This Weekend at LACMA: Muse ‘til Midnight, Le Amiche, Buddhist Sutra Painting, Bobby Bradford with George Herms, and More

August 20, 2010

Lots of stuff happening this weekend, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But first let’s talk about Muse ‘til Midnight, and all the fun you’re going to have there on Saturday night. There’s going to be an open bar. There’s going to be a mustache contest. There’s going to be vaudeville performers wandering the campus. There’s going to be admission to the Thomas Eakins and Catherine Opie exhibitions. Did I mention the mustache contest? There’s going to be DJs by the names of Fangz and Pumpkin. There’s going to be a band called the Unextraordinary Gentlemen, comprised of bass, violin, drum machine, and singer, which needs to be seen. There’s going to be people dressed like they’re from the nineteenth century. And there is another band called Dusty Rhodes and the River Band—and if you watch this video for their song “All One,” and you still don’t think you’re going to have fun, then you and I just have a different idea about what fun is. Don’t let Dusty win the mustache contest. More info here.

In the event you do have different ideas about fun, perhaps some of the other events we have this weekend will suit you. How about a brand new 35mm print of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Le Amiche?  This is a newly restored print of an early landmark in the great director’s oeuvre. We’re screening it five times this weekend—twice tonight, three times tomorrow. Then it’s gone.

Saturday afternoon we have a special presentation on Buddhist Sutra painting with artist Oegil Kim Kyeong Ho. This traditional technique flourished in Korea during the Goryeo period (918–1392) but has become something of a lost art since the advent of the printing press. Oegil Kim Kyeong Ho will give a lecture (in Korean, with English translation) at 2 pm,  followed by an actual painting demonstration in the Boone Children’s Gallery—right outside the Korean art galleries—at 4pm. Both events are free.

It being summer, we’ve got a free concert every night of the week. Tonight, the Bobby Bradford Mo’tet will hit the BP Grand Entrance for Jazz at LACMA. Bradford has played with greats like Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and Charlie Haden, so this is not to be missed. For this performance he’ll be joined by artist George Herms, one of the icons of assemblage art in L.A. alongside Ed Kienholz and Betye Saar. How exactly they’ll collaborate, I’m not sure, but it’s sure to be worth a look.

Before you hit Muse ‘til Midnight on Saturday, come early and check out Alfredo de la Fe in Hancock Park as part of Latin Sounds. Violin may not be the first instrument you think of when you think salsa, but after watching de la Fe, it will be.

Finally, Sunday in the Bing Theater sees pianist Andreas Klein performing works by Mozart and Brahms, also free.

Scott Tennent


Building the Ultimate Steampunk Outfit from the Grubby Ground Up

August 19, 2010

This Saturday LACMA Muse is holding its annual Muse ‘til Midnight event, which will include live music, open bar, a mustache contest (you heard me), and viewings of Manly Pursuits and Catherine Opie. Taking its inspiration from the Eakins exhibition, the theme of the night is a throwback to an earlier, more industrial age. That’s why many of us on the Muse team were outfitted in Steampunk attire by the clothiers at Clockwork Couture. We talked to Clockwork’s Captain Donna Ricci to give us (and you) some pointers on making the perfect Steampunk outfit.

Can you describe the inspiration for the Steampunk aesthetic?
To say that Steampunk “Damns the factory but celebrates the machine” is one of the most accurate quotes stemming from the budding subculture. Inspiration for the look comes from the working-class Victorian: not fine lords and ladies but rather ship captains, yard bosses, storekeeps, metal smiths, dressmakers—and with that comes a more practical ensemble.

Something about that working-class angle comes across in the colors of a lot of Steampunk outfits—they’re not wildly colorful.
Because many period images were in sepia, many Steampunks have fancied themselves in browns and blacks. Partner that with the working-class appreciation, and they tend to shun the acid dyes of the Victorians. This is not to say it’s not allowed, just know with Steampunk, brown is the new black.

How would one go about creating the Steampunk look?
Creating a Steampunk ensemble requires imagination, ingenuity, and creativity. Thrift stores can be a great source to find sacrificial items to be altered. Many a prom dress was reinvented into a Victorian Steampunk gown. Do a little research before going in so you can keep an eye out for what makes sense.

For ladies, you can never go wrong with a swag-front bustled skirt, ruffle-front blouse, granny boots, and great little hat. Do remember your foundation when dressing, utilizing a corset to get the hourglass silhouette of the time. An underbust corset helps create that look while giving you more “breathing room.” Literally.

For men, a true gent can never be without coat and tails and a proper topper. A pair of dress slacks and shirt will go well under a well tailored frock coat or tuxedo jacket. A bowler or top hat complete a dapper look. Spectacles or a dangling monocle distinguish a literary man from the uneducated worker and an cravat or ascot can cover up an unsightly or non-period button-up shirt. Don’t be afraid to show some frill. The Victorian gent was the first metrosexual.

It seems like a lot of the Steampunk look is in the accessories.
A Steamer can never go wrong if he knows where his goggles are. It’s much like a passport—you should have a pair because you just never know what adventure awaits you today. Flights on dirigibles were as common as train rides in our alternate history, and one really does not fancy a bug in the eye.

Thadeus Dowad, Muse Intern


Fischl and Katz Go to the Beach

August 17, 2010

Eric Fischl, “Saint Barts Ralph’s 70th,” 2009, © Eric Fischl 2009

Somewhere you probably have a snapshot of some of your closest friends and family members on the beach. It might be a 4 x 6 inch print or maybe it’s just saved on your cell phone. Could you imagine such a casual image as a life-size painting? Eric Fischl can and does. His 8 x 10 foot painting St. Barts Ralph’s 70th (2009), currently on loan from the artist, both challenges and channels the spontaneity of the ordinary snapshot with its dynamic brushwork and through the inclusion of celebrity friends, such as actors Steve Martin and Martin Short in the center of a scene set on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. In perhaps another nod to the links between painting and photography, Fischl’s painting marks the birthday of his friend, the photographer Ralph Gibson, who happens to be represented in the museum’s collection.

