This Weekend at LACMA: EATLACMA Fruit Jam, Final Lubitsch Weekend, Free Concerts

July 29, 2010

Once again, the folks from Fallen Fruit are descending upon the museum for a special EATLACMA event this Sunday: the Public Fruit Jam.

Bring your homegrown or street-picked fruit and join in to make collective fruit jams! By the end of the event we hope you’ll have made some new friends as well some wild new jam. The event is free, but space is limited, given on a first-come first-served basis.

While you’re here, be sure to check out the EATLACMA exhibition  as well as the shows for John Baldessari, Thomas Eakins, and Catherine Opie.

This weekend also marks the final screenings for our Ernst Lubitsch series. Friday night sees two early silent films, The Marriage Circle (1924) and So This is Paris (1926), both featuring live musical accompaniment by Robert Israel. On Saturday, for our final two screenings, we’ve got Lubitsch’s only color film, Heaven Can Wait (1943), starring Don Ameche, and Lubitsch’s last film, Cluny Brown (1946).

Lots of great concerts this weekend too—perfect for date night, whichever night you so choose. Tonight jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek will perform in the BP Grand Entrance starting at 6 pm. (Get here early and you can also check out the galleries—they’re free after 5 pm for L.A. County residents.) Saturday evening Bill Cunliffe leads Imaginacion as they perform Latin jazz in Hancock Park, also free. And, on Sunday, the Helios Guitar Quartet will take to the Bing Theater to perform selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and other works.

Want samples? Videos for Gazarek and the Helios Guitar Quartet are below; you can hear samples of Cunliffe and Imaginacion at their MySpace site.

Scott Tennent

Remnants of the May Company

July 29, 2010


What is now internally referred to as LACMA West, the building on the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire, used to be a May Co. department store. Built in 1939, the building is a beautiful example of streamline moderne architecture; the store had four floors of merchandise and a fifth floor housed a tearoom and restaurant. Eventually the tearoom became a place where women would come daily to play panguingue, a variation of gin rummy and bridge. Purchased by the museum in 1994, some of the staff was moved over to this building with the ever-growing demand for more space. There are still a lot of places in the building that have never been converted. Last week I had our building supervisor, Harry, take me on a tour of these unused spaces of the building. Harry has worked here for over 18 years and patrols this building, top to bottom, every day.

A giant water tower used to sit on the roof. It was so big that when they removed it they had to break it down into several pieces to get it down the stairs and out the doors.

All of the escalators, while not working, are still here.

May Co. used to house the Craft and Folk Art Museum on the fourth floor


A beautiful example of old lettering.

Outstanding employees walk of fame

Someone was drinking on the job; an old bottle of Imperial Irish Whiskey.

Before there were security cameras there was someone, on the other side of the wall, spying on customers to make sure no one was shoplifting.

Part of Michael C. McMillen’s Central Meridian, The Garage.


Does this not remind you of something out of Dr. Strangelove?

 Candy Refrigeration.

Meghan Moran

Pursuing Manhood

July 28, 2010

When I first encountered Catherine Opie’s photographs some time ago, I was delighted and intrigued by her work; her attention to detail, sensitivity toward color and composition, and fearless documentation of queer subcultures left an impression on me as an artist and thinker.

And so it was with equal delight, if not perhaps slight confusion, that I came face to face with her football series for the first time (on view in Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape). For Opie, these photographs were a more traditional approach to photography in subject matter and style: crisp and colorful photographs of an American tradition. But, as I soon realized, there was far more to these photographs beyond their initial aesthetic viewing pleasure. As these photographs continued to grow on me, I realized that Opie’s portraits of high school footballers became, in part, a critique of the way in which our culture constructs masculinity.

Catherine Opie, “Tyler,” 2007, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, purchase.

The subjects of these portraits are not men, nor are they boys; they are teenagers in transition, and it is with acne, braces, and a youthful awkwardness that they come to inhabit the hyper-masculinized footballer’s uniform and identity. They do not quite fit into their roles as footballers, or as men, but it is clear that they have made a choice about where they stand. Or has this choice been made for them? The portraits possess a quiet dignity as well as an underlying critique of that very dignity with which these teenagers hold themselves.

Henry William Crouch, Intern, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department

High School Football at LACMA

July 27, 2010

While she was here installing Figure and Landscape, Catherine Opie took a break to tell us about her experience photographing high school football players over the course of the past three years. She traveled the country, working with coaches and players to create dozens of images of young men on the field or looking directly into the camera during their moment one-on-one with the artist. The result is a complex depiction of masculine identity and the American landscape.

Here’s the video:

Amy Heibel

On the Ropes

July 26, 2010

A phrase like “Manly Pursuits”—the title of our Thomas Eakins exhibition, which opened yesterday—requires a strong statement for an exhibition title wall. I knew I wanted to do a take on the banners seen in the background of Eakins’s boxing paintings, but the trick was how to get them up there.

There needed to be ropes. Wrestling, boxing, rowing, equestrian riding, and sailing—ropes are used in all of them. I dug around at hardware stores and scoured Marine supply websites looking for the perfect pulleys, fender hooks, and manila rope.

With a lot of help from our great Gallery Services staff and the good folks at Olson Visual, who produced the banners, we managed to create really cool exposed rigging that connotes the hardware of sailing, while recasting Eakins’s work in a slightly steampunk light.

The man on the banners is John L. Sullivan, who was both the last of the bare-knuckle fighters and the first heavyweight gloved boxer. Sullivan was fighting at the same time Eakins was painting, and was one of the first American sports superstars. Eakins and Sullivan each symbolize two sides of the professional athlete. While Eakins seemed to paint the quiet quest for physical excellence, Sullivan was photographed for cigarette cards and made millions—a harbinger for the flashy, billion dollar industry professional sports has become in the last hundred years.

Michael Storc, Graphic Designer

This Weekend at LACMA: Eakins, Opie (in Person!), Lubitsch, and More

July 23, 2010

The place to be this weekend is the Art of the Americas Building, where two new exhibitions are opening: Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins and Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape.

Thomas Eakins, “The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake,” 1873, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection, 1984.1927, photo courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art

Catherine Opie, Untitled #7, courtesy Julia Pistor and David Eisenman, © Catherine Opie

Though their work is separated by almost a century, the Opie and Eakins shows work as complements to each other—both studying the athlete and the culture of sports. The show opens to the public on Sunday. Here’s where it pays to be a member, though: the shows are open today and tomorrow for members only.

Opie fans, be sure to come on Sunday. The artist will be in conversation with writer Eileen Myles in the Bing Theater.  The event is free, though tickets are required; they’ll be available one hour prior to the conversation.

Also opening on Sunday is a small installation nestled inside the Eakins show: Tad Beck: Palimpsest.  Be sure not to miss it if you’re here. We’ve got a blog post in the works about this installation coming soon.

Our Ernst Lubitsch series is now into its third weekend. Tonight sees a double feature of musicals made with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald—One Hour with You and The Merry Widow. Here’s the trailer for the latter:

Saturday the Lubitsch love continues with To Be or Not to Be and A Royal Scandal, written and produced by Lubitsch but directed by Otto Preminger due to Lubitsch’s health problems in 1945.

If art and film aren’t your thing (though surely they are your thing, since you’re reading a museum blog), perhaps it’s the free concerts that will lure you here. Tonight Grant Geissman and his Cool Man Cool Band will take the stage for Jazz at LACMA. Head to his website for audio and video samples. Don’t forget the galleries are also free to L.A. County residents after 5 pm.

Tomorrow guitarist Ciro Hurtado will perform in Hancock Park for Latin Sounds. Here’s a video of Hurtado performing “Manha de Carnaval”

Finally, stick around after seeing the new exhibitions on Sunday to catch artists from iPalpiti perform an Homage to Schumann in the Bing Theater.

Scott Tennent

Happy Birthday, Eakins!

July 22, 2010

This Sunday, we will be opening a new exhibition, Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins. That day, the July 25, also happens to be Eakins’s birthday. Eakins is no longer with us (he would be 166), but his art is a good stand-in.

Unknown, “Eakins, in the Chestnut St. Studio, Three-Quarter View,” c. 1891, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Charles Bregler’s Thomas Eakins Collection. Purchased with the partial support of the Pew Memorial Trust, 1985.68.2.581

The opening of the exhibition, which concentrates on Eakins’s depictions of the modern heroes of American life, the athletes of the late nineteenth century, is especially eventful for me not just because I organized the show. Eakins and I shared significant backgrounds. We were both born and raised in Philadelphia. Also, the art bug and the “City of Brotherly Love” were strongly ingrained in both of our psyches. Eakins’s also was a significant force in determining my profession. As a child I began going regularly to the Philadelphia Art Museum, which has the largest collection of Eakins art and archives. You see, my father loved art and history and for vacations he would take my mother, my sister Tina, and me on automobile excursions up and down the East Coast to visit historic houses and museums. As a result Tina became an artist and history buff and I became an art curator. It was Eakins who determined my focus on American art, as the first memory I have of visiting the Philadelphia Museum was to see a display of perspective drawings that Eakins created as preparatory work for his rowing paintings. I can still remember the gallery full of those large studies.  They are meticulous pencil and ink drawings that will amaze you. And you now can see them for yourself as several are on view in Manly Pursuits at LACMA.

The exhibition will only be shown in Los Angeles. So why don’t you go visit the Eakins exhibition on July 25, enjoy the rowers, the men skinny dipping, the equestrian riders, the bicyclists, boxers, and wrestlers, and then walk across the museum plaza to Pentimento and celebrate good old Tom’s birthday  with a sweet dessert and bubbly, and sing “Happy Birthday” to him. I know that’s what I plan to do on Sunday!

Ilene Susan Fort, Curator

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