Catch it While You Still Can: Human Nature

June 21, 2011

A little less than two weeks remain to see Human Nature, Contemporary Art from the Collection, on view in BCAM through July 4th. The show is a rich presentation of contemporary work since 1968.

We had the chance to talk with two of the artists in the show, Charles Gaines and Carlee Fernandez. Their work appears in the first gallery, the same one that features the video piece Walk with Contrapposto by Bruce Nauman (1968) and S.O.S Starification Object Series (Guns)  by Hannah Wilke (1974).

The Gaines piece, Trisha Brown Dance, Set 3, (one of a series of twelve, originally shown at John Weber Gallery and Leo Castelli Gallery in 1981) includes methodical charts and graphs based on photographs he made of the dancer Trisha Brown. Sol Lewitt helped Gaines arrange the project with Brown (a nice detail, since Lewitt’s own Wall Drawing #295: Six Superimposed Geometric Figures, 1976 appears in the next gallery in the show). The work by Gaines is rigorously conceptual (a thoughtful response to expressionism, as he explains).

In the same gallery, Carlee Fernandez’s portrait/self-portrait titled Portrait of My Father, Manuel Fernandez, from 2006, reflects a different sensibility, touching on gender and identity – just one of myriad juxtapositions in the show that point to the diversity of contemporary art and artists, particularly in Southern California.

Amy Heibel

Over a Thousand Years Ago, Weavers Displayed Amazing Technical Skill

June 20, 2011

Tiraz (inscribed textile) Fragment, Egypt, 981/371 A.H. Linen and silk plain weave and tapestry 15 1/2 27 1/4 in. (39.37 x 69.21 cm) The Madina Collection of Islamic Art, gift of Camilla Chandler Frost M.2002.1.30

At first glance, this Tiraz fragment, currently on display in Gifts of the Sultan, might be mistaken for having an embroidered or painted inscription (read from right to left; the bottom row is upside down). Closer inspection reveals that letters were formed during the weaving process using the tapestry weaving technique.

So what is the tapestry weaving technique? Like a plain weave—the simplest of all weaving techniques—a tapestry weave involves weft yarns going over one warp, under one warp. Tapestry is a variation of plain weave where colored wefts still go “over one, under one,” but they are packed so closely together that the warps are completely covered.

Look closely at the back of this textile and see the fine cream-colored wefts floating behind the brown and cream tapestry woven letters. A few of the warps also float behind, assuring that the bulky tapestry weave fits perfectly in place. These “floats” are picked up again after the letter is woven and weaving the cream background resumes.

front (each mark measures 1 mm)




front (each mark measures 1 mm)



This textile is too delicate to sew through with a needle and thread, so the question is, how to hang it on the wall? This is one of only a small number of textiles at LACMA that is displayed using a pressure mount. The textile is placed on a padded surface and a UV-filtering acrylic glazing (a generic term for Plexiglas) is placed directly on top of the textile and secured.

There are several reasons why this technique is used as a last resort. Since reversibility is always desirable, one of the challenges with acrylic glazing is the build-up of static electricity. When lifting off the glazing, the textile can cling to it or crumple up—and no one wants to see that happen!

Catherine C. McLean, Conservation Center

This Weekend at LACMA: Free Concerts, Tim Burton Film Series, and More

June 17, 2011

Our film series, The Fantastical Worlds of Tim Burton, continues this weekend with double features tonight and tomorrow. Tonight, two of Johnny Depp’s darker collaborations with Burton, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street  and Sleepy Hollow.

Tomorrow, catch both of Burton’s entries which kicked off more than 20 years of sequels and reinventions of the Caped Crusader on the silver screen—Batman  and Batman Returns.

As always, we’re also offering free concerts all weekend long. Guitarist Peter Sprague brings his trio to tonight’s Jazz at LACMA. Saturday, the David Garfield Latin Jazz Band perform during Latin Sounds. And Sunday marks a special concert in our Sundays Live concert series, honoring the late guitarist James Smith with performances by guitarists Brian Head and Andrew York, soprano Sun Young Kim, saxophonist Douglas Masek, and others.

Sunday is Fathers Day, and LACMA is a great option if you’re looking for ways to spend the day with your family. Our free Andell Family Sunday activities are centered around the giant metal sculptures of David Smith, on view in the Resnick Pavilion.

David Smith, CUbi XXVIII, 1965, The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles

Aside from the wondrous Tim Burton exhibition, there are plenty of other can’t-miss artworks on view for Dad and the family, like this outdoor sculpture.

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrabile, 1990. Painted iron, aluminum, and plastic hoses, installation: 200 x 200 x 200 in. Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros.

You can also check these lists of exhibitions and installations on view now—something for everyone’s tastes.

Scott Tennent

Zahi Hawass: Egyptian Archaeology with a Side of Surprise

June 13, 2011

In January of this year, during the political upheaval in Cairo, thieves broke into the Egyptian Museum and took eighteen objects (four were eventually recovered) and damaged many others, including two sculptures of Tut. Egypt’s Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs and famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who was recently reinstated to his post, has enthusiastically commended the Egyptian youth who protected the museum during the chaotic night and who may have prevented the looting of additional artifacts. On his blog, Hawass says, “One of the most heartening things about recent events was the extent to which regular Egyptians were willing to go to protect their cultural heritage.”

Tomorrow night at LACMA, Hawass will discuss the current state of ancient sites and museums in Egypt, as well as his ongoing involvement with new projects and discoveries.

Zahi Hawass

Hawass has given talks at LACMA in the past and never ceases to surprise us—often bringing images of day-old discoveries and sometimes making big announcements. In his talk at LACMA in 2004, he made the first announcement about the King Tut exhibition traveling to the states to the surprise of everyone—including some LACMA staff! He was deeply involved with the organization of that exhibition; before it opened at LACMA in June 2005, Hawass and an Egyptian team examined a CT scan of the body of King Tut, the boy-king believed to be the twelfth ruler of ancient Egypt’s eighteenth dynasty who died at the age of 19. Prior to these CT scans, it was believed that the young ruler had been murdered, but the scans indicated that Tut’s death may have instead been caused by a badly broken leg that gave way to infection.

In this video, Hawass looks at some of the gorgeous objects found inside King Tut’s tomb and the symbolism they held for the ruler and for Egypt.

Alex Capriotti, Marketing Associate

This Weekend at LACMA: Gifts of the Sultan Symposium, Teens-Only Tim Burton Event, Bell & Irwin, and More

June 10, 2011

This weekend is a great opportunity to take in our latest exhibition, Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Court, since all weekend long we will be holding a free symposium, “Unwrapping Gifts of the Sultan,” featuring scholars from around the world discussing themes related to the exhibition. Tonight, Robert Hillenbrand will give the keynote speech, “Medieval Islamic Gift-giving: From the Perfect Present to the White Elephant.” For Saturday and Sunday presentations, see the full schedule and drop into the Bing Theater to check it out.

"Timur Receiving Gifts from the Egyptian Ambassadors," left-hand folio (fol. 399b) of a double-page composition manuscript of the Zafarnama of Saraf al-Din 'Ali Yazdi, 1436, Worcester Art Museum (1935.26)

Teens—and teens ONLY—should make their way to the museum Saturday night when we open the doors to Tim Burton for our FREE After Dark event! Bring your school ID—if your age doesn’t end in “-teen,” you’re not getting in. Sorry mom and dad, you’ll have to wait in the car. Or, you can make a reservation to have dinner at Ray’s. Did you read the rave review in this week’s Los Angeles Times? Maybe you should consider seeing what all the excitement is about.

Entrance to Tim Burton

Alternatively, tonight would be a great night to hit up Ray’s or the Stark Bar if you like jazz—Charles Owens will be leading his quintet right in front of Urban Light as part of our free Jazz at LACMA concert series.

The free concerts keep coming all weekend long. Tomorrow in Hancock Park, Louis Cruz Beltran will make you dance during Latin Sounds. Don’t believe me? Here’s a clip of Beltran at the 2009 LA Vida Music Festival.

Contemporary art fans, take note: Larry Bell and Robert Irwin will be having a free conversation in the Art Catalogues bookstore, in honor of Bell’s latest monograph. We have no idea what they’ll talk about… does it matter? It’s Larry Bell and Robert Irwin!

Larry Bell, Cube, 1966, gift of the Frederick R. Weisman Company, © Larry Bell

Finally, the weekend will close out with a free performance in the Bing from the Capitol Ensemble, performing Schubert’s Trio in B-flat major, Opus 99, D. 898 

Of course, there’s always much more happening at LACMA than can be detailed in one easily digestible blog post. Check our exhibitions and installations on view (including, of course, Tim Burton), or visit the calendar for a list of free docent tours and more info on Andell Family Sundays.

Scott Tennent


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