Anthony Lepore Takes a Walk Inspired by Robert Adams

April 12, 2012

Anthony Lepore is the most recent contributor to our Artists Respond series – artists creating web-based projects inspired by exhibitions on view at LACMA. Lepore chose Robert Adams: The Place We Live as his jumping-off point.

For his project, Night Walk, Lepore designed a map-based interface, populated with nighttime photos he took during walks in his Pasadena neighborhood.

Night Walk. © Anthony Lepore, All Rights Reserved.

LEPORE: The map image is a Google Earth image of the area where I live, in Pasadena. I wanted viewers to see the geographical relationship between the San Gabriel Mountains and the flats of suburban Pasadena.

From the map, you can select and view photographs Lepore made during evening walks around his neighborhood with his dog.

Mount Wilson Road and Eaton Saddle. © Anthony Lepore, All Rights Reserved.

LEPORE: This is taken from Mount Lowe. It’s the highest mountain that you can easily climb to in the front range of the Angeles National Forest.  We take friends here for our “Wow, LA isn’t what you expect” hike. The entire city sparkles beneath you.  There’s a strange relationship between the quiet darkness of the mountains and the sea of electricity below.

A project by Robert Adams called Summer Nights informed Lepore’s approach.

LEPORE: Adams was making photographs on his summer evening walks around the Denver area. I love his nighttime photographs–there is something strange and extraterrestrial about this body of work.  Adams hovers like a visitor around the edges of his city peering into lit windows and empty streets.  The hot desert sun has been replaced by streetlamps and rolling carnival lights.

Adams is one of my favorite photographers, but when I first came across his work in college I found it a little boring.  It took some time, and discovering Adam’s book Los Angeles Spring, for me to really connect with his photographs.  They are quiet, precise, never wasteful and deeply human. They document an unsteady changing line between the wild and suburbia, carrying the echo of both a sunny hymn and a eulogy.

E. Washington Blvd. and N. Harding Ave. © Anthony Lepore, All Rights Reserved.

LEPORE: Recently, Pasadena was hit by a crazy windstorm.  It was like a mad fever dream all night, like being on a small boat.  Since then I’ve been gathering debris from the windstorm and making impromptu still lifes, like the picture of the daisy bush coming through the blinds. I found these blinds in the street – they had been blown off a house. The lighting comes from a security lamp on someone’s front lawn. I was excited to create something on my walks, using the evening darkness like a black studio backdrop.

Lepore says that growing up in Burbank, his own relationship to nature had been somewhat mediated. Through photography, he started to explore the landscape of Southern California.

LEPORE: My mom worked for Disney for most of my childhood, and we visited Disneyland often. I loved the way the shiny and molded landscapes tried so earnestly to recreate the wilderness.  While some kids were hiking through the Sierras, I was zooming through the Matterhorn and rolling along the rivers of Splash Mountain.

Exploring the ways we recreate nature points to both our separation from it, and our deep need to be part of it.  Nature exists for us in the way we mold it and the way we see it.

E. Washington Blvd. and Belford Ave. © Anthony Lepore, All Rights Reserved.

More about Anthony Lepore.

Amy Heibel

Mid-century Wonderland: Sculptor Adaline Kent in LACMA’s Exhibitions

April 11, 2012

When the Resnick Pavilion opened in 2010, we hoped that the pathways between exhibitions would facilitate conversations between works that might otherwise never appear in the same room. With the current pairing of two mid-twentieth-century exhibitions, California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way” in the center gallery and In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States on the east side, the connections are more than intellectual musings—several of the designers and artists in these shows knew each other.

Installation view, In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, January 29-May 6, 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

While In Wonderland doesn’t focus solely on California, the prevailing sense of opportunity and freedom from convention that lured designers to the Golden State also provided an ideal climate for women experimental artists, creating concentrated groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the mid-twentieth century, the avant-garde scenes in these cities remained relatively small, so it is no surprise that many of these artists and designers attended the same schools and exhibited in the same galleries. In some cases the connections were even closer: In the 1940s, artist Madge Knight worked for Walter Landor’s influential San Francisco graphic design firm.

Only one artist, however, has work appearing in both exhibitions. San Francisco sculptor Adaline Kent created abstract sculptures with forms inspired by the natural landscape.

Adaline Kent

Adaline Kent, Dark Mountain, 1944, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase

It would be hard to miss the beautiful works on view in In Wonderland, but eagle-eyed visitors may catch a glimpse of one of her most monumental pieces in California Design, on the cover of House Beautiful.

The cover depicts Thomas Dolliver Church’s Donnell Ranch garden, a masterpiece of modern landscape design that famously featured the first kidney shaped pool. Kent’s sculpture emerges from the center of the pool, creating a centerpiece for the garden’s biomorphic composition (as well as providing attractive underwater passages for adventurous swimmers). While the sculpture seems spontaneous and organic, Kent created several versions before finding a form that complimented the undulating curves of the surrounding pool and pathways.

The buoyant optimism of California Design and the introspective visions of In Wonderland may seem worlds apart, but in reality, many of the artists and designers involved lived and worked only miles apart. The current line-up at LACMA brings them back into proximity, revealing that two different images of mid-century California could exist—then and now—side-by-side.

In Wonderland closes in the Resnick Pavilion on May 6, followed by the closing of California Design on June 3.

Staci Steinberger, Curatorial Assistant, Decorative Arts and Design


Q&A with Victoria Lyall, Co-Curator, Children of the Plumed Serpent

April 9, 2012

Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico is the first major survey of art made by an alliance of ancient kingdoms in southern Mexico during the Postclassic and early colonial periods, on view at LACMA through July 1. These kingdoms resisted subjugation by both Spanish colonizing forces and the Aztec Empire, in part by establishing a vast network of trade through the development of a sophisticated pictorial language. Unframed‘s Jenny Miyasaki spoke with Victoria Lyall, co-curator of the exhibition, about these little-known cultures referred to as the Children of the Plumed Serpent.

Installation view, Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico, April 1-July 1, 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Jenny Miyasaki: First things first: Who are the Children of the Plumed Serpent?

Victoria Lyall: They were a confederacy of independent kingdoms in southern Mexico in what are known today as the states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Tlaxcala. The Plumed Serpent is the animal incarnation of the deity Quetzalcoatl, who figures very prominently in the Postclassic period, the period that the exhibition covers, roughly AD 900 to 1521. Quetzal [translates to] “feathers” and coatl is “serpent.” You can imagine this mythological serpent covered in gleaming green plumes. Legend says that Quetzalcoatl ruled as king over the city of Tula, which is eighty kilometers northwest of Mexico City and an important city of the early period, AD 900 to 1200. However, due to trickery by his rival, he is banished and embarks on a journey throughout these independent kingdoms—where he is embraced as their founder and patron deity. And they begin to call themselves the Children of the Plumed Serpent.

Feathered Serpent with the Year 1 Reed, Mexico, AD 1200-1521, Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City, photo © Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (CONACULTA-INAH-MEX)

JM: Most people are familiar with the Maya and Aztec cultures—why an exhibition devoted to the Children of the Plumed Serpent?

VL: We felt that this unique confederacy of kingdoms hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. This time period overlaps a little bit with the one that we just looked at in Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, which covered the apogee and eventual demise of the Aztec Empire in favor of the Spanish Conquest. The Children of the Plumed Serpent are flourishing at the same time as the Aztecs, actively controlling the trading corridors that go from the southwestern United States all the way down to Central America—but completely outside the borders of the Aztecs. What’s really interesting is that these communities become very well known for both their metal working and intricate turquoise mosaics. These works have always been categorized as Aztec, but they’re not. One of the catalysts for organizing this exhibition was to correct this misperception. Another reason is that the descendants of the Children of the Plumed Serpent continue to inhabit that region, and here in Los Angeles we have one of the largest populations of Oaxacans outside of Oaxaca.

Turquoise-mosaic Disk, Mexico, Hidalgo, Tula, AD 900-1200, Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA, by Jorge Perez de Lara

JM: So that’s a particularly special connection between Los Angeles and this exhibition.

VL: It is. With all of our shows we reach out into the Los Angeles community, but I think more so than any other exhibition that we’ve organized in recent years, this one really resonates with our city because of the large Mexican diaspora—from Oaxaca and Puebla specifically. A lot of Oaxacans have been here since the 1950s, originally on the Westside, then eventually traveling to Pico-Union. We have been in contact with various urban centers [about the exhibition], and we’ve gone to churches and community centers to do presentations.

JM: How did the exhibition come about?

VL: This show really grew out of the scholarship of our co-curator John Pohl. He has been working in southern Mexico for the last thirty years. He and Virginia Fields [former senior curator and co-department head of Latin American art at LACMA] worked together to develop this exhibition at the end of 2006 and 2007. It really went into high gear in 2008, 2009. I came on board in 2008. This final exhibition really is the result of our fruitful collaboration. Sadly, Virginia passed away last year.

