Please Touch

June 12, 2009


Recent visitors to LACMA have noticed that the center of the BP Grand Entrance is now filled with a dense forest of bright, colorful plastic. The aptly titled HappyHappy is Korean artist Choi Jeong-Hwa’s site-specific installation created for the upcoming exhibition Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea (June 28–September 20, 2009). When the exhibition opens, visitors will be allowed to walk through HappyHappy and discover that the explosion of abstract shapes and saccharine colors are actually nothing more than floor-to-ceiling strands of thousands of household containers procured from local 99¢ stores.



Choi is considered the father of Korean pop art, and his enduring interest in popular materials and consumer culture is evident when you move through the rows and rows of plastic containers, many of which are manufactured in Asia and found in many Korean homes.

Consider this a sneak preview of Choi’s work. Installation of Welcome, a second site-specific project that will transform the façade of the Ahmanson Building, starts today…

Michele Urton, Assistant Curator

Scenes from a Few Marriages

June 10, 2009

Installation view, Henry VIII and His Six Wives, 1999, Hiroshi Sugimoto

Tomorrow is the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s first wedding to Catherine of Aragon, and the occasion has me thinking about Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “portraits” of Henry VIII and his six wives, which Charlotte recently wrote about. It’s one of my favorite exhibitions to show my friends, as it allows me to gossip like a schoolgirl about the sordid stories behind each of the wives!


Catherine of Aragon was a Spanish princess, originally married to Henry’s brother, Arthur, who was sickly and died. After several years, Henry began to freak out about being married to his brother’s wife, so he had the marriage annulled.


Anne Boleyn, meanwhile, had been successfully waging a six-year campaign of seduction of Henry. After they married, she failed in the son-bearing department. Henry decided she had beguiled him with witchcraft so she was charged with adultery, conspiracy, and incest, and then executed. She also was said to have had an extra finger on one of her hands.


Jane Seymour was said to be Henry’s favorite wife. She was very well behaved and also bore him a son. She died shortly after childbirth.


After Jane’s death Henry sent court painters out into the world to make portraits of potential wives. He found Hans Holbein’s portrait of Anne of Cleves particularly fetching. When Anne arrived, however, he found her less than stunning, said she had “evil smells,” and called her the “Flanders Mare.” He ended the marriage within the year, deeming her his “Good Sister,” with a severance of property and stipend.


Catherine Howard was a cheerful fifteen-year-old; Henry was fifty. She raised his spirits during his deteriorating health until he found out that she was having affairs with two men. Heartbroken, he had her executed.


Catherine Parr was a caring nurse to Henry and his painful leg ulcers. Dignified, educated, and fashionable, her only hiccup was nearly getting arrested for heresy due to a penchant for spirited religious debate. Henry was most appreciative of her when he died, and left her a generous annuity and allowed her to keep her queen jewels. She then married Jane Seymour’s dashing brother Thomas, but died in childbirth a few years later.

Sarah Bay Williams, Ralph M. Parsons Fellow, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department

Ask a Curator

June 9, 2009

Ever wonder about the history of a piece of art, the genesis of an exhibition, or how on earth we got our giant Richard Serra sculpture into BCAM? Here’s an opportunity to have your burning art questions answered—submit queries to us via comment or tweet and, for our upcoming Ask A Curator series, we’ll select a few for LACMA’s experts to answer.

Snapshot: Who’s at LACMA

June 9, 2009

Jeffery, graphic designer and Alvin, student

Why did you come to LACMA today?
I’m here visiting L.A. for six weeks from Chicago and he’s just showing me some of the places I haven’t been to yet.

What do you think of L.A.?
Jeffery: I like it. As I’ve been exploring parts of it there is the nitty-gritty and then you can wander up in the hills and see amazing architecture. I’m staying up in Silver Lake and I like the diversity of all the hills and then walking around Sunset and seeing the urban street life.


Kathy and John; both work at Screen Actors Guild

Where would you like to travel?
: Greece. I like antiquities and there a lot I don’t know and I like history.
John: I think my next trip would probably be Brazil. I think that it’s a place that has everything—it’s got the beach, the mountains, rainforests.

What’s your favorite museum?
Kathy: I love the Met in New York.
John: I should just go for the obvious and say LACMA. I do live in the neighborhood and I love that it’s here and I love being able to come here. I love [the Pay What You Wish program] after 5 pm and the Friday jazz—the whole deal. I think it’s fantastic.

Curator’s Pick: The Lost Felice

June 8, 2009

Marsden Hartley’s The Lost Felice (meaning “lost happiness”) is a painting that I really love. It’s certainly not the most upbeat of pictures, but it is extremely powerful, and is a truly great work. I am always captivated by the painting’s solemnity, intensity, and strange beauty. It was originally envisioned for a seamen’s chapel (never realized), and this painting could have served as the altarpiece; it has a sacred impact for a variety of reasons.

Marsden Hartley, The Lost Felice, c. 1939, Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection

Marsden Hartley, The Lost Felice, c. 1939, Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection

The story behind The Lost Felice is a deeply personal one for Hartley, though I hesitate to tell it. An interesting experiment might be to look at it first, without knowing anything about it, to see how you respond to it. Then, read the whole, tragic story behind the work

I always feel this painting needs to be on its own wall if at all possible, so that a viewer can take it in and contemplate it without too much distraction. It is currently in the American galleries—in the same gallery that holds Thomas Hart Benton’s The Kentuckian.

As a postscript—a year or two ago we had a screening for our American Art Council of the film Cleophas and His Own—an adaptation of Hartley’s narrative about his experience with the family members represented in the painting. Here is the trailer:

Austen Bailly

And the City Said “Let There Be a Stoplight”

June 5, 2009

When I left work yesterday, I was quite surprised to encounter a crosswalk and stoplight in front of Urban Light where there had not been a crosswalk or stoplight when I drove in the same morning. As we told you a few months ago,  there’s been a lot of construction activity around here lately. But it felt like this most recent installment sprouted overnight–or, in this case, over the course of a day. Definitely a big improvement for pedestrians, making the BP Grand Entrance far more accessable to visitors on foot.

Allison Agsten

In the Home of the Photographer of Homes

June 5, 2009

On a recent afternoon I visited the legendary photographer Julius Shulman at his house high in the Hollywood Hills, ostensibly so that he could sign books for LACMA’s showing of Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, a new documentary on his work. Since Shulman, now 98 years old, is charming and full of stories when friends come to visit, I asked Edward Robinson, our new Associate Curator of Photography, Alexandra Klein, Ralph M. Parsons Curatorial Fellow, and my husband, Don Llewellyn, to join me. We all talked about photography and ate pastries while Shulman signed books.


Carol Norcross, Julius Shulman

Architect Raphael Soriano designed Shulman’s house, which was built in 1950 on a bare hillside. Today it is surrounded by a lush tangle of plants and neither the L.A. basin below nor the surrounding houses can be easily seen. Except for the front hallway, it seems almost entirely built of glass. Sliding doors and hidden gardens on all sides allow breezes to flow through the rooms. I have been up to visit several times and it always surprises me. One time, the clouds were so low that the house seemed to float among them. This time, the sun was out and hummingbirds flew among the flowers outside.

Shulman’s daughter Judy was visiting that day, and she talked about growing up in a house with built-ins and wood-paneled walls—her double bed was immovable, its headboard part of low shelves that run around two sides of the room. An eight-foot glass door leads to a tiny garden just outside, and during spring cleaning she would pull her toys and dollhouse there.


Side door with garden


The studio

The first time I was in this house was for a benefit for the Ennis Brown House. As a supporter for museums and landmarks in and around Los Angeles, Shulman partnered with Juergen Nogai in 2006 to create Disney Hall at Twilight, a limited-edition print for LACMA’s Photographic Arts Council. Cheerful always and glad to recount stories about his Los Angeles, Shulman is himself a monument.


Edward Robinson takes a close look at the photographer's work

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman will be screening at LACMA this Sunday, June 7.

Carol Norcross, Book Buyer

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