Opening This Weekend: Metropolis II

January 10, 2012

Ever since the first word about Chris Burden’s piece Metropolis II started making its way through the halls of LACMA’s offices, there has been excitement among the staff. Even before we saw the initial images that came to us from the artist’s studio, we were all making up what it would look like in our heads. But we couldn’t have imagined how awesome this complex kinetic sculpture would be.

The first glimpse I caught of the piece was in the truly beautiful short documentary made by Catfish’s Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The pair spent three days with Chris Burden at his studio filming the sculpture before it was disassembled and moved to LACMA.

We had two unannounced preview days for Metropolis II in December for testing purposes. Staff and visitors alike stood around in awe.

Chris Burden, Metropolis II, installation shot, © Chris Burden, image © Museum Associates

Here are a few stats on the piece:

  • The cars are attached by a small magnet to the conveyor belt that brings them to the crest.
  • The only motorization of the cars is the conveyor belt to the top.
  • Once the cars cross over the crest and head downward, their entire movement is by gravity.
  • They travel at a scale speed of 240 mph, plus or minus.
  • The tracks they take are Teflon coated to reduce friction.
  • The tracks are beveled at 7 degrees to give added torque for speed when
    they come through corners and curves.
  • The trains are out of the box electric train sets that run on electricity.

Metropolis II opens to the public this Saturday, January 14. It runs at scheduled times, so check this page for when it will be running. Member previews start Thursday.

Alex Capriotti

Teens at LACMA

January 9, 2012

It’s safe to say that most of us have had less-than-enviable jobs during our high school years. But for fifteen teens participating in LACMA’s High School Internship Program, this is not the case. Once a week throughout the school year, these creative and dedicated students work at the museum to learn the ins and outs of LACMA. The interns collaborate on special projects together and develop public speaking skills so they are ready to give tours to their peers in the spring. Recently the students explored the exhibition Glenn Ligon: AMERICA and, working with a local artist, created works of art that express their individual identities. We sat down with some of the teens to get their take on the experience.

What was it like seeing Glenn Ligon’s work?

Katarina: I was overwhelmed by the powerful messages associated with his work and also his different manner of approaching art—using writings and images that are not his own and transforming them to symbolize various parts of his identity.

Camille: This has become my favorite exhibition that I’ve seen at LACMA. The way Ligon uses his pieces to send a strong message is fascinating and very interpretive.

Nicole S.: Seeing the show really got me thinking about what makes us who we are, all the images we absorb every day, and how they become a part of our visual culture. I found it really interesting that Ligon uses a lot of work that wasn’t necessarily made by him, such as the Robert Mapplethorpe photos. They made such a strong impact on him; they became a part of his identity.

Katarina, Collage, 2011

Camille, Collage, 2011

What was it like working with artist Mariah Garnett and creating a collage on personal identity?

Rachel: Working with Mariah was exciting and slightly challenging. Before getting started on our projects, we were able to watch a film project in which Mariah delved into her own identity by drawing on history, storytelling, and her own personal relationships.

Nicole S.: Mariah’s work really offers a snapshot of her world, and I tried to keep that in mind while I searched for images to include in my collage. Her video felt personal, and I wanted to achieve that in the piece I created.

Nicole C.: Going into the project, I was really excited to collect images that inspired me. Glenn Ligon: AMERICA feels to me like not only a collection of brilliant works but also a collection of messages he wanted to show the world. I brought this into my project and tried to broadcast messages about myself that I wanted to show the world.

Nicole S., Collage, 2011

Nicole C., Collage, 2011

Azalie: I hope that other people who decide to go see Glenn Ligon: AMERICA will feel inspired to create their own reactions to the artwork too because creation definitely adds a rich dimension to viewing that cannot be achieved in any other way.

Rachel: Doing this project presented a concept to me that I had never thought of before— defining oneself by creating a relationship between external entities and ideas. Instead of creating a direct representation of “me,” I was able to portray an idea of myself through the linked presentation of other sources, just as Glenn Ligon does.

Azalie, Collage, 2011

Rachel, Collage, 2011

Sarah Jesse, Director of Community and School Programs, and Eduardo Sanchez and Ben Shaffer, Education Coordinators

This Weekend at LACMA: Members-Only Film Event, Family Sunday Activities, and More

January 6, 2012

Tonight is a sold-out special event exclusively for members of LACMA members, and/or members of LACMA Film Club, Film Independent, or the New York Times Film Club—Glenn Close will be here in person for a conversation with Elvis Mitchell. They’ll discuss her long and astounding career on stage, television, and film, including her latest film, Albert Nobbs, which will screen following the conversation.  (No more tickets remain… this is why you need to be a Film Club member!)

Andell Family Sundays returns from its holiday break with a new theme for the month of January, inspired by the Chinese New Year. Celebrate the Year of the Dragon by checking out Ai Weiwei’s large, outdoor Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads and get inspired to make masks, or other animal-inspired art. Don’t forget, Andell Family Sunday activities are free for the whole family.

Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, installation view, © Ai Weiwei, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Sunday evening, pianist Joel Fan will perform pieces by Scrianbin, Rachmaninoff, and Gershwin for our free Sundays Live concert series.

And of course we have many exhibitions on view! Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud is closing next week, with Glenn Ligon, Mural Remix, and Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World all closing soon after.

Scott Tennent

An Aztec Offering on View in Contested Visions

January 4, 2012

The Aztec cache known as Ofrenda 7, on view in the exhibition Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, is one of some 130 offerings that were discovered within the Aztec’s Templo Mayor in recent years.

The Aztecs buried offerings that came from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Bringing objects from these remote areas demonstrated the Aztec’s reach and power. The objects also functioned as a microcosm of the universe. Offering 7, recovered from the Huitzilopochtli side of the twin pyramid, dates to a construction period associated with emperor Moctezuma I (r. 1440–69) or Axayactl (r. 1469–81). Its contents—largely aquatic material such as seashells, freshwater fish, coral, and reptiles—evoke the layers of the cosmos, from the watery underworld to the surface of the earth. The offering also includes effigies of Xiuhtecuhtli and Tlaloc, the gods of fire and rain, who together preside over the gift and establish cosmic order.

To install Offering 7, the Museo del Templo Mayor’s archeaologist Fernando Carrizosa Montfort and chief conservator María Barajas Rocha spent several days at LACMA. Here, Mr. Carrizosa Montfort explains the complex meanings of this remarkable piece during the installation at LACMA.

The Latin American department

Utopian Dreams in American Art

January 3, 2012

One of the most memorable moments upon my first guard duty in the American art galleries in the Art of the Americas Building was the discovery of two paintings with “allegro” in their title, painted a hundred years apart, and apparently having little in common. Both Thomas Cole’s L’Allegro and Rolph Scarlett’s Allegro advantageously fit into the definitions of allegro: one being a mental state, the other a musical composition. And though broad schism would place one in the nostalgic pastoral era and the other in the futuristic abstraction era, there was to me a mysterious albeit strange affinity they both shared. For it was not the art of escape I found but rather one of re-idealization, a transcendental adventure of powerful aesthetic and politically moral European forces that were still able to cast a spell and direct the American artistic imagination. Once again I would find myself in the complex world of utopian romanticism and neoclassicism.

Thomas Cole, L’Allegro, 1845, gift of the Art Museum Council and The Michael J. Connell Foundation

In the early 1800s, Thomas Cole was a renowned romantic landscape painter whose vision and belief portrayed America as unbounded nature, an earthly paradise. He founded the Hudson River School, extending his belief in the divinity of American wilderness and biblical allusions to the hand of God and a promised land. His Catskill Mountains paintings captured the idealism of the new world, which of course was rapidly changing. Also, it was the age of revolution. An ardent romantic, Cole would travel to Europe and study the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and Jacob van Ruisdael, some of which are present in the galleries on the third floor of the Ahmanson Building. While observing those works, I imagined the powerful effect that neoclassicism had on Cole’s ideas and its strange mixture with gothic Christian elements. I started to believe it was like having a new subject matter but still intensely about the same thing. For him, it would again and again be the sunrise and sunset, the intensely lit sky above a deep verdant greenery, aglow with white bleaching out the blue morning in a heavenly moment, while the soft residue of slim clouds, edged with gold strands of sunrays, disappear in the beyond. So to find Thomas Cole’s artistry tethered to the very lines of John Milton’s baroque verse is to imagine its profound effect. Greco-Roman ruins, a viaduct, and ancient costumed figures in Bacchus jollity “On the light fantastic toe” would give L’Allegro an unusually physical presence. To have learned the meaning of the title (“the happy man”), and then to have read the poem in which mirth and the very landscape, a neoclassic dream, which to me is made even more romantic in Thomas Cole’s beautifully realized setting, is to understand this painting and the powerful emotion underpinning its vision—to wed an orderly joyful past to a romantic Eden.

Rolph Scarlett, Allegro, c. 1944, gift of Fannie and Alan Leslie

Rolph Scarlett’s art is, mercifully, within the framework of my own experience, such that the impulses for his painting are largely hidden in my lack of understanding of him as a painter. On a search of his earlier work, I found he is clearly an abstractionist, though he would pass through several iterations. He was praised as a great colorist. Scarlett’s nonobjective painting was greatly inspired by a search for universal order. During the 1930s and 1940s, geometric abstraction became his key form of expression. The musical obsession of Wassily Kandinsky, a hero of Scarlett’s, had a profound influence on Scarlett’s art. And this is where I find that the cosmic order may have very well played against the backdrop of a world at war. Counterintuitively, Allegro attempts to capture order through a striking sense of music. The painting’s vertical rectangular bands, though in bright color, remind me of those slabs in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Scarlett’s sense of space has a 3-D quality, where the circular celestial spheres, for me, are something symbolically prescient in his cosmic order. Musical tonality and scale imbue the strong colors, and one almost expects to hear their graduation from ruby red to crimson, ending in their pinkish hue or the pulsating purples and wines. A rhythmic beat is scattered in black holes with areolas of green that puncture the space. The non-geometrical backdrop rises in melodic smoke, a cloudy presence that leaches soft palettes of turquoise against a partial grey-and-black void that lies behind the colors. Rolph Scarlett conceived a cosmic composition of sheer dynamic form in perpetual motion— a painting as a sort of intergalactic leap of his transcendental longing into the mysticism of a musical score.

Hylan Booker

The Year on Unframed

January 2, 2012

On the last day of 2011, we, the editors of Unframed, took a look back on our favorite blog posts of the last year. Charged with each coming up with five favorites proved impossible—we all came back with at least ten, and we overlapped only a little. So instead, we look back on Unframed’s 2011 by a few different themes.

It’s hard to believe the Resnick Pavilion is only a little over a year old. Its inaugural exhibitions were still on view when the year began. Fashioning Fashion in particular was a goldmine of great blog posts. Two of our favorites from the exhibition’s latter months were a how-to guide for making the paper wigs created for the exhibition’s mannequins, and a historic explanation of where the phrase “mad as a hatter” came from.

A wig from Fashioning Fashion

Our new restaurant and bar, Ray’s and Stark Bar, opened last February and yielded a few interesting posts on the décor—one on the pattern based on a design by Bernard Kester, who is also featured in the California Design exhibition, and another on the teacups on view in the restaurant. Our favorite Ray’s-related post, however, was about the herb garden he planted right outside the galleries.  

Chef Morningstar in his garden. Photo by Lauren Noble

Behind-the-scenes peeks showing the installation of artworks or exhibitions are always fun. Three of our favorites documented Bruce Nauman’s Human NaturelLife Death/Knows Doesn’t Know, Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, and the ancient Aztec eagle warrior in Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World. We also loved one de-installation post—in which Richard Serra’s Sequence dangled high in the sky while it was removed from BCAM earlier this year.

Serra's Sequence moves out

Tim Burton was by far the most popular exhibition of the year, and the same can be said for all of the blog posts we did on the exhibition. Our favorites of the bunch were a peek at Burton Selects—an adjunct exhibition in which Burton himself curated a selection of Burton-esque works from the collection—and an interview with Tim Burton’s high school art teacher. Most inspiring was sales associate Matt Liberman’s observations of the giddy inspiration felt by so many people as they came out of the show. 

”]California Design, 1935–1960: “Living in a Modern Way” has contained a trove of great stories (including some told by the designers themselves), which we began telling well before the show even opened! Some of our favorites have been the story of the acquisition of the Swinger camera, and exhibition co-curator Bobbye Tigerman’s advice on how to start your own midcentury design collection. Also tangentially related was Staci Steinberger’s look at the California pottery that found its way into Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers.

Watts Towers (detail)

Every exhibition yields great Unframed content. Some of our other favorite exhibition-related posts of the year:

Thanks for reading all year—here’s to 2012!

Scott Tennent, Alex Capriotti, and Jenny Miyasaki 



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