Glenn Ligon on Glenn Ligon

November 7, 2011

While he was here for the opening of Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, we talked with the artist about various works, including his response to Mapplethorpe in Notes on the Margin of the Black Book; the coal dust paintings he began making in the 1990s, and the Coloring series, reinterpreting coloring book images from the 1970s. He also talked about To Disembark, an installation in the second gallery of the exhibition, inspired by the history of Henry Box Brown.

It was a hard video to edit; Glenn is extraordinarily articulate and self-reflective.

Amy Heibel and Alexa Oona Schulz


This Weekend at LACMA: Contested Visions Opens, TimesTalks, Free Concerts, and More

November 4, 2011

The exhibition activity never stops at LACMA! Opening this weekend in the Resnick Pavilion is Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, a groundbreaking show that looks at the two principal viceroyalties of Spanish America—Mexico and Peru—from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The 200 objects on view highlight the significance of the Inca and Aztec origins of these two regions, and reveal how art and power intersected in the Spanish colonial world.

The Apparition of San Miguel del Milagro to Diego Lázaro, Mexico, first half of 18th century, Museo Universitario de la Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico

Contested Visions is on view now for members and opens to the public on Sunday. It joins a whopping eight other special exhibitions currently on view,  including Monet/Lichtenstein: Rouen Cathedrals, Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, California Design, 1930–1965, and more.

Tonight, check out any of these exhibitions as well as the Vinny Golia Quintet, performing for free during Jazz at LACMA. Don’t forget: our galleries are free after 5 pm for L.A. County residents.

An important note for Saturday visitors: the west side of LACMA’s campus will be closing at 3 pm for the museum’s Art+Film Gala, a special event honoring Clint Eastwood and John Baldessari that will raise funds for film at LACMA as well as the museum’s broader mission. That means BCAM (Asco, Glenn Ligon, Monet/Lichtenstein), the Resnick Pavilion (California Design, members-only viewing of Contested Visions), Ray’s and Stark Bar, and the lower level of the Ahmanson Building (Art of the Pacific) will not be open. However, the east side of campus, including Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud, Maria Nordman’s FILM ROOM: SMOKE, and the vast majority of our permanent collection, will remain open during regular hours and will be free after 3 pm.

Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio will actually be at LACMA twice this weekend. In addition to tomorrow’s gala, they will also be on hand for a sold-out screening of their new film, J. Edgar, followed by a conversation with actor Armie Hammer, writer Dustin Lance Black, and New York Times writer Charles McGrath. It’s the inaugural conversation in the New York Times’ celebrated TimesTalks series, held in Los Angeles for the first time.

We have two more TimesTalks on Saturday afternoon, for which tickets are still available. At 1 pm, Viola Davis, star of the acclaimed film The Help, will talk with journalist Brooks Barnes. At 3 pm, actors John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz will be in conversation with Charles McGrath about their work together in Roman Polanski’s new film, Carnage. To give you some idea of the topic of conversation, here’s a peek at the not-yet-released film:

Sunday as always is a great day for families. Our weekly free Andell Family Sundays has a new theme for November—“Think BIG.” Look at large sculptures like Tony Smith’s Smoke and Chris Burden’s Urban Light, then make your own big art in artist-led workshops.  

Finally, cap the weekend off with a free concert from the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, performing works by Adams and Bizet. (Can’t make it? You can also stream Sundays Live direct from our website).

Scott Tennent


A Contested Visions Travelogue

November 3, 2011

Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World opens to the public this weekend. Right now, we are busy installing it in the Resnick Pavilion before it opens to members only tomorrow. The objects are exquisite, and many are newly-restored and exhibited here for the first time. Over the course of preparing the exhibition, the curatorial team traveled to Mexico and Peru—the two areas of focus of the show—to select the artworks. The traveling was intense, taking weeks at a time and involving long treks at the high altitudes of the Andes (sometimes reaching 13,420 feet!), among other places.

Kaye Spilker, Ilona Katzew and Sofía Sanabrais pose before the Inca site of Sacsayhuamán, just outside of Cuzco. Sacsayhuamán is a terraced and walled complex that overlooks the city of Cuzco.

The great benefit of traveling to these locations is that it turned an abstract concept (an exhibition) into much more by allowing us to get a sense of those places and make connections that could only happen while on the ground.

The town of Chinchero, the Inca village in the province of Urubamba, twenty miles northwest of Cuzco, is renowned for its weaving traditions. Several people from a weaving cooperative remove yarn from a vat of red-colored dye.

This photograph was taken in the middle of a procession in the streets of Cuzco in 2008.

We’ve put together a slideshow of our journey. It includes our visit to Ollayntamabo, an astounding Inca archaeological site in the province of Urubamba in the Cuzco region; the town of Chinchero (also in Urubamba), renowned for its weaving traditions; the venerable city of Potosí in Bolivia (once part of the viceroyalty of Peru), with its impressive view of the “Cerro Rico” or Rich Mountain of Potosí, which contained the richest silver deposit in the world during colonial times, and the enchanting pilgrimage site of Chalma in the state of Mexico, famous for its healing waters and miraculous image of Christ.

We hope you’ll enjoy these images, and the exhibition.

Ilona Katzew, curator and department head, Latin American Art


Mural Remix: Q&A with Sandra de la Loza

November 2, 2011

Mural Remix: Sandra de la Loza is LACMA’s fifth contribution to the Pacific Standard Time initiative and one in a series featured in the multi-venue exhibition cycle L.A. Xicano. Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and adjunct curator at LACMA, spoke with artist Sandra de la Loza about Mural Remix and activating the history of Chicano muralism in Los Angeles.

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

Your earlier work often exposed the role of official monuments in producing “historical amnesia.” What motivates your current focus on Chicano murals?
I chose to focus on Chicana/o murals produced during the 1970s because that time period lends itself to so many issues that I felt were important to address both within current city politics and Pacific Standard Time’s effort to historicize L.A.’s postwar art history. Many murals are currently faded, peeling, or have been buffed by anti-graffiti abatement teams. This history is neglected and is literally being erased. Given the art circuit’s current interest in socially engaged art, I am aware of the fact that the Chicana/o mural is rarely mentioned or acknowledged as a legitimate art form within L.A.’s art institutions. I also felt the topic was significant given current city politics around public space and wall art. I mean, we live in a city with a moratorium on murals that spends six times the budget allocated to the Department of Cultural Affairs on graffiti abatement. I am interested in history, precisely the ways in which it lingers and can activate the present. I was attracted to the challenge of finding meaningful and relevant ways to activate this history given the current context.

Your work through the Pocho Research Society for Erased and Invisible Histories (PRS) is notable for collaboration. In this piece you have teamed up with several artists, including your older brother, muralist Ernesto de la Loza.  Can you say a little bit about the collaborative process and why it is so important to your work in general?
Within Mural Remix, I invited artist Joe Santarromana to work on Action Portraits. I knew Joe first as a professor, then as a friend, and more recently as a collaborator. Joe’s familiarity with my work provided critical insight and helped push my original concepts. His video expertise also helped solve technical issues that really took those portraits to another level. I also thought it was important, given the subject of this show, to bring in a muralist. Through my research, I discovered that a 1970s commercial graphic style, which numerous muralists interviewed refer to as “supergraphics,” was incorporated into murals. I commissioned my brother Ernesto de la Loza, a muralist from that era who is also a billboard and sign painter, to design and paint an exhibition title using this style.

Installation view Mural Remix: Sandra de la Loza, October 15, 2011–January 22, 2012, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Mural Remix not only creates new imagery from incidental elements of 1970s Chicano murals, but it projects this imagery—quite literally—onto the bodies of younger street and graphic artists. What does this multigenerational process say about the possibilities for Chicano art today?
I wanted to acknowledge the persistence of this history. There is no official “school” to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next, yet the impulse persists. Elements of this visual space forged by a previous generation of artists are still very much alive today, albeit transmuted in content, form, and aesthetics. Even if every wall in the city is whitewashed, the seed is planted and will keep surfacing because the impulse is located elsewhere—from within. I think the persistence of wall art is pretty amazing considering that millions of dollars are spent to make it not happen.

Sandra de la Loza and Joseph Santarromana, Action Portraits (installation view), 2011, © Sandra de la Loza, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Explain how this project relates to the Light and Space movement. In some ways Light and Space is the antithesis of Chicano muralism.
Through previous PRS projects, I had begun to explore the subjectivity of history. As an artist entering the archive, I was aware of the power that the historian and curator have in framing a subject, and I wanted to occupy that space and play with both the contextualization and the aesthetics of archival material. I especially wanted to look at the mural through a conceptual frame that wasn’t so much representational but spatial. I had already begun exploring how urban space was shaped by the needs and interests of a capitalist economy. I found Henri Lefebvre’s Marxist critique of urban space particularly relevant in beginning to think about muralism in relation to the architecture of a postwar manufacturing landscape. Estrada Courts, a housing project that became one of the focal points of 1970s murals, was built from military barrack architectural plans during a housing shortage when L.A.’s economy boomed during the World War II economy. So, I wanted to find an aesthetic language that would lend itself toward this spatial understanding of the mural. Since muralism is largely an outdoor art form, I began to think of light and its influence on artists within the region. Through my research, I found an interesting yet not-obvious overlap with the Light and Space movement. Robert Irwin writing about the artists ability to “see and aesthetically order the world as the one pure subject of art” inspired me to begin to name the particular scope and form that Chicano artists created by claiming and transforming the architectural space of Mexican American working-class communities in this city. While Light and Space artists explored ideas of change, transformation, and transcendence through formal means utilizing light, color, and architecture, Chicano artists used city space as their platform. They worked to materially “remake their own reality” through means that were both aesthetic and social. This helped me begin to identify an aesthetic language that was both spatial and social within 1970s era murals that I try to make visible in the exhibit.

What next?
Through Mural Remix and a previous project, The Art of Lockpicking, the Lockpicking in Art, which I exhibited in Cairo, I have begun to explore L.A. urbanism. I’m interested in continuing that pursuit. I am also currently working on a public art commission with artist Arturo Romo. We are merging our interests in ecology and social issues for a work that will be permanent and long lasting. I am excited about all the work being done in Los Angeles—many that aren’t necessarily art-based—that critiques and reimagines the urban landscape. I want to participate in the creation of a new urbanism that is fueled by values of social and environmental justice.

Chon Noriega, Director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and Adjunct Curator at LACMA


East of No West: Willie Herrón

November 1, 2011

In conjunction with the exhibition Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972-1987, Willie Herrón is creating a mural in the alley at City Terrace Drive, behind the Alvarez Bakery (near Carmelita).

Herrón has a history with this alley. He was born and grew up in East Los Angeles. One night in 1972, he was driving down the alley on his way home from a party when he came across his younger brother John, who had been beaten and stabbed multiple times with an ice pick. After delivering John to the hospital (he survived), Willie walked home, gathered his paints, and asked his grandfather’s permission to create a mural in the alley behind the house, near his uncle’s bakery. The Wall That Cracked Open was the result, a landmark of Chicano art and a homage to his brother.

The new mural, called Asco: East of No West, is based on a photograph by Harry Gamboa Jr. of a 1972 Asco performance, Walking Mural.

Herrón discusses the inspiration in this recent video interview:

Last weekend, Herrón toured a group of about forty through the alley in City Terrace to view all of the murals. “The alley was my studio,” he said. “This is where the vision came from. I wanted people who frequented the alley to have art in their life.” Supervisor Gloria Molina was there to dedicate the site, with high words of praise for Herrón and his contribution to the commmunity and to Chicano art in Los Angeles.

Willie Herrón receiving his Proclamation from Supervisor Gloria Molina.

On November 19th, join us for a bus tour with Asco curators Rita Gonzalez and C. Ondine Chavoya, beginning at the Fowler Museum at UCLA for a tour of the exhibition Mapping Another LA: The Chicano Art Movement. The tour includes a short talk by Herrón at the site of the new mural, and a visit to the exhibition at LACMA.

Amy Heibel, video by Alexa Oona Schulz


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