My Fair Compulsion

October 22, 2009

Tomorrow night begins our weekend film series dedicated to the work of Audrey Hepburn. This excites me for two reasons. First, none other than Peter Bogdanovich will be on hand tomorrow night to introduce the series and the opening double-feature: Hepburn’s first starring role, Roman Holiday; and her last, Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed. Second, obsessive-compulsive that I am, I get to check a few more flicks off my Audrey Hepburn list. Let me explain.

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Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), image courtesy Paramount Pictures/Photofest

When it comes to art and pop culture, I have what you might call a personality quirk: when I get into something, I really get into it. For instance, after reading and loving a couple Graham Greene novels, I decided I had to read every Graham Greene novel ever written, in chronological order, in succession. Once I fell for the Byrds I had to purchase all twelve of their albums, in order.

Film is no different. I keep lists of all the films Jimmy Stewart ever made, noting how many I’ve seen (he made 83 films; I’ve seen 60). Same goes for Cary Grant (73, 38) and, yes, Audrey Hepburn (21, 15). (This website is a great help in keeping track.) By the end of the series I’ll be able to check two more films off my list. Next month I’ll be able to do the same for Alfred Hitchcock (51, 36). Film retrospectives like this must have been specially created just for obsessives just like me. And as an added bonus, I’ll finally get to see corkers like Charade and Wait until Dark on the big screen—never mind lavish productions like War and Peace or My Fair Lady. The next four weekends are pretty much win-win all around.

Scott Tennent


A Delicate Reconstruction

October 21, 2009

Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics features more than contemporary comic books. Also on view in the galleries are ten double-sided folios from a narrative series illustrating the Mahabharata, one of India’s great epics. These paintings were used by traveling storytellers to depict Hindu myths as they told their stories in song and verse. The 1850s pieces on display in this exhibition are scenes from the story of Babhruvahana, a character in the Mahabharata.

In order for these double-sided opaque watercolor cards to be displayed in their best light, old paper attachments were removed mechanically, tears were repaired, and losses were filled to unify their supports and imagery. The fills were in-painted with watercolors to recreate the imagery where possible. Many of the areas where media loss had occurred due to tears, creases, or abrasion were not reconstructed, as the curators felt that improving them would take away the history (or patina, if you will) of the original use of these cards.

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Unidentified Scene from the Story of Babhruvahana, folio from a Mahabharata, c. 1850, gift of Paul F. Walter.

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After treatment.

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Marriage of Vrishaketu and the Daughter of King Yavanatha, c. 1850, gift of Paul F. Walter.

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After treatment.

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Unidentified Scene from the Story of Babhruvahana (detail).

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After treatment.

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Marriage of Vrishaketu and the Daughter of King Yavanatha (detail).

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After treatment.

Chail Norton, Assistant Conservator, Paper Conservation

Photos by Yosi Pozeilov, Senior Photographer, Conservation Center


Making New Walls Look “Good and Ancient”

October 20, 2009

Lately, writers have taken notice of an unusual feature in our Luis Meléndez show—the treatment of the walls. It’s true; these definitely do not fall into the default-white category.

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Curator Patrice Marandel took a more atypical route in his installation of eighteenth-century Spanish still lifes, envisioning a contrast between the finish of the paintings and the roughness of the walls. The effect was created by contractors with the direction of exhibition designer Bernard Kester, who noted that the challenge was, “How to make the walls look good and ancient when they’re really brand new.” He achieved his goal by selecting a coarse plaster (vs. paint) to cover the walls, followed by a more refined plaster applied “casually” so as to appear unstudied, then paint in “an old fashioned white suitable for the attitude of paintings.” The dark glints that emanate here and there are the uncovered, raw first layer of plaster showing through. I asked Bernard what he calls this technique, which may be repeated in the medieval galleries when the European art reinstallation is complete next year. His response—“Messing around, I’d call it.”

Allison Agsten


Behold, Our Superhero Winner: Inazuma!

October 19, 2009

Back in August we announced our Create a Superhero contest, inspired by our exhibition Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics, which opened this weekend. We asked for a short storyline and character ideas for a Los Angeles-based superhero comic, with the winner getting their work highlighted here on Unframed.

After sorting through our submissions, we all agreed that fourteen-year-old Dani Bowman from La Cañada, California, had the most entertaining comic. Other submissions had some terrific art or great stories, but Dani took a great stab at both. We liked too that Dani’s comic was inspired by current events affecting Los Angeles. Dani’s colorful comic made us smile, even during a time when some of our own co-workers were being evacuated from their neighborhoods. Our co-workers returned safely to their homes, so I guess we have Inazuma to thank.

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Scott Tennent


It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… a Playlist!

October 16, 2009

Today’s playlist, inspired by Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics (opening tomorrow), was a fun one to make. How could it not be when the exhibition shares its title with one of the greatest songs the Beach Boys ever wrote? The theme also happens to lend itself to some of my favorite songs by the Flaming Lips, Serge Gainsbourg, Big Star, and Black Flag (though the latter two, I think, are not popular opinions). There must be something about comics and superheroes that inspire great work from rock bands—probably because the fantasy of wanting to be a superhero and wanting to be a rock star are rooted in the same desire to be bigger than life.

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Here’s what I came up with—as always, available for download on iTunes:

  • The Beach Boys: Heroes and Villains
  • Big Star: The India Song
  • Serge Gainsbourg: Comic Strip
  • Madlib: Indian Bells
  • The Flaming Lips: Waitin’ for a Superman
  • Leonard Cohen: A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes
  • The Libertines: Time for Heroes
  • The Fiery Furnaces: Cabaret of the Seven Devils
  • Dan Deacon: Pink Batman
  • Black Flag: You’re Not Evil

Thanks to @eugeniedfraval, @Itxi_Itx, @CreativesInc, and the blog Follow that Ostrich (who did a whole playlist of their own) for their suggestions and contributions, which included the Dan Deacon, Leonard Cohen, and Libertines tracks.

Scott Tennent


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