Architecture, Displaced

August 7, 2013

Can omitting the context of location from a photograph of architecture remove its identity? Is a building defined by its country of origin? Is a photograph?

These are some of the questions that come to mind when looking at the works in the exhibition Construction/Deconstruction: Defining Architectural Photography.

Stéphane Couturier, Rue Chateaudun, Paris (1996), Cibachrome print, 40x 50 in., Ralph M. Parsons Fund, AC1997.166.1. © S. Couturier

Stéphane Couturier, Rue Chateaudun, Paris, 1996, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © S. Couturier

Stéphane Couturier’s photograph of a building site (or is it a demolition zone?) embraces the historical layers that are part of the DNA of a city such as Paris. It’s intriguing because the subtle hues of the image seem to embody the tonal light that is characteristic of the City of Light. What if the identifying title, Rue Chateadun, Paris, was stripped from this image? Would the light read as Parisian? Would this photograph have less of an impact?

In many ways, gallery spaces can be seen as abstracted forms of architecture. The galleries at LACMA, for instance, are constantly in flux with the mounting of each exhibition. The gallery spaces that were created specifically for the exhibition Stanley Kubrick will soon be home to Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel FigueroaArt and Film. Where there is now open space will soon be outfitted with walls and structure, in which both still and moving images will be placed.

LACMA galleries in construction.

A gallery at LACMA during construction. Like Couturier’s photograph, the context is removed, and the viewer is left to absorb the vocabulary of the forms within to place the space.

In an image (below) from the 1960s, Manuel Carrillo depicts stonework found in Mexico. It hints of an ancient structure, but is it? By focusing on a detail of a larger structure, Carrillo strips the building down to parts. We can, however, still read the building blocks, the strong light creating deep shadows, and the malevolent bird perching (perhaps a nod Mexican symbolism?).

Manuel Carrillo, Untitled (5022), c. 1960, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, M.2008.40.441

Manuel Carrillo, Untitled (5022), c. 1960, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Below, this “pop-up” gallery at LACMAshown before emerging from constructionnow houses 17th-century European metals, bronzes, and terracotta. Almost overnight, it transformed from anonymous space to a named gallery.

A gallery in transition.

A LACMA gallery in transition.

The work of Richard Barnes also comes to mind, specifically a suite of images depicting the crime scene that was the Unabomber’s cabin, a site that changed our definition of the term “cabin” forever.  Questions arise with such a consideration: which came first, the location/context or composition/concept?

Richard Barnes, Unabomber Cabin Exhibit B, 1998, gelatin silver print, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, AC199.163.2. © Richard Barnes

Richard Barnes, Unabomber Cabin Exhibit B, 1998, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Richard Barnes

Similarly, Simon Norfolk’s work reference paintings made during the height of the British Empire, in the 19th century. These vast paintings enabled the citizens of the Empire to bring into their homes images of the lands they colonized. Norfolk’s contemporary depiction of the Gates of Baghdad subtly skews this history, as the same edifices that were once celebrated as stakes to a colonial land are depicted in stages of destruction.

Simon Norfollk, The North Gate of Baghdad, 2003, Cibachrome print, 40 x 50 in., Ralph M. Parsons Fund, M.2004.246.  © Simon Norfolk.

Simon Norfollk, The North Gate of Baghdad, 2003, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Simon Norfolk

James Welling’s work from 2003 seems to hint at an future-past L.A., in twilight and not quite in ruins, but a dim glow of its former self.  But what would we infer if it wasn’t labeled West Los Angeles?

 James Welling, West Los Angeles Apartments, 2003, 5 ¼ x 9 in., Gift of the artist, M.2011.173.13. © James Welling

James Welling, West Los Angeles Apartments, 2003, gift of the artist, © James Welling

Even after the many exhibitions throughout L.A. this summer as part of the Pacific Standard Time Presents initiative, the topic of Los Angeles and architecture, and specifically the subgenre of “architectural photography” remains elusive.  Come see this exhibition—and the other PSTP shows—before they close to be part of the discussion.

Eve Schillo
Curatorial Assistant, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department


FiFo

August 6, 2013

FiFo. No, this is neither the name of a new restaurant nor that of an energy drink, but the abbreviation for Film und Foto (Film and Photography), a 1929 landmark exhibition on modern art, which inspired a gallery in the exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters, on view through Monday, September 2, in the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA.

Hans Richter Encounters, LACMA, Resnick Pavilion, Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Hans Richter Encounters, in the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

FiFo, which opened in Stuttgart and travelled to Berlin and other cities, connected film and photography in unprecedented ways. This exhibition showcased the diversity of contemporary developments in these media, as well as their use in design, advertising, and other forms of mass communication. The show also presented an extraordinary range of international photographers and filmmakers, including participants from the United States, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, France, and Switzerland.

Anton Bruehl, Still Life–)Silver, about 1930, gelatin-silver print, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin © 2013 Anton Bruehl Estate, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Anton Bruehl, Still Life–Silver, c. 1930, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © 2013 Anton Bruehl Estate, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

As curator of the film section of FiFo, artist and filmmaker Hans Richter was strongly involved in the exhibition. By 1929, Richter had pioneered abstract film with his Rhythm 21 and Rhythm 23, which were among the works of this genre created. Richter fought for film to be recognized as a legitimate art form. FiFo emphasized the role of film in modern art and society, and Richter’s selection aimed to showcase an international spectrum of new developments in the medium. Among the innovative filmmakers he included were Charlie Chaplin, Alexander Dovzhenko, Marcel Duchamp, Viking Eggeling, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Germaine Dulac, and Walter Ruttmann.

Room with works by László Moholy-Nagy at the 1929 FiFo exhibition in Berlin.

Room with works by László Moholy-Nagy at the 1929 FiFo exhibition in Berlin.

László Moholy-Nagy, Untitled, c. 1925, Gelatin silver print, Ralph M. Parsons Fund © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

László Moholy-Nagy, Untitled, c. 1925, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

As for the photography component of the exhibition, the FiFo planning committee invited Hungarian designer and photographer László Moholy-Nagy to organize a selection of photographs that would lend a historical continuum to the exhibition. He also contributed a number of his own works. Moholy-Nagy experimented in his work with different techniques, radical spatial perspectives, and was a pioneer of photograms and photomontage. FiFo presented numerous representatives of the New Vision movement, an avant-garde approach to photography that sought to present an entirely new way of seeing the world. Several New Vision photographers were students or teachers at the Bauhaus, the highly influential German design school.

Florence Henri, Self-Portrait, 1928 (printed 1974), Photo on linen, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection. Gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin © 2013 Florence Henri Estate, Galeria Martini & Ronchetti, Genoa, Italy, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Florence Henri, Self-Portrait, 1928 (printed 1974), the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © 2013 Florence Henri Estate, Galeria Martini & Ronchetti, Genoa, Italy, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

[Image 7] Edward Weston, No. 11 Cypress—Point Lobos (The Flame), 1929, Gelatin silver print, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection. Gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin © 2013 Arizona Board of Regents, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Edward Weston, No. 11 Cypress—Point Lobos (The Flame), 1929, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © 2013 Arizona Board of Regents, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Edward Weston and Edward Steichen were in charge of the selection of American photographers for FiFo. Weston was representative of the new formalist approach, which emphasized photography’s compositional elements as it was then developing in the United States, particularly on the West Coast. Imogen Cunningham, another American photographer, followed a similar method in her botanical images examining flowers as studies in form.

[Image 8]  The Russian Room, designed by El Lissitzky, at the 1929 FiFo exhibition in Stuttgart.

The Russian Room, designed by El Lissitzky, at the 1929 FiFo exhibition in Stuttgart.

Another particular aspect of the exhibition was its innovative design: El Lissitzky, one of the leading Russian Constructivists, was commissioned (along with his wife, Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers) to create the exhibition space for the selection of Russian photographers at FiFo. The Russian Room differed from the other galleries: it featured highly original gallery architecture and was the only section that directly integrated film and photography, showing extracts of films by contemporary Russian filmmakers alongside photographs.

[Image 9] Hans Richter Encounters, LACMA, Resnick Pavilion, Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Hans Richter Encounters, in the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Hans Richter: Encounters gives a glimpse of this landmark exhibition by displaying photographs by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, and Edward Weston, as well as by several members of the New Vision photography, such as Hans Finsler, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and Florence Henri. We were inspired by the original display of art in the 1929 FiFo exhibition and took the challenge not to recreate it, but to convey the spirit of it. Excerpts of films selected by Richter for FiFo are also shown in the same gallery.

 [Image 10] Hans Richter Encounters, LACMA, Resnick Pavilion, Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Hans Richter Encounters, in the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

If you want to experience FiFo in a 21st-century dimension, check out the augmented-reality app, developed by artists John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer especially for our show. (View them through one of the iPads available in the gallery.) LACMA’s Amy Heibel wrote about this app here and also interviewed the two artists. Starting from an installation shot of The Russian Room, they combined virtual and interactive space with excerpts of Russian films shown at at the original FiFo, including Dziga Vertov’s Kino Eye and Man with a Movie Camera and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. Both artists completely immersed themselves in Richter’s universe, using signature elements of some of Richter’s own films such as Ghosts before Breakfast—watch out for the flying hat!

Richter would have loved it. Whether you are a film or a photo fan, you should come see FiFo and pay homage to one of the landmark exhibitions of the 20th century.

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


Jesús Rafael Soto’s “Penetrable” at LACMA Dematerializes the Viewer

August 5, 2013

In the 1950s and 1960s, several Latin American artists settled in Paris, where they became key players in the movement of kinetic and op art. One such artist was the Venezuelan Jesús Rafael Soto, whose projects directly engaged the viewers’ participation. This is the case of Penetrable, a long-term loan from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, installed on LACMA’s plaza.

Jesús Rafael Soto Penetrable, 1990, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, photo: Verónica Muñoz-Najar

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrable, 1990, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, photo: Verónica Muñoz-Najar

As the work’s title implies, the architecturally scaled structure is intended to be pierced both optically and physically by the viewer. This interactive aspect sets it apart from many works presented within museum settings, in which objects are not meant to be touched. The piece is made of basic industrial materials, the bulk of it comprised of yellow plastic hoses that are suspended from a simple steel grid.

 

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrable, 1990, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrable, 1990, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

When viewers walk through the dense curtain of plastic tubes, they disappear into them and become part of the work. Soto was profoundly interested in the dematerializing effect of light, which he sought to recreate through such works. In the artist’s words “[the] man is no longer here and the world there, he is inside the fullness and it’s this fullness that I want to make people feel.”

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrable, 1990, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrable, 1990, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Although Soto’s work is conceived as a geometric sculpture, it lacks a solid surface or plane; its shape is easily altered by human contact, or even natural elements such as wind and rain. In other words, it is a work in constant flux. This playful and profoundly sensorial aspect of Soto’s Penetrable has made it one of the most popular works in the museum—an object that invites the viewer to become one with the work of art.

Verónica Muñoz-Najar, curatorial intern, Latin American Art


This Weekend at LACMA: Two New Arrivals, Three Shows Departing, A Traveling Art Lab, Free Concerts, and More!

August 2, 2013

Two contemplative exhibitions open on Sunday—one a practice in portraiture and the other an exercise in surrealism. Edward Steichen became well known for his photographic work in Vanity Fair and Vogue in the early part of the 20th century. Talk of the Town: Portraits by Edward Steichen from the Hollander Collection demonstrates how his work set a new standard for portrait photographers and includes celebrity images, fashion photography, and commercial advertising work. In Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet, the first solo exhibit of the poet outside Japan, viewers are enticed to discover avant-garde visual poetry, with its clean articulations and finely conceived pairings.

Kitasono Katue, La Disparition d’Honoré Subrac (オノレ・シュウブラック氏の減形), 1960, Collection of John Solt, © Hashimoto Sumiko, used with permission.

Kitasono Katue, La Disparition d’Honoré Subrac (オノレ・シュウブラック氏の減形), 1960, Collection of John Solt, © Hashimoto Sumiko, used with permission.

In nearby San Bernardino, the San Bernardino Art + Film Lab enters its second week at Perris Hill Park. This weekend, explore the art of documentary films and composition in free workshops, realize your story-telling abilities in oral history drop-ins, and enjoy free outdoor screenings of Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Gold Rush (see one of his most famous scenes from the film below) and the Japanese comedy Ohayō (Good Morning), about two boys and their campaign of silence aimed at getting a television set. The San Bernardino Art + Film Lab is in residence in San Bernardino `til August 25.

On campus, even more events are taking place. LACMA Muse members are invited this Friday night to a walkthrough of the forward-looking exhibition The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA, led by assistant curator Staci Steinberger. Reservations are required for this free event. Also, don’t forget, the west side of LACMA stays open late—until 11 pm—on Friday nights throughout the summer, and, if you reside in L.A. County, it’s free. (Note: paid admission is required for James Turrell.)

Andell Family Sundays this month features projects inspired by Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa, including the chance to design personal memory boards and kingship staffs. Andell Family Sundays are free with admission to the museum.

And, our weekly free concerts are sure to please. Jazz at LACMA presents Bob Sheppard, a veteran performer who has worked with names such as James Taylor, Natalie Cole, and Joni Mitchell, at 6 pm on Friday. Latin Sounds has the Susie Hansen Latin Band and their one-of-a-kind charanga sound on Saturday at 5 pm. And Sundays Live features oboist Kimaree Gilad and Friends, known for her “lyrical melodies and velvety sounds” (Orange County Register).

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

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

Lastly, we bid farewell to a few shows this Sunday at LACMA: Donald Judd, an exhibition that bares geometric forms as complex expressions of an aesthetic of wholeness from the Minimalism pioneer; Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It, L.A.-based Stephen Prina’s Pantone Honeysuckle 2011 Color of the Year grid of extracted furniture from houses by R. M. Schindler as part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.; and Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and The Broad Art Foundation, a display rife with pop-culture and political references from the Pictures Generation of three decades past. Indeed, all’s well that ends well.

Roberto Ayala


Attention to Edges (Richard Artschwager + Donald Judd)

August 1, 2013

Richard Artschwager, whose retrospective is currently on view at the Hammer Museum, worked in Formica, wood, and other industrial materials to explore the tension between art, everyday objects, and illusion. Artschwager’s work is hard to pin down—it flirts with the boundaries between what is known as Conceptualism, Minimalism, and Pop.

What is clearly articulated in Artschwager’s work is his immense attention to detail, namely for edges and angles. Portrait II, from 1963, is emblematic of Artschwager’s focus not only on the object he’s creating, but for the nuances that make us believe it’s a recognizable, functional piece of furniture when, in fact, it is pure form.

Richard Artschwager, Portrait II (detail), 1963, Yale University Art Gallery, promised Gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro, B.A. 1956. © Richard Artschwager

Richard Artschwager, Portrait II (detail), 1963, Yale University Art Gallery, promised gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro, B.A. 1956. © Richard Artschwager

When looking at the lines that make up the points of separation between the “drawers” of this “bureau,” a pattern begins to form: Artschwager staggers his articulation of the space. A gap is filled in with yellow material, a gap is left unfilled, and so on, until Portrait II meets the floor, at which it appears to be floating.

Richard Artschwager, Portrait II, 1963, Yale University Art Gallery, promised Gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro, B.A. 1956. © Richard Artschwager

Richard Artschwager, Portrait II (detail), 1963, Yale University Art Gallery, promised Gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro, B.A. 1956. © Richard Artschwager

Donald Judd’s Untitled series from 1988, while made 25 years after Artschwager’s Portrait II, showcases like-minded thought of two contemporaries. In this piece (below) from the series, Judd breaks up sturdy, heavy blocks by highlighting the negative space of the wove paper.

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, purchased with funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Fund by exchange, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Tony Ganz, and Dorothy Sherwood, © Donald Judd / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, purchased with funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Fund by exchange, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Tony Ganz, and Dorothy Sherwood, © Donald Judd / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Judd relies on an assertiveness of edges to delineate segmented spaces. That this series is made from woodcut is especially interesting. In the relief cut of the wood block, an image is formed by cutting away at the surface of the wood. In this case, the image resulted in two lines bisecting a rectangle.

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, purchased with funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Fund by exchange, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Tony Ganz, and Dorothy Sherwood, © Donald Judd / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, purchased with funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Fund by exchange, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Tony Ganz, and Dorothy Sherwood, © Donald Judd / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

In 1965, Donald Judd wrote an essay, “Specific Objects,” in which he observed:

“The composition must react to the edges and the rectangle must be unified, but the shape of the rectangle is not stressed; the parts are more important, and the relationships of color and form occur among them.”

Like Artschwager, Judd’s close study of edges is apparent in his body of work. This was one similarity in many between the two artists, whose simultaneous mountings at sister institutions in Los Angeles is fortuitous and offers an opportunity to focus on how edges made their work.

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, purchased with funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Fund by exchange, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Tony Ganz, and Dorothy Sherwood, © Donald Judd / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1988, purchased with funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Fund by exchange, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Tony Ganz, and Dorothy Sherwood, © Donald Judd / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Donald Judd’s Untitled series is on view in a special installation through Sunday, August 4, in the Ahmanson Building, Level 2. Also: don’t miss Judd’s spectacular Untitled (for Leo Castelli), from 1977, permanently on view in LACMA’s Wilshire East Garden.

Linda Theung, editor


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