This Weekend at LACMA: Jazz at LACMA Begins, Burton Selects from LACMA’s Collection, and More

April 15, 2011

 Quick—take a look out your window. Isn’t it beautiful outside? Don’t you want to be outside? Doesn’t a nice (free) outdoor concert sound perfect tonight? Well you’re in luck: the new season of Jazz at LACMA starts tonight and will run every Friday through the end of summer. Just to make Jazz at LACMA that much more fun, don’t forget we now have Ray’s and Stark Bar right there, so you can enjoy dinner or an after-work drink while the father/son duo of John and Gerald Clayton let loose on stage. For more on the Claytons, check out John Clayton or Gerald Clayton’s websites for music and video samples.

In addition to the special exhibitions on view nowDavid Smith, Vija Celmins, Elizabeth Taylor in Iran, and Human Nature—we also have two smaller shows opening this weekend.

To whet your appetite for Tim Burton, opening May 29, we’re giving you Burton Selects: From LACMA’s Collection, on view in the Ahmanson Building starting Saturday. We invited Burton to comb through our entire encyclopedic collection and guest curate a “Burton-esque” exhibition. The result mid-sixteenth-century Mannerists, ghostly Japanese prints, skeletons from Mexico, and plenty of German Expressionists, among others.

Otto Dix, Illusion Act, 1922, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Otto Dix Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn

Just upstairs from Burton Selects, in the South and Southeast Asian Galleries, is The Way of the Elders: The Buddha in Modern Theravada Traditions.  The historic Buddha, Shakyamuni (c. fifth century BC) is depicted in all manner of manuscripts, textiles, and monastery walls in the Theravada school of Buddhism (practiced in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia). This installation of permanent collection works looks at a number of such depictions.

Buddha Shakyamuni, (detail) Burma (Myanmar), Mandalay, 20th century, gift of Gerald Stockton and S. Louis Gaines

Sunday, bring your kids for Egyptian-themed art-making activities during our free Andell Family Sunday (12:30–3:30 pm).  Later in the evening, check out the Chamber Ensembles from the Colburn School for our weekly free Sundays Live concert series.

Scott Tennent

Changing Perspective on Photography

April 13, 2011

If you wander through the current exhibition Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection,  you will find photography, video, and installation work in amongst the usual suspects—painting, drawing and sculpture.

Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. Starification Object Series (guns), 1974 Purchased with funds provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, and the Ralph M. Parsons Discretionary Fund

That wasn’t the case so long ago, when photography, as a practice or when displayed, was considered in terms that separated it from the rest of the contemporary dialogue. Then Cindy Sherman and a few others happened.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1980, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

Now we have photo imagery everywhere and, I hope, a greater appreciation for the medium—though one could make a case for oversaturation—and its challenges. In fact, a lot of artists using photography (see Baldessari) are creating work that retells photo history or plays off those very elements that initially entranced, namely the depiction of the real.

Yinka Shonibare, Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 21.00 Hours, from the Diary of a Victorian Dandy Series, 1998 Purchased with funds provided by the Modern and Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund and the Ralph M. Parsons Fund

No longer are we able to look at photographic imagery and have an expectation of truth, and there is an understanding that a photographer “makes” his/her images rather than “takes.”

Nikki Lee, The Hispanic Project (25), 1998 Ralph M. Parsons Fund

With photography incorporated into the larger picture of modern art history, a different story of influences, themes, and concepts emerges.

Eve Schillo

Memories of Simon Rodia

April 12, 2011

The first time I visited the Watts Towers was in 1990, when I came to Los Angeles to attend a conference. From the airport I asked my cab driver to “take me to Watts Towers” before going to my hotel. A lifelong East Coaster, I had no sense of the scale of western cities, so even though it was possibly my largest cab fare ever, the experience was worth it. During every visit since then I have made a private pilgrimage to the Towers because it is my way to honor the artistry and mastery of their maker, Simon Rodia. I find the towers to be out of this world, one of the most unusual and important artworks in our country. Now I live in L.A., thanks to my new job at LACMA, where one of my responsibilities is to oversee the work we are doing for the city at Watts Towers.

Since living and working in Los Angeles I have been curious to learn how locals talk about and experience the Towers. For the past few months I have been talking to an assortment of citizens about the artist, the Towers, and the neighborhood. It has been a unique and singular way to be introduced to our inspiring city!

I didn’t seek out Richard Hardy and Ted Tennorio. Rather, they happened to meet my husband Jay at IHOP one morning. They started talking about L.A., and LACMA, and soon they were talking about Watts Towers. Jay was surprised to learn that his new friends had grown up by the Towers and used to walk by them while Simon Rodia was still alive. It was a moment when one realizes that sometimes history is not too long ago.

Sanford H. Roth, Simon Rodia/Watts Towers, c. 1950, Beulah Roth Bequest

Richard and Ted both lived near 107th Street and they both remember that back in the 1950s Watts was a “rural place and way out from the city,” said Richard. “It was a mixed community with a lot of Italian families and a combination of ethnic groups in the neighborhood, where neighbors had cows in backyards, there was no real plumbing, and the attitude was laid back. It was almost like a sleepy Mexican village. I don’t even remember any freeways. Space was cheap and there were a lot of jobs.” The Towers, said Ted, were “just part of the neighborhood. We would collect bottles and give them to Simon Rodia, but mostly we just left him alone. We never really met him or spoke to him—we were kids—but we saw him in the neighborhood and left supplies for him.”

Richard continued, “When the Watts Rebellion happened we were in our early twenties and do you know that the Towers were not destroyed at that time? It is because they are sacred. Whatever happens in this neighborhood, Rodia’s Towers are respected in Watts.” 

Brooke Davis Anderson, Deputy Director of Curatorial Planning

Video: Human Nature, contemporary art from the collection

April 11, 2011

On view through July 4th, 2011, our exhibition Human Nature features selections from the permanent collection of contemporary art. In the short video below, Franklin Sirmans talks about various themes of the show, including the use of language, the development of conceptualism, and a growing internationalism in contemporary art. He touches on neon work by Bruce Nauman and Glenn Ligon, body art from the late 1960s and 70s, and new directions in painting, including De Style, by one of my favorites, Kerry James Marshall.

There’s also some great footage of Haegue Yang’s Doubles and Couples, a large scale mixed media installation that uses components of domestic appliances, like a stove and a washing machine, and takes up most of the center of one of the largest galleries.

Amy Heibel

This Weekend at LACMA: Kuba Textiles, Free Lectures, and More

April 8, 2011

This Sunday marks your last chance to see the small installation of Kuba Textiles on view in our modern art galleries.  The varied patterns are beautiful, and installed in the modern galleries it’s easy to draw connections from these textiles to the twentieth-century European art which they influenced.

Ceremonial Textile Panel, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Kuba Culture, Shoowa People, late 19th–early 20th century, gift of the 2009 Collectors Committee

The critics are weighing in on David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy and they like what they see. It’s on view along with a bevy of other exhibitions.  

On Saturday and Sunday we have a pair of free lectures, so drop in on the Brown Auditorium while you’re here for some stimulating talks. Saturday, author April Dammann will discuss her new book, Exhibitionist, a biography of Earl Stendahl, founder of the now 100-year-old Stendahl  Galleries. Damman will talk about this colorful impresario and his impact on art collecting in Los Angeles. The talk will be followed by a book signing.

Sunday, UC Santa Barbara professor Miriam Wattles will talk about the legendary Japanese painter Hanabusa Itcho (1652–1724). Itcho was banished from Edo for more than a decade and became a symbol for the “artist-rebel.”

Hanabusa Itcho, Otafuku, late 17th–early 18th century, purchased with funds provided by Mrs. William Coberly, Jr., and Neil R. Applegate Bequest

Later that evening the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra will perform music of the Italian Baroque for our free Sundays Live concert series.  

Finally, a heads up for a special event happening on Monday: Lari Pittman and MOCA curator Paul Schimmel will be in the Art Catalogues bookstore to discuss Pittman’s art and career on the occasion of his new monograph.

Scott Tennent


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