Daido Moriyama: “It’s That Kind of Thing For Me”

July 24, 2012

Fracture: Daido Moriyama features both black-and-white and color photographs from the renowned Japanese photographer’s career, which spans more than four decades. Also presented in the small exhibition is a six-minute clip from a documentary on Moriyama from 2010 titled, Daido Moriyama: Stray Dog of Tokyo. I recently watched the entirety of this clip for the first time, even though it was probably my fifth or sixth visit to the exhibition.

One thing, in particular, stood out to me: at one point, Moriyama says “I don’t know how you say ‘nasty’ in English . . . But I want to take a lot of nasty photos. It’s that kind of thing for me.” He goes on to discuss how women are sexual but also how the city itself is inherently sexual. Not finding his photographs to be particularly sexual the first few go-arounds, I decided to revisit them in light of this revelatory information.

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

I was surprised to discover that this new information did inform my experience of the images. Yet, I didn’t find some photos to be particularly sexual or objectifying until I read the titles. For example, in one of the images I find most compelling, a woman runs barefoot through a narrow alley of debris wearing nothing more than what appears to be a pajama of some kind. She isn’t wearing pants, so you can scarcely make out her underwear. The vantage point of the camera, however, seems lower than what one would expect if a grown man standing up straight were taking the photo. So, it seems, then, that the perspective is that of either a man crouched over, stalking the woman, or that of an animal. The photo is also lit from behind, almost as if there is a spotlight on the woman as she runs away. The title? Kariudo (Hunter). Ah ha! She is, indeed, being hunted. She is sexualized prey.

Daido Moriyama, Scandal, Tokyo, Japan, 1969, printed 2009, the Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser Collection of Photographs, © 2012 Daido Moriyama

Next is another image I have seen countless times but never really thought of as particularly sexual. A very good looking couple is driving in a car. The woman is beautiful, dressed in a fashionable blouse, donning big-rimmed sunglasses. She gazes out of the passenger window. Her beau is handsome, sporting a white T-shirt under a sport coat. You can barely make out a dignified mole on his left cheek. An unlit cigarette dangles from his full lips, as if something interrupted the ritual of lighting it. His gaze is fixed in the same direction as that of his companion. The photo itself is very grainy—almost as if it is from a newspaper or tabloid. The title? Scandal, Tokyo, Japan. Ah hah! She is his mistress! To me, the sexuality in this photo isn’t necessarily inherent until you read the title of the photograph. Knowing the title, however, makes the leap to sexuality less fraught.

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently.

There are many other examples in the exhibition of sexuality and sensuality—of female bodies becoming the object of a very certain gaze. And what does this mean? What, as a viewer, are we left with believing about these images?

There are catalogues and other bound works featuring Moriyama’s photographs in clear cases in the exhibition. One such work, called Daido Remix, is opened to a spread of a black-and-white close up of a woman’s fishnet-stockinged legs folded, twisted—a labyrinth of dizzying fishnets and flesh that make it difficult at first, along with the mysterious pull of the gutter of the book itself, to ascertain where the legs begin and end, and where, inevitably, this maze leads. The image is sensual, rather than sexual. Suggestive, because your eyes linger, tracing the curves to try to solve the puzzle.

Installation view, Fracture: Daido Moriyama

Interestingly, the exhibition curator chose to juxtapose this image with another on the cover of a book called Daido Moriyama: Northern. The image is a stark black-and-white photograph of a chain-link fence against a barren field. What does it mean that this fence, typically associated with either keeping someone or something in or keeping someone or something out is mirrored by a very suggestive image of a woman’s legs clad in fishnet stockings? Are we supposed to transfer these restrictive/ subjugating associations of the chain-link fence to the tights, and thus to female sexuality? Is the hole in the fence significant? A figurative escape? Is Moriyama a feminist?

Maybe. But, then again, maybe not. You have only until Sunday, July 29, to draw your own conclusions about Moriyama’s work before the exhibition closes.

Jenny Miyasaki


A Tale of Two Installation Designs: Fashioning Fashion in Los Angeles and Berlin

July 23, 2012

Two years since the debut of Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915 at LACMA, the exhibition, which explored the changes in fashionable dress spanning two centuries, is again on view in Berlin at the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) until July 29. Though the installations at both LACMA and DHM were divided into identical thematic sections—Timeline, Textiles, Tailoring, and Trim—each institution displayed the art using its own unique exhibition designs.

Woman’s Timeline display at LACMA, showcasing the mannequins in crates

The same display at the DHM sets the mannequins on a green, back-lit platform with ribbons pointing to their year of fashionableness

The original Fashioning Fashion at LACMA inaugurated both the grand opening of the Resnick Pavilion as well as the museum’s groundbreaking acquisition of a major collection of European men’s, women’s, and children’s garments and accessories.  This celebratory mood was reflected in the exhibition design concept, staged by renowned Italian opera designers Pier-Luigi Pizzi and Massimo Pizzi Gasparon, where the historic fashions were displayed emerging from gray shipping crates.  This “uncrating” instilled a sense of discovery in the visitors who experienced the Resnick Pavilion and the collection for the first time.

Tailoring display at LACMA

In contrast, the DHM exhibition design was conceived by Belgian scenographer Bob Verhelst, who chose four harmonious shades of green for the installation, inspired by a vivid hue he saw in an eighteenth-century French château.  This presentation also did away with the glass vitrines that are typical in most fashion exhibitions in Europe, allowing visitors a more intimate viewing experience.

Tailoring display at the DHM with green platforms and wall graphics of historic clothing patterns

Touring an exhibition comprised of dressed mannequins and complicated mounts required much advance planning.  A LACMA team of two curators, a conservator, and an installation specialist traveled to Berlin to install Fashioning Fashion in just four weeks, aided by five talented conservators from the host institution.  In contrast, the preparation for LACMA’s presentation took many months to complete, in addition to a full six weeks devoted to gallery installation alone.  The DHM installation was faster in part due to shipping the mannequins to Berlin with all of their necessary padding and understructures already in place, making the dressing process much less time consuming.  (See this Unframed post about the mannequin preparation for the exhibition.)

At the beginning of the LACMA installation, many of the mannequins required padding and understructure—all from scratch— in order to accurately display the historic dress in the exhibition. A single mannequin would take at least one day to complete.

The mannequins arrived at the DHM with all of their original padding and understructure intact, making for a much speedier installation. This allowed for up to three mannequins to be dressed per day.

During the first week of installation at the DHM, LACMA installation specialist Sophia Gan dresses an eighteenth-century mannequin with the help of DHM conservators Judith Zimmer and Jutta Peschke.

In the last week of installation, the Men’s Timeline platform at the DHM—beginning with the red velvet eighteenth-century suit—receives its final dressed mannequin.

After four weeks of installation and a few finishing touches, the Men’s Timeline section is finally completed and ready for visitors.

The installation at DHM was hard work but very rewarding; a short documentary film about the making of Fashioning Fashion at DHM shows highlights of the process.

The LACMA team will soon travel back to Berlin to deinstall Fashioning Fashion and prepare for its final venue on the exhibition’s international tour in the birthplace of haute couture itself—Paris. Les Arts Décoratifs, Musée de la Mode et du Textile in the Palais du Louvre will host Fashioning Fashion from December 13, 2012 – April 14, 2013. Vous y voir!

Clarissa Esguerra, Assistant Curator, and Leigh Wishner, Curatorial Assistant, Costume and Textiles
Photos 2, 4, and 7:  © Detlef Eden, Deutsches Historisches Museum; all others © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA


This Weekend at LACMA: Charlie White & Katy Grannan Opens, Heizer Exhibition, French Films, Ai Weiwei Doc, and More

July 20, 2012

If you haven’t been to LACMA lately, this is a great weekend to see a few new exhibitions and catch some smaller shows before they close. Opening Sunday—or on view now for members—is The Sun and Other Stars: Charlie White and Katy Grannan. Both artists  tackle the subject of identity and representation in a media-saturated landscape, such as Grannan’s street portraits or White’s series of blue-eyed blonde girls who answered a casting call.

