Alight Anew in Indian Yellow

March 19, 2012

Conservator John Hirx immersed in Jesús Rafael Soto's Penetrabile, 1990.

The Jesús Rafael Soto sculpture, Penetrabile, a favorite of visitors posting to Flickr, has a new look. The piece invites one to plunge into the colorful soft plastic tubing and regard the world from within a forest of glowing color.

Head objects conservator John Hirx recently oversaw the transformation of the piece. The original chartreuse tubing was replaced with new tubing in a shade that one of John’s colleagues described as “Indian yellow.” (Conservators are precise about such things, and John notes by way of historical interest that the term “Indian yellow” is derived from a color popular in traditional Indian miniature painting made by feeding mango leaves to cows, then collecting and drying their urine to extract the pigment—today, the pigment is synthetic, as the original method was hazardous to the cows. The tubes are not made with this pigment, but the color is a close approximation.)

Exchanging all of the tubes was no small task. John estimates that the piece requires 20,000 linear feet of the specially manufactured plastic tubing, and a complete back up set is on hand to facilitate ongoing maintenance. There are between 2,000 and 2,500 tubes suspended from the overhead grid. It took two teams working 2.5 full days just to swap out the tubes, each of which was precut to the perfect length to rest lightly on the ground, resulting in a gentle bend that catches the light. John noted that, right now, between about 11 am and 1 pm, when the sun passes across the sky overhead, those tubes sparkle and glisten in the midday sunlight.

Penetrabile, on loan from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, is on view on the LA Times Central Court at LACMA for at least another year.

Amy Heibel

This Weekend at LACMA: Nowruz Celebration, Robert Adams, Ellsworth Kelly, In Wonderland and More

March 16, 2012

Happy Iranian New Year! This weekend at LACMA we are celebrating Nowruz with a full day of free activities all across campus on Sunday from 11:30 am to 7 pm. The day begins with traditional Persian music, dancing, and costumes and continues with storytelling and calligraphy for kids as well as a Haft-Sîn display. The award ceremony for the 2012 Farhang Short Film Festival will occur in Brown Auditorium, followed by a screenings of the top films from the festival. The celebration will be capped off with a live musical performance by Iranian pop star KamyR. Visit for a complete and detailed list of events.

Things over at Broad Contemporary Art Museum are hopping! This weekend is an excellent opportunity to see the newly opened photography exhibition, Robert Adams: The Place We Live, a retrospective of the seminal photographer’s forty-year career. Also in BCAM on the second floor, Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings continues through April 22. Chris Burden’s futuristic city, Metropolis II, will be in action all weekend but be sure to check the schedule for specific operating times before you plan your visit.

Robert Adams, New development on a former citrus-growing estate, Highland, California, 1983, printed 1988, Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund, © 2012 Robert Adams

Installation view, Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings, Ellsworth Kelly, Purple/Red/Grey/Orange, 1988, Graphic Arts Council Discretionary Fund, © 2012 Ellsworth Kelly

On the third floor, some of BCAM’s artworks, including Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog(Blue) and Cracked Egg (Red), will be deinstalled on March 25, so you have just a few more days to see these iconic works of art before they go off view for a while.

Gallery view Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog(Blue) and Cracked Egg (Red), The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica; John Baldessari, Buildings=Guns=People: Desire, Knowledge, and Hope (with Smog), 1985-89, The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica

This weekend is also a great opportunity to swing by the Resnick Pavilion to catch both California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way” and In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States. Members get to see In Wonderland for free. If you’re here Sunday, stick around for a free concert in the Bing Theater from our Sundays Live concert series, featuring UCLA Philharmonia.

Have a great weekend, and we hope to see you here!

Jenny Miyasaki

Levitated Mass: What Next?

March 15, 2012

Now that the 340-ton megalith has completed its 11-night, 105-mile journey, what happens next? I asked John Bowsher, project manager for Levitated Mass, that very question. “The spectacle’s over,” he said. “Now we make the artwork.”

As difficult as it was to transport the giant boulder from Jurupa Valley to the middle of Los Angeles, that is only the beginning of the process of realizing Michael Heizer’s sculpture. With all elements of the artwork now gathered in one place, Heizer will make the trip from Nevada to Los Angeles to oversee the placement of the boulder atop the 456-foot-long slot already constructed in the earth along the Sixth Street side of LACMA’s campus.

Megalith and slot slated to become part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Michael Heizer, photo © 2012 by Museum Associates/LACMA

Or, mostly constructed. In fact about 75 feet of the slot remains to be dug—we had to leave the land flat until the massive transporter rolled onto campus. Once the transporter is disassembled (already under way) and its parts are trucked out, work on completing the slot will begin. (For more on the construction of the slot, see this article on County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website.)

Slot slated to become part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Michael Heizer, photo © 2012 by Museum Associates/LACMA

Meanwhile, as the transporter is taken apart, a 700-ton gantry is being assembled to place the megalith atop the slot. The gantry is a steel framework that will be able to lift and lower the boulder as well as move it horizontally (as much as 60 feet). As the gantry positions the boulder, it will be secured by pins to the steel shelves jutting out from the center of the slot. This will secure the boulder to the slot and will safeguard it against seismic activity. Once pinned, Heizer will strategically place steel wedges between the boulder and the shelves.

The final element of the artwork to be completed will be the surrounding 2.5 acre site, comprised of a compressed decomposed granite.

How long will all of this take? A couple of months at least. For the moment we anticipate opening Levitated Mass to the public in late spring or early summer. We will update you with an opening date in the coming weeks.

Scott Tennent

The Place I Lived

March 13, 2012

When I first saw the photos in the retrospective Robert Adams: The Place We Live, in particular, Longmont, Colorado (1979), which is a black-and-white photo that depicts the Boulder County Fairgrounds at night, I felt an uncomfortable sense of pride and a strange sense of resilience. My memories of the Boulder County Fair burn bright. I won innumerable goldfish there, stuffed myself with countless reams of cotton candy, and chickened out of riding nearly every single ride.

Adams’s photo out of context is stunning. One lit-up ride rises up into blackened clouds like an electrified jellyfish in the darkest depths of the ocean. Lights of other rides set the bottom half of the photograph ablaze. In the background, you can make out the faint silhouette of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—a majestic backdrop that is omnipresent in my childhood memories.

Robert Adams, Longmont, Colorado, 1979, Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

As a child, I believed that there were only two notable landmarks in my hometown: the turkey factory and the Boulder County Fairgrounds. The turkey factory, called Longmont Foods at the time, was located, appropriately, on Main Street of Longmont, Colorado, just a couple of miles down the road from the farming equipment company that my father owned (and still does). Railroad tracks lined the south side of the factory; its cars thundered by three to four times a day, causing the closest thing to a traffic jam my town will ever see. At certain times in the morning and the evening, the turkey factory produced the unmistakable—and nauseating—scent of death and not-right hotdogs, which blanketed the area within a half-mile radius for a good hour or so. Tractor trailers mounted with cage after cage of plump, protesting turkeys shed clouds of white feathers through town as they made their way to slaughter.

Just across the street from the factory was a tiny building that must have, once upon a time, acted as a real-life train depot. During my childhood, however, it was a Domino’s Pizza, a bail bond agent, a real estate company, a bodega, a Mexican restaurant . . .  What it is now—if anything—I have no idea. Nothing ever stayed there—nothing ever could. The conditions were that unbearable.

In fact, as a teenager, this was a perfect metaphor for my feelings about my hometown. Longmont was the turkey factory, and I was the little train depot grasping desperately for an identity that allowed me to survive in that place.

Robert Adams, Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1969, Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

Though I feel a personal connection to some of Adams’s photos because I grew up in a region that he photographed, I don’t think you have to be from the area to derive the stark tension—even the irony—inherent in his subjects as he pits man against nature time and again. For instance, in the photo above, the gas station sign in the foreground marks the “frontier” of technology, of man’s impingement on the actual, natural frontier in the background. Likewise, in Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs, Colorado, a lone street sign, “Darwin Pl,” ironically, and I think cruelly, marks the place of the skeleton of a cookie-cutter-house-in-the-making, as the mountains dissolve into the background.

