This Weekend at LACMA

July 11, 2014

In the Bing Theater the latest film series from Academy @ LACMA, By Any Means Necessary: A Spike Lee Joints Retrospective, continues with She’s Gotta Have It at 7:30 pm and Bamboozled at 9 pm. Celebrating the visual imagination, intelligent discourse on race relations, and edgy style of writer-director Spike Lee, this series includes several special introductions including writer-director Justin Simien and actor-comedian Damon Wayans on Friday night. For live music see Grant Geissman & the Bop! Bang! Boom! Band at Jazz at LACMA at 6 pm.

In Inglewood at the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab see the cultural mashup from 1999, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, featuring a score by RZA and starring Forest Whitaker on Friday at 7 pm. On Saturday at noon participate in a free Composition Workshop and learn how to create an expressive image on film. All levels welcome! The LACMA9 Art+Film Lab resides at the Inglewood Public Library through July 27.

On your visit to the museum on Saturday enjoy any of the free, docent-led tours including a 50-minute walkthrough of South and Southeast Asian Art at 2 pm or the popular Highlights of the Museum tour at 3 pm. In the late afternoon Bobby Rodriguez LatinJazz ensemble performs at Latin Sounds in the outdoor amphitheater behind the museum at 5 pm.

Martinus Rørbye, Palermo Harbor with a View of Monte Pellegrino, 1840, oil on canvas, Gift of the 1990 Collectors Committee

Martinus Rørbye, Palermo Harbor with a View of Monte Pellegrino, 1840, gift of the 1990 Collectors Committee

Sunday, see Visions of the South before it closes. This exhibition presents paintings, prints, and photographs from the museum’s expansive collection to explore the evolution of the concept of the south in European art over centuries. Elsewhere in the galleries, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic enters its final weeks on view. Iconic works abound in this exhibition designed by architect Frank Gehry. Admission to this special exhibition also grants you access to this summer’s Van Gogh to Kandinsky. Families are invited to Andell Family Sundays at 12:30 pm and a project around Korean treasures. Finally, close out the weekend with a concert from accordionist and composer Nick Ariondo and Friends during Sundays Live at 6 pm. Cheers, it’s the weekend!

Roberto Ayala

 


Miracle Mile Architecture, circa 2023: Zumthor, Piano…Gehry?

July 10, 2014

For the last year or so there has been a lot of talk about new, major works of architecture proposed for the Miracle Mile—more specifically the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from Fairfax to Curson. First to come will be a renovation and new façade for the Petersen Automotive Museum, followed in 2017 by the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures—a design by Renzo Piano making adaptive reuse of the 1939, A. C. Martin–designed former May Company department store. It will be adjacent to two more Piano buildings, LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion and BCAM.

Meanwhile work continues on the development of a new building on LACMA’s campus to be designed by Peter Zumthor. As was detailed in a recent New York Times article, with additional information in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, the Zumthor plan has (literally) taken a new shape since it was unveiled in an exhibition at LACMA last year. In order to preserve areas of future research by scientists at the neighboring Page Museum, Zumthor has smartly moved portions of the building away from the La Brea Tar Pits and instead bridging over Wilshire Boulevard to the land owned by the museum on the southeast corner of Spaulding and Wilshire.

© Atelier Zumthor and Partner

© Atelier Zumthor and Partner

By moving roughly a quarter of the building (about 100,000 square feet) over and across the street, Zumthor’s design lightens the impact on Hancock Park. His design also opens up approximately two acres of new, open park space while improving pedestrian flow. The move also connects LACMA more directly to the vibrancy of Wilshire, with views up and down the boulevard as well as space for public and social activities on both sides of the street.

The building would be comprised of two levels—a large horizontal gallery level, and five pavilions at the park level that support the permanent collection galleries and house a variety of museum programs. Its square footage would be roughly the same as the four current buildings it would replace, but gallery space devoted to LACMA’s collection would increase by about 50,000 square feet (the equivalent of adding another Resnick Pavilion to the campus). That’s not insignificant, especially considering that LACMA has added more than 18,000 artworks to its collection in just the last seven years, including transformative collections of modern art, photography, ancient American art, and European fashion, as well as masterpieces by Thomas Eakins, Maruyama Ōkyo, Henri Matisse, and others.

© Atelier Zumthor and Partner

© Atelier Zumthor and Partner

Zumthor’s design is still in the feasibility phase, meaning there is a long way to go. Elements of the building program are still being fleshed out, as are realistic timeframes, costs, and fundraising plans (all dollar amounts you’ve seen attached to the project, which seem to fluctuate wildly depending on what article you read, are at this point conjecture). That said, the hoped-for timeline would see the building completed by 2023.

Why 2023? Because that is the year the Metro arrives at Wilshire and Fairfax, connecting the Miracle Mile to other parts of Los Angeles as never before.

Which brings us to the latest news published by the Los Angeles Times today—the possibility of a commercial, mixed-use development across the street from LACMA, perhaps designed by Frank Gehry.

The site in question would be on land owned by four parties, LACMA being one. (As the article says, LACMA owns the lot at the corner of Ogden and Wilshire, which amounts to about one-third of the larger site.) Metro will use the entire site—on the south side of Wilshire from Ogden Drive to Orange Grove—for staging the construction of the new station. As with other new stations—for instance, the Hollywood and Highland station and complex which opened in 2000—development of the site will follow. The precise nature of the future development, in terms of its design and program, is very preliminary.

LACMA and our neighbors on the site all agree that the development should be of significant architectural and civic value that will contribute to the neighborhood and Los Angeles. Although no architect has been selected, Michael Govan expressed his hope for Frank Gehry in the article. The two worked together previously on Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, and Gehry has worked with LACMA most recently on the exhibition design for Calder and Abstraction and the 2012 Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective. “That’s my dream,” Govan said in the article. “I’m jealous that New York has a Gehry tower and we don’t.”

All of these projects are long-term endeavors that will surely go through many ups and downs over the next nine years. Ultimately we hope that the Miracle Mile—already known for its history of fantastic architecture—will feature works by three Pritzker Prize–winning architects on one short stretch. It would be an incredible achievement for Los Angeles.

Scott Tennent, Director of Executive Communications

 


Data as Feminist Protest

July 10, 2014

I am one of the artists participating in this year’s Art + Technology Lab. My project is a robot that puts pie charts onto edible pies. The data on the pie charts depict gender ratios in places where art and technology work happens (tech companies, museums, galleries, festivals, etc.). It is an edible data visualization that protests the lack of women in these fields.

Data and its visualization are important to my work as well as to feminist protest art overall. LACMA and the original Art and Technology program (1967–1971), as well as other museums and galleries, has in the past been subject to feminist-protest art using data. I will give you a (virtual) tour of some of these sites of protest that connect my work with feminist data visualization protest past and present.

lacma_blog_image

Los Angeles Council of Women Artists Report

When I was writing the application for the Art + Tech Lab grant, I consulted the 1971 Report on the Art and Technology Program at LACMA [link] (A&T) to view projects. I was especially interested in women participants. As I read through the list of participating artists, my heart sank with every name that turned out to have a male artist and/or technologist behind it. Much searching revealed Channa Davis (Channa Horowitz), the author of an unsolicited project proposal that was one of many submitted by women but the only one featured in the 1971 catalogue. Her project was never realized within A&T.

In a 2007 publication accompanying an exhibition at Solway Jones Gallery in Los Angeles, Horowitz made the following statement (original text in the LACMA archive):

“Although Maurice Tuchman, the curator of the show, included my proposal in the catalogue because he ‘thought it looked pretty,’ he did not feel it was appropriate for a woman to discuss an engineering project with the male industrial scientists involved with the show.”

Given that no women were included in the almost all-white male cast of A&T, it was a provocation to women artists in Los Angeles that Maurice Tuchman, who co-curated A&T with Jane Livingston, wrote in the introductory chapters of the Report on the Art and Technology Program that he sought “as wide a range of artists as possible” when soliciting proposals. The Los Angeles Council of Women responded immediately by releasing their own report (archived on the Getty website) to contest the assertions that Tuchman made in the exhibition catalogue.

Appendix II of the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists Report, June 15, 1971, Getty Research Institute, 2003.M.46 S ee more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/pacificstandardtime/explore-the-era/archives/i143/

Appendix II of the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists Report, June 15, 1971, Getty Research Institute, 2003.M.46. See more at http://blogs.getty.edu/pacificstandardtime/explore-the-era/archives/i143/

The report is a seven-page document that includes an impressive two-page appendix of data. In the introductory paragraphs, the authors write: “As many women as men are enrolled in the art schools of this country, but the number of women who achieve recognition is negligible.” The authors then continue to demonstrate the lack of women artists shown at LACMA by thoroughly discussing the data listed in the appendix. The first page of the appendix lists all one-artist shows at LACMA from 1961 to 1971. Out of 53, only one was dedicated to a woman artist.

They also found that only 4% of the works displayed in group shows at LACMA in the same time span were by women artists. On June 1, 1971, the group counted the works on display in the Ahmanson Building and found that less than 1% were by women. The authors then continued to do more quantitative and qualitative analysis of LACMA and specifically the Art and Technology program. They concluded with a 12-point program aimed at reversing the low numbers of women and minority artists at LACMA.

So why is this report important in the context of art? After all, the bone-dry data as presented by the Women Artist Council is more likely to be found in the domain of engineering and technology rather than in art. This is exactly the point: data can be a useful tool for the underrepresented and excluded to subvert curatorial rhetoric and authority and show how far the inequality goes.  

Maurice Tuchman Masks

Maurice Tuchman, the co-curator of the Art and Technology program, was again subject to criticism by women artists in 1981, when he did not include any female artists in the exhibition Art in Los Angeles: 17 Artists in the Sixties. The artists attended the opening of the show wearing masks depicting Tuchman’s face. The protest had a party-like atmosphere; protesters held balloons with the question, “Where are the women and minorities?” By hiding their own diversity behind masks and pretending to celebrate, protesters visualized the disconnect between curator and the audience. 

Protest at County Art Museum, July 16, 1981, photo by Anne Knudsen/Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Collection, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library. See the original here: http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/DoSearch?databaseID=968&count=10&terms=00041646&index=w

Protest at County Art Museum, July 16, 1981, photo by Anne Knudsen/Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Collection, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library. See the original here.

Other Efforts

At other art venues, women artists have been protesting with data as well. The Guerilla Girls, a group comprised of anonymous gorilla-mask wearing avengers, have been protesting the lack of women in the art world, film, and culture at large since 1985. Their work is characterized by slogans and data as typified by the billboard in the image below. This mobile billboard was placed in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2012.

The Guerilla Girls, 2012, [link] Source: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/posters/BostonNaked.shtml 

The Guerrilla Girls, 2012. Source

Another interesting recent project is Gallery Tally, a collaborative project initiated by Micol Hebron. She asks artists worldwide to contribute data visualizations in the form of gallery posters. The posters depict gender ratios in those galleries or the total gender ratio in galleries in specific cities.

What’s Next?

Feminist protest art that uses different forms of data collection, analysis, and visualization has existed for at least 43 years and yet gender parity is not yet reality. This doesn’t discourage me. Rather, I think that a multitude of voices and approaches are needed. Gender data collection, analysis, and visualization needs to be applied to other areas of life as well—in my case, technology creation. My pie visualizations emphasize economic and workplace implications for women working in the art and tech world and in intersections thereof. If you want to follow along as the project develops you can do it here.

Annina Rüst, Art + Technology Lab Grant Recipient


Mapping Devotion to Guadalupe

July 9, 2014

Our new painting of Antonio de Torres’ Virgin of Guadalupe (c. 1725) was just installed last week in the Art of the Americas Building. The nearly life-sized image depicts the radiant Virgin of Guadalupe, her body enveloped in a golden mandorla surrounded by lush flowers. Each corner includes a vignette detailing the miraculous appearance of the Virgin to the Indian Juan Diego, while a larger roundel at the feet of the Virgin depicts a view of her sanctuary (more on this recent acquisition here).

Antonio de Torres, Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe), c. 1725

Antonio de Torres, Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe), c. 1725, gift of Kelvin Davis through the 2014 Collectors Committee

Torres’ rendering of the sanctuary is an intriguing part of the painting. In the far upper left, we see a small chapel on the Tepeyac hill; this was the Virgin’s early shrine, which marks the site of her first apparition to Juan Diego. At the base of the hill lies the new sanctuary, completed in 1709, and beyond that, a more modest church that was dedicated in 1622. The religious complex is surrounded by a sizeable plaza with a fountain and outlying buildings. The Río Guadalupe bisects the roundel diagonally while the Calzada de los Misterios, a major thoroughfare that connected the sanctuary to Mexico City, is clearly depicted in the foreground.

Antonio de Torres, Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe) (detail)

Antonio de Torres, Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe) (detail)

Images of the new sanctuary of Guadalupe and its surroundings appear on paintings of the Virgin as early as 1702, before the building was completed. In the detail below, from an artwork in the collection of the Museo de América, Madrid, the painter Juan de Villegas (active in Mexico in the first half of the eighteenth century) documents the construction of the sanctuary.

Juan de Villegas, Virgin of Guadalupe (detail),1702, Museo de América, Madrid

Juan de Villegas, Virgin of Guadalupe (detail),1702, Museo de América, Madrid

Funded initially by donations from local devotees, the sanctuary received major support from the newly appointed viceroy of New Spain, Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, duke of Albuquerque (r. 1702–11), who arrived in New Spain in 1702. Seven years after his arrival, the viceroy commissioned the painter Manuel Arellano (c. 1663–1722) to memorialize the dedication of the new sanctuary. By supporting the sanctuary and documenting it through the Arellano painting, the viceroy established himself as a devout ruler with a keen understanding of the importance of the growing local cult.

Attributed to Manuel Arellano, Transfer of the Image and Inauguration of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe, 1709, private collection, Spain

Attributed to Manuel Arellano, Transfer of the Image and Inauguration of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe, 1709, private collection, Spain

If Arellano’s early image of the sanctuary carried a political meaning, what can we make of our later example by Torres? At first glance, the roundel seems somewhat incongruous, appearing neither particularly centered on a focal point of interest, such as the sanctuary, or upon an activity, such as the construction or festivities surrounding the dedication. In fact, though Torres depicts the sanctuary of Guadalupe, the artist de-emphasizes the building not only through its placement in the far upper left quadrant of the roundel but also by showing the northern exterior wall rather than the façade. The perspective is also slightly skewed: the sanctuary is depicted as if viewed from a considerable distance and from a great height while the road and bridge in the foreground are presented from a lower vantage point and appear quite large. This is not a lack of mastery on the part of the artist, rather a clear sign that he intended to emphasize the thoroughfares surrounding the sanctuary—the Río Guadalupe and the Calzada de los Misterios.

Antonio de Torres, Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe) (detail)

Antonio de Torres, Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe) (detail)

As an important pilgrimage site whose cult was steadily growing in the eighteenth century, the sanctuary of Guadalupe had to be reasonably accessible. Through this depiction, Torres illustrates not just the availability of good roads to reach the holy site, but also various pilgrims from different social classes. In the foreground, he shows people approaching on foot, on horseback, and, at the far right, in a carriage. Two pairs of figures climb the hill behind the sanctuary—the original site of the Virgin’s apparition.

In 1722 Torres was selected to inspect the original miraculous image of the Virgin housed at the sanctuary, and therefore we can surmise that the scene is based on his observation. The roundel thus functions both cartographically and as a first person pictorial account of the famous site and surrounding activities. Whether intended for immediate export to Europe or for a Mexican audience, Torres’ painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the view of Tepeyac pays homage to a uniquely New World phenomenon while encouraging the pilgrimage to, and therefore furthering the development of, the increasingly international cult of Guadalupe.

JoAnna Reyes Walton, Research Assistant, Latin American art department


Art and Technology in the Archives at the Balch Art Research Library

July 7, 2014

Throughout the development of the new Art + Technology Lab at LACMA, the museum’s archives played an important role in providing staff, researchers, and others with a glimpse into the motivations, processes, successes, and (perhaps most interestingly) the failures of the Art and Technology program that originally ran from 1967–71. The Modern Art Department Art and Technology records, housed in the Balch Research Library, are the only curatorial records from that program that we know still exist at LACMA. They are the museum’s most frequently requested archival records, comprising original documentation in a variety of forms, including correspondence, memos, interview transcripts, drawings, photographs, and drafts of publications. These materials serve as a unique and valuable resource for understanding the context of this significant event directly through the voice of the curators, artists, and others who shaped and participated in the program.

mod_001_001_1001

A Proposal for Art and Technology as sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum, by Newton Harrison, undated, Modern Art Department Art and Technology Records, LACMA Balch Art Research Library, MOD.001.001. Click to view full-sized image.

Click to view full-sized image.

A Proposal for Art and Technology as sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum, by Newton Harrison, undated, Modern Art Department Art and Technology Records, LACMA Balch Art Research Library, MOD.001.001. Click to view full-sized image.

Click to view full-sized image.

A Proposal for Art and Technology as sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum, by Newton Harrison, undated, Modern Art Department Art and Technology Records, LACMA Balch Art Research Library, MOD.001.001. Click to view full-sized image.

As important as these records have proven to be, the collection fills only six small boxes and would barely fill a file drawer. In addition, of the 75 artists that appear in the publication A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1967–1971, only 29 are represented in the actual records. Of the over 20 corporations mentioned in the report, only one is represented in the records. The absence of primary documents on participating artists and corporations is unfortunate enough, but completely missing is the evidence of projects proposed and rejected, the corporations and artists approached that did not participate, and the reasons for why these things occurred. The resulting reality of such fragmentary documentation is that our understanding can only be partial at best.

mod_001_001002

Letter of support written on behalf of James Lee Byars by Sam Wagstaff dated May 13,1971, Modern Art Department Art and Technology Records, LACMA Balch Art Research Library, MOD.001.001. Click to view full-sized image.

These gaps suggest that many more letters, memos, notes, and other materials must have been created and had once existed—but the nature of those records or what may have happened to them is anyone’s guess. So how does something so important go missing?

As with many museums, LACMA has spent most of its history without a plan or person to manage its historic records. Busy museum staff packed up boxes of files and put them wherever they could in order to clear the decks for their next important project. When staff turned over, there was no one to remember what was stored and what was discarded. There was no one in particular to keep an eye on storage areas to make sure they were clean and dry and that the records stored there were safe (or to know exactly what was lost if something went wrong). LACMA did not start exercising firm control over its records until 2010, 45 years after its grand opening. That’s 45 years of boxes of records accumulating, gathering dust and mystery.

But LACMA’s in good company. Some museums of similar scope and size to LACMA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, have had archives departments since 1989, 1984, and 1976, respectively. That’s 76, 84, and 100 years between the time these museum’s were established and when they began to bring order to their historic records and making them usable for research. With just 45 years as an independent encyclopedic museum behind LACMA before establishing its archives, the museum was and is in great shape to get its surviving records organized and to start the systematic collection of today’s records to help provide a more complete picture of LACMA’s activities for future generations of researchers.

Drawing of shipping container and handling cart made for shipping the gas plasma tubes for Newton Harrison's Art and Technology piece to Osaka, Japan for Expo '70, dated September 5, 1969, Modern Art Department Art and Technology Records, LACMA Balch Art Research Library, MOD.001.001. Click to view full-sized image.

Drawing of shipping container and handling cart made for shipping the gas plasma tubes for Newton Harrison’s Art and Technology piece to Osaka, Japan, for Expo ’70, dated September 5, 1969, Modern Art Department Art and Technology Records, LACMA Balch Art Research Library, MOD.001.001. Click to view full-sized image.

With the establishment of an institutional archives, LACMA is now in a position to better preserve and provide access to important records such as those produced by the Art and Technology program. Records are inventoried and given proper housing, as well as storage in locations that can be tracked. Searchable finding aids, inventorying, and providing background on fully processed collections are available on lacma.org and the Online Archive of California, making them discoverable by researchers worldwide.

With LACMA’s 50th anniversary approaching next year, the archival records serve as evidence of what the museum has accomplished and what it has become over the last half century, but it is not complete, as the gaps in the Art and Technology records show. Responsibly caring for the museum’s history through records management and the institutional archives will preserve what we still have of our historic records and help to create a more complete picture of the cultural, scholarly, and educational activities at LACMA now and for the next 50 years.

Julia Kim, Stacks Manager
Jessica Gambling, Archivist
Courtney Dean, Archives Program Specialist


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