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

Wallpaper in Art of Two Germanys, Part II

January 8, 2009

Yesterday Dorothea wrote about wallpaper as social commentary in art, and specifically about Gerhard Richter’s installation, Volker Bradke, which will be on view starting January 25 in the upcoming Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures show. I talked with Bill Stahl, LACMA’s manager of gallery services, about recreating the wallpaper that was in the original installation in 1966.

Were you able to use the same roller from 1966 to make the wallpaper?
Yes, the gallery loaned that to us. We used the existing roller and just remade a handle, as the original was not in good enough condition to use. It’s actually a two-part roller; the first roller has the floral pattern on it and the second roller (which ultimately was a soft rubber brayer roller covered with thin felt) is installed on the handle so that fresh ink from the felt is constantly supplied to the pattern roller.

Tell me about the ink you used.
I researched some water-based ink used in printing that washes off completely. Paint would have been too thick for the pattern and may have damaged the original roller. Stephanie Barron, the curator of the exhibition, selected the color.

The ink saturation and pattern seem a bit irregular. That’s intentional, I suppose?
Yes, Stephanie kept reminding us that the printing is not supposed to look perfect.

What are the plans for the roller now that you’re all finished?
We’ll send it on to the other venues of the exhibition and then the original parts and the new handle that will be given to the owner.

Watch Bill at work here:

Allison Agsten

Wallpaper in Art of Two Germanys, Part I

January 7, 2009

As part of the upcoming exhibition Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, one of the museum’s galleries has been covered in a carefully recreated version of blue and white floral wallpaper. Today, Curatorial Assistant Dorothea Schoene explains why; tomorrow, we’ll give you a closer look at how it was done.

Floral wallpaper is characteristic of the living space design of the German petit bourgeois in the 1960s and ’70s. It reflects the desire of an entire social class in postwar Germany to express their newly gained economic wealth. However, this group’s unshakable belief in material goods, coupled with overall narrow-mindedness and conservatism, soon became a target for mockery by the younger generation and artists.

Artists like Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, whose work in the 1960s was often labeled “Capitalist Realism,” were leaders of this social critique. Their “Capitalist Realism” implies a sense of popular realism, funny content and criticism of Western bourgeois culture. Gerhard Richter’s installation Volker Bradke is exemplary of his critical perspective.

Gerhard Richter, View of Volker Bradke exhibition, 1966, photo courtesy The Cranford Collection, London

Gerhard Richter, View of Volker Bradke exhibition, 1966, photo courtesy The Cranford Collection, London

The installation was shown during an unconventional group of seven exhibitions, each twenty-four hours in length, organized by gallery owner A. Schmela in 1966. Richter’s topic was Volker Bradke, a young denizen of the Düsseldorf art scene. This virtually unknown, unimportant figure suddenly was faced with instant fame when Richter painted his portrait and hung small portraits of him all over the gallery space.

For the seven days of exhibits, the walls of the exhibition space were painted with the same flowery design that was seen in the German petit bourgeois living rooms. Its goal was to underline the idea of private space; it was a “Coffee and Tea” event rather than an art show. It questioned the status and value of the art and its presentation.

For Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, LACMA partly remade the original paint rollers that were used in 1966 at Galerie Schmela, which today is owned by the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Düsseldorf. Each of the two flowery patterns achieved in LACMA’s gallery space is created using a stenciled paint roller. Come back tomorrow for a behind-the-scenes look at how we recreated the wallpaper for the current exhibition.

Dorothea Schoene, Curatorial Assistant

Robert Graham at LACMA

January 6, 2009

Retrospective Column I, 1981, cast 1986

Sculptor Robert Graham (1938-2008) died December 27. Born in Mexico City, the Los Angeles artist is represented by nearly forty works in LACMA’s permanent collection. One of these is a major installation currently on view and entitled Retrospective Column I. In this sculpture, planes of bronze are punctuated and indented to reveal tiny sensual human forms, mostly of women but also of couples. In other sections of the towering, floor-to-ceiling column (it is 192 inches high and 30 inches square), large female figures emerge partially exposed from previously molten metal as if rising through water. First modeled in 1981, the sculpture was cast in 1986 for LACMA’s then-new Anderson Building (facing Wilshire and now known as the Art of the Americas Building). In the light-filled triangular gallery it occupies on the third floor, Graham’s Retrospective Column I envelops a permanent structural column of this building, cladding the load-bearing pillar in bronze and the figurative sculpture for which is he best known.

Austen Bailly

Detail, Retrospective Column I

A Major Acquisition in European Fashion

January 6, 2009

In case you missed it, we’ve just announced a major acquisition of European fashion from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The L.A. Times ran a story on Friday all about how the collection came to us, including the news that the collection will be featured in an exhibition inaugurating the new Resnick Pavilion in 2010. That’s still a ways away, so we thought we’d share a few more images from the collection, which includes about 250 examples of fashionable dress and more than 300 accessories for men, women, and children.

Scott Tennent

(Left to right, top to bottom) Woman's Four-Piece Ball Gown, Europe, c. 1868; Woman's Dress (robe à l'anglaise), France, c. 1790, and detail; Man's Three-Piece Court Suit, France, c. 1760-1765, and detail; Man's Waistcoat, France, c. 1790-1800; Woman's Jacket (caraco) and Petticoat, jacket: Europe, petticoat: made in China for the European market, c. 1785; Woman's Dress, Europe, circa 1820; Emile Pingat (France, active 1860-1896), Woman's Evening Mantle, c. 1891; all objects purchased with funds provided by Suzanne A. Saperstein and Michael and Ellen Michelson, with additional funding from the Costume Council, the Edgerton Foundation, Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer, Maureen H. Shapiro, Grace Tsao, and Lenore and Richard Wayne

Celebrating Urban Light

January 5, 2009

Since it was installed one year ago thanks to the generosity of the Gordon Family Foundation, Chris Burden’s Urban Light, a sculpture comprised of more than 200 vintage Southern California streetlamps, has rapidly become one of the museum’s most iconic permanent collection objects as well as a real landmark for L.A. The work also inspires all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. My colleagues and I have seen brides taking photos in front of it, schoolchildren playing tag in it, and even a music video being shot in its midst. For me, the best part of winter’s early nightfall is passing Urban Light aglow on my way home. I feel as if I’m punctuating the day with an especially effervescent glass of champagne.

Whether you have your own Urban Light experience or if you’ve not visited LACMA lately, we’re introducing plenty of new ways to engage you with this beloved sculpture.

For the main event, if you’re one of the thousands who’ve taken photos or shot video in front of Urban Light, submit your images to Flickr (photos) and YouTube (videos). The best of the best will go on view online February 25 as part of a digital exhibition curated by photography head Charlotte Cotton, and will be published in a print-on-demand book; selected creative writing inspired by the work will be included, too. Charlotte will also choose one winning photograph for the publication’s cover, which will be announced right here on Unframed on February 23.

Along with this call for submissions, we’ve got lots of other Urban Light projects going on. Check out Urban Light‘s Facebook and MySpace pages for discussion, back story, and news, and follow our Twitter for little-known details about the object. There’s an Urban Light PDA tour on the way, and much more.

We look forward to seeing how Urban Light has inspired you. Just be sure to get your submission in by the deadline—Valentines Day—and don’t forget to check back here on February 23 for the winning photograph.

Allison Agsten

January 1, 2009

Pierre Bonnard, France-Champagne, 1889-1891, Kurt J. Wagner, M.D. and C. Kathleen Wagner Collection

Happy New Year everyone. As you can see from the picture, we’re still in celebratory mode. Unframed is going to take a long weekend—but be sure to come back Monday for a special announcement, plus some decorating tips later in the week.

Scott Tennent

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