Call for Entries: Ozomatli and the Corrido of LA

September 29, 2010

Gajin Fujita, The Corrido of LA, 2010

Last year LACMA and USC hatched a plan. A handful of us got together to discuss how we could celebrate the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and do something fun and creative. Ideas were tossed around the table until we settled on one: reclaiming the time-old tradition of the corrido song by adapting it to our very own city of L.A. We then called the all-star band Ozomatli and asked them to help. . . and they said yes!

What is as a corrido? It’s a narrative song or ballad that emerged in the nineteenth century in Mexico, halfway between oral history and myth.  Back in the day corridos documented events of everyday life. Some told tragic stories and were sober in tone, while others were more playful and poked fun of social and political realities.

As our plan developed, we decided to invite students in grades seven through twelve to compose a modern day corrido. The only rules we would impose were there would be no rules! Well, almost. . .

Submissions do have to be sent to us by November 15. And the corrido does have to be about LA. For example, it can be a poem, drawing, painting, performance, or video. It can be a story told in first person, or narrate any aspect of the city that you find interesting. You can write it in English, Spanish, or any other language. You can rock it, hip-hop it, choose any music you like, or create your own beat.

Best of all, Ozomatli will perform ten selected submissions at LACMA in a free public performance in December!

Click here for more details on the event, and how to submit your song.

Ilona Katzew
LACMA, Curator and Co-Department Head, Latin American Art


Mixing It Up: A Q&A with Michael Govan on the New Resnick Pavilion

September 28, 2010

This week members are getting their first look at the Resnick Pavilion,  and this weekend the museum will be free to everyone as we officially open the new building and its three exhibitions. On the occasion of the new addition to the campus, I talked with LACMA’s director, Michael Govan, about the building.

We launched Unframed the day LACMA  broke ground on the Resnick Pavilion, so we’ve been keeping our eye on the building’s progress for a couple of years now. How do you feel about the process and the outcome of the building?

I think the results are, for me, spectacular. The building is more than a building: it expresses a lot of the fundamental ideas about the future of the museum and the definition of the museum.

How so?

I wanted a place where the whole mission of the encyclopedic museum—the patchwork of cultures, the art of all time—could be in one place. That’s what Lynda and Stewart Resnick wanted as well. As collectors and as patrons, the Resnicks admire and support art and artists from all times and cultures, and this building fits that sensibility. A lot of other buildings and spaces are made for one type of art, but people who don’t like that type of art—who don’t think they like it—won’t set foot in them. The Resnick Pavilion is about mixing art of different times and places, but for me it’s just as important to mix audiences, and to take forward this idea that we have a town square, that the audiences will mix.

Installation view of Eye for the Sensual

What is it about the Resnick Pavilion that carries that idea forward better than other buildings?

It’s a combination of being on one floor plate and containing a constantly rotating slate of exhibitions. Because it’s on one floor, people run into each other. It’s not like they go to the second floor on the elevator and then come back down and leave. You might come for Olmec but become tempted by the costumes of Fashioning Fashion; or you might want to see the European paintings in Eye for the Sensual but you must pass through Olmec to get there. The hope is that all of the exhibitions will pique your curiosity, regardless of which one you came for. And along with that there will be the energy that comes with all of these exhibitions’ audiences being, basically, in one place together.

And this is the case not only for the inaugural exhibitions but also all exhibitions going forward, right? There will always be this kind of juxtaposition of genres and eras.

Yes. The beauty of Renzo Piano’s design for the Resnick Pavilion is its flexibility. Because it’s all on one level you can pick the size for your exhibition; you don’t have to be bound to a box of a certain size, which is true of almost all of our other spaces. You can adjust those spaces for big shows and little shows and have a much more agile mix. And of course the other benefit of being on one level is that you get natural light throughout.

Members inside the Olmec exhibition

The light is definitely a major feature of the new building, and of Renzo’s overall vision for the campus. The third-floor galleries are my favorite part of BCAM because of the light, but in the Resnick Pavilion it’s even more pronounced, thanks to the all-glass north and south facades.

Renzo is a master of light, and that’s what I wanted first and foremost—a great feeling of light in the building. Renzo was the perfect architect because his father was a builder. He talks about buildings as machines. He talks about how you build them bit by bit; he exposes the mechanics. But it’s also about the relationship between inside and outside, the museum and the park. Robert Irwin’s precise organization of palm trees are almost an extension of the architecture, mediating between the grid of the galleries, the grid of the city, and the natural environs of the park. 

Palm trees in between the Resnick Pavilion and BCAM

Speaking of Renzo’s approach to the “building as machine,” one of the ideas behind his buildings at LACMA seems to be to get everything outside of the buildings—like the air ducts on the side of the Pavilion, or the escalator outside of BCAM—so that there’s more room for the galleries.

Exactly. It’s supposed to be all about its content. It’s not a value judgment, but it’s the flipside of a building like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York—it’s the opposite of a building as sculpture. The Resnick Pavilion’s greatest homage is to the industrial buildings of the 1920s, which were extremely functional for people as well as for work to get done. For years in the museum field, so many of my colleagues talk about the fact that really the best spaces for art are old factories renovated to show art. And yet nobody builds them new with the same qualities of simple open space and light.

Exterior

There’s an impulse, I would imagine, to make the building itself an artwork—to make it a museum piece.

Renzo’s buildings are about what’s inside. For me, museum architecture is not mainly about what a building looks like as an artwork—although of course it can be one; it’s about the comfort and the feeling and the accessibility the building provides to have the fullest experience of the artwork. I know that sounds sort of traditional, but it is my real belief. And I think that while people say that often, they don’t build buildings that do that. A simple example is there are so many artworks that don’t want spotlights, that don’t want theatrical lighting. They want even, overall, natural light. Other than Renzo Piano’s buildings, it’s hard to find museums that do that.

When we had installed Walter De Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture over the summer as a “test run,” there were no interior walls at all; the light in the building was palpable. I had a chance a few weeks ago to get into the building now that the current gallery configuration is in place for the three inaugural exhibitions. I worried that it would lose that wow factor, but to the building’s credit it still feels very spacious and open.

You’ll see it looks bigger with walls. I was talking with LACMA’s John Bowsher, who was a less-visible collaborator on the building—I’ve worked with him for many years; he’s one of the great experts in the world on exhibition design and thinking about museum space. We were talking about how this building can take anything you can throw at it, and take it with ease and look elegant and comfortable.

For the opening, we’re throwing the hardest problem at the building. It’s risky—ancient Mexico, Fashioning Fashion, and the Resnick Collection—three extremely diverse exhibitions that have very different design and light and space requirements. My view is that if we pass that test, then the building will prove its incredible versatility and durability.

You’ve got a lot of museum-building experiences under your belt; how has the process of building the Resnick Pavilion been for you?

I’ve worked helping to design museums and build them for twenty-two years. I’ve worked on at least twelve major projects, ranging from Williams College to Bilbao to the factory renovation at Dia. This is the first chance I’ve had to guide the design of a building from the ground up.

So it’s especially gratifying to see it open this week.

Well, it’s especially terrifying. Gratifying will hopefully come later. It’s been especially terrifying, that responsibility, after you’ve worked on so many museums and think you should know what should and shouldn’t be done and have lived through mistakes and opportunities. I did feel it was an awesome responsibility to try to get it right. So I hope it’s right; I don’t think you can tell that until time takes its course, until many shows have been there; until artists, curators, and designers have challenged it—and until the public has had a chance to trip over the stairs.

That’s right—there actually were stairs at the front entrance, which have now been converted into a ramp. That might have been the most beneficial thing about the De Maria “flash visits.”

That was the idea behind the flash visits—to fiddle with the building, to see what it could do. It was a pleasure to have that extra time and make some corrections, like the stairs. And again to work with an architect of Renzo’s stature and experience; to work again with Robert Irwin, who is an artist of incredible experience and capability; to work with Melody Kanschat [LACMA president], who is an ace museum-builder; and John Bowsher and the huge team of experts who contributed to the result—it was just a super exciting experience to try to meet this mission. Perhaps best of all was the incredible confidence and encouragement Lynda and Stewart Resnick gave all of us to create this space with our best judgment. In the end I think everyone is really pleased with the pavilion. I look forward to seeing what our members think this week, and especially to officially opening the building to the public this weekend.

Scott Tennent


“Playing” the Resnick Pavilion

September 26, 2010

By now you may have seen the video making the rounds of Ben Meyers, a freshman at Berklee College of Music, “playing” the new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion.

Ben came to LACMA for three days in August to turn the new Resnick Pavilion into his personal percussion instrument. It all came about when we saw Ben’s earlier piece, Empty School via Boing Boing.

At our invitation, Ben zipped over to LACMA from the east coast (where he was spending his summer vacation after graduating high school) to spend a few days capturing sound and image. He arrived with sheet music sticking out of his backpack—a composition he put together on the plane. Then he got to work, seeking out resonant surfaces on and around the Pavilion.

The video looks so smooth, you’d think the world stopped while Ben was recording, except for that lone security guard seen headed up the BCAM stairs in the background. In fact, Ben managed to capture the recording in between some major construction activity. We had huge drills digging the foundation for the new restaurant and ticket booth nearby, and plenty more noise in and around the Pavilion.

And of course, it was hard to convince people who stumbled across Ben in process that he really did have permission to bang on the new building. Nevertheless, Ben managed to make the travertine tiles, signature red air ducts, steel signage, and Robert Irwin palm trees sing.

LACMA had no hand in the production, beyond the invitation to Ben to participate and a little help with travel arrangements and logistics. He composed the music, shot the video, recorded the sound, mixed, arranged, and produced the video himself.

The project is part of an ongoing series of commissions intended for lacma.org. Our intention is to use the web and social media to provide a place for artists, writers and musicians to create media-based projects that respond to the art and architecture at LACMA.  Watch this space in the coming months for new projects by Bari Ziperstein, Steven Roden, Marisela Norte and others.

If Ben’s video has you humming a tune, hang onto that melody! This weekend, artist Michael Trigilio is creating an interactive sound piece designed to be heard at LACMA, in the vicinity of the Resnick Pavilion. You’ll be able to download or stream a sound work created by Michael, listen on site, and then call 1-888-361-4NPR to contribute your own voice. Visitor interactions will be folded into the sound piece over the course of a few weeks in an ongoing podcast called The Resonant Pavilion.

Bonus: we’re free this Saturday and Sunday, so come on by and be a part of this work of art. (You might want to reserve your tickets in advance.)

Watch this blog for more details on Friday.

Amy Heibel


This Weekend at LACMA: Jazz Tonight and Members-Only Resnick Events

September 24, 2010

Tonight our Jazz at LACMA series continues with vocalist/bassist Kristin Korb performing on the Los Angeles Times Central Court, right outside of the galleries for Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape, and EATLACMA (and the Matisse ceramic we told you about yesterday). The concert is free and starts at 6 pm. Feel free to get here a little early, since all L.A. County residents get free admission to the galleries starting at 5 pm. If you’re keeping track, that’s three exhibitions and a concert for zero dollars. The perfect price!

The rest of the weekend’s events—aside from our usual Andell Family Sunday—are packed with special members-only events as we let our members preview the new Resnick Pavilion. Yes, the day has finally come! If you’re not a member, you’ll have to wait until next weekend to get into the new building and its three knockout exhibitions.

 

That said, the Eakins, Opie, and EATLACMA exhibitions, as well as our permanent collection galleries, will be open all weekend for your enjoyment. BCAM will be closed all day on Saturday and from noon to 4 pm on Sunday as we’ll be busy prepping that side of campus for the parties (tickets for the Avant-Garde After Party, by the by, are still available). Here’s a tip: if you are planning to come to see our exhibitions this weekend, you may want to park in the lot on Wilshire and Spaulding instead of the underground lot, to get you closer to the side of campus that won’t be affected by the special events.

While we’re on the subject, we’ve got even more members-only events all next week, too. Monday through Friday (closed Wednesday), members are invited to Members-Only Preview Days for the Resnick Pavilion exhibitions. The pavilion will be open to members on these days from 11 am to 4 pm. Admission for members is free, though reservations are required.

