This Weekend at LACMA: De Maria and French Ceramics Exhibitions Close, Latin American Galleries Open, Sci-Fi Films, Easter Brunch, and More

March 29, 2013

Two terrific exhibitions are coming to a close this weekend. In the Resnick Pavilion, it’s your last chance to see Walter De Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture—one artwork that fills the entire center space of the building. The piece is made of precisely ordered geometric shapes that, together, measure roughly 33 x 164 feet.

Walter De Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992, Collection of Walter A. Bechtler-Siftung, Switzerland, Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Walter De Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992, Collection of Walter A. Bechtler-Siftung, Switzerland, Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Also closing this weekend is Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection, on view in the European galleries in the Ahmanson Building. The exhibition gathers 130 examples of French faience and soft-paste porcelain from the 17th and 18th centuries. You can read more about the exhibition from its curator, Elizabeth Williams, or learn about the influence of Chinese porcelain from curator Christina Yu.

Mustard Pot (Moutardier), Olerys-Laugier Manufactory, Moustiers, France, 1745-1749, Decoration painted by Jean-François Pelloquin,  The MaryLou Boone Collection

Mustard Pot (Moutardier), Olerys-Laugier Manufactory, Moustiers, France, 1745-1749, Decoration painted by Jean-François Pelloquin, The MaryLou Boone Collection

Opening Saturday is a new reinstallation of our Latin American art galleries on the fourth floor of the Art of the Americas building. Read more about the changes to the gallery and look at some of the new highlights in curator Ilona Katzew’s post from earlier this week.

Other exhibitions on view right now include Compass for Surveyors: 19th-Century Landscapes, in the Art of the Americas Building, which garnered a great review from the Los Angeles Times today; Ming Masterpieces from the Shanghai Museum; Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and the Broad Art Foundation; and Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick fans—and especially 2001 fans—will want to check out the four films we’re screening tonight and tomorrow as part of our series Beyond the Infinite: Science Fiction after Kubrick. Tonight kicks off with George Lucas’ debut, THX 1138 followed by Mike Hodges’ 1974 adaptation of Michael Chrichton’s The Terminal Man. Saturday sees John Carpenter’s sci-fi comedy Dark Star—which pointedly parodies Kubrick’s slow-moving 2001. followed by Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic masterpiece Solaris (trailer below).

This and every Saturday, we offer free family tours of the collection. Tours meet in the BP Grand Entrance near Urban Light and last approximately 45 minutes.

Families are also welcome to join us for Easter Brunch at Ray’s. Menu highlights include artichoke soup, blue crab deviled eggs, house made black pudding, onion and gruyere quiche, pork belly with eggs, and the famous Benedict Burger with a sunny egg on top. Make a reservation for Easter brunch.

Finally, our free classical music concert series Sundays Live continues Sunday at 6 pm with LA Opera’s Domingo-Thornton  Young Artist Program performing works to celebrate the centennial of legendary composer Benjamin Britten.

 


LACMA’s Newly Reinstalled Latin American Galleries

March 26, 2013

In the last few years, LACMA has focused much attention on  building a stellar collection of Latin American art, ranging from ancient to contemporary. The breadth of our collection—with much growth still under way—is what makes it truly exceptional. Since 2006 I have devoted a great deal of time to developing our Spanish colonial, modern, and contemporary holdings. New works have slowly trickled up to the galleries, but many others were waiting to be displayed.

Opening this Saturday, a new reinstallation of the permanent collection gave us the opportunity to streamline the layout of the galleries and make space for new acquisitions, reflecting the collection’s ongoing transformation. Now viewers will enter through the ancient galleries (just as before), and move across time to view new works from the colonial, modern, and postwar periods.

Spanish Colonial Art Highlights 

Few people know that as recent as 2006, there was only one significant work from Spanish America in the collection—a striking chalice gifted by William Randolph Hearst. Since then, we have acquired more than 50 important works in this area, converting the museum into one of the principal repositories of Spanish colonial art in the United States.

