator. He’s been a featured artist at our Late Night Art events, overseen installation of large-scale graphics pieces in our collection, and has created graphic elements for many LACMA exhibitions, such as the title wall to the recent Phantom Sightings exhibition, just to name a few. He’s also built a vibrant following with the street art/hip hop scene around Los Angeles, recently appearing/painting at the Ludacris show at the L.A. Coliseum. We’ve worked on a number of projects together both at LACMA and around L.A.—here’s a bit more about him.

How did you become a liaison for LACMA and other major museums here in Los Angeles, like the Getty and MOCA?

I had been working with Olson Visual managing large print and fabrication projects for Rodney Graham, John Baldessari, Sharon Lockhart, and the list goes on. All of a sudden, the more events and openings I attended, the smaller the art world became and I would just get in where I would fit in. I did small freelance projects here and there, just found myself working with designers, artists, and curators from all over the globe. My relationships with the California Association of Museums and the American Association of Museums and their many affiliates have really helped to further my goals and visions in the museum field.

You alternate your role as designer, fabricator, and artist. Is there a distinct line between them?

Yes—and I’ve crossed them all. As I see it, as a designer I collaborate. When I take the role of fabricator, I cooperate. And as an artist, I just create and do just what I please.

Title wall graphic for Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement

What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on at LACMA?

I would say that there are a few that stand out, like my very first show here at LACMA, Made in California—NOW, and Diane Arbus Revelations. I also had the honor of producing a hand-painted mural for the Dalí exhibit. More include working on Tim Hawkinson’s first major museum survey, and Magritte and Contemporary Art in 2006. Mostly recently, I worked on most of the graphic elements for Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures. It’s really hard to pick just one because I’ve worked on almost every show at LACMA in the past five years.

With a detail of Untitled (Shafted) by Barbara Kruger

With a detail of Untitled (Shafted), 2008, by Barbara Kruger

What has been the most difficult install, either here or within your professional career?

By far, Barbara Kruger’s Shafted [a three-story-high artwork installed in BCAM's elevator shaft], which we worked on for three weeks straight, day and night, practically living inside of BCAM. From pre-press to install, it was by far one of the most challenging and satisfying installations. And as a bonus, it was great to see new pieces of art from the Broad Foundation arrive daily before the grand opening.

I have seen you act as a curator, artist, and organizer for both traditional art shows and freeform “intervention” installs/projects. What draws you to these projects?

I just feel the need to creatively express myself whether as an artist creating a new piece or a curator working with an up-and-coming artist. I just have a passion for creative expression and the arts.

Do you collect art from your peers, or more established artists?

Yeah, I got a nice li’l collection. I’m really into street art… I just picked up a Fafi painting and another Barry McGee piece.

Does Los Angeles influence your work?

F**k yeah! The complexity of glamour and dirt—it’s like a love/hate relationship. The further I try to get away, the closer it pulls me in.

You worked on some of the largest projects LACMA has ever produced, but some of your contributions have ultimately been scrapped once the shows are over. Is that hard to deal with?

It’s sad for a minute, but then I get too busy on the next project to really dwell on it. That’s why documenting every project has become so important to me. I’ve also partnered up with a couple of great recycling companies to try to reuse most of the waste materials these large exhibits produce.

Paul Wehby, Graphic Designer


The Contemporary Project

March 25, 2009

One aspect of curatorial practice I find most interesting is collaboration. LACMA is no stranger to this concept, both in terms of the artists included in exhibitions and the way our permanent collection and special exhibitions are mounted. Recent examples include the performances of The Autoperforation Group, documented in Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, with photography and film along with the “relics” employed by the artist group during their performances in East Germany in the late 1980s; Franz West’s posters, which line the walls of LACMA’s most recently opened exhibition and appropriate motifs designed by his wife, artist Tamuna Sirbiladze; and the re-installation of the pre-Columbian collection, designed via a collaboration between artist Jorge Pardo and curator of the art of the ancient Americas, Virginia Fields.

If these concepts excite you as well, I recommend you keep an eye on the Contemporary Project,  a multi-year initiative to create new dialogues and forms of collaboration between the academy and the contemporary art world. The director, Richard Meyer, professor of art history at the University of Southern California, has assembled curators, gallery directors, artists, and academics across Los Angeles to serve on the project’s Advisory Committee. LACMA’s own curator and department head of contemporary art, Lynn Zelevansky, is among the participants.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Shafted), 2008

This Saturday, March 28, the Contemporary Project is hosting “Contemporary Conversations,” which will consist of two free public dialogues: one between LACMA Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan and artist Barbara Kruger (whose piece Untitled (Shafted) can be viewed during a ride in the BCAM elevator); the other between Lynne Cooke, curator at New York’s Dia Art Foundation and chief curator at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, and Douglas Crimp, professor of art history at the University of Rochester. One central theme of the conversations will be this idea of collaboration—collaboration between and among artists, critics, curators, and collectors—and also the more elusive ideas of collaboration between the present moment and the historical past, between the artwork and its audience, and between public and private forms of knowledge.

Megan Hawley, Curatorial Administrator, Modern Art


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