Levitated Mass: Progress Report

October 17, 2011

As you may have surmised from past blog posts or any of the news items already written about Levitated Mass, installing Michael Heizer’s latest artwork is not quite the same as purchasing a painting, shipping it to the museum, and hanging it on the wall. In fact it feels a lot closer to making a building, what with all the construction workers employed both onsite at LACMA, digging the 456-foot-long slot in the earth north of the Resnick Pavilion, and the team from Emmert International building the transporter for the 340-ton megalith currently resting in a Riverside quarry. Just to give you an idea of how complex the project is and how many people are involved in making it happen, check out this video documenting recent progress at the quarry site.

The transportation of the megalith, made possible by Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd., will happen almost entirely in the small hours of the night over many days. The boulder is scheduled to start moving… well, soon. Once it begins, we’ll be tracking it on the Levitated Mass webpage as well as offering daily updates on Twitter so stay tuned for news of its movement.

Scott Tennent

This Weekend at LACMA: Mural Remix Opens, California Design Talk, Film Club Exclusive, and More

October 14, 2011

This Saturday the fifth and final of our Pacific Standard Time exhibitions opens to the public: Mural Remix: Sandra de la Loza. De la Loza has created a “mashup” of sorts from L.A. murals created in the 1970s. The exhibition  is one of a multi-part exhibition cycle, L.A. Xicano, which also includes Art Along the Hyphen at the Autry, Icons of the Invisible: Oscar Castillo and Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement, both at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, and Chican@s Collect at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library.

Detail of mural in East Los Angeles believed to be by José A. Gallegos, c. 1975, photo © Sandra de la Loza

Sandra de la Loza,” Mural Remix: Unknown, Believed to be by José A. Gallegos, 1975,” funded by Citywide Murals, 2010, © Sandra de la Loza

The exhibition also ties into our own Asco: Elite of the Obscure, on view in BCAM, which features that collective’s L.A. murals (walking and otherwise).

Harry Gamboa, Jr., "Walking Mural," 1972, printed 2011, © 1972 Asco, photograph © Harry Gamboa, Jr.

In addition to these and many other exhibitions on view, we have our share of other programs happening all weekend too. As usual, the weekend is bookended by a couple of free concerts. Tonight, composer and violinist Lesa Terry joins her quartet on stage for Jazz at LACMA. Sunday night, the chamber trio of Marcia Dickstein (harp), Jenny Olson (flute), and Judith Farmer (bassoon) perform André Jolivet’s Pastorales de Noël and other works to be announced. 

Sunday is a great day to take in the recently opened California Design exhibition, especially is if you can coincide your visit with writer D. J. Waldie’s free talk in the Art Catalogues store, discussing the spirit evoked by mid-century California design, an essence shared by his book Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir.  

Finally, Sunday night concludes with a special screening exclusively for members of LACMA Film Club, Film Independent, and the New York Times Film Club: Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sean Durkin’s debut feature film which earned him the Directing Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Durkin will be in attendance for the screening, along with stars Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, and Sarah Paulson, and producers Josh Mond and Antonio Campos. Not a member of LACMA’s Film Club? Join.  

Scott Tennent

Film Independent at LACMA: Q&A with Elvis Mitchell

October 13, 2011

With tonight’s sold-out premiere of The Rum Diary, the new Film Independent at LACMA Film Series officially launches. The rest of the month sees a range of films, from tonight’s in-person appearance by Johnny Depp to classics like Modern Times to foreign masterpieces like Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Accatone. Next week sees the debut of a new series, Live Read, in which director Jason Reitman assembles a cast to read well-known and well-loved scripts before a live audience (first up: The Breakfast Club). We talked with film curator Elvis Mitchell about his new job, what audiences can expect from the new series, and the future of film at LACMA.

photo by Marc Goldstein

What can audiences expect from the new series?
Audiences can expect to be welcomed to the Bing and the film series in the same way they always have. That has not changed. There are a few different elements because I’d like to expand the definition of a film series—that it needn’t be limited to movies. Jason Reitman’s Live Read project is just one example—a major director at the height of his powers contributing his time and efforts to increasing the breadth of what a film program is. I can’t think of many cases in which something of this import has happened. And it’s just the beginning—check in with me in a year.

How did the Live Read series come about?
Live Read came from Jason Reitman. When I told him I was coming to LACMA, he told me about this idea he had been nurturing for a while. He grew up attending movies in Los Angeles, and wanted to find a new way to generate the kind of excitement he felt going to the grand—and rapidly disappearing—single screen theaters in Westwood, when film-going demanded a specific kind of decision making. He wants to make attending the film series as compelling and surprising as going to the movies can be in the best of all possible worlds, and he hit upon a terrific way of doing so.

This apparently isn’t your first time working for LACMA—what was your first job at the museum?
My first paying job in Los Angeles was selling tickets at the Bing, when Ron Haver was the director of the film program. He cut an enormous swath through the film world of Los Angeles—everywhere, to be honest. Coming back to LACMA appealed to me as a chance to pick up his mantle: he was a charismatic figure, a showman and entrepreneur—he brings to mind that description Robert E. Howard had of Conan: a man of gigantic mirth and gigantic melancholy. His vitality enabled him to attract audiences and instill in them the same bone-deep affection for movies that they held for him. It’s a tradition I’d like to continue.

How have you adjusted from being a film critic to being a film curator?
I think the adjustment will be ongoing. It’s a unique position I’m in—I was discussing this position with the esteemed film critic Todd McCarthy, and neither of us could think of a case in which a major American museum had brought in a critic to assume the curatorial duties, whereas it’s something that happens as a matter of course elsewhere in the world. I imagine that both disciplines intersect—since, at heart, both are about spotlighting films that deserve further consideration.

What is your take on the news last week of LACMA and AMPAS entering into an agreement to explore plans for the creation of an Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the LACMA West Building?
It’s the beginning a new world, and the opportunity for Los Angeles to join New York, Paris, and other major cities as a place where film history and film culture can be celebrated in an institution worthy of the medium itself. I’m thrilled to be on the ground floor of this project.

Scott Tennent

Nancy Kienholz on Five Car Stud

October 12, 2011

Nancy Kienholz spent three years restoring Five Car Stud, prior to the current exhibition at LACMA. She was present to supervise the installation and talk with staff and the public about the piece.

Five Car Stud was completed in 1971, the last of Kienholz’s works made in Los Angeles. Kienholz readily acknowledged that his work was challenging and even painful. On the web, we have an extraordinary firsthand account–what he called a pictorial chronology — documenting the making of the work. He describes the models that he used, how he struggled to source various elements, and the circumstances behind the fact that the tableau was not exhibited in this country. In fact, except at documenta V in Kasel in 1972, it has not been shown publicly until now. It was kept in a private collection in Japan from 1974 until Nancy began the restoration in 2008 at the Kienholz studio in Hope, Idaho.

Kienholz concludes the chronology with this statement: “I should probably add that in my mind my work has always taken on a kind of life and identity of its own and as I push one way it seems to push back another. In this continuing internal dialogue I understand things better and do hopefully grow. The conversation with Five Car Stud is still very painful and slow, but one thing has been established for sure: if six to one is unfair odds in my tableau, then 170 million to 20 million is sure as hell unfair odds in my country.”

Amy Heibel

Tim Burton’s Contagious Creativity

October 10, 2011

Looking back on the past four months of my Tim Burton experience, it seems as though my fellow gift shop employees and I have seen and heard just about everything. The sheer number of people we encounter on a daily basis can be overwhelming, but fortunately at night, as we close the store, we are able to slow down and reflect. This is the time of day that the public doesn’t experience—when all the chatter has dissipated and the Sleepy Hollow scarecrow looms large in our direction, the only sound being the spooky melody emanating from the diorama of Stain Boy’s suburban home (a tune eerily similar to that of an ice cream truck, which has haunted my dreams now for months. Tim Burton speaks of his fear of clowns. One man’s clown is another man’s ice cream man. Thank you, Danny Elfman).

After speaking to literally thousands of people who have just experienced the Tim Burton exhibition—which closes at the end of this month—I have realized that it is really no coincidence that so many people purchase colored and graphite pencils from the shop (among lots of other items) before they leave.  In fact, the conclusion I’ve drawn (no pun intended) is that it is not so much about the art as it is about the process. Pure creativity is contagious, and this exhibition is like the plague. After viewing it, one immediately wants to return home to draw, to create.

I think part of what makes this show exciting to young artists in this city is that it all seems so, well, immediate—in both time and space. It doesn’t take too much imagination for these kids to see themselves in Tim Burton’s sneakers one day. He was born in the same century as a lot of our NexGen members (free kid’s membership—check it out!), and he grew up right over the hill.  LACMA and Burbank are close enough to see and breathe in the same smog.

In other words, it isn’t impossible for a teenage girl visiting the show today to imagine her own retrospective on the walls of LACMA in forty years: The Childhood Sketches and Doodles of the Great Holographic Filmmaker Tammy Batman, coming in 2051. Needless to say, most of Tammy’s films will also feature Johnny Depp, who, by then, will be enjoying a golden-age career resurgence à la Betty White.

Future filmmaker “Tammy Batman” (aka Hannah, L.A. native and NexGen member) gets inspired by Tim Burton.

Living in modern-day suburban Los Angeles, these young artists might not see themselves as the next Renoir, or Caravaggio, or Matisse. But what they can envision is being in their bedroom late at night and drawing for fun and imagining that one day they might translate having fun into making a living.

Although a career as a popular artist might not seem so unattainable while strolling through the exhibition, getting to that point requires work, and it’s evident from the show that a creative life is as much about the journey as it is about the end result. An artist’s personal outlet as a child connects with millions down the line because of years of diligence, hard work, and practice, practice, practice. In Tim Burton we see someone who really engaged in what he loved and made a very successful living out of it.

The show reminds us that process is the key. Tim Burton’s early sketches and drawings and models show us that the process can also be art. It’s called a work of art because it’s work. And when it connects with others, it’s magic.

Matt Liberman, Sales Associate


This Weekend at LACMA: The Forgotten Space, Free Concerts, and More

October 7, 2011

Did you know that this season’s Jazz at LACMA is its twentieth? It is. And did you know that pianist Frank Strazzeri was the very first performer ever to take the Jazz at LACMA (neé Friday Night Jazz) stage? He was. Strazzeri returns tonight with his quintet.  

Tomorrow night we are presenting a free screening of The Forgotten Space, directed by Allan Sekula and Noël Burch. The film looks at the impact of everyday people—farmers, truck drivers, factory workers—on the global economy. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Sekula, Bérénice Reynaud (co-curator, Film at REDCAT), and others.

Our exhibition California Design is into its second weekend, and Sunday would be a great day to check out the show, since designer Bernard Kester will be on hand for a conversation in the Art Catalogues Bookstore

On Sunday night you can see the Capitol Ensemble perform works by Brahms during our free Sundays Live concert.  

Monday is a holiday for many, and LACMA is here for you. Bring your kids to the Boone Children’s Gallery to make art! As on every Monday, we also offer story time in the Boone at 2 pm.

This three-day weekend is a great opportunity to take in many of the exhibitions we have on view, from California Design to Monet/Lichtenstein to Asco and more. And of course, Tim Burton, which is only on view for three more weeks!

Scott Tennent

Free California Design App

October 6, 2011

Despite the rain, a steady stream of midcentury design fans are flocking to the Resnick Pavilion to see California Design, 1930-1945: “Living in a Modern Way” since it opened last weekend.

Don’t miss the free exhibition app for iPad and iPhone. The app features more than 100 highlights from the exhibition, including furniture, graphic design, industrial design, jewelry, fashion, toys and ceramics.

Look for CADesign (iPhone) and CADesign HD (iPad) in the iTunes app store

There is also an interactive map highlighting locations key to the history of midcentury California design. And, best of all, the app includes exclusive extended video interviews with a dozen living designers included in the show. (An internet connection is required to access the extended videos.)

LACMA’s own Bernard Kester is one of the designers featured in the exhibition and in the app. Bernard and his signature bow ties have been a fixture at LACMA for decades, as he’s been designing exhibitions for us since 1966. But that’s not all – his biography suggests a master of multitasking. He taught art and design at UCLA from 1956 to 1993. He served on the board of the Craft and Folk Art Museum here, and as a trustee of the American Craft Museum in New York. He contributed to publications, curated several groundbreaking exhibitions of craft and fiber art, and, of course, created textiles and ceramics, being equally proficient in both disciplines. Bernard also exhibited in all of the historic midcentury California Design exhibitions at the Pasadena Art Museum  that helped bring visibility to California modernism, and designed three of them.

The exhibition gift shop at LACMA includes a limited-edition scarf based on another one of Bernard’s designs, called the Strand textile. In the video, you’ll see Bernard sitting in Ray’s restaurant at LACMA, where another one of his textile designs decorates the main wall, and visiting our modern art galleries where he worked with curator Stephanie Barron to design the current installation. Here’s an excerpt:

Amy Heibel

%d bloggers like this: