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

Collection Favorites: Jizo Bosatsu

June 15, 2010

Japan, Jizo Bosatsu, late Heian Period (c. 1070–1120), gift of Anna Bing Arnold

When I think about what my favorite object is in the collection, I have to reexamine what object continues to move me the most, or the object that I will go out of my way and see over and over again. My choice tends to come back to an object that has been in our collection for over thirty years—the Jizo Bosatsu (c. 1070–1120), a wooden sculpture of a Buddhist monk that has been quietly present within the Japanese Pavilion galleries.

Jizo is worshiped as the protector of children, mothers in childbirth, travelers, and others in distress. This object stands on a lotus base. The pure flower rises above murky waters, symbolizing release from the karmic wheel of rebirth. The golden, peach-shaped object that he holds in his right hand is a wish-granting jewel attesting to his transcendent power. In my opinion, no other object comes close to its simplistic beauty. Japanese aesthetics prides itself in embracing asymmetrical composition, yet the carving underneath his feet of the symbolic lotus blossom is perfect symmetry. Hints of paint still sit on top of the weathered wood. I find the draping around his robe poetic. I’ve encountered this object by looking down on its head, or looking upward toward its feet. Both views move the spirit in equally humbling ways and give the viewer a sense of calm.

Amy McFarland, Associate Director, Graphics

Collection Favorites: Lari Pittman

June 14, 2010

We at Unframed have gone on about some of our favorite works in the permanent collection, but we decided to hear from some of our co-workers. This week we turned to the graphics department. We’ll post the responses over the course of the week.

When I was asked to write about my favorite piece in our collection, I found this to be an impossible task. There are so many pieces that I love, it’s too difficult to choose just one. Instead, I thought I would write about the piece that’s had the longest lasting memory for me: Lari Pittman’s This Wholesomeness, Beloved and Despised, Continues Regardless.

Lari Pittman, This Wholesomeness, Beloved and Despised, Continues Regardless, 1989–90, purchased with funds provided by the Ansley I. Graham Trust, © Lari Pittman

I was seventeen years old and had just moved to Los Angeles to attend art school. I was a fish out of water—moving from a small town, population less than 20,000, to L.A., population 9,500,000. I had never taken any art classes in high school nor had I ever been to a museum, yet here I was. During my first week of college I was brought to LACMA. My color and design teacher took us on a tour pretty much through the history of art. What I remember from that trip, besides being awestruck, is the Lari Pittman painting.

Pittman was shot in the stomach by a burglar attempting to break into his home and nearly died. After this event his paintings were “morose and filled with images of ruin and desolation,” as former curator Howard Fox wrote. Eventually, he had a more optimistic outlook in his work and painted themes of “forgiveness, compassion, charity, kindness, hope, and faith.”

While overtly sexual, This Wholesomeness is about love. I don’t know if it was the painting or the story I remember most. Looking back on it now through my eyes as a graphic designer, it’s obvious why this painting still resonates with me: there are bold blocks of color, simple shapes, graphic elements, black silhouetted figures, and a clear composition. All I know is that after all these years, this is my first memory of LACMA.

Meghan Moran, Graphic Designer

Small Sacrifices for ArtWalk

June 11, 2010

Are you a morning person? If so, more power to you. I for one am not. I don’t do coffee, always believed sunrises pale in comparison to sunsets, and oatmeal is just wrong. However, I will make the occasional exception—such as for the installation of the large-scale pieces for the annual Muse ArtWalk happening this Saturday

This year, after making the rare traffic-free commute (which I will admit is one advantage of the small hours), I met with Phil Blaine of Insomniac, Marko of LACMA Facilities, and a team of artists to get to work on building some of the pieces that will reside in the La Brea Tar Pits Park for ArtWalk 2010. Armed with reach forks, scissor lifts, and a crane, we fashioned together some of the larger sculptures that will be part of the Insomniac Sculpture Park—all before the park was overrun by its daily influx of schoolchildren.

Lt. Mustardseed's Archway goes up in the Insomniac Sculpture Park


By tomorrow, this and a few others will be complete. See these wonders for yourself, along with free admission to LACMA, the A+D Museum, the Page Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Click here for a full schedule of events. Best of all, the event goes all day—so feel free to sleep in!

Jason Gaulton, Muse Coordinator

Thursday Sneak Peek: The Resnick Pavilion Will Be Open!

June 9, 2010


We’ve been talking about the Resnick Pavilion all week now, even though the building doesn’t officially open for another few months. Cruel, aren’t we? All the worse that we titillated you with pics of Walter De Maria’s 2000 Sculpture, which is installed inside even though no one is allowed in. Doubly cruel!

Well, today (Thursday, June 10)—we’re actually inviting you into the Resnick Pavilion for what we’re calling an all day “flash visit.” It’s a sneak peek at something we’re very proud of—a chance for you to get an advanced look at an incredible artwork and a stunning building before it’s been installed with walls, exhibitions, didactics, signs, etc.

As we mentioned yesterday, the Resnick Pavilion will never again look the way it will for you tomorrow—so vast and spacious with only a single work of art cast in the middle. It’s almost meditative and truly something to behold—so we really hope you can stop by and take advantage of this historic opportunity (all that’s needed is a membership card or a general admission ticket, or stop by between 5 and 8 pm when we’re free).

Check it out and let us know about your experience by writing to us here or on Twitter or Facebook!

Scott Tennent

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