Q&A with Josh Graves, Pastry Chef, Coffee + Milk

August 13, 2012

Unframed’s Stephanie Sykes sat down with C + M’s pastry chef, Josh Graves, to talk about his inspiration, passion for pop tarts, and C + M’s seasonal appeal.

You’ve worked in a number of food establishments across the city: Boule, Mani’s, Mercantile, just to name a few.  What is it like to work in a museum setting?

I do love working in this artistic environment. Coming in in the morning and being surrounded by all the different architecture makes it such an inspiring place for me. I feel like everyone who works here is so creative. I love it.

Josh Graves

How was the experience of building a pastry menu from scratch?

Patina approached me about opening a café at LACMA and wanted to see what I could come up with in terms of tarts, cookies, and cakes.  They hadn’t seen that side of me at Ray’s yet. I drew from things I’d made before and some ideas I had, tweaked them, and here we are.  I really enjoy baking— it’s so focused.  It’s a lot of fun to take these ideas for flavors and manifest them into one final product: a cake or a pop tart.

Bacon Date Pop Tart

Where do get your inspiration for both the pastries and their names?
I get ideas everywhere! Sometimes I’ll see or try something and get inspired to make it my own way.  Take the Bacon Date Pop Tart, for example. I grew up eating Pop Tarts as a kid and loved them, and I‘ve always wanted to make a gourmet version.

Or let’s look at the Black Velvet Cake.  I don’t like to use food coloring very often.  I don’t think it’s necessary. So, I used the same ingredients as a red velvet cake but kept its natural color. I liked the idea of calling it a Black Velvet cake because the term black velvet makes you think of both the song and the whiskey.  The taste and element of pop culture lend themselves to a nice sense of familiarity.

Another example is the Elvis Cake, inspired by the Elvis Sandwich made of peanut butter, banana, and bacon. It was his favorite sandwich—that’s what he’d always ask for!

Elvis Cake

Ray’s is staunch in their farm-to-table approach. Is the same true of C+M?

Yes, we use a lot of the same vendors, and we have a forager who constantly sources things from various farmers markets.

Our gardener plants a lot of herbs on-site at LACMA, which encourages us to try things. The lavender on the Lemon Lavender Pop Tart is taken from the garden behind Ray’s.

Can you walk us through the transition of ingredients from summer to fall?

This is the best time of year for desserts because we have so many stone fruits and berries, two of my favorite things. Peaches are excellent right now, so it’s a great moment for the peach pie. As we move into fall, you’ll see strawberries fade out pretty soon and give way to something else. We’ll also see more stone fruits in the fall.

Pastries at Coffee + Milk

What’s the deal with the milk sorbet we’ve been hearing so much about?

We liked the oxymoron of a milk sorbet because sorbets are obviously not meant to have dairy in them. Like with all of our dairy products, we use only organic ingredients—Strauss organic milk, to be specific. The milk sorbet is lighter than ice cream and is perfect for our ice cream sandwiches and milkshakes.

Stephanie Sykes

This Weekend at LACMA: Alia Syed and Femininity in Indian Painting open, outdoor films, and more

August 10, 2012

If you are looking for a way to beat the heat this weekend (temperatures are forecasted to be in the high 80s around LACMA and into the high 90s in the Valley), come to our cool, air-conditioned galleries for relief.

Opening tomorrow are two new installations from our South and Southeast Asian Art department. Alia Syed: Eating Grass features work by experimental filmmaker Alia Syed that explores issues of identity, representation, and intercultural communication through narratives taking place in Karachi, Lahore, and London.

Alia Syed, still from Eating Grass, 2003, photo courtesy of the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York/New Delhi, © Alia Syed

Also opening is Unveiling Femininity in Indian Painting and Photography, an installation that looks at the depiction of women in Indian court painting and photographs from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Because male artists weren’t allowed to enter women’s private quarters, portraits of female nobility from this time are rare. Paintings and photographic portraits in the installation offer a peek into the private and alluring world of women in this time period.

William Willoughby Hooper, Two Nautch Girls on a Bed, c. 1870, collection of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck

This weekend is the last chance to see the perceptual photographic play in The Continuity of Robert Cumming. In this installation, Cumming explores the spectacle of 1970s Hollywood in humble and playful photographs.

Robert Cumming, Quick Shift of the Head Leaves Glowing Stool Afterimage Posited on the Pedestal, 1978, gift of Sue and Albert Dorskind, © Robert Cumming

In addition to those exhibitions, there is plenty more to see around campus. In BCAM you’ll find Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography, The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White, Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol, Michael Heizer: Actual Size (also on view in the Resnick Pavilion), and Metropolis II. Recently opened in the Pavilion for Japanese Art is fascinating exhibition Ohie Toshio and the Perfection of the Japanese Book.

Ohie Toshio; O Jun, Asters, 2005, novel by Ishikawa Jun (Japan, 1899–1987), published by Shigetsusha, collection of Ohie Toshio, © Ohie Toshio

At sundown tonight, our Animation August outdoor film series continues with the animated hit Puss in Boots. This adult-and-kid-friendly comedy follows the events leading up to the sword fighting cat’s meeting with Shrek and his friends. Bring blankets, a picnic, and even your dog for a fun outdoor evening.

Families are also invited to come to our free Andell Family Sundays. The theme for August is Dragon Days.  Explore depictions of dragons in our collection (like those in our Chinese or Korean galleries), then make your own dragon art during family art-making activities.

As always, the weekend will be filled with live music. Tonight, catch the Dale Fielder Quartet at Jazz at LACMA. Tomorrow, Latin Sounds will get you dancing with the Latin-jazz ensemble Mongorama. On Sunday, get out of the heat and into the Bing Theater for a classical music performance by Los Angeles Electric 8 with special guest LA Trombone Collective.

Alex Capriotti

Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography

August 8, 2012

Bodies are back. Walking through The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White to get to Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography, I was struck by the insistent presence of the human figure. The body has always fueled the photographer’s imagination, but we seem to have returned to the dominance of the studio portrait, where model and photographer collaborate on fantasies of identity and form. Except now cameras—and the people posing for them—can go to, and come from, anywhere.

David LaChapelle, Abel, From the series Awakened, 2007/printed 2012, promised gift of Fred Torres, © David LaChapelle

In fact, Figure and Form offers a surprisingly diverse tour through the intimate exchange between body and photograph through the last century. Drawing from LACMA’s collection, the exhibition explores fashion photography, documentary photography, conceptual photography, the erotic, the playful, the ironic, and the deadly serious.

John Baldessari, Two Men with Alphabets, 1984, gift of Judy and Stuart Spence, © John Baldessari

Vivanne Sassen, Belladonna, 2010, printed 2011, purchased with funds provided by the Ralph M. Parsons Fund and the Photographic Arts Council, 2011, © Viviane Sassen

It demonstrates how central the body has been to photographic practice, both as a subject and as a catalyst for experiments with material and process. And it offers a visually delightful survey of the body posing, prancing, and working hard through some of modern and contemporary photography’s greatest moments.

Megan Driscoll, Research Intern

An English Postcard: Henry Moore’s Monumental Modernisms

August 7, 2012

If the plan was to be in England between the queen’s sixtieth and the Olympic Games, which worked out in my favor, there certainly would be no avoiding the rainiest summer and, particularly, the close encounter, be it over ground or underground. Of course a little time and some exhilarating English art and it was home—be it an old home—at last.

As a young man, I arrived in England at the height of English sculpture in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was quite taken aback by the sheer variety and power of their extraordinary vitality in reimagining or referencing the tenets of the three dimensional form. Henry Moore in particular was a giant and that is not to suggest that one did not see these budding possibilities in say French art.

Constantin Brancusi, Bird in Space, 1925–1926, partial, fractional, and promised gif of Janice and Henri Lazarof, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

There was Constantin Brancusi, who was born in Romania but began his career in France, with his deeply influential Bird in Space and Raymond Duchamp-Villon’s cubist dynamic The Largest Horse, which are in LACMA’s collection; Bird in Space is on view now in the Ahmanson Building. Moore had met both artists in Paris in the 1930s. In fact, Henry Moore met and knew many of the important twentieth-century artists. But the English, as a whole, seemed to embrace this three dimensional universe at that time with an unerring depth and passion that were second to none. And of course it was not just sculpture but painting and collage, which would foster a cool mood of restrained grandeur that would lead me to a master with a single voice. And yet, I had never seen his work, collectively, so imposingly grand.

Raymond Duchamp-Villon, The Largest Horse, 1914, gift of Anna Bing Arnold , © Henri Matisse Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SUCCESSION MATISSE, Paris, photo © 2012  Museum Associates/LACMA

Henry Moore’s Late Large Forms on view now at the Gagosian was simply a revelation! Of course, one had been schooled in a million different ways of Moore’s work with some quite large pieces but the environment may have been the deceptive ingredient all along. Having seen the art inhabit the grandeur of nature, we may have accepted it happily as a part of man’s contribution to nature. But brought indoors, tamed as it were, it is no longer pitted against the giant oaks of Perry Green (home of The Henry Moore Foundation) and that Constable blue sky and dotting yards of generous green grass like my grandsons’ cricket pitch, which stretches to another green-band horizon.

However, in their white, cavernous, and limited box galleries where their forms have no competition, only each other, Henry Moore can instill and inspire wonder and grace, as though one is seeing them for the first time. In their fitful stillness, these vast castings are driven to posture humanity, to seal the family—the coupling in the impenetrable permanence of metal where he could make his art glow as a jewel or seem as stone or hewed in raw hacking strokes—a modernism strolling through sculptural history, unassailably marking points in time. The eye is made to choreograph in the mass, to flow, undulate, and jag upward, rounding off and gracefully looping back with curvaceous ease as the woman’s form sensuously appears and disappears, a journey but never quite coming to rest. In their scale, they displace time, and with their form and its origins, modernism, they are eerily elsewhere. There was something ancient, primordial, for Moore had perfected nature’s geological, haphazard, arbitrary wasting away to give us not only images of ourselves but our abstract dream inventions.

Henry Moore, Three Part-Reclining Figure, 1961–1962, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bart Lytton and the Lytton Foundation, © The Henry Moore Foundation, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

There was no other sculptor whose presence and images mark the time and modernism with such distinction and such a powerful aesthetic resolution and, thankfully without irony, just an intrinsic trust. At times, he is romantically sentimental sculpting in almost every known material with endless moments of embrace and reclining and at others he is brutally abstract.  His powerful iconic imagery, both three-dimensional and two, an art renowned throughout the Western world would serve as humanitarian beacons in the postwar years, healing the dreadful wounds while symbolically binding us to a common humanity.

Impressive as these works were, you get the feeling that scale was not a central theme of his art, for one need but look at the hand-size marquettes in which little is lost. So, reunited with LACMA’s perfectly proportioned pieces in its collection—two marvelous large reclining sculptures from the middle period lodged in the Director’s Roundtable Garden, a beautiful carved marble figure piece from his early period, and a defining abstract bronze from the late period, I concluded that Moore could be any size and the essential impact would remain.

Hylan Booker

Mola Textiles and the Kuna Indians

August 6, 2012

Molas come from the kalu Tuipis.
It was a dangerous place
where skilled scissor-users lived…
They were very beautiful women . . . 

—”Black Vulture” recounted by E.G. from Mulatupu

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone”

—Paul McCartney; John Lennon

Either of these quotes above could be invoked to describe the mola textiles in LACMA’s Stitching Worlds: Mola Art of the Kuna on view in the Art of the Americas building through the fall. With kaleidoscopic designs and layers of psychedelic colors carefully cut out and stitched together by craftswomen, molas are intriguing modern textiles. The term mola—the Kuna word for “cloth”—refers to brightly colored, intricately patterned textiles produced by the women of the coral archipelago of the San Blas Islands (aka the Kuna Yala) off the Atlantic coast of Panama. The Kuna population inhabits 60 of the 330 off-shore islands as well as the mainland of Panama and the Atrato River Valley of Colombia.

Felix the Cat, Panama, San Blas, Kuna People, last quarter of 20th century, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Lindy and Ellen Narver in memory of Grace Narver

Although contemporary themes have entered the craftswoman’s repertoire (such as Batman, Felix the Cat, names of sports teams, and contemporary logos), the method of creating the mola and its general appearance have remained the same for over a century.

Typically called appliqué, the complex method for creating a mola requires a great deal of skill and practice to achieve favorable results. To make a mola, a woman first stitches together layers of cloth, then cuts out patterns in the top and middle layers to reveal the underlayers of colored cloth.  She then folds over and stitches the edges of the cut patterns, often with brightly colored thread, which adds to the design. Sometimes small pieces of colored cloth are inserted between layers to add even more color to the garment.  Designs include stylized figures, animals and plants as well as pop-culture references, mythical imagery, ceremonial scenes or abstract geometric designs.

Molas were created in pairs for the front and back panels of a blouse. Craftswomen attach a yoke and arms to the panels to create a complete shirt. The mola panels with their almost mirror-image designs may have cultural significance: the idea of duality is pervasive in Kuna thought.  According to Kuna belief all beings—animate and inanimate—have an invisible double, or purba; likewise, ritual songs or chants are often recited in pairs, and lyrics are sometimes repeated two times in succession.

These garments have a long history with the Kuna people of Panama and Colombia. According to Kuna legend, molas were created at the beginning of time by the ancient ancestors, and were hidden away in a kalu—or underworld fortress—called Tuipis, the origin place of all things related to women: “No man could enter this kalu, not even a shaman, a nele.  If a man approached it, a woman came out.  She seduced him, made him her husband, then sent him away before he had entered.”[1]  However, despite their mythical origins, the materials to make molas—cloth, thread, scissors and needles—were only brought to the region by European missionaries and/or traders beginning in the eighteenth century.

The organic designs in mola textiles may derive from the Kuna tradition of body painting and tattooing. Traditionally, Kuna women wore only skirts, and adorned their upper bodies with painted geometric or organic designs. When the Christian missionaries arrived to the region in the sixteenth century, they required women to wear blouses; the mola patterns may have been an adaptation of traditional body painting to colonial circumstances.

© 2012 Michael Friedel, courtesy Rex USA

The making of molas is an exclusively female task, and it is a tradition that is passed on through the family and by generation. Women begin to learn to make molas when they are just girls, and continue to produce them throughout their lives.  or the most part, each woman makes her own mola, and though she may be eager to see what a friend or neighbor is making, she will keep and wear her own garments. Specific molas may be worn for housework, as nightgowns, for going out in public, or for particular celebrations; while other designs are reserved for special occasions. Old molas are sometimes recycled as rags, or when they are very worn out, molas might be sold.  Molas made for the tourist industry (very popular souvenirs from Panama and Colombia!) are a different quality, although the level of skill to make a tourist’s mola is still quite high. Remarkably, the market sale of molas now rivals that of coconuts and crayfish, the two primary exports of the region.

Laura Leaper, Research Assistant, Latin American Art


Crouch, Edith.  The mola: traditional Kuna textile art. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, 2011.

Kapp, Capt. Kit S.. Mola Art from the San Blas Islands. Cincinnati: Earl D. Arnold Printing Company, 1972.

Parker, Ann and Avon Neal.  Molas: folk art of the Cuna Indians. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1977.

Perrin, Michael. Magnificent Molas: the art of the Kuna Indians. Trans. Deke Dusinberre.  Paris: Flammarion, 1999.

Puls, Herta.  Textiles of the Kuna Indians of Panama.  Bucks: Shire Publications, Ltd., 1988.

[1] E.G. from Mulatupu Island, 1994.  As recounted by Michel Perrin in Magnificient Molas: the art of the Kuna Indians (Paris: Flammarion, 1999), 19.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,077 other followers

%d bloggers like this: