Dada Dancing

July 11, 2013

During the month of July, Andell Family Sundays will focus on the special exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters. Richter loved to experiment with different media and to collaborate with other artists. He was a printmaker, painter, filmmaker, and writer. In his collaborations, he forged lifetime friendships. He was on the forefront of twentieth-century modernism, including Dadaism. One of the workshops at Andell Family Sundays is inspired by the playfulness, spontaneity, joy, and immediacy of Dada art and Richter’s collaborations. LACMA invited dancer and performance artist Doran George to come up with a workshop, and he invited two of his singer/musican/artist friends to collaborate with him: Odeya Nini and Archie Carey. The result of their collaboration is the Dada Dance workshop. Unframed’s Alicia Vogl Saenz spoke to Doran about what families can expect.

Hans Richter, Musik Dada (Music Dada), 1918, Linocut and white wash on paper, 10 1/2 in x 8 in., Private Collection, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate, Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Hans Richter, Musik Dada (Music Dada), 1918, Linocut and white wash on paper, 10 1/2 in x 8 in., Private Collection, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate, Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

What is Dada Dance?

Any sound is a song, any movement is a dance in this workshop. Odeya, Archie, and I will help participants use their voices and their bodies to make unexpected sounds and movements. The words that come to my mind are playfulness, joy, strangeness, surprise, and curiosity, all of which are at the heart of Dadaism. Adults will be going back to childhood and recouping what we forgot. Children will have leadership in the family dynamic because they are teaching us adults about what is new in the world.

How will families work together in Dada Dance?

At the core of Dada Dance is the notion of collaboration in Hans Richter’s work. The collaboration occurs on two levels: families will constantly collaborate with each other, and the families and groups of friends are collaborating with us, the artists, teaching the workshop. The other important notion is that we’re not looking at movement and voice as separated things. Voice helps you do unexpected things with your movement, and movement helps you do unexpected things with your voice. Participants will work in groups or pairs with their family or friends.  The groups will use voice and movement like a puppeteer. They will be vehicles for introducing surprising movement and sound.

What do you hope families will take away from this?

I would like them to try on a different identity, to try being Dada. To say to themselves, “Now I’m going to be Dada.” It is similar to my workshop inspired by Levitated Mass last year in which groups became the sculpture. Everyone was capable of becoming Levitated Mass, and now they are capable of becoming Dada.

The art will be the experience. The workshop is the art, the joy families feel while making sounds and movements. In the spirit of Dada, it will be playful strangeness. It will be joyful and fun.


Art Here and Now: Studio Forum’s 2013 Acquisitions

July 10, 2013

Art Here and Now (AHAN): Studio Forum has developed into an important conduit for bringing Los Angeles-based artists into the permanent collection. The history of AHAN: Studio Forum goes back to the early 1960s when, as a cash award, the money provided for artists’ necessities in exchange for an artwork for the collection (see the full list of artists below). In recent times, the honor has focused on bringing the work of emerging (such an elusive term) artists into the collection; thus, we do our best to pick significant works that also serve to illustrate the phenomenal range of artist practices in Southern California.

Noah Davis, The Missing Link 4, 2013, Oil on canvas, 78 x 86.125 inches, Purchased with funds provided by  AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Noah Davis, The Missing Link 4, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Erika Vogt, Field of Debris, 2012, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Erika Vogt, Field of Debris, 2012, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

In early 2013, fellow curator Christine Y. Kim and I ventured out with the AHAN: Studio Forum group into the studios and work spaces of a handful of artists. Our enthusiastic members did two marathon days of studio visits with us, joining us on a bus from Lincoln Heights, downtown Los Angeles, and on to the San Fernando Valley. As is our process, Christine and I received feedback from the group in a discussion convened shortly after our visits. We weighed the opinions expressed during the forum with our understanding of the artists’ trajectories, all the while considering what will make most sense in LACMA’s collection.

Ry Rocklen, Second to None, 2011, Trophies, trophy parts, wood, 94.5 x 146 x 39 inches Purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Ry Rocklen, Second to None, 2011, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Jedidiah Caesar, no title, 2013, Polymer clay and ink, 16 x 19 x 8 inches,   Purchased with funds provided by Raquel de Lavandeyra, through AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Jedidiah Caesar, no title, 2013, purchased with funds provided by Raquel de Lavandeyra, through AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

This year, works have been acquired by Jedidiah Ceasar, Noah Davis, Liz Glynn, Ry Rocklen, Ricky Swallow, and Erika Vogt. All of these artists work in a particular medium—whether sculpture, drawing, painting, video/film, and/or installation—based on the conceptual demands of the project at hand. Their far-reaching—often research-driven—interests encompass geology, design, architecture, film, archaeology, art history, and sports—to name a few. As would make sense given the legacy of assemblage and installation art in California, each artist has a predilection for the found object, whether scavenged, reengineered or poetically reimagined.  These artists join an impressive roster of awardees as we celebrate a record breaking year in 2013.

Liz Glynn, VAULT [Allegorical Set 1], 2013,  Installation view at Frieze Projects, New York  (elements of installation to be selected), Purchased with funds provided by  AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Liz Glynn, VAULT [Allegorical Set 1], 2013,
Installation view at Frieze Projects, New York (elements of installation to be selected), Purchased with funds provided by
AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Ricky Swallow, Chair study/relief (soot), 2013, Patinated bronze, Edition of 1+ 1 AP; AP 25 x 8.75 x 2.5 inches, Purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Ricky Swallow, Chair study/relief (soot), 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2013 Art Here and Now purchase

Young Talent Award/AHAN Artists, 1963-2013

1963: Llyn Foulkes
1964: Tony Berlant
1965: Melvin Edwards, Lloyd Hamrol, Phil Rich
1966: Terrence O’Shea
1967: Mary Ann Corse, Michael Asher
1968: Ron Cooper, Barry LeVa, Joseph Vaughan
1969: Chuck Arnoldi, Greg Card, Michael Olodort
1970: John Alberty, David Deutsch, Patrick Hogan
1971: Barbara Munger, John White, Joe Ray
1972: Jud Fine, Ann McCoy, Tom Wudl
1973: Jack Barth, Chris Burden, Steve Sher
1974: Jay McCafferty, Alexis Smith
1975: Jon Abbott, Paul Dillon, Loren Madsen
1976: Charles C. Hill, Eugene Sturman, Elyn Zimmerman
1977: James Hayward, John Okulick, Margit Omar
1978: Michael McMillen, Gwynn Murrill, John Sturgeon
1979: Richard Oginz, Steve Kahn
1980: Elaine Carhartt, Sandra Mendelsohn-Rubin
1981: Andrew Wilf, Jay Phillips
1982: Joe Fay, Karla Klarin
1983: Roger Herman, Jim Morphesis
1984: Don Sorenson, Gifford Myers
1985: John Frame, Peter Shelton
1986: Sabina Ott
1987: Tim Ebner
1988: Jill Giegerich, Karl Matson
1989: Bob Zoell
1990: Paul Tzanetopoulos, Dan Wheeler
1991: Minoru Ohira, Dominique Blain
1992: Liz Young
1993: Darren Waterston, Marc Pally
1994: Buzz Spector
1995: Rachel Lachowicz
1996: Tim Hawkinson
1997: Pae White, Frances Stark
1998: Kevin Appel, Ginny Bishton, Enrique Martinez Celaya
1999: Lynn Aldrich
2000: Ruben Ortiz-Torres
2001: Jon Pylypchuk, Jason Meadows
2002: Darcy Huebler, Mark Bradford
2003: Gajin Fujita
2004: Lecia Dole-Recio
2005: Tomory Dodge, David Ratcliff
2006: Elliot Hundley
2007: Lara Schnitger
2008: Ruben Ochoa, Steve Roden
2009: Aaron Curry
2010: Friedrich Kunath, Rodney McMillian
2011: Zoe Crosher, Mark Flores
2012: Mark Hagen, William E. Jones, Sanya Kantarovsky, Dianna Molzan, Brenna Youngblood
2013:  Jedediah Caesar, Noah Davis, Liz Glynn, Ry Rocklen, Ricky Swallow, Erika Vogt

Rita Gonzalez, Associate Curator, Contemporary Art


James Turrell’s Magnum Opus

July 8, 2013

Inspired early in his career by such diverse architectural achievements as Buddhist stupas, Native American cliff dwellings, and ancient astronomical observatories, James Turrell sought to create a space in the landscape that would allow visitors to gaze at the sky without the aid of a telescope and experience some of his own insights into human perception.

In 1974 he was awarded a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to fund this research. Having already created projection pieces and light works at the Mendota studio in Santa Monica, Turrell was poised to take his work in perception, light, and space into the natural landscape. The avid pilot began his search across the deserts of the American Southwest, looking for a land mass that he could transform into a naked-eye celestial observatory. “I did not want the work to be a mark upon nature,” he specified, “but I wanted the work to be enfolded in nature in such a way that light from the sun, moon and stars empowered the spaces.”

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater Project at sunset, October 2001, Photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater Project at sunset, October 2001, Photo © Florian Holzherr

Roden Crater, which sits on the western edge of Arizona’s Painted Desert in a field of extinct volcanos, caught Turrell’s eye because its natural height and truncated cone shape were naturally suited to generating the experience of celestial vaulting: at certain elevations, when a person lies down and looks up, the sky can feel as though it is a dome curving down around the earth, or the horizon may appear to arc back up toward the heavens. He describes the impulse and the scale of his endeavor:

“Usually art is taken from nature by painting or photography and then brought back to culture through the museum. I wanted to bring cultural to the natural surround as if one was designing a garden or tending a landscape. I wanted an area where you had a sense of standing on the planet. I wanted an area of exposed geology like the Grand Canyon of the Painted Desert, where you could feel geologic time.”

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

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

The plan for the Roden Crater project (1974–present) consists of the construction of nine underground chambers and the crater’s bowl. In the words of Calvin Tomkins, the purpose of these spaces is “‘to capture and apprehend the light’ from the sun and the moon and the stars—and also to demonstrate how we create and form our perceptions of the visible world.” Turrell’s magnum opus, it is immense in scale, complexity, and budget, and is still a work in progress.

Currently inaccessible to the public, Roden Crater is represented in photography, site plans, prints, drawings, holograms, videos, and models. Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site) is the single most important and original work representing the project. The enormous, exquisitely detailed model represents the wider geologic contours, textures, and colors of the site in relation to the exterior of his planned transformations; it is made from plaster as well as the cinder and raw earth from the crater itself. Built in 1985 with the help of architects Robert Mangurian, Mary-Ann Ray, and their architecture studio in Venice, it was first presented in his solo exhibition, James Turrell: Occluded Front, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles later that year. It has since been presented in numerous important solo exhibitions and publications, including James Turrell: A Retrospective at LACMA (on view through April 6, 2014).

Roden Crater Model

Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site), 1987, Plaster, pigment and materials taken from the crater, 9 x 27 ft. (274.31 x 822.92 cm), 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, Photo © Florian Holzherr

Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site), is composed of twenty-seven three-by-three-foot sections that expose the port area in the notch in the lava beds west of the crater, Roden Wash and Roden Crater itself. Additionally, the layout of the various spaces at the port area and the crater, and the locations of the walkways and ramps are included. Ramped and situated on the original wood frame base, it is delicate but in good condition and a priority for LACMA’s conservation team to study, document, and maintain.

Considered one of the most important artists of the Southern California light and space movement of the 1960s who has achieved international renown, James Turrell’s art is a nexus for the worlds of art, science, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, archaeology, and spirituality. Roden Crater Model (Large Overall Site) is one of five other major works by Turrell in LACMA’s collection, starting with his very first projection piece, Afrum (White) to his latest Ganzfeld, Breathing Light, currently on view in the Resnick Pavilion.

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, LED light into space, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, M.2013.1, © James Turrell, Photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, LED light into space, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, M.2013.1, © James Turrell, Photo © Florian Holzherr

This summer, Turrell has concurrent exhibitions at LACMA, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (until September 22), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (until September 25). Please join the curators from all three exhibitions tomorrow, July 9, at 12 pm PST for a live Google Art Talk in which the life and work of James Turrell will be discussed.

Christine Y. Kim
Associate Curator, Contemporary Art


This Weekend at LACMA: Late Summer Hours, Luba Masterworks, Hitchcock Classics, Final Days of Redlands Art + Film Lab, and More!

July 5, 2013

For those of you keeping score at home, it’s official—summer has arrived at LACMA. Beginning this weekend, Late Summer Hours are in effect. On Fridays in July and August, LACMA stays open till 11 pm, with free access to galleries and exhibitions on the west side of campus for all LA County residents, including: The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA, Hans Richter: Encounters, Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It, Ends and Exits, and Metropolis II. During these nights the James Turrell exhibition and his Perceptual Cell Light Reignfall will also be on view but will require paid admission (advanced reservations are highly recommended).

LACMA stays open late, till 11 pm on Fridays, this summer.

LACMA stays open late, till 11 pm on Fridays, this summer.

Visit LACMA this weekend and you’ll be treated to the debut of Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in the Hammer Building, LACMA’s meaningful foray into African art. On display you’ll encounter figurative thrones, elegant scepters, ancestral figures, and other emblems from this prominent Central African kingdom. Marked by their refined beauty and elegance, the pieces in Shaping Power are multi-layered in their concepts of history and spirituality. The twenty-six objects in this inaugural exhibition have never been on view in Southern California until now.

For an intimate overview of Shaping Power from Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, the exhibition curator and professor at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, you can attend a FREE lecture on Sunday at 2 pm in the Brown Auditorium. Roberts will discuss, among other things, the importance of female figures in Luba depictions. If you’re here with children on Sunday, make sure to come by to Andell Family Sundays on the North Piazza for a hands-on exploration of famed artist Hans Richter. Andell Family Sundays are free with museum admission and last from 12:30–3:30 pm.

Bowl-Bearing Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba-Henba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 14358 (Collected between 1981 and 1912, gift of A.H. Bure), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Bowl-Bearing Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba-Henba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 14358 (Collected between 1981 and 1912, gift of A.H. Bure), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Film-wise, LACMA has a full schedule queued up with The Hitchcock 9 film series, presenting for the first time ever, all nine of Alfred Hitchcock’s surviving silent films digitally restored. On Friday evening see The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog at 7:30 pm and Downhill at 9:30 pm—the former an atmospheric thriller described as “the first true Hitchcock movie” by Hitchcock himself, the latter recognized as the director’s first pass at a “wrong man” plot. On Saturday the series continues, beginning at 5 pm with Champagne, a comedic tale of a spoiled heiress, followed at 7:30 pm by The Ring, in which two boxers fight for one woman. These two special screenings also feature live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla. Purchase tickets by phone 323 857-6010 or online.

The final weekend of the traveling LACMA9 Art + Film Lab in Redlands is also this weekend. Visit the studio designed by Jose Pardo at its current University of Redlands location to participate in Oral History Drop-in sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. From 12–3 pm on Saturday shoot footage and create you own movies in the free Instant Film workshop. Learn about shot size, depth of field, composition, quality of light, and camera movement in the free Composition workshop from 1–4 pm on Sunday. Finally, after you’ve exercised your creativity and learned techniques from professionals, enjoy balmy summer evenings while watching Smoke Signals on Friday at 8 pm and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial on Saturday at 8 pm at the lab’s outdoor big screen. After Redlands, the LACMA9 Art + Film Lab will travel about a dozen miles west and park in San Bernardino from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, August 25.

Lastly, enjoy FREE music all weekend long. Jazz at LACMA presents Larry Nash & The Jazz Symphonics on Friday at 6 pm in front of Urban Light; Latin Sounds features Costazul on their 25th anniversary tour on Saturday at 5 pm; and Sundays Live hosts cellist John Walz and pianist Robert Thies performing works from Myaskovsky and Prokofiev on Sunday at 6 pm. Yes, summer is the sweetest of all seasons.

Roberto Ayala


A Home for African Art

July 3, 2013

African art has come to LACMA as yet another of the museum’s bold new initiatives. It is an honor to assist in launching a program and guiding the creation of a dedicated gallery for the arts of Africa in order to give African art a more permanent and prominent presence at the museum and in Southern California, beginning with the new exhibition Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa.

African works have been featured at LACMA in the past through donors’ generous gifts, long-term galleries, and temporary exhibitions organized by guest curators (including the 2008 exhibition Tradition as Innovation in African Art, which I organized in partnership with the Fowler Museum at UCLA). The present initiative, however, is a more integrated program within the creative landscape of a new, transformed LACMA of the last few years.

Shaping Power conveys the richness and beauty of this important artistic tradition that was instrumental to shaping one of Central Africa’s most influential precolonial kingdoms. The beauty, elegance, and cultural significance of these classical Luba works demonstrate LACMA’s commitment to building a program of aesthetic and intellectual magnitude to celebrate Africa’s great artistic legacies. The exhibition also presents opportunities to teach about African history and cultural expression through the arts, with outreach a primary goal. For this exhibition, LACMA has been very fortunate to collaborate with the staff of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, in Tervuren, Belgium, and especially with RMCA Director General Guido Gryseels and Head of the Ethnography Division, Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, who has served as co-curator for Shaping Power.

Caryatid Stool, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood, glass beads, Royals Museum for Central Africa, RG 22725, Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA, Tervuren ©

Caryatid Stool, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood, glass beads, Royals Museum for Central Africa, RG 22725, Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Africa had—and has—many highly centralized kingdoms and states, and the Luba kingdom is one of the most important of Central Africa. The sculptures in Shaping Power were emblems of Luba rulers. Yet, while Luba arts were made and owned by men they almost always depict women, signaling the critical roles Luba women play as spiritual intermediaries, diplomats, advisors, and leaders of their communities. Upon entering the exhibition, the visitor will find two sculpted stools supported by kneeling female figures, as the most emblematic of Luba royal arts that once served as kings’ thrones. The stools provide a first glimpse of the complex philosophical underpinnings of authority in Luba culture, for kings are represented by the women who surround, uphold, and empower them. As a Luba proverb states, “Men are chiefs in the daytime, but women are chiefs at night.” And as Dr. Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha (a Luba professor of Religious Studies at California State University, Northridge) states, “The king’s role is to protect the people, to ensure human flourishing, and to serve the spirit. At the center of this is life, and women are the ones giving life. The foundation of kingship is the women.”

Anthropomorphic Water Pipe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautoanemii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 73.73.1 (collected by Comm. Hennebert between 1981 and 1900), photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Anthropomorphic Water Pipe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautoanemii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 73.73.1 (collected by Comm. Hennebert between 1981 and 1900), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Shaping Power features a select group of works that lend insight into Luba aesthetics, forms, and styles of the nineteenth century and earlier. They include figurative thrones, elegant scepters, royal cups, a virtuoso investiture bowl, intricately carved headrests, emblems of power such as a ceremonial axe, a finely rendered bowstand that served as a powerful receptacle of royal authority, and an ethereal water pipe graced by a serene female figure. Also included are compelling ancestral figures from neighboring groups such as Tabwa, Hemba, and Kalundwe, that tell their own stories from more distant regions of Luba influence.

Bowl-Bearing Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba-Henba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 14358 (Collected between 1981 and 1912, gift of A.H. Bure), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Bowl-Bearing Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba-Henba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 14358 (Collected between 1981 and 1912, gift of A.H. Bure), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

The works on display are sculpted from wood, with additions of iron and/or copper, as well as one work carved from ivory. While most of the artists’ names are not known to us today, four hands are identifiable. These include a kneeling bowl-bearing female figure by the celebrated artist known as the Buli Master, whose honorific Ngongo Ya Chintu means “Father of Sculpted Things” and whose workshop was the first identified anywhere in Africa by art historians. Two jewel-like headrests by the so-called Master of the Cascade Headdress are also on view. The exhibition further features the Royal Museum’s most iconic mask—so much so that it serves as the Belgian museum’s logo—on loan for the first time ever. The work may allude to the culture hero who introduced kingship to Luba people and the etiquette and precepts of royal bearing. The mask combines a supremely regal human face and the inward gaze of a divine being with a coiffure that suggests buffalo horns to convey both stealth and strength.

Male Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Schinziophyton rautaneii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 23470 (collected by O. Michaux in 1896), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Male Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Schinziophyton rautaneii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 23470 (collected by O. Michaux in 1896), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

To complement these historical works, a contemporary installation entitled Congo: Shadow of the Shadow (2005) by the Luba artist Aimé Mpane has been borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art. A male figure formed from 4,652 matchsticks expresses the paradoxes of human fragility and strength as light plays against shadow, substance against ethereality. Shadow of a Shadow offers a gripping commentary about how power was co-opted and re-configured by King Leopold’s possession (1885–1908) and then Belgian colonial rule of the Congo (1908–1960). The resilience and courage of Congolese people are expressed by Mpane’s installation, and the brilliance of contemporary Congolese artists offers an important lens into present perspectives on the past.

Aimè Mpane, Congo, Shadow of the Shadow, 2005, Mixed-media installation, 132 x 209 x 144 in., photo (c) 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Aimé Mpane, Congo, Shadow of the Shadow, 2005, Mixed-media installation, 132 x 209 x 144 in., National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Museum Purchase, 2009-10-1, photo (c) 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Sculptures on display in Shaping Power are also memory devices that permit and provoke narrative histories of Luba kingship and important chiefdoms as repositories of esoteric Luba knowledge. An intriguing Luba memory device called a lukasa has been borrowed from a private collection to suggest how the past is continually re-imagined through the eyes of the present. This object, made from wood and covered with beads, will be a magnet for audiences as they learn how a lukasa functions as a library of Luba knowledge encoded within the colors and configurations of its beads and incised patterns. Histories come alive through the beaded byways of this multi-layered memory map.

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Memory Board (Lukasa), Luba People, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Wood, beads, and metal, 13 3/8 in., Private Collection, photo (c) 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Shaping Power considers compelling themes in its groupings of objects, such as the purposes of sculpture in royal ritual, and how such works effect the transformation of an ordinary man to a sacred king. Why do Luba emblems commissioned, produced, and possessed by men nonetheless depict women? How are the guardian spirits of Luba kingship attracted to female figures, and why do sculptures depicting women empower their male owners? How do works from neighboring groups reflect the widely influential precepts of Luba royal aesthetics? And how do certain objects possess powers of healing and transformation?

As LACMA bursts with exciting ideas and innovative programs, African arts will contribute to such enthusiasm. Los Angeles is extraordinarily diverse and culturally rich, and the new program in African arts will offer opportunities for outreach and collaboration with a wide variety of communities. The opening of Shaping Power and the inauguration of the new dedicated gallery will announce to the world that African art has come to LACMA, and that it is here to stay.

Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, Consulting Curator, African Art
Professor, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance


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