The Return of Scary Art

October 30, 2009

In anticipation of Halloween (and tomorrow night’s annual Costume Ball), we have once again asked some of our museum staff to come up with their picks for creepy, spooky, or otherwise disturbing artworks in the collection.


Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province, Yuat River, Biwat People, Flute Ornament, c. 1925, purchased with funds provided by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation with additional funding by Jane and Terry Semel, the David Bohnett Foundation, Camilla Chandler Frost, Gayle and Edward P. Roski and The Ahmanson Foundation

Selected by Nancy Thomas, Deputy Director; on view in Art of the Pacific, opening November 7


James Ensor, "Death Chasing the Flock of Mortals," 1896, purchased with funds provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation, Joan Palevsky, Dr. Richard A. Simms, Julius L. and Anita Zelman, Daws and Carla Waffer, and Urban S. Hirsch III

Selected by Taras Matla, curatorial assistant, Prints and Drawings; 0n view in our online James Ensor exhibition


Mexico, Western Oaxaca or Puebla, Mixteca-Puebla Style, "Mosaic Skull," 1400-1521, gift of Constance McCormick Fearing

Selected by Tom Drury; on view in the Art of the Americas Building


Federico Castellón, "Her Eyes Trembled," 1939, gift of the 2006/2007 Drawings Group

Selected by Leslie Jones, curator, Prints and Drawings



Ludwig Meidner, "Apocalyptic Landscape," 1913, gift of Clifford Odets

Selected by Carol Eliel, curator, Modern and Contemporary Art; on view in the modern art galleries, Ahmanson Building



Abishek Singh, "Kaalnemi transforms into Asura," Ramayan 3392 AD, 2006, Liquid Comics, Bangalore, India, © 2008 Liquid Comics. All rights reserved.

Selected by Julie Romain, assistant curator, South and Southeast Asian Art; on view in Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India’s Comics



Japan, "Samurai Armor of the Gusoku type" (detail), 18th century, gift of Leslie Prince Salzman

Selected by Allison Agsten; on view in the Pavilion for Japanese Art


Artists on New Topographics, Part I: Mark Ruwedel

October 29, 2009

In honor of our re-staging of New Topographics, we’re doing something special: starting this Sunday and occurring every Sunday through mid-December (except Thanksgiving Weekend), we’ve invited a leading Los Angeles-based photographer to give a tour of the show and share his or her insight into the ways New Topographics opened up possibilities for new photographic engagement with the landscape.

Each Sunday will feature a different photographer. In anticipation of each tour, we’ll whet your appetite here on Unframed with an exclusive interview. First up: Mark Ruwedel. Mark has photographed the topography of the American West for nearly three decades, focusing on nature’s reclamation of the land over time. He has depicted relics of industrial expansion, like abandoned railways, as well as evidence of geological upheaval, such as the impact of prehistoric glaciers. His recent series Westward the Course of Empire surveys the deterioration of the once mighty railroad network forged across the nineteenth-century American landscape.

I recently spoke to Mark about LACMA’s restaging of this important exhibition, which was first seen in 1975 at the George Eastman House of Rochester, New York. The video here offers a sneak peek into Mark’s take on New Topographics, and how it continues to bear influence on photographic practice today, including his own.

More details on this Sunday’s tour can be found here, and you can get a glimpse of some of the future tours here.

Edward Robinson, Associate Curator, The Wallis Annenberg Photography Department

Five AFI Fest Picks

October 28, 2009

Much has changed for this year’s edition of AFI FEST, which begins Friday. There’s an ace new director of programming—Robert Koehler—some new venues (Mann’s Chinese Cinemas and Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex), and tickets for all films free of charge to the general public. All that said, the festival’s core commitment to offering some of the major entries and discoveries in contemporary world cinema remains unchanged. Here are five films I am most anticipating:


Un Lac

With its primeval setting (a snowy, remote expanse of Alpine forest), sparse narrative (a stranger enters the life of a fatherless family), and pervasive darkness, punctuated by iridescent blurs and hushed voices, Philippe Grandrieux’s latest is a cavernous shadowplay of immersive, Romantic nocturnes.


The rise of Benito Mussolini and the (forced) decline of his first wife is boldly rendered in Marco Bellocchio’s baroque and starkly operatic epic, another surgical incision in the fabric of Italian society by this 69-year-old master. Click here for an interview with Bellocchio by Scott Foundas in Cinema Scope magazine.


