This Weekend at LACMA: Levitated Mass, Children of the Plumed Serpent Closes, Summer Pass Offer, New Hours, and More

June 29, 2012

You’ve been hearing about Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass for some time now—if you haven’t had a chance come out to experience it, make it this weekend! The sculpture is free for anyone to see. As a reminder to those of you who live along the transport route, we’re offering you free admission to the rest of our galleries through Sunday. Just show us proof of residence in one of these zip codes!  Throughout July our free Andell Family Sundays activities will be inspired by Levitated Mass. Let your kids lead you through the 456-foot-long slot (one and a half football fields!), underneath the 340-ton boulder (50 elephants!), then gather on the other side to make some of your own art.

Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass, conceived 1969, realized 2012, made possible by gifts to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign from Jane and Terry Semel, Bobby Kotick, Carole Bayer Sager and Bob Daly, Beth and Joshua Friedman, Steve Tisch Family Foundation, Elaine Wynn, Linda, Bobby, and Brian Daly, Richard Merkin, MD, and the Mohn Family Foundation, and is dedicated by LACMA to the memory of Nancy Daly. Transportation made possible by Hanjin Shipping Co., © Michael Heizer

Closing this weekend is the wonderful exhibition Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico. The exhibition looks at art and objects of the late pre-Columbian and early colonial societies in Mexico, with emphasis on the deity Quetzalcoatl, founder of the Nahua, Mixtec, and Zapotec–dominated kingdoms of southern Mexico.

Effigy Censer in the Form of the Maize God, 1200–1400, Mexico, Yucatán, Mayapan, Museo Nacional de la Historia, Chapultepec, Mexico, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA, by Jorge Pérez de Lara

If you need still more incentive to come to LACMA this weekend, this is your last chance to receive three free months of membership with little more than the purchase of a single general admission ticket. Learn more about our Summer Pass here. We’ve said the offer is available through June 30, but just for you, we’re going to extend the offer one more day, through Sunday. Take a look at everything on view now as well as what’s coming up; we’re pretty sure you’re going to want to come back soon.

This weekend is also full of films and concerts. As mentioned on Unframed earlier this week, Dance Camera West 11th annual Dance Media Film Festival is now in full swing. It concludes today (Friday) in the Bing. This afternoon at 2pm you can see the Long Shorts Program, featuring eight short films on dance, followed this evening by a lively documentary tribute to Soul Train. Stop into BCAM while you’re here to see the dance-inspired exhibition Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol

Still from Philippe Baylaucq’s “Ora,” screening at LACMA on Friday

Tonight’s Jazz at LACMA is a fun way to kick off the weekend with a picnic and free concert, this week courtesy vocalist Judy Wexler. On Saturday evening in Hancock Park, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Cesar Castro performs a unique blend of Mexican, African, and Arabic sounds, known as son jarocho during Latin Sounds. Finally, on Sunday night the Encore Saxophone Quartet will perform works by Gerswin and others during our weekly free Sundays Live concert. 

Finally, a reminder about our new museum hours, which kick into effect on Sunday. As you may have heard already, we are adjusting our hours to better accommodate when visitors most want to be here (following from rigorous analysis of visitor patterns in the last few years). Our new hours, starting Sunday, are as follows:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday:  11am–5pm (closed Wedneday)

Friday: 11am–8pm

Saturday and Sunday: 10am–7pm

That said, our BP Grand Entrance area will remain open late so you can still enjoy Ray’s and Stark Bar, as well as free access to outdoor sculpture like Levitated Mass or Chris Burden’s Urban Light, plus evening events on the BP or in the Bing Theater as listed in our calendar.

Scott Tennent

Grandchildren of the Plumed Serpent

June 28, 2012

Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico closes this Sunday. As Quetzalcoatl embarks on the next leg of his journey, thanks to our most recent partnership with 826LA, he leaves behind another generation of artists and storytellers inspired by his handiworks—the grandchildren of the Plumed Serpent.

In 2010, when we began to think about ways to get the Los Angeles community involved with the exhibition, I was volunteering at 826LA, a local non-profit organization that encourages students aged 6–18 to develop their creative thinking and writing skills and foster the ambitions of young authors in their after-school tutoring and weekend workshops. Because of their focus on storytelling, they seemed a natural partner for Children of the Plumed Serpent. Together with 826LA’s Julius Diaz Panoriñgan, Director of Education, and Birte Klug, the Venice Programs Coordinator, we hatched a plan to introduce the next generation of Plumed Serpent aficionados to the visual storytelling techniques used in the painted codices featured in the show.

