Lucy Walker: On Her Work and on LACMA

June 18, 2014

LACMA recently invited the award winning-documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker to direct several films for the museum. The short film she made for LACMA about artist David Hockney was recently nominated for best short documentary at this year’s South by Southwest festival, was shown at the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest in England (which takes place near Bradford, Hockney’s birthplace), and has just been featured in the Los Angeles Film Festival. Lucy spoke with Erin Wright, LACMA’s Director of Artist Initiatives, to talk about her work with the museum.

Erin Wright: I wanted to start by asking you about our first collaboration, The Museum, Reimagined. Can you briefly say what the film is about and what inspired the look and feel of this work?

Lucy Walker: The film is a conversation between architect Peter Zumthor and Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director about the new building for LACMA that they have dreamed up. I wanted the conversation and the ideas to be the heart of the piece, and the simple black-box background was inspired by the viewing room that Zumthor had designed for the exhibition about the building at LACMA. I wanted it to feel as if Michael and Peter were sitting in the black box with you, and the viewer was an intimate part of the conversation. 

EW: Did that film change your thinking about LACMA and the plan for our campus proposed by Peter Zumthor?

LW: I fell deeply and completely in love with the proposed building, and I would pay for it myself if I could! I couldn’t be a bigger fan of the project and am desperately hoping it will come to pass. To get to know the building is to fall in love with it. It would truly be a new kind of museum for our new century and could be the new heart of Los Angeles.

EW: Had you ever worked with a museum before on a film project?

LW: I’ve never before worked with a museum aside from filming inside museums for my film about Vik Muniz, Waste Land. I was a little intimidated at first, but I must say I could get used to the fabulous reverence with which artists are treated, I think filmmakers are generally used to being abused!

EW: You are well known for your feature-length documentary films, but a few years ago you received and Academy Award® nomination for the short The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. What’s compelling for you about the short-form documentary?

LW: I love making short work because it allows you to tell stories in different ways. The perfect length for a movie, I like to say, is 15 seconds short of boring. And what’s fantastic about short films today is that there is such an opportunity for them to be seen at fantastic events (such as the Art+Film Gala), at film festivals, and especially online.

hockney lucy

EW: Making the film David Hockney IN THE NOW (in six minutes) for LACMA’s Art+Film Gala to honor Hockney was a wonderful opportunity for us to continue working together. Can you say a little about why you were interested in Hockney as a subject?

LW: I grew up in London and have always loved David Hockney’s work—my father was a fan and took me to see his paintings when I was a child, and it made a huge impression on me. Later as a keen high-school art student I became fascinated with his work and treasured his books and shows. And of course as a Brit living in L.A. he is now even dearer to my heart than ever, as I feel I am treading in his footsteps and I really relate to his appreciation for this city.

hockney

Click through this still from David Hockney IN THE NOW (in six minutes) to watch the complete film by Lucy Walker on artist David Hockney.

EW: Honoring David Hockney and Martin Scorsese last year was part of a larger Art+Film initiative at LACMA. Have any of our recent film related exhibitions (like Stanley Kubrick or Gabriel Figueroa) had a particular resonance for you?

LW: I confess I am a huge LACMA fan, and a great appreciator of so many exhibitions. If you force me to pick just one, the Kubrick show had a particular hold over me because Kubrick might be my favorite director of all, and his process is so particularly meticulous and fascinating and rich, and the exhibition was so fascinating, I kept going back for more and more and more. The James Turrellshow was also a recent highlight, I admit that I am such a Turrell nut that I once drove to Roden Crater and camped nearby, just to get a glimpse. It sounds too obvious to even state, but for me it a powerful truth, that looking at art inspires and informs my film work, my whole life.


Round Leather Worlds

June 16, 2014

Fútbol: The Beautiful Game, on view at LACMA through July 20, fascinates me for a number of reasons. First of all, I am Italian, and football is serious business to me, especially when comes to the World Cup. (It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s true!) Secondly, football was the subject of an exhibition organized in 2004–5 by Harald Szeemann, one of the most prominent curators of the 20th century. Poetically titled Rundlederwelten (Round Leather Worlds), the project was one of the last recorded in Szeemann’s monumental archive, which is currently being processed by the Getty Research Institute. It’s exciting to see in Los Angeles an iteration of Szeemann’s idea, and I wanted to take this fortuitous opportunity to look at Fútbol through the lens of Szemann’s original proposal.

 07-10 Harald Szeemann, floor plan of the Martin-Gropius-Bau with notes on possible themes and artists for his exhibition Rundlederwelten. Undated, approximately 2004, Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

(Click image for full size): Harald Szeemann, floor plan of the Martin-Gropius-Bau with notes on possible themes and artists for his exhibition Rundlederwelten, undated (approximately 2004), Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

(Click image for full size): Harald Szeemann, hand-drawn floor plan of the Martin-Gropius-Bau, undated (approximately 2004), Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

(Click image for full size): Harald Szeemann, hand-drawn floor plan of the Martin-Gropius-Bau, undated (approximately 2004), Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

Rundlederwelten was supposed to open in the upper floor of the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and, like the LACMA exhibition, the show was meant to coincide with the World Cup, which was held in 2006 in Germany. (It was won by Italy—just saying.) Following Szeemann’s sudden death in February 2005, his family asked another curator to continue the project, given that many of the artworks that were to be part of the exhibition were already in the process of being made. Loosely inspired by Szeemann’s ideas, curator Dorothea Strauss opened the exhibition in the same venue in October 2005.

Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait (detail), 2006, © Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon

Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait (detail), 2006, © Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon

Walking around in the LACMA show, it was interesting to spot a number of artworks that Szeemann was also thinking to include in Rundlederwelten, such as the monumental Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait (2006) by Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon. Parreno and Gordon made this work around the time that Szeemann was organizing his exhibition, and Szeemann was going to premiere it at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. Some artworks by Andreas Gursky and Antoni Mutadas were also on the curator’s checklist, along with Caryatid (2004) by Paul Pfeiffer and Volta (2002–4) by Stephen Dean, both that are also on view in LACMA’s exhibition.

Stephen Dean, Volta, 2002–2003, Collection of William and Ruth True, Seattle, Courtesy of the artist and Baldwin gallery, Aspen, © Stephen Dean

Stephen Dean, Volta, 2002–3, Collection of William and Ruth True, Seattle, Courtesy of the artist and Baldwin gallery, Aspen, © Stephen Dean

Harald Szeemann, notes on Paul Pfeiffer's work, likely taken during a studio visit, undated, approximately 2000–2004, Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

(Click image for full size): Harald Szeemann, notes on Paul Pfeiffer’s work, likely taken during a studio visit, undated (approximately 2000–2004), Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

Having the privilege to research a private archive also means having access to the “backstage” of a project and all its different phases and issues. We see, for example, a number of prominent artists who refused Szeemann’s invitation. Hans Haacke, whom the curator approached, seemed skeptical about the possibility of making a cultural contribution about a sport event; he was also irritated by the global hysteria about football.

01-04 Research material on sports, collected by Harald Szeemann for his project Rundlederwelten. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30.

Research material on sports, collected by Harald Szeemann for his project Rundlederwelten, Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

The response by contemporary visual art represented just part of a larger inquiry. The fascination with the game was apparent throughout mass culture. Szeemann was interested in the ephemera around football. He collected naïve paintings on football, recordings of songs sung during the games, stickers depicting football players, postcards, and models of stadiums, which were gathered in collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron. Furthermore, Szeemann was corresponding with the leader of a German association, who was fighting against racism at the games, and the curator was considering screening a documentary about Palestinians and Israeli citizens playing together.

Images of naïve paintings by unknown artists, collected by by Harald Szeemann for his project Rundlederwelten. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

Images of naïve paintings by unknown artists, collected by by Harald Szeemann for his project Rundlederwelten, Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

In Szeemann’s vision, sports were just a vehicle that allowed artists to comment on broader topics, such as “business, mass psychology, voyeurism, media, cult of the relics, . . . philosophy of the everyday life, politics, architecture, religion,” as he stated in an unpublished note. As in many of his projects, Rundlederwelten would then have been an acute survey about the role of visual production in our society through the analysis of one of our recent obsessions.

Pietro Rigolo, Special Collections Archivist, Getty Research Institute


This Weekend at LACMA

June 13, 2014

Visit the museum this weekend for a break from the ordinary. In the Bing Theater, Academy @ LACMA presents Arab Cinema Classics, three selections from the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival’s list of the 100 greatest Arab films of all time. See the top two films first with The Night of Counting the Years at 7:30 pm followed by Cairo Stationat 9:20 pm. At Jazz at LACMA the Ernie Watts Quartet performs live, in front of Urban Light, featuring two-time Grammy Award winning tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts.

At the final weekend of the Compton Art+Film Lab at Lueders Park, check out a collection of all ages-friendly short films at 8 pm during the LACMA9 Shorts Program II. On Saturday, a Mini Docs workshop at noon teaches how to capture character, mood and detail on film. All levels are welcomed and equipment and tools are provided. Things wrap up with an Oral History drop-in session from 12:30 to 4 pm, where residents are invited to share a part of their own story. In a couple month’s time all lab participants are invited to a free day at the museum.

John Altoon, Untitled, 1964, from the Hyperion Series, pastel and ink on illustration board, 56 × 40 inches, Dr. David and Arline Edelbaum. © 2014 Estate of John Altoon, photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA.

John Altoon, Untitled, 1964, from the Hyperion Series, Dr. David and Arline Edelbaum, © 2014 Estate of John Altoon, photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA

Saturday’s Latin Sounds at 5 pm presents The Echo Park Project with a winning combination of original material and hot 1970s cover tunes. Earlier at 4 pm join a public conversation with Peter Zumthor, David Gregor, and Michael Govan at Art Catalogues or be part of a free walk-through of John Altoon with Los Angeles–based artist Charles Gaines and exhibition curator Carol S. Eliel. Later in the evening, the 1966 Clint Eastwood classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (newly restored!) screens at 7:30 pm. Remember to take a peek at the daily, free tour schedule and jump on a docent-led tour of Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible at 1 pm or look at our European art collection at 3 pm.

Helen Pashgian, Untitled, 2012–13, gift of Carole Bayer Sager

Helen Pashgian, Untitled, 2012–13, gift of Carole Bayer Sager, photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA

Enjoy Father’s Day at LACMA on Sunday with Andell Family Sundays at 12:30 pm and make your own Egypt-inspired art. Enjoy more free tours, including the popular Highlights of the Museum: Ancient to Modern at noon, Islamic art at 2 pm, and a tour of rarely seen works in Chinese Paintings from Japanese Collections at 2:30 pm. More must-see art includes Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Fútbol: The Beautiful Game, and Four Abstract Classicists. End the weekend on a harmonic note at Sundays Live  with a free concert from harpist Marcia Dickstein and Friends beginning at 6 pm.

Roberto Ayala

 


Art Here and Now: Studio Forum Members Speak (and 2014 Acquisitions)

June 12, 2014

The story of Art Here and Now (AHAN): Studio Forum began about 50 years ago, albeit under a different name. In the 1960s, a few years before LACMA was formally established as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire and Fairfax, the museum hosted the Young Talent Award, which supported artists financially, and, in return, LACMA was able to acquire important works for its fledging collection of contemporary art. Today, AHAN comprises dynamic members who are philanthropists, collectors, and enthusiasts who are interested in contemporary art in Los Angeles. The group focuses on young local artists, and members have an opportunity through AHAN to engage not only with artists, but also to participate in an insider’s view of the curatorial process with LACMA curators.

Juan Capistran, I Conclude That All is Well, 2013, , purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Juan Capistran, I Conclude That All is Well, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Curators Rita Gonzalez and Christine Y. Kim, along with curatorial assistant Nancy Meyer asked AHAN members Dan Avchen, Brian and Julie Biel, Donna Kolb, Frank Masi, and Charlie Pohlad about involvement with the group. This spring, the 38 members of AHAN championed the acquisition of a total of seven artworks by five artists. The objects are illustrated within the post below.

Juan Capistran, Yesterday had already vanished among the shadows of the past; tomorrow has yet emerged from the future (Sorrow), 2012, edition 1/3, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Juan Capistran, Yesterday had already vanished among the shadows of the past; tomorrow has yet emerged from the future (Sorrow), 2012, edition one of three, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

What is the main draw for you as a member of AHAN: Studio Forum?  

Dan Avchen: How cool is it to be involved in how and what a great art museum chooses to represent its look into the future? I would say that’s number one why I wanted to get involved in AHAN: Studio Forum. Now that I’m a member, I’m really attracted to the camaraderie with other collectors who are also interested in emerging artists. L.A. is such a magnet for young talent, so it’s a most exciting time to participate.

Donna Kolb: The studio visits. Seeing and hearing from the artist in their everyday environment allows us to peek behind the curtain and see firsthand how the work is made. Being in the physical space, looking at works in progress up close, asking questions, and paying attention to how the artist presents him/herself add a layer of appreciation that enriches and informs our discussion at the Studio Forum.

Shannon Ebner, Dear Reader, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Shannon Ebner, Dear Reader, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Charlie Pohlad: I relish any opportunity to visit and engage with LACMA, its collection, programs, curators, staff, etc. Therefore, being a part of AHAN is a bit of a no-brainer. The insight, access, and enjoyment I believe that we all derive from our membership in AHAN is invaluable.

What was the most interesting moment for you during the last round of AHAN: Studio Forum visits and/or the discussion forum?

Kim Fisher, Magazine Painting (Bird of Paradise), 2014, , purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Kim Fisher, Magazine Painting (Bird of Paradise), 2014, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Dan Avchen: The studio visits were all amazing. We saw a great variety of artists, and each and every one was inspiring, as was hearing them talk about the meaning behind their work. I was also most taken with hearing the curators so eloquently talk about each artist’s body of work. But, the most exciting moment, frankly, was when the curators chose artists I had either already collected or seriously considered. That was reassuring.

Brian and Julie Biel: Probably Lisa Williamson’s studio. We were aware her work but had not encountered it in person. It was great to see the craftsmanship and clarity of her production. Those works have an interesting relationship to the history of sculpture in their seemingly playful negotiation between a representational reference with abstract form.

Frank Masi: The AHAN discussion forum. The high degree of insight and level of thoughtfulness that each Studio Forum member brought to the table during discussions made me proud to be a part of that group.

Kim Fisher, Magazine Painting (Chasen’s), 2013, , purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Kim Fisher, Magazine Painting (Chasen’s), 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

What do you see as your primary role as a supporter/advocate of LACMA, and how does AHAN: Studio Forum allow you to do that?

Brian and Julie Biel: The range of work being produced today is highly varied, and the field of collecting highly competitive. We see our contribution to the critical assessment of work in collaboration with the curators as an important part of identifying objects that are relevant to our cultural moment. In doing so, we can contribute to LACMA by bringing work to the collection that has yet to enter the elevated ranges of the market.

Donna Kolb: I see my primary role as a supporter/advocate of LACMA as intertwined with supporting the artist. AHAN introduces us to a wide range of emerging L.A. artists each year, opening up new opportunities to support someone new.

Anna Sew Hoy, Practical Elegance, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase 62 x 33 x 17 inches Pictured here an installation view and detail of Practical Elegance

Anna Sew Hoy, Practical Elegance, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Charlie Pohlad: As an advocate of LACMA—and museums in general—my personal goal is to get more people exposed to and involved in the museum. Whether by simply visiting the museum or becoming involved in its many offerings, I love seeing new people take advantage of what LACMA has to offer. I think it is important that the work we acquire through AHAN is all done by artists living in the Los Angeles area; it adds an important layer of connection between those of us who call L.A., and the museum, home. On a more personal level, it has been a pleasure to share my experience in AHAN with family, friends, and others in our community, in the hopes that they may stop by to see our recent acquisitions, or even join the group as well.

Lisa Williamson, Long Pants, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase

Lisa Williamson, Long Pants, 2013, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2014 Art Here and Now purchase


The Subversive John Altoon

June 10, 2014

“OMG, it looks so 1960s!” That has been the response of any number of people when they first see John Altoon’s Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings), c. 1962–63, currently on view in a retrospective of the artist’s work at LACMA. I think that reaction is based on the bouffant hairdo worn by the sole woman in the image, a coiffure that is so reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy and 60s haute chic. Even the woman’s right eyebrow is arched uncannily like Jackie’s. And of course the square-jawed man whose tie she is straightening is similarly cut out of the John F. Kennedy mold.

John Altoon, Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings), c. 1962–63, private collection, courtesy Fred Hoffman Fine Art

John Altoon, Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings), c. 1962–63, private collection, courtesy Fred Hoffman Fine Art

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John Altoon, Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings), c. 1962–63, private collection, courtesy Fred Hoffman Fine Art

John Altoon, Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings) (detail), c. 1962–63, private collection, courtesy Fred Hoffman Fine Art

It is revealing to look at this image in the context of the early 1960s, a moment just before the explosion of the women’s movement. This was the decade in which Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on gender (among other things), and the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966. The Los Angeles art scene in the 1960s was dominated by artists and gallery owners who were mostly men. The renowned Ferus Gallery, where Altoon’s work was seen in 15 shows (including five solo exhibitions) from the gallery’s opening in March 1957 through June 1963, was known to have a male-centric roster.

Altoon himself is often considered one of the “Ferus Gallery Studs,” a term borrowed from the title of an exhibition at the Ferus Gallery that featured an all-male group of artists (the sexist overtones of that moniker are not coincidental). Billy Al Bengston, an artist who was featured in the four-man show and who coined its title, later explained, “Two-by-fours are called studs, and there were four us in the studs show. We were holding the gallery together as far as I could see, so we were the studs. I have nothing against creating a little bit of drama if there’s nothing going on.” Despite all this evidence that points to Altoon’s alleged chauvinism, Untitled, like a good many of the artist’s other works, is hardly a statement about male dominance.

The drawing, which stylistically reflects Altoon’s training as a commercial artist (he was also trained as a fine artist), is a hallucinatory vision of a Dior fashion show, depicting three well-, if half-dressed men: one wears epaulets, one a suit jacket and tie, and one (who may be Christian Dior himself with his thick neck, distinctive nose, and receding hairline) a beaded cutaway.

John Altoon, Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings), c. 1962–63, private collection, courtesy Fred Hoffman Fine Art

John Altoon, Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings) (detail), c. 1962–63, private collection, courtesy Fred Hoffman Fine Art

There is also the one woman in the drawing, completely naked save for high heels, hardly the typical haute couture runway model. The relationships between all these figures are unclear. Is the central male accosting the woman, whose eyebrows may be arched in surprise, or is she the vixen and he the victim? The inscription on the drawing, “Paris: Dior Evenings—Sleeved, Straight, Covered,” can be read as a pun on various levels, for none of the figures is fully covered, and “sleeved” and “straight” can both be understood to have sexual connotations. The men are not wearing “sleeves” (condoms), and Dior was known to be gay (not “straight”).

The longer inscription across the top of the drawing refers to the “deliciously spooked-up ambiance of the Musée Grévin,” a waxwork museum in Paris with scenes depicting both French history and contemporary life. Like the figures seen in wax museums, those presented in Altoon’s drawing create a disjunctive jumble of characters who, based on their (demi) attire, belong to varied worlds. Although any given figure in the Musée Grévin is readily identifiable, the connections among those wax personae—who range from 18th-century French royalty to Hollywood celebrities—are usually nonexistent, as with the figures in Altoon’s drawing. Untitled (Paris: Dior Evenings) thus seems both essentially of the early 1960s and strangely outside of time.

Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art

 

 


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