This is Not a Brick Wall

January 14, 2009

It may look like a brick wall from a distance, but Thomas Schütte’s Große Mauer (Large Wall), on view in the upcoming Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures exhibition, is actually a grid of more than 1,000 paintings. Each wooden panel rests on two thin nails attached to the wall. Quite an installation. See how it was done here:

Allison Agsten

Make Yourself at Home

January 13, 2009

Floor Lamp, c. 1905, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, made by Tiffany Studios, promised gift of Max Palevsky and Jodie Evans

In a recent contribution to “Critic’s Notebook,” Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight admirably asserted the central importance of permanent collections to art museums. He wrote that “falling in love with the permanent collection is how the public makes a long-term commitment to the museum that houses those works.” I share this belief, and it resonated somewhat literally when I had a chance to see Masterworks from the Max Palevsky and Jodie Evans Collection, an intimate exhibition of exquisite Arts and Crafts objects made around 1900 and recently promised to LACMA. Palevsky and Evans’ promised gift of forty-five objects, in addition to hundreds of gifts previously made, profoundly enriches LACMA’s collection of Arts and Crafts material—the most comprehensive of any museum in the United States.

As foremost collectors of such material for more than thirty years, Palevsky and Evans live with the objects most of us can only dream of owning. But ultimately LACMA will house these in our permanent collection, and a visit to see them here means the museum is also “your house.” Visit the exhibition now to imagine reading beneath a magical Tiffany lamp of upside-down dragonflies; they have red and green glass eyes that glow like rubies and emeralds in the lamplight, as do the amber-colored glass pieces speckling the leaded glass shade as if an enlargement of a section of their delicate wings. You can pretend to have shopped at Liberty’s on Regent Street in London for the elegant silver, enamel, and turquoise flagon, from which you will pour drinks for your guests. Or you can picture storing your precious items inside an inlaid jewelry coffer, then gazing out through a strikingly patterned stained glass window made by Frank Lloyd Wright. I bet you will be smitten, as I was, upon seeing the extraordinary beauty of these rare objects.

Austen Bailly

Our Curators Look Forward to 2009

January 12, 2009

Aside from making and breaking resolutions, the great pastime of every January is to look ahead to what the new year has in store. We thought it would be interesting to see what exhibitions a few of our well-traveled curators are excited to see in 2009. If you’re excited about any upcoming exhibitions this year—any time, anywhere—let us know in the comments.

Isa Genzken at the Whitechapel Gallery, London
April 4–June 21, 2009

The Whitechapel Art Gallery opens its expanded facilities in April. I’m excited to see how the Antwerp team of Robbrecht en Daem Architecten have developed this wonderful gallery. The program in their new space starts with a survey of German artist Isa Genzken’s work. Genzken’s sculpture and installations manage to be both as commanding as any major modernist works of art while also being absolutely antithetical to the slick production values and gargantuan sizes of many of her peers. Since the late 1990s, Genzken has been one of the most convincing contemporary artists to break down and reconfigure the hierarchy between rendered sculpture, photography, architecture, and found objects in disturbing and highly personal ways. I can’t wait to see how the Whitechapel narrates one of the most compelling artists of today.
Charlotte Cotton, Head Curator, Photography

Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago
Opens May 16, 2009

I am already looking forward to the opening of the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago in May. Although Chicago has never been known as the country’s leading “art town,” the AIC has an absolutely fabulous permanent collection, and this building will finally allow their stellar holdings of modern and contemporary art, photography, and architecture and design to shine as they never have before.
Carol Eliel, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art

The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
October 18, 2009–January 10, 2010

This show would be a good one to try to see in Boston as it won’t be travelling due to the fragility of the materials. It focuses on the delicate painted wood objects found in the Middle Kingdom (2040–1640 BC) of a local governor, Djehutynakht of Bersha. The MFA excavated his tomb in 1915 and found that it contained four beautifully painted coffins, along with jewelry and personal objects. Also included in the tomb were a series of lifelike wooden models of craftsmen, offering-bearers, boats and workshops. The circumstances of the excavation bore additional drama, as the ship carrying the excavation finds back to Boston caught fire at sea. Fortunately the objects were only slightly dampened, and their remarkable state of preservation will be one of the compelling aspects of this exhibition.
Nancy Thomas, Deputy Director, Art Administration and Collections

Snapshot: Who’s at LACMA

January 9, 2009

Anna, printmaker; Kate, Sydney's assistant and artist; Sydney, runs Gemini G.E.L.

Why did you come to the museum today?
Anna: To look at a Chris Burden book.
Kate: We had an appointment at the research library.

What are you planning on doing after this?
Anna: Today or in general? [laughs] I’m going to go back [to Gemini] and touch up Ken Price prints.
Sydney: Joel Shapiro, who is an artist, is working in our shop now and we’re going back to be with him.

Have you ever been inspired by art to do something that you normally wouldn’t?
Anna: I think that one piece by Chagall with the green man who is floating in the sky… I don’t remember the name of the piece. I was really young when I saw it, I was in third grade and when I saw it I thought, “I want to read Russian novels.” They were too long and boring at the time, but now I love them.

Has a piece of art ever made you laugh/cry? Which one? Why?
Kate: Well, after having looked at the Chris Burden book, I feel nauseated and fearful. But that is great that it is so moving. It was intense.

If you were a piece of artwork, which one would you be and why?
Anna: I’d be a Tàpies; he does really great paintings and prints. He had this one in Barcelona of this hair comb and it has Spanish exclamation points on either side and it was on a big piece of paper; I’d want to be that one, because it’s a monotonous object, but with those exclamation points on either side it not only tells you that it is in Spanish, it tells you that it’s a symbol of other life or day-to-day things that are very important.
Kate: I’d be an Ellsworth Kelly green curve, because it’s really mellow and I need more mellow in my life.
Sydney: [pauses]
Kate: You are an artwork!


Julia, fashion designer and Victor, art director

Why did you come to the museum today?
Julia: I’m from Germany, from Berlin, and I really wanted to go here and he told me this [pointing to BCAM] was all new, so I thought, we go.

Has a piece of art ever made you laugh/cry? Which one? Why?
Victor: Not laugh or cry, but it has driven me to recognize and to push myself into seeing things. I’m particularly fascinated with the stuff from the CoBrA movement, sort of psychiatric art, in repetition.

If you were a piece of artwork, which one would you be and why?
Julia: I’d like to be a sculpture from the exhibition we saw at MOCA, Louise Bourgeois. I loved it. I really liked the shapes and the colors and it looks like it feels good to be one of those sculptures.


Palmer, student, and Joseph, nurse

Why did you come to the museum today?
Joseph: We just wanted to spend time because she’s my baby and she’s on vacation and I just want to spend a little bit more time with her. On Monday she starts school.

What are you reading right now?
Joseph: I’m reading some stuff to be a citizen. In twenty days I’ll be a citizen [smiles].

Rachel Mullennix and Michael Storc

Grey Gardens

January 9, 2009

If you’ve never seen the strange and utterly compelling documentary Grey Gardens—even better, if you have—you really ought to make a point to see it on the big screen at LACMA on Sunday afternoon. One of the film’s co-directors, Albert Maysles, will be here to introduce the film and take part in a Q&A with author and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn afterward.

The documentary follows “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, a mother and daughter—relatives of Jackie O.—living in a dilapidated house in the Hamptons, which Big Edie had purchased with her late husband many years before. The Jackie O. relation is the hook—how can these strange women living in squalor be related to the most glamorous woman of her era?—but it is their relationship (not to mention their own fashion sense) that is truly the core of this film. Sure, it has a bit of a car-wreck, must-stop-and-look feel, but it’s also a truly fascinating film. Here’s the original trailer, to give you taste:

Ticket info for the screening can be found here.

Scott Tennent

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