New Acquisitions for Art Here and Now

July 31, 2012

Since 1963—before our doors on Wilshire Boulevard were even open!—LACMA has been supporting young and emerging Los Angeles artists through an annual acquisitions program, originally known as the Young Talent Award and now called Art Here and Now. One-time up-and-coming artists like Chris Burden, Mary Corse, Tim Hawkinson, and Mark Bradford have all been YTA/AHAN artists. More recently AHAN has resulted in acquisitions by Ruben Ochoa, Steve Roden, Aaron Curry, Zoe Crosher, and Mark Flores.

Art Here and Now: Studio Forum is the latest iteration of this program. Members join this group and then, along with LACMA curators, visit a variety of artists’ studios around L.A. Following a dialogue between AHAN members and curators about the works, LACMA acquires new works to enter its contemporary collection. This year, five artists have had works acquired by LACMA through AHAN: Studio Forum—Mark Hagen, William E. Jones, Sanya Kantarovsky, Dianna Molzan, and Brenna Youngblood.

Mark Hagen, To Be Titled (Subtractive and Additive Sculpture #8), 2012, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2012 Art Here and Now purchase

Mark Hagen draws inspiration from temporal and spatial contradictions and what he calls the “problem of orientation in a directionless field.” A key influence on Hagen’s work is Robert Smithson, whose own oeuvre displayed a fascination with geography, deep time, and a dystopian skepticism of technology. Hagen’s current body of work stems from an interest in amateur archaeology and serial forms borrowed from a minimalist vocabulary. To Be Titled (Subtractive and Additive Sculpture #8) is composed of slabs of obsidian that have been cut from a boulder and an aluminum frame of the artist’s design. Obsidian is a rock made when volcanic lava cools suddenly creating a hardened form while retaining an internal amorphous structure. This “material irony” is one of the attractions for Hagen, who is also fascinated by its multifarious symbolic and functional uses over the world—from Southeast Asia to the Americas. The obsidian slices or plates in To Be Titled are polished to a deep shine that further references the material’s uses as mirror in ancient Mexican cultures. He also alludes to Smithson’s notion of “mirror travel,” the collapsing of spatial and temporal references played with in his Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1969).

William E. Jones, Punctured, 2010, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2012 Art Here and Now purchase

William E. Jones’ digital video Punctured gathers one hundred images from a vast cache from the Farm Security Administration’s photography program (1935–44), which famously depict rural and urban life in the Depression and is now archived and publicly accessible on the Library of Congress’ website. Jones singles out negatives that had been rejected, or “killed,” by Roy Stryker, the head of the FSA, who was not trained as a photographer but an economist. For a number of years, Stryker had ultimate authority over which of 145,000 negatives were printed; nearly half of the negatives made from 1935-1943 were rejected, including negatives by Walker Evans, Theodor Jung, Carl Mydans, Marion Post Wolcott, among others. Stryker’s physical method of rejecting negatives was to punch a hole in the negative—puncturing the image.

Working from this informal collection of “killed” images, Jones works with photo editing software to create thousands of details, therefore creating the impression of a manual zoom out of the central image—a punctured hole. Jones describes the work as a “movie” rather than an animation although it is a collection or agglomeration of thousands of still images that he edits to create the impression of a motion picture.

Sanya Kantarovsky, The Man With The Black Coat, 2012, purchased with funds provided by Donna Kolb and Frank Masi through AHAN: Studio Forum, 2012 Art Here and Now purchase

Sanya Kantarovsky, The Third Librarian, 2012, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2012 Art Here and Now purchase

Sanya Kantarovsky spent his childhood in Russia before departing for his artistic education abroad. His current work is haunted by the aesthetic concerns of the Soviet era. The Third Librarian and The Man with the Black Coat are part of a body of paintings, sculptures, and drawings inspired by the writings of Soviet experimentalist Daniil Kharms. With economic and deadpan formal means, The Man with the Black Coat depicts a man in a blue suit with a pipe surrounded by two men in black coats—alluding to the forced disappearance of both Kharms and his writings under Stalin’s regime.

