Time to Dust Off the Good Stuff

November 26, 2008

Silberwarenfabrik M.J. Rückert, Peter Behrens, Cutlery for the Wertheim Department Store, 1902, gift of Max Palevsky

We may be here in body today, but our minds are already on tomorrow’s feast. We’ll be back next week for a look at the connections between Shaun El C. Leonardo’s Bull in the Ring and Thomas Eakins’s Wrestlers, an update on Craig Kauffman’s Untitled Wall Relief, and a few other posts we’re cooking up.

Until then…

Brooke Fruchtman

Patrick Dougherty at the Arboretum

November 25, 2008

Recently the stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame for its natural greenness, simplicity, and the infinitely imaginative ways it can be played with. The stick is at once a light saber, a magic wand, an instrument—and, for environmental artist Patrick Dougherty, an art material used for making his large, elaborate, woven sculptures. (If you’ve passed by the Max Azria store on Melrose you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Dougherty’s Catawampus, installed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, is a giant, interactive, willow structure evocative of childhood hideouts and fairytale forts. Made from saplings, the supple but strong branches come together to create a series of rooms equipped with doorways and windows for walking in, crawling through, or peeking out.

Photos of Catawampus by orngejuglr via Flickr

The playfulness of the structure is balanced against the environmental/sculptural aspects of the work of art. Every angle has a different texture, color, and perspective that all change as the sculpture weathers over time. Catawampus will be installed indefinitely, so you can visit many times and witness how it takes on a new life of its own.

Karen Satzman
Manager, Art Classes and Family Programs

Limited Editions and More with Erin Wright

November 24, 2008

One of the benefits of working at LACMA is having the opportunity to meet and collaborate with creative, interesting people who make the museum hum, like our Director of Special Projects, Erin Wright. Not only does Erin have one of the coolest jobs around—overseeing and shepherding artist projects through—but she’s also living the dream (or at least my dream; see her last answer) outside of the museum. Here, she lets us in on a few limited editions that just became available, and explains how she found herself to be the only American amongst a group of Germans in Texas.

What was your path to LACMA?

I studied art history at Simmons College and after graduation managed a photography gallery, Robert Klein, in Boston. I then went on to Sotheby’s working in client services and marketing. My next endeavor was an internship at the Chinati Foundation, a museum founded by Donald Judd, which then led me to the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Lannan supported a number of Dia Art Foundation projects and was how I first began working with Michael [Govan]. After that I moved to Los Angeles and went to work for Gagosian Gallery as an editor on the Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings. I joined LACMA in the fall of 2006.

That’s such a rich background—is there one experience that stands out above all the others?

My internship at the Chinati Foundation was one of my most interesting experiences. I lived and worked at Chinati for three months with none of the usual distractions—no television and no cell phone—and was, for a while, the only American among a group of German artists and interns living in Marfa, Texas.

Sounds intense. Was there an artist whose work you ended up particularly excited about having spent so much uninterrupted time with it?

I had always been a fan of Dan Flavin’s work but while I was at Chinati there was a special exhibition of his drawings and I was astounded at how extraordinary they were. I was able to spend a lot of time with the drawings and they gave me new insight into his work which was thrilling.

What are some of the projects you’re working on now?

I just finished working on a project with the Jorge Pardo Studio. When Jorge was creating his design for our art of the ancient Americas galleries, he found a pre-Columbian object that he thought would be fantastic to use as a model for a limited edition piece. We took a 3-D scan and Jorge re-envisioned it as a lamp.

Is the lamp available to the public?

Yes, it’s available though the website and is currently on view in the LACMA store where it can also be purchased. It’s in an edition of twenty and will sell for $18,000. I’ve just finished another edition that is a little more affordable—a print with the artist collective Machine Project made in conjunction with the Machine Project Guide to LACMA event we had a few weeks ago.

Tell us about the print.

It takes the form of a sestina—a highly structured poem form popular with the European troubadours of the twelfth century—and features list of ideas that never made it to our event because they were too dangerous, foolish, over-ambitious, nonsensical, or just unsuitable, such as child docents and escalator skiing. It’s printed by Aardvark Editions and retails for $95. It is an edition of 250.

Aside from these projects, what are you most excited by at LACMA right now?

Hard Targets!

I know your husband, Joe Sola, who actually just wrote a blog post for us about Matthew Barney’s Cremaster, has work in the show (which, I want to note, the curator selected well before ever knowing of your connection).

Yes, there are two pieces. One is an older work called St. Henry Composition and the other was made for the show entitled In the Woods.

I was mesmerized by St. Henry Composition, in which he repeatedly subjects himself to getting tackled by football players. Is this sort of physicality typical of his work?

It is, there’s a video piece he made in 2006 where he gets run over by a van!

When he’s not getting tackled or run over, and you’re not working on limited editions, what are you two up to?

At the moment, desperately trying to complete the Escher GuneWardena house we’ve built in Mount Washington.

Is there someone else at LACMA you want to know more about (or something for that matter)? Just let us know and they might appear on Unframed soon.

Brooke Fruchtman

Millard Sheets, Architect

November 21, 2008

Yesterday, Devi wrote about Millard Sheets. Most of us know him as the artist from the 1920s and ’30s whose work offered gritty yet expressive depictions of Bunker Hill in downtown L.A.—LACMA has several of his works in our permanent collection. Less known, however, is that Sheets’s abilities as an artist had a profound influence on the architecture of L.A.

Washington Mutual Bank, Sunset and Vine

Though he had no formal training or credentials as an architect, Sheets owned a design and architectural firm called Millard Sheets Design Inc., for which he oversaw all of the design and construction of the buildings they worked on, which included more than forty Home Savings of America bank branches (currently Washington Mutual) in Southern California.

Sheets’s guiding principle in architecture was to conceive “buildings that will be exciting seventy-five years from now,” according to the artist in an interview given for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. Each building was unique, site-specific, and often adorned by large-scale mosaics, meant to reflect California history, the progress of mankind, family life, and local landmarks.

His most famous structure was completed in 1968 on the corner of Sunset and Vine. Built on the original location of Hollywood’s first full-length motion picture, the building is adorned with a mural depicting legendary movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Taras W. Matla
Curatorial Administrator, Prints and Drawings

Snapshot: Who’s at LACMA

November 21, 2008
Brianna (with Ryan)

Brianna (with Ryan)

What do you do?
I’m an actress—I’m in Wicked.

Has a piece of art ever made you laugh or cry?
I had a piece of art that made me laugh today. It was a portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger [in the Vanity Fair exhibition]. I thought, “Look at the governator!”



What do you do?
Research director for a TV network in Canada.

What are you reading right now?
Would you believe the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence. It’s a bit unusual.

Margie, Gabe, Chloe, Oscar, Olivia

Margie, Gabe, Chloe, Oscar, Olivia

What do you do?
Gabe: We’re both lawyers for the federal government. We live in Washington.

If you were a piece of artwork, which one would you be?
Olivia: I know, I would be Mona Lisa, because I like Mona Lisa and I think it’s a cool painting.

Margie: I think I’d be Winged Victory. She’s powerful and elegant and strong and I’ve been thinking about her a lot.

Rachel Mullennix and Michael Storc

Geocaching Angel’s Flight

November 20, 2008

Recently I was introduced to geocaching. It’s a simple premise: to find cleverly hidden “caches” with global coordinates as your main clue. Caches usually contain a logbook and are hidden worldwide. Ranging in size, they can be as large as Tupperware containers or as small as a box of mints, or even minuscule enough to look like a bolt. Handheld GPS navigators are extremely helpful—but beware! The caches in urban areas tend to be extremely well-disguised, and some nanocaches like these are quite inconspicuous:

In one afternoon I explored various parts of downtown L.A., finding quaint gardens and parks sprawled in between massive skyscrapers. One of my favorite caches that day was located near the funicular Angels Flight, said to be the world’s smallest railway. I stared down from the platform, and Millard Sheets’s eponymous work immediately came to mind.


Millard Sheets, Angel’s Flight, gift of Mrs. L. M. Maitland


In his painting, Sheets depicted his own impression of the Bunker Hill area by adding additional characters in the background, playing with the perspective of the hilly turf, even removing the funicular and replacing it with a meandering staircase that emphasized the steep trek of those who typically could not afford the fare.

My geocaching experience was similar to the viewers of Sheets’s painting. As I looked out that afternoon, I saw lovers in the park, men on benches warmed by the sun, and people walking their dogs—everyone was enjoying the lovely weather of the day. Essentially, like those who view Angel’s Flight, I got a charming peek into Bunker Hill as I hunted for the cache, no doubt the intent of the geocacher who cleverly hid it.

Devi Noor, Curatorial Administrator, American Art

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on Millard Sheets…

Best of AFI

November 19, 2008

AFI FEST 2008 already feels long past, but allow me the opportunity to plug a few more of the films that landed, briefly, in Los Angeles. Other than the five titles that I mentioned previously, all of which proved stellar, here’s another notable quintet:

Achilles and the Tortoise

Pyrotechnic polymath Takeshi Kitano concludes his “artistic suicide” trilogy with the delectably unpredictable Achilles and the Tortoise. Starting out as a somewhat routine, albeit faux, biopic of a budding painter, it soon veers into a nearly structural procession of exceedingly random experiments involving copious paint and various media (walls, bodies, cars, boxing gloves) that are met with consistent commercial failure and even a few deaths. This mordant cri de coeur has the writer/director himself playing the fraught artist in his later years… and every phosphorescently cockeyed canvas is a Kitano original.

Playing the intersection of art and life in a completely different key, Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours follows a globalized French family as it loses a matriarch but inherits a Musée d’Orsay-worthy collection of decorative objects. Assayas, who like Kitano crafts seriously mercurial narratives, considers the film his most Taiwanese effort. And if you had a chance to catch Edward Yang’s towering A Brighter Summer Day at the museum a few weeks back, you’ll likely see reflections of Si’r’s flashlight in Assayas’ bubbly antique vase, to cite but a most immediate echo.


Tokyo Sonata

A different treatise on family dissolution, the masterful Tokyo Sonata from Japanese genre bastion Kyoshi Kurosawa is a nominal melodrama of untethered salarymen, caged housewives, drifting children, and even a dash of Iraq war weariness. Far less schematic and not nearly as stale as that description, the film is confident and precise in its lyricism.

La Rabia

Ensconced on a landlocked stretch of terrain that seems less pampas and more penal colony, Albertina Carri’s La Rabia is almost unbearably intense. Animals of various sizes get slaughtered off and, most often, onscreen while sexual trysts are filmed with the cold alarmism of Akerman and staged with the brutal clarity of Cronenberg. The splattery intervals of watercolor expressionism are the closest thing to a respite from all the blood, screams, and red-bereted macho-monstrosities.

Lighter notes are dappled on Michael Almereyda’s wanderlustful Paradise. This perennially unclassifiable filmmaker of vampire nocturnes, urban Hamlet, and Eggleston doc provides neither itinerary nor assignment, just an elliptical, nomadic collage that glimpses flashes of teeming life. Much like Terrence Malick’s Captain Smith, included here, we’re left perplexed and enraptured by this extant new world.

Bernardo Rondeau

%d bloggers like this: