Go West, Mr. Burns

May 31, 2011

Thomas Hart Benton’s monumental painting The Kentuckian depicts the protagonists of the 1954 movie The Kentuckian, directed by Burt Lancaster. The Kentuckian follows the adventures of “Big” Eli Wakefield and “Little” Eli Wakefield (played by Lancaster and Donald MacDonald, respectively) as they head West in search of freedom from the constraints of polite society.

Thomas Hart Benton, The Kentuckian, 1954, gift of Burt Lancaster, © Thomas Hart Benton Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Benton energetically conveyed the spirit of the Wakefields’ idealistic quest in his image of Big Eli leading his son and faithful hound to the left (west) across the canvas—a magnificent landscape beckoning and undulating before them. In more recent decades, some artists and animators have found ways to poke fun at this classic narrative of American ambition and individualism enacted by movie stars and projected onto Hollywood’s big screen and Benton’s huge canvas at LACMA.

In a previous post I highlighted conceptual artist Michael Asher’s take on the painting in a site-specific work commissioned for the museum.  Then fellow Unframed blogger Devi Noor found this great clip on YouTube of a Simpsons episode in which The Kentuckian makes a hilarious cameo appearance as a campaign image for a politicking Mr. Burns. A testament to the power of Benton’s image, these riffs on the painting also underscore the way meanings of iconic images can shift depending on who is looking and when.

Austen Bailly

LACMA is Free Today!

May 30, 2011

If it’s a holiday Monday, then that means general admission to LACMA is free, thanks to Target. Tim Burton is not included, but the seven other exhibitions on view now, as well as Christian Marclay’s The Clock and all the rest of our permanent collection installations, are no charge. Here’s a reminder of all the special exhibitions on view:

And if that’s not enough for you, check out all of our smaller installations sprinkled around campus for something else that might hit your sweet spot. You can also pop into any of our permanent collection galleries—in the European galleries, attendants will be on hand to answer your questions.

This afternoon we’ll also have two performances from Italian folk duo Musicantica in Hancock Park. Nearby there will be family art-making activities as well, so this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with your kids.

For more information on Tim Burton tickets, check the exhibition page.

Scott Tennent

This Weekend at LACMA: Tim Burton!

May 27, 2011

The moment many people have been waiting for has finally arrived: Tim Burton is opening to the public this Sunday. And don’t forget: if you’re a member, it’s open NOW. This is a ticketed show, which means it’s ideal if you order your tickets and reserve your times in advance. Tickets are $20—unless you’re a member, in which case you get two FREE tickets to the show. (The theme of this paragraph is: why aren’t you a member?)

Tim Burton, Untitled (Edward Scissorhands), 1990, private collection, Edward Scissorhands © Twentieth Century Fox, © 2011 Tim Burton

In addition to the exhibition itself, we’re also kicking off a Tim Burton film series tonight with Edward Scissorhands—a special 70mm print! Tomorrow night the director himself will be on hand to introduce Ed Wood, preceded by a screening of his early short, Vincent. Again, advance tickets are recommended. Check the film page for future screenings in the series.

You’ll have one other chance on Saturday to see Tim Burton in person—he’ll be signing copies of the exhibition catalogue and The Art of Tim Burton from 12 to 2 pm. The signing is limited to two books per person, and you must have proof of purchase from the LACMA bookstore in order to get your books signed. We have had an overwhelming response to this event and we can’t guarantee that everyone who comes will get their books signed. The signing is first come, first served and will end promptly at 2 pm. One more caveat: Saturday is a members-only preview day, so only members will have a chance to view the exhibition on the day of the signing. (Again: why aren’t you a member?)

In addition to the Tim Burton exhibition in the Resnick Pavilion and the films screening in the Bing Theater, there’s even more Burton-related things to see while you’re on campus—check out the giant Balloon Boy outside of the Bing Theater, the deer perched outside of Ray’s, and the related exhibition Burton Selects: From LACMA’s Collection, on view in the Ahmanson Building, which presents a variety of artworks from our permanent collection that Tim Burton himself chose to put on view.

For those of you want to see and experience more than just Tim Burton, there’s plenty more to see and do this weekend. Film buffs, don’t forget that Christian Marclay’s The Clock is on view in the Art of the Americas Building, just a hop and a skip away from the Bing Theater. And next door to The Clock is the sublime and serene exhibition The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Courts of Burgundy. Sharing the Resnick Pavilion with Tim Burton is David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy, and across the way in BCAM is Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection.

