The American Art Fun Zone

Tucked in back of the American art galleries (third floor of the Art of the Americas Building) is a small room I’ve been calling “the fun zone.” I tagged this intimate, one-room space with the phrase while planning for the reinstallation of the American art collections. I was committed to maintaining a space that would be flexible, into which contributing curators could pull together works for three to four mini-exhibitions a year.

Since our reinstalled galleries opened in July 2007 we’ve seen amazing modernist and pictorialist photographs acquired by the museum directly from photography salons mounted by Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles between 1918 and 1947. Kanemitsu in California during the 1960s and 1970s featured standouts from the museum’s extensive collection of expressionist and witty lithographs by Matsumi “Mike” Kanemitsu. Superb modern works given to the museum by art impresario, critic, author, and book designer Merle Armitage were showcased in Merle Armitage: Collections at LACMA.

James Albert Rosenquist, F-111: West, gift of Mrs. Robert Fenton

Currently there is a marvelous installation on view, Pop Prints from the Permanent Collection. Consumer products are subject and object in vibrant works by four pop artists. James Rosenquist’s monumental F-111 (1974) is so long it wraps around a corner of the room and bombards you with pattern, color, a blond baby under a hair dryer, light bulbs, tire treads, and an A-bomb explosion all overlaying the image of the F-111 bomber.

Claes Oldenburg, Profile Airflow, Gift of The Marmor Foundation in memory of Dr. Judd Marmor

But the showstopper has to be Claus Oldenburg’s three-dimensional object/lithograph of a car, Profile Airflow (1968-69). It is the kind of work that makes you stop in your tracks, it is so gorgeous and outrageous and unexpected. The curator brilliantly describes the “seductive cast-polyurethane car” as having “the consistency of flesh and the blue-green translucency of a swimming pool.” Go dive in.

Austen Bailly

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