Agnès Varda on Los Angeles

May 26, 2014

There’s just a month and a half left to catch the exhibition Agnès Varda in Californialand that pays tribute to the filmmaker and artist’s time in the Golden State. Varda had two productive periods in California, one a bit more sunshine and the other a bit more noir. She took to the long boulevards (Pico and Venice were favorites) and shot a film in a house with a kidney shaped pool and fake plants. Varda also sought out a dynamic cast of characters (against Hollywood type) in her late 1960s and early 1980s sojourns in California.

During the exhibition installation, Varda, in between her guest lectures at CalArts, her hosting of the AFI Film festival, and meetings with young directors who sought out her advice, she sat down with us to discuss the photographs and large-scale installation made for her exhibition. We see Varda’s characteristic charm, wit, and intelligence as she gives us a virtual walk-through of her life in cinema and her cinema in real life.

Artforum and the L.A. Review of Books have written about the exhibition: read about their take here and here.

Rita Gonzalez, Associate Curator, Contemporary Art


This Weekend at LACMA: Latin Sounds Returns, Poetry in the Galleries, Target Free Holiday Monday, and more!

May 23, 2014

It’s officially the unofficial start of summer, and we couldn’t be more excited! Friday evening at 6 pm, enjoy the sounds of master tenor and alto saxophonist and company, Azar Lawrence Quartet, at Jazz at LACMA. A little later catch the latest installment from the film series Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema beginning at 7:30 pm with Blind Chance and A Short Film about Killing. Down the road at the Compton Art+Film Lab at Lueders Park you can see a collection of short animations, narratives, essay films, and experimental works from L.A.–based filmmakers at the LACMA9 Shorts Program Friday at 8 pm.

Image courtesy of Johnny Polanco

Image courtesy of Johnny Polanco

On Saturday at 2 pm LACMA welcomes writer Frank T. Rios, part of the Venice Beat scene, for a Poetry Reading in the recently opened exhibition Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice. Into the evening, wander out to our backyard, Hancock Park, and be a part of the 2014 season opener of Latin Sounds with one of the West Coast’s hottest salsa acts, Johnny Polanco y Su Conjunto Amistad, at 5 pm. Latin Sounds takes place every Saturday at 5 pm all summer long, through Labor Day.

Once the sun sets, see more from the film series The Essential Orson Welles in the Bing Theater. Starting at 7:30 pm with the inventive noir classic, The Lady from Shanghai stars Welles and his estranged wife, Rita Hayworth, and screening at 9:10 pm Mr. Arkadin is the pulp rendition of Citizen Kane.

Sunday, join the fun on free daily tours of galleries and exhibitions, like a 50-minute walk-through of Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic at 11:30 am (with admission to the special exhibition) or an exploration of 18th-century French sculpture from the collection at 1 pm. Families in particular can take advantage of the weekly Andell Family Sundays at 12:30 pm, with art projects this month inspired by furry felines. Residents from Hacienda Heights that participated in the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab a few months back are invited to the museum this Sunday for free general admission. See their stories in Believe Is Seeing, a commissioned video work by artist Nicole Miller on loop in the Bing Theater starting at 12:30 pm. Wind down after a long day at Sundays Live with the Colburn Youth Orchestra performing at 6 pm, conducted by Maxim Eshkenazy.

On Memorial Day Monday, everyone is invited to LACMA for a free day at the museum, sponsored by Target. Discover what’s new in our galleries like important national treasures in Chinese Paintings from Japanese Collections, gestural figuration in Sam Doyle: The Mind’s Eye, and the kinetic energy in the crowd favorite Metropolis II. Guests that day can partake in free bilingual tours, art-making activities, and live music by Persian act Mehrdad Arabi and Friends. Come one, come all.

Roberto Ayala


Art + Technology Lab Artists Visit L.A.

May 22, 2014

Last week, the artists who received awards through our Art + Technology Lab program visited L.A. This is the only time all six artists will gather as a group, so it was a valuable opportunity to introduce everyone before the artists commence work on their respective projects over the course of the coming year with support from LACMA and our advisory board of scientists, engineers, technologists, and artists.

Annina Rust, John Craig Freeman, and Tavares Strachan talk with LACMA curators Rita Gonzalez and Britt Salvesen

Annina Rust, John Craig Freeman, and Tavares Strachan talk with LACMA curators Rita Gonzalez and Britt Salvesen

We had a packed schedule that included a trip to Gensler’s downtown L.A. headquarters, where we met with advisor Philippe Paré, principal at the firm. We toured the model shop, talked with a technical expert about reality capture and parametric design, heard Tam Tran give an amusing overview of his experiments with drones, and learned about the virtual-environment generator and multi-surface experiments going on at the firm.

In the model shop at Gensler

In the model shop at Gensler

We headed to Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the second day for a tour with Dan Goods. We battled the heat in order to check out a replica of the Mars Curiosity rover, visited the Earth Orbiting Missions Operation Control Center, and talked with experts about the history of space exploration at NASA and JPL. We also got to see Dan’s latest project, in his role as visualization strategist at JPL: a giant sculpture that expresses the constant transmission of data to and from space.

Tavares Strachan, Rachel Sussman, and E Roon Kang at Jet Propulsion Labs

Tavares Strachan, Rachel Sussman, and E Roon Kang at Jet Propulsion Labs

The group looking at data transmissions coming from space exploration at JPL

The group looking at data transmissions coming from space exploration at JPL

The group also spent time with Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of SpaceX, who visited the Lab at LACMA to meet one-on-one with each of the artists and offer suggestions based on her perspective as an engineer. Max Maxwell and Chris DeFay of Google, Brian Mullins of DAQRI, and Shari Wenker of Accenture also spent time in conversation with the artists.

E Roon Kang and Taeyoon Choi talk with Max Maxwell of Google

E Roon Kang and Taeyoon Choi talk with Max Maxwell of Google

Gwynne Shotwell and Tavares Strachan at SpaceX

Gwynne Shotwell and Tavares Strachan at SpaceX

In the evening, we hosted a public event in the Lab, one of the first of an ongoing series, featuring artist John Craig Freeman (of the international collective Manifest.AR) and advisor Brian Mullins (CEO of DAQRI). Brian gave an overview of the current state of augmented reality and experiments with EEG technology, and John Craig followed with a rousing discussion of virtual space and public art.

The Art + Technology program allows artist projects to evolve in response to ideas, materials, methods, and opportunities they encounter via our advisors and LACMA. Tavares Strachan, Annina Rüst, John Craig Freeman, Rachel Sussman, Taeyoon Choi, and E Roon Kang will pursue their projects over the coming year. There is no requirement to collaborate with an advisor, and we have not made one-to-one matches between artists and participating organizations. The process is more organic; we know from the original Art and Technology program at LACMA in the late 1960s that sometimes the most idiosyncratic connections spark the beginnings of a new direction for an artist, and the role of the Art + Technology Lab is to facilitate those connections and encourage new work.

For more information and invitations to upcoming public programs, visit lacma.org/lab and join the mailing list.

Amy McCabe Heibel


James Turrell’s Ganzfeld Stays on View

May 20, 2014

Earlier this month, James Turrell celebrated his 71st birthday. “That can’t be right,” I thought when I heard the news. “He just celebrated his 70th when we opened his exhibition.” It seems like just yesterday that James Turrell: A Retrospective opened at LACMA, filling the second floor of BCAM and a third of the Resnick Pavilion for 11 months. The popular show finally closed in April, and is now just weeks away from opening at its next venue—the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (It will continue to circumnavigate the globe with subsequent stops in Australia and Japan.)

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, © James Turrell, Photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, © James Turrell, Photo © Florian Holzherr

While the exhibition has left L.A., Angelenos still have reason for joy: one artwork is staying put at LACMA. Breathing Light, the large, room-sized Ganzfeld installation in the Resnick Pavilion, was commissioned expressly for the museum and was acquired for the permanent collection thanks to the generosity of Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation. It will remain on view at LACMA for one more year.

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, © James Turrell, photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, © James Turrell, photo © Florian Holzherr

The artwork is now included in the cost of a general admission ticket. (Don’t forget—we’re free after 3 pm on weekdays for L.A. County residents; kids are always free, and can bring an adult for free as a benefit of their NexGen membership). Ganzfeld is limited to a few people at a time, so you’ll want to check in with the Ticket Office when you arrive at the museum to reserve your timed entry.

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, © James Turrell, photo © Florian Holzherr

James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the Kayne Foundation, © James Turrell, photo © Florian Holzherr

I had the chance to interview LACMA trustee Suzanne Kayne last year, where she revealed herself to be a devotee of Turrell’s work: she and her family have traveled around the world to see Turrell’s Skyspaces and other works, sometimes to remote locations. She experienced her first Ganzfeld at the Turrell Museum in Colomé, Argentina. “It was just like an out-of-body experience,” she told me. “It’s an emptiness filled with light that allows the viewer to feel its physicality.”

But the remoteness of many of Turrell’s works weighed on Kayne. “We thought, this has to be shared by other people. This can’t be kept for just the few people who get to the [Turrell] museum.” Thanks to her generosity, LACMA—and Los Angeles—now has a Ganzfeld to keep.

Scott Tennent


Biberman Mural Comes to LACMA

May 19, 2014

It all started late last November. That is, the idea for Edward Biberman’s Venice, California, Post Office mural, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice, to be shown at LACMA. The e-mail I received was short: it just read that my boss, Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, had a new project for me. I was working at home, deeply involved in trying to finish an essay about the large fountain sculpture the museum commissioned Alexander Calder to do to mark its opening in 1965. I was steeped in mid-century fountain technology, so I was not thrilled to have my attention transferred to another project. But that is the life of a curator—we have to be able to multitask and be able to jump from one time period to another.

I knew that the United States Postal Service had sold the Venice post office building to Hollywood producer Joel Silver and had arranged for Mr. Silver to have the enormous mural conserved and then become its caretaker. I was aware of these developments because New Deal murals are one of my hobbies—I once was the director of a mural survey for the City of New York and also did similar work for the City of Santa Monica—and I also had done a great deal of research on the artist Biberman and his famous family. We both hail from Philadelphia, so I felt a tie. Anyway, what I was not aware of was the ongoing discussions between Silver and Govan about exhibiting the amusing mural here in the American art galleries before it was returned to the Venice, California, building.

Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice (detail), lent by the United States Postal Service®, recent conservation provided by Joel Silver, photo by Anthony Peres © 2014

Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice, lent by the United States Postal Service®, recent conservation provided by Joel Silver, photo by Anthony Peres © 2014

I refer to the mural affectionately as “amusing” because Biberman’s quirky approach to its subject differed substantially from most of the post office murals that were sponsored by the Treasury Section project of the New Deal, from 1934 to 1943 (Biberman’s dates from 1941). Artists who won the commissions, after submitting designs in a competition, were encouraged to relate the mural subject matter to the geographical region in which it would be displayed. So artists often chose a local historical event. Biberman captured in three scenes the utopian vision of Venice’s founder, Abbot Kinney, to create a suburban neighborhood based on the canals of Venice, Italy. The other two scenes demonstrate the less-than idyllic outcome, with all realistically portrayed in bright colors.

I decided if we were to install the mural, it needed some context. So I had my new research assistant start to investigate the New Deal projects in Southern California as well as the development of Venice. The story is quite fascinating. (Stay tuned to Unframed for more about the history as presented in this special installation). We hope families will come to learn about their neighboring beach community of Venice.

Ilene Susan Fort, Senior Curator and John and Gail Liebes Curator of American Art

 


This Weekend at LACMA: Two Film Double-Headers, International Museum Night, Art+Film Lab Arrives in Compton, A Trio of Talks, Edward Biberman Restored, and More!

May 16, 2014

Do something new this weekend at LACMA. On the silver screen, catch two double-features on Friday and Saturday. Beginning Friday at 7:30 pm, Innocent Sorcerers and The Promised Land show back-to-back as part of the series Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema, featuring classic films from Poland as curated by famed director Martin Scorsese. Saturday night we turn our attention to works from the legendary Orson Welles with The Magnificent Ambersons and The Stranger beginning at 7:30 pm, part of The Essential Orson Welles series.

International Museum Night takes place on Saturday at 8 pm, and LACMA’s celebration is quite the bash. An after-hours event, guests will explore the galleries, join in on special tours, share tales with the Radio Picture Show, and dance to tunes from KCRW DJ Marion Hodges. Five temporary exhibitions with international roots will be on view in addition to permanent collection galleries with art from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and the Middle East. For tickets, purchase online or at the door.

Tile Panel, Turkey, Iznik, Ottoman, last quarter of 16th century, The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection, gift of Joan Palevsky

Tile Panel, Turkey, Iznik, Ottoman, last quarter of 16th century, the Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection, gift of Joan Palevsky

Angelenos to the south of the museum are invited to the debut of the Compton Art+Film Lab at Leuders Park. It all starts on Friday night at 7 pm during the opening-night celebration, featuring live music from Mexico 68 Afrobeat Orchestra and an outdoor screening of School Daze (“a Spike Lee joint”) at 8 pm. Stop by the lab on Sunday at 12:30 pm and be the first to contribute to the Oral History project, where area residents are invited to share personal anecdotes on camera. The Art+Film Lab will be in Compton through June 15.

Three talks are on the books for the weekend. Saturday, stop by at 2 pm for A Landing Site for Madeline Gins, where poets, artists, and architects read from writings by the late artist, Madeline Gins. Sunday at noon, Paola Antonelli—The New Frontiers of Design presents senior curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York discussing design and its place in society. Lastly, Paul McCarthy and Laura Owens at Art Catalogues happens at 4 pm on Sunday where they talk books, installations, performances, and anything else on their mind.

Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice (detail), lent by the United States Postal Service®, recent conservation provided by Joel Silver, photo by Anthony Peres © 2014

Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice, lent by the United States Postal Service®, recent conservation provided by Joel Silver, photo by Anthony Peres © 2014

Your weekly dose of free, live music includes the Jacques Lesure Quartet on Friday at 6 pm at Jazz at LACMA and then The Crossroads Chamber Orchestra with Alexander Treger conducting during Sundays Live on Sunday at 6 pm. Sunday is also the opening of Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice, showcasing the recently restored mural from the American painter alongside historical photographs and ephemera of the city. Members see it first during Member Preview day on Saturday. Finally, families can get creative during Andell Family Sundays—Here, Kitty Kitty 12:30 pm.

Roberto Ayala

 


Robert Witt Ames: Hollywood

May 14, 2014

Very little is known about the artist Robert Witt Ames, much less his connection to Hollywood. He spent much of his youth abroad due to his father stationed overseas in the army, but returned with his family to Los Angeles in his teens and continued his education locally pursuing a degree in law. But like many of the residents who live in this town, Ames became charmed with one of the largest industries in the area: the business of making movies. If you ever take the BCAM escalator to the third floor floor and look at the view of the hills at LACMA, you can see this familiar sign off into the distance on a clear day:

Ed Ruscha, Hollywood, 1968, Museum Acquisition Fund, © Edward Ruscha

In the American Art Galleries on the third floor of the Art of Americas Building, you can also a see a different version of Hollywood. Artist Robert Witt Ames created a relief mural carved in wood depicting all aspects of the film industry:

Robert Witt Ames, Hollywood, gift from the Estate of Barbara Carol Weston, sister of Robert Witt Ames, © Estate of Robert Witt Ames

Created in 1935, Ames’s Hollywood features many facets of the movie business. Given that Ames was a film prop maker by trade, it’s clear his experience on studio sets is reflected in this carved relief. While some of the scenes in this mural are pretty easy to deduce—large musical dance scenes, paparazzi, songwriters, and set design to name a few—there were a couple scenes that I found peculiar. I was especially curious about the long line of characters on the bottom left of the mural, as well as the woman lounging on a sofa on the right edge of the carving with a group surrounding her. Around them are the words “never drinks,” “never smokes,” and “hates publicity.” To find some answers, I solicited help from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (whose museum will be our future neighbor).  Anne Coco and Stacey Behlmer from the Margaret Herrick Library had this to speculate:

Robert Witt Ames, Hollywood (detail), gift from the Estate of Barbara Carol Weston, sister of Robert Witt Ames, © Estate of Robert Witt Ames

Robert Witt Ames, Hollywood (detail), gift from the Estate of Barbara Carol Weston, sister of Robert Witt Ames, © Estate of Robert Witt Ames

While it appears to have been a line for extras, or maybe a line to pick up paychecks (since the window was so tiny), the librarians at AMPAS suspect it to be a casting office. Everyone is lined up in various costumes; some even appear to be coming off a bus. They also noted that the payroll offices would have looked more like a standard office with multiple windows and lines of people arranged alphabetically by last name.

Here was another puzzling scene:

While it appears to have been a line for extras, or maybe a line to pick up paychecks (since the window was so tiny), the librarians at AMPAS suspect it to be a casting office. Everyone is lined up in various costumes; some even appear to be coming off a bus. They also noted that the payroll offices would have looked more like a standard office with multiple windows and lines of people arranged alphabetically by last name. Here was another puzzling scene:

Robert Witt Ames, Hollywood (detail), gift from the Estate of Barbara Carol Weston, sister of Robert Witt Ames, © Estate of Robert Witt Ames

While I had initially thought this scene reflected some type of starlet with a diva-like attitude, the Coco and Behlmer infer this scene could be related to the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code (also known as the Hays Code) instilled in the early 1930s shortly before this mural was created. Designed to regulate the increasing amount of sex and violence depicted in films, and in addition, studios also had morality clauses embedded in actors’ contracts to prevent their personal behavior from affecting movie publicity. The Production Code was eventually abandoned by the Motion Pictures of Association of America in 1968 in favor of a movie ratings system that we still use today.

I could go on and on since there are so many details in this fascinating work (bonus points to those that spot the animated characters), but it’s better to see this large mural up close in the American galleries. Feel free to list your sightings in the comments section!

Devi Noor, Curatorial Assistant, American Art


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