Meditating on Mathias Goeritz’s Message

November 10, 2008

Some of my favorite contemporary works on view at LACMA aren’t inside BCAM; they’re part of the Latin American art galleries, which includes some stunning work of the last fifty years from Jésus Rafael Soto, Hélio Oiticia, Cildo Meireles, and Francis Alÿs.

My personal favorite in the gallery is Message (Mensaje), from 1967, by Mathias Goeritz, who was German-born, but spent the last forty years of his life in Mexico. The work—just a piece of gold, punched metal—rewards patience.

Mathias Goeritz, Message (Mensaje), 1967

At first I thought it looked almost like a textile; seeing it in print (or onscreen) heightens that feeling. But the punches in the steel give it a kind of topography. Then I started wondering about how those holes were punched: rigid horizontal lines across the panel, the density of the lines letting up in places—it’s composed. Yet there is also a kind of randomness created by how the metal was punched: in some places it has been completely punched through, creating tiny black voids all over. If you get up close enough you can see the burgundy-colored wood peeking through.


The longer I stare, the more colorful Message becomes. It’s really not “just gold”; in addition to the black pockmarks, the leafing has taken on a bruiselike shade of greenish purple, revealing itself in the few areas of the surface that haven’t been disturbed by the punches. I start to notice cracks in the gilding, like spider cracks in damaged sidewalks. I wonder how much of Message is a result of its age. Was it more uniformly gold when Goeritz first created it? Was it even more luminous than it is now? What qualities has it taken on in the last forty-one years? What qualities will take on in the next?

Scott Tennent

Obama Asks for Help Shaping Arts Policies

November 7, 2008

Now that the country is in transition mode, Barack Obama has set up a website dedicated to his move into the White House, (does anyone else feel a little warm inside seeing “.gov” attached to “change”?).
During the campaign we noted Obama’s statement on the arts. The arts are mentioned on his new website as well, though in far less detail; they’re grouped under the hodgepodge “Additional Issues,” along with child advocacy, Katrina, science, transportation, and… sportsmen (“America’s hunters and anglers are a key constituency that must take an active role and have a powerful voice in this coalition.”). However, there is a link on that page through which you can submit your own ideas on any policy matters—including the arts. Election Day is behind us but you can still make your voice heard. [Thanks to PopMatters for pointing this out.]

Scott Tennent

Snapshot: Who’s at LACMA

November 7, 2008


Alex, Toni, and Chelsey

Why did you come to LACMA today?
Chelsey: Alex had a school project and her dad owns the car that is on display.

Did you ever ride in it?
Alex: I’ve been in it once and it was humiliating. I was sixteen and it was such a bumpy ride and it’s on hydraulics. It was really embarrassing; everyone was staring at us… It would be cool to ride in it now.


Liz and Casey

If you were a piece of artwork which one would you be and why?
Casey: Cosmo magazine.
Liz: The song called “Shoop” (as answered by Casey for Liz).

Has a piece of artwork ever made you laugh or cry?
Casey: It was a piece by Paul McCarthy. I was standing there laughing and people were looking at me as if it was scandalous that I was laughing, and I was thinking this is ART.



Why did you come to the museum today?
I came to see the Dutch paintings, I had a couple hours off and I just need something to clear my head.

Why the Dutch paintings?
When I was twenty-three my band toured Holland and I went to the Riijksmuseum when I was there, and in a moment looking at the Dutch paintings it all just clicked.

Rachel Mullennix and Michael Storc

Q&A with David Hundley, Hearst Installation Designer

November 6, 2008

When I heard that designer David Hundley (who is perhaps best known for his line of Gucci dog products, but has also worked for the likes of Ralph Lauren and Lexus) would be designing the installation for Hearst the Collector, I was curious to see how he would blend his minimalist aesthetic with Hearst’s maximalist credo. Here, David explains how he managed to meld parts of both, and kindly shares his sketches for a little “before and after.”

What was your inspiration for the Hearst installation design?

The sheer scale of Hearst Castle reduced to a minimalist state. In other words, Julia Morgan’s designs without the ornamentation.

Stripping the ornamentation seems almost antithetical to Hearst’s own aesthetic, but the installation design, as minimalist as it is, still seems to evoke opulence.

It was very exciting to take the grand and ornamental and retain the grand but strip away the ornamental, which, on reflection, has been a hallmark of my designs.

What were some of your basic design strategies?

I started with an empty 22,000 square foot gallery consisting of four rooms. I created three grand halls from the largest gallery, having walls built to the ceiling. These are vertical to the two horizontal Wilshire galleries. I squared off the angular parts of the building providing storage rooms for crates and other packing. Within the newly built walls are recesses to frame the tapestries and niches for many of the smaller sculptures. Vitrines and cases were built to house many of the smaller objects.


Did you take into account how Hearst might have wanted his objects displayed?

“From Hearst’s point of view, museum quality status was obviously a prime concern. Impact and impression were his most evident goals in decorating; if desired effect was achieved, breathtaking juxtapositions were achieved.” I jotted this quote down while perusing a Hearst Castle catalog at the Senator’s House on the Hearst Ranch. It stuck with me as I designed the exhibit.

One of my favorite spots is behind the cutout that houses the Thorvaldsen statue. From this vantage point, visitors almost become a part of the artwork—they’re actually framed.

The placement of the Thorvaldsen statue as the focal point at the end of the grand central hallway was one of my initial ideas, and the entire design evolved from this gallery. The curator from the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, who accompanied the statue to Los Angeles, paid us an enormous compliment. She said she had never seen the statue so beautifully displayed.

I also thought the elaborate table lamp on the Lucite-topped pedestal in an ultra-stark room was pretty great.

The Tiffany Lamp is so “over-the-top,” that I had to come up with the thick plexiglass-topped oversized stand to highlight how far over it is.

(Edward C. Moore) Tiffany & Co., "Orchid Vase" Lamp, Hearst Castle® / California State Parks, photography by Victoria Garagliano, © Hearst Castle®, CA State Parks

What elements of your design are you the most excited by?

I am most excited about the grandeur I was able to achieve by the scale of the hallways and the placement of works of art somewhat higher than is traditional.

Now that you’ve been so immersed in the subject, will we be seeing any Hearst-inspired designs coming from you in the future? What else are you working on?

There is a very strong possibility that my future designs could be influenced by my exposure to the Hearst collection. I am currently working on a residential design project, and I have been asked to design for the oldest glass factory in Venice, Italy, which is celebrating it’s 150th anniversary in 2009.

Brooke Fruchtman

The View from LACMA

November 5, 2008

LACMA’s façade, its windows, and vistas frame out many sides of Los Angeles, culturally and visually. I see the museum both as a vessel for viewing and observing art histories, and as an object in itself, one that is constantly redefining and reordering itself.

Looking from the window in the last gallery on the third floor in the Art of the Americas Building gives you one of these “slices” of L.A. Almost in a mini-gallery of its own off the main exhibition space, a huge floor-to-ceiling window carves out a cross-section of L.A.’s landscape and artistic history. In one sweeping view you can observe Hello Girls, the Alexander Calder mobile, listing slowly from above, while further in your sightline you can watch groups of school kids circling the tar pits.

For me, the view evokes our own struggle to keep afloat and change within our environment. You peer outward from within a modernist white cube, yet you’re confronted with relics from thousands of years ago, fiberglass dinosaurs encapsulated in a battle against displacement both natural and man-made.

Paul Wehby, Senior Designer

Editors’ Note

November 4, 2008
Juan Capistran, Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Truth? from the Minutemen Project, 2007

Juan Capistran, Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Truth? from the series The Minutemen Project, 2007


And the Winners for Best Costume Are…

November 3, 2008

Saturday’s sold-out Muse Costume Ball was a smashing success. As always, there was an array of creative costumes, ranging from Han Solo to Andy Warhol. Congratulations go to:

…the incredibly elaborate ostrich for taking home the prize for Best Halloween Costume…

…the Girl with the Pearl Earring for Best Art Inspired Costume…

…and the classiest jellyfish under the sea for Most Glamorous.

Photos by Joshua Targownik

Check out slideshows of more great costumes on Flickr and LA Weekly.

Jason Gaulton, Muse Coordinator

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