Ne Change Rien

Portugal’s Pedro Costa follows French actress Jeanne Balibar in all iterations of her budding chanteuse alter-ego—rehearsing, recording, performing—with the same fixed, enduring gaze, and chiaroscuro shadings that charged Fontainhas with cosmic import. The film will be preceded by Le streghe, femmes entre elles, the latest short work from the indefatigable Jean-Marie Straub and likely the first Los Angeles screening of a new film from this forceful materialist in over three decades.


Police, Adjective

A plainclothes cop tails a young man through the terminally vacant streets of Vaslui and winds up lost in the tussle of language. Another momentous entry from the continually reliable Romanian stable of young directors, Corneliu Porumboiu’s second feature is a procedural of sorts with a semiotic bite. Here’s a trailer.


Two bona-fide academics (Lucien Castaing-Taylor directs Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab while Ilisa Barbash is associate curator of Visual Anthropology at the Peabody Museum) helm this rigorously observant, astutely pictorial document of Westward sheep herding that not only tends to ovine mannerism but also the outer lives of the men who direct them. Here’s the official site.

Bernardo Rondeau

Dial N for New Topographics

October 26, 2009

“One of photography’s greatest values is in how it allows you to see through the eyes of a contemporary a situation which has now passed. I definitely feel that the value of the photographs in this show will be more recognizable in time than they are right now to a majority of people.”

—Joe Deal, speaking at Arizona State University in 1977 about New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape.

Visitors to LACMA’s presentation of New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, which opened yesterday, have the opportunity to hear the artists talk about photography, their influences, and experiences. Just be sure to bring your cell phone; using your phone, you’ll be able to listen to an audio tour with clips spanning the decades since the show was first seen in 1975 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

Joe Deal, Untitled View (Albuquerque), 1974, printed 1975, gelatin silver print, George

Joe Deal, Untitled View (Albuquerque), 1974, printed 1975, gelatin silver print, George Eastman House collections, © Joe Deal

Coming up with audio from each of the ten photographers in the original show was no small feat. The clips were culled from roughly eight hours of audio, collected after contacting nearly fifty different archives in universities, libraries, and museums across the country. The earliest recording is from 1977—Joe Deal (excerpted above)—and the most recent was recorded this past summer expressly for LACMA—John Schott, reminiscing about photographing motels along Route 66. All of it was entertaining; I’m always fascinated at how vocal inflections from another era sound so, well… of another era (I must say, all the female audience members asking questions of Joe Deal in 1977 sounded like Jane Fonda in The China Syndrome to me).

Hearing the voices of the artists makes me feel that much closer to the work on the walls. I heard their distinct personalities, and I came to some quick conclusions that fuel my reception for their imagery: Robert Adams is a philosopher; Lewis Baltz, an anthropologist; Hilla Becher found art to be a visual dance; Joe Deal was quite prescient; Frank Gohlke is a storyteller; Nicholas Nixon is pragmatic, yet deep into image-making; Stephen Shore found art in keeping a visual diary of his life; John Schott was finding a new vision; and Henry Wessel explained to me what it means to follow visual instinct.

We are entering a time when knowing our heroes intimately through Twitter and the like is not unusual. But keeping and making accessible oral and video archives of what an artist was thinking years and decades ago is priceless.

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

The Clothes, the Furniture, the Building—All Designed by One Architect

October 23, 2009

Venice, California-based architect Elena Manferdini—who will be participating in a special panel discussion with architect Greg Lynn at LACMA on Monday—has two pieces in “From the Spoon to the City”: Objects by Architects from LACMA’s Collection: the Cherry Blossom jacket and skirt (2006) and the Ricami stool (2009). Together, these objects clearly demonstrate how she uses the same design concept and process to produce two very different objects.


Manferdini’s designs employ intricate patterns derived from nature or man-made materials. Her tool is the rendering and animation software Maya, which allows her to develop extraordinarily complex patterns and to visualize how a flat design will appear three-dimensionally. Originally developed for the animation industry, Maya has been widely adopted by the architecture/design community. Architects tweak the program by using specialized scripts, which they develop themselves or acquire from open-source libraries.

Both pieces start with a flat surface—stretch fabric for the garment and powder-coated steel for the stool—which are digitally laser-cut and assembled into their recognizable forms. This approach works beyond the small scale, too: Manferdini’s West Coast Pavilion at the 2006 Beijing Biennale was conceived and made in a similar way.


These emerging digital technologies are a clear signal that architecture and design have entered a new era, well beyond the drafting table. The impact of programs like Maya on architects’ abilities to design objects on all scales and across disciplines will be the jumping off point for Monday’s discussion.

Bobbye Tigerman, Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts and Design

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