2013 Collectors Committee Acquires Nine Works for LACMA

April 15, 2013

Since 1986, LACMA’s annual Collectors Committee Gala has resulted in numerous important acquisitions in all areas of the museum’s collection. This weekend the Collectors Committee added nine more. For the event, Collectors Committee members create a pool for acquisitions funds and then use those funds to vote for artworks presented by LACMA curators earlier in the day. In the final tally, LACMA raised more than $3.2 million—a record for the event—toward seven artworks. On top of that, Collectors Committee sponsor JPMorgan made a gift of two more works from the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection: a photograph by Robert Frank, St. Francis and Gas Station, and City Hall—Los Angeles, from his iconic series The Americans; and a portfolio of seventy-five mixed-media works on paper made by Ed Ruscha in 1969, Stains.

Here’s a rundown of the artworks acquired over the weekend:

Mother and Child Figure for the Gwan Association, Republic of Mali, Bamana Peoples, 1432-1644 (carbon 14 testing), gift of the 2013 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by Kelvin Davis and Bobby Kotick

Mother and Child Figure for the Gwan Association, Republic of Mali, Bamana Peoples, 1432-1644 (carbon 14 testing), gift of the 2013 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by Kelvin Davis and Bobby Kotick

The first African sculpture to be acquired in Collectors Committee history is a Mother and Child Figure for the Gwan Association is one of the oldest surviving wood sculptures from Africa. The figure embodies continuity of generations and represents the strength and resilience of motherhood. This important acquisition marks the launching of LACMA’s new African art gallery and related educational and outreach programming. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition will be Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa, on view from July 7, 2013 to January 5, 2014.

Mountain Avatar (Zaō Gongen),  Japan, late Heian period, c. 1180, gift of the 2013 Collectors Committee

Mountain Avatar (Zaō Gongen), Japan, late Heian period, c. 1180, gift of the 2013 Collectors Committee

This wood sculpture of a Shinto deity features three crystal eyes and retains its original colors and surface from the late twelfth century; it is the oldest and finest sculpture of its type in existence.

Seated Buddha, Korea, Goryeo dynasty, 10th century, gift of the 2013 Collectors Committee

Seated Buddha, Korea, Goryeo dynasty, 10th century, gift of the 2013 Collectors Committee

A rare Korean cast iron Buddha sculpture from the tenth century Goryeo dynasty depicts the historical Buddha Shakyamuni’s Enlightenment at Bodha Gaya in India; this acquisition makes this the largest example of Goryeo Buddhist sculpture outside of Asia.

Julio Le Parc, Mural: Virtual Circles (Mural Cercles Virtuelles), 1964–66, purchased with funds provided by Debbie and Mark Attanasio, Jane and Marc Nathanson, Jane and Terry Semel, the Loreen Arbus Foundation, Alyce Woodward Oppenheimer, Janet Dreisen Rappaport and Herb Rappaport and an anonymous donor through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Julio Le Parc, Mural: Virtual Circles (Mural Cercles Virtuelles), 1964–66, purchased with funds provided by Debbie and Mark Attanasio, Jane and Marc Nathanson, Jane and Terry Semel, the Loreen Arbus Foundation, Alyce Woodward Oppenheimer, Janet Dreisen Rappaport and Herb Rappaport and an anonymous donor through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Mural: Virtual Circles is paradigmatic of Julio Le Parc’s visual experimentations with kinetic and optical effects, as well as his life-long interest in viewer participation. Seen from the front, the sculpture is deceptively static, but with just a slight displacement from the viewer it becomes fully activated, at once dizzying and alluring. This sculpture is already on view now, in our new permanent galleries for Latin American art.
James Turrell, Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site),1985-87, purchased with funds provided by Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth, Paul Fleming, Suzanne and Ric Kayne, and Pamela and Jarl Mohn through the 2013 Collectors Committee

James Turrell, Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site),1985-87, purchased with funds provided by Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth, Paul Fleming, Suzanne and Ric Kayne, and Pamela and Jarl Mohn through the 2013 Collectors Committee

This large-scale model of James Turrell’s ongoing project, Roden Crater is made from plaster as well as elements from the crater itself and includes details of the geologic contours, textures, and colors of the Arizona site in relation to the exterior of artist’s planned transformations. It will be on view as part of James Turrell: A Retrospective, opening May 26, 2013 and running through April 6, 2014.

Thomas Demand, Control Room, 2011, purchased with funds provided by Willow Bay and Bob Iger and Steve Tisch through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Thomas Demand, Control Room, 2011, purchased with funds provided by Willow Bay and Bob Iger and Steve Tisch through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Thomas Demand’s Control Room shows the interior of the Daiichi power plant in Fukushima following the East Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, based on a cell-phone snapshot, recreated by the artist as a full-size paper model, and then photographed.

