LACMA is Free Today!

January 16, 2012

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! LACMA is free all day, thanks to Target. We’ve also got a few special events scheduled for the holiday.

Edward Biberman, I Had a Dream, 1968, purchased with funds provided by the American Art Council, © Edward Biberman Estate. On view in the Ahmanson Building, Level 2

The Peruvian ensemble Inca will perform Andean music, accompanied by dancers, in the Los Angeles Times Central Court at 12:30 and 2:45 pm.

There will also be some family art-making activities on the LATCC as well as in the Boone Children’s Gallery. Note that for the Boone Gallery we will be offering (free) timed tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, to ensure a safe and pleasant experience for all. Time in the gallery will be limited to 30 minutes. 

If you’re here with kids (or if you’re not!), be sure to stop in to see the newest addition to our galleries, Chris Burden’s Metropolis II, in BCAM. The massive sculpture features 1,100 toy cars zipping through eighteen winding tracks, as well as electric trains and fantastical buildings made from Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and more. The artwork will be operating at 12:30–2 pm; 3–4:30 pm; 5–6:30 pm; and 7–8 pm. (Want more tips for things to see with kids at the museum?)

We have six special exhibitions on view, including Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, which closes at the end of this month. Today, educators will be in the Contested Visions galleries to answer questions and offer tours, between 1:30 and 3 pm.

Installation view, Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World

Also closing soon—next week, in fact—is Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, a mid-career retrospective of the artist’s incredible body of work, which explores issues of race, sexuality, and identity.

Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I Am a Man), 1988, collection of the artist, courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles, © Glenn Ligon, photograph by Ronald Amstutz

You can also catch California Design, 1935–1960, Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, and much more. And don’t forget, you can make a day of it by enjoying lunch, dinner, or drinks at Ray’s and Stark Bar while you’re on campus.

Scott Tennent



This Weekend at LACMA: Metropolis II Opens, Edward Kienholz Closes, and More

January 13, 2012

The wait is finally over for Chris Burden’s Metropolis II—the mesmerizing sculpture opens to the public this Saturday (and members can get an early jump this evening). Because the work requires an operator to be on hand and focused on the work at all times, Metropolis II is only operational at specific times, so plan your visit accordingly:

  • Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 am–1 pm; 2–3:30 pm; 4–5:30 pm; 6–7:30 pm
  • Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day):  12:30–2 pm; 3–4:30 pm; 5–6:30 pm; 7–8 pm

In the future, Metropolis II will only be operational on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Chris Burden, Metropolis II, 2010, long-term loan courtesy of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation, © Chris Burden, courtesy Gagosian Gallery, photography by E. Koyama

This weekend is also your last chance to see Edward Kienholz’s powerful Five Car Stud, an immersive and challenging Civil Rights-era artwork that is on view in the US for the very first time. Five Car Stud will travel to the Louisiana Museum of Art in Denmark this summer. On the occasion of the exhibition’s closing, here is a look back at the blog posts we’ve done on the piece:

One more exhibition note—we’re happy to note that Maria Nordman FILMROOM: SMOKE, 1967–Present has been extended! It will remain on view through May 20.

In addition to these exhibitions, be sure to check out Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, California Design, 1935–1960, and the rest of our exhibitions and installations on view.

On Sunday in the Bing Theater, the Triple Helix Trio will perform selections from Beethoven’s three trios, Opus 1—free. Finally, Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and that means it’s a Target Free Holiday Monday. Happy three-day weekend!

Scott Tennent

The Influence of Japanese Art on Colonial Mexican Painting

January 12, 2012

Before Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World closes in just a couple of weeks, I wanted to share some of my favorite pieces. It may come as a surprise to some, but the relationship between Japan and Latin America dates back to the seventeenth century.  Japanese folding screens were first introduced to New Spain as exports by way of the Manila Galleon trade and by Japanese embassies that brought them to Mexico as gifts in the early decades of the seventeenth century. Known in Spanish as biombo–a Portuguese and Spanish transliteration of the Japanese word for folding screen, byōbu–the Mexican artform was inspired by its Japanese prototype. The versatility of the folding screen contributed to its quick adaptation to daily life; because the biombo was freestanding, portable, multi-paneled, and could be painted on both sides, it provided an ideal surface on which to paint. Biombos transformed spaces into definable spaces, and were indispensable elements in domestic interiors. Today, folding screens are such an ubiquitous part of everyday life frequently used to divide rooms and spaces, as they were originally intended.

Night Festival of Tsushima Shrine, Japan, early Edo period, Kan’ei era, 1624–44, gift of Camilla Chandler Frost, David and Margaret Barry, Lenore and Richard Wayne, Leslie Prince Salzman, Friends of Heritage Preservation, Gwen and Peter Norton, and the East Asian Art Council, in honor of Robert T. Singer. On view in the Pavilion for Japanese Art.

The unique and innovative format of the folding screen provided new ways for artists to depict subject matter. It differed from the usual format and iconography of an altarpiece, devotional painting, or portrait, and was intended for domestic use. Freed from the constraints of the Catholic Church, artists experimented with the genre of secular art and utilized the full artistic potential of the folding screen.

The folding screen was a favorite format for the depiction of historical scenes. On view in the exhibition is a remarkable example of colonial painting that depicts the conquest of Mexico on the front, and the viceregal capital of Mexico City on the back. Various scenes of the conquest play out over the ten front panels, among them the meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma, the siege of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, and the assassination of Moctezuma. The artists’ incredible attention to detail in the rendering of the human figures and their elaborate costumes invites the viewer to linger over each scene on the screen.

Folding Screen with the Conquest of Mexico (front), Mexico, late 17th century, collection of Vera Da Costa Autrey, Mexico, photo © 2011 Museum Associates/ LACMA

On the back of the screen, the transformation of the Aztec capital into the orderly Spanish colonial city replete with the city’s numerous churches and plazas invites the viewer to meander among the streets, searching the legend at the bottom left for familiar sights within the city’s boundaries.

View of the City of Mexico (back), Mexico, late 17th century, collection of Vera Da Costa Autrey, Mexico. photo © 2011 Museum Associates/ LACMA

Folding Screen with the Four Continents, Mexico, late 17th century, Museo de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, photo by Sofía Sanabrais

The second folding screen on view in the exhibition includes allegorical depictions of the four continents as women riding golden chariots, flanked by the mythological figures of Ceres and Flora. Before the “discovery” of America, Europeans imagined the rest of the unknown world to be inhabited by Amazons, cannibals, and other unimaginable creatures. America, the second figure to the right, is pulled by unicorns, fantastical beasts, and behind her is a scene of indigenous cannibalism, an obvious reference to the misconception of the lack of civilization in the Americas.

Folding Screen with Indian Wedding and Paseo de Ixtacalco (front), Mexico, second half of the 18th century, Buch Molina Collection, photo by Sofia Sanabrais

The last folding screen in the exhibition portrays a slice of daily life in colonial Mexico. This scene takes place in Ixtacalco, a village in the environs of Mexico City known for its canals, canoes and verdant landscape that served as a respite from the hectic pace of the viceregal capital. This remarkable example of eighteenth century painting provides the viewer with a glimpse into the leisurely activities enjoyed by the various social classes of colonial society. In the upper right, an indigenous couple celebrates their wedding, revelers in flower-laden canoes enjoy music performed by musicians, and a family sits along the banks of the canal enjoying a meal.

Folding Screen with Indian Wedding and Paseo de Ixtacalco (back), Mexico, second half of the 18th century, Buch Molina Collection, photo © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA by Yosi Pozeilov

The paintings on the back of this folding screen were unbeknownst to us until after the exhibition design was complete. The paintings depict Indians performing various activities, women, children and various examples of local flora and fauna. It was a delightful discovery!

Sofía Sanabrais, Assistant Curator of Latin American Art

I Had a Dream

January 11, 2012

The art of Edward Biberman is currently on view in a special installation, and in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this Monday, I want to make sure our audiences know about his painting of Dr. King on display. Acquired last June thanks to the generosity of the American Art Council, I Had a Dream was Biberman’s response to Dr. King’s 1968 assassination. Prominently placed in the exhibition space, Dr. King’s eyes are unavoidable and draw you into his vision and the gallery.

Edward Biberman, I Had a Dream, 1968, purchased with funds provided by the American Art Council, © Edward Biberman Estate

Edward Biberman moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles in 1936 and is best known for later paintings such as The White Fire Escape, in LACMA’s collection. Such urban scenes reveal his affinity for the seemingly mundane details of midcentury modern architecture, which he illuminated through his attention to the light, shadow, and geometry of both subject matter and composition. But throughout his career he created important figurative paintings of labor, social struggle, and political tension, such as Conspiracy (1955), as well as significant portraiture. His portraits of African American cultural and political leaders are especially noteworthy: he created a monumental portrait of Paul Robeson, and his Lena Horne is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery where it has graced enormous banners on their façade.

I Had a Dream is unique for Biberman in that it zooms in on the civil rights leader’s face. Though we see only Dr. King’s eyes, nose, and mustache, his iconic features are instantly recognizable. The searing intensity of his gaze is not confrontational but steadfast and visionary.  This is a portrait with which all can connect. A large and powerful painting like I Had a Dream not only represents one of the most important figures of the twentieth century but demonstrates the devastating impact of Dr. King’s death on all Americans and can remind us of the significance of his legacy today.

Austen Bailly

Opening This Weekend: Metropolis II

January 10, 2012

Ever since the first word about Chris Burden’s piece Metropolis II started making its way through the halls of LACMA’s offices, there has been excitement among the staff. Even before we saw the initial images that came to us from the artist’s studio, we were all making up what it would look like in our heads. But we couldn’t have imagined how awesome this complex kinetic sculpture would be.

The first glimpse I caught of the piece was in the truly beautiful short documentary made by Catfish’s Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The pair spent three days with Chris Burden at his studio filming the sculpture before it was disassembled and moved to LACMA.

We had two unannounced preview days for Metropolis II in December for testing purposes. Staff and visitors alike stood around in awe.

Chris Burden, Metropolis II, installation shot, © Chris Burden, image © Museum Associates

Here are a few stats on the piece:

  • The cars are attached by a small magnet to the conveyor belt that brings them to the crest.
  • The only motorization of the cars is the conveyor belt to the top.
  • Once the cars cross over the crest and head downward, their entire movement is by gravity.
  • They travel at a scale speed of 240 mph, plus or minus.
  • The tracks they take are Teflon coated to reduce friction.
  • The tracks are beveled at 7 degrees to give added torque for speed when
    they come through corners and curves.
  • The trains are out of the box electric train sets that run on electricity.

Metropolis II opens to the public this Saturday, January 14. It runs at scheduled times, so check this page for when it will be running. Member previews start Thursday.

Alex Capriotti


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