This Weekend at LACMA: California Design Opens, Pacific Standard Time Free Day, Monet/Lichtenstein, and More

September 30, 2011

This weekend is the full-scale launch of Pacific Standard Time, with exhibitions opening at more than 60 locations all around Southern California, including LACMA, the Getty, the Hammer, MoCA, and many more. You can get the full scoop on all of the participating institutions and exhibitions at the Pacific Standard Time website.   More on our Pacific Standard Time exhibitions and info about free admission on Sunday below, but first: in celebration of Pacific Standard Time, actor Jason Schwartzman came to LACMA the other night, where he was promptly tormented by John Baldessari’s disembodied head:

Our largest show of the fall, which is part of Pacific Standard Time, is California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way.”  It is open exclusively to members right now, and opens to the public tomorrow. If you’ve been following us on Unframed this week you’ve seen some behindthescenes posts about the show’s installation, including yesterday’s Q&A with architects Hodgetts + Fung. You can also like us on Facebook to get another peek at the show.

To start the weekend out, vocalist Melissa Morgan brings her Billie Holiday stylings to the Jazz at LACMA stage tonight. Get a taste of her sound here.

In addition to California Design, another beautiful exhibition will be opening to the public on Saturday—Monet/Lichtenstein: Rouen Cathedrals. This small but powerful exhibition pairs cathedral works from Claude Monet and Roy Lichtenstein painted six decades apart.  Note that on Saturday evening, the museum will be closing at 5 pm. The last tickets for Tim Burton will be for the 3 pm hour.

Monet, Claude, Rouen Cathedral, the portal. Morning Sun, Blue Harmony, 1893, Oil on canvas, 91 x 63 cm, Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France (Inv. RF2000), Photo courtesy Réunion des Musées Nationaux by Thierry Le Mage/Art Resource, NY.

Monet, Claude, Rouen Cathedral, the portal. Morning Sun, Blue Harmony, 1893, Oil on canvas, 91 x 63 cm, Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France (Inv. RF2000), Photo courtesy Réunion des Musées Nationaux by Thierry Le Mage/Art Resource, NY.

On Sunday, in celebration of the launch of Pacific Standard Time, LACMA (except Tim Burton) and more than 25 other museums  will be free all day. Free shuttle buses will also be running throughout the day between museums in the PST circuit. Look for the shuttles around town–Instant Mural, one of the iconic works from our Asco exhibition–adorns the side of them.

In the Art Catalogues bookstore on Sunday, ceramist Adam Silverman will be in conversation with architect Kulapat Yantrasast about Silverman’s limited-edition ceramic work created exclusively for LACMA in conjunction with California Design.

LACMA PST Edition, Works in Progress by Adam Silverman

LACMA PST Edition, Works in Progress by Adam Silverman

And finally, Sunday evening, Los Angeles Electric 8 are joined by Javanese vocalist Peni Candra Rini for our free Sundays Live concert. This week’s concert is part of the World Festival of Sacred Music.


Scott Tennent

Installing California Design: Q&A with Architects Hodgetts + Fung

September 29, 2011

For the ambitious installation of California Design, 1930–1965LACMA sought out the talents of architects Hodgetts + FungWe asked Craig Hodgetts and Ming Fung about their design for the show, which is on view now for members and opens to the public on Saturday.

Foreground: Wallace "Wally" M. Byam, Clipper, 1936, Auburn Trailer Collection

What was your inspiration for the exhibition design?
The unique look pioneered by California’s modern designers was a direct inspiration for our design. Starting with a curvilinear, biomorphic shape that is a contemporary incarnation of the principles first espoused by Arts and Architecture magazine, the installation is designed to create a powerful sense of solid and void, and to lead the visitor on an exciting, smart journey through the history of California design.

This is definitely not a typical, art-historical survey of greatest hits, but a treasure trove of seminal design masterpieces that will resonate with everyone who appreciates the lithe, sensuous lines of contemporary design.  Those lines are echoed in the helical construction which soars through the Resnick Pavilion to gather groups of costumes, furnishings, and printed matter into micro-environments which refine and focus the collection. Visitors will be treated to a narrative guided by the rhythm of the helix and propelled by the energy of the curators’ ideas about various aspects of California design history as seen through the lens of those who designed it, made it, and ultimately sold it.

Installation view of Eames Living Room in the Resnick Pavilion. Installation made possible by a generous contribution from Martha and Bruce Karsh

Can you tell us more about the re-creation of the Eames living room?
We worked directly with the Eames family to bring to life the incredible collection of crafts, folk art, and found ephemera which Charles and Ray Eames collected over their lifetimes. They are installed in their exact locations in a full-scale reproduction of the famous Eames House. It may be the first time that the house has been paired with its most famous automotive contemporary, the Raymond Loewy-designed  Studebaker Avanti, and it is certainly the first time Rudi Gernreich’s seductive bathing suit will be anywhere near it, but such is the energy of the show, and the design which has brought it to fruition.

Raymond Loewy, Avanti, 1961, manufactured 1963-64, Petersen Automotive Museum

With more than 350 objects in the exhibition, what sort of design challenges did you face?
There were challenges, to be sure. Light-sensitive materials needed protection from the California sunlight which suffuses the Resnick Pavilion, and many of the more than three hundred and fifty artifacts required special treatment. Because objects, costumes, fabrics, and furniture were to be arranged according to the themes of the exhibition rather than by category, the displays needed to be adaptable to a wide range of sizes. Fragile jewelry was to be displayed in the shadow of the Eames house, and a replica of the long-gone setting for a Los Angeles Times photo shoot was to be surrounded by period advertising. The story was magnificent. How to support it by design was challenging, exciting, and rewarding.

Foreground: Kem (Karl Emanuel Martin) Weber, Desk and Chair, c. 1938, purchased jointly with funds provided by the Decorative Arts and Design Deaccession Fund, Viveca Paulin-Ferrell and Will Ferrell, Shannon and Peter Loughrey, Heidi and Said Saffari, and Holly and Albert Baril; background: Walt Disney Studios, Library Reading Room (presentation drawing), c. 1939, Kem Weber Collection, Architecture and Design Collection, Museum of Art, Design + Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara

Foreground: A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons, Sofa and Table from the Spencer House, 1961-64, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spencer and Harry W. Saunders

How do you hope visitors will respond to the exhibition?
We want this exhibition to echo the unique California life style: to be as supple, as physically beautiful, and as good-humored as the surfer featured in John Van Hamersveld’s Endless Summer poster; to be as disciplined and graphically sophisticated as Ray Eames’ covers for Arts and Architecture magazine; and as accessible as Saul Bass’s advertisement for The Man with the Golden Arm. This is a populist show, designed to echo and magnify the great design tradition which began in California, and is now the standard of the world.

Scott Tennent

Really Tall, Really Long, Really Heavy, Really Big

September 27, 2011

As someone working behind the scenes at LACMA, I’ve been aware of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass for a long time now, mostly looking at drawings the artist made and hearing it described by the two people here closest to the artist and the artwork, Michael Govan and John Bowsher. So it was a great thrill last week to head over to the quarry in Riverside where one part of the artwork, a 340-ton boulder, currently resides. As you may have read in the Los Angeles Times last week, transporting this monolith is a challenge—to put it mildly:

LACMA is working with Emmert International, a company that specializes in moving “extreme objects” like nuclear generators and missiles, says project manager John Bowsher. Emmert is building a custom “transporter” around the boulder that will likely be 200 feet long and almost three freeway lanes wide. A road will first have to be carved out of the quarry; then the transporter will travel to LACMA at night, on closed roads and at less than 10 mph, led by a police escort. The approximately 85-mile journey, normally a one and half hour drive, will take a circuitous route lasting a week to 10 days.

Standing in the quarry and seeing the beginnings of Emmert’s transporter being assembled around the boulder, my sense of scale was thrown for a loop. The boulder, for instance, is 21 feet tall and 340 tons—that’s big!—but it was dwarfed by the larger mountain from which it was blasted a few years ago. Once it arrives at LACMA it will rise to the height of the Resnick Pavilion, its soon-to-be neighbor.

The boulder, with the beginnings of the transporter being built around it.

It’s also hard to wrap your head around just how large this transporter is going to be. But when I took this photo of a jeep parked next to the transporter, I got a better sense of its gargantuan nature. This is what “200 feet long and almost three freeway lanes wide” looks like.

Side view

Of course, the boulder is only one part of Heizer’s sculpture. I didn’t have to travel as far to see the other component: construction is well underway outside of the Resnick Pavilion for the 456-foot-long slot through which you’ll walk to experience the monolith rising above you.

The slot, under construction

456 feet. That’s big too. A little more than one-and-a-half football fields big. What you see above is only a portion of its length, as the entire slot has not yet been created–that’s because the boulder needs to roll through campus first, on that huge transporter, so it can be installed. We thought it prudent not to put a huge trench in the transporter’s way.

As construction progresses, and especially once the monolith arrives, the monumental presence, or monumental negative presence, of the slot will become more apparent to the concept of the overall artwork. As fascinating as it is to talk about the transport of the gigantic boulder, the artwork is not, simply, a boulder. There is an experiential component to the work, as you descend through the slot to a depth of fifteen feet on your approach to the monolith, pass under it, and then ascend to the other side. The walls of the slot itself are big–more than twice the height of the average adult!

Inside of the slot, in progress

Levitated Mass is still a few months away from being finished, so for the moment we’re still left to visualize what the end product will look and feel like. One thing is certain: it will be an experience not easily forgotten.

Scott Tennent

Make Yourself at Home

September 26, 2011

Installing a recreation of the Eames House living room

We’ve already given you a peek at the installation of California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way,” which opens this Saturday (or Thursday for members). One of the biggest marvels of the installation is the re-creation of Charles and Ray Eames’ living room, which was carefully deinstalled from the Eames House last month and is now being reassembled piece by piece in the Resnick Pavilion. Over the weekend the Los Angeles Times posted a fantastic time-lapse video of the project, as well as an article that gives more detail into how this endeavor was pulled off.

This Weekend at LACMA: Possible Worlds Closes, Angel City Jazz Festival, and More

September 23, 2011

This weekend marks your last chance to see the exhibition Possible Worlds: Mario Ybarra, Jr., Karla Diaz, and Slanguage Studio Select from the Permanent Collections. We invited the artists to curate an exhibition using works from our collection of more than 100,000 objects, and they have gathered objects of contemporary art, ancient American art, Japanese art, and more into a cohesive theme. As the Los Angeles Times wrote, “What emerges overall from this motley installation is an affirmation of common ground in the midst of extreme diversity.”

Possible Worlds, Installation View

In addition to Possible Worlds there are five more exhibitions to choose from including our Pacific Standard Time exhibitions for Asco, Ed Kienholz, and Maria Nordman. And while you’re going in to Tim Burton you can get a peek at the installation for our largest show of the fall, California Design, which opens next week.

Tonight the Angel City Jazz Festival kicks off at LACMA. The free concert is a double bill: first up are the winners of the first annual Angel City Young Artist Competition, followed by pianist Larry Karush’s quintet. Here’s a clip of Karush playing solo at the 2009 rendition of the festival:

On Sunday artist, curator, and collector Edmund de Waal talks about his fascinating family history—he is a descendent of the Ephrussi family—and their collection of Japanese netsuke, the only tangible family possession that wasn’t lost to the Nazis. The lecture marks the publication of de Waal’s new book, The Hare with Amber Eyes

Finally, on Sunday night, pianist Mack McCray and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneu perform works by Beethoven and Rachmaninoff for our free Sundays Live concert series.

Scott Tennent

East and West, Past and Present: Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads

September 22, 2011

In ancient China one’s Zodiac sign was fixed by the position of the planet Jupiter during the year of one’s birth (it takes twelve years for Jupiter to orbit the sun). On this level, Ai Weiwei Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads represents a system of measuring time and distinguishing characteristics of the human psyche linked to the heavens above.

Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, installation view, © Ai Weiwei

In the mid-eighteenth century the Qianlong Emperor, ruler of the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty—a Manchu (not Chinese) by birth—was fascinated by European technology. On the condition that they not proselytize, he invited European Jesuit priests into the Forbidden City, where they worked as scientists, engineers, architects, and artists. These priests spoke, read, and wrote Chinese fluently; in this way they could easily communicate with the most eminent Chinese and Manchu scholar-officials in the Forbidden City. Sent to China by the Vatican with the mission of converting China to the Catholic Church (in which they largely failed), these priests nonetheless had an enormous influence on Chinese intellectual and artistic life.

Among the projects commissioned by the Emperor from the Jesuits was a grand palace known as the Yuan Ming Yuan, or “Palace of Perfect Brightness.” It consisted of a mix of styles: sections built in traditional Chinese wooden architecture and others made of marble, imitating such European palaces as Versailles. In front of one building in the European manner was a large fountain, with twelve animal-headed waterspouts. These functioned as symbols of the Zodiac and of the hours of the day (the Chinese measured the day in units equivalent to two Western hours, which when multiplied by twelve makes up a twenty-four hour day).

In an astonishing irony, in 1860 the entire Palace was destroyed and looted by British and French troops as part of military actions of the Second Opium War. Of the twelve original bronze heads, seven survive. In casting his new Zodiac Heads, Ai Weiwei carefully followed the style of the originals, but exercised considerable artistic license in designing the five heads whose models are missing (including the dragon).

Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads are thus a multi-layered meditation on political power, the nature of time, and the often tormented relationship between China and West, at the same time calling into question the arbitrary nature of such concepts as “national treasure.” That all of this is accomplished with considerable humor is a tribute to Ai’s detachment. I am proud that LACMA is showing this work by one of China’s greatest artists and most courageous social critics.

Stephen Little, curator, Chinese and Korean Art

Messages from a Fragile World: Washi Tales

September 20, 2011

On Thursday night, paper artist Ibe Kyoko and curator Hollis Goodall will discuss the current exhibition Washi Tales: The Paper Art of Ibe Kyoko, followed by a special, not-to-be-missed performance based on Ibe’s work, featuring actors and an ensemble of musicians playing traditional Japanese instruments. Below, Goodall provides insight into Ibe’s work. More information on Thursday’s event can be found here.

A piece of the world was wiped away on March 11 of this year. In the northeastern area of Honshu, the main island of Japan, what is left to us after earthquake and tsunami is bits of lives that were.

For the last ten years, the washi (Japanese paper) artist Ibe Kyoko has incorporated bits of former lives in the form of torn pieces of letters and documents into her works of art. Following the earthquake and tsunami, Ibe-san’s thoughts turned to her family members and ancestors who lived in Fukushima, and to her aging mother who had come from that region. Reaching into her family’s home altar (butsudan), Ibe-san pulled out family documents dating back over 100 years. From her personal files came letters brushed on beautiful paper from her parents and close relatives, and letters in English from friends. These became the material and stimulus for her present series, called Once Upon a Time, of which several works are on display in the Pavilion for Japanese Art. Ibe-san made the first work of the series for her mother’s home. At LACMA, the largest of the pieces from the series in the gallery has the characters for “mother” and “father” displayed prominently amid the parts of documents and letters now bound into the surface of the new paper art work.

Ibe Kyoko, Four untitled works from the series “Once Upon a Time,” 2011, recycled ganpi paper fiber, old documents, mica, indigo and sumi, collection of the artist

It was a decade ago that Ibe-san went to a used book store and brought home a handwritten census from a town no longer to be found on a map. She became inspired to bring the recorded fragments of information about these forgotten souls into her works of art. How that town disappeared is a mystery, perhaps caused more by economics than natural disaster. That so many people and their town had virtually evaporated from history but for this document that she chanced upon struck her deeply. Their lives began to re-appear a small piece at a time in the surfaces of her artworks. The series called Hogosho (writings on scratch paper) recalls her early concepts about working with recycled texts.

Ibe Kyoko, Untitled, from the series “Hogosho,” 2008, recycled ganpi paper fiber, old documents, mica and sumi, collection of the artist

Sitting in a screen mounter’s studio one day, she noticed that scratch paper reused by the mounter to provide backing for the painting on a screen would begin to peek out from tears in the painted surface or backing paper as the screen aged. She became fascinated with the screen mounting itself as being a time capsule. Old records, inventories, cash receipts, or memos socked into the interior of a screen for support, as old Japanese paper is still strong and useful, represented life at the moment that the screen was being mounted. Japanese paper, most commonly sourced from the inner bark of the paper mulberry (kozo), though in Ibe-san’s case taken from antique paper originally made from the bark of the ganpi bush (a plant of the Daphne family), is both durable because of its long fibers and valuable as the plants from which they come grow relatively slowly. As such, paper has always been valued and reused. Though she refers to her works as “recycled” paper, the lives denoted upon them are in a way resurrected.

Ibe Kyoko in her Kyoto studio placing document bits to be mixed with glue and ganpi paper fiber on a paper-making screen. Photo provided by Ibe Kyoko

The power of nature is so often beyond what people can control. Harnessing that power is part of Ibe-san’s expression. Having laid bits of documents, chips of mica, flakes of gold or silver, recycled indigo paper, and other precious materials onto the paper screen, she then begins to apply paper pulp behind that surface. As she adds layers and layers of various colored pulps of recycled paper behind those, some dense with calligraphy so they take on the color of gray sumi, others pink from the vermillion of seals used to sign a document, colors merge onto the surface and fibers bind with the elements already applied. Layer upon layer of pulp is added with great quantities of water, and Ibe-san relinquishes control, allowing the water to rearrange paper fibers and draw pulp into various patterns. The power of water and the strength of plants inspire this work, while the people whose writings are merged into her paper she feels to be living again through traces of their words.

Hollis Goodall, curator, Japanese Art

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