An Artist for the Ages

August 23, 2011

While I was vacationing in London this summer, the great American modern painter, Cy Twombly died in Rome just at the time of his Twombly and Poussin exhibition opening at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

At about the age of 17 when I came into consciousness, Abstract Expressionism was at its height. It was the grand expression of modernism, it was where all of history was leading, “the future.” Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and many more were the giants of this apparent Darwinian grand track since the Renaissance. It seemed perfectly natural, perfectly rational where lines and colors lose their known reality and become pure sensation, a vortex of stop-motion emotionality, the future world. But of course there would be many future worlds. And yet for me, Abstract Expression would remain the magnet, the spiritual well that was both irresistible and not truly understood; no, not understood, but embraced. And what is Cy to me? Quite simply, his art was an exquisite resolution.

Cy Twombly managed to bridge these future worlds and even daringly, unflinchingly looked back and did not turn to salt. He instinctively, at a time that seemed out of kilter, devised a craft of seeing and marking like none other. He would defy the critical weight of the ensuing changes and transformations managing to be irreverent, the elusive enfant terrible of late abstract expression movement with the likes of Jasper John and Robert Rauschenberg. Early in his career, Twombly would leave New York for Rome. Remaining essentially an abstractionist with his Greek, Roman and literary references, that enduring shadow over western culture, he would make the past connect. He would lay this history within our aesthetic world, prepared to accept the intrinsic mystery as a living past that remains with us, timeless. Like an errant asteroid, Twombly ricocheted off various contemporary ‘isms’ creating his own vital, electric weather with acts of gestural spontaneity in dreamy cascades of lines erased, smeared; or colors dragged and blotched, canvases lush or nude and sometimes spare, sometimes erotic, cryptic paintings where one is held hostage, so to speak, inside raw skittish paradoxes of paint, pencil and barely discernible words, ingesting myth, history and nature.

My most intimate and enduring impression of Twombly’s paintings was while guarding them during the inaugural opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA in 2008-09. For a year, I lived in a room full of his art, from his earliest paintings all the way up to 2007–many of which are now on view in Cy Twombly’s tribute exhibition at MOCA. All retained that original cryptic impulse with combustible markings, graffiti like, impasto paint exploding on the canvas. So to experience this once again the grand gesture with even bolder literalness and fearless color was to be back almost where I started. The Dulwich show, which went under the title of Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters, was breathtakingly beautiful. In the catalogue, the figures # 38 & #40 had been at the Broad. And at present in LACMA on show in the modern gallery is a work on paper known as Roman Notes, 1970, which would fall under the title of “Anxiety and Theatricality” in the Dulwich show where there were similar works.

Cy Twombly (1928-2011), Roman Notes #3, 1970. Drawing, gouache, oil crayon on paper. Gift of Robert H. Halff through the Modern and Contemporary Art Council (M.2005.38.38)

Even today, after all the gazing, perusing and speculative intellectual dissonance stuff, I am still left with this baffling gap between spectacle and revelation. In spite of Twombly’s hero, Poussin’s fictive landscapes of graceful gods imitating scenes of mythology, I knew all too well that I am capable only of being seduced by the sheer, unadulterated glamour. For its more esoteric emotions and meanings seem out of reach, a cultural leap of pretense, at best. Failing inadequately to find more, to piece together the sensuousness, and the utterly vivacious, beguiling puzzle, I suspect that if one desires to do more than to be merely entertained it is to believe that art is some kind of religion. Maybe this is all Cy Twombly, a visionary giant, could have left us with, a body of gorgeous, voluptuous signs.

Hylan Booker


Here Comes the Clipper

August 22, 2011

Last week, the first work of art entered the gallery inside the Resnick Pavilion where California Design 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way” will open on October 1. It’s a 1936 Airstream Clipper, and it traveled from Northern California on this truck.

Because of its size (19 feet long by 7 feet wide), the Airstream had to come into the gallery before any of the pedestals or platforms were constructed.

As a literal house on wheels, the Airstream is the perfect way to open a show about the freedom and flexibility of California living. The Airstream Trailer Company was founded in 1932 by Wally Byam, who incessantly promoted trailer travel. The Clipper has an aluminum frame riveted together in a process similar to that used for aircraft of the time. It got its name from the celebrated Pan Am Clipper airplanes. The design reflects the vogue for streamlining in the interwar period and was justly aerodynamic. The Clipper was the top of the line model and came with all the latest amenities, including a full galley, a built-in screen door, a double-wide closet, and sleeping space for three. If nature called, though, you would have had to find other facilities, as on-board toilets were not available. Airstream marketed the Clipper as “the ultimate picturization of the streamlined age—and America’s newly discovered freedom in the out-of-doors”—trading on the past and the future at the same time.

In order to get into LACMA’s galleries, the Airstream had to be transferred to a tow truck…

…driven to the Resnick Pavilion loading dock…

…and lowered to the ground.

It was then wheeled through the Tim Burton exhibition…

…and set in place.

Bobbye Tigerman, Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts and Design


What’s Your Sign? Installation of Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads

August 18, 2011

The twelve monumental bronze sculptures from Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads arrived at LACMA earlier this week. LACMA’s art preparation and installation teams have been working hard to unpack and wake these sleeping giants–some of which weigh nearly a ton.

The animals arrived two by two...

Unfastening the first of the sculptures--the ram.

Four installers plus one crane slowly lift the ram.

Repeat x 12

Ta-da!

Next step is to unwrap and place the sculptures into position.

The dragon, snake, and horse stand tall next to the Resnick Pavilion, awaiting the arrival of their zodiac counterparts.

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads opens this Saturday at LACMA. A general admission ticket is not needed to see the work, so come by, take a picture in front of your zodiac sign, and enjoy the magnitude of these brilliant sculptures.

Alex Capriotti

Photos by Yosi Pozeilov


Being a High School Intern at LACMA: Q&A with Joana Choi

August 17, 2011

Joana Choi is a high school intern at LACMA working with the Education department. Joana started as an intern in September of 2010 and has worked on projects from the opening of the Resnick Pavillion to After Dark. She has also had a big hand in helping with teen programs. We talked to Joana about being an intern at LACMA, future career plans, and more.

Joana Choi, High School Intern at LACMA

Tell us about your first experience as an intern at LACMA.

The first big event that I took part in was the public opening of the Resnick Pavilion. It was really great. I loved wearing that red LACMA STAFF t-shirt, and being the one that people would rely on for information. I loved seeing all the excited kids having a great time with the workshops, hearing from the parents that the new building was great, taking lots of pictures in the photobooth with other interns—it was all such great fun! I really couldn’t ask for a better first experience!

Do you have a favorite work of art in the museum?

I like them all, but one of my favorites would be one from the Latin American Gallery. It’s from the Art of the Ancient Americas. I’m not sure of the title of the work, but it’s a small figurine that is an ancient action figure. What I like about it is what it teaches me about ancient cultures and how they used to be. It’s so fascinating how, regardless of the time, some things just don’t change.

What is the most memorable thing you have been involved in at LACMA?

I’d have to say EatLACMA because it was such a fascinating event composed of such bizarre stations. The idea in itself of art and food is interesting, since food is such a vital yet disregarded part of our lives. I loved the doughnut mural, the fresh fish tacos, the potato garden, the free plates, the tomato fight—everything about it was interesting. I think it really was an event that, although fun, made one think about the big role of food in our lives.

One of the big programs you have helped with is After Dark: Teen Night. What is your role with that program? Are you looking forward to the next Teen Night on August 20?

My role is to survey the attendees in line, pass out wristbands, keep the line moving, and help with the clean up. Our event in June turned out much bigger than expected, so with a long line that went to the end of Wilshire, it was quite a workout having to walk up and down to tell the attendants to take out their IDs, keep moving, etc. The event was such a success that I can’t wait to see how Teen Night this weekend will go. Teens will get to go though the Tim Burton exhibition after the museum closes, eat specially-created Burton food items from the Kogi truck (blood sausage tacos and Jack Skellington eyeball lollipops), dance to a DJ, and more. It’s going to be a great event.

Has interning at LACMA helped to shape your career path?

Definitely. Through LACMA and the experiences it has awarded me, I was able to become more passionate. I used to be a person who really let doubts hold me back from doing what I wanted. I always loved fashion, but since I had never taken any art classes, I wasn’t sure about following my passion. But through the internship, I was able to meet with the Mulleavy sisters (Rodarte) and Kate gave me an advice that allowed me to take a big leap. That was a defining factor, but the internship as a whole let me be passionate and more impulsive, and now, I am following a career path that I genuinely enjoy. Just think—two years ago I was thinking of pre-med or law, and now I’m an aspiring designer working on her portfolio!


Weston’s Modernism

August 16, 2011

Nestled in an intimate room in the Art of the Americas Buildings is a small installation of twenty-five images by Edward Weston that explore tensions between subject/form and light/shadow. The organic spontaneity of the different connections and comparisons in the show encourage engagement beyond the four walls of the exhibition space.

Edward Weston, Legs, 1934, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Edward Weston, Shells, 1927, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Indeed, Weston’s articulation of the painterly, the sculptural, and the architectural through the camera points to both the uniqueness of the photographic medium and the infinite possibilities contained in vacant shells, eroded boulders, and smooth expanses of uncovered skin. Weston’s Modernism stands out as an exhibition that is as much about the artist’s personal connection to his work as it is about the viewer’s experience. Not unlike Tim Burton, Weston’s intense focus, immersion into his practice, and aesthetic ethics make for work that is sensitive, personal, and inspiring.

Edward Weston, Eroded Rock – Monterey Coast, 1931, anonymous gift

While helping to finish the installation of the show, several pieces especially exemplified modernist perspectives. In particular, I was drawn to Eroded Rock. The weary lines on the surface, merging, crossing, and diverging evokes the passage of time, the endurance of nature, and most compellingly, the beautiful quietude of pure form. Eroded Rock and many more like it in the show are a must-see in their undefinable capacity for contemplation and appreciation. Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass and Eroded Rock, though different in their dimensionality, share a perfect timelessness through their stolid yet fluid presentation.

The 340-ton boulder which will be a part of Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass

With many new projects coming up on LACMA’s campus, such as Levitated Mass’ arrival this fall, there will be many new things to see.  But to see what has always been around us in new ways continually revives and enriches Los Angeles’ diverse and vibrant art scene.

Kelly C. Tang, Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department


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