Installation view, Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico, April 1-July 1, 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

JM: How have you organized thirty years of scholarship and more than two hundred objects for this exhibition?

VL: We’ve organized it chronologically, divided into five galleries and five themes: Tula and Chichen, the two cities that emerge in the tenth century as pilgrimage points for Quetzalcoatl; the ascendance of Cholula as the new pilgrimage point, and artist mecca that developed both a unique “International Style” of art, and a pictorial language based on icons or symbols; the importance of storytelling, feasting, and ancestral divination in the Nahua, Zapotec, and Mixtec kingdoms; the materials that crossed great distances, such as gold, turquoise, jade, and textiles, as well as the manifestations of both this pictorial language and the International Style in the far corners of Mesoamerica; and, finally, an examination of the similarities in the way these communities dealt with the incursions of first the Aztecs and later the Spanish—emphasizing continuity rather than disruption.

JM: How did these communities manage to resist the incursion of both the Aztec Empire and the Spanish?

VL: All of these independent community kingdoms related to each other through marriage. That’s how you broker alliances—how you gain more power and access to luxury goods, land, and crops. While most of this region was conquered by the Aztecs in the late fifteenth century, the Zapotecs are able to maintain control of cacao production—an important ingredient in chocolate, the drink of the nobility—through a negotiated marriage between a Zapotec prince and an Aztec princess. Similarly, when the Spaniards arrive, these indigenous nobles make alliances and become an integral part of the new world economy—emerging in a new role of caciques, who functioned as intermediaries among the Spanish clergy, the Spanish officials, and the indigenous communities.

Censer with Claw Handle, Mexico, AD 1200-1521, The British Museum, London, photo © 2012 Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource NY

JM: What are some objects in this exhibition that you are particularly excited about?

VL: We’ve included a number of works from our permanent collection, as well as some really notable recent acquisitions. I am also very proud to have been able to get some extraordinary loans for this show, including the Codex Nuttall from the British Museum and the Codex Selden from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. The Codex Nuttall tells the story of a culture hero of the Mixtecs known as Lord Eight Deer. The story of his rival is told in the other codex, and, interestingly, that protagonist is a female named Lady Six Monkey. The Codex Nuttall is probably one of the first manuscripts to travel to Europe after the arrival of the Spanish, and it hasn’t crossed the Atlantic since—until now. This is the first time it will appear on U.S. soil.

Codex Selden, Mexico, Western Oaxaca, AD 155601560, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, photo © 2012 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

JM: Is there any lasting aesthetic influence of the Children of the Plumed Serpent?

JM: Definitely. One thing we wanted to communicate in this exhibition is that many of the things we showcase, such as the aesthetic sophistication that characterizes the Postclassic art style, remain in the region today. We have a couple of examples of contemporary works in the show, including one extraordinary textile from Oaxaca that was produced in 2010 by a woman named Zenaida Pérez Mendoza on the same kind of loom that has always been used in Mesoamerica. She calls it a wedding or burial mantle because you only wear your finest when you get married or when you get buried. The incredible aesthetic achievements of the Children of the Plumed Serpent—as well as the traditions that surround them—have made a lasting impact on the people and culture in both southern Mexico as well as those of Oaxacan descent here in America.

Children of the Plumed Serpent is on view now in the Resnick Pavilion until July 1. Previously on Unframed, we posted a series of photos documenting the installation of the exhibition. 



This Weekend at LACMA: Daido Moriyama Opens, Alice in Wonderland Film Series, and More

April 6, 2012

Opening Saturday in the Pavilion for Japanese Art is the exhibition Fracture: Daido Moriyama. The show gathers a variety of Moriyama’s photographs, including his renowned black-and-white prints and newer, color work taken in Tokyo. Moriyama himself will be here on Saturday in conversation with curator Edward Robinson and architect Kulapat Yantrasast, free to the public.

Daido Moriyama, Kariudo (Hunter), 1971, printed 2009, courtesy of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser , © 2012 Daido Moriyama

Give your visit to LACMA a theme and catch our other photography exhibitions also on view now: Robert Adams: The Place We Live is on view in BCAM, and a small installation of photographs by Robert Cumming can be found on level 2 of the Hammer Building.

Robert Adams, New development on a former citrus-growing estate, Highland, California, 1983, printed 1998, Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund, © 2012 Robert Adams

Just across the way from the Robert Adams exhibition is Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings. The exhibition has just a few weeks left: it closes April 22.

