This Weekend at LACMA: Free Concerts, Tim Burton Film Series, and More

June 17, 2011

Our film series, The Fantastical Worlds of Tim Burton, continues this weekend with double features tonight and tomorrow. Tonight, two of Johnny Depp’s darker collaborations with Burton, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street  and Sleepy Hollow.

Tomorrow, catch both of Burton’s entries which kicked off more than 20 years of sequels and reinventions of the Caped Crusader on the silver screen—Batman  and Batman Returns.

As always, we’re also offering free concerts all weekend long. Guitarist Peter Sprague brings his trio to tonight’s Jazz at LACMA. Saturday, the David Garfield Latin Jazz Band perform during Latin Sounds. And Sunday marks a special concert in our Sundays Live concert series, honoring the late guitarist James Smith with performances by guitarists Brian Head and Andrew York, soprano Sun Young Kim, saxophonist Douglas Masek, and others.

Sunday is Fathers Day, and LACMA is a great option if you’re looking for ways to spend the day with your family. Our free Andell Family Sunday activities are centered around the giant metal sculptures of David Smith, on view in the Resnick Pavilion.

David Smith, CUbi XXVIII, 1965, The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles

Aside from the wondrous Tim Burton exhibition, there are plenty of other can’t-miss artworks on view for Dad and the family, like this outdoor sculpture.

Jesús Rafael Soto, Penetrabile, 1990. Painted iron, aluminum, and plastic hoses, installation: 200 x 200 x 200 in. Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros.

You can also check these lists of exhibitions and installations on view now—something for everyone’s tastes.

Scott Tennent

Zahi Hawass: Egyptian Archaeology with a Side of Surprise

June 13, 2011

In January of this year, during the political upheaval in Cairo, thieves broke into the Egyptian Museum and took eighteen objects (four were eventually recovered) and damaged many others, including two sculptures of Tut. Egypt’s Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs and famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who was recently reinstated to his post, has enthusiastically commended the Egyptian youth who protected the museum during the chaotic night and who may have prevented the looting of additional artifacts. On his blog, Hawass says, “One of the most heartening things about recent events was the extent to which regular Egyptians were willing to go to protect their cultural heritage.”

Tomorrow night at LACMA, Hawass will discuss the current state of ancient sites and museums in Egypt, as well as his ongoing involvement with new projects and discoveries.

Zahi Hawass

Hawass has given talks at LACMA in the past and never ceases to surprise us—often bringing images of day-old discoveries and sometimes making big announcements. In his talk at LACMA in 2004, he made the first announcement about the King Tut exhibition traveling to the states to the surprise of everyone—including some LACMA staff! He was deeply involved with the organization of that exhibition; before it opened at LACMA in June 2005, Hawass and an Egyptian team examined a CT scan of the body of King Tut, the boy-king believed to be the twelfth ruler of ancient Egypt’s eighteenth dynasty who died at the age of 19. Prior to these CT scans, it was believed that the young ruler had been murdered, but the scans indicated that Tut’s death may have instead been caused by a badly broken leg that gave way to infection.

In this video, Hawass looks at some of the gorgeous objects found inside King Tut’s tomb and the symbolism they held for the ruler and for Egypt.

Alex Capriotti, Marketing Associate

This Weekend at LACMA: Gifts of the Sultan Symposium, Teens-Only Tim Burton Event, Bell & Irwin, and More

June 10, 2011

This weekend is a great opportunity to take in our latest exhibition, Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Court, since all weekend long we will be holding a free symposium, “Unwrapping Gifts of the Sultan,” featuring scholars from around the world discussing themes related to the exhibition. Tonight, Robert Hillenbrand will give the keynote speech, “Medieval Islamic Gift-giving: From the Perfect Present to the White Elephant.” For Saturday and Sunday presentations, see the full schedule and drop into the Bing Theater to check it out.

"Timur Receiving Gifts from the Egyptian Ambassadors," left-hand folio (fol. 399b) of a double-page composition manuscript of the Zafarnama of Saraf al-Din 'Ali Yazdi, 1436, Worcester Art Museum (1935.26)

Teens—and teens ONLY—should make their way to the museum Saturday night when we open the doors to Tim Burton for our FREE After Dark event! Bring your school ID—if your age doesn’t end in “-teen,” you’re not getting in. Sorry mom and dad, you’ll have to wait in the car. Or, you can make a reservation to have dinner at Ray’s. Did you read the rave review in this week’s Los Angeles Times? Maybe you should consider seeing what all the excitement is about.

