Hanging Fruit

June 22, 2010

Last week I spent two days in the gallery watching the installation of the Fallen Fruit “wallpaper” for the upcoming exhibition EATLACMA, opening this weekend. While going through our permanent collection picking out pieces for the show, the artists of Fallen Fruit came across two works which they used as inspiration for their wallpaper design.

England, Spitalfields, "Panel With Design of Fruit Trees," c. 1720, purchased with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Paul A. Erskin

Becky Cohen, "Apple Espalier, Potager du Roi, Versailles," 1994–1997, gift of Michael Stolper

I asked Austin Young, one of the members of Fallen Fruit, about their ideas behind the wallpaper. He explained that the design is made from public fruit that they gathered around Silverlake, while the background resembles the colors of a California sunset. Young also told me the original idea was to use all rotted fruit for the pattern. Though they veered away from the concept, they still managed to put a few rotted pieces in there. Pieces that Young rotted in his own yard! There are also other little things to find, like a fly, a bee coming out of one of the oranges, or little fruit flies (all actual size).

Meghan Moran, Graphic Designer


Tennis, Anyone?

June 21, 2010

With Wimbledon starting today, I’m in the mood for tennis. But I’m glad I don’t have to play it in this.

While this dress in LACMA’s Costume and Textiles collection may not look like tennis gear, it’s what would have been worn by the first female competitors at Wimbledon. Lawn tennis was invented in 1873 and quickly became wildly popular throughout England. The first Wimbledon tournament was played in 1877, though women did not compete until 1884.

Tennis was enjoyed primarily by the upper classes, and it was one of the few sports that men and women played together. As a result, female players were expected to dress attractively and fashionably as well as comfortably. It was not unusual to see high collars, long sleeves, corsets, gloves, high heels, and even bustles on the tennis court.

While following the fashionable bustled silhouette of the mid-1880s, this dress makes a few small concessions to the physical rigors of the game. It is made of lightweight, washable cotton, with a shortened skirt and a deep pocket for holding balls.

Instead of a bulky undergarment, the bustle is created by built-in hoops with interior ties to adjust the volume. These innovations distinguish it from everyday fashion.

In dress as well as behavior, tennis changed the rules for women off the court. In 1885, the magazine The Field observed: “Lawn tennis has taught women how much they are capable of doing and it is a sign of the times that various game and sports which would have been tabooed a few years ago as ‘unladylike’ are actually encouraged at various girls’ schools.” Elements of sportswear—like shorter skirts and pockets—found their way into streetwear, while bustles disappeared, hopefully forever. Over the years, tennis has continued to launch fashion trends, from Suzanne Lenglen’s headbands to the daring black lace and neon yellow ensembles designed and worn by five-time Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles champ Venus Williams.

You can see this dress on display in the Resnick Pavilion beginning October 2 as part of the exhibition Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915.

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Research Scholar, Costume and Textiles


Cell Phone Stories: You Are Here

June 18, 2010

The latest contributor to our series Cell Phone Stories is Kianga Ford, assistant professor of new genres at Parsons. Kianga took the escalator ascending BCAM as her starting point for the first episode in her multi-part audio series, titled “You Are Here… a movement, an act, an episode, an ecology.” This is what she has to say about the project:

I often study places in the big sense… neighborhoods, cities, migration patterns. The invitation to look at LACMA as an institutional place with distinct geographic boundaries was a motivating challenge. I discovered that, in many ways, it is a place that parallels the big world—it has its own system of interconnected people, discourses, and economies. When I began, I thought it would be an interesting occasion to consider some of the archetypes of the museum—the curators, the guards, the visitors, the artists, the benefactors—who often occupy different physical spaces and represent different ideological stakes in the machine of the museum. Over the course of the last six months, I have spent a good deal of time here at LACMA and had a host of long and short conversations with anyone who’s had a few minutes to spare. I’ve talked to visiting Australians who compare LACMA to museums at home, Angelenos who’ve reflected on LACMA within the greater art ecology of L.A., stay-at-home moms who use the museum as a break in daily routine, guards who are art-interested and those who are not, frequent visitors who have never actually been inside the museum, and folks for whom LACMA is a part of the neighborhood and, in some cases, their daily lives. I’ve come to understand it not just as a location for art but for debates and events that have little to do with the visual and that punctuate the seasons in the lives of the people who live in the neighborhoods that surround the campus. I’ve also seen it become a stage for questions of community and domain that extend well beyond its immediate environs.

I’ve chosen a fairly multifaceted approach to my “episodes.” I begin by combining two versions of the vision toward LACMA’s future, in a “remix,” if you will, of the words of its optimistic director, Michael Govan, who reflects on LACMA’s situation within Los Angeles on the occasion of BCAM’s opening in his text, “Where We Are.” The suggested listening location of this audio piece pairs it with Renzo Piano’s equally optimistic ascent into the sky and viewing platform which looks out from BCAM and onto a horizon that includes the 99 Cent Store, the Hollywood sign and the famous Park La Brea apartments. The score, provided by collaborating artist Preston Poe, reinforces the text’s expansive view. The episodes to come will highlight some of the relationships that I’ve come to see as important here, between LACMA and elsewhere, between the art and the context. Tune in for episodes two and three, which will focus on the Japanese pavilion and the LACMA grounds.

Listen to the piece here. To experience the piece on site, dial 888 465-1048 as you step onto the escalator at BCAM. To take part in the Cell Phone Stories series, text “lacma” to 67553.


Collection Favorites: Bernard Kester Textiles

June 17, 2010

I’ve chosen a group of pieces that I’m fortunate enough to have a personal connection to. It’s rare to have the opportunity to speak with an artist whose work you love, so I took this blog post as a chance to talk with Bernard Kester, an exhibition designer here at LACMA, about his textiles, which have been in rotation in the Art of the Americas Building. Bernard began designing textiles while an undergrad student at UCLA. The textiles were designed for a store on Robertson Blvd. Textiles eventually gave way to pottery and teaching (Bernard eventually became the Dean of the School of Art at UCLA). From his involvement with the California Design Collections to the simple beauty of the first floor of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building, Bernard’s enviable career plays out like the history of modernism itself.

Bernard Kester, Textile Length, “Cross Section,” 1964, gift of Bernard Kester

Cross Section blew me away. The color palate, if described, sounds like it would never work. Yet as everyone here knows, Bernard is a master of color and he pulls it off. It manages to be comical and a bit grotesque simultaneously. When I first saw it I was reminded of the Visible Human Project, a 3-D rendered cross section of the human body which was done in 1994 by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The visual similarities are striking. I’m always attracted to art that intersects with science—throw in midcentury graphic design and I’m a goner! Cross Section scratches an aesthetic itch for me, like a dog having its belly rubbed.

I asked Bernard what he was looking at when designing his patterns, which all seem to reflect organic forms. Was science important? Where did the name come from? Mostly he seemed interested in what I had gleaned from them. I went on about biology and the natural world and dissection. “Hmm” he said. “No, I wasn’t looking at anything like that, but that’s interesting.” Then he added “Or it could have been a cut piece of cake, I don’t know.”

Michael Storc, Graphic Designer


Collection Favorites: Stuart Davis

June 16, 2010

Timing is everything. In the case of Stuart Davis’s Package Deal #18 we see an artist moving through a drawing like a drummer hammers a beat. Hard and fast, tight and controlled pen strokes reflect a microcosm of 1956’s store shelves, a window on the world in reductive tones.

Stuart Davis, Study for Package Deal #18, 1956, gift of Earl Davis, © Estates of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Package Deal#18 is one of those drawings that exudes a resonance from the atmosphere in which it was created. Like most of Davis’s works it combines elements from mass production, cubism, and geometry with a kind of cut-and-paste attitude that would feel right at home in any designer’s moleskin notepad. Even devoid of color this humble drawing commands attention both from the marketer and the conceptual artist.

Paul Wehby, Graphic Designer


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