Eric Fischl, “Saint Barts Ralph’s 70th,” 2009, © Eric Fischl 2009

I then discovered that Round Hill (1977), a 6 x 8 foot painting by Alex Katz promised to LACMA, is also set on a Caribbean beach (Nevis). The opportunity to display these monumental paintings at LACMA for the first time and to pull out connections and themes, including beaches and the figure in painting and photography, led me to curate to Alex Katz, Eric Fischl and the Beach Scene, now on view in the American art galleries.

Alex Katz, Round Hill, 1977, partial and promised gift of Barry and Julie Smooke, © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

I couldn’t resist the beach theme and also found several relevant photographs in the collection that resonate with the divergent character of Katz’s and Fischl’s modern-day conversation pieces set seaside. In contrast to Fischl’s fluid painterly execution and the cheerful camaraderie represented, Katz’s forms are more hard-edged, nearly abstracted; the flattened space in works like Round Hill deliberately accentuate painting’s two-dimensionality and can evoke the graphic quality of black-and-white photographs. The curious lack of interaction between the figures in Katz’s composition resonates for me with the work of Anthony Friedkin and Larry Fink, whose photographs present edgier takes on the sandy subject. Ultimately, I also decided to include David Salle’s new lithograph Vista (2010), commissioned for LACMA , to underscore the pop sensibility and timeless quality that permeates beach imagery in American art.

Austen Bailly


LAX to IND

August 16, 2010

Last week I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art as part of a team led by Rob Stein of IMA Lab. We were there to discuss Art Babble, a collaborative site featuring video from museums including LACMA. During a break, we adjourned to the recently opened 100 Acres Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park adjoining the museum. I saw work by familiar artists and some I haven’t encountered before.

We started with Jeppe Hein. This is one of 15 benches, collectively called Bench Around the Lake. I love the way it engages the rock.

Nearby, you enter an underground passageway leading to Alfredo Jaar’s Park of the Laments. The passage has a strange acoustic effect, muffling the noise of the outside world as you near the stairs that lead up into a walled garden.

The profundity of the walled space silenced our typically talkative group; the only noise was the hum of cicadas. Jaar intended the park as a refuge and a place to lament the atrocities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I was struck by the way the strict geometry of the garden appears to hold at bay the lush chaos of the surrounding parkland, as if the trees and undergrowth are respectfully complicit in the piece.

In marked contrast to the solemnity of the Park of the Laments, Cuban collective Los Carpinteros created a radical variation of the basketball court, called Free Basket.

I watched an excellent video interview with one of the crew who erected the piece; he describes the pride the fabrication team took in demonstrating their welding skill to achieve the swooping arches that animate and complicate the court. (Incidentally, Rob tells me that he sees people shooting hoops there everyday, and that it’s one of the best places around for a game of horse.) Apparently the artists originally proposed a half-court creation; a prescient curator urged them to go full-court and it’s impossible to imagine the piece any other way.

Have you ever been through a cringe-worthy team-building workshop? I once had to assemble a raft from a bunch of junk and paddle it down a frigid creek in the Welsh countryside. I wish that, instead, I’d been part of Type A’s team-building workshop at the IMA, which resulted in the stunning piece, Align.

I hear that the collaborative process had its bumps, but the finished work suggests a coming together of imagination and purpose. I can’t wait to see the documentary about Type A that the IMA is producing.

Andrea Zittel, whose work is included in LACMA’s own collection, contributed Indianapolis Island,  a floating pod-like structure anchored to the bottom of the lake.

For two weeks this summer, two artists lived aboard the island. Every day at an appointed time, they paddled ashore and traded with visitors who brought all manner of supplies. I love their blog account of the experience.

The park is the site of an ongoing commission series. I’d love to see it in the winter.

Amy Heibel


This Weekend at LACMA: Films by Fuller and Mizoguchi Plus More Free Concerts

August 12, 2010

Our Samuel Fuller film series closes tonight with two films from 1957: Forty Guns, a western starring Barbara Stanwyck as a villainous cattle baroness; and China Gate, which follows a group of mercenaries—including Nat “King” Cole!—into dangerous territory.

The first film starts at 7:30; come early and have a drink while you enjoy the Nick Mancini Collective on the plaza.

Mancini is a whiz on the vibes; here he is wowing the audience on an episode of Showtime at the Apollo:

Tomorrow night you’ve got another chance to do a concert/film combo, starting with Latin Sounds out in the park at 5 pm. If you’ve ever listened to KJZZ’s “Jazz on the Latin Side” program, then you know host Jose Rizo. You can get to know him in a whole new way as leader of the nine-piece ensemble Mongorama.
As the name might suggest to any fan of Latin Jazz, Mongorama specializes in the 50s and 60s material of the legendary Mongo Santamaria —i.e., Cuban rhythms meets straight ahead jazz.


Following that we’ve got a screening of Kenzo Mizoguchi’s classic 1952 period drama, Life of Oharu,  starring Kinuyo Tanaka and Toshiro Mifune. Mizoguchi himself considered this his greatest achievement.

Finally, on Sunday be sure to drop into the Bing Theater for a free performance from the Lyris String Quartet,  who specialize in late Baroque and early Classical.

Scott Tennent


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