Kantarovsky uses a surrogate figure of sorts who bears a resemblence to the Monsieur Hulot character in the films of Jacques Tati. The Third Librarian isolates the nondescript shoes of this recurring character in another frozen moment that seems both comic and menacing. Through his use of isolated gestures and synechdocal elements, as well as his blurring of figure and ground, Kantarovsky combines and reconstitutes the art historical, literary, and personal references that populate his work.

Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2012, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2012 Art Here and Now purchase

Dianna Molzan’s practice lies in recontextualizing the fundamentals of painting by manipulating traditional materials and framing devices. Using common material elements (oil paints and canvas) she incises, unravels, and reworks the painting surface, oftentimes only leaving the stretcher bars intact. Untitled (2012) retains one L-shaped corner of a painted frame, but the central area typically occupied by the painted canvas exposes the support wall. From the other corner, a U-shaped stuffed-and-painted canvas resembling a velvet rope hangs down and makes a fragile connection back to the frame. In this painting as in others, Molzan tests how far an artist can go before a painting becomes an object rather than a picture plane.

Brenna Youngblood, M.I.A., 2011, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2012 Art Here and Now purchase

By 2007, Brenna Youngblood had abandoned the straight printed photograph as her medium of choice and began to integrate photography as source and surface material for her mixed-media paintings and constructions. Layering her own photographs of fragments of interior as well as figurative elements and eyes onto panels, canvases, and found surfaces, Youngblood’s practice became more painterly and abstract. Youngblood often incorporates elements from her personal archives, combining the subjective realm of personal souvenirs and recognizable cultural icons. Speaking about M.I.A., a large-scale, free-standing sculpture, Youngblood said, “When I was rummaging through old boxes, I found my grade school math book entitled Mathematics of Individual Achievement. I turned it over and on the back cover there was a logo design of a three-dimensional M.I.A., like a jungle gym, which became the inspiration for this piece.” The math book, in fact, became a point of departure for an entire recent body of work, which employs visual and material languages, arithmetic symbols, and equations.

Made of plywood in human-scale, or “jungle-gym scale,” M.I.A. invites circumambulation. Words and reading, such as “I AM” and “AIM” reveal themselves as a viewer interacts with the work. One may also see ‘missing in action’ as well as MIA, the popular Sri Lankan-British songwriter, singer, artist, director and activist, emerge as linguistic, figurative and cultural references. This is referred to as Youngblood’s “self-reflexive process,” in problem-solving, in relation to form, concept, and meaning.

Rita Gonzalez and Christine Y. Kim, Contemporary Art

The All New LACMA Store

July 30, 2012

Located in the Hammer Building, the LACMA Store recently re-opened after a dramatic remodel. Unframed’s Scott Tennent spoke to Grant Breding, AVP of retail and merchandising, about the store’s new look and new products.

The LACMA Store

What are some of the defining characteristics of the remodel?
With the renovations, the goal was to bring this space back to the 1960s and pretend that the ’80s didn’t happen—taking it back to the bones but also trying to evoke the feeling that the building had originally, which was simple but glamorous. We restored the columns back to their original form, and we restored a window that was covered over, opening the space up so that all this beautiful natural light comes in. Really it was just about simplifying the space so that you see the product. It’s not about the design of the space—it’s about what’s in the space.

Tell me about some of the products you’ve brought in.
I really like to draw on what’s special about Los Angeles and California. Arts and Crafts pottery is major. First of all, LACMA has the largest collection of Arts and Crafts materials out there, so it seems natural to me. And a lot of the stuff is still made—we have beautiful Arts and Crafts pottery vases and there are Batchelder tiles on display in the Art of the Americas Building [that are still being made today]. People love it. They get that this is about Los Angeles and that it happened in this county.

Peacock Tile

What was your approach for making the store reflect the museum’s encyclopedic collection?
There are certain elements that happen in all periods of time. For instance, there are stools from all different time periods, tiles from all different time periods. That was a fun way to approach it because it was like I was doing research. I would see all the different cultures and what they represented. The challenge is to find good quality items that are still made today that reflect an older time. Besides the Arts and Crafts, a couple things I’m very proud of would be finding hand-made, high-quality things like these hand-painted Turkish bowls. First of all, they’re stunning, but in addition to that they’re made by hand. It’s a traditional finely detailed painting method. It perfectly highlights Islamic art.

11″ Ozel Bowl

We also carry bags made by Dosa, a Los Angeles company. They’re very environmentally friendly and very creative. They are all made from fabrics from places like Mexico, India, and Africa, often using recycled materials, sewn and made by hand in Los Angeles. Every bag is unique. To me, it makes a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do. Another is the African stools. They’re elegant and sculptural. People seem to really respond to them. Again, these are made by hand. We’re supporting the original craftsmen who made it, which is very important to do.

The LACMA Store is right next to the Boone Children’s Gallery—what will kids and parents find in the store?
For children, my attitude is this: you teach kids skills like language and math, and you can teach them aesthetics as well. If you have really interesting design-oriented items that they can play with, they’re learning just because they’re handling them. Charles and Ray Eames were very concerned about getting beautiful things into people’s frame of reference, so that they knew it and could recognize it when they saw it. The Eames House of Cards is perfect for doing that. I also love the new Lego line of Frank Lloyd Wright houses. That’s a driving force for me when I’m finding things: it’s teaching along the way. We also have a large section on children’s books. This is a natural way for kids to learn about a really diverse collection because the selection spans all the time periods and artists. I would want parents to be able to come here and find a really good-quality book on art that they can use to teach their children more about something they found interesting in the museum that day.

Eames House of Cards

Let’s go from the kids’ bookshelf to the other side of the store: the newsstand. A good art newsstand is not always easy to come by. You’ve got a variety here—not just the typical art magazines but harder-to-find titles like Outpost Journal, A Magazine, Garage, and Condiment, as well as zines.
What’s great about magazines and periodicals is that they’re current and ever-changing. Every month or two you get a fresh outlook. Again, it’s a great way to articulate the entire collection. There are niche magazines on all the different areas that the museum addresses. It’s something that I really take a lot of interest in: finding the great magazines that address a certain topic. It keeps us fresh—it’s constantly changing, constantly relevant. I expect it to grow and grow. We’ll always be adding new magazines, always looking for the unique, individual magazines that you don’t always find everywhere. I want to have the hard-to-find magazines here. And zines are not only fun, they’re someone’s artistic vision. It’s a great way for people to get their art out into the world. They’re low-cost—$5 or $10. People collect them. And they’re endless. It’s an area that’s really exploded. A lot of people are working in this area, not just contemporary but all different types of art are addressed in these zines.

How does this store relate to the Art Catalogues store in the Ahmanson Building?
They perfectly complement each other in the sense that Art Catalogues’ focus is on specialized, rare, and out-of-print books as well as a finely curated selection of in-print titles. Dagny [Corcoran, who runs Art Catalogues] also goes deeper into topics and subjects in contemporary art with her offerings, which is great because she is an authority and has the ability to really find rare and special items. Whereas the plaza store is a more traditional museum store but customized to reflect LACMA’s entire collection through unique and special art products and books with a broader scope and a more general tone. I want this store to be an interesting experience for people when they walk in here. It’s relatable—something they know and expect—but they’re going to find something unexpected as well.

Scott Tennent

This Weekend at LACMA: Daido Moriyama Closes, Cecilia Noël at Latin Sounds, John Baldessari Conversation, and More

July 27, 2012

This weekend is your last chance to see a few stellar exhibitions and installations at LACMA. In the Pavilion for Japanese Art, Fracture: Daido Moriyama comes to a close. The exhibition gathers a range of photographs from Moriyama’s career, from his gritty black-and-white images to more recent color work and a selection of photo books.

Daido Moriyama, Beauty Parlor, Tokyo, 1975, LACMA, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Daido Moriyama

Also closing this weekend is The Way of the Elders: The Buddha in Modern Theravada Traditions, on view in the South and Southeast Asian galleries in the Ahmanson Building. The show presents a variety of depictions of the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni produced in Burma (Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand over a 200-year period.

Buddha Shakyamuni, Burma (Myanmar), Mandalay, 20th century, gift of Gerald Stockton and S. Louis Gaines

In addition to those exhibitions there is plenty more to see. In BCAM alone you’ll find The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White, Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol, Michael Heizer: Actual Size (also on view in the Resnick Pavilion), and Robert Therrien. This might be your last chance to see the Therrien exhibition—it closes next week.

Tonight is the final French Film Friday, and we’re sending the series out with Remorques, from 1941, and the suspenseful Wages of Fear, starring Yves Montand.

On the concert front, pianist/vocalist Bill Cantos plays Jazz at LACMA tonight. Cantos has five albums to his name, including his most recent, Love Wins: New Standards for the New Millennium. At Latin Sounds on Saturday, the brilliant Cecilia Noël brings her self-described “salsoul.” During Sundays Live, violinist Pavel Šporcl and pianist Svetlana Smolina perform works by Bach, Dvořák, and more.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon make sure to stop in to Art Catalogues in the Ahmanson Building for a conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist and John Baldessari, presented in collaboration with the Insitute of the 21st Century and in celebration of the publication of John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonne Volume 1: 1956–1974. The event will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Scott Tennent

Fun for Families this Summer

July 26, 2012

Hold on to summer, families! I always panic this time of year. I’m just not ready for summer to be over. Although I haven’t had a lazy summer in decades, I still hold tight to the fantasy of three playful months dedicated to fun. This year, to make things worse, stores have been pushing back-to-school sales since July 5 because kids now go back to the classroom mid-August.

Here are some tips to help you hold on strong to summer:

Every Friday in August: Free outdoor films!

Bring your blankets, low-slung camping chairs, and popcorn to watch movies outdoors, in the park, under the stars! We worked with the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival to put together five nights of great animated films (Bolt, Puss in Boots, How to Train your Dragon and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) plus some super creative shorts from Pixar and independent filmmakers from around the world. All films are kid-oriented (rated either G or PG) but are still fun for adults. And, they are free!

Video still: Jack-Jack Attack, dir. Brad Bird, 2005

Every Sunday in August: Andell Family Sundays

Riffing on “dog days of summer” we’ve got Dragon Days of summer! From 12:30 to 3:30 on Sundays in August families can make dragon puppets out of Chinese take-out boxes, design royal dragon badges, and cool down from the August heat in LACMA’s gallery dedicated to dragons! (Don’t worry: only one of the dragons is fire-breathing.) Go dragon-spotting on your own or join an interactive tour with one of our Gallery Educators to learn about these mythological beasts featured in works of art from Asia and Europe. Free for NexGen members!

Dragon Puppet Workshop

China, Badge (Lizi) of the Imperial Prince with Dragon, late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), mid-17th century

Labor Day: The Last Day of Summer!

Brighten up. We’ve planned a fun way to spend the end of summer. September 3 is Target Free Holiday Monday which means free general admission for everyone, live music, tours, and more! Be sure to check out the colorful and innovative Mola textiles from Panama either on-your-own or on an interactive tour with a gallery educator. You and your kids will love the designs featuring a mix of pop culture (Felix the Cat!), politics, and advertising slogans. Plus, the combinations of the different fabrics are stunning. And, if another summer has passed and you (still) didn’t get that Caribbean vacation, you can dance and sway to the reggae and calypso beats of Panamanian musician Rogelio Mitchell. He and his friends will perform sets at 12:30 and 2:45 pm on the museum’s plaza with tunes that will transport you, make you smile, and help you hold on to summer perhaps a bit longer!

San Blas, Kuna People, Felix the Cat, Panama, last quarter of 20th century

Karen Satzman
Director of Youth and Family Programs

The Sun and Other Stars: Q&A with Charlie White

July 25, 2012

On view now, The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White fills three galleries in BCAM with photographic portraits, videos, and other ephemera by these two California artists. Grannan’s photographs depict adults captured on the street in front of stark white walls, while White’s portraits largely depict blue-eyed blonde teenagers in a studio setting. Unframed’s Stephanie Sykes talked to White in more detail about his works in the exhibition.

Charlie White, Girl Posed (left) and Boy Posed (right), 2008, courtesy of the artist and Loock Galerie, Berline, © Charlie White

What questions animated the work currently on display in the exhibition?

The question that resides beneath most of my work regards the location of tension, and how tension, both within the image itself, and occurring between the viewer and the image, results in a critical relation to social and/or personal tolerances. From this investigation (which I’ve approached through various subjects—from the monster, to the surrogate, to historical benchmarks), I have arrived at the American teen image and the power of this subject in American culture.

As a result, the exhibition spans a few years of related work dating back to 2004, when I first began to document teens and to collect teen-related ephemera. However, image-wise, the starting point within the exhibition is the two portraits, Boy Posed and Girl Posed, both 2008. These two works mark my transition to portraiture and, more importantly, to the overt study of teen subjects. Although the teen image has been present in my work for much longer, it was around the time of creating these works that I began to strip away fiction, narrative, and place, and to focus on subject alone, clinically and without story. From these works evolved a number of new directions including film (American Minor), animation (OMG BFF LOL, and most recently A Life in B Tween) , and performance (Casting Call). I think the exhibition covers all of these tangents and offers a varied understanding of how my questioning of tension has arrived at the complex and lush space of the popular teen image and its numerous forms.

Charlie White, From the series “Casting Call,” 2010, LACMA, purchased with funds from the Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Charlie White

Can you tell us how you chose, approached, and worked with the subjects depicted in your portraits?

This varied. In Casting Call, I followed an industry standard and laid that out to be observed by the public, and in the studio images I enacted a somewhat similar model—casting, selecting, meeting, and ultimately shooting each subject. Working with minors requires the parents’ involvement, and in many cases I came to know my subjects and explain what I was aiming to capture in their image. I do not ever know my subject, however; that is, I do not photograph people I have a personal understanding of. My subjects are selected based on their image, what they evoke. For example, the young woman in Girl Posed had magical blonde hair, like a Barbie doll, and the boy of Boy Posed brought to mind 70’s heart throb Christopher Atkins. These forces affected my selection and direction of each subject.

Charlie White, From the series “Casting Call,” 2010, LACMA, purchased with funds from the Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Charlie White

This exhibition marks the first time you and Katy Grannan have been formally paired. How do you feel your work relates to one another?

I think it offers a bridge between practices that most people would not afford, and thus a view of how seemingly different approaches relate and reinforce one another. For example, the separate approaches of street photography versus studio photography, or of looking at adult subjects versus children, or creating a candid cultural record versus more clinical documents. When these different approaches are collapsed within the cultural intersection of ambition, desire, and loss, they no longer divide along the lines of how they are made. Rather, they can be seen in terms of why they are made that way and how that process allows certain ideas and issues surrounding the subject to be conveyed.

Although your series are very different from one another, they both highlight dichotomies between anonymity versus visibility, actuality versus aspiration. Can you elaborate?

I can speak to my work in relation to actuality versus aspiration, which I think sums up one aspect of the exhibition’s pathology, and the invisible force behind many of the motivations located in both the subject’s desire to be documented and the manner in which the document is formed. The works on display are in a continual dialog; the positions of the Boy Posed and Girl Posed echo the poses of Magazine Collection, the Casting Call images become a log much like a stack of head shots, mug shots, or face shots accompanying online posts, the Entertainment Translation Studies are informed by the almost imperceptible Barbie images within Research Material, and all of the work is offered a leitmotif under the tinny, high-pitched jingly sparkle of A Life in B Tween. All of these forces play on actuality versus aspiration, from the real subject looking longingly through posed eyes absent of a person, to the branded look of popular material, to the complex relationship between adult, teen, and children’s materials made clear in the collapse of likenesses in Research Material.

Charlie White, still from A Life in B Tween, 2012, LACMA, purchased with funds from the Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Charlie White

Is there an element of regionalism in this exhibition, or would these photos have the same meaning if shot outside of California?

These works are about location. Not region, but location—the location of Hollywood, of the California sun as idea, of promise, of blondness, of entertainment and ideas of entertainment. This location is globally recognized; it is a brand, and that is the point. Its role outside of place is far more important than its function within a specific location. It is an export.

Stephanie Sykes

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