New Online Publication for Southeast Asian Art

November 20, 2013

Over the past several years LACMA has had the remarkable opportunity to take a fresh look at how we share scholarship about our collection online as participants in an exciting project, the Getty Foundation’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative. Beginning in 2008, the Foundation provided significant grant funding to launch online collection catalogues at nine museums—the National Gallery and the Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Tate (London), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Seattle Art Museum, the Walker Art Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and LACMA.

The Getty Foundation brought representatives from these museums together periodically over the past few years, encouraging us to seek and share solutions.

Homepage

Southeast Asian Art: An Online Scholarly Catalogue

LACMA decided to start with a selection of objects from the South and Southeast Asian art department, drawing upon the deep expertise of senior scholar, Dr. Robert Brown. He had begun working with the collection in the early 1980s before he left LACMA to take a teaching position in the art history department at UCLA, where he is currently a tenured professor. Dr. Brown returned to LACMA in 2000 to continue working as a curator. For him, the project seemed an ideal opportunity to capture new scholarship in Southeast Asian art, and simultaneously publish in-depth knowledge about a number of objects. In addition to entries about these objects, the new online publication includes four substantial essays by Dr. Brown on topics as varied as light symbolism or female deities in Cambodian and Indonesian art.

Dr. Robert Brown, professor in the department of art history at UCLA and LACMA curator of South and Southeast Asian art

Dr. Robert Brown, professor in the department of art history at UCLA and LACMA curator of South and Southeast Asian art

Another important element of the new online publication is its presentation of the technical aspects of selected works, provided by LACMA senior objects conservator John Hirx. In his contributions, Hirx details subjects such as seismic bases, repairs, elemental analysis, and production techniques. Publishing on the web rather than in print gives us the opportunity to use digital media to showcase this kind of behind-the-scenes work that goes on at the museum as part of our mission to care for and conserve great works of art.

Much consideration was given to the audience for this project. The first collective impulse was to provide information for all levels of users, from casual readers or young students to university and professional scholars. Lively discussions with both internal staff and outside advisors soon narrowed the intended audience to scholarly users. We surveyed selected members of this audience to determine what tools and aspects of the project could be most helpful. Another consideration was making the online publication stable and dependable enough that it could be cited and retrieved for doctoral dissertations or other publications. As Robert Brown originally remarked, “I don’t let my university students use web data as information on Southeast Asian art, as it is virtually nonexistent, or when found, undependable and generally poor quality.” The intention of this project is to reverse that trend, creating online sources that can be used internationally at no cost. Several years ago, there was much concern by museum partners in this project about sharing copyrighted images on websites. Fortunately, this era of controlled image posting by museums is passing with advent of new open-content policies.

On the technical side, the project is an expression of our commitment to open-source development: partnering with other museums to create free, shared digital resources developed by and for the museum community. As the project proceeded, we decided to join forces with some of the OSCI partner museums to invest in the open-source OSCIToolkit created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s IMA Lab for initial use by the Art Institute of Chicago. LACMA customized the tool kit with web-development firm Urban Insight for our own unique goals. We look forward to sharing the code repository soon, and continuing to customize tools that support the online presentation of rich media content about our collection.

Please visit the new publication and tell us what you think. Don’t miss the information icon at the top right corner of the site; it reveals an introduction, credits, and explains subtle functions of the site. Beyond the scholarly contributions, some of the best aspects of the project are the very high-resolution images, which can be manipulated with the “compare” tool, greatly enlarged, or in some cases, rotated.

Detail

See features of works of art up close in the Southeast Asian Art Online Scholarly Catalogue

We’ve also included video interviews, maps, a slide tray with images that track the appearance of figure numbers in the essays, and even citation tools that can extract quotes in three formats to help students and scholars refer back to the content.

To note, it’s an important part of our commitment to enabling scholars to do more research online that we do not plan to change the content we’ve published here, so that citations are stable and always refer to the snapshot of information as it was originally published. If we decide to release an updated version of our Southeast Asian catalogue, we will do so under a new URL, so that it is possible for scholars to cite either or both our original and our updated publication, and witness the development of scholarship at the museum over time.

Citation Tool

Ctation tools can extract quotes in three formats to help students and scholars refer back to the content.

CitationDetail

Citations are stable and always refer to the snapshot of information as it was originally published.

LACMA’s ambition is to continue to use the online publication tool we’ve built with our OSCI partners and the support from the Getty Foundation by launching an annual volume. The next publication will be dedicated to the study of the Carter Collection of Dutch paintings by Dr. Amy Walsh and Senior Paintings Conservator Joseph Fronek. Three other partners in this project, SFMoMA (Rauschenberg Research Project), Seattle Art Museum (Chinese Painting & Calligraphy), and Tate (The Camden Town Group in Context) have also launched their sites, and Art Institute of Chicago has released an early prototype of their Impressionist masterpieces by Monet and Renoir.

But for now, test it out, seasian.catalog.lacma.org, and send us some comments with the “contact” feature.

Nancy Thomas, senior deputy director, art administration and collections


Geometric Installation Mirrors Kitasono Katue’s Sensibility

November 19, 2013

During my two-week visit to L.A. in October, I had several opportunities to visit the Pavilion for Japanese Art at LACMA to see the exhibition Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet. What first struck me was the installation and presentation of the works of art in the two-room gallery. The display on each wall was well thought out to the finest detail, and some of Kitasono’s poems and drawings were arranged neatly on the white walls.

Oval tables custom made for the exhibition were inspired by Kitasono's aesthetic.

Oval tables custom made for the exhibition were inspired by Kitasono’s aesthetic.

The organic, oval-shaped display tables were particularly eye catching. Hollis Goodall, a curator of Japanese art at LACMA, described the tables as being specially made for the exhibition, and the idea of their shape was taken from stones that Kitasono often used in his photographic works (called “plastic poems”) as well as on some covers of poetry books and magazines.

Kitasono Days Among the Trees

Kitasono Katue, cover of Whole Days in the Trees by Marguerite Duras, 1967, collection of John Solt, photograph by Lenny Lesser

The covers of VOU, the cutting-edge avant-garde magazine, are displayed on the walls. The presentation traces the transition of his longest-running journal from 1935 to 1978 (except during the Pacific War years). Goodall explained that, by lining VOU magazines side-by-side on the wall, one could see the various and rare colors Kitasono used, how he would manipulate type, and how he did not work in a grid, a strategy typically employed by many graphic artists. Instead, Kitasono worked with balance, space, and color. Viewers seemed intrigued by his aesthetic sense of color (which derived from the fine gradations of traditional Japanese colors), his use of small-font typography, and his graphic images placed on vast blank spaces.

The arrangement of VOU covers in the exhibition.

The arrangement of VOU covers in the exhibition. Photo by Lenny Lesser

The exhibition brochure is another visual feast for the eyes. LACMA graphic designer David Karwan’s deep insights and understanding of Kitasono’s oeuvre made it possible to make this creative, playful, yet sophisticated brochure with high-quality paper, which reflects Kitasono’s aesthetic.

The exhibition brochure designed by David Karwan, courtesy of John Solt

The exhibition brochure designed by David Karwan, courtesy of John Solt

Staging an exhibition is a collaborative process: the curator, designer, and museum staff all worked productivity together to create this innovative contemporary-art exhibition that matches the artistic caliber of Kitasono Katue.

In Japan, Kitasono has garnered more and more appreciation in recent years due to his exploration of various art forms—mainly poetry, photography, and graphic design. Interestingly, however, the interpretation and evaluation of his artworks are different for each genre. In the past 10 years, Kitasono has been particularly well known and respected in the Japanese graphic-design world for his highly refined sense of color, space, and aesthetic balance in design. As one of the pioneers of the field, Kitasono has been looked upon with awe and admired by design luminaries such as Takahashi Shohachiro (also a VOU member), Sugiura Kohei, and Asaba Katsumi.

Tsukue

Kitasono Katue, covers of Tsukue 9, no. 10 (October 1958), Tsukue 9, no. 11 (November 1958), Tsukue 9, no. 12 (December 1958), collection of John Solt

Although Kitasono created most of his avant-garde poems in the middle years of the 20th century, his poetry works were often unappreciated by the Japanese poetry world, which was rooted in tradition at the time. Many felt his modernist poems made no sense, lacking emotion and therefore difficult to interpret. It’s only quite recently that Kitasono’s poetry has been favorably received by today’s younger generation, who tend to see them as simple, light, and, therefore, “cool.” Besides, his experimental poems fit well in the digital age. For example, “Monotonous Space” (1958) is one of his representative poems that breaks the notion of conventional poetry by putting the particleの [“no”] (meaning “of” or “ ’s”) at the beginning of lines, as well as using extremely short lines and few verbs. By changing the text direction of the poem from vertical (for traditional Japanese text) to horizontal (for Westernized Japanese text) and scrolling the text down on a computer screen, it becomes much easier to read his rule-breaking poems. Kitasono was ahead of the curve, and only now the times are beginning to catch up with his avant-garde antics.

Kitasono envisioned a future mode of poetry without words. His photography reflected this aim. He created photographic works he called “plastic poems,” using found objects such as stones, wire, string, and crumpled newspapers. His visual poetry gained international recognition and has inspired two generations of artists in the field. On view concurrently at LACMA is John Divola: As Far as I Could Get (through July 6, 2014), which examines a Los Angeles–based photographer who studied under Robert Heineken. Whether or not he is familiar with Kitasono’s work, the continuing trend of concrete/visual poetry can be found in Divola’s Polaroid images of sculpted objects, which were also made out of humble materials.

John Divola, Man on a Hill, 89MHA1, 1987–9, © John Divola

John Divola, Man on a Hill, 89MHA1, 1987–9, © John Divola

crumpled paper man

Kitasono Katue, Plastic Poem: “Night of Figure,” featured in VOU magazine, no. 148, 1975, collection of John Solt

Kitasono Katue elevated poetry to the realm of fine art (and vice versa), and his genre-crossing artistic spirit and the intermedia products of his creative mind are moving as geometric organisms across time and space, with LACMA the first to focus on his work outside Japan.

Eiko Aoki, art critic and author of blog, ArtThrob in L.A. and Japan


See the Light through the Female Gaze

November 18, 2013

I’ll admit I have little interest in an exhibit whose focus is based primarily on the gender of the artist. That said, if in some alternate universe (or blogosphere!) I was asked to organize such a show, I’d be glad to be able to share with my audience the depth and breadth of female photographers found in the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection. In See the Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, the presence of women practitioners is felt throughout the 200-plus works that are featured in the loosely chronological display that covers the invention of photography through to the late 1980s.

Early adapters abound, such as Julia Margaret Cameron and her eerily contemporary portraits from the late 1800s. There is a presence about the works—I can almost feel the air around her sitters.

Julia Margaret Cameron, Ms. Herbert Duckworth (née Julia Jackson), The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation and Carol and Robert Turbin

Julia Margaret Cameron, Ms. Herbert Duckworth (née Julia Jackson), c. 1867, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation and Carol and Robert Turbin

And yes, women captured women in a way that was, by default, different from (if not better than) their male counterparts. Beyond Cameron, my eye finds the 1930s California modernist Ilse Bing and her experimental view from above. The unique perspective, seen in this image below, is the result of a modernist sensibility regarding composition, which is married with a desire to depict a more modern woman.

Ilse Bing, Knitted Round Cap, 1933, printed 1933, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation and Carol and Robert Turbin, © Estate of Ilse Bing

Ilse Bing, Knitted Round Cap, 1933, printed 1933, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation and Carol and Robert Turbin, © Estate of Ilse Bing

Back to a classic presentation of the female form: the nude. In Ruth Bernhard’s iconic 1960s Classic Torso with Hands (many of you many know her Nude in the Box better), the body serves as a sculptural entity, enabling Bernhard to organize the play of light and shadow. It also shows how shades of gray can create a “landscape” and how the subject’s head is truncated in a way that makes this torso sculptural first and sensual second. Though I’m wondering what we would all be thinking if the author was male . . .

Ruth Bernhard, Classic Torso with Hands, 1962, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, Ruth Bernhard Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, © Trustees of Princeton University

Ruth Bernhard, Classic Torso with Hands, 1962, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, Ruth Bernhard Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, © Trustees of Princeton University

The progression of photographic practice as represented by women artists continues within the four “chapters” of See the Light. They are: “Descriptive Naturalism,” “Subjective Naturalism,” “Experimental Modernism,” and “Romantic Modernism.” These chapters bracket not only the advances in photography, but the progression of thinking by scholars in the fields of perception, psychology, and neurology. The exhibition traces the idea that all such advances in either the photographic arts or the sciences happened in tandem with these scientific discoveries.

The photographic eye went through modifications as understanding of the mechanics of human optics developed, meaning both the eye as a machine (not unlike the camera), and, later, our grasp of what the brain does with this received imagery.

My favorite chapter, “Experimental Modernism,” also has a good proportion of female artists. Intriguingly, Berenice Abbott is one who moves from 1930s work describing a street scape, to the late 1950s, when she crosses over on our “Experimental Modernism” chapter with work done while at MIT creating imagery for use in teaching physics. The presentation elaborates  on one career track the ideas in and around visual thinking that are the essence of this exhibit.

Back to the fun being had in “Experimental Modernism.” Even within each imposed division there is still an early, middle, and later period. Follow how the eye/mind works within this trio that runs from 1936 to 1940 to 1947. First, Margaret Bourke-White’s abstracted and monumental view of a dam, next Carlotta Corpron’s equally monumental distorted light (a play on perception), and Ruth Mandel’s newly defined “landscape” of a storefront window (this image asks the viewer to accept interior and exterior on one picture plain, and surface reflections as equal to background shadows).

Carlotta M. Corpron, Fluid Light Design, 1940, printed c. 1940, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © 1983 Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Carlotta M. Corpron, Fluid Light Design, 1940, printed c. 1940, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © 1983 Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Rose Mandel, On Walls and Behind Glass, 1947, printed 1947, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Rose Mandel Archives, all rights reserved

Rose Mandel, On Walls and Behind Glass, 1947, printed 1947, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Rose Mandel Archives, all rights reserved

These next two experimenters are also great examples of early/later imagery: 1950s Germany and 1980s America. We likely wouldn’t posit these two artists—or time periods or the county of production—together, but that’s the wonderfully freeing and, for many, new way of looking at the images that make up the history of photography on display in See the Light.

 Ruth Hallensleben, Interior Structure—Factory, 1950s, printed 1950s, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Ruth Hallensleben / Ruhr Museum Photo Archive

Ruth Hallensleben, Interior Structure—Factory, 1950s, printed 1950s, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Ruth Hallensleben / Ruhr Museum Photo Archive

Barbara Kasten, Construct NYC 11, 1984, printed 1984, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Barbara Kasten

Barbara Kasten, Construct NYC 11, 1984, printed 1984, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Barbara Kasten

Picturing these next two women, Mostyn in 1850s and Enos in the 1970s, separated not only by time and their approach to depicting nature, but of course, by the very tools available to enable them to conceive of such imagery. Enos actually went back in time a bit, using a stereoscopic process popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Images are viewed in pairs (representing the left and right eye view) through a stereoscopic viewer; optically the brain fills in the overlaps of both images and creates another image, one that appears three dimensional.

Chris Enos, Untitled, 1974, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Chris Enos

Chris Enos, Untitled, 1974, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Chris Enos

 Henrietta Augusta Mostyn, Tree and Rock, c. 1850, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Henrietta Augusta Mostyn, Tree and Rock, c. 1850, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

My final walkthrough of See the Light brings me to another juxtaposition with the “Subjective Naturalism” section. Käsebier’s poignant image of mother and child (a family favorite of the Vernons) from 1899. Marjorie Vernon often referred to this image as expressing a sentiment that she and Leonard held dear—the value of family, but also the value of a parent seeming to push a child forward into the world, proclaiming, go forward and create something.

Gertrude Käsebier, Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Gertrude Käsebier, Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Marjorie was feisty enough to include this contrasting image in their collection: another subjective view on the theme of parent and child by controversial photographer (depending on your perspective) Sally Mann.

Sally Mann, Untitled (Man on Lawn Chair with Girl in His Lap), 1985, printed 1985, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Sally Mann, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Sally Mann, Untitled (Man on Lawn Chair with Girl in His Lap), 1985, printed 1985, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Sally Mann, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

It’s worth noting that the photography industry focused on the female demographic from the very beginning. Even then such early adapters brought the camera into the household and made it increasingly relevant part of everyday life, as well as becoming key practioners. Below is a selection of Kodak instructional manuals that would have been in circulation as early as the late 1880s and early 1900s—note each cover depicting a woman practicing the art of photography.

Kodak pamphlets, courtesy Stephen White, Collection II

Kodak pamphlets, courtesy Stephen White, Collection II

Perhaps when you visit this exhibit you will start to move around the show as I have here—in terms of cognition, subjectivity, and perception, that is, not just the gender of the artist!

Eve Schillo, curatorial assistant, Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography


This Weekend at LACMA: Legendary Mexican Film, Jazz and Classical Performances, Stellar Exhibitions, and More!

November 15, 2013

There’s only one way LACMA knows to enjoy a weekend—with live music, stunning film, and world-class art—and this week is no exception. On Friday the Tom Rizzo Group takes center stage at Jazz at LACMA. Guitarist Tom Rizzo helms this bebop-based jazz group, recognized by their dulcet tones and pulsing rhythms. Jazz at LACMA is, as always, free and open to the public. Then, in the Bing Theater, the brief but beautiful film series The Image of Mexico: Multiple Visions presents works by Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa and his legacy, as seen in the exhibition Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film. See Redes at 7:30 pm, a fascinating and influential artifact, and Let’s Go with Pancho Villa at 8:45 pm, a production with epic proportions.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Gabriel Figueroa reviewing light tests for the film Sonatas, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem, 1959, Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive, © Estate of Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Gabriel Figueroa reviewing light tests for the film Sonatas, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem, 1959, Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive, © Estate of Manuel Álvarez Bravo

On Saturday museum patrons are invited to join any of the half-dozen free tours offered throughout the day, including a walk-through of one of our newest exhibitions See the Light: Photography, Perception, Cognition—The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection. While you’re exploring the collection, don’t miss David Hockney: Seven Yorkshire Landscape Videos, 2011, Lingering Dreams: Japanese Painting of the 17th Century, and Down to Earth: Modern Artists and the Land, before Land Art. In the evening, The Image of Mexico film series concludes with the hallucinatory ¡Que viva México! at 5 pm, and then the tribute documentary Multiple Visions—The Crazy Machine at 7:30 pm (both screenings are free).

Image: © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Image: © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Finally, on Sunday families are invited to join in this week’s edition of Andell Family Sundays beginning at 12:30 pm. For the month of November children and their parents are looking at and creating their own interpretations of animals in Japanese art in the form of scrolls and screens. Later in the day, Sundays Live presents the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra with pieces from Arvo Pärt, Darius Milhaud, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Topping it all off, Film Independent at LACMA hosts a free members-only screening of Eastbound & Down, the HBO television comedy about to reach its finale. This is what we call a weekend done right.

Roberto Ayala


My Melodiously Magical Sunday Evening at LACMA

November 15, 2013

One of the perks of interning at an organization as dynamic as LACMA is becoming familiar with the variety of programs and events that take place. For instance, the Sundays Live series is a truly wonderful (and free!) opportunity to hear classical music that I had previously not explored. Thus, to rectify such an omission, I attended my first Sundays Live performance on October 27 and was greatly impressed by the caliber of talent that LACMA showcased in the cozy Bing Theater.

Capitol Ensemble

Capitol Ensemble

The performance I attended featured members of the Capitol Ensemble playing with Rina Dokshitsky a program of Romantic-era pieces by Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann. The concert was broadcast live on KUSC, adding to the excitement of the event. As I waited for the concert to start, I observed that the audience was a diverse cross section of the community, which included seasoned classical music aficionados and likely newcomers. Notably, there were families taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce their children to classical music and students curious about the genre. The works, a violin sonata and a piano quintet, had a transcendent effect that made for a truly magical Sunday evening—the perfect ending to the weekend.

Sundays Live offers free classical concerts every Sunday evening at 6 pm, hosting a variety of musicians and ensembles. This series effectively underscores the complementary nature of visual and performing arts.

So next time you are planning your weekend, consider incorporating an experience with music at Sundays Live after out the works of art in the collection and special exhibitions. You might make connections between what you see in the galleries and onstage.

Oxana Ermolova, intern, marketing


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