Open Houses

September 30, 2009

There’s a secret that I’ve been keeping for years. I would have come clean a long time ago but, well, I’m pretty embarrassed about it. Here’s my confession (deep breath)—I have never been to any of the exceptional, historic homes open to the public in L.A.

There. I said it. As a lover of house museums—the Musee Jacquemart-Andre is my favorite—it’s just plain weird that I haven’t made time to visit any of them here. So, I consulted our Decorative Arts and Design Department Head Curator, Wendy Kaplan, to help me rectify the problem. For those of you who also harbor the shame of not yet visiting one of these great places, here is Wendy’s must-see list.

The Gamble House: Hands down, this is Wendy’s favorite. It’s Arts and Crafts nirvana.

The Adamson House: Amazing for its Malibu tiles and ocean views.

The Hollyhock House: Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Enough said.

The Schindler House: Owned by the MAK Center and not a house museum per se, but was the architect’s home and is testament to his utopian modernism.

The VDL House: Designed by Richard Neutra. Only open once a week. My first stop.

Since Neutra makes me weak in the knees, I’ll be hitting up the VDL house first, but my hope is to visit all of the spots above by the by the end of the year. As I found with my recent Art Month, sometimes when you’re really busy, the only way to get the important but peripheral tasks done is to schedule them. So, off I go…

Allison Agsten


Resnick Pavilion: Halfway There

September 29, 2009

Today marks precisely one year since we announced the construction of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion (and was also, by the way, the day Unframed made its first post). To mark the occasion we thought we’d check in on the building and see how it’s progressing.

We’re exactly at the halfway point. This time next year, the Resnick Pavilion will be open to the public with a few exhibitions open at once, including the debut of our eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European costume collection which we acquired last year.

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Looking at the building it feels like we’re more than halfway—and indeed by the spring the pavilion will look and feel finished from the outside (though we’ll still be working on some of its finer points). If you’ve been by the museum lately you’ll have noticed that all the scaffolding is down and you can get a pretty good peek into the building’s wide-open interior. The Resnick Pavilion spreads across 45,000 square feet—just over an acre—and will have no permanent interior walls, which will allow us to configure the interior galleries to accommodate any kind of exhibition and any number of exhibitions at a time.

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You might notice that the north wall of the building is missing at the moment. That’s because it won’t be travertine marble like the rest of the building. Instead, it will be a massive wall of glass which, along with the saw-tooth roof, will make the light in the building quite dramatic. I’ve had the opportunity to take a hard hat tour of the building and already you can feel the perfectly attuned quality of light inside.

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One of the more eye-catching construction activities right now are the air ducts being installed on the exteriors of the east and west walls. When these are finished they will be covered in a red fiberglass shell, matching the red of BCAM’s escalator, the BP Grand Entrance, and the Kendall Concourse running between the two buildings.

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You might also notice that the travertine marble walls seem to come to an end about three feet above the ground. (It’s hard to get a good shot of this without getting onto the construction site, but even in this photo taken from a distance, you can see that the marble does not extend to the ground.) When construction is finished you won’t notice that: the landscape will be built up to meet the pavilion. Part of the reason we’re doing that is to add enough earth so that the palm trees hand selected and placed by Robert Irwin have enough room to grow.

There are plenty more fascinating details about this building; as construction continues and the opening approaches, we’ll continue to fill you in on some of the highlights.

Scott Tennent


The Owl Says “Who Wants Room Service?”

September 28, 2009

When I first heard about migration, Doug Aitken’s film projected on the exterior walls of Regen Projects II, my reflexive thought was to take my son to see it. And not because, as the press release states, the artist explores, “themes of temporality, space, memory, movement, and landscape in his work.” I can assure you that those ideas are not interesting, not to mention comprehensible, to a two-and-a-half-year-old. Rather, I thought my boy might really connect with the images—animals of all kinds set loose in hotel rooms. So, a couple of Fridays ago, we set out on another mother-son art adventure.

Doug Aitken, "migration," single channel video, installation view: Regen Projects II, 2009

Doug Aitken, "migration," installation view: Regen Projects II, 2009. Part of LA ART's Public Art Initiatives with ForYourArt—L.A.P.D. (LA Public Domain) and the City of West Hollywood's Art on the Outside Program.

When we approached migration a little after 7 pm, there were already a few viewers there, basking in the projection. A couple sat in their parked Range Rover, as if at a drive-in movie, watching intently, while a homeless man stood on the abutting sidewalk also studying the movie. My little boy, captivated, ran back and forth between the walls, naming the animals and marveling at how big they looked. I too was mesmerized and noted that, for such a quiet and graceful work of art, migration very deftly put me off my center.

Obviously, each of us watching the movie together were rapt, and I walked away thinking about the reason I came to Regen Projects in the first place—to continue my son’s ongoing introduction to art. I was pleased to find that, as hoped, migration was a great art entry point for a small child. The outdoor space was unintimidating (and ideal for wild toddlers such as mine), and the scale and subject matter of the moving images were fascinating for little eyes. Far better than watching another episode of children’s TV, as you’re apt to enjoy yourself too.

Allison Agsten


Still Life with Mix Tape

September 25, 2009

Picture 1

For this edition of our series of exhibition-related playlists I tackled Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life, opening Sunday. We begin with a song about painting and end with a song about Spain, and in between are songs about as many of the items as I could find that that appear in Meléndez’s paintings—vegetables, dishes, etc. Unfortunately I didn’t have any songs about pomegranates or artichokes—nor, for that matter, cheese or pears or melons or tomatoes. Perhaps you can be of service: what songs did I miss?

  • Destroyer: European Oils
  • Snow Patrol: Chocolate
  • Brian Wilson: Vege-Tables
  • Bright Eyes: Bowl of Oranges
  • Iron & Wine: Bird Stealing Bread
  • Pulp: Dishes
  • Animal Collective: The Purple Bottle
  • Talking Heads: Stay Hungry
  • Slint: For Dinner…
  • Galaxie 500: King of Spain

You can download this playlist, and many of the others we’ve created, at iTunes.

Scott Tennent


The Art(ichokes) of War

September 24, 2009

Opening on Sunday (unless you’re a member, in which case it opens today) is Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life—collecting a number of paintings from this eighteenth-century painter whose work has only gained acclaim in the last few decades. I’m always a bit of a sucker for still-life exhibitions by a single artist. Seeing ten or twenty or thirty paintings done by the same hand, all depicting a table full of food, creates a kind of exquisite monotony. You start to hone in on the little differences—how the artist paints pears in one painting versus the same fruit in another. You also start to develop an appreciation for anyone who can devote their days to painting a version of the same image over and over again.

With Meléndez it’s especially fascinating. In large part his still lifes don’t lend themselves to metaphor the way, say, a Dutch still life might. This is really, more or less, just fruit and jugs on a table, rendered by an artist in full command of his technical abilities.

But then you get a little deeper into the show, where you find four paintings that aren’t on a table. In fact they’re not even indoors. Meléndez painted a handful of still lifes in landscapes—fruit like pomegranates or watermelons, cut open and sitting on the ground while a dark, stormy sky looms in the distance. They might be the most violent still lifes I’ve ever seen.

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Luis Meléndez, "Still Life with Artichokes and Tomatoes in a Landscape," c. 1771–74, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mrs. Lila Shickman, image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Part of their drama might be found in Meléndez’s life story. In short, the artist had long aspired to be a court painter—a well-paid position that would have allowed him to paint portraits or scenes depicting great battles or religious narratives. But the position escaped him, and he ultimately died in poverty. The only commissions he did get were for still lifes. Seeing the artichokes and tomatoes strewn about the ground, they almost feel like corpses lying in the wake of some great battle, as if the artist Meléndez wanted to be is trying to find its way onto the canvas.

Scott Tennent


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