Birte, Julius, and I plunged ahead devising a series of eight weekend workshops at the Echo Park and Venice 826LA locations and LACMA to introduce the kids to the signs and symbols used by ancient artists. Over the course of the class they learned how painters communicated important life events like birth, marriage, and conquest, in addition to key places without words. With the help of the 826LA volunteers, the adventures and misadventures of Lord Eight Deer (a key figure in the exhibition) and his rival Lady Six Monkey came to life for the students and they began plotting their own pictorial histories.

One Sunday morning, several weeks ago, 826LA came to LACMA. Two school buses traveled from east and west to bring the students and their families to the exhibition. In the galleries, the budding storytellers reenacted episodes from the Codex Zouche-Nuttall for their families. The day culminated with everyone drawing their own personal codices. Twenty-first century symbols marked the important events in the lives of the grandchildren of the Plumed Serpent: graduation, summer visits to Six Flags or Disneyland, and friendship. This next generation of heroes called on the conventions of the codices and invented new names and titles for themselves such as 15 Teddy Bear or 9 Flower Falling Petal.

Three of the students—Hier Ávila, Dayanara Martinez, and Briseida Granados—spoke with me after their visit to LACMA to walk me through their codices and explain what the visit to the museum meant to them. Last year Hier’s basketball team won passes to Six Flags during a tournament. Their visit on August 30, 2011 became the subject of his codex. Like the Mixtec artists, Hier used red lines to divide the page into different scenes and he gave himself two names—5 Eagle and 3 Serpent—and his trusted companion, his puppy, was also baptized with a name—9 Flint.

Dayanara and Briseida both memorialized their families. Dayanara’s dad is from Oaxaca and she was impressed with the way the artists were able to communicate with only pictures. “It was hard at first,” she said, “but you can learn.” Briseida, the oldest in her family, remembered her first sleepover. “It’s tough when you’re the oldest because you have to do everything first so the first sleepover was a big deal.” Briseida told us that her father, an artist, was also inspired by the exhibition. He decorated a kitchen wall of their house with the day signs Eagle and Crocodile. She now sees them every day. The fact that these brightly colored pages, painted five centuries ago in Mexico, recorded an adventure epic without the use of any text, sparked the students’ imagination and brought Quetzalcoatl a new group of fans. Check out 826LA’s flickr site for additional photos from the Sunday workshop.

Victorial Lyall, Associate Curator, Latin American Art

Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol | Dance Camera West

June 27, 2012

Thursday and Friday in the Bing Theater, Dance Camera West will hold its 11th annual Dance Media Film Festival—featuring a variety of short films all about dance, from around the world. Currently on view in BCAM is the exhibition Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol, which also takes dance as its subject. We asked Sarah Elgart, Director of Artistic Development at Dance Camera West, for her thoughts on the exhibition.

Still from RJ Muna’s “Origami,” screeing at LACMA On Thursday

In the exhibition Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol, Los Angeles artist Sharon Lockhart engages in a kind of posthumous collaboration with the late Israeli dance composer Noa Eshkol.  Eshkol developed the Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWNN) system with the architect Avraham Wachman.  Although it’s unclear whether Eshkol ever performed her work—she was apparently unconcerned with critical acclaim—Eshkol was really also a choreographer who with her somewhat minimalist style and tone was reminiscent of Yvonne Rainer.  She and Wachman developed their notation system using a combination of numbers and symbols to define the motion of any limb around its joint, a system that reportedly has the ability to describe “virtually every perceptible movement of the body.”

Installation view of “Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol,” 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Walking into the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, where the arrival of the giant elevator alone provides a kind of performance and spectacle, what is immediately notable is the use of scale, both architecturally and in the work that is housed therein.  As such, Lockhart’s work is consistent with that notability. She works primarily with film and photography, using them to explore and gain insight into her subjects’ lives and work. In the first room however are Lockhart’s photographs, all hung vertically on the wall in contrast to Eshkol’s work, which is displayed in adjoining rooms horizontally. At first glance these photographs seem almost like drawings—apparent and seemingly scientifically accurate interpretations of Eshkol’s movement notation systems.  These photographs are of beautiful spheres, each with different distinguished shapes within, and they are slightly reminiscent of cubism and/or what one might find in an instructional drawing book dealing with perspective. However, while perusing these, I was drawn forward by the ever audible, rhythmic background sound of a metronome, inviting me to see what lies in the next rooms.  Here I was struck by the command of several large, rectangular structures, each one serving as a frontal projection screen for Eshkol’s dances.  What is immediately notable and powerful is that the dancers, mostly middle aged and into their seventies, are just about life size, and standing almost within reach.  Their faces are neutral, betraying no emotion, and in the space around the dancers are Eshkol’s tapestries, which appear almost like abstract paintings.  The tapestries, seen in the final rooms of the show, are beautiful, abstract wall carpets, stitched together with recycled bits of fabric, drawing, symbols, and writings.  The dances themselves are shot with static cameras, and succeed as straightforward and honest, un-manipulated documentation.  This honesty, and the deliberate choice of dancers who were neither svelte nor very young, makes Eshkol’s dance works remarkably refreshing in their simplicity; and in concert with Lockhart’s use of scale, they have a subtle impact. 

