Los Angeles Artists Explore Surrealist Techniques

November 19, 2012

Drawing Surrealism explores surrealist innovations by more than 90 artists, most of them working in the early 20th century. But curator Leslie Jones also included commissioned work by Los Angeles artists working today in order to emphasize the connection between the history of surrealism and contemporary practice.

Mark Licari’s giant improvisational mural on the title wall greets visitors to the exhibition. Alexandra Grant created an illustrated print derived from a poetic novel, Songs of Maldoror, that visitors can take away with them. Stas Orlovski activates a transitional space in the exhibition with a projected animation that draws on dreams and the unconscious. Although it’s easy to see the connection between these projects and earlier surrealist work, as Mark notes in the video below, that doesn’t mean that he deliberately set out to “learn” surrealist techniques. Instead, the surrealists pioneered practices so fundamental to the art of drawing that an emerging artist might just stumble across similar ways of working in the course of their own explorations.

Amy Heibel, video by Alexa Oona Schulz


This Weekend at LACMA: Lolita Screening, Mapplethorpe Talk, and More

November 17, 2012

You may find this hard to believe but we’re actually not opening any new exhibitions this weekend. You’ll have to settle for any of the ten major exhibitions or twelve smaller shows currently on view. Both specially ticketed exhibitions—Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy and Stanley Kubrick—have been buzzing with visitors. Make sure you buy your tickets ahead of time to ensure admission.

Caravaggio, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 1604-1605, The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Trust

Our Stanley Kubrick film series continues tonight with the classic Lolita. (Have you seen the exhibition yet? One of the most wonderful little pieces in the show is a letter Sue Lyon wrote to Kubrick in the early ‘90s, letting him know what she was up to so many decades later.) In conjunction with the film, Patina is offering a special pop-up dinner series, RED—a three-course price fixe dinner preceding the film (price includes admission to the film). Seating is limited to call for reservations: 323 377-2698. Check out the full RED series for future dinner/movie combos.

On Sunday afternoon, in conjunction with Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ, art historian Richard Meyer talks about Robert Mapplethorpe’s X, Y, and Z portfolios, and the debate they sparked around federal arts funding in the late 1980s and early 90s.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Jim, Sausalito (X Portfolio), 1977, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, partial gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the David Geffen Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust, 2011, © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Lolita and Mapplethorpe? It’s a bit of a risqué weekend of events at LACMA! Round out that theme by seeing the provocative installation Young, which examines how photographers have depicted children in their work (see this recent Unframed post for more on the topic).

Lewis Carroll, “Xie” Kitchin with Bucket and Spade, circa 1873, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

For those looking for more family friendly activities, Sunday offers our usual Andell Family Sunday art-making activities, inspired by the sculptures in the current Ken Price exhibition. Finally, you can cap off your weekend with a free concert from the Almendrix Trio in our free Sundays Live chamber music series.

Scott Tennent


Wilson Sisters Explore Stanley Kubrick’s Unfinished Business

November 15, 2012

Artists Jane and Louise Wilson had a rare opportunity: they were invited to take part in a residency at the Stanley Kubrick archive in London as part of a commission by Animate Projects and the British Film Institute. Amidst an overwhelming collection of material from the late filmmaker’s career, they found themselves drawn to documents, records and remnants of the creative process associated with a film about the Holocaust, called Aryan Papers, that Kubrick researched for decades but never produced. The film was to be an adaptation of Louis Begley’s semi-autobiographical novel Wartime Lies. The sisters contacted the actress, Johanna Ter Steege, whom Kubrick intended to play the lead in the film.  They interviewed her, and she appears in the Wilson sisters film installation, titled Unfolding the Aryan Papers, which is presented in an enclosed space lined with mirrors within the Stanley Kubrick exhibition.

Louise Wilson had this to say about the project:

Amy Heibel


Passport to the Self: Photographs from the Irmas Collection at LACMA and Paris Photo

November 14, 2012

Like many of you, I’ve been defining/refining myself in terms that are somewhat forced, coming via our politicians and pollsters of late. So really, who am I beyond my voting record, my birth certificate, my passport? (And can I have another shot at that passport photo please? It’s not at all representative.) Knowing we’re all products of our socio-political times, and in light of the recent election saga, I’ve been reconsidering our dual exhibitions on the theme of self-portraiture.

Yes, in a split-personality moment, the museum has two exhibits on this topic on view simultaneously: Imagining the Modern Self: Photographs from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection at LACMA and Face to Face: The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection at LACMA in Paris at the esteemed art fair, Paris Photo.

Both exhibitions present specific aspects of the internal gaze, a practice that continues to be relevant to contemporary artists. Imagining the Modern Self at LACMA focuses on the highly experimental time period between the two World Wars, with work like this photo montage by the French artist Claude Cahun:

Claude Cahun, I.O.U. (Self-Pride), 1929–30, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

That same collage instinct is alive in 1967 in this Wallace Berman work—on view in Face to Face in Paris:

Wallace Berman, Self-Portrait, 1967, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

And back in L.A., the filmic presentation of German artist Renata Bracksieck from the 1920s:

Renata Bracksiek, Untitled, 1920s, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection.