Attributed to Luis Berrueco, "Saint Francis Before the Pope," c. 1710, oil on canvas

Attributed to Luis Berrueco, “Saint Francis Before the Pope,” c. 1710, oil on canvas, purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund

Among the highlights are paintings by renowned masters from Mexico and elsewhere in the viceroyalties, including Juan Rodríguez Juárez (1675–1728), Luis Berrueco (active in the 18th century), Miguel Cabrera (c. 1715–1768), Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz (1713–1772), and José de Páez (1720–c. 1801). These works brilliantly attest to the formation of local schools of painting and the invention of new iconographies.

Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz, "X. From Spaniard and Return Backwards, Hold Yourself Suspended in Mid Air," c. 1760, oil on canvas, gift of the 2011 Collectors Committee

Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz, “X. From Spaniard and Return Backwards, Hold Yourself Suspended in Mid Air,” c. 1760, oil on canvas, gift of the 2011 Collectors Committee

Some key acquisitions include examples of casta paintings, the fashionable 18th-century works that portray the process of racial mixing among Amerindians, Spaniards, and Africans.

NEED CAPTION

“The Education of the Virgin,” Mexican School, late 17th century, oil and encrusted mother-of-pearl on panel (enconchado), purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund

Other works reveal the interest in Asian materials, formats, and techniques, including a stunning folding screen depicting a large flying pole (an ancient game that continued in colonial times), lacquerwork, and objects made with shimmering fragments of inlaid shell known as enconchados.

Modern Mexican Silver Highlights

Complementing LACMA’s collection of Latin American modernism is a recent donation of approximately eighty examples of modernist Mexican silver.

William Spratling, Double Jaguar Necklace, c. 1940, silver and amethyst, Gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

William Spratling, “Double Jaguar Necklace,” c. 1940, silver and amethyst, Gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

In the twentieth century, the Mexican silver industry experienced an unprecedented resurgence. Two North Americans catalyzed this renaissance: Frederick Walter Davis (1877–1961) and William Spratling (1900–1967). From the 1920s to the 1950s, Taxco became the epicenter for innovative silver designs, attracting artists, writers, and politicians from all over the world, including Hollywood celebrities such as John Huston, Mae West, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe among many others.

Left: Frederick Walter Davis, "Tree Brooch," 1945, silver and Mexican opal, gft of Penny Morrill, McLean, Virginia; Right: Miguel Covarrubias, "The Tree of Modern Art—Planted 60 Years Ago," Vanity Fair, May 1933, © Miguel Covarrubias Estate, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Left: Frederick Walter Davis, “Tree Brooch,” 1945, silver and Mexican opal, gft of Penny Morrill, McLean, Virginia; Right: Miguel Covarrubias, “The Tree of Modern Art—Planted 60 Years Ago,” Vanity Fair, May 1933, © Miguel Covarrubias Estate, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

In 1945 Frederick Walter Davis invited five extraordinary women for a luncheon at his home: the choreographer Rosa Covarrubias and her close friend Carmen López Figueroa, actress Sally Foster, art patron María Asúnsolo, and screenwriter Mary Anita Loos. At each plate was a wrapped box containing a tree brooch, the design for which was based on Miguel Covarrubias’s clever genealogical “Tree of Modern Art,” which had been published in Vanity Fair in 1933. This is one of the five brooches Davis created for this special occasion.

Donated by a group of distinguished collectors from across the United States, this inaugural gift of Mexican silver signals LACMA’s commitment to collecting and displaying modern Latin American design.

Postwar Geometric Abstraction 

Another area of expansion is Latin American postwar geometric art. Buffered from World War II, many South American countries entered an optimistic period of economic growth in the 1940s and 1950s. Abstract art, with its emphasis on clear and distilled forms, became the dominant visual language that reflected a move toward modernization and industrialization. Artists from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela who worked in this mode are internationally recognized. Among the new highlights are works by Julio Le Parc (b. 1928), Gego (1912–1994), Alejandro Otero (1921–1994), Raúl Lozza (1911–2008), and Sérgio de Camargo (1930–1991).