Susan Hefuna, Woman behind Mashrabiya I, 1997, gift of Ann Colgin and Joe Wender, Kelvin Davis, John and Carolyn Diemer, Andy Gordon and Carlo Brandon, Deborah McLeod, and David and Mary Solomon through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Susan Hefuna, Woman behind Mashrabiya I, 1997, gift of Ann Colgin and Joe Wender, Kelvin Davis, John and Carolyn Diemer, Andy Gordon and Carlo Brandon, Deborah McLeod, and David and Mary Solomon through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Woman behind Mashrabiya I, by Egyptian-German artist Susan Hefuna, depicts the elusive silhouette of a woman in full hejab behind a mashrabiya, a latticed wood window screen characteristic of traditional Islamic architecture. Hefuna’s use of the mashrabiya not only reflects her own personal East-West dichotomy, but also serves as a reminder that our visual perceptions are often culturally encoded.

Scott Tennent


This Weekend at LACMA: Hokusai Opens, Family Activities, Mexican Silver Talk, and More

April 12, 2013

Some of the great masterpieces of our Japanese art collection are by the famous artist Katsushika Hokusai, who lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition to iconic works like The Great Wave and South Wind, Clear Dawn, our holdings of Hokusai prints have dramatically increased in the last few years, thanks to a remarkable gift in 2006 from the Joan Elizabeth Tanney Bequest, followed by a gift of the complete set of eight prints from Hokusai’s series A Tour of Waterfalls in the Provinces. Opening Saturday in the Pavilion for Japanese Art is Japanese Prints: Hokusai at LACMA—our first Hokusai exhibition since 1997. This is a great opportunity to see a variety of masterful prints by this incredible, influential artist.

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830–31, gift of the Frederick R. Weisman Company

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830–31, gift of the Frederick R. Weisman Company

You may also notice something a little less traditional inside the Bruce Goff-designed Pavilion for Japanese Art—intervention is by Stephen Prina, related to his As He Remembered It exhibition on view across campus in BCAM, which opened last week. (FYI: Prina will be at LACMA next week for a free conversation with Michael Govan, plus a screening of Prina’s film The Way He Always Wanted It II, which also takes Bruce Goff’s architecture as its subject.)

Finally, while you’re in the pavilion, make some time to see our most recent major acquisition—Cranes, by Maruyama Okyo, created a generation earlier than Hokusai’s prints. Cranes a beautiful pair of screens depicting seventeen cranes—twelve Red-crowned cranes, five White-naped cranes—surrounded by gold leaf on paper.

Maruyama Okyo, Cranes (detail), 1772 (An’ei period, 1772-1780), gift of Camilla Chandler Frost in honor of Robert T. Singer

Maruyama Okyo, Cranes (detail), 1772 (An’ei period, 1772-1780), gift of Camilla Chandler Frost in honor of Robert T. Singer

There’s a lot happening on the east side of our campus at the moment, in addition to all the activity in the Japanese Pavilion. Inside the Hammer Building you’ll find Ming Masterpieces from the Shanghai Museum—the title says it all, but let me add that these are masterpieces rarely seen in the United States. Across the way you’ll find the ever-popular Stanley Kubrick (did you read the excellent article about Kubrick in Entertainment Weekly?).

2001: A Space Odyssey, set photo, directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1965-68

2001: A Space Odyssey, set photo, directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1965-68

Upstairs from Kubrick is our new installation of works from our permanent collection of Latin American art. L.A. Weekly spoke to curator Ilona Katzew about the new installation, which includes objects from ancient to contemporary times, including recent gifts or Mexican modernist silver. We talked about that on Unframed earlier this week; come to LACMA on Sunday for a free talk on the subject.

Installation view, Latin American art galleries

Installation view, Latin American art galleries

For families, both Saturday and Sunday offer great opportunities for fun. On Saturday, start your morning at Charles White Elementary School for a viewing of Shinique Smith: Firsthand, which features works by artist Smith, objects from LACMA’s costume and textiles collection, and art by Charles White students. We’ll have tours of the exhibition, a scavenger hunt, and art projects—all for free. If you prefer to head straight to LACMA instead, get here in time for bilingual Family Tours of the permanent collection. On Sunday we’ve got our usual FREE Andell Family Sunday activities.

Shinique Smith, Swaying Beauty, 2007, gift of Schiff Fine Art, © 2013 Shinique Smith, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Shinique Smith, Swaying Beauty, 2007, gift of Schiff Fine Art, © 2013 Shinique Smith, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Close out your weekend with a free Sundays Live performance from the Colburn School Orchestra (Maxim Eskenazy, conductor), performing pieces by Vivaldi and Telemann.

Scott Tennent


Modern Mexican Silver: Reflections across Time

April 11, 2013

Recently LACMA received a gift of some 80 pieces of Mexican modernist silver dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. A selection of these objects is on view in the newly reinstalled Latin American galleries. LACMA’s curator and department head of Latin American Art Ilona Katzew sat down with Dr. Penny Morrill, a scholar of Mexican modernist silver at George Masson University to discuss the history of these fascinating objects and their recent gift to the museum. Dr. Morrill will also be at LACMA on Sunday afternoon for a free talk and book-signing.

Frederick Walter Davis, "Swirl Glyph Cuff Bracelet," c. 1935, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

Frederick Walter Davis, “Swirl Glyph Cuff Bracelet,” c. 1935, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

Ilona Katzew: Penny, you’re a noted expert on Mexican modernist silver; what got you interested in the subject?

Penny Morrill: My grandparents had the first tourist hotel in Taxco (1931–42), the Hotel Taxqueño, and my mother was born and raised there. When I was 17, I accompanied my grandmother when she returned for a visit with her good friend William Spratling. He showed us around the ranch and we spent a great deal of that time looking at his pre-Columbian collection. This experience and my family’s connection to Mexico led to my decision to study Mexican art and to my fascination with the Taxco silver phenomenon.

IK: People are generally familiar with the name of William Spratling, the architect from New Orleans who established a workshop in Taxco in 1931 and reinvigorated the town’s economy by employing hundreds of local artisans. He was also a brilliant marketing strategist. Could you tell us what drew Spratling to Mexico and some of his achievements?

PM: The archaeologist Frans Blom, founder of Tulane University’s Middle American Research Institute, gave a presentation in New Orleans about his recent finds. Spratling, who was on the faculty of the School of Architecture at Tulane, became enthralled with Mexican culture and, in 1926, began teaching an annual summer course on Mexican colonial architecture at the national university in Mexico City. He received a book contract and, in 1929, resigned from his faculty position at Tulane to buy a house in Taxco and write Little Mexico. Spratling decided to stay and, in order to make a living, he organized a small silver workshop and went into production in 1931. While he is considered one of the foremost silver designers in the world, Spratling was lionized in his own time for the creation of a model industry. Warner Brothers did a documentary about him in 1946 and, in 1949, Spratling was asked by the U.S. government to replicate his workshop in Alaska. A pragmatic visionary, Spratling’s success derived from an emphasis on process rather than product in a handwrought industry, a workshop hierarchy based on ability, the use of local materials combined with silver, and the inspiration of pre-Columbian art. Spratling’s approach to production provided employment and training for hundreds of artisans and became a prototype for countless small industries in Mexico.

William Spratling, Alaska Mask Necklace, 1949, silver, baleen from either a bowhead or blue whale, Alaskan or pinto abalone, gift of Penny Morrill, McLean, Virginia

William Spratling, “Alaska Mask Necklace,” 1949, silver, baleen from either a bowhead or blue whale, Alaskan or pinto abalone, gift of Penny Morrill, McLean, Virginia

IK: Frederick Walter Davis was another American who was a major catalyst in the development of the silver design industry in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. Did he know Spratling? How did their projects intersect?

PM: Fred Davis would have been one of the first people Spratling encountered in Mexico City. In the 1920s, Davis’s gallery in the Palacio de Iturbide Hotel had become a lively center for the exchange of art and ideas, drawing both Mexican and international artists and intellectuals. Spratling’s architectural drawings were exhibited at the gallery. Rene d’Harnoncourt, who arrived from Austria in 1926, worked with Davis in the development of the gallery. In 1934, he emigrated to the United States, later serving as director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1949–1967). Davis, d’Harnoncourt, and Spratling collaborated on designing and furnishing Ambassador and Mrs. Dwight Morrow’s home, Casa Mañana, in Cuernavaca, the couple’s retreat while Morrow was American ambassador to Mexico (1927–1930). In the late 1920s, Davis was producing a line of jewelry based on pre-Columbian sculpture and contemporary folk art. This jewelry provided inspiration for Spratling’s first designs in silver and, in those early years, Spratling sold his work in Davis’s gallery.

William Spratling, "Quetzalcóatl Head Brooch," 1938–44, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

William Spratling, “Quetzalcóatl Head Brooch,” 1938–44, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

William Spratling, "Jaguar Brooch," c. 1940–46, silver and amethyst, gift of the Goddard Family in memory of Phyllis Goddard, Los Angeles

William Spratling, “Jaguar Brooch,” c. 1940–46, silver and amethyst, gift of the Goddard Family in memory of Phyllis Goddard, Los Angeles

IK: Aside from Spratling, there were other important designers who established equally successful workshops and created astonishing objects. Part of your life’s work, in fact, has been to give these designers their due.  Who, in your estimation, are some of the most salient artists?

PM: According to most Taxquenians, one of the greatest silver designers in twentieth-century Mexico was Valentín Vidaurreta, who collaborated with Fred Davis, Spratling, and Héctor Aguilar. Vidaurreta’s art education in Spain and Paris enabled him to interpret the three-dimensionality of pre-Columbian sculpture with a refined simplicity of line and surface. He was also a master at reproducing in repoussage the flowers from his spectacular gardens. Margot van Voorhies has recently received her due as an extraordinarily gifted and prolific designer at Los Castillo and then on her own at Margot de Taxco. Chato Castillo became a significant design force at Los Castillo after 1950, and Salvador Teran and Sigi Pineda emerged from that workshop to establish their own unique jewelry designs. In Mexico City, Matilde Poulat (MATL) designed and produced jewelry that I consider to be some of the most interesting and exciting work from the period.

Photo by Juan Guzmán of Héctor Aguilar, Antonio Pineda, William Spratling, and Antonio Castillo, c. 1955. Collection of the Latin American Library, Tulane University

Photo by Juan Guzmán of Héctor Aguilar, Antonio Pineda, William Spratling, and Antonio Castillo, c. 1955. Collection of the Latin American Library, Tulane University

IK : Another question that inevitably comes to mind, is who were making these objects, and what was the relationship between the designers and craftsmen?

PM: I have come to realize that the object could not have existed had it not been for the artistic dialogue between designer and maestro. Spratling’s drawings, while occasionally on the backs of envelopes, were fairly complete concepts. However, Spratling was dependent on Marcial Chávez’s genius as a silversmith to interpret the drawing in the production of the silver object that became the prototype for the workshop. Two gifted maestros, Enrique Ledesma and Alfonso Ruiz Mondragón, were chosen by Spratling to produce the prototypes for the Alaska project, one of which is the beautiful mask necklace illustrated above. Master silversmiths at Héctor Aguilar’s “Taller Borda,” Adan Alvarado, Luis Flores, and Julio Carbajal López, are remembered for their contributions. The jewelry signed by Antonio Pineda resulted from the teamwork of an extraordinary group of maestros, including Bruno Rafael Pineda, José María Pineda, Filiberto Gómez, and Luis Montes de Oca. Tane perhaps best exemplifies this dialogue in the Art/Object series, in which renowned artists are given the opportunity to design an object in silver and to collaborate with a maestro in its production.

IK: What I find so fascinating is how Mexico, 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, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe. What role do you think the silver industry played in attracting these personalities? 

PM: Art was the language of revolution in twentieth-century Mexico, and the world was drawn by the power of art to enact change. Scholars, artists, authors, communists, and musicians traveled to Taxco for its beauty and to observe the realization of social and economic change wrought by the silver industry. Stuart Chase, Katherine Anne Porter, Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, and John Dos Passos were among the early cultural pilgrims, as were Aldous Huxley, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Chief White Eagle of Oklahoma, George Gershwin, Leopold Stokowski, and the renowned costume designer Adrian of Hollywood (Dorothy’s red slippers). Other Hollywood luminaries who made their way to Taxco were director John Ford, Leslie Howard, Linda Darnell, Lana Turner, Mae West, Dolores del Río, Errol Flynn, Henry Ford, Paulette Goddard, and many more. These visitors brought home silver jewelry and decorative objects embellished with “exotic” motifs derived from Aztec and Mayan art that became emblems of the new Mexico.

Photo by Florence Arquin of Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán, wearing a necklace made for her by Frederick Davis with a Tlatilco ceramic figure on a silver plaque (detail), 1949, photo: courtesy of Spencer Throckmorton, New York

Photo by Florence Arquin of Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán, wearing a necklace made for her by Frederick Davis with a Tlatilco ceramic figure on a silver plaque (detail), 1949, photo: courtesy of Spencer Throckmorton, New York

IK: Many of the works in LACMA’s inaugural gift reveal a fascination with indigenous cultures and ancient Mesoamerican forms and materials. How did these motifs fit within the larger vogue for all things Mexican, and also the archaeological discoveries of the time? 