Still from Philippe Baylaucq’s “Ora,” screening at LACMA on Friday

With its patterned and mostly symmetrical choreography, Eshkol’s work is reminiscent in parts to the minimalist movement patterns used in the remarkable 3D thermal imaging film Ora by Philippe Baylaucq, which will appear in Dance Camera West’s upcoming Dance Media Film Festival at LACMA. Baylaucq innovatively uses heat emanating from the dancers’ bodies as the film’s sole light source, and as in Lockhart’s videos, the stark contrast of the dancers against a muted backdrop, coupled with unhurried, uniform choreography, draws attention to the negative space between the moving figures. Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol also brings to mind RJ Muna’s Origami, another film featured in the festival, that highlights the pattern and symmetry often created by minimalist movement.

Sarah Elgart, Director of Artistic Development, Dance Camera West

Michael Govan on Levitated Mass

June 26, 2012

LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan was among the speakers at Sunday’s dedication ceremony for Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass. Exclusively on Unframed, we offer a transcript of his remarks from the historic event:

Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass, conceived 1969, realized 2012, made possible by gifts to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign from Jane and Terry Semel, Bobby Kotick, Carole Bayer Sager and Bob Daly, Beth and Joshua Friedman, Steve Tisch Family Foundation, Elaine Wynn, Linda, Bobby, and Brian Daly, Richard Merkin, MD, and the Mohn Family Foundation, and is dedicated by LACMA to the memory of Nancy Daly. Transportation made possible by Hanjin Shipping Co., © Michael Heizer

I and many others have compared this sculpture to the megaliths of the earliest Neolithic peoples, to the granite monuments of Ancient Egypt, or even the colossal stone portrait heads of the oldest cultures of the Americas that we exhibited when we opened the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion that stands behind me. Those great objects recall the beginnings of art and human civilization.

It became a matter of pride, first for the ancient Romans, and then in the nineteenth century for Paris and London, to take Egyptian stone obelisks to mark their cities as great powers. Indeed, in the 1880s, envious of those European cities, New York procured at great expense and, as always when big stones are moved, thousands marveling at its transport by sea and then through city streets to its current home in Central Park next to what was then the new site of the fledgling Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Turning the Obelisk, taken from Henry H. Gorringe’s book “Egyptian Obelisks,” 1885 (London: John C. Nimmo), plate XXVII

Well, I am happy to say that in twenty-first century Los Angeles we need not envy European or other cities. We live in the most creative city on the planet, with more artists living here now than any city in human history. Out metropolis is distinguished certainly by the automobile, but also by perhaps the greatest diversity of cultures to ever gather in one place.

And we have the confidence to work with a California-born artist, Michael Heizer, to create a landmark for our own time and place—made from a California rock, and with the collaboration of contemporary skilled engineers and builders.

The artist here has created a thoroughly modern artwork, abstract, and challenging the traditional notions of sculpture. I can read it as a series of visual and visceral oppositions: weight and lightness, mass and emptiness, up and down, solid and line, organic and human-made, nature and culture. You will read it your own way. It makes the impossible possible. As the artist said to me: “When do you ever get to see the bottom of sculpture?” For me, it’s better than those ancient monuments because it is not an expression of the power of gods and kings, but rather of people—of the museum visitor that descends into an empty abstract space defined by linear concrete walls to see the monolith from below, virtually levitating in our beautiful California sky.

It is a monument to our own time and place, and our own aspirations as people. And, being made of stone, concrete, and steel, and engineered to withstand time, perhaps it will be here millennia forward to communicate those feeling to future civilizations.

I would like to thank most especially, the artist, Michael Heizer, for his inspiration, and this artwork he has given us.

Michael Govan

Critical Mass for Levitated Mass

June 25, 2012

Yesterday was opening day—finally!—for Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass. The artist himself was on hand (and was even quoted by NBC has saying it was the happiest day of his life!),  leading throngs of people through his artwork for the very first time.

Here are some photos of the day:

Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Photo by LACMA staff

Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Photo by LACMA staff

Photo by LACMA staff

Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Photo by Stefanie Keenan

If you didn’t get the chance to see it yesterday, don’t forget—as an outdoor sculpture in the park, Levitated Mass is free to experience any time, from morning till sunset. As a reminder to those of you who live in proximity to boulder’s transport route, don’t forget: we’re offering free admission to the rest of our galleries all week long if you have proof of residence in any of these zip codes.

Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday, to the donors who made Levitated Mass possible, and to Michael Heizer for realizing his artwork at LACMA!

Scott Tennent

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