Raúl Lozza, "Untitled," 1953, relief and paint on wood, purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Fund and the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund

Raúl Lozza, “Untitled,” 1953, relief and paint on wood, purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Fund and the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund

We hope you will have a moment to visit the newly reinstalled galleries and share with us the excitement of witnessing the collection transform.

Ilona Katzew, Curator and Department Head, Latin American Art


Between Art and Politics: Hans Richter’s Germany

March 25, 2013

What would it have been like to grow up as an artist in pre- and post-World War I Germany? To discover the new German and international avant-garde in exhibitions and galleries, to frequent the intellectual and artistic circles in the cafés and cabarets in Germany’s capital? The young artist Hans Richter experienced the frenetic cultural life of Berlin before World War I put an end to it. He survived the war, deeply marked by its horrors which he expressed in his works of the time, then became involved with the Dadaists in Zurich, and later worked with Constructivist artists in Berlin. The exhibition Between Art and Politics: Hans Richter’s Germany presents the artistic milieus and movements Richter was involved in before, during, and after World War I. It accompanies the major retrospective Hans Richter: Encounters (opening May 5), which LACMA is dedicating to this fascinating artist—a true pioneer of modern art who was involved in virtually all the major avant-garde movements of the twentieth century: Expressionism, Dadaism, Constructivism, Surrealism, and more.

Hans Richter, Arbeiter (Workers), 1913, oil on canvas, private collection, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate

Hans Richter, Arbeiter (Workers), 1913, oil on canvas, private collection, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate

Between the –Isms: Artistic Life in Germany before World War I

The life of Richter before the war must have been exalting: Berlin, Dresden, and Munich were centers of the avant-garde, including the Expressionists of Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). These artists broke with academic modes dominant among established artists including German Impressionist Max Liebermann, and they saw themselves as rebellious visionaries. Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, cofounders of Der Blaue Reiter, tended in their works toward abstraction, exploring the inherently spiritual aspects of color. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel of Die Brücke found inspiration in the German woodcut and non-Western cultures. Besides Expressionism, French art was dominating the German art scene. Paul Cézanne, regarded as a precursor to Cubism, became a major source of inspiration for young artists, including Richter. He and his contemporaries were struck by a sort of “musical rhythm” they saw emerging from Cézanne’s works, and they started to experiment with the decomposition of form itself.

Paul Cézanne, The Bathers, c. 1898, color lithograph, Dr. Dorothea Moore Bequest

Paul Cézanne, The Bathers, c. 1898, color lithograph, Dr. Dorothea Moore Bequest

Hans Richter, Music, c. 1916, linoleum cut on wove paper, published in Die Aktion, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, purchased with funds provided by Anna Bing Arnold, Museum Associates Acquisition Fund, and deaccession funds, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate

Hans Richter, Music, c. 1916, linoleum cut on wove paper, published in Die Aktion, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, purchased with funds provided by Anna Bing Arnold, Museum Associates Acquisition Fund, and deaccession funds, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate

While exhibitions presented the works of major artists, galleries and periodicals became a platform for the new generation; the journal Der Sturm (The Storm), published by Herwarth Walden, gave voice to a varied range of young painters, writers, and poets. Walden’s Galerie Sturm in Berlin similarly showcased young German and foreign artists, such as Georg Muche, the Austrian Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka, and the American Albert Bloch, and also introduced Futurism to the German art world. Die Aktion (The Action), a left-wing literary magazine published by Franz Pfemfert, featured the artworks of many Expressionists and politically involved artists, among them Hans Richter.

Georg Muche, Self-Portrait, c. 1920, gelatin-silver print, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, © Georg Muche Estate

Georg Muche, Self-Portrait, c. 1920, gelatin-silver print, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, © Georg Muche Estate

In Times of War and Revolution

But then the war came. When World War I (1914–18) broke out, numerous artists embraced the patriotic idea of fighting for their homeland. Many of them quickly became disillusioned with the war and ideological militarism.

Conrad Felixmüller, Soldier in a Madhouse (Soldat im Irrenhaus), 1918, lithograph printed in red and blue-violet on laid paper, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Conrad Felixmüller Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn

Conrad Felixmüller, Soldier in a Madhouse (Soldat im Irrenhaus), 1918, lithograph printed in red and blue-violet on laid paper, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Conrad Felixmüller Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn

Richter was enlisted but was wounded a few months later and was discharged from service. He lost his younger brother on the front and many of his fellow artists were killed, among them Franz Marc and August Macke. Those who survived were hoping for a better and more equal society and many became actively involved in politics; some associated with Marxist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, founders of the Spartacus League. Richter, along with other artists, associated with the communist government in Munich, which had succeeded the Bavarian Council Republic.

Julius Ussy Engelhard, Bolschewismus bringt Krieg, Arbeitslosigkeit und Hungersnot (Bolshevism Brings War, Unemployment, and Famine), 1918, lithograph printed in red, yellow, brown, and black on wove paper, Gift of the Robert Gore Rifkind Collection, Beverly Hills, CA, © Julius Ussy Engelhard Estate

Julius Ussy Engelhard, Bolschewismus bringt Krieg, Arbeitslosigkeit und Hungersnot (Bolshevism Brings War, Unemployment, and Famine), 1918, lithograph printed in red, yellow, brown, and black on wove paper, Gift of the Robert Gore Rifkind Collection, Beverly Hills, CA, © Julius Ussy Engelhard Estate

But the revolutionary spirit was soon brought down: Liebknecht and Luxemburg were murdered in January 1919 by the Freikorps, a German paramilitary organization. And in May the revolution in Munich was crushed. The murders and the extreme violence which reigned in Germany were echoed in works of artists, such as Käthe Kollwitz, who was not a communist but expressed sorrow in the face of death and a longing for a better world in her prints.

Käthe Kollwitz, Gedenkblatt für Karl Liebknecht (Commemorative Print for Karl Liebknecht), 1919, lithograph on heavy Papier Lipsia, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Käthe Kollwitz Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn

Käthe Kollwitz, Gedenkblatt für Karl Liebknecht (Commemorative Print for Karl Liebknecht), 1919, lithograph on heavy Papier Lipsia, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Käthe Kollwitz Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn

The Faith in a New Society

The desire for social reform was expressed in an almost religious way by some of Richter’s contemporaries, who saw the revolution as the dawn of a new age of freedom.

Constantin von Mitschke-Collande, Freiheit (Freedom), 1919, woodcut on laid paper, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Constantin von Mitschke-Collande Estate

Constantin von Mitschke-Collande, Freiheit (Freedom), 1919, woodcut on laid paper, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © Constantin von Mitschke-Collande Estate

Breaking with the past, many artists rejected Expressionism as part of the old social order, and sought a new expressive potential in abstract forms, leading toward Constructivism. Others turned to a sober and direct realism that found its most notable expression in Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), a movement that championed a departure from subjective interpretations and a devotion to the object. In photography, artists such as Hans Finsler, August Sander, and Else Thalemann focused on industrial buildings and workers, abandoning old aesthetic criteria to concentrate on structure and form.

Else Thalemann, Untitled (From the series Industrie Ruhrgebiet), c. 1925, gelatin silver print, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Else Thalemann Estate

Else Thalemann, Untitled (From the series Industrie Ruhrgebiet), c. 1925, gelatin silver print, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Else Thalemann Estate

Although this exhibition is only meant to give an overview, the works on view illustrate the exceptional richness of artistic life in Germany in the first decades of the twentieth century, diminished by the war but rebuilt from ashes, and contribute to a better understanding of today’s society and art.

Frauke Josenhans, Curatorial Assistant, Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies


This Weekend at LACMA: Mapplethorpe Closes, Queer Cinema, Ed Ruscha Book Signing, Family Events, and More

March 22, 2013

Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ was the first exhibition LACMA presented since its joint acquisition of the photographer’s art and archives in 2011, and it features some of the controversial artist’s most provocative material. If you haven’t seen the exhibition already, this weekend is your last chance—it closes on Sunday. (A concurrent exhibition at the Getty, In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe, also closes this weekend.)

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

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

As detailed on Unframed earlier this week, in conjunction with the closing of Mapplethorpe we will be re-staging a landmark pro-Mapplethorpe, anti-censorship demonstration that took place at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1989, in which Mapplethorpe’s photographs were projected onto the exterior walls of the museum. The re-staged demonstration will happen outside of the Ahmanson Building on Saturday at 6:30 pm. Bookending the demonstration are screenings that are part of an evening of films, Outlawed! Queer Cinema Before the Culture Wars. The first program begins at 5 pm, with a series of short films by Jean Genet, Jack Smith, and Kenneth Anger (the latter, Scorpio Rising, stars Marlon Brandon); the second segment is comprised of Andy Warhol’s My Hustler and Gus Van Sant’s feature debut, Mala Noche.

Opening this weekend just across the way from the Mapplethorpe exhibition is Between Art and Politics: Hans Richter’s Germany, a show that sets the stage for our large-scale survey of Richter’s work, Hans Richter: Encounters, which opens May 5 (or become a member and see it even sooner). This smaller show includes works by Cézanne, Kandinsky, and others—stay tuned to Unframed next week for more on this show.

Conrad Felixmüller,Soldier in a Madhouse (Soldat im Irrenhaus), 1918, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies

Conrad Felixmüller,Soldier in a Madhouse (Soldat im Irrenhaus), 1918, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies

Other exhibitions are coming to an end soon, if you haven’t had a chance to see them—Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection and Walter De Maria: The 2000 Sculpture both close next week. Check out all of the exhibitions on view now for a full list of things to choose from.

Ed Ruscha fans—you have a chance to meet the man himself at a book signing and reception in Art Catalogues on Sunday afternoon. Ruscha’s son, Eddie Ruscha, will DJ the event with selections from the elder Ed’s personal record collection.

Ed Ruscha, Actual Size, 1962, anonymous gift through the Contemporary Art Council, © 2012 Edward J. Ruscha IV. All rights reserved. Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Ed Ruscha, Actual Size, 1962, anonymous gift through the Contemporary Art Council, © 2012 Edward J. Ruscha IV. All rights reserved. Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

For those of you looking to bring the little ones to the museum this weekend, there are a few great opportunities to keep in mind. On Saturday you can take part in free family tours of the collection, where gallery educators will provide some kid-friendly insight into Metropolis II, the Egyptian collection, and other highlights. Sunday, as always, is the day for Andell Family Sundays—free art-making activities and tours of the collection. (Tours on both days are offered in English and Spanish.) This Sunday we also have a special activity in the form of Act!vated Story Theatre, who will be telling Tales of Ambition and Dreaming Big.

Finally, the weekend concludes with our weekly free chamber music series, Sundays Live. This weekend pianist Abbey Simon will perform Beethoven’s Sonata in G major, Opus 14, No. 2, plus other works by Schumann, Ravel, and Prokofiev.

Scott Tennent


The Perfect Moment Protest: Q&A with Bill Wooby

March 20, 2013
On June 30, 1989, a group of Washington, D.C.-based curators, artists and activists gathered at the Corcoran Gallery of Art to protest the shuttering of the Mapplethorpe retrospective The Perfect Moment. The centerpiece of the demonstration was a projection onto the museum’s exterior wall, consisting of ten works included in the censored exhibition. Beginning and ending with a self-portrait of Mapplethorpe, the projection was a spectral reminder of the influence and significance of the artist, who had died only a few months earlier from complications of AIDS. One of the most potent responses to the censorship of Mapplethorpe’s art, the demonstration marked a high moment in the so-called “Culture Wars” of the late 1980s and early 1990s that emerged in response to attempts to limit government sponsorship of the arts. This Saturday, to mark the final days of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ, LACMA will recreate this landmark projection on the wall of the Ahmanson Building. Ryan Linkof, a Ralph M. Parsons Curatorial Fellow in LACMA’s Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, spoke with Bill Wooby, one of the original organizers of the demonstration, about the cultural impact and legacy of that event.
  
Frank Herrera, photograph of The Perfect Moment protest, June 30, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Frank Herrera

Frank Herrera, photograph of The Perfect Moment protest, June 30, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Frank Herrera

How did the Corcoran protest come about? Whose idea was it and how did you get involved?

A number of artists and curators got together at the Washington Project for the Arts to discuss the canceling of The Perfect Moment exhibition by the board of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and to come up with ideas about how we might respond. My friend Andrea Pollan (at the time the Director of the Wentworth Gallery in Washington, DC) said we should project the pictures onto the wall of the Corcoran. Of course everyone was very excited and supported the idea. My primary responsibilities were PR and fundraising. Before the event, the Washington Post and the New York Times published articles explaining the demonstration and how the images would be shown. Shortly after the cancellation, a gay organization had a demonstration in front of the Corcoran, focusing on Mapplethorpe as a gay artist. Our arts organization focused more on Mapplethorpe as an artist with creative freedom.

Fundraiser event at the Collector Art Gallery and Restaurant, June 30, 1989.  © Bill Wooby

Fundraiser event at the Collector Art Gallery and Restaurant, June 30, 1989. © Bill Wooby

Explain a bit about the process of putting the projection (and accompanying event) together. What needed to be done to pull this off?

First, we had Mapplethorpe catalogues from the exhibit at the Whitney Museum and from the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, and we chose photographs from those catalogues. Each image cost us $75 dollars to turn into a slide. We had to rent a projector from New York City, which was picked up by light and projection artist Rockne Krebs. In 1989 there were no digital projectors. If we had one, we could have shown the whole collection on the Corcoran by scanning each page. We created committees for different tasks such as postcard mailings, and contacting newspapers, TV and radio stations. We had just two weeks to organize our event!

Pat Buchanan, the radio talk show host, invited someone from our group to be on his show to talk about censorship and Robert Mapplethorpe. I asked if he had seen any Mapplethorpe exhibits, and, if not, I didn’t want to talk with him. We never heard back from him.

I received a number of obscene phone calls before the demonstration, saying things like I should be sent to hell for showing pornography. I also received a bomb threat one morning while I was at my restaurant, the Collector Art Gallery and Restaurant—the person warned that the bomb would go off in fifteen minutes. I went outside and waited fifteen minutes… when nothing happened I went back inside.

The evening of the demonstration, we had a fundraiser at the restaurant from 5 to 8pm. The date of the event was June 30, 1989, the same day that was scheduled for the original opening. We charged $25 per person for the event. We served hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and provided materials for participants to make their own protest signs. My personal favorite sign was one made by artist Kathleen Bober, “Free the Penis!” Around 8pm, we all got on buses that we rented and went to the Corcoran for the event. After the demonstration, participants went to galleries on DuPont Circle and R Street, NW, or back to the Collector to party until the wee hours.

Frank Herrera, photograph of The Perfect Moment protest, June 30, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Frank Herrera

Frank Herrera, photograph of The Perfect Moment protest, June 30, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Frank Herrera

Why this particular format—a projection?  I’ve read some interpretations that the projected image of Mapplethorpe served as a kind of ghostly evocation—which is quite poignant given that he died only months before. Was the projection meant to carry this kind of symbolic weight?  Who selected the images that appeared, and what were the criteria for selection? Did you purposefully avoid including the more sexually explicit images?