Installation view, Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, January 22-April 22, 2012, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

The fantastic exhibition of surrealist women, In Wonderland is also nearing its conclusion—the exhibition closes on May 6. If you haven’t seen it yet, come this weekend and pair your viewing experience with our related film series, Adventures in Wonderland: Alice and Other Lost Girls in Fantastic Worlds, co-presented with Cinefamily. On Friday we begin with Alice, Jan Svankmajer’s brilliantly bizarre take on Alice in Wonderland, followed by the trippy Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Saturday sees the original screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland—directed by Norman Z. McLeod in 193 and featuring (among others) Cary Grant, W. C. Fields, Gary Cooper, and more. This is followed by a pair of Czech New Wave offerings from Vera Chytilová, Daisies and We Eat the Fruit of the Trees of Paradise.

Sunday evening, cellist John Walz and pianist Robert Thies will perform works by Brahms and Debussy as part of our free Sundays Live concert series.

In addition to all that, we have many more exhibitions on view, plus free drop-in docent-led tours all weekend long.

Scott Tennent


Conversation with Maria Nordman

April 5, 2012

Since opening last fall, Maria Nordman FILMROOM SMOKE 1967–Present continues to evolve to include other works by the artist—YANG NA, 2011–Present and a cabinet of two-sided drawings, PUBLIC SQUARE and GROUND OWL GROUND SQUIRREL PARK, previously on view in MOCA’s exhibition Under the Big Black Sun. LACMA’s exhibition is on view through May 20 in the Art of the Americas Building and the adjacent plaza. Nordman plans to be on campus, near the exhibition, on April 6, 1–3 pm, to meet people who want to talk about the work. Unframed‘s Scott Tennent met with Nordman earlier this week to talk about the process of the exhibition.

 

Maria Nordman, Sketch for YANG NA 2011–Present and Sketch — A NEW CITY STARTS WITH ITS IMAGE-FINDING

 

Maria Nordman: Talking with you in preparing an internet discussion is somewhat new for me — we are here together in the morning of April 3 at the entrance to LACMA  — & yet on the internet the unknown person is there in different times & places. Working with the internet is part of your work here & for me it is a question to the reader to what degree the pliability of this medium could work over time.

Scott Tennent: You have been a frequent visitor to your works at LACMA ever since your exhibition opened. Do you feel it’s important for you to be near your artwork while it is on view?

Maria Nordman: I’d like to answer your question in a contextual manner.
Let’s start with where we are — right on Wilshire our main route to connect the Pacific with the center of the city — as we can see while being here —
the portal is made of air — it’s covered with a roof of solar cells.

That instantly & intuitively relates to how I see this city since I start to work here in the sixties. I think that Michael Govan is the person inspiring Renzo Piano to produce this entrance in this manner — instead of using a portal with glass & steel.

Choosing the air & the sun for the entry is not just a metaphor for this southern culture — it’s an actual means of welcoming culture to begin continuously.

For this work the entrance also begins on Wilshire — going first through the Auguste Rodin Garden & then up the steps to the plaza of the Art of the Americas Building — which on the West side has now an open entrance used here for the first time — as an entry directly from the sun to the FILMROOM SMOKE —
itself in part made by the sun.

Scott Tennent: We went together to see Auguste Rodin’s ORPHEE; I have never heard this work described in the way you talked about it. You showed me the moment in the sculpture where Orphee is plucking the last sound out of his harp, and you showed me his mouth and nostrils — we could practically see his breath. Had you been studying that sculpture before these projects began?

Maria Nordman: The fact that you mention this breath — & that breathing is also the action of the FILMROOM SMOKE by the two actors & by the sea — this real time that you are bringing into focus here — is also part of the instrument named YANG-NA.

Finding ORPHEE begins for me during the emplacement of FILMROOM SMOKE.
It actually connects as well directly to a project named LE DICTIONNAIRE DES BÂTISSEURS — begun in Lyon Biennial by an artist named ANNE O’NEAME
& continuing with the process of meaning in situ which is since the start of the sixties inter-generational — inter-cultural — specific to time & specific to place.

The ORPHEE discussions come up in different ways in recent meetings with students of UCLA — USC — & SFAI. Here are some aspects of what we discussed:

ORPHEE having looked for Euridice in the underworld is being allowed by the gods of Hades to bring her back to earth (after they hear him play his harp)
on the condition of not looking at her before they reach the full sun together —
as he doesn’t await the precise moment of full sunlight —
he experiences the instant loss of Euridice.

We could ask ourselves — is this the creative process of any person —
that sometimes seems to be blocked — sometimes seems to be open —
other times seems not ready for touching the sun —
do all these changes create time — which each person works with in her or his own way?