Entrance to Tim Burton

Alternatively, tonight would be a great night to hit up Ray’s or the Stark Bar if you like jazz—Charles Owens will be leading his quintet right in front of Urban Light as part of our free Jazz at LACMA concert series.

The free concerts keep coming all weekend long. Tomorrow in Hancock Park, Louis Cruz Beltran will make you dance during Latin Sounds. Don’t believe me? Here’s a clip of Beltran at the 2009 LA Vida Music Festival.

Contemporary art fans, take note: Larry Bell and Robert Irwin will be having a free conversation in the Art Catalogues bookstore, in honor of Bell’s latest monograph. We have no idea what they’ll talk about… does it matter? It’s Larry Bell and Robert Irwin!

Larry Bell, Cube, 1966, gift of the Frederick R. Weisman Company, © Larry Bell

Finally, the weekend will close out with a free performance in the Bing from the Capitol Ensemble, performing Schubert’s Trio in B-flat major, Opus 99, D. 898 

Of course, there’s always much more happening at LACMA than can be detailed in one easily digestible blog post. Check our exhibitions and installations on view (including, of course, Tim Burton), or visit the calendar for a list of free docent tours and more info on Andell Family Sundays.

Scott Tennent

Hakuin and the Zen Koan

June 9, 2011

Hakuin Ekaku, Hotei Meditating, Ink on paper, Ginshu Collection

Well, monk, what a surprisehave you come to do zazen today?


…so reads the inscription on this painting by Japanese Zen master Hakuin Ekaku, currently on view in the exhibition The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin. Seated meditation or zazen in Japanese, is a key part of Zen Buddhist practice.

Hakuin emphasized the importance of solving “koans,” riddles or non-sensical statements, as part of a Zen monk’s intellectual and spiritual training.

In this video curator Rob Singer talks about Hakuin’s most famous koan: “What is the sound of one hand?”

Kristin Bengtson

Time Marches On, until it Stands Still

June 7, 2011

After its much ballyhooed 24-hour screening in the Bing Theater last month, Christian Marclay’s epic film collage The Clock was moved to a smaller gallery space in the nearby Art of the Americas Building, where it is on view every day during regular museum hours through the end of July. I’d watched many hours’ worth of the piece during the inaugural screening at LACMA, but after hearing the news that Marclay has been awarded the prestigious Gold Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale for The Clock, I decided to pass the time once more, in its new setting.

It’s easy to get caught up in The Clock. It hurtles ever-forward, constantly telling you how many minutes you’ve spent sitting in the dark as the day goes by outside. The Clock is often ominous, usually anxious, sometimes cavalier, and occasionally breezy. Depending on when you watch—not only what time of day, but also your proximity to the top of the hour—the ride can become quite exhilarating. Approaching the hour, the characters on screen are nervously approaching some moment of truth—a deadline, a standoff, a showdown—while just past the hour new characters are scrambling to get to something they’re in danger of missing—a bus, a test, an interview.

Christian Marclay, The Clock (still), 2010, purchased with funds provided by Steve Tisch through the 2011 Collectors Committee

The more you watch, the more The Clock seems to be fixated not so much on the time but on your time. Seconds are passing, minutes, hours. Soon the day will be done—soon your day will be done! Time is ticking. You can’t stop time from ticking. Even if you walk out of The Clock, there’s still a watch in your pocket, a sun in the sky, the earth revolving. The Clock is thousands of clips moving at a clip. The faster it goes, the more inevitable its conclusion. A character in a scene from The Twilight Zone, which occurs a little after 2 pm, puts it most succinctly: “When my clock stops ticking, I’ll die.”

That’s why it’s such an apt juxtaposition, coincidentally or not, with The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, on view in the adjacent gallery. The thirty-seven small sculptures on view originally ringed the tomb of John the Fearless, who died in 1419. The figures were placed in a processional around the tomb in a state of eternal sorrow and prayer.

Installation view of The Mourners, photo by Steve Cohn

In other words, no clocks necessary. The installation for The Mourners is intimate, dimly lit, and serene. Standing in the gallery with the sculptures, you can feel the rhythms of your body slow as you look at each of the individual figures carved from alabaster, each with their own personality and body language. Most of the figures’ eyes are downcast, if their heads aren’t altogether concealed by their cloaks. A few look upward, as if they’ve just heard their names called. One, amusingly, holds his nose—stench of death, see. The closer you look at each Mourner, the more powerful the exhibition becomes. It’s in the details of their faces: some are sorrowful, some are solemn; others are pious, regal, resigned—resilient!—bold, or baleful.

Sitting in the mini-theater setting of The Clock is a heady rush of imagery and sound which at times feels, not quite literally, like life is passing before your eyes (Hollywood’s gussied-up version of life, at least). Standing amidst the tomb sculptures of The Mourners, on the other hand, you might find the serenity and peace to contemplate what it all amounts to. From these two darkened galleries, you’re then at liberty to return to the daylight and go on living in the here and now.

Scott Tennent

Watts Towers’ California Color

June 6, 2011

The iconic view of the Watts Towers shows the massive spirals silhouetted against the sky, emphasizing the magnitude of Simon Rodia’s artistic and engineering marvel.  What’s missing from this image, however, is the exuberant color of Rodia’s mosaics, which line the walls, archways, and even the towers themselves.

Watts Towers, detail

Watts Towers, detail

Many of the fragments that make up these vibrant designs come from local pottery manufacturers, whose solid-color dinnerware inspired a national craze in the 1930s.  The trend started in Southern California, where companies like Brayton Laguna and Catalina Pottery began producing vivid colored earthenware in late 1920s and early 1930s.

Detail of the Watts Towers showing Metlox mark

Detail of the Watts Towers showing Vernon Kilns mark

Daniel Gale Turnbull for Vernon Kilns. Ultra California coffee pot, c.1937, LACMA, Decorative Arts and Design Acquisition Fund and partial gift of Bill Stern

Larger companies, such as J. A. Bauer Pottery Company, Vernon Kilns, Metlox Manufacturing Company, Gladding, McBean & Company, and Pacific Clay Products began to produce their own versions, marketing them across the country. Brand names like Metlox’s Poppytrail (visible in the plate above) and Gladding’s Franciscan traded on romantic images of California’s beauty.  Their success spurred Eastern and Midwestern potteries to launch imitations—most famously the Fiesta line, introduced by West Virginia’s Homer Laughlin China Company in 1936. The California Pottery Guild, founded as a joint advertising venture by the five major Los Angeles-area producers, worked to remind retailers that the fashion for “California color” had originated in the Golden State.

Watts Towers, detail

Watts Towers, detail

Louis Ipsen and Victor F. Houser for J. A. Bauer Pottery Company. Stacking storage dishes, c. 1932, Decorative Arts and Design Acquisition Fund and partial gift of Bill Stern

The heyday of California pottery overlaps with Rodia’s construction of the towers (1921–1955), so it’s no surprise that fragments of the characteristic colors and deco-style lines of their products, which would have been inexpensive and plentiful, pop up so frequently in his work. The bright ridges in the archway above may very well have come from a set of Bauer stacking dishes, like this example from LACMA’s collection.  While the towers as a whole demonstrate the powerful vision of one man, the individual pieces give us a glimpse of the material world that surrounded him.  The exhibition California Design, 1935–1960: “Living in a Modern Way, which opens in October, will take a broader look at this world, including the designers behind the colorful pottery that was so appealing to Rodia and his contemporaries.

Staci Steinberger, Curatorial Assistant, Decorative Arts and Design

This Weekend at LACMA: Gifts of the Sultan Opens, Tim Burton Film Series, Zen Painting, and More

June 3, 2011

This weekend we are opening our fourth exhibition in a month—Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts, which presents 200 works associated with the Islamic courts from Spain to India, from the eighth to the nineteenth centuries.

Sindukht Comes to Sam Bearing Gifts, Folio from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, Iran, Tabriz, 1525–35, 18 3/8 x 12 3/8 in. Aga Khan Museum Collection, Geneva (AKM00496) Photo © Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva.

And of course Tim Burton, which opened last weekend, is still the talk of the town. In conjunction with the exhibition our Burton film series continues this weekend with two double features. Tonight, Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride. For Beetlejuice, none other than Catherine O’Hara will be here in person, as well as production designer Bo Welch. Tomorrow night, Mars Attacks! is followed by Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which also includes a screening of Burton’s 1984 animated short Frankenweenie.

On both Saturday and Sunday afternoon you can learn how to create a Zen painting using traditional Japanese materials and techniques. While you’re here, check out The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin in the Pavilion for Japanese Art.

Hakuin Ekaku, Japan, 1685 1769, Daruma, 18th century, Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Image: 44 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (113.03 x 50.17 cm); Mount: 77 3/4 x 25 in. (197.49 x 63.5 cm), Gift of Murray Smith. M.91.220.

We’ve also got a free concert happening every day this weekend (as we do all summer long): tonight, Greg Reitan takes the stage for Jazz at LACMA; tomorrow, Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Téka performs for Latin Sounds; and on Sunday pianist Mark Robson performs works by Liszt in honor of the composer’s 200th birthday.

Scott Tennent

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