Rockne was the leader in choosing images with a group of artists. We only had so much money and we spent around $7,000 on this event including the buses, projector, and other things. I donated food and beverages from my restaurant. The first people who became upset about the Mapplethorpe exhibit cancellation were people from outside of Washington, DC. The first money donated to our cause came in from a man in Albany, who read about it in the New York Times and called me to find out more about it. The Robert Miller Gallery in New York (Robert Mapplethorpe’s dealer) donated $1,000, and others donated money as well. There was no support from the Mapplethorpe foundation. They thought it would take away from Robert’s image—they didn’t want to focus on the negatives. We were told not to use any images of individuals. We received no criticism of the images we selected from the people who attended the protest. Our selections were based on our desire to showcase the wide scope of Mapplethorpe’s work. We didn’t make a point to avoid including the more sexually explicit images; it just worked out that way. Jesse Helms was upset before even seeing the images to be displayed. I think the only image he saw was the invitation which had biracial men showing affection.

Melody with Edward Mapplethorpe, the Collector Art Gallery and Restaurant, June 30, 1989.  © Bill Wooby

Melody with Edward Mapplethorpe, the Collector Art Gallery and Restaurant, June 30, 1989. © Bill Wooby

Who turned out for the event?  Who was notably absent?

Andrea and I tried to contact different celebrities that Mapplethorpe photographed. Sigourney Weaver and Patti Smith and other celebrities did not want to get involved for personal reasons.  Andres Serrano did not want to be involved because of what he went through with the National Endowment of the Arts and Jesse Helms. The people who did show up were Edward Mapplethorpe (Robert’s brother), Melody, and Harry Lunn (Mapplethorpe dealer in DC). Early on we did not expect many people to show up based on the verbal response I received from artists and dealers. One dealer said to me, “Why should I worry, my artists aren’t gay,” and another artist said, “Why should I care? I don’t get any money from the National Endowment of the Arts.” There were other dealers at the time who were not supportive because they were worried about offending their Republican customers. I received a phone call from a gay organization called Act Up who wanted to know if they could come down and be part of the demonstration. I said yes. I received a phone call from another gay organization and I told them that Act Up was coming from NYC. When I told the woman about this, she became very worried and told me I should have insurance on my equipment. She told me that Act Up might destroy the equipment, destroy the Corcoran, or block traffic. I was very worried. This information came to me two days prior to the demonstration. I was very relieved that Act Up did not attend. We had gay and artist organizations that gave speeches at the demonstration and we had the projections. Cheers started when the photograph of Mapplethorpe was shown on the wall of the Corcoran. Reporters at the event said that they had not seen so much press in Washington for anything that was non-government related.

Christina Orr-Cahall received considerable negative attention for her decision to close the Perfect Moment exhibition. How did Orr-Cahall and the Corcoran respond to or get involved in this event?

Christina Orr-Cahall and the Corcoran board could have stopped us from creating the projection, but she let us use the property, close off the street, and project images on the building. I spoke to her ahead of time and she gave us permission. I give her a lot of credit because I feel that her story about the events leading up to the cancellation and events after has not yet been told. The NEA told me they could not support us but they were there for the event.

Frank Herrera, photograph of The Perfect Moment protest, June 30, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Frank Herrera

Frank Herrera, photograph of The Perfect Moment protest, June 30, 1989, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Frank Herrera

This event garnered a huge amount of attention at the time, including on the cover of the September 1989 issue of Artforum . What kind of response did you get, and how has it endured?

Out of all the photographs taken of the demonstration, we chose to use Frank Herrera’s photos because he used a large-format camera. His photo of Robert Mapplethorpe’s portrait projected on the Corcoran Gallery building was on Artforum magazine and other publications around the world. The publisher of Artforum said that they sold more copies of that magazine than any other issue they had published.

The response to the demonstration was in general very positive. I received phone calls and letters from publications, radio and television stations from all over the world. They requested copies of Frank Herrera’s photos. The event was well remembered—years later I still received letters and phone calls.

We did receive some negative response about the demonstration. I was asked to leave two galleries in Washington, DC because of my involvement in the demonstration. A couple weeks after the event, talk show host Phil Donahue showed Mapplethorpe photographs to the audience on his television show and asked them if they wanted their tax dollars to support the arts. The audience responded “no.”  So I suppose we didn’t change everyone’s mind, although I think we made a lasting point.


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