Levitated Mass Opens Sunday

June 21, 2012

Way back in the twentieth century—1969, to be precise—Michael Heizer had the idea for an artwork he’d call Levitated Mass. It would be a massive rock perched atop a long slot in the earth. He even got so far as to start creating the artwork in the Nevada desert: he had a 120-ton rock and he dug out the slot. Unfortunately, one of two cranes he was using to mount the rock buckled under the weight, and the project was not completed.

Michael Heizer, sketch for Levitated Mass, 2011, © Michael Heizer

Here we are more than four decades later, and Levitated Mass is complete. The rock is a little heavier (340 tons), the slot is a little longer (456 feet), and the site is a little more accessible (right in the middle of Los Angeles). Also, a few more people know all about it: back in March you couldn’t change the channel or open your local paper without hitting upon the story of the transport of the boulder from Jurupa Valley to LACMA. Thousands of people came out every single day and night to see this boulder move across Southern California to its destination at the museum. And now we’re inviting all of those people—and everyone else, too!—to come see Levitated Mass as it officially opens to the public this Sunday.

We will be holding a public dedication ceremony at 11 am on Sunday. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will join Terry Semel, chair of LACMA’s board of trustees, and LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan in the official opening of the artwork, after which everyone is invited to walk through the slot, under the rock, and out the other side.

The ceremony is free to attend, as is the experience of Levitated Mass (whether you come for the dedication or arrive later in the day). If you’re coming with family, enjoy our free Andell Family Sunday activities while you’re here. We’ll also be tweeting from the ceremony and throughout the day, so follow us (or talk back to us!) on Twitter, hashtag #LevitatedMass.

As a special bonus for those who live in the communities through which the boulder passed on its journey, we are also offering free admission to the rest of our galleries. If your zip code is on this list, simply show proof of residence (a driver’s license will do) at our box office and you’ll be on your way to explore the collection. Can’t make it on Sunday? That offer is good all the way through July 1.

(And one more tip, for everyone, while we’re at it: have you heard about our Summer Pass? Buy a general admission ticket anytime between now and June 30 and you automatically get three free months of membership benefits. That’s free admission any time, discounts in our stores and on tickets for films and concerts, and more. More details here.)

In any case, Levitated Mass never requires museum admission, whenever you decide to visit, as is the case for our other outdoor sculptures like Chris Burden’s Urban Light. See it this week, see it next week, see it all summer, see it next year, see it in 2022… you get the idea. Levitated Mass isn’t going anywhere. 40+ years after Michael Heizer conceived of the idea, Levitated Mass is finally here to stay.

Scott Tennent


Through the Mic: Medusa, Dumbfoundead, Gizzle

June 20, 2012

Last month’s inaugural installment of Through the Mic: LACMA X Hip Hop was my first true hip hop experience and one of the best nights of my musical life. The vibe was incredibly positive, and 3MG: Murs, Eligh, and Scarub put on an amazing show, capped off by an exclusive late-night run of Chris Burden’s Metropolis II for concertgoers. The series continues tomorrow night with Medusa, Dumbfoundead, and Gizzle.

The legendary Medusa has been dominating the scene for fifteen years, hailing from the storied Good Life Café, which also gave rise to Jurassic 5, Freestyle Fellowship, Kurupt, and more. She is among the top female rappers of all time, having twice been named L.A. Weekly’s hip hop artist of the year.

Koreatown’s very own Dumbfounded showed a penchant for hip hop from a young age and quickly became a central figure in the L.A. underground scene with his work with the collectives Project Blowed, Swim Team, and Knocksteady, which he helped to create.

Gizzle aka Lady G Da Real Deal is an up-and-coming artist who made waves with her first project, While You Were Sleeping. She’s just released Bxtch, I’m Gizzle, the highly anticipated follow-up to her debut.

Metropolis II will once again be open to late-night viewing after the concert—tickets are still on sale.

Jason Gaulton, Muse


Head Case: Contemplating Craniums in LACMA’s Collection

June 19, 2012

Perhaps it’s the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the Mosaic Skull on view in Children of the Plumed Serpent or maybe it’s the museum’s proximity to the Page Museum’s treasure trove of fossils—whatever the reason, I’ve got skulls on the brain (pun unfortunately intended). Once upon a time, a post about skulls would have seemed better suited for autumn. That is, after all, when Halloween haunts us with deliciously spooky skeletons and Día de los Muertos wields memento mori to commemorate both our own mortality and those we have lost. However, the skull’s iconographic popularity now seems to be a year-round phenomenon.

Having the privilege of perusing LACMA’s galleries each day, I’m reminded that skulls have had a longstanding role in art history, long before Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God triggered a cranium craze in the art world and residually throughout pop culture.

Allow me to guide you through a mere sampling of skulls in LACMA’s collection:

Mosaic Skull
On View: Resnick Pavilion

The aforementioned Mixteca-Puebla Mosaic Skull in Children of the Plumed Serpent is specked with turquoise, jadeite, and shell and is thought to have been produced between 1400-1521 in Mexico in veneration of Mixtec  ancestors. Such ornate tributes trumpet the wealth of the commissioner, as they highlight the exchange of luxury goods between Mexico and the Puebloan region of New Mexico, from where the turquoise originated. Children of the Plumed Serpent closes on July 1, so be sure see this spectacular artifact if you haven’t already.

Mosaic Skull, Mexico, Western Oaxaca or Puebla, Mixteca-Puebla Style, 1400-1521, gift of Constance McCormick Fearing

Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose, Georgia O’Keeffe
On View: Art of the Americas building, Level 3

O’Keeffe’s “bonescape” compositions from the 1930s were a result of inquisitive scavenging during her time in New Mexico. Intrigued by fragments of sun-bleached animal skeletons found in the desert and fabric flowers left on graves in Hispanic cemeteries, the artist collected these objects and traveled with them to her studio in New York. There, she began her foray into still life paintings of bones with a particular affinity toward skulls. For O’Keeffe, the durability of skeletons and fabric flowers represented the eternal, parched beauty of the American Southwest.

Georgia O’ Keeffe, Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose, 1931, gift of the Georgia O’ Keeffe Foundation

Head-Skull, Alberto Giacometti
On View: Ahmanson Building, Level 3

In the early 1930s, Alberto Giacometti made significant contributions to surrealist sculpture. In Head-Skull, he flattened the planes of his approximately life-sized subject, thus eradicating the standard curvature associated with the human skull. Instead, his rendition appears Cubist—almost architectural—in its smooth geometry and examines the beautifully complex semiotic implications of a skull in both life and death.

Alberto Giacometti, Head-Skull, 1934, partial, fractional and promised gift of Janice and Henri Lazarof

Skull Rack, Papua New Guinea
On view: Art of the Pacific, Ahmanson Building, Level 1

Despite its smiling face, this one is a bit grim. The sacred agiba—a flat, carved, painted, wooden figure—comes from the Kerewa People of Papua New Guinea and exists to showcase skulls procured by a given clan. Headhunting was a central part of religious practice in historical Kerewa tribes, and raids were carried out, as I read in Island Ancestors: Oceanic Art from the Masco Collection, “in preparation for initiations and for such rituals as the inauguration of a new ceremonial house or the completion of a canoe.” Yikes.

Papua New Guinea, Gulf Province, Skull Rack (agiba), c. 1900, purchased with funds provided by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation with additional funding by Jane and Terry Semel, the David Bohnett Foundation, Camilla Chandler Frost, Gayle and Edward P. Roski and The Ahmanson Foundation

The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, Georges de La Tour

The skull is an accessory in this French baroque masterpiece by Georges de La Tour, helping to set the tone for Mary Magdalen’s contemplation of penance and the afterlife. De La Tour’s iconic painting is not currently on view at LACMA, as it is currently vacationing in Europe as part of the Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy tour.

Georges de La Tour,The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, c. 1638–1640, gift of The Ahmanson Foundation

Luckily, we don’t have to wait long to celebrate its return as the same exhibition opens at LACMA on November 11.

Stephanie Sykes, Communications Manager


Hendrik Goltzius: A Mannerist with an Exuberant Touch

June 18, 2012

On the third floor of the Ahmanson Building, you will find the beautiful engravings of Hendrik Goltzius in LACMA’s prints and drawings collection. Goltzius is long considered one of the great draftsmen and engravers of the mannerist style. Equally amazing is his most ravishing painting, The Sleeping Danae Being Prepared to Receive Jupiter, which displays his exuberant touch and transformation from engraving to painting. For me, he is one of the Netherlands’s greatest artists, and represents the mannerist era as a complete expression of the time more than any other artist.

Hendrik Golzius, The Sleeping Danae Being Prepared to Receive Jupiter, 1603, gift of The Ahmanson Foundation

It’s the mid- to late-sixtenth century, the time of the Counter-Reformation and a militant Catholicism. It was ironically also the Age of Discovery. Religious wars raged across Europe, and to some extent in the arts—religious subjects went out of fashion.  And out of a mix of complex artistic, political and economic reasons, mannerism emerged.  It was seen as “artificial,” and hence “mannered,” being more concerned with pure inner vision and the fantastic.  Mannerism, to me, was one of those marvelous moments in the history of art when tradition and naturalism meet obstinate artistic genius to create an emotional charge and change—a modernist inkling. A new spirit, so to speak, was afoot. It is said all kinds of greats fell within its spell: Michelangelo, Titian (with his ravishing Venus of Urbino), Tintoretto, and the utterly hallucinatory El Greco.

Hendrik Golzius, The Judgment of Midas, 1590, Mary Stansbury Ruiz Bequest

Mannerism’s various attributes, such as unreal light, exalted emotionalism, odd placement, and strange perspective, flew in the face of those twin authorities: nature and the ancients.  One readily sees mannerism’s essential elements in Goltzius’s The Judgment of Midas: elongated proportions and highly stylized poses. These allegories were commissioned not only for their titillating art, but also to send a message—in this case about Pan’s vanity, and Midas’s donkey’s ears (“earned” for his failing to honor the nature of authority). It is a simple, lush engraving, where sumptuous gowns and figures of fable—such as the Muses—surround nude, muscular Apollo as Pan foolishly competes with the god who literally glows.

Beside the engravings, there are the woodcuts of Hercules in the midst of his tenth labor, killing the fire-belching monster Cacus. Or Hercules and Telephos, symbolizing the hero’s spiritual strength which was desired and possibly reflected by those in power.

Hendrik Goltzius, The Emperor Commodus . . . Hercules, 1591, Mary Stansbury Ruiz Bequest

Hendrik Goltzius, for a deeply personal reason, would make a journey from Haarlem to Germany and Italy that would have a profound effect on him.  Nothing so reminded me of Michelangelo and Durer than Goltzius’s engraving Emperor Commodus … Hercules. Pointedly, he no longer used the exaggerated mannerist style.

However, the sensuous and decadent allegorical themes would find bold expression in his paintings, which he took up in his middle age.  His extraordinarily sensitive sense of detail gives one the feeling that here’s an artist using a brush with the same ease as he wielded the burin, his steel engraving tool.

The exquisite, delicate touch he brings to his masterpiece, The Sleeping Danae Being Prepared to Receive Jupiter, is even more impressive when you consider his malformed hand, burned when he was a baby.  Its plainly telling didactic is about sex and money.  Yet Goltzius’s beautifully rendered message is understandably somehow lost to our modern eyes, which focus on the captivating flesh, the plush and exacting details, the floating putti who are of such a lightness that the semi-tragic myth is made somewhat winsome as the gold coins cascade down upon Danae. The sensuously dreamy repose as seen through the eyes and touch of a master is made stunningly present.

Hylan Booker



This Weekend at LACMA: LA Film Fest, Muse ArtWalk, Father’s Day Family Activities, and More

June 15, 2012

Presented by Film Independent, the Los Angeles Film Festival kicked off last night and will show films all around Los Angeles for the next ten days. Tonight at LACMA, director William Friedkin presents his latest film, Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey in one of the standout performances of his career. Friedkin (who also directed classics like The French Connection and The Exorcist) will be on hand for a conversation following the screening.

Film fans, make sure to check out our latest exhibition …Is James Bond—the stunning opening credit sequences for all twenty-two James Bond films, co-organized with the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television in honor of the Bond series’ fiftieth anniversary.

Tomorrow Never Dies (still), © 1997 Eighteen Leasing Corporation & Danjaq, LLC. All rights reserved. Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Eon Productions

It’s not a Friday night in L.A. if you’re not at Jazz at LACMA. Join the fun-loving crowds tonight for a free concert from the LA Jazz Quartet—bring a picnic, have a drink and a bite at Stark Bar, or make a reservation at Ray’s while you enjoy the music.

All day Saturday starting at noon is the annual LACMA Muse ArtWalk! Live music, dance performances , and interactive projects at LACMA and our neighbors along the Miracle Mile. Check out Chris Burden’s Metropolis II or exhibitions like Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol and Fracture: Daido Moriyama, and head over to the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Architecture + Design Museum, and more than twenty galleries in the area—all for free. Don’t forget to head over to Hancock Park at 5 pm for Latin Sounds, too. Saturday’s free concert features vocalist and percussionist Estaire Godinez, who fuses Brazilian and Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz and pop. Check out yesterday’s Unframed post for more ArtWalk details.  

ArtWalk continues well into the night with the Muse After Party at 8:30 in the BP Grand Entrance. Entertainment courtesy Dublab, Silent Disco, and the Joshua Light Show. Tickets for the ArtWalk After Party are on sale now

Muse ArtWalk

If you’re looking for fun Father’s Day activities, we’ll have free art-making activities on the North Piazza, inspired by the ancient American objects on view in Children of the Plumed Serpent. Kids are loving the serpents, skulls, and other objects in the show—it’s a great exhibition for all ages.

Xantil, Mexico, 1200–1521, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Preuβischer Kulturbesitz, Ethnologisches Museum, photo © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum (IV Ca 10855), Berlin, Germany, by Ines Seibt/BPK, Berlin/Art Resource, NY

Finally, the weekend concludes with a free Sundays Live performance from pianist Inna Faliks and cellist Ani Aznavoorian. Don’t miss it.

Scott Tennent


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