LACMA and CicLAvia—Iconic Wilshire Boulevard

June 19, 2013

More than 100,000 people will fill Wilshire Boulevard this Sunday, June 23, as Angelenos partake in CicLAvia—Iconic Wilshire Boulevard. This car-free event, a celebration of Los Angeles’ public spaces and alternate modes of transportation, invites anyone and everyone to bike, skate, run, or walk the six mile stretch of legendary thoroughfare from Downtown to LACMA. From 9 am till 4 pm participants of all ages will have free range on this typically frenzied road—a principal residential, commercial, commuter, and cultural corridor of our city. You’d expect no less from your favorite neighbors: LACMA will be joining in on the fun.

Named after land developer, entrepreneur, and Socialist, Henry Gaylord Wilshire (1861–1927), Wilshire Boulevard, an exceptionally long and linear street, has taken many forms throughout generations and has, almost inadvertently, become the spine of the city. In one of our newest exhibitions, Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA, (and as thoroughly investigated, documented, and displayed by the Page Museum) we learn that centuries ago prehistoric mammals roamed this mineral-dense land. Infamously, the La Brea Tar Pits would become the final resting place for many of these Jurassic denizens. Travel forward through time to the 1880s, and we find a burgeoning Southern California town in the midst of a land boom, where the boulevard’s namesake fatefully purchased a 35-acre tract of land that would eventually be bisected by a 120-foot wide street bearing the family name—the first iteration of Wilshire Boulevard and the creation of a main L.A. artery.

Parking Lots (Zurich-American Insurance, 4465 Wilshire Blvd.) #15, Edward Ruscha, 1967, Ralph M. Parsons Discretionary Fund

Parking Lots (Zurich-American Insurance, 4465 Wilshire Blvd.) #15, Edward Ruscha, 1967, Ralph M. Parsons Discretionary Fund

With the turn of the century, horse-drawn carriages began sharing this road with steam-driven motor cars and in 1911 the first church, Wilshire Christian Church, popped up on the boulevard. The 1920s welcomed in another boom and residential lots and small office spaces began to sit in the shadows of larger, high-rise apartment buildings and hotels. Soon enough neon signs became a staple of the street and Wilshire Boulevard began to take on its iconic figure. The Depression did not hinder Wilshire Boulevard’s growth to prominence, as the nation’s first fully electric and air-conditioned retail store opened late into the 1930s, alongside other department stores between La Brea and Fairfax Avenues.

Two decades later, building height restrictions were lifted and made way for skyscraper office buildings. Around the same time, the four-level highway interstate exchange (between the 110 and 10 freeways) near Downtown broke ground under Wilshire Boulevard and was deemed one of the country’s largest urban development plans ever. Downtown would thus be nearly vacated for many years to come and Wilshire would become a portal into the west side of town. In a matter of ten years, between the 1960s and 1970s, close to two dozen high-rise office buildings were erected on Wilshire Boulevard.

Parking Lots (May Company, 6067 Wilshire Blvd.) #25, Edward Ruscha, 1967, Ralph M. Parsons Discretionary Fund

Parking Lots (May Company, 6067 Wilshire Blvd.) #25, Edward Ruscha, 1967, Ralph M. Parsons Discretionary Fund

Into the 1980s plans for the Wilshire subway started to take hold and, mired in a decade’s worth of political controversy spanning municipalities, were cut short, ending the line at Western Avenue. Notably, during the same period, the illustrious Wiltern Theater was purchased by a developer and saved from demolition. This lasting Art Deco building with its relatively small architectural footprint is a type of tower one can only find in Los Angeles. Bringing us into the present, we now see a Wilshire Boulevard that is evolving, however slowly, into a more pedestrian-friendly location. CicLAvia is a way to revel in the history of our public realm and take another step toward shedding our veritable suburban roots.

Join us on Sunday for an excellent day, enjoying quentissential L.A. locales and seeing what and who this city is made of. Visit LACMA for a free Spin Art Studio, free Temporary Tattoo Parlour, free Costume Photo Booth, the sounds of KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox at 1 pm, Andell Family Sundays, and food and drinks from Patina Restaurant Group. Activities begin at 9 am, the museum opens at 10 am.

CicLAvia is a collaboration with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., a sprawling survey of the postwar built environment of the city.

Roberto Ayala

Levitated Mass: The Story of Michael Heizer’s Monolithic Sculpture

June 19, 2013

While it’s hard to believe it has already been one year since Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass made its public debut at LACMA, it’s impossible to forget the monolith’s momentous trek from the Jurupa Valley to Miracle Mile in early 2012. As part of the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival, LACMA debuts Doug Pray’s documentary, Levitated Mass: The Story of Michael Heizer’s Monolithic Sculpture, on Thursday, June 20, 2013. The film traces the boulder’s famed journey from concept to completion: from the mountain of paperwork (almost as tall as the boulder itself!) required to plan such a colossal feat, to its custom-built transporter inching through the streets of Riverside and Los Angeles, to its final home here at the museum. LACMA’s Erin Wright worked with Doug on the project and spoke with him about his experience filming Levitated Mass.

For more information about tomorrow night’s screening, click here.

Doug Pray and Michael Heizer on construction site at LACMA for the sculpture Levitated Mass

Doug Pray and Michael Heizer on construction site at LACMA for the sculpture Levitated Mass

Erin Wright: How did you learn about Michael Heizer’s plans for Levitated Mass at LACMA?

Doug Pray: Three years ago I got a phone call, out of the blue, from producer Jamie Patricof wondering if I was interested in filming the transport of a massive rock being moved through LA. He said that it was so big it might involve the removal of traffic signals and streetlights and would take many days to move from Riverside to LACMA.  Without any further information and no prior knowledge about the work of Michael Heizer, I told Jamie, “Yes.”

EW: Why did it this project and artist interest you?

DP: At first, it was all about the rock. My father is a geologist, so I grew up running around in quarries, and I’m a big fan of boulders and natural structures of the Southwest. The mere idea of being able to film a two-story tall rock rolling by a Southern California drive-thru was enough of a visual juxtaposition to justify an entire documentary. But as I learned about Michael Heizer’s past and future artwork, his intentions for Levitated Mass, and a bit about his “western maverick” character, the film gained momentum in my mind. As a filmmaker, I’ve always been drawn to people and subcultures that seem misunderstood by mainstream society, and Heizer seemed to fit that interest. A third component of the film that excited me was the basic, “Can they do it?” story about the physical challenges of the sculpture’s construction and the inordinate bureaucratic and logistical hurdles that LACMA—along with the construction, engineering, and transport companies—had to overcome to make it happen. The whole enterprise, on some level, seemed so absurd to so many people, and it seemed the movie might be able to ask again the eternal question of “What is art?” in a large-scale, very public arena. All of these elements interested me, and I’ve tried to weave all of them together into the film.

EW: What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?

DP: Two facts made this a challenging project.  First, the rock wouldn’t move when they said it would. For months on end, we were given legitimate starting dates for the boulder’s transport, which had to be postponed at the last minute due to route permit issues from any one of the twenty-two cities it had to satisfy. This became a controversy itself and a great story within the film, but made it extremely difficult to plan the production. When it finally rolled, in late February of 2012, nobody could believe it.

The second challenge for me was the realization that Michael Heizer doesn’t happen to be the kind of artist who likes to talk about his art or his past. More than anyone I’ve ever met, he lets his artwork speak for itself. In an age of non-stop media noise, I respect and admire this trait. But it was upsetting at first because every documentary filmmaker secretly hopes their subject will unleash, tell all, and provide the perfect narrative for their story as a free gift to their film. Heizer did, however, give us rare access to his process and thoughts during the making of Levitated Mass, and that forms an essential part of the film. Ultimately, I think it’s a much stronger story, not being a standard biopic.

EW: There are so many interviews with the public that came to watch the boulder being moved.  How did you direct your camera crew in terms of the kinds of people they should talk to?

DP: We had to film the ten-night long transport with two crews. At night (from 8 pm to 5 am), I’d shoot the rock moving and interviews with people lining the streets, along with cinematographers Chris Chomyn and Edwin Stevens. By day, Erin Heidenreich and her crew would direct interviews in all the different neighborhoods along the 105-mile route where the rock was parked. Besides the workers involved with the process, Erin and I talked to all types of people along the way. The goal of our interviews was to highlight the impact this rock was having on them individually and as a region. From the Inland Empire, through the South Bay, and into urban Los Angeles, the responses we found were as diverse as the communities themselves.

EW:  What experience from making the film resonates with you the most?

DP: Like every documentary film journey, there have been many moments of victory and despair, all memorable. A few highlights: the first time I saw the rock at the quarry and realized it wasn’t actually fifty stories tall but still loved its form and the fact that it would be one of the heaviest things ever moved by humans; the first time I was allowed to walk behind-the-scenes at a major art museum (not sure why, but that’s just cool for an outsider); going out into the desert and experiencing Heizer’s 1969 “Double Negative” sculpture and realizing how far he’d go to create a physical art experience; filming the moment Emmert International’s boulder transport finally arrived at its destination in front of LACMA at 4:30 am with horns blaring and a huge celebration; and of course, meeting the artist Michael Heizer for the first time and realizing that everything about him and this project was different than what I’d expected going in. Just the way it should be.

“Only if It Bothers You”: Ruminations on the Display of Latin American Art

June 17, 2013

At a recent event I had the chance to sit next to actor Cheech Marin. We talked about his collecting of Chicano art, the enduring struggles of Latino artists to gain recognition, and the persistent need to classify and categorize artists who are traditionally not considered part of the mainstream. One anecdote particularly stayed with me: he related how when John Valadez was once asked if he considered himself a Chicano artist, he wryly retorted, “Only if it bothers you.” This, I thought, is much more than an exacting punch line.

1943 drawing by Joaquín Torres García, illustrated in the cover of the Escuela del Sur (Montevideo: El Taller Torres García, 1958)

1943 drawing by Joaquín Torres García, illustrated in the cover of the Escuela del Sur (Montevideo: El Taller Torres García, 1958)

As a curator and scholar of Latin American art, I often think about how best to present Latin American art within an institutional context. The center-periphery discussion is nothing new in our discipline. Every art historian of Latin American art is familiar with Joaquín Torres García’s iconic inverted map: a proto-conceptual attempt to reverse hierarchies and position the South (perceived to be in the edges of the art world) as the North (the center of artistic innovation).

Wifredo Lam, The Jungle, 1943, gouache on paper mounted on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Wifredo Lam, The Jungle, 1943, gouache on paper mounted on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York

We are also aware of how MoMA once used to display Wifredo Lam’s iconic The Jungle, now considered a masterpiece of modernism, on a wall next to the coatroom. Although the perception of the field has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade or so, how we present Latin American art in an encyclopedic museum remains contested territory.

Installation of the ancient art galleries at LACMA; casework designed by Jorge Pardo

Installation of the ancient art galleries at LACMA; casework designed by Jorge Pardo

At LACMA, for example, we devoted an entire floor (Art of the Americas building) to Latin America for the first time in 2008. One half of the floor, designed by the artist Jorge Pardo, encases our world-class collection of pre-Columbian art. The other half of the floor is devoted to our expanding collections of Spanish colonial, modern, and contemporary art.

Installation of the Spanish colonial art galleries at LACMA

Installation of the Spanish colonial art galleries at LACMA

A fair question (and one that does not go unasked), is why divide the material geographically? Shouldn’t modern Latin American art be included in the modern art galleries and contemporary Latin American art in our contemporary art building (BCAM)? What about Spanish colonial art? Does it belong in the European or American art galleries?

These questions, as useful as they are, are also telling of the liminal position that the field continues to occupy within encyclopedic museums and the art historical canon in general. I am always puzzled as to why the question does not get much asked for other fields, say Islamic, Japanese or Indian art—though I am not implying that these areas, as well as others, have not undergone vicissitudes of their own.

To be sure, most of us have an innate impulse to classify the chaos that surrounds us, to create neat packages of information that are easy to manage and engender “meaning.” Sometimes these categories stick for years. But despite our best efforts, the process is impossible to fix and the resulting narratives we devise are always subject to revision. In other words, there are many ways to tell a story, and there are many stories to tell.

Julio Le Parc, Mural: Virtual Circles, 1964-1966, wood, aluminum, stainless steel, and polished metal, purchased with funds provided by Debbie and Mark Attanasio, Jane and Marc Nathanson, Jane and Terry Semel, The Loreen Arbus Foundation, Janet Dreisen Rappaport and Herb Rappaport, an anonymous donor, Alyce Woodward Oppenheimer, and the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Julio Le Parc, Mural: Virtual Circles, 1964-1966, wood, aluminum, stainless steel, and polished metal, purchased with funds provided by Debbie and Mark Attanasio, Jane and Marc Nathanson, Jane and Terry Semel, The Loreen Arbus Foundation, Janet Dreisen Rappaport and Herb Rappaport, an anonymous donor, Alyce Woodward Oppenheimer, and the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund through the 2013 Collectors Committee

Having galleries devoted specifically to Latin American art tells one story. Broadly, it does two things: it calls attention to the cultural achievements of the region across a broad stretch of time and geography. It also emphasizes the theme of “locality.” Let us consider, for example, our recent acquisition of Julio Le Parc’s Mural: Virtual Circles, an iconic op art work by an Argentinean-born artist who has lived and worked most of his life in France. In our current galleries, the work is displayed alongside others by abstract artists active in South America (e.g., Jesús Rafael Soto, Sérgio de Camargo, and Raúl Lozza). Together, they show that artists from Latin America were key players in the development of abstractionism and kinetic art internationally. This is especially significant because for a very long time Latin American art was—and to an extent still is—equated with the “picturesque” and the likes of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and cohort.

Diego Rivera, Mexico, 1886–1957, Still Life with Bread and Fruit, 1917, oil on canvas, Gift of Morton D. May

Diego Rivera, Mexico, 1886–1957, Still Life with Bread and Fruit, 1917, oil on canvas, Gift of Morton D. May

Some may rightly argue that Le Parc’s work therefore best belongs in the modern European galleries, as do many other works in the collection—including Rivera’s cubist painting Still Life with Bread and Fruit. And surely, when asked, many artists would prefer not to be categorized according to the nationality noted in their passport. But here is the thing: context is important and does inform an artist’s work. In the case of Le Parc, it is instructive to remember that throughout his life he maintained one foot in Latin America, where he frequently traveled and exhibited his work. And when he went on to win, with great fanfare, first prize at the 1966 Venice Biennial, he represented Argentina, not France! Is Mural: Virtual Circles therefore the work of an artist from Argentina, Europe, or both? The question of where best to display the work and what context is more “appropriate” can be mystifying—and at the end of the day the decision is entirely subjective and made by those who at the moment can (i.e., museum professionals and scholars).

I am not espousing one view, or stating that having galleries devoted to Latin American art is the model to follow. Geographically-based galleries can be rather constricting and marginalizing. What I would like to suggest, instead, is that by moving towards erasing all borders, establishing a totalizing and “international” global narrative, we also need to consider that we are in danger of sacrificing other contexts that can be equally meaningful. By the same token, the limitation of defining artists by strict geographic parameters is patent. So what to do?


In the ideal museum (and nowadays this is a much talked about topic in reference to LACMA), we could perhaps think of devising contiguous spaces. Think of turning Torres García’s upside down map sideways and extending it across the globe. These areas—nodal points—could intersect and retain some specificity that would allow for the creation of various and simultaneous narratives. The idea would be, for example, to have galleries devoted to early modern art (16th–18th centuries) and modern art that would be more all-encompassing and include works from regions beyond Europe, but without presenting them as a footnote or afterthought. In other words, the works could be displayed together and separate.

This way the art produced by Latin American artists—particularly after the Conquest—could be presented in manners that emphasize (instead of hinder) connections and a multiplicity of contexts. It is not about “shaking up the box” and “mixing and matching”—it is about devising thoughtful adjacencies that would allow the art to “speak” on many levels (including aesthetic), and emphasize local, European, African, and Asian cultural traditions that informed the creative output of the region. After all “globalism” is nothing new. There were always networks of exchanges and vectors of transmission that inextricably linked cultures together.

By rethinking the politics of displaying Latin America art, which still sits so uncomfortably between categories (local vs. international; high art vs. low art; original vs. derivative), perhaps we could also question the so-called more canonical areas of museum and academic art discourse. In the end, as the artist John Valadez astutely implied when pressed to define his “artistic lineage”—art is about much more than genealogical fabrications.

Ilona Katzew, Curator and Department Head, Latin American Art

This Weekend at LACMA: A Clockwork Orange Screening, ICE Performs Soundtracks to Kubrick and Richter Films, and More

June 14, 2013

After nearly eight months of awe and intrigue, Stanley Kubrick leaves LACMA at the end of June. It’s been quite the crowd-pleaser and we’ve been celebrating the final days of this exhibition throughout the museum.

The Kubrick and Co. film series—screenings of Kubrick classics paired with works of the same ilk—carries on with A Clockwork Orange and Privilege on Friday night. The future is not what we anticipated, with malevolent governments and violent, roving gangs terrorizing citizens in these two feature films about dystopian worlds of tomorrow. Purchase tickets for both movies online or at the Ticket Office.

On Saturday evening at 7:30 pm in the Bing Theater, we honor the music of Kubrick’s films, and those of Hans Richter, in the the final installment of the 2013 season of Art & Music. Featuring the International Contemporary Ensemble, this ode to Stanley Kubrick and Hans Richter: Encounters has the New York City-based group, led by 2012 MacArthur Fellow Claire Chase, playing live renditions of the soundtracks to film clips from the two famed directors. Additionally, ICE will do a live accompaniment to the film adaption of Eight Songs for a Mad King. This show is an L.A. Times Critic’s Pick and tickets are still available.

Pan out (way out!) from Kubrick on the Miracle Mile and you’ll come across the second week of LACMA9 Redlands Art + Film Lab, at the University of Redlands. Visit this mobile lab and participate in free art and film workshops, an oral history project, and free outdoor film screenings through July 7. This weekend you can catch Stand and Deliver, starring Edward James Olmos as an East L.A. high school teacher who inspires a group of students with no ambitions to learn calculus and take control of their future. Saturday night brings to the big (outdoor) screen The Last Picture Show, a Hollywood classic depicting a group of high school students coming of age in a small and crumbling west Texas town after World War II. Visit the Redlands Art + Film Lab anytime after noon to explore all it has to offer.

Back at the museum, our customary fare of free, live music starts Friday night at 6 pm, with the Billy Childs Quartet performing at Jazz at LACMA. Pianist and bandleader Billy Childs has won multiple Grammy Awards and played with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Sting. Saturday evening at 5 pm you’ll find Grammy-nominated Imaginacion performing in Hancock Park, LACMA’s backyard, during this week’s installment of Latin Sounds. Then, at Sundays Live, on Sunday, pianist Daniel Schlosberg performs works from Beethoven and Brahms in the Bing Theater. All of these concerts are free to the public and do not require reservations.


Thomas Hill, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, 1864, William Randolph Hearst Collection

Around the museum, you can discover contemporary art from James Turrell, the luminary from the 1960s and 70s Southern California Light and Space movement. Reservations in advance are strongly recommended as capacity for this new exhibition is very limited. For more contemporary art walk through Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It, LACMA’s addition to Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. The paint on the models in our Peter Zumthor exhibition are still barely dry—see the exhibition for a glimpse of his proposed plan for LACMA’s future. In the Hammer Building, view Masterpieces from the National Museum of Korea for artwork from the Josean Dynasty. Lastly, in the Art of the Americas Building, Compass for Surveyors: 19th Century American Landscapes features all of the nineteenth century American landscapes paintings from LACMA’s collection.

Roberto Ayala

LACMA’s Art+Film Lab Hits the Road

June 12, 2013

Last week LACMA launched an ambitious new program, the LACMA9 Art + Film Lab. The mobile lab, designed by Jorge Pardo, will spend the next sixteen months visiting nine communities in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, starting in Redlands and continuing to San Bernardino, Monterey Park, Altadena, Compton, Torrance, and more. For five weeks in each community, the lab will offer free filmmaking workshops, free outdoor movie screenings, and the chance to collaborate with artist Nicole Miller on an artwork that will be on view at LACMA on select Community Days. Unframed’s Scott Tennent asked Hanul Bahm, Community Engagement Manager, for details.

LACMA 9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

LACMA9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

How did the Art + Film Lab come about?

The James Irvine Foundation has been working really hard in Southern California to reach certain communities that are geographically underserved or where there’s not a lot of arts and cultural infrastructure. They’ve taken it upon themselves to give seed money to small grassroots organizations, as well as large institutions like LACMA, with the hopes of bringing arts programs to diverse, regional communities. We proposed the LACMA9 project because we felt it would be an extension of the in-depth outreach we’ve been offering for over a decade within libraries, community organizations, and schools.

LACMA 9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

LACMA9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

How did Jorge Pardo become involved in this project?

When we decided that we wanted to offer this mobile art and film programming, we realized that it would be great to provide it in a vessel that felt like an artwork. Jorge Pardo’s practice lives at this intersection of sculpture and design. He seemed like a natural to build a lab space that would stand as a public artwork, but that would also have the functionality to offer programming. It’s a very happy, inviting space, which is good. Sometimes out in the community there’s a perception that art museums are either inaccessible, elitist, precious, or out of touch. I think the lab will draw people just out of the sheer joy it radiates. We want to get to know the residents of these communities by being their neighbors for five weeks and building those bridges. The Art + Film Lab is like a “mini-me” of LACMA. Through the inviting space created by Jorge’s sculpture, added to all the really rich, creative, free programming we’re offering, we wanted to introduce ourselves and provide a small taste of what’s available at LACMA. 

Tell me about the programs offered in the lab. Who can participate in the workshops and what do they need to bring?

You just have to bring yourself. We know the people coming into the lab will have various degrees of arts background or access to tools—including none. We welcome complete beginners. We’re trying to focus on what’s empowering about the filmmaking and video art process, which is often collaboration—the collective genius of a group working together. The workshops are about process and play.

There was a hope from LACMA and also from the Irvine Foundation that we try to reach adult audiences as a priority. We won’t discourage kids and teens from coming. But we really want to reach adults and give them the opportunity to try new things or explore their personal voice. This is like our red velvet cake for them to come and enjoy and meet other adults in their community, and play filmmaker or video artist for a day. 

LACMA 9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

LACMA9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

What are the free art and filmmaking workshops?

There are four kinds of introductory workshops. “Soundscapes” explore all the elements of a soundtrack, in addition to what composers contribute. Environmental sound, like the hum of an air conditioner or a dripping faucet, can create emotional, psychological, subliminal tension in storytelling. We’re giving people sound recorders to record environmental sounds. We’re also showing them how they can create sound effects, or foley, from everyday objects. “Composition” is very much about shot design, quality of light, and the frame size of your shot. This is a moving image medium; unlike a painting or a photograph, you can focus the viewer’s gaze on what you want to bring their attention to, over time.

Another workshop, called “MiniDocs,” helps people find their personal sense, or subjective relationship, to people and place. We’ll probably go on mini field trips together with cameras to different locations to make a brief document that explores the essence of a person or place’s character. The last workshop we’re offering is called “Instant Film,” which simulates the production pressure and creative constraints that artists and filmmakers work under. We’re grouping people into small crews of three or four. They draw a theme out of a hat, and they have to interpret that theme and also brainstorm creative constraints—like maybe their video has to be one shot without an edit. It’s highlighting how creativity often happens within parameters, and you have to be resourceful when faced with a problem. We’ll set them out to create something on the spot as a group, then we’ll bring it back to the lab for an instant screening.

LACMA 9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

LACMA 9 Art+Film Lab, photo by Duncan Cheng

In addition to the free workshops, you also have free outdoor movie screenings on Fridays and Saturdays, right?

Southern California has a really rich legacy of drive-in cinemas, which in different cities has evolved into movies in parks. We are bringing really wonderful films—what we humbly hope other audiences will consider great films—including Hollywood classics, foreign films, and independents from all around the world. This weekend in Redlands, for instance, we are screening Stand and Deliver and The Last Picture Show. 

One of the most unique and exciting parts of the Art + Film Lab’s program is an oral history project, in collaboration with artist Nicole Miller. How can people participate in this project?

Nicole Miller has a unique practice that is a hybrid of documentary and video installation art. She explores notions of self-representation, in contrast to representations in popular media. The oral history project lets people play either interviewer or storyteller in front of the camera and draw on a personal memory or a significant moment in their lives. They get to make a document of that in front of the camera, and they’ll get an instant, unedited copy on the spot. Nicole will review the documents created by the community members, and then she’ll contact a few people in each community to make a collaborative work that will screen at LACMA on select Community Days. That’s the final component of our programming: once we’ve finished our five-week residencies in each city, we’re inviting everyone back to the museum to enjoy LACMA for free on select Sundays. We’ll have arts programming there for families and communities to enjoy, and we’ll screen Nicole’s work. It will come full circle—we’re going into their communities, and we’re hoping that they’ll come back and visit us.

The Art + Film Lab will be in Redlands through July 7. Free outdoor screenings are offered every Friday and Saturday. For dates and times of free workshops and Oral History Project, as well as a full listing of future Art+Film Lab destinations, visit the Art+Film Lab page.

Filming Roden Crater

June 9, 2013

The video below, part of James Turrell: A Retrospective, captures some of the experience of the artist’s work-in-progress: the transformation of an extinct volcano, Roden Crater, into a monumental work of art.

Erin Wright, Director of Artist Initiatives at LACMA, produced the short film. We talked to her about what it was like to visit Roden Crater.

Describe Roden Crater and its state of completion?
Roden Crater is not yet a finished project: it has several completed spaces, but Turrell’s vision is that it should eventually have twenty different spaces in which to view events in the sky. The hope is that enough funds can be raised to complete the lion’s share of project in the near future.

It’s an artwork that is, in essence, a naked eye observatory—built so that you have a way of seeing certain objects and events in the sky that would not otherwise be visible. So it was important to us to capture a solar event that happens during the winter solstice in December. Following that, we returned to interview the artist and capture footage of the parts of the project that have been built so far.

There’s a space called the Sun and Moon Chamber to observe celestial events—you can see images of the sun and moon on the surface of a large basalt stone called the “image stone.” Leading up from that stone is an approximately 900 foot tunnel that leads to a portal—an opening to the sky. The 900 foot tunnel acts as a giant refractor telescope and contains a very large lens at the center to focus the light.

A number of the spaces inside Roden Crater are Skyspaces where you can observe dawn and dusk; the color of the sky becomes incredibly vibrant as you’re watching it from inside the crater, because of the way Turrell has designed the Skyspace. If you walked outside, the color of the sky would be different. Turrell intends for the visitor to sit, from the onset of sunset until dark, to experience the full effect.

What is it like to try to capture the experience of Roden Crater?
It’s really, really difficult to film the spaces properly because they have such an awe-inspiring effect. With the Sun and Moon Chamber you have the celestial events happening in a very dark space with bright light passing, and it takes all the color out of the footage. When I first saw the footage I thought my cameraman had gone rogue and shot it in black and white. Because of the extreme light conditions: a very dark space with a very bright beam of light, it’s hard to detect any color. So it was important to capture shots of that space in a different situation when the lights were on, to convey the scale and beauty of the chamber.

James Turrell, Roden Crater Project, view toward northeast, photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Roden Crater Project, view toward northeast, photo © Florian Holzherr

What isn’t apparent in the film?
There’s something at the center of the crater’s bowl—an area that you see at the end of the film, called the Crater Plaza, and there are four large rectangular plinths that surround the crater eye. These are meant for people to lie down on and observe the sky and a phenomenon that is called celestial vaulting, where you can see the curve of the sky. You’re only able to see that because of the way Turrell has shaped the rim of the crater. He is manipulating your vision by allowing you to experience this phenomenon of seeing the sky as a dome rather than a flat plane.

Where will the film be shown?
We are showing it in the exhibition, and the Guggenheim is planning to screen the film during the summer as part of the programming related to their Turrell exhibition opening in late June.

Amy Heibel

Take part in our upcoming Turrell Trifecta Google Art Talk! Learn more and submit your question for curators of various James Turrell exhibitions at LACMA, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Guggenheim.

This Weekend at LACMA: Peter Zumthor Plan Unveiled, LACMA9 Art + Film Lab Opening Weekend, Free Music, and More

June 8, 2013

It seems that hardly a week can go by without LACMA sharing something new. This time, on Sunday, the buzz-worthy exhibition The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA opens to the public (members have early access through Saturday). Take a look back at the environment and context that led to LACMA as we know it and gaze into a potential future currently being shaped in this examination by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. You’ll see detailed drawings of fossils found on the grounds from eons past and a six ton, 30-foot wide model of what the campus could look like in the not-too-distant future. A proposition of this magnitude demands a lot of thought and consideration; take a look at Director Michael Govan’s rationale for this project on Unframed from earlier in the week and watch a discussion between Govan and Zumthor that took place on Monday in the Bing Theater.

Installation view, The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA

Installation view, The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA

Kubrick and Co. continues this weekend at 5 pm and includes Red Desert and 2001: A Space Odyssey, both films sharing stark, minimalist composition and commentary on the unsettled relationship between man and machine. Kubrick and Co. runs through weekends in June, when the praised Stanley Kubrick exhibition ends its display at LACMA on June 30.

If you want to see (free) live music this weekend, LACMA is your one-stop shop for all things melodic. Latin Sounds bring the Aguabella Band to Hancock Park (directly behind LACMA) at 5 pm on Saturday; and Sundays Live hosts pianist Inna Faliks and her rendition on Schumann’s Davidsbündler.

Additionally, while you’re here you can also visit Henri Matisse: La Gerbe in the Ahmanson Building, showcasing for the first time together the large ceramic and the paper cut-outs that brought this piece to life. A few floors up you’ll find a special installation of elaborate Tibetan paintings in Pictorial Relationships in Tibetan Thangka Painting and Furniture, Part II: Animals. Visit the Pavilion for Japanese Art to see Japanese Painting: Okyo and His School in the Bird and Flower Tradition among other ornate works of art from East Asia in our collection. Families, make sure you take advantage of  Andell Family Sundays too.

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

Also happening this weekend further afield from the museum is the opening weekend of the LACMA9 Art + Film Lab, this month in Redlands at the University of Redlands. Generously funded by The James Irvine Foundation, the Art + Film Lab is a public outreach initiative designed to bring free art and film workshops, an oral history project, and free outdoor film screenings to the centers of nine communities around Los Angeles.

LACMA9 Art + Film Lab, 2013 © Jorge Pardo Sculpture, photo © 2013, Museum Associates/LACMA

LACMA9 Art + Film Lab, 2013 © Jorge Pardo Sculpture, photo © 2013, Museum Associates/LACMA

The mobile lab, designed by Jorge Pardo, will spend five weeks at each of the nine cities and gradually make its way closer to LACMA. After the lab leaves each location, residents from those cities will be invited to visit LACMA on a special Community Day at the museum.  The LACMA9 Art + Film Lab is just one example of LACMA’s education team bringing art out of the museum and into the community. Visit the Redlands Art + Film Lab page for complete listings of free workshops, outdoor screenings, and more.

Roberto Ayala


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