Of which a similar impulse can be seen forty years later in this Andy Warhol photo booth portrait on view in Paris:

Andy Warhol, Untitled, 1964, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection.

And this rare 1938 image of recently celebrated (and sadly, recently passed) Pedro Guerrero—soon you will recognize his name alongside master architectural photographer Julius Shulman—seen at LACMA. Guerrero’s abstracted yet direct and compelling image leads me to our display at Paris Photo, which is grounded by a selection of modern photo masters, forceful gazes all, among them Man Ray, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Diane Arbus.

Pedro Guerrero, Self-Portrait, 1938, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection.

Layered in are artists who have worked in Southern California (or were based here for a time)—such as Wallace Berman, Ilene Segalove, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Martin Kersels, and Catherine Opie— who put into perspective our SoCal achievements and the global impact of our photographic production. Ideally, I’d like to imagine the artists in our L.A. show crossing borders of time and place, having an interesting conversation (covering politics and art!) with the Paris gang. If only they could get their calendars to synch, they would find common ground with their use of distortion, mirroring, and the abstraction or obfuscation of the self.

With the Paris Photo exhibit due to run fleetingly, November 15-18,  and the LACMA exhibit on view until January 21, this coming weekend will be the apex of their conjoined display. For those of you who can, we hope you can make both shows. Join us in celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Irmas family donation of this remarkably enduring collection.

Eve Schillo, Curatorial Assistant, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department 


Datamoshing Surrealism

November 13, 2012

The latest in our Artists Respond series is by Antonio Mendoza and a French artist known as Jimpunk. Inspired by Drawing Surrealism, the two artists are collaborating from afar, creating a video mashup that transforms found material into a dynamic ongoing collage that changes daily. The project is called Dysleksic. (Note: depending on your internet connection and various other factors, and in keeping with the nature of the artists’ work, the project may not play perfectly in all browsers or for all users.)

Random screen grab from Dysleksic at dysleksic.tumblr.com, by Antonio Mendoza and Jimpunk.

Here’s what Antonio had to say about the project:

I’ve always loved surrealism. I’ve been working with collage – video or physical – for twenty years. I’ve been collaborating with Jimpunk, who is based in Paris, for awhile and decided to go back to the surrealist roots in Paris and do a project with him.

Describe the project?

We take these found videos and pile them on top of each other. It’s kind of like an exquisite corpse. We’re trying to use random material, creating a clashing of signs and a never-ending collage that has a lot of sound. Our goal is to keep this process going for awhile, loading new videos. It’s interesting to see how our respective contributions load and how they affect each other. It pushes the limits of the browser, but doesn’t quite crash. I think the surrealists would do something like that.

I don’t see what Jimpunk is doing, and he doesn’t see what I’m doing. We just started piling it on top of each other. Now we’re blending it – I’ll take stuff he uses and remix it and he’s been doing the same. At the end of the day it’s not clear who did what. Sometimes when I watch the videos I’m not even clear what part I did and what part he did. I’ll take something he did and alter it, he’ll take something I did and alter it.

The piece is chronological, in that whatever new material we add appears at the top. It’s set to play six videos at a time, and then when you scroll things will be static for a moment and then it starts playing again. It loads, then it will pause. We both like the jerkiness of the whole process, of stressing the system so that it’s working hard to play. It’s related to the surrealist ideal of going for the unexpected, the accidental.

I’ve removed three videos that weren’t playing the way I was hoping they’d play, but mostly I like the way it plays. Sometimes I don’t and I wish it would play a little bit differently, but that’s part of the process. Some of the artifacts from the compression become part of the piece. I’ve worked on other pieces that use that kind of datamoshing, an elaborate process where you take out the key frames from the videos, and then there are these strange artifacts that are fascinating. I’m sure we’ll introduce some of that;  once you run out of ideas you just datamosh it and it’s cool again!

What’s the current state of so-called “net art”?

Net art happened in the mid-1990s to about 2005. There were a lot of people exploring how to make something look interesting out of web pages. Messing up the code. Trying to hack the web browser to do things that it wasn’t meant to do.  The godfather and godmother of net art were a couple, a collective, called Jodi. Once everyone saw jodi.org, they wanted to do something like that.  Overall, I feel like everything that could be done with code and a browser has been done. I might be wrong. Mobile is maybe the new thing. Until I get a better phone I’m not going to be able to do anything with mobile!

What’s it like collaborating with Jimpunk?

We met five or six years ago because we do the same type of work. We talk by email a lot. I understand 50% of what he tells me and he understands 50% of what I tell him. I don’t know exactly what he’s thinking right now! Jimpunk is great in that you say let’s do this, and he’s like a machine. He just starts doing it.

In response to Dysleksic, Drawing Surrealism curator Leslie Jones said, “It gives new meaning to André Breton’s words “Beauty will be convulsive or it will not be at all.”

Amy Heibel


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