Last Look at Public Art in Culver City

March 16, 2009

As OCMA’s California Biennial comes to a close this month, there are still some public works of art that you can see around Los Angeles. In Culver City, Jedediah Caesar’s Gleaner’s Stone sits on the corner of Marcasel Avenue and Washington Boulevard. As part of a public art initiative by LAXART and ForYourArt, it rests near a vacant lot, residential homes, a shoe store, and hair salon.

Given its lack of signage and neutral material, its earthy color and solid shape somewhat blend the work into its environment. While it’s unassuming, it is still noticeably out of place—Gleaner’s Stone was at one point removed, mistaken for debris.

However, upon closer inspection one can explore all the details of items included in this work. The materials Caesar uses show a sense of historical preservation: viewfinder discs, denim fabric, and corrugated cardboard are just some of the timely objects encased in resin:

Working in a curatorial department, I am constantly learning about design and placement in the galleries. In gallery installation planning, I’ve learned that “vista” or “axis” pieces refer to works in a collection that are strategically placed in order to be first seen from different angles when walking into a gallery space; usually these are iconic works or highlights of a collection. Even though Gleaner’s Stone is displayed out of gallery context, placement strategy is clearly evident. Situated where three streets intersect, it is viewable by both commuters and pedestrians, yet still accessible to the public.

Gleaner’s Stone is a work that requires inspection by the viewer to appreciate its details, yet the lack of gallery setting requires a bigger responsibility on the part of the viewer to acknowledge it as art, not a sidewalk obstruction. It’s definitely worth a long look before it is taken away for good.

Devi Noor


Free at LACMA

March 13, 2009

Everyone is tightening the proverbial belt these days so we wanted to tell you about a few little-known ways to enjoy LACMA for free. For starters, we have a Pay What You Wish program that kicks in every day after 5 pm. Also take advantage of our evening parking special—vehicles entering the 6th Street parking garage after 7 pm park for free. On the second Tuesday of each month, general admission to the permanent galleries and non-ticketed exhibitions is free to all. Then there are the Target Free Holiday Mondays. (Next one Is Memorial Day, Monday May 25.) NexGen membership offers free general admission to anyone 17 and under as well as one accompanying adult. (Sign up at the box office—this is a free membership.) You can also enjoy the LACMA campus, including Urban Light, for free. We’ve got a host of free talks as well. My pick for the weekend is actually an event happening tonight—Franz West and Darsie Alexander, chief curator at the Walker Art Center, discuss the history of his work, his relationship to younger artists, and the evolution of public sculpture. And , you guessed it, it’s free.

Allison Agsten


The Latest on the Sculpture Garden

March 13, 2009
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When I was driving into work on Wilshire earlier this week I noticed a couple of sculptures peering down from the balcony of the Ahmanson building.

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Turns out they’re Rodins that will soon be installed in the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden, which lies just below them. I got a closer look at the pair when I visited with Robert Irwin yesterday to discuss the sculpture garden for a future post. Irwin determined the placement of the sculptures and is also extending the palm garden into this area. More on that to come. For now, here he is surveying his work on Thursday. (He’s the one in the middle.)

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Allison Agsten


Shadi Ghadirian Refashions the Tutu

March 12, 2009

British fashion icon Bruce Oldfield once said, “Fashion is more usually a gentle progression of revisited ideas.” In the case of nineteenth-century Iran and the French tutu, this certainly holds true. During a trip to Europe, Nasser al-Din Shah, the Qajar dynasty ruler of Iran during the second half of the nineteenth century, attended a ballet performance and found himself captivated by the ballerina’s costumes. He returned home with a prototype in mind. While ballerinas graced the stages of Paris on point, clad in opaque tights and tulle tutus, offstage in Qajar Iran, woman of the Shah’s harem were provided with a reinvented tutu, fitted to their modest haute couture desires hundreds of miles away.

Contemporary Iranian artist Shadi Ghadirian captures this unique twist of style in her Qajar Series (1998), on view on the top floor of the Ahmanson Building through the end of this month. In this series of thirty-three photographs, she dresses friends and family in vintage or remade costumes in the traditional style during the Qajar dynasty, and many of her models fashion a slightly altered version of a tutu. Not stiff and vertical like the customary French tutu, this adaptation is soft and unassuming, draped on top of their Qajar-style clothing. Ghadirian juxtaposes her subjects with everyday objects from the modern world, such as a Pepsi can or a Hoover vacuum, to accompany them in their portraits.

Shadi Ghadirian, Untitled (Qajar series), 1998, purchased with funds provided by the Art of the Middle East Acquisition Fund, Art of the Middle East Deaccession Fund, the Ralph M. Parsons Fund, the Joan Palevsky Bequest by exchange, and Catherine Benkaim, with additional funds provided by Angella and David Nazarian

The result: an image that itself is a contrast of modernity and tradition; of two worlds meeting in a fabricated setting created by the artist. The Qajar-style tutu is, in a sense, a similar creation to Ghadirian’s contemporary portrait series. It is also an intersection of two dissimilar worlds. Moreover, it is a revisited idea and a progression of another’s design. At most, it is duality and contradiction, and at the very least, perhaps it is just fashion.

Jenna Turner, Curatorial Administrator, Art of the Middle East


More on Installing Franz…A Roll of the Dice

March 11, 2009

Franz West had some very specific—and highly unusual—instructions for our exhibition installation team. That’s where the dice rolling comes in…

Allison Agsten


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