Frequently Asked Superhero Questions

August 20, 2009

Abishek Singh, "Ravan, the Demon of Lanka," Ramayan 3392 AD, issue 5, 2006 (detail), Liquid Comics, Bangalore, India


With more than 2,000 views and counting, our call for storylines and illustrations for a superhero comic based in Los Angeles has become Unframed’s second-most popular post of all time. The contest (for those who have not read the post) is in conjunction with our upcoming exhibition, Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics. Along with tons of views and links, the post has also drawn a number of questions, such as:

What format should I follow?
Please submit a word file or PDF for synopsis of storyline, which should be no more than one page (about 250 words). Use JPEG images with dimensions up to 800 x 1000 pixels. Individual JPEG files should be no larger than 1mb. Please keep your entries between 3 and 5 images total. Submissions will be accepted in any stage of the process—including storyboards, individual character explorations, or comic book pages—as long as a narrative description is included.

Who can participate in the contest?
Our call for comics is global, and is open to U.S. and non-U.S. citizens.

What will I win?
Each entry will be reviewed, with the best comics being featured on the Unframed blog.

Can I submit work that has been previously published?
We will only accept previously unpublished work.

What are the specifications for the storyline?
We seek original storylines for a superhero comic set in Los Angeles. Other than that, the sky’s the limit!

Details after the jump . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Ask a Curator: Richard Serra vs. the Elements

August 18, 2009

For this installment of Ask a Curator, we thought the question was better handled by one of our conservators, so we handed this over to Senior Conservator John Hirx.

Hannah asks: I’ve seen many Serra sculptures, whether it be the two sculptures in St. Louis (Twain and Joe) or at a MOMA exhibition, and many of these sculptures have been both inside or outside. With the use of the cor-ten steel, does the patina change inside the museum environment as quickly, if at all, like outside Serra sculptures? Obviously, if it changes, it does so in a slower process, but does that change the overall aesthetic of Serra sculptures? Are they best seen outside or inside?


Richard Serra, "Band," 2006, purchased with funds provided by the Broad Contemporary Art Museum Foundation, photo by Lorenz Kienzle

Serra’s work can be seen and experienced both indoors and out, as site-specific work or not—his work doesn’t seem to fall into an “either/or” category.

Seasonal weather changes support the development of the aesthetically desirable Cor-ten patina. Air quality probably plays a role as well. The environment inside of BCAM, in terms of relative humidity (RH) and temperature, is closely monitored—hovering at about 50% RH and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, with minor fluctuations. The museum air also circulates through an air-conditioning system. Therefore, patina development is slowed.

At its best, a weathered Cor-ten surface develops a forest of richly colored dark brown crystals. If the crystals are not disturbed during formation, the sculpture has a unifying, monolithic appearance even though the patina varies greatly from place to place. However, one rarely encounters this because the surface is so often disturbed in some manner. Keeping in mind that most of Serra’s Cor-ten sculptures are large and have enormous surface area, it is impossible for the surface not to be disturbed. Weather or human intervention can act to make the surface active, so when crystals are disturbed, time and the outdoor environment or a surface treatment support new corrosion or patina development. Therefore, the overall aesthetic is an ongoing work in progress.

John Hirx, Senior Conservator

One Gift Leads to Another

August 17, 2009

On view in the American art galleries is a small, temporary installation, The Art and Craft of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. It’s an exciting project that allows us to show several recent gifts of objects created by the Mathewses, San Francisco-based Arts and Crafts painters and furniture designers.

Prior to 2007 LACMA didn’t own any work by the Mathewses. The way the gifts came to LACMA is a particularly intriguing one (told in this Los Angeles Times story from last year). In brief, former Board Chair Nancy Daly generously donated the Arthur Mathews painting Monterey Cypress, California.


Arthur Mathews, "Monterey Cypress," California, c. 1930, gift of Nancy Daly

News of the acquisition was featured on LACMA’s website, which led to an out-of-the-blue email to the Decorative Arts and Design Department from a man who had inherited some Mathews furniture. His grandfather’s uncle was one of partners of the Mathewses furniture business—and he wondered if the museum would be interested in accepting it as well. Mathews furniture is as rare as hen’s teeth, so the answer was an unequivocal yes! There are very few extant examples, and most of them are at the Oakland Museum of California (however, there is one other piece of Mathews furniture on public view in Southern California—a chest in the American galleries of the Huntington Library). Among the objects LACMA received is a vividly painted blanket chest depicting a landscape of gently rolling hills with a flowering tree in the foreground, and a towering candelabra featuring a richer palette of reds, greens, and golds and accented with skilled carving.


Lucia K. Mathews and Arthur Mathews, Chest, c. 1910–15, gift of William J. Zeile


Lucia K. Mathews and Arthur Mathews, Candelabra, c. 1910–15, gift of the estate of John E. Zeile, Jr.

The installation is on view through December 6, 2009 in the Art of the Americas Building, toward the back of the American Art galleries on the third floor.

Bobbye Tigerman, Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts and Design

YBF: The Behind the Scenes Video

August 14, 2009

Who made the hyperrealistic and seemingly infinite array of tiny household objects to be found in Fallen Star 1/5? Is the Needle Woman real or an illusion, as she holds her ground on the streets of world cities? And what’s going on in the enormous twenty-dollar bill projected on a BCAM wall? Annie Carone and the Behind the Scenes video camera visited the galleries of Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea to get the answers on these vital questions. There Assistant Curator Michele Urton provided the lowdown on Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star 1/5, Jeon Joonho’s The White House, and Kimsooja’s A Needle Woman, three commanding large-scale works at the heart of the exhibition—an Artforum Critics’ Pick that’s on view till September 20.

Ask a Curator: What’s Your Motivation?

August 13, 2009

SophieM asks:

What triggers curators to do an exhibition on an artist? Is it who’s hot in the art market? Or is it popularity (Picasso, impressionism are the usual suspects)?

Dear Sophie,

Popularity and the art market can be motives for selecting a specific exhibition topic. But that is too narrow. When a curator presents something new in contemporary art, he is making a selection, and by doing so is confirming the belief that a specific artist or trend is noteworthy.

Exhibitions have a variety of intentions, but primarily are a means to educate their visitors. This didactic function gives me quite a leeway. Often, my choice of subject matter is related to our permanent collection. I have been inspired by a work of art in LACMA’s holdings to explore a certain theme, as was the case with The Flag Paintings of Childe Hassam (1988), one of which we own, and our forthcoming Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, celebrating our recent acquisition of Eakins’s last sporting canvas, Wrestlers.

F. Childe Hassam, "Avenue of the Allies: Brazil, Belgium," 1918, Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection

F. Childe Hassam, "Avenue of the Allies: Brazil, Belgium," 1918, Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection

Thomas Eakins, "Wrestlers," 1899, Gift of Cecile C. Bartman and The Cecile and Fred Bartman Foundation

Thomas Eakins, "Wrestlers," 1899, Gift of Cecile C. Bartman and The Cecile and Fred Bartman Foundation


Exhibition catalogue, "A Question of Modernity: The Figure in American Sculpture," 1995

At other times, I have investigated art that is not well represented in our permanent holdings. Such was the circumstance with A Question of Modernity: The Figure in American Sculpture (1995). Then my aim was not only to present works usually unavailable to the Los Angeles community, but also to investigate the concept of “modern” as it was originally conceived at the beginning of the twentieth century and later modified. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue revised the history of American art; I like doing that. The social aspects of American culture seen through its visual material world also fascinate me, and so my next show in 2011 will focus on women Surrealists.

By now you must be realizing that my choices are personal: I love research and learning new things, and so whatever topic I choose, it has to be complex and meaningful enough to keep me occupied for at least five years (the time it takes to organize most art-historic exhibitions). Sounds selfish, perhaps, but it seems to work!

Ilene Susan Fort, The Gail and John Liebes Curator of American Art

Ask a Curator—Keep Your Questions Coming!

August 12, 2009

We’ve really enjoyed receiving so many great questions since we started our Ask a Curator series a couple of months ago. Most of the questions from our first round have been answered (with a couple more answers still in the works—including one tomorrow).

We’re sure you have more questions—whether about the nitty-gritty details of planning exhibitions or installing artworks, about specific works in our collection, or bigger questions about the art and museum world (or anything else you can think of). Ask away in the comments here, on our Facebook page, or reply to us on Twitter (you can even ask us in Spanish—though we’ll answer in English). We’ll collect your questions and over the next few weeks will post responses from our curators.

In case you missed them, here are the questions our curators have answered so far:

Do curators feel pressure to create exhibitions that will impress other curators?

How did we install Richard Serra’s Band and Sequence inside of BCAM?

Do museums install copies of artworks while the originals are on loan elsewhere?

Is there a trend in framing contemporary photography?

How does one become a curator?

Scott Tennent

Parks, Sustainable Art, and the Budget

August 11, 2009


A few months ago I attended the Grilled Cheese Festival held at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, off Spring Street, north of the Chinatown Goldline metro stop. I didn’t make the art connection until I learned from assistant curator Rita Gonzalez that this was the same park where Lauren Bon’s art project Not a Cornfield took place a few years ago. Now it is one of a number of sites on the Governor’s proposed list of state parks to shut down, its fate unclear as lawmakers determine which parks will close sometime after Labor Day.

Most commonly known as the Cornfield, the 32-acre parcel has gone through a series of transformations throughout history. Once the land of the native Tongva-Gabrielenos, it became a settlement of primarily Mexican and Chinese immigrants in the mid to late 1800s. During the twentieth century it served as a trainyard, accumulating years of industrial waste on once fertile ground. After the property was purchased by the Trust for Public Land in 2001 and turned over to the California parks department, Lauren Bon initiated a long-term art project designed to engage the community and renew the land as public space. Volunteers sowed, tended, and harvested corn, a socially responsible undertaking using conceptual art methodology as its guide (an exhibition on this project concluded last month in Rochester, New York). By marrying community involvement with artistic innovation, the project created a renewed recreational space for Angelenos in the center of urban sprawl.


The trend for socially responsible art projects has been apparent for quite some time; Berin Golonu credited notable works in Art Papers such as Agnes Denes’s Wheatfield—A Confrontation, Amy Francheschini and Jon Bela’s Victory Gardens in San Francisco, and Fritz Haeg’s nationwide Edible Estates. These projects may well lead more artists to combine art and environmental sustainability, and it will be interesting to see how museums respond (Haeg’s Animal Estates exhibited at the Whitney last year).

While the LA State Historic Park is not fully completed, about half of the land is temporarily accessible to the public, with didactic panels noting the history of the area and its plans for future development. As we look to the coming months to see which parks will remain open, historic parks with high maintenance costs have become a factor due to the state’s financial deficit and the spotty economy. In the meantime, should a number of parks close due to budget cuts, we can only hope innovative ways will be found to keep them creatively occupied.

Devi Noor

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