Charlie White, Girl Posed, 2008, courtesy of the artist and Loock Galerie, Berlin

Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Los Angeles, 2008/printed 2009, courtesy of the artist; Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; Salon 94, New York

The affecting exhibition is on view in BCAM, just across the way from Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol. Also on view on the same floor of BCAM is a new installation of photography from the permanent collection, Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography, which includes works by Ken Gonzales-Day, Bruce Conner, Wolfgang Tillmans, Catherine Opie, and more. (One more note for photography fans: over in the Pavilion for Japanese Art, Fracture: Daido Moriyama closes July 29!)

Wolfgang Tillmans, Volker, lying, 2000, gift of Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson

Also currently on view is Michael Heizer: Actual Size. As you might expect from the artist behind Levitated Mass and other land art works like Double Negative and City, Heizer also takes a large-scale approach to photography and documentation. Thus it requires two different buildings to house this exhibition. On view on the third floor of BCAM are photographs of rock formations, presented at the actual size you’d find the formations in their natural environment. On view in the Resnick Pavilion is Actual Size: Munich Rotary—a representation, via custom-built projectors, of a 1969 work by Heizer, Munich Depression, which displaced 1,000 tons of earth from an unbuilt area of Munich. Both installations add some context to Heizer’s larger body of work, and must-see shows if you’re coming to the museum to experience Levitated Mass. (Families, don’t forget: all month long our free Andell Family Sundays feature art-making activities inspired by Levitated Mass).

Michael Heizer, Actual Size: Egypt, 1970, courtesy of the artist, © Michael Heizer

This weekend is also your last chance to see Whistler’s Etchings and Japanese Paintings: Paths to Enlightenment—both close on Sunday.  The Way of the Elders: The Buddha in Modern Theravada Traditions also closes soon—July 29.

Kaihō School, Japan, late 17th-early 18th century, Zen Sage Kensu with Shrimp (detail), gift of Laura Bastianelli in loving memory of Jeremy Ets-Hokin

On the music and film front, we have you covered as always. For tonight’s Jazz at LACMA concert, Katisse returns with his blend of jazz, hip hop, and world music. On Saturday, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Project takes it to Latin Sounds. On Sunday, iPalpiti performs at our Sundays Live chamber music series. All of these concerts, as usual, are free.

Tonight, our French Film Fridays continue with Robert Bresson’s controversial 1977 film The Devil, Probably, followed by Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty.

On Saturday, filmmaker Alison Klayman will be on hand for a screening of the new documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Tickets for the Ai Weiwei film are free but are nearly gone, so reserve them in advance.

Scott Tennent


I Am a Young Artist and I Am at LACMA. Anything I Do Here is Art

July 18, 2012

Amelia, a 6 ½-year-old art enthusiast, expressive dresser, and accomplished whistler, recently completed two weeks at LACMA’s Summer Art Camp.  During her daily trips to the museum Amelia got to walk through the galleries and talk about what she saw with her teacher and fellow campers, as well as make art every day—everything from collage to drawings to video art. Last week the campers looked at Bruce Nauman’s For Beginners (all the combinations of the thumb and fingers), in which all that is visible are the artist’s hands making gestures as commanded by his voice.

Bruce Nauman, For Beginners (all the combinations of the thumb and fingers), 2010, collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Artis, image courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York, © Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York,

In the work Nauman states “If I am an artist and I am in my studio, everything I do in my studio is art.” Amelia and her classmates used that as their inspiration in making a video about the definition of art. Like Nauman, they used only one part of their bodies and their voices. “We chose from Urban Light, the Spaghetti Noodles, the Rock, and the Fountain with the Circle Things and the Spray,” Amelia explained.  “I picked the Rock.” Once in front of Levitated Mass, it was up to Amelia to do her part in the video—snapping her fingers. “That was my idea,” she said. Here’s the result of the campers’ video making skills.

Samara Whitesides and Scott Tennent


Through the Mic 3: People Under the Stairs, Skeme, and VerBS

July 16, 2012

This Thursday is our third installment of Through the Mic, LACMA’s monthly hip hop concert series. Headlining the night is L.A. legends People Under the Stairs, aka the duo Thes One and Double K. The group has been together since 1997 and released their eighth album, Highlighter, last year. On Thursday they’ll be joined by up-and-coming rappers Skeme and VerBS. We thought we’d help you kick off your week with a few samples of what you can expect at this week’s concert. Tickets are selling fast!

Scott Tennent


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