As always, we also have free concerts all weekend long. Tonight vocalist Dwight Trible performs in the BP Grand Entrance for Jazz at LACMA; tomorrow in Hancock Park Costazul throws down some energetic salsa during Latin Sounds; and Sunday night in the Bing Theater Ensembles from the Colburn School will perform classical works for Sundays Live.

If you’re looking for something to do with the whole family, there’s lots of kid-friendly activities happening at the museum too. In addition to the Boone Children’s Gallery, where you and your kids can make art all weekend, Sunday is our weekly Andell Family Sunday, featuring free art-making activities for the whole family. Admission to Tim Burton is free for NexGen members, but tickets to that exhibition are required for accompanying adults, and reservations are recommended.

Last but certainly not least, this is a three-day weekend! And that means that Monday is a Target Free Holiday Monday. Tim Burton admission is not included, but the rest of the museum will be open to all for no charge. There will be family art-making activities all day, plus live music in the afternoon and gallery educators in select galleries.

Scott Tennent

His Teacher Remembers Tim Burton

May 25, 2011

While preparing for the exhibition Tim Burton, opening this weekend at LACMA, we had the opportunity to join colleagues from the Museum of Modern Art for an interview with Doris Adams, Burton’s high school art teacher. She can still recall exactly where he sat in her classroom.

Ms. Adams says that the young Mr. Burton stood out for his talent and imagination–and that he was a quiet, thoughtful student.

For more video interviews with Tim Burton himself, check out the handheld tour of the exhibition, for rent when you purchase tickets.

Amy Heibel

Chef Morningstar’s Garden at LACMA

May 24, 2011

If you’ve happened to poke your head behind the walls of Ray’s and Stark Bar, you’ve probably come across our newest outdoor project—an herb garden. 

The herb garden behind Ray's.

Ray’s executive chef Kris Morningstar considered a number of things before planting the raised gardens. He focused on ingredients that can be sustainable; those that would be used regularly for his seasonal dishes and in portions that the garden can supply enough of. He also selected herbs that are difficult to find, or even if they could be, they’d never be as fresh as those picked straight from the museum’s back yard.

Herbs from the garden.

Take these chive blossoms; only a pinch is needed to add fresh pops of flavor chef Morningstar’s pen shell clam sashimi with backyard grapefruit, serrano chili, Maldon salt, and local olive oil. Fresh opal basil from the garden completes one his signature dishes, squid ink tonarelli with calamari, garlic, serrano chili, mint, and bottarga.

Squid-ink tonarelli with calamari, garlic, serrano chili, mint, and bottarga


Chef Morningstar does some gardening.

Like any artist, Chef Morningstar finds himself not only inspired by his ingredients, but also influenced by his environment. And like any living artwork, the garden is a work in-progress to be used increasingly as it continues to grow. The chef’s work doesn’t stop there; keep your eyes peeled—Chef Morningstar says another garden of tomato plants may be on the way.

Christine Choi, Communications Manager
Photos by Lauren Noble

Art and Its Afterlife

May 23, 2011

Upon first seeing Bruce Nauman’s neon sculpture Human Nature/Life Death/Knows Doesn’t Know—on view in the current exhibition Human Nature—I attempted to count the nineteen (dare I say) somewhat “apocryphal” words as a collective while they flashed dizzyingly before me. I suddenly had this thought that the only words missing were “sin” and “devil” and I could have heard these on any given Sunday from a Baptist preacher. Of course, this is the absurd universe that art lives in: what could have been said, what should have been said, and what one wished was said, all leading back to the piece itself.

Bruce Nauman, Human Nature/Life Death/Knows Doesn’t Know, 1983, Modern and Contemporary Art Council Fund

For Nauman, a sort of Pop Existentialist with a Conceptualist’s heart of gold, this was the game! Words and meanings, anagrams, palindromes, puns, and the humorous hide and seek—Nauman had a passionate attraction to the paradox of language. That is not to say he was a romantic, as on most levels he was a consummate realist, but he thought “art ought to have a moral value,” to quote Joseph Ketner II’s essay “Elusive Signs.” It was the 1980s: it may have been “Morning in America,” but it was politically dark in South Africa and Africa in general, and Nauman took this to heart. And yet, here’s a guy who fed on the intriguing ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein in which meaning was not shared by an object and its name; and Vladimir Nabokov of Lolita fame, a novel of dastardly exquisiteness; and also Samuel Beckett, the master of the haunting otherness. Language had to be this, metaphorically speaking, convertible ‘mercury vapor’ driving through the heart of the American dream, prepared to ignite confusion and sow tension.

Thus his neon art, a commercial appropriation, would slip through the harness of the consumer’s earnest trite and in its bright glowing attempt to lay some profundities at the unexpected feet. Nauman’s devilish instinct of melding whimsy and danger while lacing lascivious undertow fills his art with misdirection. Aesopian edicts in decadent clothing! It had that burst of the social shock awareness of graffiti, the New York City subway’s epidemic. It spoke on the same level, hyper, imposing, a sort of in-your-face grandeur. But legible! And although it is said that he made grander sculptures than Human Nature, none quite capture its quintessential completeness. Its zany romp, a radiant moronic heartbeat chaotically circulating its speedy reminders of the human condition, and yet perversely it could be an algorithm away from being a video game. Words leaping out of ashen shadow tubes as flares in day-glo flashes, “life-love-hate-death-pleasure-pain,” winking in circular stop motion, and layered, star-like with, “matters-animal-nature-human-matter,” imposing blazingly with verbs of “knows-cares-doesn’t know-care,” and for an exhilarating second, all are lit at once. Nauman, highly self-conscious, knew the risk of these semiotic wonders. Human Nature could be a street sign rant, first cousin to “The End is Near,” though in his carnival glitz, it is somehow comical and redundant, like a beer ad in his first studio or those cafes at roadside truck stops, all racy hues and tart glamour. And for all of Human Nature’s faults, and maybe a defeat of its message, it remains exquisitely beautiful.

But in its afterlife, the year 2011, in the 140-character twitterverse living in the six-second attention span world of “it’s cool,” “it made me dizzy,” “it was so psychedelic,” Bruce Nauman’s Human Nature, still, begs to please in its vaudevillian neon that nature in its infinite jest is entertainment and where the product of human folly never quite fails to be a laughing matter.

Hylan Booker

This Weekend at LACMA: The Clock Returns, Zen Paintings by Hakuin Opens, Mourners Dance, and More

May 20, 2011

If you missed our twenty-four-hour screening of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, don’t fret: starting today it will be on view in the galleries—right next door to The Mourners—during regular museum hours.

Christian Marclay, The Clock (still), 2010, purchased with funds provided by Steve Tisch through the 2011 Collectors Committee, © Christian Marclay, photo courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

In addition to these and more exhibitions, we’ve got some great programs happening tonight and the rest of the weekend. Stop by the museum after work and catch the Jon Mayer Trio performing for free in front of Urban Light for our weekly Jazz at LACMA series. To give you a taste, here’s the trio playing “On Green Dolphin Street” at the Estoril Jazz Festival in 2009:

On the other side of campus, tonight is the conclusion of our Terrence Malick film series, and it’s a special one: the extended director’s cut of The New World.  This version of the film has never before been screened in theaters, so you don’t want to miss it. Also on hand will be Jacqueline West, the film’s Oscar-nominated costume designer.

If you’ve been to our Korean art galleries in the last few months, you’ve seen conservators working in the galleries on the restoration of an eighteenth-century Korean Buddhist painting, Buddha Shakyamiuni Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak. On Saturday morning we’ll be holding a free one-day symposium on their work, including talks by conservation scientists from LACMA and scholars from Dongguk University and Yong-In University, both in Korea.  

Saturday is also a great day to see our recently opened exhibition The Mourners.  At 2 pm the Jamal Dance Art Theater will give a free performance inspired by the exhibition, “Mourners Are Dancing Too.”

Jamal Dance Art Theater: Mourners Are Dancing Too

Saturday night in the Bing is the uplifting Gospel documentary Rejoice & Shout, tracing the musical genre’s evolution from spirituals and hymns to contemporary R&B-infused songs.

Sunday sees the opening of a brand-new exhibition in the Pavilion for Japanese Art: The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin.  Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768) is one of the most influential Zen masters of the last 500 years—he’s the man who asked “What is the sound of one hand?” But in addition to his influential teachings, he was also an incredibly significant artist. The Sound of One Hand is the first exhibition in the West devoted to Hakuin’s scrolls.

Hakuin Ekaku, "Kotobuki," Gubutsu-an Collection

Bring your kids on Sunday for our weekly free activities during Andell Family Sundays, where you can build your own mini-furniture!  

As the day wears on, head to the Art Catalogues bookstore to hear critic David Antin discuss his latest book, Radical Coherency: Selected Essays, 1966–2005.

In the evening, the Crossroads Orchestra (Alexander Treger, conductor) will perform works by Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Vivaldi for our ongoing free Sundays Live concert series.  

Scott Tennent

%d bloggers like this: