Art Here and Now

I’m often asked how it is that certain works of art come to be in LACMA’s collection. In the case of objects acquired through our Art Here and Now (AHAN) program to support acquisitions by emerging Los Angeles-area artists, there is a very particular—and interesting, and fun—process, with pretty wonderful results. But first, a bit about the interesting back story to AHAN…

From 1963 through 1986, AHAN’s predecessor, known as LACMA’s New or Young Talent Award and funded by our Modern and Contemporary Art Council (MCAC), offered a stipend based on the average cost of a year’s rent for a studio—originally set at $1,200—as a way to keep artists in L.A. at a time when they all too often moved to New York to further their careers. Since 1986, AHAN has been an ongoing and heftier acquisitions program in a city that no longer needs to fight to keep its artist population but still wants to support its resident artists.

This year, seven members of LACMA’s MCAC served on a committee that met with us (us being curators in our modern and contemporary art departments). Together, we discussed twenty-two Los Angeles-based artists early in their careers whose work is of interest to the museum; most were proposed by the curators but a few were put forth by committee members. Out of the twenty-two, we selected nine for studio visits.

Further discussion, again among all the curators and the full committee, followed these visits. While all of the artists are, by definition, early in their careers, any work the museum acquires needs to hold up in the context of our entire permanent collection. Which artists do we think have staying power? Who feels as if he or she has arrived at a mature vocabulary rather than still being in search of a voice? At the end of a lively interchange of ideas and the consideration of work by many strong artists, the group chose Aaron Curry as the one whose work will be purchased for LACMA’s collection this year with funding from the council’s AHAN program.

Aaron Curry, Pierced Line (Brown Goblinoid), 2008, courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery

Aaron Curry, Pierced Line (Brown Goblinoid), 2008, image courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery

Curry is a sculptor whose work also incorporates two-dimensional, wall-bound elements. His art is informed by a wide variety of sources ranging from European modernism (including Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró) and mid-century American sculpture (Isamu Noguchi and David Smith in particular) to pop music and contemporary graphic design. LACMA’s curators will select a piece from Curry’s next body of work (slated to be completed in late summer) for the museum’s collection.

Over the past forty-six years, the work of eighty-nine emerging Los Angeles-based artists, many of whom have gone on to critical acclaim, has been acquired through the YTA/AHAN program. You can read the full list after the jump.

Carol Eliel, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Young Talent Award/AHAN Artists

1963: Llyn Foulkes
1964: Tony Berlant
1965: Melvin Edwards, Lloyd Hamrol, Phil Rich
1966: Terrence O’Shea
1967: Mary Ann Corse, Michael Asher
1968: Ron Cooper, Barry LeVa, Joseph Vaughan
1969: Chuck Arnoldi, Greg Card, Michael Olodort
1970: John Alberty, David Deutsch, Patrick Hogan
1971: Barbara Munger, John White, Joe Ray
1972: Jud Fine, Ann McCoy, Tom Wudl
1973: Jack Barth, Chris Burden, Steve Sher
1974: Jay McCafferty, Alexis Smith
1975: Jon Abbott, Paul Dillon, Loren Madsen
1976: Charles C. Hill, Eugene Sturman, Elyn Zimmerman
1977: James Hayward, John Okulick, Margit Omar
1978: Michael McMillen, Gwynn Murrill, John Sturgeon
1979: Richard Oginz, Steve Kahn
1980: Elaine Carhartt, Sandra Mendelsohn-Rubin
1981: Andrew Wilf, Jay Phillips
1982: Joe Fay, Karla Klarin
1983: Roger Herman, Jim Morphesis
1984: Don Sorenson, Gifford Myers
1985: John Frame, Peter Shelton
1986: Sabina Ott
1987: Tim Ebner
1988: Jill Giegerich, Karl Matson
1989: Bob Zoell
1990: Paul Tzanetopoulos, Dan Wheeler
1991: Minoru Ohira, Dominique Blain
1992: Liz Young
1993: Darren Waterston, Marc Pally
1994: Buzz Spector
1995: Rachel Lachowicz
1996: Tim Hawkinson
1997: Pae White, Frances Stark
1998: Kevin Appel, Ginny Bishton, Enrique Martinez Celaya
1999: Lynn Aldrich
2000: Ruben Ortiz-Torres
2001: Jon Pylypchuk, Jason Meadows
2002: Darcy Huebler, Mark Bradford
2003: Gajin Fujita
2004: Lecia Dole-Recio
2005: Tomory Dodge, David Ratcliff
2006: Elliot Hundley
2007: Lara Schnitger
2008: Ruben Ochoa, Steve Roden
2009: Aaron Curry

5 Responses to Art Here and Now

  1. Some twenty years ago–long before the days of computerized records–I paid a visit to LACMA’s Registrar’s Office as part of a class project. One wall was covered with files, like a gigantic card catalog (for those who remember record keeping before computers). I can’t remember the registrar’s name at the time, but she explained to me that every work of art that has ever been owned or exhibited by LACMA had a file card. She challenged me to name a work or artist, and she would show me the card.

    I remembered Michael Asher’s installation for the young talent award: three temporary walls installed in one of the galleries. At the bottom of the card, where it would normally give the piece’s current whereabouts, it said that the work was destroyed by the museum staff. I don’t think she was familiar with Asher’s ephemeral practice, and becoming a bit flustered, and tried to explain that LACMA was not in the habit of destroying art works in its care.

    When I recounted the story to Asher a few days later, he caught himself laughing. Part of the impetus for Asher’s practice was thwarting expectations among viewers (and registrars) about what a work of art should be.

    I also remember a story of one of the YTA artists throwing their donated work into the tar pits. Is that a part of LACMA lore, or can someone on staff post that story?

  2. Eve says:

    Wow that is quite an interesting process~

  3. Michael, thanks for your comment. None of us on the Unframed team have heard the Tar Pits story before… we’re asking around but thus far it sounds like it might be urban legend. If we find otherwise we’ll definitely relate the story in a future post.

  4. […] Artists Mel Edwards, Chris Burden, Mary Corse, Tim Hawkinson, Pae White, Mark Bradford, and Elliott Hundley have more in common than you might think. Once upon a time, as emerging artists, they were all recognized by LACMA as Art Here and Now (AHAN) artists (or by the Young Talent Award program that preceded AHAN). Funded through the Modern and Contemporary Art Council (MCAC) at LACMA, this program has supported local emerging artists since 1963. At first in the form of the New or Young Talent Award, a purchase award based on the cost of a year’s rent for a studio in Venice, it was renamed Art Here and Now in 1986. (You can see a full list of past AHAN artists in this previous Unframed post.) […]

  5. Adam Feldmeth says:

    Michael’s memory of a donation to the tar pits is in reference to Terrence O’shea.

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