A Curator’s 34-Year Journey: From “Happy’s Curios” to “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective”

September 12, 2012

In the late 1970s, I was introduced to sculptor Ken Price by Betty Asher, then curatorial assistant in the department of modern art. Betty was an avid collector and a close friend of Ken and his wife, Happy. Fellow curator Maurice Tuchman and I were preparing a show of Price’s decade-long endeavor Happy’s Curios—which consisted of individual wooden units filled with exuberantly colored cups, vessels, and objects that celebrated and honored Mexican folk art.

Department of modern art, 1978, left to right: Betty Asher, Maurice Tuchman, Stephanie Barron, Cecil Ferguson, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

I traveled to Taos then to see Price in the studio and to work with him on the catalogue and presentation.

Installation view, “Ken Price: Happy’s Curios,” LACMA, 1978, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

More than thirty years passed since that initial visit. In 2009 I traveled to Taos again to visit with Ken in his new home and studio to discuss plans for this retrospective. He was already ill, and pretty much confined to his home and studio. But instead of limiting him, he turned the last three years of his life into some of the most productive of his career, creating hundreds of sculptures in the studio by painstakingly painting them up layer-by-layer, and then judiciously sanding down the surfaces to reveal astonishing layers of color.

Ken Price, “Kaolin,” 2011, fired and painted clay, 21 x 15 1/2 x 18 inches, collection of Ken Price. © Ken Price, photo © Fredrik Nilsen

The journey of preparing this show and the accompanying catalogue has been an unforgettable adventure and privilege.  Our amazing team—architect Frank Gehry, who immediately accepted my invitation to design the show of his old friend Ken; catalogue designer Lorraine Wild, who had the great idea to invite Fredrik Nilsen to photograph the works; and assistant curator Lauren Bergman—made several trips to Taos to meet with Ken.

Happy Price, Frank O. Gehry, Stephanie Barron, and Ken Price discussing the installation design for Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective in the Price home in Taos, New Mexico, 2009

He was involved with us in everything, including the selection of works, how they were reproduced, and how they would be installed. Sadly, he died in February 2012, just months before the show opened. I’ve had the chance to work together with Frank Gehry on five shows since 1980.  This may be the most beautiful combination of works of art and installation design imaginable. Even though Ken never got the chance to walk among his retrospective of fifty-three years of work, I hope that we have given him the show his work deserves.

Installation view, “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” LACMA, © Ken Price, photo © Fredrik Nilsen

Stephanie Barron, Senior Curator and Department Head, Modern Art

In Case You Missed It: Zócalo Public Square: How Can L.A.’s Art Museums Thrive?

September 11, 2012

Last Friday our own Michael Govan joined the Hammer Museum’s director, Ann Philbin, and the Getty’s brand-new director, Timothy Park, in a wide-ranging conversation about museums in Los Angeles, moderated by the Los Angeles Times’ Jori Finkel. Their talk covered many topics, from community engagement to artist collaborations to Hollywood, philanthropy and, yes, the current travails at MoCA.  You can watch the entire hour-long conversation, or download the audio as a podcast, at Zócalo’s website, and it is worth the time if you have interest in L.A.’s museum community.

Jori Finkel, Timothy Potts, Ann Philbin, and Michael Govan. Image via zocalopublicsquare.org, photo by Jake Fabricius

Art of the Pie: Q&A with Nicole Mournian, Winner of Good Food Pie Contest

September 10, 2012

Nicole Mournian, general manager of Gjelina Take Away in Venice, was the big winner at the fourth annual KCRW’s Good Food Pie Contest, which took place this past weekend at LACMA, taking home an incredible four blue ribbons for best fruit pie (Blackberry Huckleberry Ginger), best savory pie (Pork and Peas), best crust (Pork and Peas), and best in show (Pork and Peas). Among the judges of this year’s contest were LACMA’s own Kris Morningstar (Ray’s) and Josh Graves (Coffee + Milk), as well as culinary luminaries such as Jonathan Gold, Joy the Baker, Sherry Yard, Huell Howser, Krista Simmons, Michael Voltaggio, and Ilan Hall.

Nicole, her accolades, KCRW’s Evan Kleiman,David LeFavre , Kris Morningstar, Roxanna Jullapat, and Krista Simmons

This isn’t your first year competing in the contest. What did you do differently this year to perfect the art of the perfect pie?

I didn’t get into pie making until last year, as a baker I have loved many pies and made a few here and there—but never to this degree. Last year I was dead set on serving some witty, new-fangled flavor combinations. This year my focus was on creating flavors from the simple placement of high-quality ingredients with other high-quality ingredients.

Nicole dishing up a champion.

Did you have a specific strategy going into this year’s contest?

My strategy was total domination. Just kidding . . . or am I? I knew I would enter the savory and fruit categories—savory pies are my favorite. Second, I thought about the judges. I might sound creepy when I admit this but let me explain: I work in a kitchen and working with chefs you learn a lot about the overall character of “The Crave” and essentially what turns people on in food. I knew several things:  there were some chefs on the judging panel who love pork and also they probably would not hesitate to eat a room temperature pork-based pie. So pork pie it was, and “pork and peas” is really fun to say out loud. Did you hear Jonathan Gold say “pork and peas”? Delightful!

Blue-ribbon-winner Pork and Peas

Your Pork and Peas was the belle of the ball. Can you describe for those who didn’t get to taste it what makes this pie so delicious?

Super-flakey crust filled with organic roasted pork shoulder, peas, Gravenstein apples, Dijon mustard, rosemary, and pork belly. I used the pork belly in place of butter. When you make a pie, you dot the surface with a few pats of butter to create a nice sauce. In this pie, the pork belly was the butter. While I was making it, I said out loud, “Jonathan Gold will love this.”

Judges Ilan Hall (Chef, The Gorbals) and Krista Simmons (Top Chef Masters Judge and Food Editor for LAist) diving into Nicole’s Blackberry Huckleberry Ginger pie

Can you let us in on the secret to a perfect crust?

Secret? No secret here. It’s just the usual suspects: nice flour, quality butter, sugar, salt, ice cold water. I guess my secret is a splash of vinegar in the ice water. Other than that I think it’s just comfort level—pie dough is like a wild animal: it can sense your fear.

Jenny Miyasaki

This Weekend at LACMA: Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol and Three More Exhibitions Close, KCRW Pie Contest, and More

September 8, 2012

Our busy fall season is just around the corner, but in the meantime many of our summertime exhibitions are coming to a close this weekend. In BCAM, Sunday is your last chance to see Sharon Lockhart | Noa Eshkol. The exhibition includes photographs and a five-channel film installation by Lockhart on the subject of the late Israeli dance composer Noa Eshkol. Eshkol developed a precise movement notation system in the 1950s, and believed in an extremely minimal presentation of her compositions; in Lockhart’s films, black-clad dancers perform only to the sound a metronome in a room that is empty but for textiles created by Eshkol. More of Eshkol’s beautiful textiles are also on view in the exhibition.

This weekend is also your last chance to see …Is James Bond, our exhibition of the opening credit sequences of all of the James Bond films. Though the exhibition is closing, we continue to screen James Bond films every Thursday in September, so check the calendar for upcoming screenings.

Tomorrow Never Dies (still), © 1997 Eighteen Leasing Corporation & Danjaq, LLC. All rights reserved. Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Eon Productions

Two more installations are coming off view this weekend: in the Resnick Pavilion, Michael Heizer’s Actual Size: Munich Rotary—an actual-size projection of his 1969 negative sculpture Munich Depression—will come down after Sunday; however, his large-scale photographs on view in BCAM will remain on view through the end of October. Finally, The German Woodcut: Renaissance and Expressionist Revival explores the development of the woodcut medium during the Renaissance and its revival by German artists in the twentieth century.

Käthe Kollwitz, Memorial sheet for Karl Libknecht, 1919–1920, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies

Starting at 2 pm we’re happy to host KCRW’s fourth annual Good Food Pie Contest. Judges for the contest, hosted by Good Food‘s Evan Kleiman, include Jonathan Gold, and Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times, Huell Howser of PBS, and chefs Michael Voltaggio, Karen Hatfield, Kris Morningstar, and more. In addition to more typical categories like best Fruit Pie, best Savory Pie, and so on, the judges will also be choosing the best pie inspired by Chris Burden’s Metropolis II. These pies must be seen—and tasted—to be believed. (PS: want free admission to the museum? Wear an apron.)

Sunday, in conjunction with The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White, we are offering a free panel discussion, “Camera Ready: The Allure of Stardom.” Historian and poet Iris Berry, Toddlers and Tiaras producer Suzanne Rauscher, and USC professors and authors Sarah Banet-Weiser and Leo Braudy will discuss the impact of celebrity imagery on popular consciousness.

Finally, end your weekend with free concert from pianist Petronel Malan, who will perform works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky.

Scott Tennent

2012 L.A. Jazz Treasure Award: Gerald Wilson

September 6, 2012

Mitch Glickman, Director of Music Programs, is the man behind Jazz at LACMA as well as the 4th annual L.A. Jazz Treasure Award, to be awarded to seminal musician Gerald Wilson this Friday.  Glickman tells Unframed’s Stephanie Sykes why  Wilson is a deserving recipient of this year’s prize and offers a glimpse into what the fall holds for LACMA’s free jazz series.


Can you tell us about the history of the L.A. Jazz Treasure Award?
When I took over LACMA’s music program in 2006, I refocused the jazz series to exclusively feature Los Angeles jazz musicians. We have the world’s greatest pool of jazz artists and it was important to shine the light on them and their contributions. Part of my programming is to feature the legends as well as the next generation of jazz greats. Many of these legends are still with us, though not necessarily performing these days, and I wanted an outlet to celebrate their contributions to jazz. So in 2009, in partnership with the Los Angeles Jazz Society, we started the annual L.A. Jazz Treasure Award to those individuals have made an indelible contribution to jazz and have given back to the community. The first year features NEA Jazz Master and trumpeter Snooky Young, followed by keyboardist Les McCann, and then for the twentieth anniversary Jazz at LACMA we honored saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

Gerald Wilson

How and why was Gerald Wilson selected as this year’s recipient?
This year, Gerald Wilson turns 94. He is living jazz history. Starting with the Jimmie Lunceford big band in the late 1930s, Gerald has been an important ingredient is so many of the classic big bands throughout history–as a trumpet player, composer/arranger, and then as a leader of his own big band. He has written for the Duke Ellington band, Count Basie band, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and Nancy Wilson. And he is still active, turning out great recordings.

It’s a lovely gesture that Gerald Wilson’s son will perform, heading up the Anthony Wilson Nonet jazz ensemble. As the legacy of jazz passes through generations, how do you feel the genre evolves while staying true to its origins?
Ironically, “Legacy” is the name of one of his recent projects. His son and grandson are wonderful jazz musicians in their own right and the list of musicians that have been a member of his big band reads like a who’s who of jazz greats–Teddy Edwards, Buddy Collette, Jack Nimitz, on down to some of the young lions of today including Kamasi Washington. Anthony Wilson has a “modern” big band–a streamlined, contemporary ensemble (nine members) that takes the great tradition of big band into a contemporary setting. So as the great tradition of jazz being passed down from one generation to the next continues, it is indeed in good hands, taking the sounds of the past into new settings for the present and future.

What additional highlights can we expect in the remaining Jazz at LACMA series this fall?
The Jazz at LACMA free concert series continues through Thanksgiving weekend and can also now be heard every Sunday night on KJazz 88.1 FM. The radio series features the concert along with an interview with the featured artist. Highlights coming up include jazz veteran Phil Ranelin and his Jazz Ensemble on October 5. The opening band for this concert is the winner of the Angel City Jazz Festival Young Musician Competition, highlighting Jazz at LACMA’s focus on mixing the established with the emerging. Other highlights include vocalist Sara Gazarek October 26 and drummer Ralph Penland with his band on November 16.

A special jazz concert will be presented on Thursday, October 4. The free concert celebrates the late sculptor Ken Price, whose exhibition opens next week; Price grew up studying trumpet with Chet Baker. The October 4 concert features trumpter Brian Swartz and his Band saluting Chet Baker and pianist John Beasley (former Miles Davis band member) and his Quintet saluting the music of Miles Davis.

%d bloggers like this: