Visual Rhymes and Dotted Lines

October 5, 2010

I’ve walked through the Eye for the Sensual exhibition a few times now, and each time I do it seems to come more and more into focus. The first time through all I really took in, to be honest, was Pier Luigi Pizzi’s exhibition design—the columns, the fabric walls, the mirrors, the beautiful colors—and the feeling that I was being overwhelmed by amazing art. The paintings, the sculptures, the furniture… there’s a lot to take in in every gallery.

On my second trip through, I was able to take a little more time to consider the different artworks. That’s when I noticed this little visual rhyme in the second gallery:

That’s a sculpture by Giambologna in the foreground, called Flying Mercury, from the 1580s. On the wall behind it is Mars, from 1585–1600, by an unknown artist (“Netherlandsish,” the label says). The photo is a bit misleading—Mercury is just two feet tall, while Mars’ canvas is a little more than five and a half feet tall. It feels larger than life in person, helped in no small part by the figure’s muscular countenance.

But the manner in which they are placed in the gallery, playing off each other visually, makes them feel in some ways equal, or at least related. Both have the outstretched arm, both nude, both Roman gods. Mercury’s eyes are turned upward, as if he is reaching for something; Mars is looking out, toward the surrounding destruction (a fire rages in the background), his shield aloft in victory.

I was curious to know if there was anything to this pairing, or if the exhibition curators were just riffing, so I went to the exhibition catalogue. While there isn’t a direct connection between the two works, the catalogue entry for Mars does discuss the influence of sculpture on the painting: “In keeping with innovations in the representation of anatomy circulating in the Netherlands in the late 16th century, particularly among sculptors, the monumentality and three-dimensional presence of Mars are intended to showcase the painter’s skill in representing the male form in dynamic action.” The entry goes on to point to the influence of sculptor Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode, whose depictions of Roman gods in action influenced both painters and sculptors at this time, including Giambologna, the artist behind Flying Mercury.

Intrigued, I searched the museum’s collection for Tetrode and found that we have our very own Mercury on view in the newly reinstalled European galleries in the Ahmanson Building. So I headed for the Ahmanson’s third floor and found Tetrode’s Mercury front and center in a gallery just off from the Carter Collection galleries. I immediately noticed the similarity to Giambologna’s, though Tetrode’s Mercury isn’t looking skyward.

As I was looking at the sculpture, thinking about how it might have influenced the artists in the Resnick Collection, I realized I wasn’t alone in the gallery. “You’ve stopped in front of my favorite work in the gallery.” It was Gail, one of the guards in those galleries. “A lot of people walk right past this,” she said. We chatted for a few minutes about the new galleries, the Tetrode, and a few of her other favorites.

“What do you like about the Tetrode?” I asked, and she proceeded to identify exactly what it was that the artists of the time also found so amazing—its “extreme posture,” to borrow a phrase from the Mars entry I’d read an hour earlier.

“I love this piece because it does something that the paintings, and even many of the sculptures [in these galleries], don’t do. You can look at it from any angle and see that every limb is doing something different—the outstretched arm here, the bent elbow there, the leg in motion.”

She was right. The Mercury felt active—it had a visceral quality to it. I spent a little more time with it, then headed back to the Resnick galleries to look at Flying Mercury and Mars once more—as if I were walking a dotted line from one gallery to the other.

Scott Tennent

Thank You!

October 4, 2010

Our Free Community Weekend was a blast–lots of people and lots of fun. We hope you were here and got a chance to see the new Resnick Pavilion and its three exhibitions, and that you enjoyed the live music and family activities we had planned. Here are just a few photos to commemorate the occasion. Thanks to everyone who came and made the weekend a success.

Arriving by the busload!

Visitors getting ready to get inside the Resnick Pavilion

Art-making tents on the North Piazza

LACMA President Melody Kanschat was among the many "Ask Me" staffers around campus

Kids could design their own Fashioning Fashion-inspired clothes

More vest-making

Runway ready!

LACMA staffers take a quick lunch break

A NexGen member gets in on the act with We Tell Stories

Some people call it "Urban Light"; I prefer "Tag Arena"

Yeah kid, that's how we felt by the time the weekend was over, too.

We were glad to see you all here this weekend. And if you liked the price, don’t forget:

  • LACMA is free for L.A. County residents every weekday after 5 pm (closed Wednesday)
  • LACMA is free on the second Tuesday of every month
  • NexGen is a free membership group for all kids under 18, and they get to bring one adult to the museum for free, any time!
  • The Boone Children’s Gallery is open every day; it’s a great place for young and old alike to make some art
  • We also have free family art-making activites every Sunday as part of Andell Family Sundays

Scott Tennent

This Weekend at LACMA: Free Community Weekend!

October 1, 2010


Today (Friday) is the last day of Members-Only Preview Days (11 am–4 pm). If you’re not yet a member, come down today and join—you’ll get right into the new building, parking is on us, and we’ll also give you an invite to tomorrow’s New Members Party for the Resnick Pavilion—and a 20% discount on membership (onsite only). While you’re here, be sure to stick around into the evening for the Tom Rizzo Quartet, part of our weekly Jazz at LACMA series.

Saturday and Sunday mark the official opening of the Resnick Pavilion and its three exhibitions—finally! LACMA is free all weekend, though admission to the new exhibitions requires a timed ticket. Online reservations are now sold out—though there will be some held for walkups on both days (first come, first served). In any case, there is plenty happening at the museum all weekend long even if you miss your chance for the tickets. There are other exhibitions, special installations, and tons of permanent collection galleries that are also totally free and don’t require tickets of any kind. There’s also a lot happening all around campus, also free and not requiring a ticket: Saturday in Hancock Park we’ll have live Latin music from noon to 6 pm, including performances by the Plaza de la Raza Youth Mariachi Ensemble, Angel Lebron y su Sabor Latino, and, starting at 4 pm, Quetzal. If you’re not familiar, check out the video below, or some of their songs on their website—they’re terrific. 

Sunday will be a great day for kids with art-making activities and performances from We Tell Stories.  If you’re looking for a fun and free party in the park, it’s here at LACMA. Click here for specific details on the weekend’s events.  As Sunday draws to a close, be sure to stop into the Bing Theater in the evening for our weekly free Sundays Live concert.  This week guests from the New England Conservatory will be performing works in celebration of Robert Schumann’s bicentennial.

In addition to the Community Weekend celebration, we’re also screening a two-day film series: Spotlight on Marco Bellochio. Tonight will be the double-feature of his 1965 debut, Fists in the Pocket and his 1968 film China is Near.  Tomorrow, the racy Devil in the Flesh (no one under 18 admitted) followed by La Balia / The Nanny.

While you’re on campus this weekend, take a minute to interact with Michael Tirigilio’s Resonant Pavilion. Where is the Resonant Pavilion? In your ears: download the sound file and listen while you’re in the vicinity of the Resnick Pavilion. While you’re at it, call 1-888-361-4NPR (4677) and sing, speak, or make any other noises you want—your sound will be folded into the Resonant Pavilion when others call in the future.

It’s busy and fun-filled weekend at LACMA and we really hope to see you all down here. We want to hear from you while you’re here! Tell us on twitter  how you’re liking the new building, the exhibitions, the concerts, and anything else happening on campus this weekend. As long as you mention @LACMA, Your tweets will appear on the front page of (as they do every day—just click on the “community” tab under Twitter to read what everyone is saying about LACMA).

Scott Tennent

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