Crenshaw Comes to LACMA

September 20, 2010

Catherine Opie, "Crenshaw High School Marching Band," 2007

In spite of the many great after-hours events that LACMA has, my homebody tendencies usually get the better of me. But tomorrow night will be the exception when the Crenshaw High School Marching Band performs on campus.
Their connection to LACMA? The school has been the site of numerous visits by Catherine Opie—the results of which are on view in Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape. (One work from this series I really love is the limited-edition print above.)
The event starts at 5 pm but I may very well stick around until well after 6:30 when Opie leads an informal walkthrough of her exhibition. Lounging on the couch will just have to wait.
Brooke Fruchtman

This Weekend: Ingmar Bergman, Tom McCarthy, Free Concerts, and More

September 16, 2010

Our Ingmar Bergman film series finishes up this weekend with a quartet of doozies: tonight, a double-feature of The Seventh Seal and The Silence. Tomorrow night, Bergman’s excellent Fanny and Alexander closes things out. Here are trailers for all three films, should you need the additional nudge to get out to the Bing and see these classics on the big screen.

Prior to Fanny Alexander we’re happy to screen the 2010 documentary …but Film is My Mistress,
directed by Stig Björkman and featuring interviews with Woody Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci, Lars van Trier, Martin Scorsese and others. Best of all, Björkman will be here in person. The documentary screens at 4 pm and is free—though tickets are required.

Concert-wise we’ve got two freebies for you. Tonight, the Bill Mintzer Canyon Cove Trio will perform for our weekly Jazz at LACMA series. Sunday night trio Latitude 41 will perform works by Schubert as part of the free Sundays Live series.

Also happening this Sunday, novelist Tom McCarthy, whose book C just made the long list for the Man Booker Prize, will read from his novel and will join author Chris Kraus in conversation in our Art Catalogues store, located in the Ahmanson Building. The event is free.

Of course, the more obvious reason for coming to a museum is to see the art. We’ve got plenty. Both Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins and Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape are entering their final month on view. There’s also a new installation on view on the third floor of BCAM, Color & Form, featuring the work of Imi Knoebel, John McCracken, Christian Eckart, Gunther Forg, and Peter Halley. We’ll have more on the blog soon about this show.

Scott Tennent


September 14, 2010

Today, a few behind-the-scenes photos from the installation of Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico—one of the Resnick Pavilion’s inaugural exhibitions opening October 2.

Hand painted onto the exhibition’s walls, this portion of a mural portrays a Maya dignitary carrying an Olmec-style baby, who represents the infant maize god.

A royal figure dressed in an elaborate bird mask and ornaments form another mural. The zoomorphic throne may allude to ceremonies that occurred when the figure acceded to office.

Curator Virginia Fields examines a rare collection of objects that were recovered from a sacred site in the Olmec heartland. The greenstone axes, symbolizing ears of maize, were planted in formal arrangements at the site of a spring, signaling the importance of water to this agricultural society.

Another offering from the site—a life-size wooden bust, which survived because of the bog-like environment.

A crew installs a throne, which portrays an Olmec-style composite creature with both human and animal features.

Moving one of two large platforms, designed by artist Michael Heizer, into place, which will hold two colossal portrait heads.

Olmec monumental heads are individual portraits of some of Mexico’s earliest kings. Since the 1860s, seventeen colossal heads have been recovered.

A chart in the gallery conveys the relative scale of the seventeen known heads, which range in weight from around seven to twenty tons.

A cross-legged ruler from one of the towns under the hegemony of San Lorenzo.

A close-to-finished install.

Recent Acquisition: Along the Ghats, Mathura

September 14, 2010

Along the Ghats, Mathura is the first Edward Lord Weeks painting LACMA has ever acquired. Weeks was a leading late nineteenth-century American-born Orientalist who is best known for his paintings of India created during the 1880s and 1890s—this painting is undated but was likely created in the ’80s.

Edwin Lord Weeks, Along the Ghats, Mathura, gift of Gordon and Elizabeth Anderson

Weeks’s typical palette was rich in sunlight, vivid blue skies, and sparkling stonework, and Along the Ghats, Mathura is no exception. The work reveals Weeks’s fascination for the aesthetics and symbolism of water; he set many of his most famous Orientalist scenes on rivers, many of which have religious significance in India. In this painting, his narrative is at a ghat (the steps that lead down to a holy body of water) at the Yamuna River. Also interesting to note is that Mathura was the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

Along the Ghats, Mathura is now on view on the third floor of the Art of the Americas Building.

A Picasso for a Picasso

September 13, 2010

LACMA recently loaned its prized painting Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal (1903) by Pablo Picasso to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona for their groundbreaking exhibition Picasso Looks at Degas.  Not wanting the galleries to be without an example of Picasso’s figural portraiture, the curators have arranged for the Museu Picasso’s Harlequin (1917) to be on view in LACMA’s modern art galleries through the end of January 2011.  This painting affords us the rare opportunity to see firsthand Picasso’s return to a neoclassical style after the advent of cubism.

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal, 1903, oil on canvas, David E. Bright Bequest, © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal represents the artist’s famed Blue Period, where his tragic blue palette and his portraits of outcasts display a palpable loneliness often present in his work.  Although in the Rose Period his eerie blues gave way to flesh-toned pinks, Picasso consistently portrayed figures haunted by an inescapable solitude.  He gravitated towards harlequins, dancers and singers whose jobs are to entertain the public yet find no solace in it.  After living for several years in Paris, at which time he and Georges Braque developed cubism, Picasso in 1917 moved back to Barcelona for a short time; the dominating neoclassical art scene inspired the artist to revisit figural representation.

Pablo Picasso, Harlequin, 1917, oil on canvas, Museu Picasso, Barcelona, © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In Harlequin, a ballet dancer in full costume stands upon a stage, his downcast gaze communicating his isolation.  The flatness of the dancer’s costume, emphasized by its geometric pattern, contrasts with the weight and volume of his hands, and its monotone background conflicts with the depth achieved by the curtain.  Thus, this rare painting stands as a unique amalgamation between the subject matter of the blue and rose periods and the play with perspective and illusionism found in his cubist works.

The painting holds particular importance for the city of Barcelona as it was the first work by Picasso to enter the city’s museum collections.  Its installation at LACMA allows viewers to see a pivotal moment in Barcelona’s history as well as in Picasso’s development into one of the most important and influential modern artists.

Lauren Bergman, Curatorial Assistant, Modern Art

This Weekend at LACMA: Baldessari Closing, LA Jazz Treasure Award, Bergman Series, and More

September 10, 2010

John Baldessari, "Wrong," 1966–68, Contemporary Art Council, © John Baldessari

Have you been putting off seeing John Baldessari: Pure Beauty? Well put it off no longer: the exhibition closes this weekend. Depending on what day you come, there’s plenty more to do while you’re here.

Tonight’s Jazz at LACMA concert is a special event, as we bestow the LA Jazz Treasure award on legendary keyboardist Les McCann. McCann has been around for decades and has played with all the greats. He’s the man behind the outstanding track “Compared to What,” among others. Here’s an amazing TV performance of the song, along with Eddie Harris on saxophone, from the late 60s. Tonight he’ll be performing with the Javon Jackson Quintet.

Also tonight, our latest film series begins—Cries and Whispers: The Psychological Cinema of Ingmar Bergman. Tonight’s films are Persona and Cries and Whispers, both starring Liv Ullman. The series continues tomorrow with a triple feature: The Magic Flute, Hour of the Wolf, and The Magician. These are all classic, if intense, feats of cinema. Here are a couple of trailers, for tonight’s Persona and Saturday’s Hour of the Wolf, to give you some idea of what to expect.

Sunday we’ve got a film of a whole other kind—Bruno Wollheim’s award-winning documentary David Hockney—A Bigger Picture, which follows Hockney at age 70 as he leaves his longtime Southern California home for his native England, reinventing his painting along the way. It’ll be a great—and free—way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

If you prefer a great—and free—way to spend a Sunday evening, then stick around for the Debussy Trio—Marcia Dickstein (harp), Angela Wiegand (flute), and David Walther (viola)—who will perform as part of our Sundays Live concert series.

A Tale of Two Narratives

September 9, 2010

On view in the Pavilion for Japanese Art is a summer kimono, known as a yukata—a cotton plain weave kimono worn both by men and women, which evolved from a bathing robe. Printed in woodcut on this kimono is the acclaimed novelist Jippensha Ikku’s nineteenth century masterpiece, Hizakurige (meaning “journey on foot”). The garment is covered in a hundred and ten or so individual woodcuts that depict the humorous and lusty adventures of the two madcap characters, Yaji and Kita, as they travel on Tokaido Road, from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto.

Summer Kimono (Yukata) with Illustrations from the 180 novel ‘Hizakurige’ (Shank’s Mare) by Ikku Jipensha (1765–1831), Edo period, early 19th century, Costume and Textiles Deaccession Fund

The scenes are beautifully spaced and ironically, one is unable to establish the beginning, not that it’s necessary. The garment could well represent a time of this late Edo period where the populace was allowed to search for enjoyment, which became known as ukiyo (the floating world). It was a time when the arts flourished in all forms: music, popular stories, puppet theater, and literature. Tourism was the rage. It was the world of inns and teahouses and festivals. Beautiful woodcuts were very popular, thus one can imagine the joy of following the vividly animated two Buster Keaton-like characters on the kimono as they comically pratfall from one scenario to another, while making the journey oneself.

Detail, Summer Kimono (Yukata) with Illustrations from the 180 novel ‘Hizakurige’ (Shank’s Mare) by Ikku Jipensha (1765–1831), Edo period, early 19th century, Costume and Textiles Deaccession Fund

In the retrospective Pure Beauty —closing this weekend—John Baldessari’s narrative is a many splendored thing, to borrow an expression. Here in Duchampian voodoo, the very narrative itself is the game, the foil, the silent film hero or dangling participle, the malapropism; or it’s on the make, mendacious and coy, cunning and yet beautiful in its geometric melodrama of black frames like a femme fatale; and, of course, it’s fun and games.

Not unlike his nineteenth-century counterpart, Baldessari represents his time and the collective fissure that says so much about living in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To quote him; “I stopped trying to be an artist as I understood it and attempted to talk to them in the language they understood.” Of course this is only slightly disingenuous, for sometimes he achieves the “full Monty,” revealing our foibles and narcissistic dreams. Ultimately Baldessari’s prescient art captures our ad-enriched, Hollywood soaked, media-choked mixed messages with its amusement, its meaning scrambled or hidden in puzzles or laying in wait to be scratched out or searched within other images. Russell Ferguson suggested as much with his perceptive essay title in the book for the exhibition, “Unreliable Narrator.”

John Baldessari, “Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions,” 1991, Tate, purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members 2004, © 2009 John Baldessari, photo © Tate, London, 2009

And yet for us, having been so well trained, some of the work has lost its wow factor, which ironically exists in a time and a reality that most suits its expression, the digital age. Nevertheless, Baldessari’s inventive and ceaseless energy drives his narratives—enticing and alluring and unsparingly humorous. In that way it reminds me of Jippensha Ikku’s narrative. Though the author’s portrayed narrative on the surface seems simple, the world one senses from the garment is a world of freedom, joy, a kind of cultural play, unselfconsciously delighted in and savored.

Hylan Booker

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