Toning Your Muscles Under the Lights

November 17, 2009

Is there anyplace more artless than a gym? All that drudgery and nothing good to look at, unless you count the taut bodies surrounding you. And unless you go to the LA Fitness across the street from LACMA. Now that it gets dark early, Urban Light is on when I leave for the day—the only good thing about daylight savings in my mind—as are the lights in the gym on the other side of Wilshire. So now I’ve suddenly begun to notice the people inside working out. I wonder if these healthy folks are any more inclined to stay on the exercise bike with such a magnificent view? Can you think of another gym where a world-class work of art is front and center?

Allison Agsten

The Constant Guardian

November 16, 2009

Aside from the most common question asked of the gallery attendant—“where’s the restroom?”—the next could easily be the empathetic concern, “do you stand all day?” Yes, but it’s not too bad. Working in a museum, I like to say, is heaven for the mind and hell for the feet.

For the stoic guard the day is filled with many splendors. Many of us are art lovers who wanted to be guards in the museum. Barring the attendant physical woes, being hemmed in with Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, and the many other great works that fill LACMA’s rich and eclectic collection is irresistible. Not to take away from the astute curators, the dedicated docents, and the army of people who make it all possible, but even they can’t imagine the unfettered hours on end at Matisse’s magical Tea party or the hypnotic color swirls of Leger’s Disks, or to turn and be face to face with the delicate, tenderly rendered Woman with Blue Veil by Picasso—an act of looking which could be repeated without end.


Pablo Picasso, Woman with Blue Veil, Mr. and Mrs. George Gard De Sylva Collection

This is our living space. This is the upside of the coin, lessened in value only by our struggle to keep at bay that strange creeping casual indifference that is first cousin to repetition.

Doesn’t it get to look like wallpaper and furniture to you, standing in the galleries day in and day out? Well, maybe for some, but not for everyone. I believe that some of the art will go on speaking to you in spite of fatigue and familiarity. That being said, you are not quite alone within this silent drama, for the patrons are invariably asking questions, sometimes enlisting opinions or edging your enthusiasm. I find such engagement to be the cure-all.

Hylan Booker, Gallery Attendant

Tour New Topographics with Peter Holzhauer

November 13, 2009

Next up in our series of contemporary photographers offering their own insight on New Topographics is Los Angeles-based artist Peter Holzhauer. Raised in Maine before relocating to Los Angeles, Peter explores the metropolis with an eye toward recording its inhabitants’ more ambiguous claims on the local terrain. Photographing the city’s built environment he describes a place of laconic vigor, flux, and occasional absurdity. Peter will be giving a tour of New Topographics this Sunday; here’s a peek at some of the topics he might explore.


Mark Ruwedel

Amir Zaki

Edward Robinson, Associate Curator, The Wallis Annenberg Photography Department

More than a Magazine

November 12, 2009

One of my favorite things about working in LACMA’s research library is getting to share and showcase our treasures—everything from artists’ books and scarce first editions to surrealist ephemera and out-of-print periodicals. One of these rarities is a complete run of the magnificent magazine Art/Life. Conceived, compiled, and edited for twenty-five years by Joe Cardella, Art/Life truly must be seen to be believed.




Images of the celebratory 200th issue of Art/Life

Art/Life is so much more than your typical art magazine. Envisioned by Cardella to be a sharing mechanism for artists, Art/Life is exactly that. Artists and poets wanting to participate in this cultural exchange created multiples of their contributions, signed and numbered them, and sent them out to sunny California to be ordered and assembled. Each of the 276 monthly volumes—published from 1981 to 2005—is a unique work of art: hand-made, hand-numbered, hand-bound. I didn’t believe it at first, but every single edition of every single volume is an original.

This full run of Art/Life, formerly part of a private collection, was generously donated to the library in 2009. We were thrilled when we saw what a treasure trove this publication is; so thrilled, in fact, that we decided we had to share it. We’ve permanently moved Art/Life from the Special Collections room to display cabinets in the reading room for your viewing pleasure. Just email us to schedule an appointment to come in and see it up close.

Maggie Hanson, Stacks Manager, Balch Research Library

Veterans Day

November 11, 2009

I got a draft card for the Vietnam War but came of age as it was ending, so my draft card never got put to the test. As is the case with most people, my picture of what it is to be a soldier is hypothetical—drawn from books (Tolstoy, Tim O’Brien, Michael Herr) and movies (Terrence Malick, Kathryn Bigelow) and the occasional experience of someone I know. There is a small photograph of my father standing by a jeep with a radio in World War II, but it gives me no clearer sense of his experience than is suggested by the question, “And what must that have been like?” It’s the same question anyone could ask. So I’m not sure why I volunteered to select an image from the museum collections to go with Veterans Day 2009–maybe to find out what sort of image would do that, for me. Mostly when I think of soldiers I think: hard work and loneliness. The hard work is obvious—armies throughout history always seem to be on the way somewhere, and the very transportation (leaving aside the question of what you are going toward) is arduous.


Eleanor Antin, On the March, 1971-1973 Print, postcard, Picture postcard, purchased with funds provided by the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, the Nathan B. Cooper Memorial Fund, Sherry and Michael Kramer, and David and Suzanne D. Booth

As for the loneliness, I know that warriors are often portrayed as Shakespeare’s band of brothers, moving about in groups, developing the bonds that survival or simple perseverance requires. But then I think, you’re far from home, you’re young, you’re trying to both play the part and be the part—of course it must be lonely. I especially understood that when I saw this 1972 photograph by Ralph Gibson. It reminded me somehow of a photograph I saw earlier today, in the New York Times, of soldiers running in the rain at Fort Hood—together, but also each one alone.


Ralph Gibson, Untitled (sailor at steps), 1972 Photograph, Gelatin-silver print, Gift of Sue and Albert Dorskind

Tom Drury

The Meticulous Mr. Anderson

November 10, 2009


Sometime between viewing Fantastic Mr. Fox (screening at LACMA tonight) and finishing off Matt Zoller Seitz’s five-part video essay on Wes Anderson, I rediscovered the affective themes that lay among the (meticulous) craftwork of Anderson’s films. Aspiration, disappointment, longing, and estrangement direct his bands of outsiders, a family of some sort caught in mid-transformation or already reassembled in a post-domestic formation like a badly healed broken limb.

It might be easy to catalog Anderson’s signature tropes, tendencies, and textures (and Zoller Seitz does one better by throwing in Anderson’s varied influences). Like a Sunday-strip cartoonist, he renders each scene with a distinctive touch; well-appointed mise-en-scene and a comprehensive sense of production design replace the draftsman’s stroke. And that’s without mentioning his way with words and the modulation of tonality, inflection, and rhythm among the spoken parts.

Of course Fantastic Mr. Fox is firstly a breathless entertainment, perhaps the most fleet-footed work in the director’s filmography. Like Arnaud Desplechin, whose dialogue with Anderson appears the latest issue of Interview, Anderson is prone to jolting inventiveness and sudden spurts of activity (not to mention that both directors share a somewhat caustic view of the familial and an unflagging affinity for the black sheep). But unlike the hectic, nervous energy in a Desplechin film, an Anderson picture is crisply precise and exact. His lithe set pieces have an almost panoramic breadth, while he maintains a hawk-eyed attention to minute details. An animated film, particularly one that uses analog techniques that traffic not only in nostalgia but in its inevitably bittersweet side effects, is more than an inevitable choice for this meticulous filmmaker, it’s an inspired experiment in lyrical screwball.

Bernardo Rondeau

Natural Monochromes

November 9, 2009

When Andreas Reiter Raabe was in Los Angeles in September to paint the Art of the Pacific galleries with tea, he took the opportunity to extend his ongoing photographic work. Beginning in 2004/2005, he started Natural Monochromes, an open-ended series of photographs that employ silkscreened signs with short texts referring to place and painting in specific locations around the world. Reiter Raabe kindly agreed to share one of the images from his recent trip here on Unframed. He told Nancy Thomas, our deputy director, that when he was in L.A., he felt particularly influenced by the natural landscape and its interaction with commercial and residential building.


Andreas Reiter Raabe, Natural Monochromes, 2009, image courtesy of the artist

Allison Agsten

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