More than a Magazine

November 12, 2009

One of my favorite things about working in LACMA’s research library is getting to share and showcase our treasures—everything from artists’ books and scarce first editions to surrealist ephemera and out-of-print periodicals. One of these rarities is a complete run of the magnificent magazine Art/Life. Conceived, compiled, and edited for twenty-five years by Joe Cardella, Art/Life truly must be seen to be believed.

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Images of the celebratory 200th issue of Art/Life

Art/Life is so much more than your typical art magazine. Envisioned by Cardella to be a sharing mechanism for artists, Art/Life is exactly that. Artists and poets wanting to participate in this cultural exchange created multiples of their contributions, signed and numbered them, and sent them out to sunny California to be ordered and assembled. Each of the 276 monthly volumes—published from 1981 to 2005—is a unique work of art: hand-made, hand-numbered, hand-bound. I didn’t believe it at first, but every single edition of every single volume is an original.

This full run of Art/Life, formerly part of a private collection, was generously donated to the library in 2009. We were thrilled when we saw what a treasure trove this publication is; so thrilled, in fact, that we decided we had to share it. We’ve permanently moved Art/Life from the Special Collections room to display cabinets in the reading room for your viewing pleasure. Just email us to schedule an appointment to come in and see it up close.

Maggie Hanson, Stacks Manager, Balch Research Library


Veterans Day

November 11, 2009

I got a draft card for the Vietnam War but came of age as it was ending, so my draft card never got put to the test. As is the case with most people, my picture of what it is to be a soldier is hypothetical—drawn from books (Tolstoy, Tim O’Brien, Michael Herr) and movies (Terrence Malick, Kathryn Bigelow) and the occasional experience of someone I know. There is a small photograph of my father standing by a jeep with a radio in World War II, but it gives me no clearer sense of his experience than is suggested by the question, “And what must that have been like?” It’s the same question anyone could ask. So I’m not sure why I volunteered to select an image from the museum collections to go with Veterans Day 2009–maybe to find out what sort of image would do that, for me. Mostly when I think of soldiers I think: hard work and loneliness. The hard work is obvious—armies throughout history always seem to be on the way somewhere, and the very transportation (leaving aside the question of what you are going toward) is arduous.

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Eleanor Antin, On the March, 1971-1973 Print, postcard, Picture postcard, purchased with funds provided by the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, the Nathan B. Cooper Memorial Fund, Sherry and Michael Kramer, and David and Suzanne D. Booth

As for the loneliness, I know that warriors are often portrayed as Shakespeare’s band of brothers, moving about in groups, developing the bonds that survival or simple perseverance requires. But then I think, you’re far from home, you’re young, you’re trying to both play the part and be the part—of course it must be lonely. I especially understood that when I saw this 1972 photograph by Ralph Gibson. It reminded me somehow of a photograph I saw earlier today, in the New York Times, of soldiers running in the rain at Fort Hood—together, but also each one alone.

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Ralph Gibson, Untitled (sailor at steps), 1972 Photograph, Gelatin-silver print, Gift of Sue and Albert Dorskind

Tom Drury


The Meticulous Mr. Anderson

November 10, 2009

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Sometime between viewing Fantastic Mr. Fox (screening at LACMA tonight) and finishing off Matt Zoller Seitz’s five-part video essay on Wes Anderson, I rediscovered the affective themes that lay among the (meticulous) craftwork of Anderson’s films. Aspiration, disappointment, longing, and estrangement direct his bands of outsiders, a family of some sort caught in mid-transformation or already reassembled in a post-domestic formation like a badly healed broken limb.

It might be easy to catalog Anderson’s signature tropes, tendencies, and textures (and Zoller Seitz does one better by throwing in Anderson’s varied influences). Like a Sunday-strip cartoonist, he renders each scene with a distinctive touch; well-appointed mise-en-scene and a comprehensive sense of production design replace the draftsman’s stroke. And that’s without mentioning his way with words and the modulation of tonality, inflection, and rhythm among the spoken parts.

Of course Fantastic Mr. Fox is firstly a breathless entertainment, perhaps the most fleet-footed work in the director’s filmography. Like Arnaud Desplechin, whose dialogue with Anderson appears the latest issue of Interview, Anderson is prone to jolting inventiveness and sudden spurts of activity (not to mention that both directors share a somewhat caustic view of the familial and an unflagging affinity for the black sheep). But unlike the hectic, nervous energy in a Desplechin film, an Anderson picture is crisply precise and exact. His lithe set pieces have an almost panoramic breadth, while he maintains a hawk-eyed attention to minute details. An animated film, particularly one that uses analog techniques that traffic not only in nostalgia but in its inevitably bittersweet side effects, is more than an inevitable choice for this meticulous filmmaker, it’s an inspired experiment in lyrical screwball.

Bernardo Rondeau


Natural Monochromes

November 9, 2009

When Andreas Reiter Raabe was in Los Angeles in September to paint the Art of the Pacific galleries with tea, he took the opportunity to extend his ongoing photographic work. Beginning in 2004/2005, he started Natural Monochromes, an open-ended series of photographs that employ silkscreened signs with short texts referring to place and painting in specific locations around the world. Reiter Raabe kindly agreed to share one of the images from his recent trip here on Unframed. He told Nancy Thomas, our deputy director, that when he was in L.A., he felt particularly influenced by the natural landscape and its interaction with commercial and residential building.

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Andreas Reiter Raabe, Natural Monochromes, 2009, image courtesy of the artist

Allison Agsten


Tour New Topographics with Amir Zaki

November 6, 2009

Last week we introduced an opportunity for everyone to see New Topographics in an entirely new way: via special Sunday afternoon tours given by leading Los Angeles photographers.

This Sunday’s tour leader will be Amir Zaki. Born and trained in Southern California, Amir focuses on the region’s architectural landscape. Carefully recording—yet deftly using digital technology to transform—subjects such as modernist residences, nocturnal suburbia, and urban density, Amir reconfigures many of his subjects into unfamiliar and confounding images. The desire to challenge assumptions about photographic authenticity also informs his recent survey of elevated lifeguard towers on Orange County beaches. Amir experiments with light and color until, shorn of regular indications of locality or use, these everyday structures become monuments of uncertain function and suggestive new meaning.

I recently spoke to Amir about LACMA’s restaging of this important exhibition, which was first seen in 1975 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. The video here offers a sneak peek into Amir’s take on New Topographics, including how his early aversion to the work grew into profound respect and inspiration.

Edward Robinson, Associate Curator, The Wallis Annenberg Photography Department


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