PM: Spratling owned reproductions of the Codexes Vindobonensis, Fejérváry-Mayer, and Nuttall as part of an extensive library on pre-Columbian art. He shared his passion for collecting with Josué Sáenz, Miguel Covarrubias, Diego Rivera, and Roberto Montenegro, and with North Americans Nelson Rockefeller, Robert Woods Bliss, Gillett G. Griffin, and Morton D. May. Spratling visited archeological sites and knew many of the notable archaeologists and scholars in Mexico, among them, Ignacio Bernal, Herbert J. Spinden, Alfonso Caso, and George Vaillant. Caso’s discovery in 1931 of the gold treasure in Monte Albán’s Tomb 7, in Oaxaca, directly influenced the work of designers in Taxco and throughout Mexico. Most of these Mexican jewelers resisted slavish imitation and moved to subtle and suggestive borrowings, all the while retaining symbolic references. The resonance of these works reveals the fascination with indigenous culture, which was shared by those who made the silver and by those who bought it. Today these silver designs remain powerful and sensuous artistic statements.

Left: William Spratling, "Tree of Life Brooch," c. 1938–44, silver and copper. Gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California; Right: "Xochiquetzal," from the "Codex Fejérváry-Mayer," Nahua, Mexico, 1350–1500, World Museum, Liverpool, Great Britain, folio 29, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Left: William Spratling, “Tree of Life Brooch,” c. 1938–44, silver and copper. Gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California; Right: “Xochiquetzal,” from the “Codex Fejérváry-Mayer,” Nahua, Mexico, 1350–1500, World Museum, Liverpool, Great Britain, folio 29, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

IK: Finally, Penny, why is it so significant to represent these works at LACMA and in Los Angeles?

PM: Something almost magical took place in Taxco during the twentieth century. Vast numbers of designs poured out of the workshops where there seemed to be no limits on creativity and experimentation. Marked by technical and stylistic innovation, the jewelry and decorative objects are a worthy match to the modernist Mexican paintings on display at LACMA. The museum is the first in the world to develop a collection of Mexican twentieth-century silver and, as a result of the generosity of collectors from across the United States, LACMA has been able to acquire extraordinary examples of the silversmith’s art. Los Angeles has strong ties to Mexico, and these will only be strengthened by LACMA’s efforts to represent the full range of Mexico’s artistic output. This silver collection will become the benchmark for the future, as inspiration for connoisseurs, artists, and designers. In future years, museum visitors will get the opportunity to view new work by young contemporary designers working in Mexico today. The exciting aspect of Mexican silver is that there is always something new to discover. Even more fun is that you can set your table with Mexican silver candlesticks, bowls, and flatware and then wear Mexican jewelry to the party!


A Walking Tour of MacArthur Park

April 10, 2013

My earliest memory of MacArthur Park is from the mid 1970s. My sister was taking a painting class for high school students at Otis College of Art and Design. I was allowed to hang out in the class even though I was only about six or seven. I remember painting the park from a second floor view out a window. The old Otis campus is now Charles White Elementary School. The LACMA art education exhibition Shinique Smith: Firsthand is now on view at the school and features works by the artist and objects from the LACMA’s Costume and Textiles collection. This weekend is a great time to visit the exhibition as we will be presenting a free family and community day on Saturday from 10am–2pm. Drop by for free family tours, art-making, and scavenger hunts before heading out to explore the art in the neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 10.44.22 AM

MacArthur Park was originally called Westlake Park. At the time, it was the western terminus of Wilshire Boulevard. It was built in 1890 and was highly influenced by the Olmsted Brothers concept for urban park design. Through the early part of the twentieth century, the park was a vacation destination, with fancy hotels and glamourous visitors and inhabitants. In the 1920s, Wilshire Boulevard was rerouted through the park, dividing it in two. In recent decades, the neighborhood has become a vibrant hub for Central American immigrants.

The best way to get to the MacArthur Park/Westlake neighborhood is by Metro. I really recommend taking the train. (The Redline and Purpleline both stop at the Macarthur Park/Westlake station). Besides that it is fun to take the subway, there is no parking hassle, and you reduce your carbon footprint,  there is some amazing public art in the station.

When you get off the train, you’ll see glimpses of Francisco Letelier’s large tile murals El Sol and La Luna. Walk up to the next level for a better view. The murals flank the northern and southern walls of the station. Images of MacArthur Park community members, landmarks, and laborers are depicted in intense blues, reds, yellows, and oranges. See if you can find a woman sewing, the sun, a father and child, the metro tunnel, and the moon.

Francisco Letelier, El Sol and La Luna

Francisco Letelier

Now look for Sonia Romero’s artwork MacArthur Park: Urban Oasis, a series of porcelain mosaic murals installed at eye level, near the turnstiles on the northside of the station. Romero produced original linoleum cut prints that show scenes from the park and adjacent historical buildings. The prints were then translated into mosaic mural panels. Each panel tells a unique neighborhood story. Can you imagine yourself in one of these scenes? Playing soccer? Eating at Langer’s? Strolling by the water in 1902?

Romero-Tamale Cart

Sonia Romero

Romero-soccer

Romero-night view

Romero-1900s couple

Walk to the center of the station and look up. Into the Light by Therman Statom hangs in a yellow tile skylight. Look for five ordinary objects: house, ladder, leaf, cone, and diamond. Notice the shadow patterns on the floor below, and how the light changes as you move around and under.

Therman Statom

Therman Statom

So much art and we haven’t left the station yet. As you emerge from the station, the first view across the street is the southside of the park. Notice your surroundings. Street vendors selling fresh squeezed orange juice, pupusas, tamales, tortas, CDs. Brightly painted advertisements and signs. Can you find the Westlake Theatre sign? That sign, and others like it around Los Angeles were repaired and refurbished by the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Westlake sign 3

Throughout the park, there are a number of sculptures and murals dating back to 1920. The majority of the sculptures were installed in 1986 and 1987. Walk to the NW corner of Alvarado and Wilshire. Look east, and check out the huge mural of Jaime Escalante and Edward James by Olmos Hector Ponce, Los Angeles Teachers.

Olmos Hector Ponce

Olmos Hector Ponce

Turn around and enter the park. About a quarter of the way into the park, you’ll see a red sculpture elevated on a tall pedestal. You’ve found artist Franco Assetto’s The Big Candy.

Franco Assetto

Franco Assetto

Continue walking past the soccer field and the playground. You’ll see Judy Simonian’s Pyramids. Look for the light blue one and the figure of a man. The tile of his face is missing. What do you think he looks like?

Judy Simonian

Judy Simonian

Continue walking until you walk  out of the park. Look up and check out the entry arch designed by R.M. Fischer. You should be facing Charles White Elementary now. Go check out Firsthand! Before you leave the school campus, look for the Ken Twitchell mural that overlooks the basketball court and faces Carondelet Street. Lucky b-ball players!

Twitchell

Ken Twitchell

On your way back to the station, head in to the southside of the park, by the the lake. Look for George Hermes’ Clocktower-Monument to Unknown and Roger Noble Burnham’s MacArthur Monument. Think about how these artists pay tribute and commemorate.

George Hermes

George Hermes

Burnham

Roger Noble Burnham

As I was walking back to the station, after eating a delicious tamale at Mama’s Hot Tamales, I was thinking about how this neighborhood is so L.A, where we can transform and be anything. Where an art school has become an elementary school; and the kids at Charles White Elementary have their own artwork hanging in a gallery, reflecting the art in their neighborhood and the previous incarnation of their school.

Alicia Vogl Saenz, Senior education coordinator


A Scholarly Visit

April 8, 2013

In the exhibition Ming Masterpieces from the Shanghai Museum is a small handscroll titled Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, painted by the professional artist Jiang Song (act. late fifteenth through the early sixteenth centuries).

Jiang Song, Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, Late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Jiang Song, Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, Late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Jiang Song, Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, Late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Jiang Song, Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, Late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Jiang Song, Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, Late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Jiang Song, Carrying a Zither to Visit a Friend, Late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

The title of the painting summarizes its content:  a scholar, followed by a servant boy carrying a zither, on his way to visit a friend.  At the far left end of the scroll, the scholar walks slowly on a path along a river stream.  At the other end is a simple cottage, hidden in mountain cliffs and trees, housing a friend waiting for the visitor.  The meeting of the two friends is postponed by a long section of landscape that occupies most of the composition.  The handscroll’s theme is strikingly similar to a fourteenth-century lacquer tray on view in the adjacent Chinese gallery.

Unknown, Oval Tray (Duoyuan Pan) with Pavilion on a Garden Terrace, Yuan dynasty, 1279–1368, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Nessley

Unknown, Oval Tray (Duoyuan Pan) with Pavilion on a Garden Terrace, Yuan dynasty, 1279–1368, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Nessley

In a smaller scale and more stylized design, the lacquer tray also presents a scholar on the left, followed by a servant boy, and his friend resting in a studio in a garden on the right.  Subtle difference sets the painting and the tray apart.  In the former, the scholar is on his way to visit the friend, who is anxiously waiting inside the cottage.  The scholar in the lacquer tray, however, has just finished the visit and is returning home.  The friend, who must have enjoyed the visit very much, is drunk and has apparently fallen asleep.  The two pieces complement each other, and tell a lyrical story of scholar-friends gathering for music, art, and drinking.

In both pieces, the servant boy carries a zither, called qin in Chinese.  One of the oldest musical instrument, it is featured prominently in another painting in the exhibition, Playing the Zither in a Pine Valley by Wu Wei (1459–1508).

Wu Wei, Playing the Zither in a Pine Valley, fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Wu Wei, Playing the Zither in a Pine Valley, fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries, Shanghai Museum

Musical cultivation was an essential part of a Confucian scholar’s education, equally important as literature and calligraphy.  Appreciated for its pure and lingering tones, qin is usually associated with the literati culture for its subtle and understated aesthetics.  It is said that the qin music directly reflects the player’s state of mind, with a harmonic melody suggesting the union between the musician, his music, and the universe.  This symbolic meaning is visually manifested in the hanging scroll, where a scholar plays a qin zither in nature on a quiet night.  Completely absorbed by the music, he looks into the distant mountain, and leads our gaze into the expansive background of void and tranquility.  With adept combination of light broad ink wash and jet black swift lines, Wu Wei created an image of harmony between music and painting, and between human and nature.

Music is also the metaphor of friendship in Chinese culture, particularly pertinent to the Jiang Song handscroll and the lacquer tray.  The legend goes that the famous musician Bo Ya was playing qin zither one day in the mountains.  A woodcutter Zhong Ziqi recognized from the sound the high-mindedness of its player.  The two immediately became close friends.  The story, repeatedly told in literature and depicted in paintings, is widely used to symbolize the profound friendship between two similar-minded friends.  We can imagine the two scholars in the painting and the lacquer tray playing the zither at their gathering, appreciating each other’s cultivation in music, and enjoying the company.

Scholars gathering in a garden is one of the most popular and enduring themes in Chinese art, a reflection of the dominant literati culture.  It was envisioned and idealized by many, no matter if by a hermit taking retreat in nature, a professional painter such as Jiang Song, or an affluent enjoying the luxury of a lacquer tray at home.

 

Christina Yu Yu, Assistant Curator, Chinese and Korean Art


This Weekend at LACMA: Stephen Prina Opens, a Double Dose of Sci-fi, and More

April 6, 2013

There’s always something new to discover at LACMA. This weekend is no exception. Debuting on Sunday is Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It. L.A.-based artist Stephen Prina’s installation consists of twenty-eight pieces of furniture painted pink (Pantone Honeysuckle 2011 Color of the Year, to be precise) and arranged to follow the lines of the room. Read more about our newest exhibition and its origins on Unframed. As always, LACMA members see it first—member previews are open right now.

Installation view: Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It (detail), 2011, Los Angeles CountyMuseum of Art, © Stephen Prina; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and PetzelGallery, New York, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Installation view: Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It (detail), 2011, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Stephen Prina; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Petzel Gallery, New York, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

This exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., a series of exhibitions and programs that celebrate the city’s modern architectural heritage. Other arts centers, like the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the J. Paul Getty Museum, are participating as well and have exhibitions on view through July. Check out the Pacific Standard Time website for details on the many other related exhibitions.

Our science-fiction film series, Beyond the Infinite: Science Fiction After Kubrick, concludes with a double-feature tonight. In Robert Altman’s Quintet, Paul Newman wanders through a snowy wasteland into the ruins of a frozen city where he ends up embroiled in a life-threatening game as one of the last members of the human race. The Man Who Fell to Earth caps off the evening with the big screen debut of David Bowie as a derelict extraterrestrial looking to save his home planet, while struggling to overcome the material indulgences of modern man. Originally cut by more than twenty minutes for its U.S. theatrical release, it has now been fully restored.

While you’re here enjoying Stephen Prina and the sci-fi film series, take the opportunity to explore some of our other wonderful exhibitions. For example, in the South and Southeast Asian Art galleries you can see The Temptation of Arjuna: A Tale of Spiritual Triumph, an exhibition that showcases the recent acquisition of a rare Balinese painting. These narrative paintings decorated palace pavilions during royal ceremonies and ritual festivities in the early twentieth century in Bali. Alongside this piece you’ll find a pair of batik garments from the north coast of Java from the same period.

Temptation of Arjuna (detail), Indonesia, Bali, possibly Kamasan (Klungkung), early 20th century, purchased with funds provided by the Southern Asian Art Council, the Ethnic Arts Council, Paula Fouce, Linda Jayne in memory of Allen Jayne, Mark Johnson in memory of Jo Jean Johnson, Arline Lloyd in memory of David Lloyd, Lisa Gimmy, and the South and Southeast Asian Art Deaccession Fund

Temptation of Arjuna (detail), Indonesia, Bali, possibly Kamasan (Klungkung), early 20th century, purchased with funds provided by the Southern Asian Art Council, the Ethnic Arts Council, Paula Fouce, Linda Jayne in memory of Allen Jayne, Mark Johnson in memory of Jo Jean Johnson, Arline Lloyd in memory of David Lloyd, Lisa Gimmy, and the South and Southeast Asian Art Deaccession Fund

This weekend at LACMA also has free family tours on Saturday, free guided tours Saturday and Sunday, free Andell Family Sundays, and a free classical music concert Sunday evening. Find the full schedule here. Did we mention they’re free?

One last thing: no one likes to think about Monday at this point, but—the international premiere of Takashi Murakami’s directorial debut, Jellyfish Eyes, will be held in the Bing Theater at 7:30 pm, followed by a Q&A with the director (thanks to our friends at Film Independent). It’s not “this weekend” but it’s pretty special, so mark your calendars.

Roberto Ayala


Think Pink

April 4, 2013

It’s 1980s Los Angeles. Nighttime. Stephen Prina and fellow artist Christopher Williams walk along La Brea Avenue—yes, people do walk in Los Angeles—and a pink shape in a glowing storefront display catches their attention.   Unable to identify the object, they approach the store and discover the puzzling unit is a desk designed by Austrian architect R.M. Schindler.  Something feels odd about the desk, and the artists soon learn it was once built-in to a Schindler house; but, having been removed from its original architectural context, the desk has been painted pink and is now presented, awkwardly, as a freestanding object.

Looking back on that noteworthy discovery nearly three decades later, Prina says of the desk, “it appeared to us as an amputated limb.” Thus the seed was planted for Prina’s installation As He Remembered It, opening as part of his solo exhibition in BCAM and in the Pavilion for Japanese Art. The exhibition is open to members starting today, and opens to the general public this Sunday, April 7.

Installation view: Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It (detail), 2011, Los Angeles CountyMuseum of Art, © Stephen Prina; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and PetzelGallery, New York, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Installation view: Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It (detail), 2011, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Stephen Prina; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Petzel Gallery, New York, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

In preparation to make the installation, Prina selected the Schindler-designed residences of Mrs. George (Rose) Harris and Hilaire Hiler, constructed in Los Angeles in the 1940s. Both homes have since been demolished.  Using surviving plans and photographs, the artist produced replicas of the built-in furniture, which were placed according to the lines of the room.  The resulting installation consists of twenty-eight objects that the artist first stained and then painted pink, more specifically Pantone Honeysuckle 2011 Color of the Year—a self-touted “brave new color, for a brave new world.”

The effect of As He Remembered It is ghostly.  Closets, sinks, vanities, couches, a piano, and a stairway to nowhere occupy the space; they are arranged neatly in a grid pattern, but their incongruous shapes and symptoms of wear and tear, what Prina refers to as “patina,” betray their tidy presentation.  The slipshod application of paint drips and thickly pools on some surfaces yet remains scarce on others, revealing hints of color that suggest the objects’ previous existence.

Installation view: Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It (detail), 2011, Los Angeles CountyMuseum of Art, © Stephen Prina; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and PetzelGallery, New York, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Installation view: Stephen Prina, As He Remembered It (detail), 2011, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Stephen Prina; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Petzel Gallery, New York, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

If, as Prina says, the objects can be likened to amputated limbs, it’s easy if not natural to feel the phantom sensation of architectural absence.  Although the furniture is firmly rooted to the ground, each piece somehow feels suspended in space, in time, or perhaps in the artist’s memory. Yet, we must remind ourselves that as replicas, these objects were never built-ins and that phantom sensation likely represents our own projections of the objects as furniture rather than the objects as objects.  Ceci n’est pas un placard.

As He Remembered It was originally exhibited at the Secession in Vienna, the hometown of Schindler who later emigrated to the United States and ultimately settled in Los Angeles.  LACMA’s exhibition celebrates a homecoming of sorts for both Prina—based between Los Angeles and Cambridge, where he teaches at Harvard— and this major installation, inspired by Schindler’s Los Angeles-based designs.

This exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in Los Angeles, an initiative of the Getty and an offshoot of Pacific Standard Time (2011-2012), which united sixty organizations in celebrating the birth of LA’s art and design scene.  More modest in its scope, Pacific Standard Time Presents pays homage to the influential role Southern California played in shaping modernist architecture. Later this month, Prina will be at LACMA for a conversation with Michael Govan as part of the free Director’s Series.

Stephanie Sykes


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