Feeling left out? That’s why it pays to be a member. You can still join and get access to the Members-Only Preview Days, as well as an invite to one of the opening parties (plus some other goodies). Not to mention we still have five more exhibitions slated to open before the year is over—that’s in addition to the Resnick Pavilion exhibitions!—plus the Tim Burton show in the spring. That’s a lot of LACMA in your near future, so you may want to consider the cost-effective option.

Scott Tennent


Major Matisse Ceramic added to LACMA’s collection

September 23, 2010

Today is the long-awaited final installation of Henri Matisse’s large-scale ceramic La Gerbe (The Sheaf) (1953), commissioned by Los Angeles patrons Sidney and Frances Brody from the artist in the early 1950s.  The Brodys’ extraordinary collection of modern art, including works by Picasso, Braque, Giacometti, Calder, and Moore, graced their elegant home designed by A. Quincy Jones in the early 1950s.  Intended to occupy a prime position in their new home, the Matisse ceramic became, as Frances Brody would describe it, “the heart of our home.”

La Gerbe installed in Brody residence. Photo courtesy the archives of Frances L. Brody, now at LACMA.

The journey to today has been a long one.  I remember discussing the possibility of this gift to LACMA in 1986 when she indicated that she would be willing to promise it to the museum in honor of our 25th anniversary.  At the time she shared with me the fascinating story of the commission, showed me correspondence about the acquisition, and regaled me with amazing details about meeting Matisse.

In 1952 the Brodys approached Matisse, who at the time was creating colorful paper cut-outs, with the idea of the commission. Matisse expressed interest and worked on several proposals even before knowing the exact size of the wall.  He showed the Brodys a full-scale paper cut-out when they visited him in Cimiez (Nice, France) in May of 1952. They rejected this first design (that cut-out is today in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; a ceramic version Apollo is in the Toledo Museum of Art)  but accepted a subsequent proposal.

Henri Matisse, Apollo, 1953, ceramic tile and plaster, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art, gift of Edward Drummond Libbey

The Brodys also acquired the full-scale maquette of La Gerbe, which they subsequently donated to UCLA.  The final ceramic, created in fifteen sections, was shipped to L.A. shortly after the artist died in November 1954.

Sadly, in November 2009, Frances passed away at age 93.  As promised, she left the Matisse to LACMA in her will.  She was a remarkable figure in Los Angeles’ history, whose grace, style, erudition, and opinions were truly legendary.

Frances L. Brody

In January we began the adventure of deinstalling this 2,000-pound ceramic wall, which had remained in its original position for more than half a century.  It was, to say the least, a delicate and difficult procedure.  Thanks to the ingenuity of our team, we were able to literally detach the mural from the wall in one piece (it was bolted to the wall) and crane it out over the house and trees to an awaiting flatbed truck.  Watching the Matisse hovering in the air high above the trees was one of the most heart-stopping moments I have ever had as a curator.

La Gerbe in process of being deinstalled from Brody residence

La Gerbe in process of being deinstalled from Brody residence

Safely ensconced in a secure a-frame, the ceramic eventually made its way to the museum. After close examination by our conservation department, the decision was made to do a light surface cleaning and prepare the ceramic for permanent installation in the museum.  A prominent wall in the lobby of the Ahmanson Building was selected as the appropriate permanent location for this monumental Matisse.  The ceramic was carefully rigged, gently positioned on the wall, and attached to a steel structure; a wall was then built around the work.

La Gerbe during installation at LACMA

Wanting to share with the public a little of the background about this significant commission and subsequent acquisition, we have installed temporarily some of the original documents that came to us from Frances Brody’s archives, also given to LACMA.  These include correspondence with Pierre Matisse (the artist’s son and dealer in the United States), photographs of the work during fabrication, and, most remarkably, several of the original hand-painted color samples that Matisse cut and sent to the Brodys during the work’s preparation.

Case with archival materials from the archives of Frances L. Brody installed at LACMA

Frances Brody, cognizant of the commission’s significance, wrote a fascinating account of the commission, which I think best describes the transaction.  Taking advantage of new technology, we have recorded this account. Dial 888.788.7457 to hear this recording.

La Gerbe installed at LACMA

Stephanie Barron, Senior Curator and Department Head, Modern Art


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