Soviets and Supervillains

July 5, 2012

Confession: in my adult life I’ve only sporadically kept up with the James Bond franchise. Then again, does it matter? Because Bond certainly loomed large in my childhood. Watching the James Bond films was a frequent home video ritual in my family. I was in awe of Bond’s adventures: nothing less than the fate of the world rested in his hands. If he wasn’t staving off nuclear war with the Soviets, Bond was battling exotic, larger-than-life villains who, to this twelve-year-old, embodied the very notion of danger and evil. (And let’s be honest, all those opening credit sequences, and the many beautiful and dangerous women Bond tussled with from film to film, hit squarely in the bull’s eye of my adolescent interests.)

In conjunction with the current exhibition …Is James Bond, LACMA is screening classic James Bond films every Thursday night in July. And how else could we kick off such a series than with the original, arguably best Bond there ever was? The suave Scot, Sean Connery. Tonight’s double-feature offers two of the best of Connery’s entries: Goldfinger and From Russia with Love. The former is probably my very favorite Bond film. Oddjob’s bladed hat? The ultimate Bond Girl, Pussy Galore? Bond’s crotch in imminent danger of annhilation by laser? There are too many wow moments in this film to name.

You can see the full list of upcoming Bond films in July, along with other upcoming Film Independent screenings at LACMA this month. After taking the month of August off, the Bond series will continue every Thursday in September.

Scott Tennent

The Art of Fireworks

July 4, 2012

Many of us will cap off our celebration of Independence Day by lying back and watching fireworks light up the sky. LACMA is closed today, but you can enjoy our “fireworks show” virtually here.

Fireworks date back to tenth-century China where it is said that a Chinese cook accidentally mixed three common ingredients that formed a black powder and exploded into flames when lit. This process was adapted for both entertainment and warfare purposes by the Chinese. Fireworks flourished for entertainment during the Song Dynasty (960–1279) when grand displays were created to entertain the emperor. Adventurous explorers spread the knowledge of fireworks to the West and Arabs began to create their own techniques.

Tsubaki Chinzan, Portrait of Yue Fei (Song Dynasty), 19th century, gift of Joseph L. Brotherton in Appreciation of George Kuwayama

In both India and China, fireworks were believed to be effective in warding off evil spirits, darkness, and despair, and they continue to be used in many celebratory occasions.

India, Rajasthan, Kishangarh, Krishna and Radha Enjoying a Feast and Fireworks, early 19th century, gift of Jane Greenough Green in memory of Edward Pelton Green

Mahmud (India), Two Women Enjoying Fireworks, 1766, gift of Doris and Ed Wiener

Utagawa Hiroshige, Fireworks at Ryogoku, 1858, The Joan Elizabeth Tanney Bequest

Fireworks eventually spread to the West. Queen Elizabeth I was so enamored with the pyrotechnics that she created the position of Fire Master. The coronation display he created for James II was so pleasing to the king and queen that the Fire Master was actually knighted. King Charles V also took a liking to the bursting flames and made sure to celebrate all of his victories with fireworks.

Kaufmann and Fabry, Fireworks, 1934, Anonymous gift

Early settlers in America brought their versions of fireworks to the new world and used them to commemorate holidays. During the first celebration of Independence Day in 1777, fireworks were used to mark the occasion.

If you don’t yet have your firework plan in place, check out this great guide to fireworks happening all around L.A. so you can continue this centuries-long tradition.

Alex Capriotti

Artist Conversation: Sharon Lockhart

July 2, 2012

While she was here installing Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol, we sat down with Los Angeles artist Sharon Lockhart to talk about the show.

Lockhart first encountered Eshkol’s textiles on a research trip to Israel; the textiles led her to Eshkol’s unique dance notation system and choreography. Although Eshkol had passed away a few years before Lockhart’s visit, her dancers, most of whom had trained with her for over forty years, carried on her legacy, and appear in a multi-channel film installation in the exhibition.

Lockhart says she regards the exhibition as a two-woman show, with a balance between Eshkol’s carpets, dances, and models and Lockhart’s photography and film installation.

Amy Heibel


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