Orpheus seems denied of his creative context by the loss of Euridice —
who symbolizes his creative force —
                                                  nonetheless he goes on to play his harp
                         in such a way as he wanders over the earth —
that the mountains decompose & follow him — 
                                 the rocks roll over each other —
the oaks uproot themselves — wishing to follow him
                                                                     to hear his every note:
does this create a fusion
                         of personal time with the time of place?

Scott Tennent: Your question of time is very specific in each of your works.

Maria Nordman: Time is the start of this work
                    to which I give my attention — by this verb

PRESENCING / inter-presencing.

Real time comes up also in the discussions with Michael Govan —
he visits these works since the eighties — in Varese — New York & other cities.

On seeing the FILMROOM SMOKE 1967 – PRESENT he states that this is the beginning of working directly with the person rather than working with objects in the room as is the genre of that time.

The factor of time also becomes important in that Stephanie Barron visits a work at the Documenta in Kassel that relates directly to works I make on the streets in Los Angeles. When I find that colleagues keep this kind of connection in time with the work — then the presence becomes even more intense & allows us to work with spontaneity.

It’s really important to have such an open spectrum of time of experiencing the works.

Finding the work at Documenta on the street — exactly where the meaning of the work is completely open & not pre-described by the Documenta structure — any person arrives next to the next person possibly creates the site as a work of art.

As well — I make works directly with people in open places — just as the entrance to LACMA. Possibly for this reason Michael Govan also puts me in touch with curator Jose Luis Blondet whose work also connects to actions in open places.

To answer your question in another way —
the FILMROOM SMOKE does not exist
if there is no person there.

Scott Tennent: In the last few weeks another project has entered the exhibition — a cabinet of drawings that were featured in the recently closed MOCA exhibition Under the Big Black Sun. Why did you choose to bring the drawings into this exhibition?

Maria Nordman: The PUBLIC SQUARE & the realization plan for a related work — GROUND OWL GROUND SQUIRREL PARK shows the intense potential cooperation of people in the city — still right now — we can start to co-create a new park — 
                                                                    that could also be a dwelling.

With the PUBLIC SQUARE drawing continues a constant possibility to find a site & a means of support for a new structure/structuring.

Various different means of working fluctuate & contradict each other in a very short period not unrelated to the park that you ask about — that even touches the FILMROOM SMOKE.

When the FILMROOM SMOKE takes place in that period I am also producing works with fire on the ground before sun-up — & with smoke relating to the clouds  as walls wandering directly over the desert floor. Even within a year the laser contradicts all of these works even more.

When in 1968 I decide to give up this laser electric energy that endlessly repeats itself — I then move directly to working with the sun. 

Light is light of the sun.

This contradictory process with sculpture — in — realization expands as well into a new potential: would working with young people in schools allow such an inter-reflective process? Another reason why I am staying in Los Angeles now is to see if this work will continue to bring me close to universities and schools. I see the process of education itself as a work of art.

The connecting of museums is part of my work process which is inter-cultural and inter-generational. One example is that in the year 2000 in the exhibition Made in California I ask that LACMA sends its visitors to MOCA to visit the work TEMPLE & ALAMEDA. LACMA sends support to MOCA for the restoration of the work & the visitors of LACMA & MOCA could meet at the site together with the unknown person passing by.

Scott Tennent: One comment I’ve heard about FILMROOM: SMOKE 1967–Present is that it has a “peaceful” rhythm, as the camera follows the movement of the tide and the inhaling and exhaling of the two actors. But the work was made during the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War. Do you feel that people respond to the work differently now, 45 years later?

Maria Nordman: It’s the whole context of time that causes a work —

the surrounding actions of time & place. 

This continues to constantly produce new questions.

For me choice-making & directionality is sculpture.

Scott Tennent: What do you mean by “choice?”

Maria Nordman: Consciousness & how one chooses to use it.

Scott Tennent: You have been a frequent visitor at your works at LACMA ever since your exhibition opened. Do you feel it’s important for you to be near your artwork while it is in exhibition?

Maria Nordman: My works from the start seek

the person & the constants of the luminosity —

 — the colors of the atmosphere — as part of the production of

meaning of what could become a community together

with the whole functioning of nature.

I would like to be invited to come & live here

full-time & make a community-based project.

A hospital building with one room built in concert with the sun.

A museum garden with a room built by & with the sun.

Just as I see your question as contextual —

are YANG NA & FILMROOM SMOKE connected —

they do have the exact same screen size —

but what is the actual meaning made by any person who is there at the time?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,084 other followers

%d bloggers like this: