Installing the Capua Aphrodite

April 30, 2009

As LACMA’s conservation photographer, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks documenting the installation of the exhibition Pompeii and the Roman Villa, which opens this Sunday. It has been nothing short of amazing to experience the installation of this fantastic exhibition and to be so close to these gorgeous and historical works of art. I thought it would be fun to share some images of the installation of one of the most magnificent pieces in this show—The Capua Aphrodite (117-138 AD). Standing well over six feet, this goddess was treated with utmost respect by our expert art handlers—up to eight people at times—guided by the very gentle and experienced hand of Giovanni Cirella from the National Archeological Museum of Naples. The images show the process of installation—from uncrating, lifting, and moving, to finally sliding and shifting into place.

Yosi Pozeilov, Senior Conservation Photographer


LACMA Loves these Wikipedia Loves Art Winners

April 29, 2009

In February, we told you that LACMA would be one of fifteen arts institutions taking part in Wikipedia Loves Art, a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest organized by the Brooklyn Museum. And now, winners for each participating museum have been declared: congratulations to the winning LACMA group, Artifacts! We’ve got a selection of catalogues as well as VIP tickets for you; you did a great job. Thanks to everyone who participated, to Brooklyn for coordinating, and to Frankie and Lauren, our Communications interns, who did the lion’s share of the sorting and organizing on behalf of LACMA.


La vie moderne at COLCOA

April 29, 2009

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Amid the rapid gunfire and spilled blood at this year’s City of Lights/City of Angels (COLCOA) festival of new French cinema, curiously foreshadowing the “bloody Cannes” to come this May, there was at least one oasis of natural light and earthy allure. Raymond Depardon’s La vie moderne is titled with more than a pinch of irony. These craggy farmers and other last remaining inhabitants of hillside hamlets are worlds removed from loudmouth Mesrine or the perplexingly damaged Girl on the RER, Parisian public enemies both. A photojournalist first (he joined Magnum in 1978), Depardon has been making feature films, mostly documentaries, for the past few decades. Here, he fills the CinemaScope screen with images equally vast and intimate. Though switching between so-called “talking head” shots and landscape-based “inserts,” Depardon’s film has an unfussy pictorial elegance that’s belied by such tech-speak. Always at the kitchen table, he joins the Challayes for black coffee and butter cookies or just watches as Paul Argaud absent-mindedly smokes before a funeral mass warping like some alien frequency on his black-and-white TV set. More than scenes or interviews, these are instants of present-tense observance, edited together with the generous pacing of a memory.

La vie moderne concludes Depardon’s decades-long trilogy tracking the denizens of rural France that offers an entirely unromantic yet lyrical view of agrarian life, with a chunky Occitan accent and obsolescence looming on the horizon. The film’s first and final shots complete a diurnal cycle, floating into and out of the valley where the eighty-some-year-old brothers Privat and their nephew’s family live somewhat inimically. Though it’s a simple enough device, a car-mounted camera gliding over country roads lit by the endless summer sunset, with echoes of Kiarostami’s itinerant drivers and the ruggedly calligraphic terrain they steer through, this winding forward and backward mainly recalls an unspooling film reel and both cinema’s fragile promise of return and life’s inevitable voiding of it.

Bernardo Rondeau


Lester Beall: Finding Clarity in Complexity, and Vice Versa

April 28, 2009

As a graphic designer here at LACMA, I was excited to see the works of Lester Beall—in my opinion one of the U.S.’ greatest graphic designers—go on view through May 31.

Beall was someone I call a true modernist—with a twist. On the one hand he lived by the credo “form follows function.” On the other, he allowed himself the joy of working with color and pattern. He spurned symmetry, which in his mind contradicted the dynamism of contemporary life, and was well known for bold, imaginative, and yet always radically simple graphics.

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He once said that a graphic designer “must work with one goal in mind—to integrate the elements in such a manner that they will combine to produce a result that will convey not merely a static commercial message, but an emotional reaction as well.” This oneness of message is apparent in the series on display at LACMA. Here concept meets form in the most exquisite way.

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To me, Beall was also a great translator of European avant-garde graphic design into American modernism. I love the boldness and simple complexity of his posters that always look as if they have designed themselves. I also love his use of pattern and contrast that make his work full of life yet never overdone.

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What amazes me, and what I think visitors will discover in this installation, is the timelessness of his pieces and how much we can all still learn from them. By “we,” I mean graphic designers as well as the public and potential clients, who so often don’t understand the importance and power of visual communication.

Maja Blazejewska, Graphic Designer


LACMA’s Collectors Committee Makes Two Major Acquisitions

April 27, 2009

Every year for the last twenty-four years LACMA has held its annual Collectors Committee event, in which donors come together as a group to purchase works for LACMA’s collection (something we’ve written about before). I’ve had the chance to attend a few of these now, and they’re always fascinating. Here’s the premise of the event: curators from various departments each present an artwork they’d like the museum to acquire. The members of the Collectors Committee get to see the objects installed in a gallery and hear the curators give presentations about the works—and then they vote on which objects LACMA will acquire, using a pool of funds created by their membership dues.

This year’s event took place on Saturday, and the results are in: LACMA has acquired a monumental painting by Matta, Burn, Baby, Burn (L’escalade); and a collection of 117 African Kuba textiles from the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries.


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Matta, Burn, Baby, Burn (L'escalade), gift of the 2009 Collectors Committee

Burn, Baby, Burn is a massive painting—nearly ten feet tall by thirty-two feet wide. It was created in 1965–66 as a response to the Vietnam War and the Watts riots, and remained part of the artist’s personal collection until his death in 2002. The mural-like painting draws the eye every which way; writing about the painting, curator of Latin American art Ilona Katzew said, “Like Picasso’s Guernica (1937)—a work that Matta greatly admired—Burn, Baby, Burn is a bold indictment of the destructiveness of mankind and a manifesto for peace.”


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Four examples from the collection of Kuba textiles, Democratic Republic of Congo, gift of the 2009 Collectors Committee

The collection of African textiles, from the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Kuba culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo, helps enhance an important area of the museum’s collection. The 117 textiles and ceremonial skirts each feature unique geometric forms and rhythmic patterns, and were created collaboratively by both Kuba men and women. Within the culture these textiles were of the utmost prestige—traded as currency, given to kings as tribute, and used in ceremonial garb. In her presentation to the Collectors Committee on Saturday morning, curator Sharon Takeda told the story of twentieth-century missionaries who had come to the Congo offering the Kuba king a motorcycle as a gift, hoping to impress him with this magnificent feat of technology. The king paid the motorcycle no mind, but was captivated by the pattern of the tire tread left in the dirt, hoping to incorporate it into a textile pattern.

Since 1986 the Collectors Committee has made 159 acquisitions for the museum, including works by Benedetto Luti, Edvard Munch, George Bellows, Man Ray, and many more. Their support over the years has been essential to the growth of the museum’s collections—all the more so in today’s economy. Having just entered our collection two days ago, these new acquisitions aren’t yet on view; we’ll let you know as soon as they go up.

Scott Tennent


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