Robert Adams, Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1969, Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

Though I don’t often return to my hometown, the place I once lived is always with me and most likely always will be.

Jenny Miyasaki

Watts Towers Q&A with Artist Dominique Moody

March 12, 2012

Last year, LACMA began a partnership with the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs to work toward the long-term preservation of Watts Towers. Lucas Casso, an intern with LACMA’s Department of Curatorial Planning has been conducting interviews with artists and others who have been involved in or influenced by the Towers.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I traveled to Watts to interview assemblage artist Dominique Moody. Dominique is currently the R Cloud Artist in Residence and works on East 107th Street, only a stone’s throw from the Watts Towers. Moody’s work was recently featured in a yearlong solo exhibition at the Watts Towers Art Center and can be seen on her website.

Moody and I first walked around the property on which she lives and works, including the installation version of her NOMAD project, the final product of which will give her a traveling studio and living space. After seeing some of her works, we sat down to talk about the Watts Towers.

Dominique Moody

Lucas Casso:  From what I understand, you have moved around and lived many places in your life. When was your first encounter with the Watts Towers?

Dominique Moody: Back in the early 1980s or late 1970s, I moved to California with a few members of my family from the East Coast. We took the train down to L.A. and the two things we wanted to see were the Towers and Olvera Street. The Towers—because I come from a creative family—were this wonderful, unusual environment. At the time there were no fences around it and you could literally just walk into them. It was this very magical place. It was so different too because it was sitting smack in the middle of a neighborhood. As a creative person, I felt in awe of the idea that it was not just public art that was commissioned and created and sanctioned, but it was a work that came out of being in a place—not only by a single person but then also with the response of the community.

That really touched me, and I didn’t really understand it in terms of putting it into words at the time, but it really tapped into me artistically as something I had not found as an experience through my arts education. We didn’t go into exploring that kind of art, but I had experienced it going through places like the South, where you would see things that people expressed. It wasn’t even often called “art” or the individuals called “artists,” but they just did it because they needed to do it.

LC: What do you think is the role of the Towers in the arts community?

DM: Within the arts community, I think it is certainly multilayered. I think the arts community itself is multi-layered, now more than ever. There is the institutional arts community, then there are the people who create, and then there are the people who appreciate the art, support it, and collect it. Not all of them have the same perspective on a piece of work.

I marveled at Rodia’s tenacity. His focus to keep up on a piece of work like that for so long . . . Today, for most artists, if you haven’t done your thing in two or three years you’re almost washed up!  The raw essence of the Towers is that they were created by a man out of his creative genius. And he gave it to a community, so the community then ends up playing a role that is unusual in art. Even though it was created by an individual, the community had this relationship with him in order for it to happen—they could have chased him out.

One of the reasons I came here is that if you take an unusual idea and you try to create that idea in an environment that is not accepting, it’s not going to happen. You are constantly going to butt up against people who won’t tolerate it. And I wanted to be in a neighborhood that would be excited and tolerate my creative passion. And I couldn’t have chosen a better place.

Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, 1921–1954, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

LC: You work—almost literally—in the shadows of Watts Towers. Has your perspective on them changed, being so close day after day?

DM: My perspective has actually grown, especially being this close. If you come by and you’re just visiting for one day and you’re seeing it in that one moment, it could be incredibly memorable, just that singular moment. But when you’re here in the early morning, at night, in the rain, you’re here during events and tours, you’re here when there are problems, it becomes a living thing. It becomes much more alive to you. I have grown to appreciate being able to see it in all of those forms. It gives it so much more depth.

Seeing that genius and living so close to it, I almost feel that there is an energy that gets pulled to this area because of it. And that energy sometimes has been both very productive and sometimes has kind of been an energy that’s not controllable. So living here, I sense it even more so. And it has felt like a real privilege to live in the neighborhood, with the neighbors and the history, with that kind of genius.

LC: As an assemblage artist, do you draw inspiration from the Towers, or have they shaped your work in any way?

DM: Yes, and even in the very beginning, in the 1980s, I had always been intrigued by certain types of mediums. Mosaic was one of them. But because of the fact that it can be so heavy, I moved around too much to initially think that I could do mosaic. But then seeing Simon Rodia use this stuff he found along the railroad track and had dug up in the yard and hauled home from his work, I realized there is a whole world of materials that are literally just littered everywhere that could be tremendous resources for me. I learned things in terms of the aesthetics of how these strange, unrelated materials could be so beautiful together. It still informs my work even when I’m not working in mosaic—his way of taking the color and the shape of the material that articulate where it’s going to go next.

Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, 1921–1954, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

LC: How do you think Rodia felt when he left the Towers? What do you think the process was in leaving it and in deciding that it was finished?

DM: It would be an interesting time just to have been there—not necessarily to have asked him a question, but to have been there to watch him in the process of letting it go. For me it has never been hard to let the pieces go because the work has been so personally narrative that I have lived those experiences. So when it’s time for the pieces to go, I don’t feel disconnected to the experience.

He’s an interesting person because I think his answer would not have been formalized. I feel that even if he only said a couple words that the authenticity of those words would have been phenomenal. I think the bottom line is: You’re ready, it’s ready, and that’s it. Then you’re done.

If I had been a kid at that time, I probably would have been the kid that bugged him the most because I would have always been there, and I would have asked him everything about what he was doing. But they would not have been questions about “why” because I would have accepted all of it. I tend to think that sometimes adults will ask the “why” of it rather than just accepting that this is magic happening.

Lucas Casso, LACMA Intern for Department of Curatorial Planning

This Weekend at LACMA: Levitated Mass Arrives, Robert Adams Opens, Charles White Family Day, and More

March 9, 2012

It’s a heavy weekend here at LACMA—about 340 tons, to be exact. For details about the arrival of the megalith for Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass on Friday night/early Saturday morning, we’ve put together a guide that will help you navigate the route and get the best views.

Megalith slated to become part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, en route to La Mirada, during transport to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 5, 2012, © Michael Heizer, photo by Tom Vinetz

Tonight, Jean Renoir’s legendary comedy, Rules of the Game, and Jacques Becker’s Casque d’or  round out our exhibition film series, “Ellsworth Kelly Selects.” Before you head over to the Bing Theater for the double feature, swing by Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings, a retrospective of Kelly’s prints, on view through April 22.

Just below Ellsworth Kelly: Prints in Paintings in BCAM, Metropolis II is running—be sure to check the hours of operation before planning your visit.

On Saturday, after you’ve watched the boulder roll down Wilshire to LACMA (and have gone home to take a nap), you and your family should head to Family Day at Charles White Elementary School from 11 am to 1 pm.  It is a great opportunity to see A is for Zebra, a playful, imaginative, kid-centric exhibition curated as part of Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-siteA is for Zebra closes for good on March 30.

Photo by Christine Choi

A spotlight is on the Bing Theater on Saturday evening, where the eleventh annual LACMA Muse Young Directors Night will take place. One part competition, one part mentoring by a panel of industry luminaries, Young Directors Night is an annual showcase of short films by emerging filmmakers in Los Angeles, with one crowned “best in show” by the audience and the panel.

This year’s event is sold out, but there will be a standby line forming at 6 pm on Saturday night near the Hammer Building Ticket Office. As a Muse member, however, you’ll get advance notice of ticket sales (and discounts) for next year’s event (not to mention countless other fun events throughout the year, including Muse Art Walk and Costume Ball).

Opening Sunday in BCAM is Robert Adams: The Place We Live, a major retrospective of Robert Adams’s seminal photographs. Selected and sequenced by the photographer himself, The Place We Live features nearly three hundred photographs spanning a career that is more than four decades long. Robert Adams is renowned for his chronicling of the transforming landscape of the American West. Members get a sneak preview today and tomorrow before the exhibition opens to the public.

Robert Adams, Interstate 25, Eden, Colorado, 1968, printed 2006, Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

Also Sunday, LACMA is hosting a conversation at 2 pm about artist Leonora Carrington, who is featured in the exhibition In Wonderland, between Teri Geis, research assistant on the exhibition, and Gloria Orenstein, longtime personal friend of Carrington. After the discussion, check out some of Orenstein’s personal correspondence with Carrington, along with nearly two hundred other works by female surrealist artists, in the exhibition.

Leonora Carrington, Green Tea (La dame ovale), 1942, collection of Hector Fanghanel, © 2011 Estate of Leonora Carrington/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA by Jorge Perez de Lara

Sunday brings Bridget Cooks to LACMA from her post at UC Irvine to discuss her new book, Exhibiting Blackness, which turns a critical eye on how American museums exhibit African American art. Andell Family Sundays are also in full swing—the theme this week is “Stitch It,” with a focus on our small exhibition of global textiles Common Places: Printing, Embroidery, and the Art of Global Mapping. Finally, Sundays Live tops off the weekend with a free concert in the Bing Theater featuring pianist Abbey Simon.

We hope to see you this weekend!

Jenny Miyasaki

Levitated Mass: Planning for the Final Leg of the Journey

March 8, 2012

For those of you following the journey of the megalith that is to be part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, Friday night is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Starting around 10–11 pm, the transporter will leave its last stop—on Figueroa Street just north of Florence Avenue—and will travel its final leg to LACMA.

Megalith slated to become part of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, during transport to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Michael Heizer, photo by Tom Vinetz

The transporter will travel north on Figueroa, going right past Exposition Park and the USC campus. It will turn left onto West Adams Boulevard and will cross Hoover, Vermont, and Normandie before turning right onto Western Avenue. From Western it will hang a left on Wilshire for the home stretch! (See the entire route the transporter has traveled.)

The big question, of course, is when all of this will happen. Unfortunately we can’t be very specific as the journey itself is complicated and it’s impossible to say how quickly or slowly the transporter will make each turn, get through each intersection, etc. For now, we are estimating that the transporter will arrive at the museum between 2–6 am.

The best way to keep tabs on the transporter’s whereabouts will be to follow @LACMA on Twitter. We will be in the truck, traveling the whole route with the boulder and keeping you up to date all night long. If you’re out there tweeting too, use hashtag #LevitatedMass so we can see what you’re saying and retweet to our audience. No matter where you are along the route, you’ll know when to expect the boulder to go by if you follow our Twitter updates.

You’ll have opportunities all along the route to see the transporter go by. Road closures along the route will occur as it moves, so plan accordingly. Our best advice is to travel on streets parallel to the transporter in order to drive unimpeded.

If you want to see it actually arrive at LACMA, here’s some more helpful info:

  • The museum itself will be closed, but the action is on Wilshire Boulevard.
  • Parking will be available in LACMA’s lot at the corner of Wilshire and Spaulding Avenue (free). Our underground Sixth Street lot will be closed.
  • Parking at the Petersen Museum, located on Wilshire and Fairfax, will also be available ($10, enter from Fairfax). You can try to find street parking too, but please read all signs in the area before parking.
  • There will be bathrooms available at Ogden and Wilshire, directly across the street from Urban Light.
  • Note that Stark Bar will be open regular hours—closing at 11 pm. We will have a coffee cart next to Urban Light starting at 11 pm.
  • Food trucks will be parked at Ogden and Wilshire—No Tomatoes and Waffles de Liege.

When the transporter finally gets to the museum, it will turn from Wilshire onto Fairfax and then enter the museum from behind LACMA West. It will pull up right next to the slot that is the other major component of the work. For Saturday and Sunday only, we’ll remove part of the construction fencing so you can get a good look at the transporter before it is disassembled. Starting Monday, everything goes under wraps—as much as you can put a 340-ton boulder under wraps. The next time you’ll get a chance to see it up close, it will be a finished artwork. As of now we are expecting to open Levitated Mass to the public in the early summer. Keep your eyes on Unframed or the Levitated Mass page for updates on an opening date.

Scott Tennent

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